Scientists from Tübingen University suggest that the real-life King Kong, the largest ape to exist on the Earth until it died approximately 100,000 years ago, failed to survive due to the fact that it could not properly adapt after climate change hit its signature diet of forest fruit. Gigantopithecus weighed approximately five times more than an adult human and is believed to have stood at 9 feet fall when it thrived in semi-tropical forests one million years ago in Southern China and mainland Southeast Asia.
The team examined the slight variations in carbon isotopes that remained in the teeth fossils of Gigantopithecus and found that the ape survived on a strictly vegetarian diet in the forest and did not consume high amounts of bamboo. Although this strict diet worked for many years, the massive ice age that hit Earth during the Pleistocene Epoch altered the forest areas that provide these kinds of food options.
"Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food," Hervé Bocherens, who participated in the research, said in a press release. "When during the Pleistocene, more and more forested area turned into savanna landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply."
However, alternate studies show that other apes and early humans living in Africa with comparable teeth characteristics survived similar transitions, despite the struggle of the primordial King Kong.
"Gigantopithecus probably did not have the same ecological flexibility and possibly lacked the physiological ability to resist stress and food shortage," the researchers wrote.
In addition to Gigantopithecus, climate change was responsible for the extinction of many other large animals hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The findings were published in the Dec. 19 issue of Quaternary International.