5. Why The Largest Primate Went Extinct
While it is generally agreed that Gigantopithecus was the largest primate to ever roam the Earth, the few fossils we have provide us an unclear picture of its true size. Experts say it was anywhere between 1.8 to 3 meters (6–10 ft) tall and between 200 and 500 kilograms (440–1100 lb). They also can’t say for certain how long Gigantopithecus was around for, although they opine that the giant ape existed between nine million and 100,000 years ago.
Despite all the uncertainty, researchers at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) in Germany believe they have elucidated at least one mystery surrounding the primate—why Gigantopithecus went extinct.
According to them, the ape died out due to its inability to adapt. By studying the tooth enamel of fossils, they ascertained that Gigantopithecuswas exclusively a vegetarian, but it didn’t eat only bamboo as others had suggested. This diet restricted the primate’s habitat to forests. However, during the Pleistocene, large areas of wooded landscapes in China and Thailand where Gigantopithecus lived turned to savannas. This had a major impact on the ape’s food sources, which led to its extinction before it could adapt to a new diet.