A recent study discovered that climate change was the cause of the extinction of several species of great apes.
Scientists reported on Wednesday that a previous type of large ape may have become extinct due to climate change. This is thought to have occurred because their preferred fruits were no longer accessible during dry seasons.
The Gigantopithecus blacki species, found in southern China, is the largest known great ape according to scientists. It had a height of 10 feet and could weigh up to 650 pounds.
However, its dimensions could also have posed a vulnerability.
According to Renaud Joannes-Boyau, a researcher from Australia’s Southern Cross University and co-author of a study published in the journal Nature, this creature is simply enormous. When faced with a shortage of food, its size prevents it from being able to climb trees in search of new sources.
The large primates, believed to be similar to present-day orangutans, thrived for approximately 2 million years in the wooded grasslands of China’s Guangxi area. They consumed plant-based meals, feasting on fruits and flowers in lush rainforests, until the surroundings underwent alterations.
The scientists studied pollen and sediment samples from caves in Guangxi, as well as fossilized teeth, in order to understand how forests began producing fewer fruits approximately 600,000 years ago due to an increase in dry seasons.
The researchers discovered that the large apes did not disappear abruptly, but instead became extinct sometime between 215,000 and 295,000 years ago.
While smaller apes may have been able to climb trees to search for different food, the researchers’ analysis shows the giant apes ate more tree bark, reeds and other non-nutritious food.
According to co-author Zhang Yingqi of China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the change in the forest led to a shortage of the preferred food for the species.
The majority of the information about the ancient great apes is gathered from analyzing fossilized teeth and four sizeable lower jaw bones discovered in southern China. There have been no complete skeletal remains found.
During a span of approximately 2 to 22 million years, numerous types of large primates lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia, according to evidence from fossils. Presently, the only surviving species include gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and humans.
Although the first humans originated in Africa, it is unclear on which continent the great ape family first appeared, according to Rick Potts, the director of the Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Potts was not involved in the study.