Real-Life King Kong Died Because It Wouldn’t Change Its Diet, Study Says

It wasn’t airplanes that killed King Kong. It wasn’t even beauty that killed the beast.

It was diet.

Gigantopithecus, a giant ape once described as a real-life King Kong, went extinct because it couldn’t adapt to a changing food landscape, according to new research published in the journal Quaternary International.

Scientists believe the aptly named ape was the largest primate ever to walk the Earth, reaching heights of nearly 10 feet and weighing as much as 1,100 pounds.

By comparison, the largest primate today is literally half that size. The eastern lowland gorilla is between 4 feet and 5.5 feet tall when standing upright and weighs up to 440 pounds, according to World Wildlife Fund.

But little else is known about Gigantopithecus because it left little behind when it vanished from China and southeast Asia some 100,000 years ago. So far, the only fossils found have been jawbones, and teeth so big they were once sold as “dragon’s teeth.”

But an analysis of those teeth shows why Gigantopithecus disappeared: They were very finicky eaters.

An analysis using carbon isotopes showed that the Gigantopithecus was a vegetarian that lived in the forest, and didn’t like bamboo. As the ice age advanced, the giant ape’s forest home shrunk, eliminating its preferring food. While other apes made do with what was available on the growing savannas, stubborn Gigantopithecus clung to its home and diet.

“Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food,” said Dr. Hervé Bocherens of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “When during the Pleistocene era more and more forested areas turned into savanna landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply for the giant ape.”

Not everyone believes Gigantopithecus went extinct. The —> Read More