The mysterious phylogeny of gigantopithecus

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Nail, Kimberly

Nail, Kimberly. (1998). The mysterious phylogeny of gigantopithecus. -- Lambda Alpha Journal, v.28, p.28-36.


Perhaps the most questionable attribute given to Gigantopithecus is its taxonomic and phylogenetic placement in the superfamily Hominoidea. In 1935 von Koenigswald made the first discovery ofa lower molar at an apothecary in Hong Kong. In a mess of "dragon teeth" von Koenigswald saw a tooth that looked remarkably primate-like and purchased it; this tooth would later be one of four looked at by a skeptical friend, Franz Weidenreich. It was this tooth that von Koenigswald originally used to name the species Gigantopithecus blacki. Researchers have only four mandibles and thousands of teeth which they use to reconstruct not only the existence of this primate, but its size and phylogeny as well. Many objections have been raised to the past phylogenetic relationship proposed by Weidenreich, Woo, and von Koenigswald that Gigantopithecus was a forerunner to the hominid line. Some suggest that researchers might be jumping the gun on the size attributed to Gigantopithecus (estimated between 10 and 12 feet tall); this size has perpetuated the idea that somehow Gigantopithecus is still roaming the Himalayas today as Bigfoot. Many researchers have shunned the Bigfoot theory and focused on the causes of the animals extinction. It is my intention to explain the theories of the past and why many researchers currently disagree with them. It will be necessary to explain how the researchers conducted their experiments and came to their conclusions as well.

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