Gigantopithecus blacki (Greek and Latin for “Black’s giant ape”) is an extinct species of ape.
The only known fossils of G. blacki, or “Giganto,” are a few teeth and mandibles found in cave sites in Southeast Asia. As the name suggests, these are appreciably larger than those of living gorillas, but the exact size and structure of the rest of the body can only be estimated in the absence of additional findings. Recent research using high-precision absolute-dating methods has shown that after existing for about a million years, G. blacki died out as recently as 100,000 years ago. This means that it coexisted with (anatomically) modern humans (Homo sapiens) for a few dozen thousands of years, and with the most immediate ancestors of H. sapiens before that.
Based on the fossil evidence, paleontologists speculate that Gigantopithecus had an adult standing height of over three meters (ten feet) and a weight of 550 kg (1200 lb), and was thus much larger and heavier than current-day gorillas.
The species lived in Asia and probably inhabited bamboo forests, since its fossils are often found alongside those of extinct ancestors of the panda. Most evidence points to Gigantopithecus being a plant-eater. Some believe that being a plant-eating species, G. blacki was placed at the losing end of the evolutionary competition with humans.
The species’ method of locomotion is uncertain, as no pelvic or leg bones have been found. The dominant view is that it walked on all fours like modern gorillas and chimpanzees. However, a minority opinion favors bipedal locomotion, most notably as championed by the late Grover Krantz. It should be noted that this assumption is based only on the very few jawbone remains found, all of which are U-shaped and widen towards the rear. This widening, in Krantz’s view, allowed room for the windpipe to be positioned within the jaw, allowing the skull to sit squarely upon a fully-erect spine like modern humans, rather than roughly behind it, like the great apes.
Krantz’s studies of Bigfoot, which he called “Sasquatch,” (an Anglicization of the Halkomelem word sásq’ets meaning “wild man”) led him to believe that this was an actual creature. He theorized that sightings were due to small pockets of surviving gigantopithecines, with the progenitor population having migrated across the Bering land bridge, which was later used by humans to enter North America. (Gigantopithecus lived alongside humans but is thought to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago in eastern Asia).
Dr. Grover Krantz was the most vocal supporter of the theory that Gigantopithecus blacki traversed the ice bridge from Asia to North America and exists today as the creature known as bigfoot.
After seeing footage stills of the Patterson-Gimlin film which appeared on the February 1968 cover of Argosy, Krantz was skeptical, believing the film to be an elaborate hoax, saying “it looked to me like someone wearing a gorilla suit” and “I gave Sasquatch only a 10 percent chance of being real.” After years of skepticism, Krantz finally became convinced of Bigfoot’s existence after analyzing the “Cripplefoot” plaster casts gathered at Bossburg, Washington in December 1969. Krantz later studied the Patterson-Gimlin film in full, and after taking notice of the creature’s peculiar gait and purported anatomical features, such as flexing leg muscles, he changed his mind and became an advocate of its authenticity. While in Bossburg, he also met John Willison Green and the two remained friends until Krantz’s death.
The Cripplefoot tracks, left in snow, purportedly showed microscopic dermal ridges (fingerprints) and injuries tentatively identified as clubfoot by primatologist John Napier. Krantz asked Dutch professor A.G. de Wilde of the University of Groningen to examine the prints, who concluded that they were “not from some dead object with ridges in it, but come from a living object able to spread its toes.” Krantz also attempted to have both the FBI and Scotland Yard study the dermal ridge patterns, and was told by renowned fingerprint expert John Berry, an editor of the journal Fingerprint Whorld, that Scotland Yard had concluded the prints were “probably real.” To his disappointment, a subsequent 1983 article in the journal Cryptozoology, titled “Anatomy and Dermatoglyphics of Three Sasquatch Footprints,” was largely ignored.