Gigantopithecus was a massive gorilla-like creature that stood 10 feet tall and weighed upwards of 1,100 pounds making it the largest primate that ever lived. It thrived in the tropical forests of Southern China during the Pleistocene Epoch between 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.
Fossilized teeth from Gigantopithecus were first discovered by a Dutch paleontologist named GHR Koenigswald. Referred to as "dragon's teeth," these specimens were sold in Chinese apothecaries for their purported medicinal benefits.
According to reports, the size of the teeth led some early scientists to suggest they belonged to human ancestors who may have been giants: "The teeth, though large, have a few similarities to human teeth, and this led some paleomorphologists to speculate that humans might have had “giant” ancestors. Later discoveries of complete mandibles demonstrated that they were from extinct apes."
Gigantopithecus, a fruit eater, required large quantities of food to sustain its enormous size. As a result of this, it was doomed to extinction when the climate started to change as Herve Bocherens, a researcher at Tübingen University in Germany explains: “Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food. When, during the Pleistocene, more and more forested areas turned into savanna landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply for the giant ape."
In addition to China, fossils of the Gigantopithecus species G.blacki has been discovered in Thailand and in caves in Vietnam. This suggests that these real-life King Kongs may have been around as recently as a hundred thousand years ago and may even have shared space with Homo erectus as this excerpt explains: "Some studies arguing that the teeth found in northern Vietnamese caves do in fact belong to G. blacki posit that the species survived until as late as 100,000 years ago and possibly shared the same landscapes with Homo erectus."
Stories from Asia and North America suggest Gigantopithecus may still be alive. Following the discovery of the fossils, many have reported sightings of creatures resembling Gigantopithecus. They are popularly known by a variety of names such as Big Foot, Sasquatch, and Yeti, and have served as the inspiration behind several monster movies.