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Is Bigfoot the Lost Gigantopithecus?


There are many potential explanations for Bigfoot’s origins. We’ve covered the multidimensional theory already, but there are other theories grounded in the physical sciences that take fewer leaps to get through. The major one is also the most common: Bigfoot is a primate. 

But that isn’t quite enough. Sure, Bigfoot seems to be a bipedal, ape-like creature. But what primate? Descended from what? Many Bigfoot researchers, including big names in the field like anthropologist Grover Krantz and primatologist Geoffrey Howard Bourne, posit that the Sasquatch is actually a remnant of the Gigantopithecus. 


Gigantopithecus is a kind of ape. The fossil record shows them appearing about two million years ago up to as recently as a hundred thousand years ago — living alongside humans for tens of thousands of years. Their remains show up in southeast Asia, including present day Indonesia, Viet Nam, India, and China. 

While there are some fossil remains, there is much to be understood about the species. The only evidence we have of Gigantopithecus are teeth and mandibles (or jawbones). Many of the teeth were actually discovered in Chinese medicinal shops in the middle of the twentieth century. These shops would grind bones for ingredients in certain medicines. When the anthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald saw some peculiar looking teeth in the collection of a Chinese apothecary in 1935, he identified the features as unique. The Gigantopithecus was discovered. 

Since that time, only jawbones and a small mountain of teeth have been found. Excavations that include Gigantopithecus remains have maddeningly turned up no other bones. So scientists have had to extrapolate things like body size and shape based on what they know about other primate species. 

It’s very hard work with results that are far from exact, but it’s all we have to go on. What we can say is that their jawbones are much larger than the modern gorilla (who grow well above three hundred pounds). If their jawbones are in the same proportion to their bodies as most primates, we are looking at a species in the size range of Bigfoot reports. That’s an exciting development. 

We also know that, however big the creature was, it didn’t use that size to kill prey. The teeth indicate Gigantopithecus was an herbivore. Older fossils show a diet rich in fibrous vegetables, while newer fossils show a potential shift to a fruit diet, causing cavities (so if you do see Bigfoot, offer him some floss). A vegetarian Bigfoot explains why he doesn’t do much hunting of hikers. 

The lack of firm knowledge about Gigantopithecus makes the work of figuring out their history and possible survival to the present day difficult. Also, while some of what we do know fits the story, it isn’t a perfect match. For instance, if the Gigantopithecus grew larger than a gorilla, it would likely need to be quadrupedal (or four legged) to get around — but other scientists argue otherwise. The problem is we don’t know. 


If we take up the idea that Gigantopithecus remains are Bigfoot remains, then how do we get from Asia to the Americas? The idea goes that Gigantopithecus travelled over the Bering land bridge from its origin in Asia to America. 

Somewhere around 20,000 years ago, sea levels were low due to lower global temperatures. As the water receded, it exposed a land mass between Asia and North America. For a few thousand years, vegetation and wildlife gradually filled the space, making it habitable enough for primates to cross. 

If Gigantopithecus did cross the Bering land bridge, you might have a population of large, bipedal primates in the Americas (the Bigfoot) and Asia (the Yeti). This makes a lot of sense when you start to think about it. We have fairly similar sightings in these two continents, with a few differences in hair color and other minor features that you might expect after being separated for so many generations. You might even find that the Yeti and Bigfoot have developed into subspecies of the Gigantopithecus. 

If this story ends up being true, the Yeti and Bigfoot would be what are called relicts. That’s a biology term for a population that is restricted to a small area today but had a much greater living area during a previous epoch. If a relict is from a group that is old enough to appear in the fossil record, they are referred to as living fossils. Could it be that Bigfoot is a living fossil? The mysterious Gigantopithecus? 


As we mentioned, there are a few problems. A major one being, as we mentioned, the likelihood that Gigantopithecus would be too big to be bipedal. Even if you argue it could walk on two legs, there is another problem. Gigantopithecus weren’t hominins. 

Hominins are a tribe within hominids that have big brains, smaller canine teeth, and walk on two feet — if you didn’t guess, humans are hominins. Bigfoot looks like a hominin: it has a large brain and walks on two feet. Also, the way that Bigfoot walks is similar to humans. So if Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus, it would be an incredible coincidence. It would mean two species arrived at almost the same kind of bipedal movement on their own. 

Because of that issue, researchers have put forward alternative species in the fossil record as a possible Bigfoot. 

However, Gigantopithecus has one major advantage above these other possibilities: it shows up in Asia and very likely could have migrated to North America around the same time that humans did. 

That specific feature of the theory makes it hard to dismiss. And the holes in the theory don’t shoot it down for good. There are times when evolution converges, explaining how Bigfoot might have developed bipedalism on its own. Maybe the bone structure developed to support his weight. This is all to say that it isn’t impossible that Gigantopithecus is Bigfoot, and it would explain a lot about Bigfoot if this were the case. 

The origins of Bigfoot are hotly contested, and it might be that as we learn more about Gigantopithecus in the fossil record, we will finally settle this debate.


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