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As Long as We Remember...

August 15, 2012

Gigantopithicus, Yeti and Big Foot

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have a good friend who is really into orangutans. He runs a rehab center near here where he takes care of each of them as if they were his children. Truth be told, they are.


But sometimes he needs to be put back on the straight track after veering off toward the Twilight Zone.


One day he was speaking to a group and claimed the orangutan was a direct relative of Big Foot and Yeti. The people just nodded their heads. They were awestruck by this guy, who spends most of his waking moments with the apes. After they left, I chided him about his remark.


“Really, Ricky,” I admonished. “Big Foot and Yeti?


“Yes, through Gigantopithicus,” he said knowingly.


Then there was a hoot from the forest and he claimed he had to see Sinbad, whomever or whatever that creature that might have been. He scurried off on his long agile legs.


Both of us have degrees in biology and are well read on the subject of Borneo animals. The only difference is I don’t live with them. I went home to try and find out how he made the connection from the ancient extinct ape to the mythical creatures wandering around the Himalayas and America’s Pacific Northwest.


I started my search on the Internet for Gigantopithicus. I always told my students never to use Wikipedia because any damn fool can put anything they want on the site. But I had a look anyway.


I knew it was a tall creature but I couldn’t believe they had the guy at over three meters/9.8 feet. Then they said it ate bamboo and other vegetables. This made absolutely no sense.


“How could an ape grow to be three meters tall eating only bamboo and tropical fruits,” I asked myself. They couldn’t. It would look like that very tall Chinese basketball player only add half a meter or so (two feet).


Even the most dedicated vegan would not tell their offspring – “Now, eat your bamboo and grow big and strong like a Gigantopithicus.”


There is not that much nutrition in bamboo. The Giant Pandas have to sit and eat 24/7. They have evolved a massive gut to help them digest the bamboo. With such a diet, they could not have grown much bigger than they are today.


As usual I doubted my reasoning because everything else I read on the Internet said the ape was indeed that tall. I contacted my biologist friend, who had a doctorate in biology and who was well known in the ancient ape field.


“George,” I asked, “how could Gigantopithicus grow that tall while eating only bamboo? I mean, he could only get to be the size of a Giant Panda.”


He answered that he had been wondering the same thing but decided not to rock the boat until he got tenure.


“I measured the skull of a Giant Panda and the skull of Gigantopithicus (he has access to such things) and they were about the same,” he related.


We both agreed that if you put the head of an orangutan on a Giant Panda, one would have Gigantopithicus. A brown, hairy, pot bellied individual about 1.7 meters (5’7”). In other words he would have the same physique I do.


I then e-mailed another biologist who had written many books and he also agreed.


“Now don’t quote me on this,” he said. I understood because the theory had been standing for so many years and to write a paper would take a massive amount of time.


The next scenario has this beer-gutted, bamboo-chewing individual waddling north from the Vietnam-South China area (where they evolved), across the Bering Strait, through Alaska and into the Pacific Northwest. He would travel with a wife and offspring. Along the way, each generation would have to quickly evolve so their teeth changed to allow meat eating. He would grow a meter (three feet) and then walk upright. Somehow he would lose his massive gut. The same would be true of his brother’s journey to the Himalayas. If this could happen, I am going to start eating bamboo.


The series of genetic events that must occur before these individuals could survive in the mountains is astronomical. Time wise, it would be like a jelly fish morphing into Steven Hawking (that brilliant guy in a wheel chair) tomorrow.


There are many people who so want to believe in Yeti and Big Foot. There are organizations, foundations, conferences and meetings populated by people who swear the ape is wandering around South Asia and the United States. After reading many of their missives, I am inclined to agree with them.


Yeti and Big Foot flew in on an UFO.


…Life is good. . . . .


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