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Bamboo feeding, dental microwear, and diet of the Pleistocene ape Gigantopithecus blacki

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... blacki that indicate that it might have also consumed tubers. Daegling and Grine (1994) analyzed microwear features on a small sample of G. blacki. The frequency of pits and the mean width of features on Phase II facets are most similar to Pan troglodytes among extant primates, and differ markedly from the typical microwear fabrics of hard object feeders, such as Pongo pygmaeus, which have a higher incidence of pitting and greater feature width (Daegling & Grine, 1994). ...
... Daegling and Grine (1994) analyzed microwear features on a small sample of G. blacki. The frequency of pits and the mean width of features on Phase II facets are most similar to Pan troglodytes among extant primates, and differ markedly from the typical microwear fabrics of hard object feeders, such as Pongo pygmaeus, which have a higher incidence of pitting and greater feature width (Daegling & Grine, 1994). There was no consistent microwear profile that characterized extant mammals with a specialized diet of bamboo (i.e., the bamboo lemur, Hapalemur griseus, and the giant panda, A. melanoleuca) that could be compared with G. blacki. ...
... There was no consistent microwear profile that characterized extant mammals with a specialized diet of bamboo (i.e., the bamboo lemur, Hapalemur griseus, and the giant panda, A. melanoleuca) that could be compared with G. blacki. The microwear results do not rule out the possibility that bamboo was a significant component of the diet of G. blacki, but it is more likely that it had a broad-ranging diet similar to extant chimpanzees (Daegling & Grine, 1994). ...
Article
Gigantopithecus blacki is the largest hominoid that ever lived. The consensus view is that it is a specialized pongine and late-surviving member of the Sivapithecus-Indopithecus lineage. It is known primarily from Early and Middle Pleistocene cave sites in southern China, dating from 2.0 Ma to almost 300 ka. The cause of its extinction in the late Middle Pleistocene is unknown, but ecological change or the arrival of Homo erectus may have been contributing factors. Gigantopithecus is highly specialized in its dentognathic anatomy, with a unique combination of features that distinguish it from all other hominoids. Based on the size of its dentition and mandible, a reasonable estimate of its body mass would be 200–300 kg. There was a progressive increase in dental size from the Early Pleistocene to the Middle Pleistocene, and possibly a shift towards greater complexity of the cheek teeth. Gigantopithecus exhibits a relatively high degree of sexual dimorphism, implying a high level of male-male competition, but the relatively small canines in both sexes suggest that these teeth were not important in agonistic behaviors. The species inhabited a subtropical monsoon forest with a closed canopy and dense understory. Foraging was focused on the forest floor and its diet included a broad range of C3 plants, including fruits, leaves and stems, and possibly tubers. The cheek teeth and jaws were adapted for processing a wide variety of bulky, fibrous, and abrasive food items, but the small incisors indicate that incisal preparation was not an important part of its feeding repertoire.
... Attempts have been made to determine the dietary behavior of G. blacki through a variety of approaches, such as dentognathic morphology (e.g. enamel thickness, tooth root length, occlusal area, and mandibular corpus depth; Woo, 1962;Olejniczak et al., 2008a;Kupczik and Dean, 2008;Zhang and Zhao, 2013;Kono et al., 2014;Zhang and Harrison, 2017), stable isotope analysis (Nelson, 2014;Qu et al., 2014;Bocherens et al., 2017;Jiang et al., 2021;Hu et al., 2022), dental microwear (Daegling and Grine, 1994;Zhao and Zhang, 2013), incidence of dental caries (Han and Zhao, 2002;Wang, 2009), analysis of phytoliths (Ciochon et al., 1990), and analysis of starch grains (Qu, 2014). These studies provided indicationsde.g. ...
... Potential future directions to gain insights into the dietary ecology of Gigantopithecus blacki Carbon (C) and oxygen (O) isotopic analyses of tooth enamel have suggested that G. blacki foraged in densely forested habitat and consumed C 3 plants exclusively (Zhao et al., 2011;Zhao and Zhang, 2013;Nelson, 2014;Qu et al., 2014;Bocherens et al., 2017;Jiang et al., 2021). In this paleoecological context, potential food sources would have been plentiful, leading to speculation about the foods possibly consumed by G. blacki, such as fruits (Woo, 1962;Ciochon et al., 1990;Han and Zhao, 2002;Wang, 2009), tough items (Daegling and Grine, 1994;Zhao and Zhang, 2013), and/or hard objects (Ciochon et al., 1990;Kupczik and Dean, 2008;Qu, 2014;Hu et al., 2022). Previous studies of enamel carbon isotopes and starch grains that bonded to the enamel surface suggest that G. blacki may have had a broad dietary range (Qu, 2014;Qu et al., 2014;Nelson, 2014;Bocherens et al., 2017). ...
Article
Gigantopithecus blacki is hypothesized to have been capable of processing mechanically challenging foods, which likely required this species to have high dental resistance to fracture and/or large bite force. To test this hypothesis, we used two recently developed approaches to estimate absolute crown strength and bite force of the lower postcanine dentition. Sixteen Gigantopithecus mandibular permanent cheek teeth were scanned by micro-computed tomography. From virtual mesial cross-sections, we measured average enamel thickness and bi-cervical diameter to estimate absolute crown strength, and cuspal enamel thickness and dentine horn angle to estimate bite force. We compared G. blacki with a sample of extant great apes (Pan, Pongo, and Gorilla) and australopiths (Australopithecus anamensis, Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus robustus, and Paranthropus boisei). We also evaluated statistical differences in absolute crown strength and bite force between the premolars and molars for G. blacki. Results reveal that molar crown strength is absolutely greater, and molar bite force absolutely higher, in G. blacki than all other taxa except P. boisei, suggesting that G. blacki molars have exceptionally high resistance to fracture and the ability to generate exceptionally high bite force. In addition, G. blacki premolars have comparable absolute crown strength and larger bite force capabilities compared with its molars, implying possible functional specializations in premolars. The dental specialization of G. blacki could thus represent an adaptation to further facilitate the processing of mechanically challenging foods. While it is currently not possible to determine which types of foods were actually consumed by G. blacki through this study, direct evidence (e.g. dental chipping and microwear) left by the foods eaten by G. blacki could potentially lead to greater insights into its dietary ecology.
... Rafferty and Teaford , 1992), Miocene hominoids (e.g. Covert and Kay, 1981;Teaford and Walker, 1984;Daegling and Grine, 1994;King et ah, 1994;, Pleistocene cercopithecines (e.g. Teaford, 1993;and Teaford and Leakey, 1992). ...
Thesis
Examination of microscopic wear marks on the surface of teeth (dental microwear) provides information about the main components of an animal's diet. Inferences can be made about the diet of extinct species by comparing the dental microwear patterns of fossil samples with those of present-day groups whose diet is known. This thesis examines the dental microwear of Griphopithecus alpani, a 15 Ma fossil hominoid from the Miocene site of Pasalar in north-western Turkey. The micro wear patterns of G. alpani are compared to three extant hominoid taxa—Gorilla gorilla gorilla. Pan troglodytes verus, and Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus. Results indicate that there is no close dietary analogue to the fossil hominoids among the extant groups. However, the analysis suggests that the diet of Griphopithecus alpani was more similar to that of Pongo, which consumes mainly fruit and the occasionally hard and unripe fruits and nuts, than to the other living hominoids examined in this study. The high percentages of pits displayed by G. alpani indicate that it was ingesting harder fruits and/or objects than the extant hominoids, and it is similar in this respect to Graecopithecus freyhergi, a Miocene hominoid from Greece. There were consistent variations in microwear patterns between the different facets examined in this study. The results of this study do not indicate variation in dental micro wear according to sex or age.
... The embedding of phytoliths in enamel surfaces and their classification has been demonstrated in research by Lalueza Fox and his colleagues (1994) in a modern human sample from La Olmeda, Spain. There have also been studies in non-human subjects, where phytoliths embedded in enamel surface have been described (see eg. Ciochon et al. 1990, Daegling, Grine 1994, Henry et al. 2012, Madella et al. 2002. Based on an earlier study focused on buccal dental microwear (Jarošová 2008), we have decided to sample as much dental microwear data as possible from the rest of individuals at the Vedrovice site and perform completely new sampling of the maximum number of individuals from the Nitra -Horné Krškany site to compare microwear data including inter-and intrapopulation variability of these two LBK sites with results of carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis. ...
Article
Full-text available
Recently, there have been two international bioarchaeological projects focusing on LBK "Biological and cultural identity of first farmers: Multiple bio-archaeological analysis of a central European cemetery (Vedrovice) project" known also as 'Vedrovice bioarchaeology project" and "The first farmers of central Europe: diversity in LBK lifeways". We took a similar approach at a local level and analysed dental microwear pattern by comparing the results with already published stable isotopic data (carbon & nitrogen) (Richards et al. 2008, Smrčka et al. 2005, 2008a and Whittle et al. 2013) to deepen our knowledge about the dietary habits of individuals living and eating in the early LBK. Buccal dental microwear analysis as a short-term indicator of diet was carried out on a sample of 43 individuals from the Vedrovice site (Czech Republic) and of 49 individuals from the Nitra - Horné Krškany site (Slovakia) with well-preserved dental enamel to compare site-based diversity using dental microwear. Both sites belong among the earliest cemeteries in the Central European region (or in a broader sense, the Middle Danube area) as they are dated to Neolithic period, specifically the early phase of LBK, since the burials in Vedrovice and Nitra mostly spanned 53rd-52nd century cal BC (Pettitt, Hedges 2008, Griffiths 2013, Whittle et al. 2013). For each individual, replicas of the buccal surface of molars or premolars that showed clear microwear patterns were analysed by secondary electrons of a scanning electron microscope. Subsequently, results were compared with published datasets acquired from studies of various modern hunter-gatherers, pastoral, and agricultural populations with different dietary habits (Lalueza et al. 1996). By comparing adult males and females (n = 33) within the Vedrovice sample including two cemeteries and settlement, no sex related differences were observed in dental microwear pattern, which is contrary to a previously published paper on a sample of 18 individuals buried at Vedrovice - Široká u lesa cemetery (Jarošová 2008), where a statistically significant sex related difference was observed, with a higher vegetal intake for females than males inferred. Similarly, no sex related differences between adults were observed within the Nitra population (n = 31). However, an age-related variability was observed between adults and subadults within both studied samples with more obvious differences in the Vedrovice sample, which may have resulted from different ratios of meat and vegetable intake. Adults from Nitra had a distinct microwear pattern to adults from Vedrovice. In another group of analysed individuals from Vedrovice and Nitra - Horné Krškany, slightly different results were observed in the published stable isotopic data: carbon and nitrogen isotopic data, as a long-term indicator of diet, proved no statistical difference between the diet of subadults and adults within both studied samples and no difference between diet of adult males and females in Nitra site. On the contrary, statistically significant differences were observed between adult males and females in Vedrovice in terms of nitrogen data indicating a higher protein based diet in males. The subject of this article is a detailed analysis of the two populations using different groups of individuals and methodologies; as wells as a comparison of selected individuals for which both types of analyses were conducted to elucidate the dietary habits of the two biggest LBK populations in Czech Republic and Slovakia. © 2017 Moravian Museum, Anthropos Institute, Brno. All rights reserved.
... This ape has jaws that are not robust in the shape sense ( Fig. 9.7), but in terms of relative size and mechanical rigidity are comparable to those of P. boisei ( Fig. 9.8). Like P. boisei, microwear on Gigantopithecus molars provides no evidence of specialization on hard objects (Daegling and Grine 1994). Megadontia and corpus hypertrophy presumably reflect an unusual amount of masticatory effort, but this biomechanical assessment brings us no closer to understanding the particulars of their respective feeding behaviors, even if the isotopic evidence indicates little dietary overlap. ...
Chapter
The craniofacial morphology of Paranthropus boisei is highly derived, representing the evolutionary culmination of one robust australopith lineage. Following its discovery, OH 5 was popularly described as “Nutcracker Man,” and this image of the East African robust australopiths as hard-object feeders has persisted for the last half-century. Emerging lines of evidence, however, suggest that the diet of this species was not primarily comprised of hard foods. An alternative view is that P. boisei consumed a relatively tough diet of grasses and sedges. As the covariation of diet and/or feeding behavior with mandibular morphology has been the focus of a voluminous literature, this paper evaluates whether the jaws of P. boisei – interpreted within a framework of masticatory mechanics in particular and bone biology in general – can be interpreted as functionally coherent with a herbivorous diet that lacked a significant component of durophagy . In terms of proportion and geometry, australopith mandibles have no parallel among living primates and P. boisei represents the extreme expression of this morphotype. From the perspective of primate masticatory biomechanics , the inference of loading regimes experienced in this fossil species is speculative, and subsequent inference of diet from corpus geometry should be regarded with skepticism. However, in terms of overall mandibular architecture, and from what is known about the biomechanical influences governing bone hypertrophy , competing hypotheses of dietary specialization are equally plausible on morphological criteria. Mandibular hypertrophy is an expected outcome of a fibrous diet requiring extensive and prolonged mastication , especially in a taxon in which occlusal morphology is suboptimal for the breakdown of fibrous foods.
... Microwear research has also begun to focus on the diets of a broad range of fossil forms, especially primates. Paleontologists have now examined dental microwear for human ancestors and other fossil primates (Daegling andGrine 1994, 1986;Grine and Kay 1987;Jacobs 1981;King et al. 1999;Leakey et al. 2003;Lucas and Teaford 1994;Pérez-Pérez et al. 1999;Puech et al. 1983;Ryan and Johanson 1989;Strait 1993;Teaford and Walker 1984;Ungar 1996;Ungar and Grine 1991;Ungar and Teaford 1996;Walker 1981). Microwear studies have also been applied to a broad range of other fossil taxa, from Paleozoic conodonts (early vertebrates) (Purnell 1995), to Mesozoic sauropod dinosaurs (Fiorillo 1991), to primitive mammals (Biknevicius 1986, Krause 1982, fossil horses (MacFadden et al. 1999), giraffes (Solounias et al. 1988), muskrats (Gutierrez et al. 1998), pigs (Hunter and Fortelius 1994), sabre tooth cats (Anyonge 1996, Van Valkenburgh et al. 1990, and other groups. ...
Article
Dental microwear analysis is among the most commonly used approaches to reconstructing the diets of extinct animal species and past peoples. The usual procedure involves imaging tooth wear surfaces by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Surfaces are characterized quantitatively by measurement of individual wear features (pits and scratches) on photomicrographs. Recent studies of living animals have shown associations between diets on one hand and patterns of dental microwear on the other. Furthermore, patterns on fossil teeth have been used to reconstruct diets in extinct forms. However, conventional methods for microwear analysis are limited. Scanning electron microscopy does not provide a true representation of these surfaces in three dimensions, and identification and measurement of individual features is time consuming, subjective, and subject to high interobserver error. This paper describes a new approach to the analysis of dental mi-crowear using tandem scanning confocal microscopy and scale-sensitive fractal analyses. The instrument used in this study provides three-dimensional coordinates representing surfaces at a resolution equivalent to that employed by most SEM microwear studies. Fractal analyses offer objective , repeatable, quantitative characterization of surfaces. This approach eliminates major sources of error and increases power to resolve differences between species. Moreover, rapid surface characterization will allow examination of large samples to assess within species variation and to make finer distinctions between species.
... Q. Shao et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e10 Please cite this article in press as: Shao, Q., et al., U-series and ESR/U-series dating of the StegodoneAiluropoda fauna at Black Cave, Guangxi, southern China with implications for the timing of the extinction of Gigantopithecus blacki, Quaternary International (2015), http:// dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2015.12.016 Daegling and Grine, 1994;Zhao et al., 2011;Shao et al., 2014;Zhang et al., 2015). Therefore, the extinction of G. blacki seems to be resulted from environmental changes that cause the loss of its preferred habitat and diet. ...
Article
Gigantopithecus blacki was once a common primate during Early Pleistocene, distributed throughout southern China, but then it gradually declined with time and finally became extinct probably during Middle Pleistocene. Black Cave in Guangxi (the Zhuang Nationality Autonomous Region) was the first site yielding G. blacki teeth in-situ in 1956. It also produced numerous mammalian fossils belonging to the typical Middle Pleistocene Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna from sediments overlying the G. blacki level. The present study carried out coupled ESR/U-series dating study of five Bovidae teeth from this palaeontological layer and obtained a weighted mean age of 383 ± 20 ka for this Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna. This age estimate on fossil teeth is constrained by two 230Th/U ages of 404 ± 24 ka and 382 ± 9 ka obtained on speleothems formed below and above the level of the Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna. The Black Cave Stegodon-Ailuropoda fauna can be therefore correlated with MIS 11, and the remains of G. blacki should be older than 400 ka.
Article
Gigantopithecus blacki is the largest hominoid with massive jaws and thick tooth enamel in the world and lasts from the early Early Pleistocene to the middle Pleistocene in South China. Understanding its foraging ecology is vital to unlocking the mysteries of its survival, evolution, and extinction. Although many analytical methods have been applied to reveal its foraging ecology, there is still a lack of direct evidence on the trophic level of G. blacki. For the first time, we presented the Ca isotope data of Gigantopithecus fauna at the locality of Liucheng Gigantopithecus Cave (∼2 Ma), Guangxi, China during the early Early Pleistocene. The isotopic pattern from herbivores to carnivores is following the general trophic rule, i.e., the step decrease of δ44/42Ca values alongside the food chain. However, the cervids and Stegodon have extremely low δ44/42Ca values that are close to carnivores (hyenas) while G. blacki and Ailuropoda have the highest δ44/42Ca values among animals. When compiling the isotopic (δ13C, δ18O, δ44/42Ca) data together, we distinguish the animal niches well. Considering the dietary and physiological factors to influence δ44/42Ca values in diets, we suggest that cervids and Stegodon could have consumed lots of grasses and/or bones as an additional mineral supplement and that G. blacki and giant panda might have fed on C3 plant leaves and/or minerals from soils or rocks. The comparison of δ44/42Ca values among G. blacki, modern primates, and hominins indicates the significantly highest δ44/42Ca values in G.blacki in Asia and Paranthropus boisei in Africa. Even though both animals have distinctive δ13C and δ18O values, they have quite close δ44/42Ca values, suggesting a possible shared similar mechanism of Ca fractionation. Finally, the implications of δ44/42Ca values to reveal animal diets and physiology on species-specific scales were discussed. We hypothesize that foraging on mineral licks from soils or rocks could have been one of the main driving factors to account for the high δ44/42Ca values in the enamel of G.blacki, P. boisei, and giant panda, which possibly meets physiological demands to adapt to chew hard foodstuffs. Our study provides novel insights into the uniqueness of G.blacki's foraging ecology and displays the complexity of Ca isotope values to decipher animal diets and physiology.
Article
Objectives Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest hominoid known, is one of the representative Pleistocene mammals in southern China and northern Southeast Asia. Here we investigate the feeding ecology of G. blacki in its core habitat (Guangxi, Southern China) during the early Early Pleistocene, which was the early period in its evolution. Materials and methods The stable isotopic (C, O) analysis of tooth enamel of the fauna associated with G. blacki (n = 58), including the largest number of G. blacki teeth (n = 12) to date from the Liucheng Gigantopithecus Cave (~2 Ma), Guangxi, China, is undertaken. Results The δ¹³C values of Liucheng fauna range from −12.9 to −19.0‰ with an average of −16.1 ± 1.3‰ (n = 58) and the δ¹⁸O values range from −4.3 to −9.6‰ with an average of −6.9 ± 1.2‰ (n = 58). The δ¹³C values of G. blacki range from −15.9‰ to −17.0‰ with an average of −16.5 ± 0.4‰ (n = 12), and the δ¹⁸O values vary from −5.9‰ to −7.5‰ with an average of −6.6 ± 0.5‰ (n = 12). Conclusions The isotopic data show Guangxi was characterized by closed C3 forest and humid climate in the early Early Pleistocene. Niche partitioning is found among G. blacki, Sinomastodon, Ailuropoda and Stegodon, the typical megafauna in South China in the early Early Pleistocene. This could be one of the important factors for them to co‐exist until the Middle Pleistocene. Smallest isotopic variations of G. blacki are found compared with those of contemporary animals, indicating a conservative foraging ecology i.e., limited foraging area and/or narrow dietary flexibility. Furthermore, the more confined foraging ecology of G. blacki is also seen in comparison with fossil and extant large‐bodied primates. However, the unique dietary pattern of G. blacki does not seem to have hindered its survival. The environment in Guangxi during the early Early Pleistocene offered the suitable conditions for G. blacki to become one of the typical species in the faunal assemblages.
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