Implications for diet and extinction of Gigantopithecus blacki from Pleistocene China based on Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (DMTA)

  • Westaway, KE (Primary Chief Investigator)
  • Lubeek, Julien (Student)

Project: Research

Project Details


Diet and extinction of fossil primates are interdependent. A quantitative, non-destructive method that has been successfully applied over the last decades to investigate this relationship is dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA). Meaning, analysis under a 3D microscope of tooth wear, like scratches and
pits, on the molar surface caused by chewing on specific foods during the ‘last meal’ before death. It has never been applied to the largest ape that ever lived: Gigantopithecus blacki (Von Koenigswald 1935). While other great apes survived significantly longer and are still alive today, including humans, G. blacki is the only great ape that went extinct, in prehistoric China, during the last 2.6 million years. DMTA can reveal relevant insights surrounding the main aim: finding out why this giant went extinct, while other great apes (incl. humans) survived. Objectives include: 1) observation and assessment of different wear types by use of (at least) 2 DMTA parameters for G. blacki and 7 comparative animal groups; 2) visualising (preliminary) results between species and G. blacki bearing sites; 3) reconstructing G. blacki’s main type of diet (fruits, leaves or mixed); and 4) reconstructing possible change in diet over time between different fossil bearing cave sites.
Short titleGiganto DMTA
Effective start/end date1/06/2031/05/21