Artistic representation of Gigantopithecus blackiIkumi Kayama, Studio Kayama LLC

A study conducted by a team of researchers has successfully unearthed evidence of the so-called 'original' Bigfoot, a 10-feet tall ape that might have roamed across the earth around two million years ago. Scientists who conducted the study revealed that this giant, known as Gigantopithecus blacki, lived in northeastern China around 1.9 years million years ago before getting extinct.

Are Gigantopithecus blacki human relatives?

After conducting a new analysis of proteins in tooth enamel, researchers found that this creature is not a close relative of human beings like chimpanzees and bonobos. Instead, the sequences that most resembled Gigantopithecus proteins belonged to modern-day Orangutans. The study, published in the journal Nature, also suggested that the giant ape's lineage with orangutans might have split around 10 to 12 million years ago. The research also noted that an adult Gigantopithecus blacki weighed almost 595 pounds.

"By sequencing proteins retrieved from dental enamel about 2 million years old, we showed it is possible to confidently reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of animal species that went extinct too far away in time for their DNA to survive till now. In this study, we can even conclude that the lineages of orangutan and Gigantopithecus split up about 12 million years ago," quoted Enrico Cappellini, a co-author of the study, as saying.

Protein sequencing did the trick

Frido Welker, the lead author of the study, noted that this new discovery is clearly pointing to the vitality of using protein sequencing to retrieve ancient genetic information in subtropical areas even when the fossil is two million years old. It should be noted that, until now, it has only been possible to retrieve genetic information from up to 10,000-year-old fossils in warm, humid areas.

"This is interesting, because ancient remains of the supposed ancestors of our species, Homo sapiens, are also mainly found in subtropical areas, particularly for the early part of human evolution. This means that we can potentially retrieve similar information on the evolutionary line leading to humans.," saidWelker.