Stories tagged bamboo


A bear practices its fighting skills on a monkey: What a strange picture.
A bear practices its fighting skills on a monkey: What a strange picture.Courtesy scottobear
Fantasy cage matches, I have found, are a good way to pass the time. Bear vs. robot got me through most of junior high. How would that turn out? Robot would probably win, really, with all that mechanical strength, and maybe laser eyes, but you never know; bears are tenacious, and the Terminator series has set a long precedence for against-the-odds robot defeats.

The possibilities for these match ups are endless: bear vs. robot, robot vs. vampire, right brain vs. left brain, toaster vs. bread – you get the idea. Just let your imagination run free, and hypothetical combat scenarios can forever replace the humdrum activities of everyday life.

Every so often, I’ve found, the real world will even throw out a match for the ages. Recently discovered fossils in China suggest that around 400,000 years ago giant pandas and an extinct species of giant ape were in direct competition for the same ecological niche.

Pandas 400,000 years ago were more or less like modern pandas. They were a little bit bigger, but, like the pandas of today, they ate bamboo almost exclusively. The apes in question, gigantopithecus blacki, were probably the largest that have ever lived. Gigantopithecus was about ten feet tall, weighed twelve hundred pounds, and probably ate… bamboo.

So we have huge bears and super huge apes both looking to get their paws on the same sweet, juicy, ancient Chinese bamboo. Would they have ever actually thrown down, though? And would it matter if they did, without someone there to see it? It would have been like a tree falling in the woods, with no one around (if falling trees weren’t so boring). Except, it turns out, there may have been someone around after all.

Some archaeologists believe that ancient human may have been a third contender in the competition for food (bamboo?) and habitat in region. Gigantopithecus and early humans probably had about half a million years of overlap before the ape went extinct around 300,000 years ago, and if humans “migrated like the panda through what is now southern China, they likely had contact with the giant apes.”

Spectacular. Human/giant ape interactions are usually pretty interesting, and with a big bear thrown in the mix… well, anything could happen.

No, not quite anything. The apes went extinct, humans came out of it pretty well, and the bears did so-so.