Much like the aforementioned gorilla, Gigantopithecus’ size, aggression, and even strength is vastly overblown by the Awesomebro trope. In short, Gigantopithecus probably would have been, much like a gorilla, a gentle giant.
First off, the reason chimps are as aggressive (or “angry’’ as the question phrases) is because chimps, like us, are omnivores, but they do a fair bit of hunting. They are perfectly adapted for clambering through the treetops at high speeds in pursuit of some luckless monkey or squirrel.
Chimps have very complicated social behaviour that is similar, yet differs from us greatly. Eg. a person smiling at another person is a friendly gesture, but in chimp social structures, showing your teeth is an aggressive gesture to be met with violence.
A recent study showed that, apparently, Chimps Are Naturally Violent, Study Suggests . As written by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada:
A recent study by a group of primatologists assessed long-term data on aggressive behaviour in chimpanzees to examine which of the two hypotheses was best supported. Their findings indicated that aggressive behaviour in chimpanzees was more related to adaptive strategies, therefore suggesting an evolutionary origin. They believe that aggressive behaviours in chimpanzees likely resulted in benefits that ultimately led to better access to resources and improved the overall evolutionary fitness of the aggressor.
A key thing to keep in mind is that, just like humans, chimpanzees are not always aggressive, and the aggressive behaviours referenced above represent a small portion of daily chimpanzee behaviours. Chimpanzees spend much more of their time grooming, socializing, and foraging for food in non-aggressive ways. Ultimately, it should come as no surprise that our closest cousins are very similar to humans when it comes to aggression and aggressive behaviour.
Basically, the more aggressive chimps were, the better access they had to food and other valuable resources. There’s no room for “wimpiness’’ in the chimp world – they’re naturally rough-and-tumble, and that’s just how chimp society works. Obviously, we humans (with the exception of high schoolers) don’t operate that way, and so it sets us up for a shock when we see this kind of behaviour.
Now, with gorillas, it’s a whole different tangent.
Gorillas, like chimps, are omnivores, but the overwhelming bulk of their diet is plant material. Unlike chimps, gorillas have no reason to be aggressive unless they feel threatened, or if their family/friends are threatened.
David Attenborough playing with baby gorillas
The above image is Jambo, a gorilla who reacted to a young boy falling into his enclosure by protecting him and keeping the other gorillas away.
And, of course, this is Koko, a gorilla famous for her use of sign language and for raising kittens.
No doubt, a gorilla is a extremely powerful animal. They have immense jaws that can deliver a powerful bite. They are many, many times stronger than an adult human. If they feel threatened, gorillas will attack you. But they’re nowhere near as aggressive as a chimp. The “violent brute’’ stereotype that affects these poor primates is one that has persisted since they were first discovered, and one that was spread around by pop culture films, shows and other forms of entertainment like King Kong.
So, to make a long story short, let’s look at Gigantopithecus. Where does our enormous pongine friend fit in within the spectrum of primate behaviour?
Judging from its jaw structure and from carbon isotopes, we know that Gigantopithecus was mostly an herbivore, much like orangutans. However, its immense size meant that Gigantopithecus was likely unable to take to the trees, so it probably had a lifestyle similar to that of a gorilla. Much like a gorilla, they probably could be aggressive when defending themselves – I most certainly wouldn’t want to end up on one’s bad side. But I think, in general, they were probably quite peaceful animals, laid-back like a gorilla and not really caring what was going on round them as long as they had plenty of plants and other resources.