Reference: World of Kong: A Natural History of
Is it really possible?
and the Evolution Superhighway
Stop the World, I want
to Get Off....
Welcome to Kong Island
The Colonization of Kong Island
Island to Skull Island, Immigrant Species?
on Flying Rodents and Aerial Anomalies
The Kongs Come to Kong Island
King Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World
Note: This essay is a tribute to the book,
“World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island” by Weta Workshop, published
2005 by Pocket Books, which in turn is based upon and derived from both
the original King Kong and Son of Kong movies of the 1930s, and upon Peter
Jackson’s King Kong remake of 2005. Each is an extraordinary
work in and of itself. This essay is devoted to exploring and extending
certain of the ideas contained in these remarkable works.
Is it really
“At the center of Skull Island, living
in a cavernous lair suspended high above the jungle, and lord of all he
surveyed was Kong. The last of his kind, Kong was a huge and
powerful ape, far larger than any hitherto known species. He was
the king of his world, a nightmarish force to the Skull Islanders, and
an anomaly to science. Kong became the icon for the wonder and power
of nature in his time.” (page 211)
The size of King Kong has varied from one movie to the next.
We’ll ignore the Toho movies, King Kong vs Godzilla and King Kong Escapes,
blot out the DeLaurentis Kong movies, try not to think about various cartoons.
What we’re left with is the original King Kong, its sequel, Son of Kong,
the Peter Jackson remake, and the Weta Workshop book, ‘The World of King
Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island.” These things give
us estimates of anywhere between 25 feet and 40 feet standing erect.
That’s a big monkey. Is it really possible for a mammal to get
Dinosaurs certainly got even larger, the sauropods would have made King
Kong look like a midget, and several other lines, the Hadrosaurs and Iguanadonts,
the Carnosaurs and the Ceratopsians produced individuals which, by weight
at least, were in Kong’s class.
What about mammals? Well, we’re looking at it the wrong
way. Most animals don’t stand upright. So if we
adjust Kong’s posture to a more typical quadruped, he’s probably standing
about fifteen feet tall at the shoulder. Definitely, that’s
pretty huge. We can estimate a size range of somewhere between
seven and fifteen tons.
On the other hand, this puts him in the size class of a great many large
mammals. The Unitatheres, the Brontotheres, the Pyrotheres,
Giant Sloths, Elephants, Mammoths, Mastodons, Hippos, Rhinos and even Camels
produced species who were in the size range of several tons.
So Kong is well within (or at the outer edges) of the size ranges of several
lines of dinosaurs and mammals.
Even if we’re off, and his shoulder height is 18 to 25 feet, he’s
probably in the vicinity of twenty-five to thirty tons. That
would put Kong beyond the range of most dinosaur species, but he’s still
smaller than the sauropods. And he’s still within the
size range of Indricotherium (aka Baluchitherium), an offshoot of the rhinoceros
and the largest mammal ever to have lived. So we know that mammals
can get that big.
Of course, Indricotherium was a highly specialized herbivore who spent
a lot of time eating. He was heavily adapted for a life spent
consuming large quantities of roughage, with highly developed grinding
and chewing teeth, heavy jaws, a longish neck and head, and a very sophisticated
digestive system designed to break down the heavy cellulose.
All the really big mammals have been very sophisticated herbivores.
Look at a cows multiple stomachs and cud chewing. Consider
the teeth and the versatile trunk of the elephant. Some creatures
have symbiotic bacteria in their stomache to help them with the job.
The really big mammals are all serious specialists.
In contrast, it appears that Kong lacked many of these adaptations.
Kong had a heavy jaw, but this was clearly more suited to applying great
pressure than chewing continuously. His teeth sported huge
fighting canines, which probably got in the way of chewing, and the rest
of his teeth were probably not extremely well adapted. Primates,
by and large, are not serious specialists in consuming roughage, and Kong
looks like he was following the usual model.
For the most part, Primates are herbivores of course. But
they’re usually a specialized sort of herbivores: They are
frugivores. For most primates, including monkeys and apes,
the principal diet is fruits, berries and nuts. For some, that
is the exclusive diet. Some monkeys eat leafy greens, as do
chimps and gorillas. Gorillas are noteable for primarily eating greens,
and because they consume so much roughage, they’re known for their pot
The trouble with Gorillas is that they’re not particularly good leafy
green eaters. They have to search out the tenderest young shoots,
the most suculent plants. Unlike an ox which simply grabs a mouthful
and chews, the Gorillas are careful feeders, taking only a fraction of
what an Ox can. Because of this, they eat more slowly and carefully,
and have to spend more energy doing it.
Gorillas simply lack the adaptations that would allow them to eat greens
as indiscriminately as an Ox. Thus, an Ox is capable of eating
far more in a given territory than a Gorilla. The result is that
an Ox can grow much larger and faster than a Gorilla, it can eat more quickly,
and it can pack more Oxen into a given space. Essentially,
it outcompetes the Gorilla. Stuck in the same field, the Ox
will eat rings around the Gorilla. So, the Gorillas retreat
deep into the forest where they can quietly see to their diets without
too much aggravation.
Its this dietary handicap that limits the size of the Gorilla.
And the Gorilla has trouble transcending this handicap because of the competition.
Conceivably, a Gorilla could move into areas where there are more greens
it likes, but there are too many animals eating all sorts of greens, and
they eat the Gorillas food along with everything else, faster than the
Gorilla can. So that’s a kind of cap on the ability to grow.
Another limit on growth is predators. In their own environment,
including in a troop, Gorillas are pretty safe. But when they
move outside of it, they take risks. Leopards, Lions, Tigers,
Hyeanas and Crocodiles are all pretty good at taking down big game, including
creatures bigger than Gorillas. If predators can take
down a water buffalo, even a bull gorilla is at risk. Worse,
Gorillas grow slowly and have vulnerable young. So even when
the bull gorilla isn’t too worried, predators may eat all the offspring,
and that’s just bad news.
So the bottom line is that Gorillas wind up confined to their habitats,
and to the limitations of the food supply and lifestyles of their habitats.
They’re at a ceiling where it is hard to get any bigger.
Can we get bigger primates than Gorillas? Not these days.
An adult bull Gorilla can weigh in at 250 lbs, or 75 pounds heavier than
an average human. The biggest weighed in at 450 lbs, though that
might involve some obesity. Orangs also can get up around 200
lbs. Humans of course, can get around 200 pounds plus, and if you
look at obesity, we’ve produced specimens in the 600 to 1000 pound range
(but they weren’t happy or long lived specimens).
Actually, human ranges of size offer hints for Gorillas.
The tallest human was Robert Wadlow, who stood nine feet tall and weighed
perhaps five hundred pounds. The most obese human went 1000
lbs. We can assume that these are the upper structural limits
of the human skeleton.
But compare the human skeleton with the skeleton of a gorilla, and we
immediately notice that the bones are vastly heavier and more robust.
A gorilla is a lot stronger than human being. This suggests
that in human terms, Gorillas are vastly over-engineered for their size.
They’ve got the sort of heavy bone structure that could support a much
bigger and heavier animal.
There’s an interesting thought there. Are modern Gorillas
pygmies? Were their ancestors giants, and they’ve simply inherited
the massive heavy bones that those giants needed? Beats me.
The fossil record doesn’t show giant Gorillas.
The fossil record does show a famous giant ape called Gigantopithecus.
Gigantopithecus wasn’t a gorilla, rather, it was a separate species.
Estimates of how big he got vary, ranging from eight to ten feet in height,
to 600 to 1500 pounds weight. There are only a few fragmentary
bones and teeth for Gigantopithecus, nothing like a complete skeleton,
so what he looked like and how he lived is speculative.
It appears that Gigantopithecus may have resembled a heavy jawed cross
between a Gorilla and an Orangutang. He was a strictly ground dwelling
animal, and probably walked on his knuckles, like a gorilla, although there
are suggestions he may have gotten around on his fingers like a chimp,
or on the sides of his hands like a sloth. Unlike a Gorillas
mighty canines, Gigantipithecus teeth seemed to be basically flat, and
close examination shows that he was chewing a lot of bamboo.
In habits and lifestyle, he was probably a lot like the Giant Panda, a
slow moving giant, grazing through bamboo forests. He appears
to have been confined to Asia, though he had a fair range.
Gigantopithecus was nowhere near Kong’s size. He was so
far from it, that the distinction between him and a Gorilla is hardly significant.
And he probably wasn’t the ancestor of King Kong’s species.
Rather, he seems to have been a side issue, one of those pathways that
goes off in its own direction and leaves the mainstream.
King Kong himself strongly resembled a Gorilla, and its likely that
his ancestors came from some main line of ape evolution, rather than a
specialized side branch.
But, we’re getting away from ourselves here. Given the inherent
features of the primate skeleton, looking at the bones of a Gorilla or
Gigantopithecus, could it produce a creature as big as Kong?
I would argue yes. To support this, I’d point out an even
more unlikely race of giants: The sloths. Sloths, by
anyones estimation, were probably poor candidates to produce elephant sized
monsters. They were edentates, a fairly primitive, mostly toothless
bunch of tree climbers. Sloths were so specialized as slow
moving tree climbers that they developed large hooked climbing claws and
their wrists and ankles turned permanently inwards. Because
of this, sloths when they became giant ground walkers, had to walk on the
sides of their feet. So, originally tree dwellers, bad teeth,
bad feet, slow moving and poor design. You wouldn’t think Sloths
would get very far or amount to very much.
But somehow they did it South America, and not only that, they were
successful enough to move up through North America and compete successfully
head to head with Mastodons, Mammoths, Rhinoceri and Brontotheres.
The biggest Sloth, Megatherium weighed as much as an elephant and could
rear up to a height of as much as eighteen feet. And he was
still a feeb with bad teeth walking around on the sides of his feet.
So, if the Sloths could get this far, well, it doesn’t seem impossible
that the Apes could match or even beat that record. For one
thing, the apes have better teeth and they’re not hobbling on the sides
of their feet.
Indeed, if we look at King Kong, he doesn’t seem so unrealistic in his
size. Look at the thickness of his arms and legs. Big
animals have thick arms and legs because they need thick bones to sustain
their weight. Elephants have legs like pillars. But interestingly,
an elephant can jump but only once. If they were to jump, their weight
when they hit the ground, would cause the bones of their legs to shatter.
On the other hand, Kongs arms and legs look to be more than twice as thick
as the limbs of mammoths or even Indricotherium. Part of that,
obviously, is that it has to be. Elephants and Indricotheriums basically
used their legs as pillars, bearing their weight straight down, and lifting
carefully to take steps. Kong uses his limbs, particularly
his arms, much more flexibly. Instead of simply being stiff pillars,
Kongs arms and legs bend and flex to fight and climb. So they
have to be much more muscular and much thicker. With all that,
however, the thickness of Kongs limbs and body seem to be well within the
proportions he needs to carry the weight he’s got. So, on the surface,
compared to other giant mammals, Kong looks like he’s viable.
So anyway, assuming Primates could do it, obviously they haven’t, outside
of Kong’s species. We don’t have giant primates or even Kong’s species
in the fossil record. So where does he come from?
How does he come about? How did his species manage it?
How did the sloths manage it? Part of their secret is that
the Sloths didn’t emerge in the biological mainstream of connected continents
which were Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Rather,
the sloths developed in isolation on an Island continent where there was
less competition and more opportunities.
This then, is likely the secret of the giant Kong apes.
They’re an Island species.
Continents and the Evolution Superhighway
A word or two about Islands.
Most life on Earth is connected, and I mean that in a very practical
way. Asia is physically joined to Europe. Africa connects
to both Asia and Europe through land bridges. North America
is technically separated right now, but has been connected frequently off
and on through land bridges.
What this means is that plant and animal species can move back and forth.
Nowadays, this doesn’t seem terribly obvious. But there was
a time when elephant species, mammoths and mastodons, roamed through four
continents. Now they’re restricted to two species in corners of two
Apes were to be found throughout Africa, and through India and China.
Again, Apes are confined to the Orangutangs of Southeast Asia and the Gorillas
and Chimps of central Africa, with vast ape-empty territory in between.
Once upon a time, apes species roamed in those areas.
This ‘old world’ amounts to almost 40 million square miles.
It’s the largest continuous laboratory of life on Earth, and because of
that volume, adaptation proceeds faster but rather more uniformly.
All life, all plant species, all animal species in these vast territories
are part of the same interconnecting tapestry.
Which brings us to Islands. Islands are the places out of
the loop, where the rules are different. Islands are where evolution
goes off in different directions.
Historically, there have been three big Island continents.
Australia, which still possesses a unique collection of marsupial and monotreme
life forms, from Kangaroos to Duck billed platypuses, marsupial lions and
wolves, and giant monitor lizards. South America, which possessed
its own remarkable assortment of flora and fauna right up until it connected
with North America. During its time, South America produced
its own strain of monkeys, created saber toothed tigers out of marsupials,
and imitation elephants, horses and giraffes. The final antarctic
continent was Antarctica, which has, unfortunately, abandoned most flora
and fauna, except for a few penguins, for a exciting new career opportunities
as an ice cap.
There are also the large Islands of Madagascar, with its Elephant Birds
and Lemurs, and New Zealand, with its Moas and Kiwis, which have been separated
from the mainland for fifty or sixty million years, or were never part
of a mainland, and each has produced a remarkable assortment of unique
There have probably been other similarly unique ecological Islands,
Iceland perhaps, or Cuba and the Greater Antilles. However, human
discovery and settlement have wiped away much of their potential uniqueness.
Finally, there are actual bitty islands, like Mauritius and Reunion
in the Indian Ocean, Bermuda and St. Helena in the Atlantic, and Hawaii
and the Galapagos in the Pacific, which produce their own distinctive bits
Of course, we’re operating right now on a fairly narrow view of Islands.
Anything that is geographically or climactically isolated, so that there
are barriers to getting in or out, constitutes an Island in ecological
terms. The Sahara desert for instance, is a sort of Island
with unique climactic and geographical conditions, the life that lives
in it isn’t able to live very well outside of it, and so it goes its own
way. The Sahara desert, or a mountain range for that matter,
forms a barrier between two green and fertile areas, making them effectively
Islands isolated from each other. The continents are full of such
‘islands’ or ‘zones’ which act as shorter term biological laboratories
for developing and refining species. But these are relatively
short term things in terms of the bigger picture, and they’re far more
permeable than our stereotypical Islands.
The trick is that the Islands, large and small, are dealt a different
deck of cards. They don’t have the full panoply of species
which the supercontinent has. So, their evolutionary processes
make do with a different set of cards. Australia separated
when Marsupials were the only game and before modern mammals had evolved,
thus Australia’s life was marsupial based. South America separated
a little later, and developed its species based on marsupials and early
placental mammals. Madagascar separated from Africa before prosimians
had advanced to monkeys, and so developed Lemurs. All New Zealand
had to work with was birds, so it made things out of flightless birds.
In the big supercontinent of course, these things wouldn’t have worked.
Marsupials, early mammals, lemurs and flightless birds were roadkill on
the evolutionary superhighway. But off in their hidden islands, off
the beaten path, they had the freedom from competition to go and do interesting
things and produce their own editions. In some cases, their little
special editions were actually competitive - from South America for example,
Armadillos, Glyptodonts, Opossums and Ground Sloths found themselves surviving
the invasion from the North, and even expanding their range.
Of course, life isn’t independently invented. All life on
Earth can be traced back to increasingly remote common ancestors.
So all of the Island continents and Islands were once connected to the
evolutionary superhighway at some point, either through having their land
masses physically joined or connected by land bridges, or by migrations
of that life out to empty, unconnected lands.
It’s the migrations that I want to focus on.
the World, I want to Get Off....
Let’s stop and think about a place like the Galapagos or New Zealand.
Its not part of a continental mass. It was never part of a
continental mass. Instead, its just some nice fertile real
estate, sitting around unoccupied, waiting for tenants.
So where do the tenants come from? Well, its not as if these
places are going to spontaneously germinate their own life.
Instead, life comes in from abroad.
In the case of New Zealand, birds move in and get comfortable.
Since there’s lots of food and no predators, birds don’t need to be light
trim flyers. Some start gaining weight, getting bigger and
lose the power of flight. Next thing you know, you’ve got Moas standing
fifteen feet tall.
In the Galapagos, Iguanas move in. There’s lots of plants to eat,
no advanced mammals to eat them first, no predators to make Iguanas life
tough. So the next thing you know, you’ve got six foot long
iguanas, swimming around, munching on seaweed and cactus.
So, how did they get there in the first place. Well,
the current theory is that they ‘rafted’.
Basically, trees or driftwood, floating pieces of vegetation get washed
off the shores of continents by storms or floods or tsunami. These
pieces of wood and debris wind up floating around on the ocean. Most
of it sinks or winds up back on continent shorelines. Some
of it winds up on the beaches of islands.
Now, once in a while, these piece of flotsam and jetsam are occupied
or become occupied when they get floated out to sea. Usually, its
pretty small life. Insects and such. Sometimes though, it’s
a bit larger creatures. Small turtles, iguanas, lizards, the
occasional monkey. Sometimes this flotsam and jetsam gets used
as a convenient resting place by birds or bats who have poor sense of direction.
Some of them are simply blown by storms. I remember a few
years ago, a wild Pink Flamingo was discovered in marshes in New Brunswick.
The poor bird had been picked up by hurricane winds and literally blown
thousands of miles all the way from Florida. In short, nature
sometimes can pick up and cast its children vast distances.
Thus, we get Monkeys rafting over to South America, Lemurs rafting over
to Madagascar, little tortoises rafting across the Indian ocean, lizards
winding up in the Galapagos. And once there, finding virgin
territory and new opportunities, they start to evolve and radiate into
remarkable new forms.
Of course, it’s a long shot for creatures to raft over.
They’re essentially trapped on some piece of floating wood drifting aimlessly
on the currents or wind. Eventually, most likely, they dehydrate
or starve to death. Or they’re devoured by seagoing predators.
Or their piece of wood becomes water logged and sinks. There
is no inevitable rule that says that their raft has to take them to solid
land anywhere, and certainly there is no rule that says they have to make
it alive. Even where an animal comes within sight of land, they might
still not make it to shore.
So, colonization is usually done from the mainlands closest. The
longer you float, the better the odds that you won’t wind up anywhere,
or that you’ll be too starved or dessicated to make it to shore alive,
or survive very long after you get there.
Birds have an easier time of it, they can fly and look for pieces of
debris to land on. They can go up and look around from
a far greater altitude, and if they see something they can strike for it.
Thus, most of the most remote islands, like New Zealand, Mauritius and
Reunion are colonized by birds.
Land animals are in a tough spot, they can’t leapfrog to another floating
piece of debris, they can’t spot land as easily, and if they do spot it,
they have to swim for it, which is a lot more difficult. The
advantage goes to small reptiles which are able to survive privations more
easily. Small mammals are also a better bet, since they need less
food and water and might hold out a little longer. The paws and claws
of small animals are far better suited to hanging on and moving around
on a piece of debris.
Simple math tells us that there will be all kinds of debris being blown
into the sea, but small pieces will greatly outnumber large pieces, and
are more likely to travel more quickly.
Thus, if we look around, we find Iguanas and Tortoises making it out
to the Galapagos, together with various species of finches.
Birds and Reptiles, but not even small mammals. It’s a long
trip. In South America, we found monkeys rafting over from
Africa after the continents separated, some 50 million years ago.
The monkeys had some advantages - they were very good at hanging on with
hands and feet, and the gulf between Africa and South America was much
smaller than it is now. But that gulf kept widening, and even after
a few million years, not even the monkeys could make the trip
On remote islands in the Indian Ocean, we found giant tortoises.
Largely because their ancestors, tiny tortoises, were among the only
creatures who made it, and because almost nothing else could survive the
privations of their Islands.
On Mauritious and Reunion, the birds made it, producing the Dodo.
On New Zealand, the birds made it again, producing the Moas. In Madagascar
lemurs made it over from Africa and diversified, while birds produced the
Aeropornis or Elephant-birds.
We’ve said small animals, reptiles and mammals can occupy large and
small pieces of debris. Larger animals can only occupy large
pieces of debris. And of course, not only are there much fewer
‘rafts’ for larger animals, but the rafts move more slowly, the large
creatures are more vulnerable to the environment, and they have far more
difficulty holding on. A mountain goat or a deer may be swift
and agile in their environment, but they’re no great shakes at hanging
onto a log floating in the ocean. A leopard adapted for tree
climbing might be able to do it. A wolf or a lion, more used to open
country, probably couldn’t.
It is incredibly rare for larger animals to make the trip to islands.
Usually, when we see large animals on an Island, they’ve either evolved
there - as with the Elephant Birds, Moas, Giant Tortoises, Galapagos Iguanas,
etc. Or they’ve crossed over on Land Bridges which have now
sunk which is how Kangaroos wound up in New Guineau, or Orangutangs in
Indonesia, or the Tasmanian Wolf ended up in Tasmania.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of three examples of large
or medium sized animals who made it out to isolated Islands on their own.
Two of them are in Madagascar, the local crocodile species, and a pygmy
hippopotamus. Both of these are semi-aquatic creatures, adapted to
surviving in the water and decent swimmers. Not good enough
swimmers to normally make the trip from Africa to Madagascar. But
we could imagine a tropical storm or typhoon, or tsunami sweeping their
ancestors out there.
The only other example was a now extinct species of ground sloth that
made it to Cuba. The sloths were not good swimmers, let’s admit
that right now. But they had a few things going for them. Cuba
was relatively close to Florida. The Ground sloths, particularly
the smaller ones had the claws and gripping limbs that would enable them
to hang onto a log better than practically any other large or medium sized
animal without actual hands, and they were vegetarians, so if they were
hanging onto an uprooted tree, they could survive for a time on the leaves
of that tree. A leopard couldn’t hang on as well, nor could
it eat the vegetable matter it was clinging to. So, miraculously,
sloths made it to Cuba.
Of course, getting there is only half the fun. Even if an
animal on a ‘raft’ makes it to a new land, and the odds are pretty much
hundreds or thousands to one, it still has to find a home in its new land.
That is, it has to find an environment or habitat enough like its old one
that it can survive. There’s no guarantee of that. Plenty of
birds and lizards probably ended up on the islands of the giant Indian
Ocean tortoises and starved to death. The more specialized
the diet, the more specialized the habitat needs, the worse your chances.
And even if the animal wins the lottery and by some fluke, makes it
to land, and manages to survive in that land.... What’s it going
to do? How does it reproduce? Unless its already
pregnant, its going to need a mate. In particular, its going
to need a mate of the same species and opposite sex, who has managed to
go on the same journey, within the breeding lifetime of our hero, and who
has wound up in roughly the same neighborhood.
That pink flamingo I mentioned, who got blown all the way to Canada...
He was due for a short and fairly unhappy life. He wasn’t going
to be finding a girlfriend anywhere, and even if he managed to outlast
the predators who were willing to experiment with new menu, the Canadian
winter was going to get him. Luckily, he was unique and strange enough
to the area that people spotted him and decided to send him home.
Which means that our long odds have to be squared or cubed.
When we’re talking about Island Colonization, very few species manage to
gain a foothold. New visitors are most likely to be of the
same species that have been able to make the journey. Thus,
finches, iguanas and tortoises made it to the Galapagos, but the trip was
just too onerous for rats. Over a few hundreds of thousands
of years, you’ll get more iguanas and tortoises and even the occasional
finch, but the rats don’t make it. For a creature to survive
the trip, find a new home and find a mate is a complete fluke, its statistically
inevitable, perhaps, that someone is going to make it there. But
it is not going to happen often.
Sloths might make it to Cuba, but they surely were not going to make
it all the way out to remote Bermuda. Cuba was close enough
that you could see the occasional chance, even a regular chance.
But the farther you were drifting randomly in the ocean, the worse your
chances got. Even if one, by some fluke did, the odds of a Ms Sloth
making it to Bermuda before Mr. Sloth died of old age were astronomical.
Thus, the new colonists are seldom challenged by interlopers.
Your new country has to have other castaways like yourself, but the odds
are that if there are other castaways surviving, they’ll be creatures similar
to yourself. Over time, New Zealand probably got a few several
visits or castaways, but they would all be from the same species of extremely
hardy birds. Nothing else made the trip, or at least, didn’t make
the trip often enough to found a breeding population. So, the colonizing
species generally has the place to themselves. Instead, they spread,
multiply, and diversify.
to Kong Island
“The origin of Kong’s species is as obscure
as Skull Island itself. But what seems certain is that his kind arrived
no earlier than a few thousand years ago and were not native to the island.”
So, lets get back to the Kongs. What we probably have here
is a repeat of the Sloths in Cuba. Apes have hands, gripping
feet, and the sort of skeletal and muscle structure that would allow them
to hang on to a washed away tree for dear life and not let go.
Like the Sloths, they’re vegetarians, so in a pinch, they’ll be eating
It’s just remotely possible that an ape, or that apes, could survive
the journey of castaways. Of course, that’s not an unlimited
The original Kong Apes were probably not giants. They were
likely no larger than gorillas or chimps, and perhaps were close relatives
of the gorillas. Occasional tree climbers, mostly forest dwellers.
They may have been juveniles of their species.
Humans, by the way, are also good tree clingers. After the
Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, one survivor was found way out in the Indian
Ocean, clinging to a tree that had been swept from the shoreline.
This gives us a window into the origin of the Kong. We can imagine
a similar tsunami hundreds of thousands, or millions of years ago, sweeping
clear shorelines occupied by troops of apes, uprooting entire forests of
trees and carrying a handful of survivors out to sea, some of whom, pregnant
females, juveniles (juveniles would be more likely to head for trees in
the event of a disaster), perhaps clinging to the same trees, a few surviving
the trip to their new homeland.
Kong Island might well have been colonized in a single incident.
The Kongs may well have derived from a single breeding pair, or an extremely
small number of individuals. Apes are highly social, and band
together, so there is a decent chance that a storm or tsunami that sweeps
one out would sweep others.
The Island that they were cast away too must never have been geologically
connected to the mainland or to other islands. Most of the
Indonesian Islands were once connected to each other, and thus share flora
and fauna. New Guinea was never connected to the Indonesian
archipelago, though it is visibly adjacent. Rather, it was connected
to Australia. Our hypothetical Kong Island hasn’t been connected
to the Asian mainland, Australia or the Indonesian archipelago.
That suggests its sitting on a geologically distinct plate.
Why? Because if it was occupied with mainland flora and fauna,
imported from a land bridge, there would have been predators and competing
herbivores, and the apes wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow into
giants. But more on that later...
We can also assume that the Island, although distinct for most of its
history, could not have been too far from the nearest Asian or Indonesian
land. Why? Because the farther away the more difficult
and less likely it would have been to have rafted. Madagascar
and South America were close enough to Africa, fifty and sixty million
years ago for Lemurs and New World Monkeys to raft over. Madagascar
is still pretty close, but more advanced monkeys and apes have never been
able to make the trip. Cuba was pretty damned close to allow Sloths
to make the trip. So, at best, Kong Island is probably no more
than 200 miles from some mainland, and quite possibly closer.
On the other hand, it can’t be too close, so perhaps no closer than 50
Water levels can change of course. They’ve gone up, and
where once Indonesia was a solid mass connecting to Asia, it’s a bunch
of Islands. So its shorelines are undoubtedly dozens upon dozens
of miles from where they were originally. But you’re still
not going to change things too radically. Your maximum distance,
even assuming that seas have risen and shorelines receded, is no more than
a few hundred miles. Its likely that with the increase in sea
levels, the sort of rafting that allowed Kongs or other animals to make
it to Kong Island is now impossible, or dramatically less likely.
And we can assume that the Kong Island was fairly hefty.
How large? Therein lies the question. Madagascar is quite
large, but the largest creature it ever produced was the Aeropornis at
a mere 10 feet and thousand pounds, and some lemurs that got up around
450 pounds. New Zealand is pretty big, though not quite so
large, and it produced the Moa, which was only several hundred pounds though
fifteen feet tall. The dragons of Komodo, the tortoises of the Indian
ocean, the Iguanas of Galapagos are only a few feet long.
Generally, Islands have limited food supplies. So the tendency
is that small animals can get larger to take advantage of a food supply
without competition, but large animals get smaller in order to maximize
their opportunities. Thus, Madagascar and New Zealand took
pigeons and made giant birds out of them. But Sicily took an elephant
and reduced it to the size of a dog, Wrangel Island’s mammoths were smaller
than ponies, Flores hominids became hobbits and Madagascar’s hippos became
If we go by the example of Madagascar and New Zealand, maximum sizes
for Islands their size seem to be 500 to 1000 pounds. So perhaps
our Kong Apes were not destined to grow very large.
But let’s think about it a little more. One of the things with
both Madagascar and New Zealand is that their giants started off from the
size of pigeons. The ancestral creatures to the giant birds
and lemurs probably weighed no more than a pound. So these
creatures expanded some 500 fold. To grow a one pound creature
to a 500 pound monster, you need a lot of extreme and specialized adaptations,
its not easy, there are inbuilt limits. So perhaps what
the Moa and Giant Lemur and Elephant Birds were running up against were
not the limits of their environment but the limits of their own biology?
Lets go take another look at Islands and the maximum sizes that they
can carry. Sri Lanka supports a population of Asian Elephants,
who are Elephant sized, thank you very much. I believe that
Asian Elephants are also to be found on Indonesian Islands like Java, Sumatra,
The thing is that a continent is big, but its not the size of a habitat.
African elephants are big, but they’re not scrounging around the whole
length and breadth of a continent. Their habitat is appreciably smaller.
Sometimes fairly large animals in Africa or Asia scrounge around in fairly
small habitats. So, if you’ve got a reasonable sized Island,
the next question you’ve got is how much habitat it has. Sri
Lanka had lots of good habitat for Asian elephants, Sicily had really bad
country for elephants, not much good habitat. So, you could
conceivably have an Island with a rich fairly uniform habitat that could
support a population of large beasts.
Of course, there are certain minimums. Something the size
of a Kong or an Asian Elephant is going to need a certain volume of green
stuff each day to survive. A population of them are going to
have a very clear minimum daily requirement. To sustain that
minimum daily requirement, you need a lot of plants. In fact,
you need so many plants that the amount eaten each day is a tiny fraction
of the green, say 1000th, because the plants have to keep reproducing and
maintaining themselves. If your population of Kongs ate only
100th of the available greenery, well, after four months, they’d have starved
to death. If they ate only one 360th of the available greenery, then,
after a year, they’d have eaten everything they started out with, and they
would be left eating only the stuff that was growing in the last years.
A few months later, that’s gone, and they’re starving again.
So what this means is that you can calculate fairly exactly how much environment
or habitat is needed to support a population of Kongs. Something
the size of Mauritius or the Galapagos won’t cut it. Ideally,
we might want to look at something Madagascar or New Zealand, or Java or
Sumatra, sized, but that might not be in the cards. I don’t
think we should be looking at anything smaller than Sri Lanka or thereabouts.
So, we’re developing our profile of Kong Island. Some place
say a hundred to four hundred miles off the coast of Indonesia, separated
by empty ocean, no intermediate islands, formed on a separate continental
shelf, with no geological connection to either the mainland or Indonesia.
It is or was a tropical Island with a fairly uniform habitat, probably
rain forest jungle, and its about the size of Sri Lanka.
I say ‘was’ because obviously, Kong Island isn’t around any more.
I’m pretty sure that someone in Carl Denham’s universe would have noticed
an Island filled with giant apes. Particularly since this Island
was also home to an advanced human civilization that probably had contact
with other Southeast Asian cultures.
According to Weta Workshop, Skull Island was sinking and had vanished
by 1948. Skull Island was the product of the Indo-Australian
and Eurasian tectonic plates sliding against each other. However,
Skull Island or the land mass of which Skull Island was the last fragment
of a land mass that had existed since the Cretaceous era. The
closer truth is that Skull Island probably represented the remains of a
small continental plate which was being submerged between the junctures.
Kong Island was probably an aspect of the same plate which had been
forced up. It is not clear if Kong Island had ever been an
above sea part of the Skull Island plate, or whether it had been elevated
for the first time by tectonic forces. However, it was new
and uninhabited virgin territory, undespoiled by the voracious Skull Island
life forms. It was as pristine and open to new life as New
Zealand had been. So if it was not actually new land, then
it had been previously submerged and re-emerged.
As a leading edge of the deteriorating Skull Island plate, it existed
for only a few millions of years before finally re-submerging some two
thousand years ago. Its destruction heralded the eventual
end for the Skull Island remnant.
Colonization of Kong Island
What else is living on the Island? Even though the Island
was probably geologically related to Skull Island, it was clear of dinosaurs
and other Skull Island fauna. Otherwise, the Kongs would have
had no opportunity to evolve. They needed a pristine landscape.
Likewise, it would have been equally clear of mainland fauna.
Indeed, its likely that Kong Island lay between Skull Island and the
mainland. It’s also likely that Kong Island was far closer to the
mainland than it was to Skull Island. Obviously, Kong and perhaps
other species indicate to us that its fauna originated from the mainland,
rather from the more aggressive Skull Island population.
So what was the life on Kong Island? Lots of vegetation.
It’s a lot easier for plants to get to Kong Island. They or their
seeds can wash up on shores, be blown on the wind, or carried and excreted
in the guts of birds.
Many of the plants on Kong Island would have travelled as seeds in the
digestive tracts of birds. To persuade birds to eat them, they
would have to be fruits or nuts. So its likely that Kong Island
has a much higher proportion of fruit and net trees, of berries and similar
plants than on the mainland. So the energy and food value
of the greenery on Kong Island is much higher than on the mainland.
Its not easy for plants either though. So what you’ll find is
that plants immediately start to evolve and specialize, disperse and diversify.
There are palm trees all over the Pacific, right up to South America, so
Palms got around. On the other hand, each Island sports its own unique
Kong Island is in a well watered tropical region, so we can expect that
the Island will be covered by immense old growth rainforest and a thick,
rich biological diversity.
Of course, there will be birds. You’ll get a variety
of flying birds, and even some unique specimens of flying birds.
The range will include everything from parrots to herons.
Given the likely lack of predators, we might see flightless birds evolving
as they did in New Zealand, Madagascar and several other places.
You might even get some fair sized flightless birds.
There will probably be an assortment of lizards and snakes, some turtles.
Crocodiles are likely, but their semi-aquatic lifestyle means they’re not
too much trouble in the rain forest. We might get some of our castaway
lizards or snakes growing into large predators, like Pythons or Komodo
Dragons. But since a lot of the life they intend to prey upon
is going to be flying birds, well, there’s not a lot of room for them to
develop. They might dine on the flightless birds that may evolve,
but that’s a tough sell. Mostly, they’ll probably stick to
stealing eggs, and preying on insects and smaller life.
There may be a few other mammals that make it to the Island.
Most of them are going to be small, and mostly tree dwellers.
So shrews, squirrels, perhaps some insectivores or herbivorous rodents.
The most interesting specimens may be prosimians who now exist in enclaves
around the Pacific. The prosimians are an almost extinct line, the
ancestors of modern old world monkeys, new world monkeys and apes.
The big stronghold of the pro-simians is Madagascar where the lemurs hold
sway. But beyond that, there are creatures like the Tarsier, the
Potto and the Loris.
Kong Island to Skull Island, Immigrant Species?
Why is this interesting? Because of this passage in World
of King Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island.
“Burglar Monkey, Perfossor Novus.
The curious Burglars were not true monkeys at all but relatives of tarsiers
and lorises - primitive primates akin to the ancestors of monkeys and apes...
not especially fast or possessing of impressive defenses...” (Page
The Burglar Monkey’s are something of a mystery on Skull Island.
They are one of only a very small group of mammals - the others were the
Kong, Gaur and Humans, all artificially introduced, the Rat-Monkeys and
the flying Rodents. What they’re doing on Skull Island is a
puzzle. It appears that Skull Island has been separated from
the mainlands since at least the Cretaceous, so it has missed out on mammalian
evolution. The prosimians appeared well after the Cretaceous,
so they weren’t part of the natural flora and fauna.
The prosimians may have rafted over to Skull Island, that’s entirely
possible. But it seems unlikely that the little creatures would
have been able to find a refuge in the ferocious competition of Skull Island.
It’s hard to imagine them not being eaten on the spot by dinosaurs or centipedes.
There were no shortage of ferocious predators, and almost every conceivable
niche would already have been occupied.
So I’m thinking that the Burglar Monkeys didn’t evolve on Skull Island.
It’s more likely that the prosimians who evolved into parallel monkeys,
rafted over to a more genial unoccupied, empty island closer to the mainland
where they could evolve in security. And from there,
they were carried to Skull Island by the same people who carried the Kongs
and the Gaur. I’m suggesting that the Burglar Monkeys are actually
Kong Island fauna, transported either as pets, food animals or perhaps
Are there other survivors of Kong Island transplanted to Skull Island?
Possibly, although it is difficult to be sure. One would anticipate
that the creatures that transferred from Kong Island to Skull Island could
come only by rafting, or by riding along with humans, either as domesticated
‘paying passengers’ or as vermin.
So, what are our other candidates? The best ones are species
of flightless birds. Its hard to imagine how flightless birds
could have evolved on Skull Island. The most remarkable flightless
birds, the Dodo, the Elephant Birds, the Moa and Kiwi, the Penguins have
all evolved on Islands which were sheltered and lacked predators.
There have been flightless birds on continents. In modern times,
we have the African Ostrich, the South American Cassowary, and the Australian
Emu. Ancient north and south America produced Phororacos and Diatrama.
But Phororacos emerged in North America after the dinosaurs had wiped
out and before the mammals had really come to dominate. North America
was then an Island continent. Diatrama was a predator of an Island
continent, and arguably, the isolated nature of the Island continent produced
the Cassowary. The Emu developed on another isolated island
continent. Only the Ostrich remains a puzzle. But the
overwhelming evidence seems to be that giant flightless birds tend to develop
only in empty niches, basically, where there is no significant mammal competition
or active predators. So, how do they develop on Skull Island,
which has full niches and a vast assortment of predators.
It’s more likely that the flightless birds were the original inhabitants
of Kong Island, and were transported, perhaps as food or small draft animals.
This would include Hylaeornis (page 149), Noctopervagus
(page 150), Pinnatono (page 151). Other possibles would
include the flightless predator birds, Brutornis
(page 74) and Zeropteryx (page 76) both of whom preyed on small
animals, and the Carrion Storks (page 72).
Some Skull Island creatures, however, are puzzles. They are not
likely to have originated on Skull Island, but it doesn’t seem likely that
they are products of Kong Island. Still, these strange creatures
are worth a look.
One mystery is the Rat-Monkey, which is also found in Sumatra.
The provenance of this ugly little creature, host to a necrotizing virus
with symptoms similar to both rabies and leprosy is unknown.
That it is found in Sumatra and Skull Island suggests that it was also
a denizen of Skull Island, although where it truly evolved and how it made
its way is a true puzzle. The rat monkey does not seem to clearly
be a true primate, nor a true rodent. Rather, it seems to have been
a mammalian equivalent of a vulture, a predatory scavenger of nasty and
omnivorous disposition. Among its vulture-like adaptations
were a long muzzle and hairless head and neck. Since Skull Island
had no shortage of predators and scavengers, it is likely that the Rat-Monkey
was not originally native to Skull Island. It also seems unlikely
to have been a mainland creature, where presumably, the niches for scavengers
were also filled. It may have been an offshoot of the prosimian
line of Kong Island which also produced the Burglar Monkeys.
If indeed we are looking at two separate lines of prosimians originally
from Kong Island, this suggests that Kong Island was the site of a remarkable
flowering of the primate line comparable to the New World Monkeys of South
America and the Lemurs of Madagascar.
Chameleons are primarily in Madagascar, but the species is also found
in Africa and Europe. Given this range, we can assume that they were
at some point widespread all along the Indonesian and African coasts.
So, it is entirely possible that they rafted over to Skull Island directly
from the mainland, or they could have come either rafting from Kong island
or by human transmission. The tree climbing, slow moving chameleons
are a textbook rafting species. (Page 169)
The Carrion Parrots. Parrots may have appeared after the
cretaceous, and although primarily creatures of South and Central America,
are found as widely distributed as Asia and New Zealand. A jungle
bird, the Skull Island Parrots are believed to have appeared only a few
million years ago. Its unlikely that they were brought over
by human action. They may have existed on Kong Island, but it is
more likely that they are the products of direct rafting from the mainland
or indirect rafting from Skull Island, well before the advent of humans,
and it is likely that they evolved to their present form on Skull Island.
Digression on Flying Rodents and Aerial Anomalies
The Flying Rats. The biggest mystery of Skull Island are
the apparently impossible flying rats. It is not well understood
how a true powered flying species manages to successfully evolve.
Outside of Skull Island, there are only four successful examples: Insects,
Pterosaurs, Birds and Bats. Insects achieved flight but were limited
in size, allowing the other species to enter the air. Pterosaurs
learned to fly without competition. Birds grew in the shadow
of Pterosaurs, but somehow found unoccupied niches, it may simply have
been that their adaptations were superior and they could steal niches from
the cruder, clumsier pterosaurs. Bats apparently succeeded
by colonizing the night, a territory that the birds had left vacant, and
date back almost to the beginning of the age of mammals, some 60 million
But by the modern period, birds and bats had with their flight, colonized
every available land mass. Birds occupied just about every rock they
could build a nest on, from the Antarctic, to New Zealand, Mauritius, the
Galapagos, you name it. Bats were the only mammal species to make
it to New Zealand or Hawaii. So, where and how could Flying Rodents
have evolved that they would not have had to contend with birds or bats
dominating the sky and filling the niches?
Yet the Flying Rodents are not a marginal or fledgling order.
There were at least six major, highly distinctive species on Skull Island,
including specimens whose wing spans and sizes compared credibly with the
major pterosaurs, birds and bats. The size and diversity of
these creatures speaks to an extremely well established, highly developed,
and lengthy evolutionary history.
So where do they come from? The only potential window that
seems open would have been in the Jurassic/Cretaceous, during the period
before bats evolved and when pterosaurs were declining and birds were simply
getting started. A line of flying rodents might well have held
its own against clumsy pterosaurs and early crude birds.
Essentially, we can speculate that if Birds were able to evolve under
Pterosaurs, then other species, including the Vultursaurs and the Swampwings
could have done so too. There might have been a Jurassic renaissance,
a proliferation of crude attempts at powered flight by several different
lines. In this early battle, the birds dominated early, leaving
the other lines trapped in isolated regions or limited niches. The
birds may have initially simply been better flyers. Or they may have
been able to spread more quickly and widely, or adapt and diversify more
rapidly into niches.
The flying rodents might have developed on an Island habitat where there
was no competition from birds at all, and perhaps no significant predators
to trouble them. The flying rodents may well have been Skull
Island’s first inhabitants, and could well have originally evolved there.
Alternately, they may have been geographically localized in the Asian area,
or in tropical forests.
Indeed, that makes a degree of sense. It’s clear that on Skull
Island, the flying rodents are more than a match for the birds. They
dominate the aerial ecosystem.
That poses its own problem. Why aren’t flying rodents kicking
ass all over Indonesia and Southeast Asia? They’re clearly
powerful, sophisticated, agile flyers with a variety of adaptive abilities.
The most obvious reason is that they cannot escape Skull Island.
They never perfected the great long distance high flyers that birds did,
and were unable to successfully cross the waters. The few flying
rodents that did make it were perhaps the poorest of the lot, unable to
compete with the birds of foreign lands. The big guns were trapped
This may give us some idea of the flying rodents evolutionary history.
We know that Skull Island was connected to the mainlands during the Cretaceous/Jurassic
eras, and that it was colonized by dinosaurs. We also know
that Skull Island separated during the Cretaceous, avoiding the great extinction
of the dinosaurs. They may have evolved originally on Skull
Island or colonized it with the other Cretaceous life forms.
If they did evolve on Skull Island, the period of connection during the
Mezosoic would have allowed them to spread. Obviously, they
were not well enough evolved at that time to survive the mass extinction
in the rest of the world. It is likely only after the Mezosoic
that they came into their own on Skull Island and won the battle with the
birds early on. The bats were simply shut out. Evolving
and perfecting their flight after the Mezosoic, the bats found they were
unable to penetrate Skull Island’s niches, which were already occupied.
But the by the time the flying rodents perfected their evolution, they
were trapped on Skull Island and the birds dominated worldwide.
Were the Flying Rodents inhabitants of Kong Island? It’s
possible. But in this case at least, the transmission was the other
way. The flying rodents, if there would have been colonizing from
Kongs Come to Kong Island
All right, so we have our picture of Kong Island. Along
come the Kongs, a few washed up individuals, probably juveniles and females,
perhaps no larger than modern Gorillas, the survivors of some ferocious
tsunami or hurricane, clinging to the trunks and branches of floating trees.
The fluke nature of the chance colonization by such an unusually large
creature probably highlighted one of the weaknesses of the Kongs.
We know that the later Kong Island Civilization successfully colonized
Skull Island and transplanted Kongs there. We also know that this
culture had contact with the mainland cultures. So why weren’t Kongs
transplanted to and surviving on the mainland?
One reason might be the relative lack of genetic diversity of the Kongs.
They had begun from a very narrow genetic pool, perhaps as small as one
or two breeding pairs. On their island, their population was
inbred. Thus, they lacked the robust diversity which would
have allowed them to resist diseases. No big deal on their
island, where there were no diseases. No big deal on Skull Island
where most of the diseases were not adapted to mammals. But on the
mainland they would have been vulnerable to most primate diseases and humans
were primates. They would have been lain low by everything from smallpox
There were other reasons why the Kongs might not have thrived on the
mainland. As big as they were, they could still be bled out and brought
down by human weapons. The techniques that allowed humans to
kill mammoths and elephants would work here. They might well have
found it difficult to access food, or to compete with specialized herbivores
Still, these are the obstacles and pitfalls of their future.
When they first arrive on their island, what does our small breeding population
For them, a jungle paradise. It is a virgin island.
The jungles are endless, rich and brimming with food. The only
land animals are a handful of species of flightless birds.
The only competition in the trees are an assortment of monkeylike prosimians.
One of the prosimians is a scavenger/carnivore, a couple of the flightless
birds are predators. But these creatures restrict themselves to small
game. The Kongs are already too large to be prey for these, they
have nothing to fear.
Even better, from the Kongs’ hypothetical point of view, there are no
large herbivores to compete with them for bounty. There are
no oxen, no buffalo, no tapirs, elephants, rhinos, there are no deer or
antelope, there are no grazers, no browsers. There are no competitors
with multiple stomachs, nor with symbiotic bacteria to process food, there
are no rivals with extensive cud chewing and rows of large flat grinding
teeth. The Kongs arrive as the dominant herbivores. Top
o’ the food chain, ma!
Which means in turn, that there are neither predators nor competitors
to inhibit their growth. The Kongs can safely wander beyond
their normal enclaves, secure in the knowledge that they will not be attacked
or driven off. They can vary their diet. They have time
to adapt to expand their food supply and range of diet. Does
this include a shift to a more omnivorous diet? The acquisition or
development of symbiotic bacteria to break down plant pulp?
The development of special feeding techniques?
Do the Kongs encounter a digestible garden? Remember that
Kong Island probably has a much higher proportion of fruiting plants, nut
and berry producers than the mainland. So the Kongs probably
had access to a substantially richer plant density than on the mainland.
The Kongs’ diet is supplemented with shellfish, eggs, insects, small animals.
Of course, that’s not nearly enough, but it’s a lot better start than
Elephants or Rhinos get. These huge animals reach their immense sizes
by consuming large quantities of low value food, forage and roughage.
Well, there’s plenty of that stuff on Kong Island and very little competition
for it. No animals are substantially better at eating it than the
Kongs. So why not?
Gorillas actually eat a fair bit of roughage, low quality and low energy
shoots and leaves. They may prefer the tenderest and most edible,
as likely the Kongs do. But adapting to this lifestyle leaves them
more able to extend their diet. So, there’s no particular reason
that a Kong cannot adapt to feed as effectively as an elephant. Elephants
have one trunk, Kongs’ can eat with both hands. Arguably, the
Elephants digestive system and teeth are better adapted for the task.
But then again, there are no elephants around, and the Kongs physical dexterity
and intelligence means that they’re accessing a much wider variety of potential
foods and food sources than Elephants.
The Kongs lack of specialization works to their advantage.
Sure, they don’t have the 20 pound chewing teeth that elephants use, and
they don’t have the four stomachs of hoofed ungulates, but they have the
intelligence and adaptability to exploit a large variety of food sources
that Elephants or Oxen would never glance at.
Their only rivals are the giant flightless birds. But the Kongs
have a few advantages over the Birds. They have more physical
capability, and thus can beat up or intimidate their rivals with fists,
teeth and clubs. They’re more intelligent, and thus can outsmart
their rivals. They’re probably accessing wider ranges of diet.
And they’re socially organized. The birds aren’t any kind of
real rivals with their narrow diets and behavioural ranges.
But apart from the availability of food, and the lack of predators or
competitors, is there any specific factor which might spur the growth of
Kongs? Certainly: Other Kongs.
We know that primate troops are highly territorial, and that they engage
in ‘wars’, exercises of competition and dominance between troops to determine
who controls disputed feeding territories. The troop with the
biggest most aggressive members wins. So, the Kong troops with
bigger members, particularly males, get better access to feeding grounds.
They reproduce more and their offspring eat better. The bigger
males are attractive to females. Big females are attractive
to males and can take their pick of suitors.
Getting big is an imperative for social and sexual selection among the
Kongs. And there isn’t anything to offer a limit to their capacity
for growth, except physics and food supply.
Growing larger, of course, requires more and more food.
As the Kongs grow larger, necessarily, the mix of their diets will shift
from high value to low value, as they are forced to eat more and more volume.
This probably brings them problems, since they are not as highly adapted
for eating low value plants as Elephants and other herbivores.
But growing larger brings more opportunities for feeding as well.
Indeed, growing larger makes it easier to push the birds out of the way.
Growing larger enables them to reach higher into trees and branches, to
pull down or dig out new food. By the time an ape is as large
as a chimp, its generally too big for a tree dwelling lifestyle (Orangs
are a notable exception). So, for the most part, the Kongs
were forced to give up the trees and the upper levels. But growing
larger and having a greater reach and more strength allows them greater
access to trees and higher levels. Indeed, here they have an advantage
over elephants and giraffes. A giraffe can’t eat much higher
than the reach of its neck, an elephant can’t eat higher than the reach
of its trunk, both are stuck on four feet. But a Kong can stand upright
on two legs, and reach straight up with its long arms. A Kong can
climb and cling to the trunk and largest branches of a tree and reach for
or shake down fruit and vegetation.
Growing larger removes them from even modest consideration by the local
predators. A predator bird might well think of taking on an
Ape that is half or three quarters its size, but won’t even bother with
one that outtops it. Rivers and swamps offer rich feeding areas,
but may also offer pythons and crocodiles. An ape the size
of a man has to worry about crocodiles. An ape the size of
a water buffalo will not be troubled. The bigger you get, the
more, strength you have to press opportunities and advantages.
Elephants knock over trees to feed. The Kongs could literally
rip stubborn but nutritious roots from the ground, knock over trees, pull
down branches, kill unwary flightless birds, wade in ten feet of water
for fish and selfish, invade seagull rookeries or pretty much anything
else they wanted. Starting out already as a fairly robust large
creature, the Kongs grow and grow over time.
After that, the only limitation on the Kongs growth is the laws of physics
themselves. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is is where we
I give you....
King Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World.