In 1965, archaeologists excavating a 70-million-year-old sandstone formation in the Gobi desert found the arms of a new species of dinosaur. Beause they each measured 8′ (2.4 m) long and ended in 8″ (20 cm) claws, they named the beast Deinocheirus mirificus (Greek for “terrible hand, which is unusual”). After 50 years, a team of paleontologists led by Yuong-Nam Lee of the Korea Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources has made discoveries that allow them to piece together this creature – and have found it to be as strange as its arms are long. Its broad and lengthy duck-like snout and cavernous lower jaw housed a huge tongue. Inside the gullet were more than 1,400 gizzard stones, which it had swallowed to grind up its food like a bird. It was the size of a tyrannosaur, but couldn’t move quickly and had no teeth. The ligaments growing from the spine worked like the cables of a suspension bridge to support the animal’s huge abdomen and legs. And fused bones at the end of the tail indicate that it supported feathers (RENDERINGS HERE). Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh observes, “This alien creature was a monstrous omnivore, a garbage-disposal type of dinosaur that fed on fish, small vertebrates, plants, and probably about anything it could get its hands on.” Its terrible hands…
Today another first, this time in the ornithological world. Researchers were throwing chum overboard in the Indian Ocean off the only breeding site of the Mascarene petrel (Pseudobulweria aterrima). They managed to lure 33 of the dwindling and little-studied birds, 12 of which they caught on camera. One of these was a female of the estimated 100 breeding pairs of these petrels that remain. And she had a baby bump! The photograph (ABOVE, MORE IMAGES HERE) is the first documented image of any bird flying while obviously bearing an egg. The photographer Hadoram Shirihai describes, “Against the background of a pinkish-orange sunset, with Réunion Island in the distance, I spotted a petrel through my camera’s viewfinder. Almost immediately I saw the outline of an egg, a huge bump at its belly. I called out to the other expedition members — ‘she has an egg, she has an egg…’. She flew close to the boat which gave me the unique chance to photograph her just before the sun set. It was a magical moment, and to think that in less than an hour she would probably lay her egg and contribute to the future survival of this threatened species.”
South American archaeologists working on a complex at Licurnique, in the northern Lambayeque region of Peru, have discovered the place where ancient people stood to observe the heavens between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago. The petroglyphs engraved on an adjacent flat-surface rock (IMAGE ABOVE) indicate that they tracked the stars and likely used the information to forecast rain and weather patterns to help farmers. and remark, “It is worth exploring without a doubt.”
By: Quigley’s Cabinet
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
I’ve never read Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), which is about a simple young man whose life is put in jeopardy when he gets caught up in the mayhem of the Gordon riots and the mystery of an unsolved murder. In the novel, the title character is devoted to his talkative raven, Grip, and The Mirror suggests that the plot can be condensed into a tweet as follows:
But the bird in the fictionalized book was quite real – and important to literary history. Grip was the 1st of a series of 3 pet ravens belonging to the Dickens family (see illustration here).
The bird died in 1841 – possibly from eating lead chips that had been scraped off a wall that was being repainted – and prompted the inconsolable author to describe Grip’s final hours to his friends:
German soldiers of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment hunkered down in an underground shelter on the Western Front in the Alsace region of France during World War I. Their basic needs were met – they had wood stoves for heat, telephone connections, furniture, electricity, rudimentary plumbing, and even a goat to provide fresh milk – but they had no peace of mind. The soldiers had taken refuge in the trench (which was 125m long and up to 6m deep) on March 18, 1918. That morning, the German artillery had pounded the front lines with gas shells and by early afternoon the French were responding. The 1.1m x 1.7m tunnel was hit 3 times and then, shortly after noon, collapsed at its weakest point. When the Germans attempted a rescue under cover of darkness, they found 2 survivors among the 34 who were trapped by the cave-in, but both later died. They removed 13 of the casualties, but were unable to continue because of continued collapse and continuing combat. It was not until Nov. 2011 that the bodies of the 21 remaining soldiers were recovered. Archaeologist Michael Landolt describes, “It’s a bit like Pompeii. Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time. Here, as in Pompeii, we found the bodies as they were at the moment of their death. Some of the men were found in sitting positions on a bench, others lying down. One was projected down a flight of wooden stairs and was found in a fetal position.” Landolt is leading the team that began excavating the trench (2nd and 4th images) after it was discovered while a road was being built. The Interdepartmental Centre of Archaeology Rhinelander (PAIR) archaeologists are finding well-preserved personal effects including boots, helmets (1st image), rifles (3rd image), wine bottles, glasses, wallets, pipes, and still-legible newspapers (more photos here). “The collapsed shelter was filled with soil. The items were very well preserved because of the absence of air and light and water. Metal objects were rusty, wood was in good condition….Leather was in good condition as well, still supple,” continues Landolt. The bodies – including that of Musketeer Martin Heidrich, 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, 22, and Lieutenant August Hutten, 37 – have been handed over to the German War Graves Commission. Unless surviving relatives request repatriation, they will be interred in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth, where their names – known now for nearly a century – were inscribed on a monument 50 years ago.