Madagascar Does Not Come From Where You Think

In multiple ways. First, it is a break off from the Indian sub-continent, not African, even though it is very very close to Africa. Second, the first settlers on Madagascar between 350 and 550 CE were of Malayo-Indonesian descent. Specifically, from Indonesia, Sumatra, and Java. Yes, that is on the other side of the Indian Ocean, rather than across the short Mozambique Channel to Africa. These were joined around the 800s CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel and intermarrying with the Malagasy. A big clue about Madagascar's unusual migration history is that most common language of Madagascar, also called Malagasy, can be identified as part of the Austronesian language family.

Bronze Ram on Wheels, from Indonesia's Majapahit Empire

Proving that if it is at all possible, children everywhere want animals on wheels. Circa 1300s - 1400s.

Classifying Tigers

Did you know there are active debates about how many tiger subspecies there are? In the 1900s there were multiple subspecies classified by tiger's appearance: fur length, coloration, striping, and size. With the advent of genetic testing new possibilities have opened up in deciding what to count as a species or a subspecies. In 1999, a genetic analysis suggested there were only 2 tiger subspecies. A 2006 skull study suggested expanding 1 of those into 3, or 4 subspecies total. A 2015 morphological, ecological, and molecular study pointed towards 2 subspecies again. Then a 2018 whole-genome sequencing study pointed towards six tiger subspecies.

Why does this debate matter (besides to biologists)? The answer matters a lot to conservationists. More subspecies means breeding programs have fewer candidates for each potential tiger mating, and fewer subspecies means more candidates. In other words, the number of tiger subspecies impacts how easy it will be for humans to create more tigers, and help combat wild tigers' continued decline.

Australia has a "burning mountain." It is actually an underground coal seam that has been on fire for around 6,000 years. And it moves! The burning mountain spreads about 1 meter (3 feet) a year. Australia has no plans to put it out, but rather, protect it as a nature reserve!

Hunter-Gatherer Burial Found in Indonesia

Indonesia' Alor Island has revealed to archaeologists the 8,000-year-old burial of a child. Although the child’s teeth suggest that they were between the ages of six and eight at the time of death, the skeleton resembles that of a four- to five-year-old. Additional research is planned to help determined if the child’s condition could be related to diet, the environment, or genetic isolation from living on an island. Studies of adult hunter-gatherers who lived on Alor Island have found that they mostly ate seafoods (understandable for a small island) which may have affected growth. The child was buried in style. Ochre had been applied to the child’s cheeks and forehead, and an ochre-colored stone was placed under the child’s head. Another unusual detail: the child’s arm and leg bones were not placed in the burial. Other burials lacking long bones from this time period have been unearthed on the islands of Java, Borneo, and Flores, but always with adult burials. This is the first time it has been found in a child's burial.

The oldest flamingo on record was Greater, who lived to the great old age of 83 in Australia. Since flamingos usually live just 20 to 30 years, Greater lived the equivalent of 300 human years!

This may be the largest bird to ever fly. It is a pelagornithid, a group of ancient avians with spikey beaks, that included some of the largest flying birds of all time with wingspans double that of modern albatrosses. Members of this family first evolved 52 million years ago in Antarctica and quickly diversified till pelagornithids covered the globe’s oceans. This was actually why it took so long to identify pelagornithids as a single family: various pelagornithid species’ fossils were literally found all around the world. Sadly their last descendants died out around 2 million years ago.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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