New Hominin Added To Human Family Tree!

This new hominin species was discovered in a cave in Luzon, the Philippines' largest island. A small set of human remains, coming from three individuals, were found and their combination of modern and ancient features suggested a new hominin species. Dating showed they were on Luzon before 50,000 years ago. That would put them contemporary with Homo sapiens, as well as with Homo floresiensis, the diminutive homonin species found on Indonesia’s Flores island. The new species has been named Homo luzonensis.

In 2017, a comprehensive study looked into why eggs are shaped like, well, eggs. Why are eggs ellipses, and not spheres? Why are they often asymmetrical with one pointier end and one rounder end? These were the questions the scientists set out to answer.

The research team gathered together a large dataset of 49,175 images of eggs produced by 1,400 species, both living and extinct, and examined exactly how elliptical and how asymmetrical each egg was (and made a pretty graph, see above). The scientists also paid attention to the parents' nesting behaviors, clutch sizes, diet, and flight ability. Previously, it was suggested that eggs are pointy on one end to prevent them from rolling away from the nest or to make laying easier for females. But the study did not support that.

Instead, they found multiple lines of evidence that the shape evolved to simply fit better inside the parent’s aerodynamic body. The stronger, better fliers had the longest and pointiest eggs. Meanwhile, some flightless birds (like ostriches) hatch from squat orbs.

Largest Parrot Known To Science Discovered In New Zealand

Heracles inexpectatus (yes, that's really its scientific name) was discovered based on re-classification of bones discovered initially in 2008. The fossils were dug up in St Bathans, New Zealand, labeled as giant eagle bones, and promptly put into storage. Recently a paleontology graduate student Ellen Mather re-discovered the bones as part of another research project. And realized something was not right about these "eagle bones."

At 3 feet tall, or about 1 meter, Heracles inexpectatus is the largest parrot ever discovered. It is nearly double the weight New Zealand's largest living bird the kakapo. Heracles probably lived during the Early Miocene, which spanned from about 23 million to 16 million years ago. It was likely flightless and ate what it could reach on the ground. Which wouldn't have been hard with its gigantic beak, which paleontologists suspect was capable of cracking most anything it fancied eating. Including bones. Researchers say yes, Heracles might have even been eating other parrots, leading them to bestow the cannibalistic nickname: "Squawkzilla."

Literal Translations of Country Names: Oceania

Here's the history behind my favorites: New Zealand is a mash-up of English (New) and Dutch (Zeeland), but it should also be called “Aotearoa,” its Māori name, which means "Land of the Long White Cloud". And Nauru may derive from the Nauruan word "anáoero", which means "I go to the beach."

Eharo mask worn during ritual dances before formal sacred rituals from the Elema culture of Papua New Guinea. The eharo masks were intended to be humorous figures, not solemn, and were made of hammered bark, rattan, vegetable fiber, and various pigments for color. 1800-1882.

In his 1991 book Human Universals, American anthropologist Donald Brown listed “features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception”:

  • fear of death
  • tickling
  • baby talk
  • territoriality
  • rites of passage
  • hairstyles
  • belief in supernatural
  • dance
  • containers
  • jokes
  • shame
  • turn-taking
  • weapons
  • myths
  • musical variation

The whole list is here.

The oldest dog (that can be verified) was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey who lived for 29 years and 5 months, from 1910 to 1939. In human years that's more than 160 years old.

In Deep Waters, There Be Monsters

Animals who live in polar waters or deep-sea waters tend to evolve into bigger animals than related species who live in shallower waters, in a phenomenon known as “polar gigantism.” Exactly why this happens is unknown.

The Most Deadly War (Until World War II)

Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.

The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.

But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!

For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.

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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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