Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Reports of dinosaur-like creatures in Central Africa go back for more than 200 years, according to William "Bill" Gibbons. In 1776, French missionaries passing through the forests reported finding huge footprints in the ground. The clawed prints were three feet in circumference and were spaced about seven feet apart. This would have made the animal as big as an elephant, but it was common knowledge to the locals that the tracks were not from an elephant, since elephants do not posses claws. One of the priests, amazingly, even gave claim to have seen several specimens chewing on vegetation while wading in the rivers. Regardless, it was certain that these were an entirely new group of animals. At that time, however, they were neither "dinosaurs" nor "prehistoric," the words waiting to be invented nearly one hundred years later.
In 1913, a German explorer reported stories of, what the natives called, "Mokele-mbembe," which he had heard while in the Congo. Hearing the reports, a few scientists noticed that the descriptions of the creatures made them sound much like sauropod dinosaurs. Sauropods were the giants of the dinosaurs world, averaging about 70 feet (21 meters) long and standing 12-15 feet (3.7 to 4.8 m) tall at the hips.
In 1932, a British scientist, exploring near the Likouala region where the creatures are said to live, came across some abnormally huge footprints. Later, when he went down one of the rivers in a canoe, he heard strange sounds, but did not see anything.
Coincidentally, that same year the world famous zoologist and biologist, Ivan T. Sanderson, along with animal-trader Gerald Russel, were paddling up the Mainyu River in the heart of western Africa when, according to Sanderson's report:
"The most terrifying sound I have ever heard, which sounded like an on-coming earthquake or an exploding, nearby robot, suddenly greeted us from a large underwater cave."
While the water of the river was boiling and foaming directly in front of their canoe, a darkish, shining lizard-like head suddenly rose from the dark water. They described the head as nearly the size of the head of a fully grown hippo, which sat on a thick, swan-like neck. The enormous neck was turned towards the two men, and for just a few seconds, although it seemed like an eternity, the monster simply stared at Sanderson and Russel. Mr. Sanderson summed up his thoughts with these emphatic words:
"I don't know what we saw, but the animal, the monster, burned itself into my retinas. It looked like something that ought to have been dead millions of years ago. As a scientist, I should have been happy, of course, but this encounter was so frightening, so nasty that I never want to see it again."
A Brief Analysis
Mokele-mbembe is Lingala, and can mean a variety of things. The word is commonly defined as "One that stops the flow of rivers," but can also mean "one who eats the tops of palm trees," "monstrous animal," or even "half-God, half-beast." Mokele-mbembe is also used as a generic term to refer to other animals like Emela-ntouka, Mbielu-mbielu-mbielu, and Nguma-monene.
Mokele-mbembe has been described as an animal with a long neck, a long tail, and rounded shape tracks with three claws. The closest known animal that has these characteristics is a sauropod dinosaur.
Mokele-mbembe lives in the pools and swamps adjacent to the rivers of the Likouala swamp region of The People's Republic of Congo on the continent of Africa. It is said to use the lakes as a crossing path to go from one river to another.
The body size of each specimen is said to be somewhere between the size of a hippopotamus and an elephant. Its length is reportedly between 16 to 32 feet (5 to 10 meters). The length of the neck, according to various descriptions, is between 5 to 10 feet (1.6 to 3.3 meters). The length of the tail is somewhere between 5 to 10 feet as well, varying slightly.
Interestingly, there have been a few reports of a frill on the back of the head. The frill is said to be like the comb found on a male chicken (cock). There have also been reports of a small horn on its head.
The color of the skin is predominately reddish-brown with a color range from gray to brown. There are no reports of hair on the animal. If there were, it would obviously contradict the reptilian dinosaur theory.
Tracks possess a significantly rounded shape between 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 centimeters) in diameter with three claws. The distance between tracks is about 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters).
The predominant belief is that Mokele-mbembe does not create any sounds, though there have been some conflicting reports. This is probably due to the fact that Mokele-mbembe is used generically for other animals and the sound is being confused with Emela-ntouka, a creature which makes a sound like a snort, howl, roar, rumble, or growl.
The pygmies, natives of the Likouala Swamp region, report that the essential diet of Mokele-Mbembe consists primarily of the Malombo plant. Since it only eats plants, it is classified as an herbivore. The Malombo plant actually describes two plants: Landolphia mannii and Landolphia owariensis.
Mokele-Mbembe lives underwater most of the time except when it eats or travels to other parts of the swamp. It has as been reported that it does not like hippopotamuses and will kill them on sight, though it does not eat them. According to the pygmies, Hippopotamuses cannot be found where Mokele-Mbembe lives. Here is some recently contributed information by David Woetzel (who has done expeditions in search of Mokele-mbembe):
1.) The older 20-45 ft long creatures live and mate in the Dja and maybe the Sangha rivers. These mature MM's (Mokele-mbembe) have very tough scales, like the back of a crocodile. Also like a croc, their underbelly is much softer. Their coloration is a dulled brownish gray.
2.) The younger creatures live in the Likouala swamp region. Their scales are softer and their colors are a more vivid reddish-brown. They're probably more skittish then their older counterparts.
3.) This sharp contrast in areas by age suggests a migration that only happens once in their lives (although the mother likely goes with its offspring to take them to the swamp).
4.) Their birth instincts are peculiar and vague. The native people say the MM gives birth to live young every 20 years. This is not a trait likely in reptiles, maybe the people their have it wrong because they are not able to find a nest site (some nests have been found) for how territorial these animals are they likely guard their nests very aggressively. They would likely kill anyone that gets close enough to see the eggs.
5.) No matter what, the mother's birth migration probably happens 1 of 2 ways. They either migrate to the swamp and lay eggs (or give birth) there, or they lay their eggs along the river and the mother and offspring go to the swamp together. I'm in favor of that idea because the nests are found along the rivers and the only time more than one MM ishttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif seen is when it is with its mother (according to the natives).
6.) The mother remains with her offspring for about a year (it may use this time to take the baby to the swamp and prepare it for life on its own)
7.) The adult male has a shorter neck but it also has a spiky back, and the female has a longer neck without the spikes.
8.) The young all have dermal ridges.
Source : http://politics.sgforums.com
Friday, July 1, 2011
Homo floresiensis skull
(© Peter Brown)
The scientists, mainly from Australia's University of New England and University of Wollongong, have found the skeletal remains of up to seven individuals in a cave at Liang Bua, Flores. Their diminutive stature, small brain size (380 cc), receding chin, the shape of their first mandibular premolar tooth and the skull base design in the ear region are all reminiscent of early Australopithecus, a type of hominid which was thought to have existed only in Africa prior to 3 million years ago.
On the other hand the thickened cranial vault, the relatively flat face, and the smaller molar teeth of what is being called Homo floresiensis are all more reminiscent of Homo erectus, which flourished between 1.8 million and possibly 300,000 years ago.
The newly discovered Flores skeletal material, published this week in the scientific journal Nature, may be from a species which either b
roke away from our distant ancestor Australopithecus some 3 million years ago or more likely a species derived from a very early form of a later ancestor of ours, Homo erectus.
"The skeletal material we have found has come as a big surprise because hominids of that body size and brain size were supposed to have become extinct 3 million years ago," says excavation member Peter Brown, a physical anthropologist from the University of New England.
It is quite possible that the Homo floresiensis' tiny size--and correspondingly small brain--is a result of being stranded on a small island for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Because species on small islands are shielded from predators living on mainland areas, large size often becomes redundant as an defensive advantage, and they "shrink" evolutionarily over time.
The archaeological evidence strongly suggests that H. floresiensis made sophisticated stone tools, including choppers, cutting blades, scrapers, and even spear points, some of which appear to have been hafted onto lengths of wood. Tools dating to 800,000 years ago have been found on Flores. These tools are very similar to those made by ordinary Stone Age humans (especially in Europe and North America), and yet the Flores hominid had a brain capacity similar--in terms of ratio to body size--to that of early humans like the australopithecines and Homo habilis, who made only very rudimentary stone tools. The only other explanation for the presence of such sophisticated stone tools, which were found together with the skeletal material, is that they were produced by Stone Age H. sapiens--but the earliest of the tools from this site date from 90,000 years ago and H. sapiens is not currently thought to have arrived in Southeast Asia until 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. In 1997, dates on fossils from Ngandong, Indonesia, suggested H. erectus survived as late as 53,000 to 27,000 years ago (see "Homo Erectus Survival").
"All the evidence so far indicates that the stone artifacts prior to 12,000 years ago at Liang Bua were all made by Homo floresiensis" says Mike Morwood, an archaeologist from the University of New England, who has been leading the investigations on Flores.
What's more, folklore evidence, which has been gathered by the researchers on the same island, provides the remarkable suggestion that H. floresiensis may have survived until at least 150 years ago. And zoological evidence from another Indonesian island, Sumatra, suggests that a potentially similar intelligent bipedal species may still be alive and well and living in a remote jungle area.
The local tradition for H. floresiensis is potentially significant. Villagers in Flores say that up until around 150 years ago, there were small, three-foot-tall hairy "people" who used to steal food from them. Known as the ebu gogos (literally "the grandmothers who eat anything"), they were tolerated by islanders until they stole a baby and ate it. Whether the ebu gogo is pure myth or an acc
urate recollection of H. floresiensis is at present unprovable. "The folklore material raises the real possibility that H. floresiensis actually survived until sometime in the nineteenth century," said excavation member Bert Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong who conducted interviews with the villagers earlier this month. "Indeed, there has to be a remote possibility that they still survive today in some remote jungle area of the island."
Artist's rendering of the three-foot-high hominid (Peter Schouten/National Geographic Society)
The new discoveries are likely to be greeted with immense excitement by the international scientific community.
"We now have to entertain the possibility that somewhere within the islands of southeast Asia, early types of human being--long thought to have been extinct--may indeed still survive," says Robert Kruszynski, a leading anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
David Keys is ARCHAEOLOGY's London correspondent.
Article Source :www.archaeology.org