In greek, teratornis merriami, teratornis woodburnensis and maybe even a teratornis olsoni from Cuba are known as “wonder birds”

Terratornis was a genus of huge North American birds of prey.

1) Teratornis merriami: Because of the numbers foud at Rancho La Brae and the tar pits, is is by far the most researched species. Over a hundred specimens have been found. It stood about almost 30inches (or 75cm) tall with estimated wingspan of almost 3.8 metres (11.5 to 12.5 ft). Its weight has been estimated at 10 to 15 kilos.
2) Teratornis woodburnensis: In 1999, at Legion Park, Woodburn, Oregon. Parts of the teratornis woodburnesis were found. There was a humerus,
parts of the cranium, beak, sternum, and vertebrae. Scientists were able to estimate a wingspan of over 4 meters (14 ft). The find dated
to about 12,000 years ago, during the late pleistocene. In combination with this ‘wonder bird’ find. A stratum containing remains of megafauna such as mammoth, mastodon, ground sloths, and early human occupantion was discovered at the site.
3) Another form, “Teratornis” olsoni, was described from the Pleistocene of Cuba, but its affinities are not completely resolved; it might not be a teratorn, but has also been placed in its own genus, Oscaravis. There are also undescribed fossils from southwestern Ecuador, but apart from these forms, teratorns were restricted to North America.

Even when as large as these 4 meter wing spans (almost 15 feet). Bird fossils are very hard to find. It took ten thousand years for scientists to identify the hundreds of teratornis fossils mostly from California, Oregon, southern Nevada, Arizona, and Florida.

As in all modern birds, finger bones of ‘wonder birds’ were fused. Though, part of there index finger formed a shelf. It aided in hard take offs, and not when availably enabled to utilize drafts of strong upcurrents. Their legs were strong, there feet could hold prey and tear off pieces. Though, its believed there short length was not quite as forceful as some other birds of prey. Teratorns (or ‘wonder birds’) should have been able to take off by simply jumping and beating there wings. Because its legs were smaller, it seems to have been batter adapted for utilizing a short run into the wind, or off a large tree, ledge or cliff, as some other height point like birds do. They probably inhabited cliffs and rugged terrain, where they could take off and soar through the air easily.

Paleobiology, Diet and Feeding Habits
Analysis of functional morphology of skull, its larger bill and ability to spread its mandibles and swallow its prey whole. Suggest it was an active and carnivorous predator rather than a scavenger. Similar to condors. Other viewpoints note that like many old world vultures that possess large bills. It allowed them to probe deeper into large carcasses.
Small and sideward facing eyes and there low skull are also consistent with a scavenging lifestyle. For these crazy birds, small prey such as
frogs, lizards, snakes, young birds, and rodents were swallowed whole. Larger mammels or carion would have been fed on similar to condors or

An analysis of the teratornis pelvic area and stout; and, columnar hind leg bones suggests that its legs had greater anteroposterior ability than condors. And, that they were agily, well-suited for walking and stalking prey on the ground. More similarl to storks and turkeys.
Opposite, their flight was similar to that of condors. The large condor birds fly by means of soaring on rising up-currents. Generally weak currents are subject to sudden changes in strength and direction. Their ability to react to these, sometimes sudden current changes, and maintain flight is essential. Contrary to some other birds who rely more on current. There ability to deal with wind, draft, and current changes. Has to do with their emarginated primary feathers. Which can separate, adapt and move independently during flight. Because of there size, they needed it.

Wonderbirds legs are quite short for it to take flight by just running on flat ground like some birds do. Because of this it has been hypothisied teratornis started at heights where it could take off, flap its large wings a few times, and soar through the air easily.
These birds were thought to have been attracted to tar pits by struggling Pleistocene megafauna. Cats, mammoth, sloth and other fauna were attracted to the water that would pool on top of the tar. The teratorns sometimes would fight, or struggle with they megafauna and fall victim to the sludgy deposits. Yikes.
At the tar or sludge deposits, vultures and other birds were also present. Teratornis would have been also adapted to hunt for smaller animals which also would had been around the pools.

Like eagles, skull and bill shape analysis identifys that fish may have also constituted a large portion of the ‘wonder birds’ diet. Though not quite as developed as an eagles legs. Fish are slippery and can be large. They had strong legs, stout claws, and gripping power. Its more likely they hunted like osprey, which also explains why it was significant at Rancho La Brae. They were probably fighting or struggling with pleistocene megafauna, as well as other birds.

Perhaps the Teratornis or ‘wonder bird’, are what some native Americans, aboriginals, and people spoke of mythologically. And, about a thunder-bird. No matter what the cause these were some big birds. Lets hear it for the giant north American bird of prey. Teratornis’s. Your wonder bird.

In 1867, in a field in Denmark, a little boy discovered something magical. Hindsgavl Dagger is Hindsgavldolken

It was immediately brought to the property managers attention. He offered the boy the equivelant of 90 dollars, and he couldn’t refuse. The manager then gifted it to the owner of the estate.  Basse Fonss of Hinsgavl Manor.

Hingsgavl manor was apart of the Hindsgavl. It’s the pieces of land that connect Frederica and Middlefart (centre of Denmark).

As the Exposition Universelle at Paris approached in 1889. Danish collectors realized they needed something big. The museum never lent out objects but always sent copies.  Since Hindsgavldolken was private owned, Basse Fonss was approached. He agreed to lend it out. 

After the Exposition universelle, the museum and collectors were so impressed with its attraction and features. They made Basse an offer he couldn’t refuse.   

Production of stone daggers continued into the bronze age. Especially in the north. It’s believed this dagger was produced around 4000 years ago. It is almost 30cm long, and the blade thickness is less than 1cm. It shines a beautiful black and brown.

Did you know? The 100 krone danish bank note (about 15.5$ usd) features Hindsgavldolken, or Hindsgavl Dagger.

Giant beaver (castoroides ohioensis)

Depicted in everything from hunting/trapping and fur trading, to fantasy stories and causing grief in and around everyones of water. In Latin: “beaver” (castor), “like” (oides), or giant beaver, are giant rats with large flat tails. They are an extinct genus of enormous, bear-sized beaver that lived in North America during the Pleistocene.

Species of castoroides are much larger than modern beavers. Their average length was approximately 6.2 ft, and they could grow as large as 7.2 ft. The weight could vary from 198 lb to 276 lb. This makes it the largest known rodent in north America during the Pleistocene and the largest known beaver.

Recent analyses suggest that they could have weighed less, closer to 170 lb, but this is disputable. The hind feet of the giant beaver were much larger than in modern beavers, though the hind legs were shorter. The tail was longer and may not have been as paddle-shaped as in modern beavers. More like a musk rat.
It can only be assumed that its feet were webbed, as in modern species and allowing it maneuverability underwater.
Its skull was different, suggesting that it participated in greater underwater activity. They had a greater ability to take oxygen into its lungs.
One of the defining characteristics of the giant beavers, or any beaver for that matter, is their incisor teeth. The giant beavers teeth were much larger and the shape was different too. Modern beavers have incisor teeth with smooth enamel, while the teeth of the giant beaver had a striated, textured enamel surface. Perhaps for digesting plants? Their teeth were also much larger, up to 6 in long.

Larger and dumber?
One other major differences between the giant beaver and our modern day beaver is that the size of brains. The giant beavers brain was proportionally smaller. Given that less humans were around, they probably had less complex patterns of thoughts and behaviour.

There are two known species:

  • Castoroides dilophidus (found in Florida and the southeastern states only)
  • Castoroides ohioensis (found throughout continental United States and Canada)
    These two species of giant beaver (genus Castoroides) are not close relatives to modern beavers (genus Castor).

Discovery and species:
In 1837, castoroides fossils were first discovered in a peat bog in Ohio. Its why the species was named ohioensis. The north Indiana historical society found a decent preserved skull though a few pieces were missing. Eventually they put an entire skeleton together in around 1900.

Giant beavers had cutting teeth up to 6″ long with prominently-ridged outer surfaces. These strong enamel ridges would have acted as girders to support such long teeth. Further, the deepmasseteric fossa of the lower jaw suggests a very powerful bite. Their teeth could have acted as wood-cutters and gouges. It is unknown weaither the giant beaver felled trees or built dams, however a possible lodge was discovered near New Knoxville, Ohio around 1912. Part of a giant beaver skull was found in the peaty loam which could have been a part of the damn.

Dams: four feet high, 8 feet diameter?
In Ohio, there have been claims of a possible giant beaver lodge, formed from small (aspen, cottonwood, birch, popular) saplings. It could be evidence for lodge building as the current beaver also is known for building lodges.

Sheridan cave:
Remains of the giant beaver, paleo indian artifacts and other pleistocene aged critters were found in Ohio. In Wyandot county, in the Sheridan cave, remains of the flat-headed peccary, giant short-faced bear, and the stag moose were all found.

Where do you find giant beavers?
Fossils are concentrated around the midwestern USA near the Great Lakes, particularly Illinois and Indiana. Specimens have also been recorded in Alaska, Canada and Florida.
In Canada, fossils of this species are commonly found around Old Crow, and northern Yukon. Single specimens are known from Toronto and Indian Island, New Brunswick. The Toronto areas record of a giant beaver skull from near Highgate, Ontario is the earliest for Canada in 1891. In the Old Crow region, fossils occur in the sangamonian interglacial deposits and are still being discovered.

The quaternary terrestrial mammal fauna of New Brunswick has not been significant, and the discovery of giant beaver suggests this area probably has greater than previously indicated. It is debatable if more megafauna will be found here.

Castoroides dilophidus has been placed in a separate species because it is from the southeastern US and because of differences in premolar and molar features. Martin (1969).
More than 25 pleistocene localities in Florida have been observed, 23 of Rancholabrean age. 1 is of possible Irvingtonian age, and 1 of late Blancan.

Castoroides dilophidus specimens have been unearthed in South Carolina. The latter Cooper river site (strawberry hill), was dated at 1.8 million—11,000 years ago. Before it was changed to castoroides dilophidus, castoroides leiseyorum was named by S. Morgan and J. A. White in 1995 for the Leisey shell pit. In Hillsborough county, Florida, is paleontological site dates to about 2.1 Mya.

North America ice age distribution:
During our most recent ice age, and the 30,000 to 11,700 years, giant beavers were restricted primarily to the central and eastern U.S. (McDonald and Bryson 2010). They were most abundant south of the Great Lakes in Illinois and Indiana.

What was happening at the end of the Pleistocene:
Something big happened to extinct the giant beaver at end of the Pleistocene. Most agree it went extinct due to reduction and disappearance of preferred habitat. The climate warmed and the glaciers retreated north. Clovis people eventually came. And, scientists still research many of these areas.

McDonald and Bryson in 2010, claimed beavers liked the cooler annual temperatures, with strong growing seasons but it may have been the spring rains that wiped food supply and the giant beavers out. It is cooler north, and with the spring rains increasing, it would have shortened growing seasons significantly.
Swinehart and Richards in 2001, also claimed that for a period late pleistocene, lakes, ponds marshes may have actually increased habitat.
Climate change; humans; competition from other species/preditors; a great event, or combination(s). One thing always leads to another. Cool hypotheses.

Midwestern Paleontological Finds:
Illinois has had the greatest remains of giant beaver in the midwest. There are at least seven localities in central and northern Illinois: Alton, hopwood, Clear Lake Sand and Gravel, Polecat Creek, Bellflower, New Bedford and Phillips Park. In central Indiana, there are at least 3: Prairie creek, Shoals, and Christensen bog. It has also been documented in Michigan: I-96 site, Dowagiac river, and near the city of Ludington. In Ohio, giant beaver documented from Carter site and Sheriden pit. It has been recovered from the Witte Farm in southern Wisconsin, Boney springs central Missouri, and, as well, two localities near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Following the last glacial maximum. Castoroides disappeared from northern populations, Alaska and the Yukon about 18,000 years ago. Alongside tens of other iconic north American pleistocene megafauna. Castoroides went totally extinct during the pleistocene–holocene transition, around southern great lakes and south eastern us region, 11,700 years ago. It coincides with the arrival of the Clovis people in the region. And, climate change , which was believed to have a bigger effect in the extinction event.

Beaver hunting and Interaction with humans:
Little is known for certain about human interactions with giant beavers. Remains are found along with human artifacts in Sheriden Cave, Ohio and first Nations talk about it. Yet, there is still no 100% evidence that humans hunted Castoroides dilophidus or ohioensis (‘giant beaver’).

The Innu and Mississaugas do feature a giant beaver in their traditional mythology. Nation members believe there is evidence of some human interaction with with giant beaver.
In 1972, sociologists claimed ‘giant beaver’ was the basis of an Algonquin myth. Gargantuan beavers created dams so big, on the Saint John River, the lake behind it almost reached the sea. A popular figure, Glooscap. Struck down the dam with his axe, creating the Reversing Falls. Glooscap chased the monster beaver upstream, creating several islands in the river while attempting to strike it through the ice. The beaver constructed another dam which created the Great Lakes, and fled through these to the land beyond.
Several versions of an Anishinaabe story tell of “giant beavers” who “walked upright and stood as tall as the tallest man” as well.

Did the giant beavers jam up creeks and rivers like they do today?
Many scholars believe that stories like these could be evidence of humans and giant beavers. North American indigenous people encounter giant beaver or, at the very least, their fossils in a cave. It could indicate evidence of beaver/human conflict similar to what we have today.

Chomp chomp.
Be safe.

Earth Timeline: Geological History, and Events

Earth timeline

A little over 4 and a half billion years ago, Earth was molten lava. You would have had no idea it was the same place. In its earliest stage of formation, it was clumped from a cloud of dust, totally uninhabitable. Around 1,000,000,000 years ago, though, Earth had its first signs of life. Single-celled organisms used the sun’s energy. And, as a waste product, these bacteria slowly filled the oceans and atmosphere with oxygen.

An oxygenated atmosphere made way for more complex life.

100,000,000 years ago, dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
10,000,000 years ago it was mammals.
100,000 years ago was when homo sapiens truly evolved.
In this timeline, Neolithic architecture lays out all the pieces on the floor. What sequence of events has unfolded for Earth to support life to our current times?

1) Beginning of Earth: 94.6-4.0 billion years ago
The Big Bang created all matter. It is believed to include the sun, planets, our solar system and beyond. At the center, the sun swept in lesser elements like hydrogen and helium. Farther away, heavier elements formed planets. Based on the core accretion model, gravity was a core driver coalescing Earth from a cloud of dust.
In this early stage of Earth’s creation, the heaviest material like iron sank. Lighter material remained on top to form a crust. Because a solid inner layer heats the outer liquid layer, it produces convection. This form of geodynamics created Earth’s magnetic field. Without it, Earth would have been totally baked by harmful rays from the sun. During this stage. Earth was also hit by many asteroids, comets, and foreign objects badly. We know because we can see these on other planets. Many scientists believe that from these collisions, water originated, and could have also sparked the chemical building blocks for life or DNA.
The moon impact was one of the most important events for Earth. The giant impact hypothesis describes an object the size of Mars that hit earth at tremendous speed. After impact, gravity pulled the object into orbit. Ever since this event, and the hadean eon, it has remained in orbit.

Artist impression of archean eon and cyanobacteria

2) Primitive life earth temperature lowering 94.0-2.5 billion years ago
The collision of the moon into Earth impacted earths climate, oceans, and life. It slowed Earth’s rotation significantly, dragging us from 6-hour days to 24 hours. It also stabilized the Earth from wobbling. And, more importantly, it tilted Earth on its axis, and because of this, Earth now had seasons.
In the archean eon, the climate on Earth became more suited to different forms of life. Instead of a molten state, the Earth became cooler. Water vapors condensed to form oceans, and these conditions formed continents. Though scientists debate, “vaalbara” may have became Earth’s first super continent. During when oxygen was absent in the atmosphere, as new forms of life began, cyanobacteria was continuously converting sunlight into energy. They metabolized their own food as a waste product and released into the oceans.
In the oceans, where the oxygen mixed with iron, rust collected on the seafloor. This banded iron formation continued until there was no more iron in the oceans to rust. And, oxygen had nowhere to go but into the atmosphere. That’s why this event is known as the great oxygenation event.

Some of the oldest discovered bacteria on earth is close to 1 billion years old.
Some of the oldest discovered bacteria on earth is close to 1 billion years old.

3) The start of air 2.5 billion to 541 million years ago
Earths atmosphere was now oxygenated. New life begain to flourish on Earth. But cyanobacteria was not flourishing. Oxygen was toxic for themselves. It poisoned anaerobic life on Earth including there own. Imagine humans polluting the planet until extinction. The oxygen byproduct from cyanobacteria created an oxygen crisis on Earth. During this time, methane was more abundant in our atmosphere. One thing methane did was trap heat in the atmosphere. It’s one of the most efficient greenhouse gases, and when oxygen combined with methane, it produced carbon dioxide. All of a sudden, the greenhouse effect wasn’t doing its job. The side effect was the whole planet freezing. It was a giant igloo as we went into an ice age for the next 300,000,000 years.
Aerobic eukaryotes were another important consequence of an oxygen-filled atmosphere. Before the oxygenation, life was anaerobic. Aerobic respiration organisms emerged because of the enriched atmosphere and availability of oxygen. This increased the complexity of organisms and life. For example, multi-cellular organisms became appearing. But the abundance of CO 2 held many eukaryotes from diversifying.
Over the thousands of years, as oxygen eventually filled the atmosphere, Earth’s ozone layer thickened. Because water shielded harmful solar radiation, before the ozone layer, life was restricted to shallow water. Finally, the thicker ozone enabled life to diversify on land in what was known as our proterozoic eon.

Visual representation as the earth as a spiral

4) The Cambrian Explosion Paleozoic Area: 541- 245 million years ago
The cambrian explosion diversified everything and included the largest amount of life in history. This is when hard-shelled invertebrates, similar to what is found in diatomaceous earth, and larger begain originating in our oceans. The age of invertebrates originated after the precambian explosion. Diversity increased from there. There was a age of fish when thousands of fish species arose. And, the first vertebrate land animal made its leap ashore. Amphibians even rose to colonized the empty continent of Gondwana.
In the paleozoic era, rich vegetation’s flourished the land. Then, due to a giant change in climate, a major marine and terrestrial extinction event began. It was known as the carboniferous rainforest collapse. Lush plants and oceanic organisms were buried, compacted, and baked into coal deposits below the earth. It left behind large wastelands for reptiles to dominate the mainland.
The paleozoic era ended with the largest extinction in Earth’s history. The permian-triassic extinction vanquished 96% of all marine species. About 90% of terrestrial vertebrate species were wiped out. Opinions differ about the permian-triassic extinction. However most believe it was a major collision with earth and number of other factors and occurrences.

5) The Age of Reptiles and Dinosaurs: 245 to 66 million years ago
Rainforests collapsing triggering the age of reptiles When earth’s climate became hotter and drier. Reptiles do not lay eggs in water and are different from amphibians because they lay their hard-shelled eggs on land. Essentially they adapted to the land. Because of it, they gained a unique ecological advantage.
Due to the changing conditions, dinosaurs began to evolve. These reptile-like animals had scaly skin and hatched eggs like reptiles. Some dinosaurs adapted as plant eaters and some as meat. For the next 160 million years, dinosaurs were the dominant land vertebrates.
A sub age, the age of conifers in the mesozoic era provided the spread of seeded plants. Conifers store vast amounts of carbon. As a result, oxygen content jumped to 35% compared to 21% oxygen in the atmosphere today. In addition, they provided habitat, shelter, and a source of food for specific animals and species to survive.
Also notable is that, in this stage of earth, pangea existed as one super continent. It is believed dinosaurs lived on the one super continent but plate tectonics eventually mechanism that tore continents apart. 160 million years was a long time for dinosaurs to exist. Continental drift gradually drifted dinosaurs apart. We know this because there isn’t the same fossils on separate continents.

Spanish and French cave drawings originate to around 20,000 years BP
Some spanish and French cave drawings originate to around 18,000 years BP

6) The Age of Mammals and Homo Sapiens: 66 million years ago – now
Ultimately, something big happened again, and started the cenozoic era. It was the end of dinosaurs. Scientists believe a 6 or 7 mile wide asteroid hit Earth. There were a number of other factors (typhoons, axis shift), and a dust cloud blocked the sun. This caused temperatures to plummet and was believed to be the core damage from the cretaceous–paleogene extinction event. Because of the global climate disruption, it was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs. Though, mammals did exist before the cenozoic era. They just kept a lower profile because dinosaurs were so giant. So, the extinction of the dinosaurs setup the age of mammals. When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, mammals remained small and furry. And because dinosaurs were gone, mammals emerged as the largest land animals at this time. Apes and monkeys remained in trees for their primary food source. Eventually, grass began to spread in places like the African savannah and there were fewer trees. This forced apes to walk to new food sources. Having to see predators, they evolved to walking with there heads above the grass to see predators. It also helped to have their hands available when they were traveling.
As the timeline to modern human evolution began, it was believed hominids were the early proto-humans. They were known for there adaptability, and sharpening objects with rocks for survival and protection. They began to master the use of their bodyparts, hands, and fingers. In the early stone age, humans had fire under control. It enabled them to cook food better, giving more nutrition and calories. It allowed them to make more complex sounds, share information and learning in groups.
According to all this information, humans have only existed for about 0.004% of the age of the Earth.

Geologic time is so vast and unimaginable yet it provides a basis for understanding neolithic architecture. Its hard to imagine planet earth spans over 4.5 billion years. One thing is for sure. Since its creation, oceans, continents, and life as we know it has incredibly changed. And, as necessary, we have evolved and adapted.

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Long nosed peccaries (mylohyus nasutus)

Unlike modern pigs, long-nosed peccaries had upper incisors, or tusks, that grow downwards.
They had a long, slender muzzle and jaw and were about the size of a small white-tailed deer.

Most paleontologists believe these animals were omnivorous, their diet dominated by plant matter, but occasionally supplemented by small animals (e.g., eggs, mice, worms).

Unlike the flat-headed peccary, the long-nosed peccary was probably a solitary animal. They were found in caves, because often they were devoured by scimitars or mountain lions. In general, they mostly occupied parkland or forested habitats.

Long-nosed peccaries were distributed throughout eastern north America. With concentrations in Appalacia and Florida. Most fossil areas are found in the south and south-east US. Though some are from west Texas in Fowlkes Cave, up north to Kimmswick and Crankshaft Cave in Missouri. And, Pennsylvanias Frankstown and Hollidaysburg Fissue caves, and, Prairie Creek in Indiana.