- Researchers analyze ancient eggshells of cassowaries found in New Guinea
- They show evidence that some eggs were eaten but others were raised as chicks.
- San Diego Zoo named dinosaur-like cassowary the world’s most dangerous bird
From chickens to ducks, most birds domesticated by humans today are not ferocious at all.
But a new analysis of eggshells suggests that ancient humans living in New Guinea bravely bred a more formidable type of bird – the cassowary – 18,000 years ago.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University studied ancient eggshells, and found that some of the smaller eggs were burned and eaten by ancient humans, but other eggs were left to fully develop and hatch.
These cassowary chicks were raised to adulthood before being killed for their feathers and meat, which are still eaten as a delicacy in parts of New Guinea.
At that time, humans on the island must have made great efforts to collect the eggs of the cassowary, despite the fact that the bird could cause fatal injuries.
Often compared to dinosaurs in appearance, cassowaries are similar to emus and stand up to six feet tall and weigh up to 130 pounds.
They are the most dangerous birds in the world, according to the San Diego Zoo, with a four-inch, dagger-like claw on each foot that can open open predators—including humans.
Cassowaries have been named the world’s most dangerous bird by the San Diego Zoo. They are capable of causing serious injury to humans and other animals. Despite this, they were domesticated by humans until they were adults, report Pennsylvania researchers.
Often compared to dinosaurs in appearance, cassowaries are similar to emus and stand up to six feet long and weigh 130 pounds.
The World’s Most Dangerous Birds: What Are Cassowaries?
Pictured, the vibrant green egg of the Southern Cassowary
Cassowaries are similar to emus and grow up to six feet long and weigh up to 130 pounds.
The San Diego Zoo website calls them the world’s most dangerous bird, with a four-inch, dagger-like claw on each foot that can bite open people or predators.
According to the San Diego Zoo, they can jump and swim up to seven feet straight.
There are three living species of cassowary – the southern cassowary, the northern cassowary, and the dwarf cassowary.
According to researchers, a Florida man was killed by one of the creatures in 2019, yet, surprisingly, cassowary chicks are still traded as a commodity in New Guinea. studied ancient eggshells found on the island to determine the stage of development of cassowary embryos when the egg burst.
Rainforests on island ‘may offer earliest known evidence of human management of avians’ 18,000 years ago [bird] Breeding’, the authors report.
Professor Christina Douglas at Penn State University said, ‘This behavior we are seeing is coming thousands of years before chicken was domesticated.
‘And it’s not a small bird, it’s a huge, ornate, flightless bird that can take you out.’
Cassowaries are flightless birds and more closely resemble Velociraptor than today’s domesticated birds.
Despite the danger they present to people, cassowary chicks print readily to humans and are ‘easier to maintain and grow to adult size’, the researchers report.
The impression is when a newly hatched bird decides that the first thing it sees is its mother. If that first sight catches a human’s eye, the bird will follow the human.
For the study, the researchers developed a new method based on analysis of eggshells to determine how old a chick’s embryo was when the egg was harvested.
Professor Douglas said, ‘I have worked on the eggshells of archaeological sites for many years.
‘I discovered research on turkey eggshells showed changes in eggshells during development that were a sign of age. I decided this would be a useful method.’
First, the researchers studied the eggshells of live birds, including turkeys, emus and ostriches.
By inspecting the inside of these eggs, the researchers made a statistical assessment of how the eggs looked during the different stages of incubation.
Pictured, a modern-day Cassowary chick. These chicks were probably raised to adulthood by humans 18,000 years ago
A pair of endangered southern cassowaries are pictured on a gravel path in Queensland, Australia
Through development the inside of the eggshell changes, pits appear in the middle of development.
The researchers then turned to historical shale collections from two sites in New Guinea – Yuku and Kiowa.
He applied his approach to more than 1,000 pieces of ancient eggs, which were between 18,000 and 6,000 years old.
Professor Douglas said, ‘What we found was that a large number of eggshells were harvested in the late stages. ‘The eggshells look too late; The pattern is not random.’
(a) male southern cassowary sitting on the forest floor; (b) male southern cassowary and two juveniles; and (c) the young cassowary chick (Cassuri spp.)
Images from the research paper, provided via high-resolution scanning laser microscopy, show cassowary eggshell internal surfaces
Ancient humans were either ‘eating the bat’ – nearly developed embryos were boiled and eaten as street food in parts of Asia today – or were raising chicks when they were fully grown.
Professor Douglas said, ‘We also saw the eggshells burning. ‘There are enough specimens of the late stages of the eggs that do not show burning that we can say that they were hatching and not eating them.’
In order to successfully raise and raise cassowary chicks, ancient people needed to know where the nests were and when the eggs were laid.
They will also need to be removed from the nest just before they hatch, which can result in some very intense encounters with protective…