Friday, January 13, 2006

Careful What You Ask: For Time Travelers

Given this choice, which would you prefer? To go back 2 million years in time or forward 50,000 years? Better check the latest travel warnings first, you say. Nice thought, but good luck.

No one can tell for certain, of course, but geologists seem to expect you would be in the midst of an ice age in 50,000 years. Ice plates thousands of feet thick would cover your stomping grounds in much of the U.S. Companionship and food would be prized.

Want to go back instead? A paleoanthropologist has news for you. Much warmer, perhaps, but food and companianship would still be prized. Moreover, you could be the food.

Researcher: Early Man Was Hunted by Birds
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - small human ancestors known as hominids had to survive being hunted not only by large predators on the ground but by fearsome raptors that swooped from the sky, said Lee Berger, a senior paleoanthropologist at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand.
"These types of discoveries give us real insight into the past lives of these human ancestors, the world they lived in and the things they feared," Berger said in documents accompanying a presentation at a conference Thursday.

Five months ago, researchers from Ohio State University submitted what Berger called the most comprehensive study to date of eagle damage on bones. Berger was among those asked to review the paper for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. ...But they also identified features previously never described: puncture marks and ragged incisions in the base of the eye sockets, made when eagles rip out the eyes of dead monkeys with their talons and beaks to get at the brains.

The child's death has been blamed on a leopard or saber-toothed cat, which are known to have preyed on hominids. But 10 years ago, Berger and fellow researcher Ron Clarke submitted the theory that the hunter was a predatory bird, similar to today's African crowned eagle.


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