Monday, June 25, 2012

Just the Facts?: Mysterious Prehistoric Structure in Wales -- End of a Subspecies -- Monster Alligator Gar



Mysterious prehistoric structure in Wales may be older than the pyramids

British archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a mysterious prehistoric structure that might be older than Egypt’s pyramids.

Discovered during work at a housing development in Monmouth, Wales, the bulky feature consists of a series of trenches possibly housing the timber foundations of a massive building.

"We have what appear to be huge parallel sleeper beams set close to the edge of an ancient, dried up lake," archaeologist Steve Clarke of Monmouth Archaeology told Discovery News.

Made from what seems to be entire tree trunks, the sleeper beams are huge, measuring more than 50 ft in lenght and more than 3 ft across.

"It's huge and presumably prehistoric but otherwise we haven't a clue what it is, we don't know how old it is and we don't know how long it is," Clarke said.

Continuing beyond the excavations, the timber structure was cut into the surface of a burnt mound, presumably dating to the Bronze Age.

Experts believe the structure could date to at least the Bronze Age, but could be early Neolithic, about 6,500 years old, thus predating Egypt's pyramids by about 2,000 years.

"I am in touch with various wetland specialists. Everyone says that they have not seen anything like it," Clarke said.

Speculations range from interpreting the structure as the foundation of an early Neolithic long house to seeing it as a large platform constructed on water-saturated soil.

What the platform was used for, and what might have been built on top of it, remains a mystery.

Radio-carbon tests of the foundations are being carried at the moment. Results are expected within a couple of weeks. - news.discovery

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....up to his neck!

Environmentalist Zhou Haijue is up to his neck in it in a bizarre protest against property developers in southern China.

Zhou, 62 - from Shiliu, Guangdong province - had planted more than 4,000 trees to restore a forest on the edge of his village and when builders said they wanted to use the land, he refused.

"Then overnight every single tree was cut down and my 30 years of planting and caring were ruined," he explained.

So Zhou buried himself up to his neck in the ruined woodland and promised not to leave until officials ruled the land was his.

"Officials in the government said they recognised my claim so I didn't have to be there for weeks. But I am ready to go back if I need to," he added. - austriantimes

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Lonesome George: The last of his kind

Staff at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador say Lonesome George, a giant tortoise believed to be the last of its subspecies, has died. Scientists estimate he was about 100 years old. Park officials said they would carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death. With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world.

For decades, environmentalists unsuccessfully tried to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands. Park officials said the tortoise was found dead in his corral by his keeper of 40 years, Fausto Llerena. While his exact age was not known, Lonesome George was estimated to be about 100, which made him a young adult as the subspecies can live up to an age of 200. Lonesome George was first seen by a Hungarian scientist on the Galapagos island of Pinta in 1972. Environmentalists had believed his subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) had become extinct.

Lonesome George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme. After 15 years of living with a female tortoise from the nearby Wolf volcano, Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile. He also shared his corral with female tortoises from Espanola island, which are genetically closer to him than those from Wolf volcano, but Lonesome George failed to mate with them. He became a become a symbol of the Galapagos Islands, which attract some 180,000 visitors a year. Galapagos National Park officials said that with George's death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become extinct.

They said his body would probably be embalmed to conserve him for future generations. Tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos islands until the late 19th century, but were later hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction. Their habitat furthermore suffered when goats were introduced from the mainland. The differences in appearance between tortoises from different Galapagos islands were among the features which helped the British naturalist Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution. Some 20,000 giant tortoises of other subspecies still live on the Galapagos.

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands: An Identification Guide, 2nd Edition


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Texas fisherman prevails in epic battle with enormous alligator gar

Whether Brent Crawford has captured the world's largest alligator gar will never be known -- his scale bottomed out emphatically at 300 pounds and he filleted the prehistoric-looking fish after attempting to obtain its weight.

But this much is clear: The gar Crawford landed while bow-fishing recently in Texas' Lake Corpus Christi is among the largest specimens ever captured -- and it was captured in a manner like no other gar captured beforehand.

(The largest-known alligator gar caught while bow-fishing weighed 365 pounds. The largest caught on rod and reel weighed 279 pounds.)

Crawford, who has lived on the lake for 20 years, was alerted to the presence of several giant gar in a wide canal feeding into the lake: an enormous female swimming with about five smaller males.

His reaction, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times, was simply: "Oh goodness. That fish right there was worth chasing."

The newspaper's outdoors columnist, David Sikes, produced a detailed account of what transpired next. The following is a condensed version:

Crawford, with his fishing bow, stalked the great fish carefully, knowing he might only get one shot.

When he finally fired, he scored a direct hit, unleashing the fury of the 8-foot, 2-inch beast, which created an explosion of mud and water before it ran toward the lake.

Big problem, because the nylon cord had become tangled at Crawford's feet, and when he grabbed the line, as it began to tighten, it became wrapped around his hand.

The line went taut and the fish yanked the fisherman into the water headfirst. That's when Crawford's dog, Bleux, grabbed him by the cuff of the jeans, creating a bizarre riverbank tug-of-war.

Crawford ultimately was able to free his hand from the cord and stand knee-deep in the shallow canal, gripping his fishing bow, the cord still attached to the mighty fish. "There was no doubt who was in control and it wasn't me," the fisherman recalled.

The gar stole 200 feet of cord in a battle that lasted 45 minutes, before Crawford reeled it to the bank. Soaked and exhausted, the fisherman straddled the fish, reached for his cellphone -- which he had kept in a waterproof case -- and dialed a friend.

The friend arrived with a pistol, which resoundingly ended the struggle, and the two men used a rope and an ATV to drag the quarry to Crawford's house.

It wasn't until after Crawford had carved up his catch that he learned the Texas bow-fishing record for alligator gar is 290 pounds, and the overall state record is 302 pounds.

Record or no record, it was a monstrous gar and one of the wildest angling feats in Texas history. It's a shame that there isn't a category for that. - grindtv

Freshwater Fishing Tips & Techniques: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Freshwater Fishing

Fishing Texas (Angler's Guides)
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