Africa

Laelaps

Tag archives for Africa

Out on the grassy plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, a group of six female topi antelope (Damaliscus lunatus) walk across the savanna. It is the time of the annual rut – a one and a half month period in which most males control small patches of land and try to attract adult females…

The skeletons of Lucy (left) and Kadanuumuu (right). Both belong to the early human species Australopithecus afarensis. (Images not to scale.) I never fully appreciated how small Lucy was until I saw her bones for myself. Photographs and restorations of her and her kin within the species Australopithecus afarensis had never really given me a…

Hunters and the Hunted

A Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer), photographed at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Outside of the trash-grubbing black bears I occasionally come across when driving to hikes in northern New Jersey, I never encounter large predators near my home. The imposing carnivores which once roamed the “garden state” were extirpated long ago. This is a…

Image via Discovery Press Web. In his monumental 1945 monograph on mammal classification, paleontologist G.G. Simpson appraised the living species of elephants to be “relicts of a dying group.” The living African (Loxodonta) and Asian (Elephas) elephants were all that remained of the past diversity of proboscideans, and human activities put even these large mammals…

A leopard (Panthera pardus). Image from Wikipedia. SK-54 is a curious fossil. The 1.5 million year old skullcap represents a juvenile Paranthropus robustus, one of the heavy-jawed hominins which lived in prehistoric South Africa, but there is something that makes this skull fragment particularly special. Near one of the sutures along the back of the…

Spotted hyenas giggling over an antelope spine. Courtesy BMC Ecology. For spotted hyenas, a laugh can speak volumes about an individual. Despite being portrayed as stupid scavengers who rely on the leftovers of lion prides, hyenas are highly intelligent and social predators. They communicate with each other through an array of whoops, yowls, grunts, screams,…

An adult chimpanzee in Bossou, Guinea uses hammer and anvil stones to crack nuts as younger individuals look on. From Haslam et al., 2009. Before 1859 the idea that humans lived alongside the mammoths, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats of the not-too-distant past was almost heretical. Not only was there no irrefutable evidence that our…

I was planning on putting up one of my patented mega-posts this evening, but unfortunately I just don’t have it in me at the moment. It’s based on a presentation I made today involving scavenging and early hominids, and while I’m sure some of you will be able to make the right connections (especially if…

I have never heard sounds come out of a dog like the kind that I’ve heard out of a pack of excited African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), the individual pictured above being a member of a large group kept at the WCS-run Bronx Zoo. While their species once ranged over 39 countries and their numbers…