Fregata magnificens

| 14 Comments
JuvFrigate Bird.jpg

Fregata magnificens — Juvenile frigate bird, Galápagos Islands

14 Comments

The proper title for this photo is, “Sheess, why am I stuck with the only tree with no leaves?”

While living on the Gulf Coast of Florida I saw frigates sailing very high above the coast line on a handful of occasions. Each occasion was either accompanied by, or soon followed by, stronger than normal storm activity coming ashore.

I can see why this bird has not only been considered a maritme barometer, but also a sign of ill fortune. Nevertheless, the sight of them, so for up and maintaining heading and altitude with so little apparent effort, is a thing to remember. Their aerial prowess is a subtle, good natured poke in our human ribs.

‘Course, we are getting much better at flying …

I say “frigate” all the time when I’m pissed off for some reason.

magnificens definitely describes it!

Crudely Wrott said: While living on the Gulf Coast of Florida I saw frigates sailing very high above the coast line on a handful of occasions.

This is one of my pet theories about early human migration. Bird watching!

Leaving Africa some 60000 ybp within 20000 years they had reached Australia. They had crossed at least 6 deep ocean channels where the other side was invisible. Humans have found tiny pin pricks of islands in the Pacific, tens and sometimes hundreds of miles from the nearest inhabited island. How did they “know” there was land on the other side or an island was in that direction?

My pet theory is that they followed the birds returning in the evening to their roosting sites. A group of humans found a way to build rafts or ride fallen logs to cross over to the off shore islands first. There they found tame birds which were easy prey. Quickly adopting to the easy pickings, they hopped island to island, crossing short stretches of water. They became more proficient in locating off shore bird colonies by looking for converging flight paths of birds at sunset. They very quickly radiated out of Africa all the way to Australia, crossing deep ocean channels too, leaving behind many seed populations at various points to colonize the world. When they ran out of easy tame birds they adapted to other forms of hunting and gathering.

Of course this hardly qualifies as a “theory”, more like idle speculation. But I don’t even know how one would begin a literature search to find if anyone has done any research along these lines.

‘Course, we are getting much better at flying …

well sure, but it still leaves the arms really tired.

Just letting readers know that Andor Technology plc are running a competition for the scientific community. $400 to the charity of your choice, will be awarded for the winning entry in the 2008 Christmas Card design contest, plus the opportunity to promote your work on www.andor.com - Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k85yzCSdhrc

Henry J said:

‘Course, we are getting much better at flying …

well sure, but it still leaves the arms really tired.

You are always good for a giggle, Henry! :-)

Ravilyn Sanders said:

Crudely Wrott said: While living on the Gulf Coast of Florida I saw frigates sailing very high above the coast line on a handful of occasions.

This is one of my pet theories about early human migration. Bird watching!

I’m sure that your hypothesis is well reasoned. Your reasoning echoes my own in that human evolution, with special regard to our intellectual evolution, indicates that our ancestors were very good at observation. I think it must have taken a while until language had “caught up” with what we were learning. What we were learning was simply how to learn. How to learn is practically synonymous with doing science in that science utilizes basic skills such as as observation, memory and communication. That’s why science is the most representative activity of us primates (and probably some other critters, too). We all do it in our daily choices and habits. Choices. Based on observation and experience. Science is the same, just taken to another level.

It is certainly not hard to imagine moments when the continued observation of the behavior of other species first informed a human of something probable and interesting; like where the nearest landfall might be. Think of it! You are the first to ever connect the flight of a bird to the location of land while paddling an outrigger in the open ocean with your family and friends near death. No moment marks your insight, it seems to come in stages that nest together and form a stretch in time. You mind changes. You plot a new course based on a connection new to you that is also unknown to anyone else. You don’t know that since, well, you couldn’t.

And soon you deliver up your kin and kith on the shores of a fair land. Such good fortune makes up a great part of individual lives as well as the lives of societies, nations and planets, I guess. Such good fortune is predicated on being observant and (analytically?) thoughtful. And also on what there is to observe. On one good day, it was the flight of a bird.

It’s fascinating to imagine that I am a direct descendant of that person. What if the bird hadn’t flown? [end light drama]

Henry J said:

‘Course, we are getting much better at flying …

well sure, but it still leaves the arms really tired.

Have you seen Gertrude or Heathcliff? They were supposed to land just ahead of me.

ravilyn sanders, your idle speculation is quite good. And how you would begin such an investigation, and continue such an investigation, into the spreading of humanity to the far reaches of isolated Pacific archipelegos is a subject dear to my heart, and happily, well researced. The history of the exploration of the Pacific must begin with the Melanesians, Micronesians, and most famously, the Polynesians. How these peoples navigated the vast reaches of the Pacific (Russia/16 Million km2 - Pacific/164 million km2) is an ongoing study in many History/Anthropology departments in NZ, Australian and Pacific Universities; and others. With only an oral tradition their achievements were/are hard to uncover, but easy to see: They populated all reaches of the Pacific. While Europeans and Chinese sailors were hugging the coasts the proto-Polynesians were navigating vast distances. Luck, to be sure had a role, but I think later European explorers from Columbus to Cook would also not disavow luck. Follow the birds? Sure. The colour of the sea? Yes. Floating flotsam and jetsum? Without doubt. All require luck. They knew the stars and how to navigate by these, as has been proven by simple conversation with todays polynesian sailors, many of whom still make journeys in canoes between islands seperated in distances farther than New York to Miami. Because these peoples were illiterate we are left with a gap in human history which has produced heroes and tales to rival Hector, unfortunately, these tales are known to a few, and when Hollywooded, made tacky. The exploration of the Pacific, pre-European is a facsinating tale, poorly understood, but rightly marvelled at. Rob.

Crudely Wrott said:

Have you seen Gertrude or Heathcliff? They were supposed to land just ahead of me.

Wow. There’s some esoterica. Very funny, Red.

robert said: The exploration of the Pacific, pre-European is a facsinating tale, poorly understood, but rightly marvelled at.

I agree the Pacific islanders have really astounding understanding of the sea.

What you call luck, is basically survivor bias. No doubt, in the last 60,000 years some of their ancestors left perfectly hospitable islands with teeming easy prey, bitten by the wanderlust and perished in the sea. Some others lost their wanderlust and the sea going ability and went extinct like the Easter Island people. Yes, true, lottery winners are lucky. But it is inevitable someone win the lottery.

What fascinates me, is why/how our species, H sapien, broke out of Africa and spread rapidly all the way to Australia 40 K years ago.

We know that invasive species have no natural predators or pests and their prey do not have natural fear of them. Thus they rapidly spread and fill the habitat. The hominids 60K years ago just had enough brain power to adopt being invasive species itself as the survival strategy!

We also know that mountains, deserts, deep valleys and bodies of water break the world into different habitats for the land dwellers. Among these natural barriers, bodies of water are the easiest barrier to overcome for a tool using intelligent species like the hominids. Just learn to ride the logs.

My idle speculation is that our ancestors were coastal apes who stumbled on to using logs and crude rafts to find near shore islands and exploiting it in a systematic way. The dynamics would be that every group that finds such an island, goes through a population explosion, depletion of the resources and they radiate out once again. Many of the emigrants perish and the survivors are selected by their ability to hop islands and maintain their sea skills through oral traditions. Rapidly they reached all the way from Australia to Spain hugging the coast. (Remember, despite starting from Africa, they missed Madagascar and it was it was inhabited just 1000-1500 years ago from the East, from the Indian Ocean not from the African continent! Great oceanic voyage skill developed later, may be in the last 5000 years). Some of them found easy living in the interior lands and radiated inwards, lost the touch with the seas. They formed the seed populations that colonized much of Asia, Australia and Europe.

The evolutionary forces you describe I know about through reading and enjoying PT. Habitat destruction, overpopulation (and all the associated probs, disease, societal collapse etc)competition for scarce resources (sounds like 2008) all contributed to the need to explore and move on as you point out. The ‘wander lust’you describe may be the evolutionary urge to get asfar away as possible from a complete bunch of pricks. Imagine Dembski, Anne Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly living on the beach next to you and the ‘wander lust’ explains itself. The fascination with Pacific exploration achievements should be tempered however; the legendary journey of Maui from Hawaiki to Tahiti, and finally to Aoteoroa has been attempted a couple of times in he last 30 years with laughable results. The best attempt at building and reattempting early Polynesian exploration efforts remain with the slightly zany Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon-Tiki journey. He believed in an east-west settlement of the pacific and had some good arguments, ( sweet potatos are native to Sth America, and if you explore it is best to go against the prevailing wind, incase you get lost you can come home twice as quickly) he is now debunked but a great explorer in his own right. “Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft” remains a great adventure story. Rob.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 17, 2008 12:00 PM.

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