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Thread: Could Thunderbirds be teratorns?

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    Could Thunderbirds be teratorns?

    Could the Native American Thunderbird be a folklore of the teratorn? Or have they been extinct too long for that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Could the Native American Thunderbird be a folklore of the teratorn? Or have they been extinct too long for that?
    Extinct about 10,000 years ago, according to Wikipedia, so possible human overlap. Doesn't mean it's the source of the myth. I'd have to look further but the geographic origins of the myth may not match with the range of the bird.
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    Well, the ancestors of the thunderbird believers may have lived in other areas than their descendants. Humans are pretty peripatetic.
    You know, thinking it over, I would expect teratorns to be the last Pleistocene megafauna to go extinct. Sabertooths, giant sloths, etc. are grounded and more vulnerable to humans. A teratorn can fly away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Sabertooths, giant sloths, etc. are grounded and more vulnerable to humans. A teratorn can fly away.
    That assumes humans were responsible for these extinctions. While I've heard the idea that they were responsible, or at least significantly contributed, I don't recall that there is consensus about that.
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    Teratornis would be a doddle to catch, same as Andean condors are. Wait for a still day, and put a fence around a dead animal, a couple of metres out. They can drop in from above on the stall, but they need a run to take off, so once they're on the ground inside a fence, they're stuck until the wind gets up.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I didn't know that, grant.
    Still, I would think that would be a little sophisticated for an early Paleo-Indian, compared to spearing a giant sloth, say. So the extinction might have taken a few centuries instead of a few years...enough for the bird to enter folklore, perhaps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Could the Native American Thunderbird be a folklore of the teratorn? Or have they been extinct too long for that?
    They could have been interpreting an auroral display similar to this:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    They could have been interpreting an auroral display similar to this:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    WOW!
    Is that a normal aurora display, or is it a one in a thousand fluke?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    WOW!
    Is that a normal aurora display, or is it a one in a thousand fluke?
    APOD has at least one other such, but it's not common.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    They could have been interpreting an auroral display similar to this:

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	22658
    Thank you for a new possible smartphone wallpaper!

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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    Thank you for a new possible smartphone wallpaper!
    This is mine:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Kqt8x4MI9B...12part1_22.jpg
    Last edited by slang; 2017-Sep-27 at 05:22 AM. Reason: don't post large images inline

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I didn't know that, grant.
    Still, I would think that would be a little sophisticated for an early Paleo-Indian, compared to spearing a giant sloth, say. So the extinction might have taken a few centuries instead of a few years...enough for the bird to enter folklore, perhaps.
    People at about the same level of sophistication have used group hunting to drive mammoths or mastodons off cliffs, nets to catch fish and birds, and constructed fish weirs. I think a little fencing is not a big leap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I didn't know that, grant.
    Still, I would think that would be a little sophisticated for an early Paleo-Indian, compared to spearing a giant sloth, say. So the extinction might have taken a few centuries instead of a few years...enough for the bird to enter folklore, perhaps.
    They had the same brains, creativity, and cleverness that we do today. Anything a modern primitive culture can do, they could have done.

    I wouldn't even call them early, as the extinctions occurred more than 10,000 years after the first human arrivals in North America.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Could the Native American Thunderbird be a folklore of the teratorn? Or have they been extinct too long for that?
    You are eithei assuming or asking that teratorns still exist. The answer is almost certainly no.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    You are eithei assuming or asking that teratorns still exist. The answer is almost certainly no.
    This does not follow. Teratorns were on the continent contemporaneously with humans. There are oral histories going back to the same epoch in New England that appear to describe the formation of kettle ponds. It is not beyond the realm of probability that humans saw teratorns and that cultural memory persisted into the "modern" era.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I didn't know that, grant.
    Still, I would think that would be a little sophisticated for an early Paleo-Indian, compared to spearing a giant sloth, say. So the extinction might have taken a few centuries instead of a few years...enough for the bird to enter folklore, perhaps.
    Even the "blitzkreig" extinction of the Moa is supposed to have been over decades rather than years and that was within a much smaller area than North America, centuries or millennia is probably much closer to the mark. (I can't find the full text, but look up "Blitzkreig Against The Moas", Science, 24 March 2000) Of course, the exact speed and causes of the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna of the Americas are still hotly debated in general: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2009/05/hu.../#.Wcs_CEEpDYU
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/...-north-america

    I did two presentations about the South American megafauna and the giant sloths in particular for my classes in Human Dispersal and Environmental Archaeology last fall. Oddly, there is only one apparent instance of giant sloth butchery in the South American archaeological record and even this is ambiguous, although they apparently did coexist with humans for several centuries in different parts of the continent. Similar to the speculation that started this thread, there is a theory that the mythical Amazon mapinguari is a cultural memory of the ground sloths. (The children's fantasy novel City of the Beasts takes this farther and has it be a living one, but then that's fiction.)
    Last edited by KaiYeves; 2017-Sep-27 at 06:22 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Teratornis would be a doddle to catch, same as Andean condors are. Wait for a still day, and put a fence around a dead animal, a couple of metres out. They can drop in from above on the stall, but they need a run to take off, so once they're on the ground inside a fence, they're stuck until the wind gets up.
    That sounds pretty dumb (I mean to fall for such a trap). Is it simply because they don't think that they might need the takeoff space, or is it because the fence is made so that they can't see it? I guess that animals do occasionally squeeze themselves into spaces that they can't get out of, so perhaps it's just the birds being dumb.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    You are eithei assuming or asking that teratorns still exist. The answer is almost certainly no.
    I don't think that assumption was made. The poster was asking if they might have coexisted with early humans.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That sounds pretty dumb (I mean to fall for such a trap). Is it simply because they don't think that they might need the takeoff space, or is it because the fence is made so that they can't see it? I guess that animals do occasionally squeeze themselves into spaces that they can't get out of, so perhaps it's just the birds being dumb.
    It's a ring of short vertical posts, fairly widely spaced (all that's required to foul the outspread wings of a condor. I think it's so unnatural that it's beyond the experience and reasoning ability of the bird. They can easily walk out between the posts, but if they're rushed by a group of people their instinct is to run upwind with outstretched wings.

    I'm interested that I can't think of occasions when people eat raptors, though. They tend to be trapped if they are perceived to be a risk to livestock, and their bodies discarded. Are there examples of hunter-gatherer communities eating raptors? Certainly the reverence the Native Americans have for the Thunderbird seems at odds with the idea that they were at one time trapping and eating the real-world version.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    This does not follow. Teratorns were on the continent contemporaneously with humans. There are oral histories going back to the same epoch in New England that appear to describe the formation of kettle ponds. It is not beyond the realm of probability that humans saw teratorns and that cultural memory persisted into the "modern" era.

    CJSF
    It's also not beyond the realm of possibility that the thunderbirds are just a campfire tale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    It's also not beyond the realm of possibility that the thunderbirds are just a campfire tale.
    That's the default position/understanding, and I don't think the OP or any of us have discounted this at all. As Jens said above, the OP was speculating if the two (humans and teratorns) could have co-existed. That memory might have been encoded in a myth or "campfire tale". There's nothing wrong with speculation. Let's not turn this into another Life in Space debacle where we can't even stomach intelligent speculation or what-if scenarios.

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    Yeah, Occam's busy right now anyway.

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    Now that I've looked up the wiki:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratornithidae

    From that article:
    Some cryptozoologists such as Ken Gerhard, and Mark A. Hall have expressed interest in teratorns as a possible explanation of anecdotal sightings of very large birds in Texas and Illinois and popularly known as Thunderbirds.[citation needed]
    Citation needed!

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    Big Birdfeet?

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    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    Now that I've looked up the wiki:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratornithidae

    From that article:

    Citation needed!
    Well, if cryptozoologists say so, it must be plausible!
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    I knew some respected (in their field) cultural anthropologists who speculated about it, some years ago. Just because the Wiki page mentions cryptozoologists doesn't invalidate the entire notion.

    CJSF
    "A scientific theory
    Isn't just a hunch or guess
    It's more like a question
    That's been put through a lot of tests
    And when a theory emerges
    Consistent with the facts
    The proof is with science
    The truth is with science"
    -They Might Be Giants, "Science Is Real"


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    Quote Originally Posted by Noisy Rhysling View Post
    Yeah, Occam's busy right now anyway.
    Occam's razor is a very useful heuristic, but it's not always right.
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Occam's razor is a very useful heuristic, but it's not always right.
    And that relates to the current conversation in what fashion?

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    Was there any time in Earth history when a teratorn and a pterosaur were in the air together?

    Would they have fought each other, or ignored each other?

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    Teratorns: Miocene to Pleistocene epochs (23 million years to ~11,000 years ago.)

    Pterasaurs: Late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 to 66 million years ago)

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