(Warning: I’m jumping on my soapbox for this blog entry.)
Merry Christmas? I say bah humbug! Christmas is an ancient pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice–the shortest day of the year–with a festival of artificial lights. The Romans knew how to party, and they turned this festival into a drunken orgy known as Saturnalia. They gave toys to their kids to distract them, so the children wouldn’t be aware that their parents were engaged in a little joyful wife and servant swapping. The Catholic Church gained political power in the 4th century, but the hierarchy was unable to stop the alcoholic sex-crazed fun. Instead, they incorporated the holiday and falsely claimed it to be the birthday of Jesus, the invisible Jewish rabbi who the psychotic founders of Christianity believed was the son of God, after God supposedly deposited his sperm into Mary’s vagina without breaking her hymen.
Pious Christians tried to break the real spirit of what the winter solstice should be about, but they haven’t ruined it nearly as much as the oppressive rulers of today’s American society have. Big corporations and monstrous merchants have transmogrified this glorified sex orgy into a psychological compulsion for working class people to waste money on a bunch of junk they don’t need, so that wealth is transferred from the poor to greedy merchants. Clueless economists make the ridiculous claim that this is good for the economy. In reality it’s only beneficial for credit card-owning banks who for the rest of the year use this expensive spending orgy to drain working class people’s money, like vampires sucking the blood of sheep.
I’m not interested in material objects, but I do have a Christmas wish that a magic Santa could transport live specimens of extinct Pleistocene animals to the present so scientists could study the beasts, and zoos could display them. Here’s my top ten wish list:
Photo of a replica skeleton of Ermeotherium that I took at the Skidaway Island museum.
1. Eremotherium laurillardi–a giant ground sloth. There’s nothing like this beast living today. Diminutive South American tree sloths are the closest living relative, but c’mon, there’s just no comparison. This massive beast lived on Georgia’s coastal plain until about 30,000 years ago which is the time the last glacial maximum began. The climate became too cold for them in North America, but they persisted in South America until about 11,000 years ago.
2. Smilodon fatalis–the saber-toothed cat. There’s nothing like this alive today either. Maybe we could lead a horse or cow into its cage and solve the mystery, once and for all, how it killed its prey.
3. Glyptotherium floridanum–Glyptodont. A mammal built like a turtle and the size and shape of a Volkswagon. Who wouldn’t want to see this in person?
4. Mammut americanum–Mastodon. I’d pick mastodon over mammoth. Mammoths are closely related to extant living Asiatic elephants, but mastodons were much more primitive and were related to an ancient order close to the evolutionary foundation of elephant-like animals.
5. Megalonyx jeffersonii–Jefferson’s ground sloth This was a smaller ground sloth about the size of an ox. For ecological reasons I believe this was the most common kind of ground sloth found in Georgia during most of the Pleistocene. It preferred forested environments and was better adapted to colder temperatures, living as far north as Canada.
6. Glossotherium harlani–Harlan’s ground sloth. Co-existed with Jefferson’s ground sloth, but apparently preferred open meadows as opposed to the forested conditions frequented by the other.
7. Mammuthus colombi–Columbian mammoth. An elephant adapted for living in a temperate region. Definitely unique enough to make my Christmas wish list.
8. Dinobastis serum–Scimitar-toothed cat. Not as famous as Smilodon but equally as fascinating. Got to give it the edge over other mammals left off the top ten list such as the Pleistocene vampire bats, extinct javelinas, and extinct llamas. Though interesting, those other species do have similar living relatives, but there are no species of fanged cats left on the planet.
9. Terratornis sp.–The terratorn. It’s a condor with a 14 foot wingspan.
10. Hesperotestudo crassicutata–This giant tortoise lived on Georgia’s coastal plain during warm interglacials and interstadials. It grew as big as modern day Galapagos Island tortoises, but was closely related to extant gopher tortoises.
The nature lover in me did get a real gift this year in time for Christmas. The state of Georgia is going to purchase 15 square miles of Oaky Woods in Houston County. Currently, it’s being managed as a wildlife management area, but real estate developers were threatening to destroy it. Oaky Woods is a unique wilderness. It’s the last stand of the black bear in the piedmont region of Georgia, and it’s home to 4 state record trees. The landscape consists of mature stands of mixed pine and oak as well as rare remnants of blackbelt prairie, a probable relic habitat dating back to the Pleistocene. Moreover, there is some good fossil-hunting ground there. Eocene marine fossils are commonly found on this piece of land.
Augusta radio talk show host, Austin Rhodes, suggested I go live in a tree when I brought this subject up on the Augusta Chronicle message board. What a jerk! The site is now protected, however, no thanks to shmucks like him.
My next entry will be about ice berg keel scours off the coast of South Carolina.