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18,000 Years Ago Humans Raised World’s Most Dangerous Bird as Pets

The new study finds that the relationship between humans and cassowaries dates back to the late Pleistocene era. That is many years before humans domesticated chickens and geese. The research is detailed in the October issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The lead author of the study said that this is not some small fowl. Kristina Douglass, an archaeologist at Penn State said that it is a huge, ornery, flightless Bird. The dwarf variety weighs 44 pounds. The lead author assesses the remains of ancient cassowary eggshells.

Douglass and an international team of researchers determined that some 18,000 years ago, people in New Guinea were collecting, hatching and possibly raising cassowary chicks, which the researchers consider a sophisticated food-gathering technique. This represents the earliest known evidence of intentional Bird rearing.

Using a combination of 3D imaging, computer modelling and egg morphology, the scientists examined over 1,000 fragments of cassowary eggshells dating to between 6,000 and 18,000 years ago. The lead author said that they used that approach to see whether or not there was any pattern in terms of when people were harvesting cassowary eggs. They found that there was a pattern and that people were harvesting eggs preferentially in the later stages of development.

People would have preserved these eggs to eat them or to raise the hatched chicks for their meat and feathers. The late-stage fertilized eggs are popular street food in several East Asian and South Pacific countries like the Philippines.

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