On the forests of New Guniea there wanders a beautiful looking flightless bird who looks calm and composed around the forests. Looking at the first sight one can think they can be friendly and approachable. And if someone approaches the Southern Cassowary like that, it might turn out to be the last day of their life. Because this bird may be very aggressive and territorial in nature and reports in the past have that these birds have kicked people to death. Although, their aggression can make one think that how wild these birds can be to our surprise our ancestors have raised and bred them 18,000 years ago. This is so early that we only domesticated chicken no less than 9,500 years ago.
This news came to light as researchers analyzed more than 1,000 eggshell fragments from a cave of hunter-gatherers in New Guinea. They suggest that human ancestors would have collected these eggs before hatching and once hatched they would have raised these chicks till adulthood. While birds may seem aggressive, the chicks imprint easily once after hatch so it was really easy to raise them.
Quest for hatching
Initially, when the eggshells were found there would have been every doubt that they can be used for consumption. Therefore, to clear this suspicion scientists first studied the eggshells of living birds including ostriches, emus, and turkeys. As the days pass by the inner shell changes as calcium gets deposited into the chick. Using this scientists developed a 3D model of how eggs look at different stages of incubation. The model was then first studied at live ostrich and emu eggs before studying the egg fragments. On studying, they found that most of the egg fragments from their New Guniea were in the mature stages of incubation. This indicates that the people were harvesting eggs when the embryos had fully formed beaks, limbs, and feathers, the study said.
In addition to this, there was also speculation that humans could have consumed fully formed embryos in the egg. This is because it is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. But researchers said that there were eggs with no burn marks suggesting they were hatching them. On the contrary, Less mature eggshells showed more signs of burning suggesting they were consumed when contents were primarily liquid.
In the highlands, today people still raise cassowary chicks for feathers, meat, or trade. Therefore, it is likely that these birds have been valued in the past. This is because they would have been a good source of the feather, meat. However, there is still some lacuna for researchers on they take eggs of these birds. Because once laid the males incubate these eggs without any break and even without feeding. In addition to this, birds also change the nest site every year. Questions arise on how people know the sites, how they harvest the eggs from nest sites from the male. Further research would throw more light on this topic.