Sunday, July 31, 2011


The largest land Mammal ever to ever walk on the earth was Paraceratherium, who lived thirty-five million years ago.  Taller than a house, She was the size of dinosaurs.  A member of the Odd-toed Mammal Order (Perissodactyla), Paraceratherium was an ancient relative of Rhinoceros.  Using her prehensile (mobile and gripping) upper lip, She ate from the tops of the trees, grinding the leaves with her cheek teeth.  Based on the fossil record, She lived in Central Asia during a time of forests and savannahs.
            Because of her tremendous size, Paraceratherium needed to roam long distances to find adequate food and water.  However, She could store water and fat as energy reserves, while She traveled.  Since Paraceratherium could live to be eighty years old, She probably had a good memory, and could find the same elusive watering holes during droughts.  Based on the fossil record, Paraceratherium lived in small groups, and had one calf every two years.
            Because of her huge size, Paraceratherium was in no danger of being attacked.  A gentle animal, She fed only on leaves.  Although huge, Paraceratherium could lay on the ground, and be light on her feet.  Living a life of gentleness, Paraceratherium moved through her world with grace and dignity.  She understood the value of being calm and quiet.  Let Her teach you these ideals as well.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Working with extinct animals: Basics (4): Extinction

What is a mass extinction? What usually occurs after a mass extinction? What is the greatest mass extinction of our planet’s history?

Mass Extinction
A mass extinction event occurs when there is a sharp decrease in the diversity and abundance of life on earth.  This usually happens when undue stress is placed on living things because of a changing environment.  The “official zoological definition” is the decrease of two to five taxa such as Classes or Orders.  Generally, this means that at least ten percent of all families, forty percent of all genera (genus), and seventy percent of all species die out at one time.

Major Mass Extinction Events
There were five major extinction events in the earth’s history.  The most severe was the Permian-Triassic Event.  Known as “The Great Dying”, 57 percent of all families, 83 percent of all general, and at least 90 percent of all species died out.  In addition, this extinction event ended the primacy of mammal-like reptiles and ushered in the Age of Dinosaurs.

The second worst extinction event was the Ordovician-Silurian Event, when 27 percent of all families and 57 percent of all genera died out.  The only mass extinction of insects occurred at this time.  After this event came the diversification of land species and new ecosystems.

The other extinction events were the Late Devonian Event (19 percent families, 50 percent genera, and 70 percent species) when the trilobites disappeared.  The Triassic-Jurassic Event (23 percent families and 48 percent genera) saw the end of large amphibians and many mammal-like reptiles.  The well-known Cretaceous-Paleogene (Tertiary) Event (17 percent families, 50 percent genera, and 75 percent species) wiped out the dinosaurs and gave rise to the Age of Mammals.

Since the cause of mass extinction varies from glaciations to volcanism to meteorite strikes, the organisms that emerge in the recovery after the event are different from those before.  However, first “disaster taxa” take over and proliferate.  After the Permian-Triassic Event, ninety percent of land vertebrates consisted of one species – Lystrosaurus, a pig-like reptile.  Then, the other organisms organize themselves and take advantage of the new ecological niches.  Afterwards, the “disaster taxa” recede and new dominant species emerge.

Works Used:

Haines, Tim and Paul Chambers, “The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life”, Firefly: Ontario, 2006.

Mattison, Chris, “The New Encyclopedia of Snakes”, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2007.

Miller, Stephen and John Harley, “Zoology”, McGraw-Hill: New York, 2010.

Perrins, Christopher, “Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds”, Andromedia: Oxforshire, 2003.

Pianka, Eric and Laurie Vitt, “Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity”, University of California: Berkeley, 2003.

Turner, Alan, “National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals”, National Geographic Society: Washington D.C., 2004.

Various, “Prehistoric Life”, Dorling Kindersley: New York, 2009.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Working with extinct animals: Basics (4): Evolution

Macro and Micro Evolution
Macroevolution is what most people think of when hearing the word “evolution”: major changes occur to taxonomic groups in various families and genera (genus) over a long period of time.  One example of macroevolution is modern whales evolving from primitive land dwelling mammals.  Of course, dinosaurs, mammals, and reptiles developed from the first animals that ventured forth on land, are  other examples of macroevolution.

The difference between macro and micro evolution is a vague one.  Microevolution is change to various species below genus level.  An example of microevolution is the various subspecies of Canada goose (Branta canadenis).  Because of their clannish natures, Canada geese tend to interbred amongst themselves.  The result is several subspecies which are differentiated by their size and plumage. 

An extreme example of microevolution is Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis).  The Canada goose migrated to the Hawaiian Islands about a half-million years ago.  Moreover, DNA sampling has demonstrated that Hawaiian goose is a subspecies of Canada goose.  However, on sight, there are major differences between the two birds.

Convergent Evolution
Convergent evolution occurs when dissimilar species fill the same ecological niche in different parts of the world.  These unrelated species display similar traits and life styles.  Nature is rife with convergent evolution, hence the need for taxonomic identification.  Otherwise confusion amongst the species will make the study of them difficult.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Roman Paganism: Capitol Triad (4)

Triads of Roman Gods

The Romans had several Trios of Gods to oversee their State affairs. The Archaic Triad, the first, consisted of Jupiter (the Ruler of the Heavens), Mars (Guardian of the Crops), and Quirinus (God of Roman Civic Life).  Later this trio was superseded by the Capitoline Triad.

The Capitoline Triad was Jupiter Optimus Maximus (the Supreme God), Juno Regina (Ruler of the State), and Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom).  The Capitolium, a temple on Capitoline Hill, hosted these Gods.  This grouping of a male God with two females reflects Etruscan influence (of Tinia (Supreme Deity), Uni (his wife), and Menrva (their daughter, Goddess of Wisdom).    

Meanwhile, the plebeians venerated the Aventine Trio.  The temple of Ceres (the Goddess of Agriculture) on Aventine Hill, housed the City’s grain supply.  This temple also hosted Liber and Libera, Gods who oversaw the fertility of the fields.  These three Gods (Ceres, Liber, Libera), together, looked after the plebeians.

Works Used
____, Nova Roma, 2011, 05 July 2011 <>

Adkins, Lesley and Roy A. Adkins, "Dictionary of Roman Religion”, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Asborn, Kevin and Dana Burgess, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Mythology”, New York: Penguin Publishing, 2004

Ovid, “Fasti”, translated by Betty Rose Nagle, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Scheid, John, “An Introduction to Roman Religion”, translated by Janet Lloyd, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Turcan, Robert, “The Gods of Ancient Rome: Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial Times”, translated by Antonia Nevill, New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

Warrior, Valerie, “Roman Religion: A Source Book”, New York: Focus Publishing, 2002.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roman Paganism: Capitol Triad (3)

Jupiter Optimus Maximus
The Goddess, Juno is heavily involved in the life of Rome and her people.  Juno is often invoked as the Goddess of Rome, and the Protector of the State.  Her titles give the wide range of her worship in Rome.   Juno Regina, as the “Queen of the Heavens”, like Uni, governs all aspects of Roman womanhood.  In this aspect, She is depicted wearing a goatskin cloak, and armed with a spear.  Like Uni, Juno also hurls lightening bolts.

The Matronalia (March 1) celebrates Juno as Lucina, the Goddess of Light and Childbirth.  Romans sacrificed lambs and cattle to Her.  At her temple on the Esquiline Hill, the Vestal Virgins offered to Her, their hair.  Also, mothers offered a coin to Her for each of their newborn children.  As Lucina, She watched over their newborns.

Worshipped in each of the curiae of Rome, Juno Curitis protected the citizen-soldiers of Rome.  In this aspect, She was the only deity universal to all of the curiae.  A traditional prayer to Her: “Juno Curitis protect my fellow natives of the Curia with your Chariot and Shield.”

The sacred geese of Juno Moneta warned the Romans of an impending attack by the Gauls (in 390 BCE).  After Marcus Furius Camillus won the war against the Gauls, he vowed a temple to Her in 345 BCE.  Besides Vesta’s temple, this temple to Juno Moneta was the only other round one in Rome.

In portraying Minerva, people often claim that She is the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena with a Roman name.  Wearing her military tunic and aegis, and carrying her shield and spear, Minerva does portray the martial aspects of Athena Promachos (Athena the Champion).  However, the Romans also see Her as one of the Capitoline Trio (with Jupiter and Juno) overseeing state affairs.

Adapted from the Etruscan Goddess, Menrva, Minerva is also the Goddess of Wisdom, Education, and Commerce.  In addition, She is the Patroness of Textile Works, Doctors, and Artisans.  Furthermore, Minerva is the inventor of numbers and several musical instruments as well.
               Ovid writes:  “Pray now to Pallas, boys and tender girls;
               Whoever wins Her favor will be skilled,
For She’s the Goddess of a Thousand Works.”

Although there is no Rome today, we can still appeal to the Capitoline Triad for their wisdom for our leaders and countries.  They can offer their guidance and protection to us, for our governments, and in our public life.  We can look to Them to show us good statesmanship as well as excellence in the arts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Roman Paganism: Capitol Triad (2)

Etruscan Influence
One characteristic of the multi-cultural Roman religion is the adoption of other Gods as needed.  At other times, certain aspects of various Gods would be combined into one God or foreign Gods were correlated with Roman ones.  Influenced by the Etruscans, the original Triad of Gods overseeing Roman life changed. 

The Etruscans had their own Triad of Gods: Tinia, Uni, and Menrva.  Their Supreme God was Tinia (Tin).  To them, He was Father Time since He governed time as well as the skies.  Tinia was usually depicted hurling lightening bolts.  (Saturn, not Jupiter, was Father Time for the Romans.)

Meanwhile, His Wife and Sister, Uni was the supreme Goddess of the Etruscans.  She protected them and their rulers.  In addition, Uni governed all aspects of Etruscan womanhood from the wedding to nursing children.  (Juno, as the wife of the Roman Jupiter, was equated to Uni.)

Tinia and Uni’s daughter was Menrva, the Goddess of War, Wisdom, and the Arts.  She was usually depicted with a helmet and spear.  Since She governed the weather, Menrva also threw lightening bolts.  (The Roman Minerva was originally this Etruscan Goddess.)

Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, Minerva)
The Capitoline Triad oversaw the affairs of Rome and her people.  Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Brightest and Best) protected the state.  In addition, Juno Regina was the guardian of Rome.  Together, They guided the affairs of the Roman people.  Meanwhile, Minerva was the Patron of Doctors and the Arts.

After the wars with the Sabines, King Tarquin Priscus asked the Deities of a shrine on Capitoline Hill to move so that he could build a temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.  In exchange for their leaving, he promised Them a new temple elsewhere (exauguration).  All the Gods did except for Terminus, the God of Boundaries.  The Romans regarded this as a good omen.  The new temple was dedicated to Jupiter, Juno Regina, and Minerva (the Capitoline Triad).  (However, a part of it remained a shrine to Terminus.) On the Ides of September, the praetor maximus (head magistrate) would drive a nail into the wall of the temple (cella Iovis).  This was to ward off the plague for another year.

The main temple for the Capitoline Triad had three rooms with each God having their own space.  Jupiter Optimus Maximus occupied the center cella (room), with Juno Regina on the left and Minerva on the right.  Although the temple was build during the time of Roman Kings, it was dedicated by the first Consul of the Roman Republic.

Known as The Shining Father (“Dies Pater”), Jupiter, according to the Romans, is the Ruler of the Cosmos.  Jupiter Optimus Maximus (IOM) is the Supreme Roman God.  As the Lord of the Sky, He makes his will known through thunder and lightning.  Any piece of land struck by lightning belongs to Him alone. 

The Romans looked to Jupiter as the Protector of Rome and its laws.  They saw Him in many aspects of governance.  As a member of both the Archaic and Capitoline Triads, Jupiter Optimus Maximus oversaw Roman affairs.  As Jupiter Lapis, He presided over solemn oaths.  Meanwhile, Jupiter Feretrius presided over treaties and just wars.  Jupiter Stator encouraged the Romans to stand their ground against the Sabines and later the Samnites.

Jupiter Pistor appeared to the Romans during the siege of their Capitol by the Gauls.  He told them to hurl bread at the attacking Gauls.  Believing that the Romans had ample supplies, they decided to leave.  The Gauls ended their siege not knowing that the Romans had thrown the last of the food stores at them.

In addition, many of Jupiter’s titles allude to his control of the weather.  The Romans delineated his many forms of thunder and lightning in their names for Him.  Jupiter Elicius regulated the rainfall, while Jupiter Tonans nearly struck the Emperor Augustus with lightning.

The oldest temple for Jupiter was Jupiter Feretrius, founded by Romulus.  This temple was a repository of ritual implements for dedicating treaties.  To declare war, the fetialis (priest-diplomat of Jupiter) would hurl a spear from the temple into enemy territory.  To solemnize a treaty with foreign governments, the fetialis, using the lapis silex (flint) of Jupiter Feretrius, sacrificed a pig.