Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chickosaurus: Baffling Mystery in an Idaho Cave

Some of you might recall a few postings I had up about "chickosaurus," a find in a lava tube cave in Idaho, about a half mile into the cave.

A couple of researchers were curious just how far the cave went and what they might find. They got all the way back into this small area where they found the bones of what looked like an ostrich. They scratched their heads, studying it. Without lights, and so far into the cave, it did not offer one bit of light. How did this giant ostrich get through the belly crawls they had just completed? And, why would it go back into utter blackness without night vision capabilities?

The baffled researchers left, but thought about coming back. Years later, they did with another researcher, as well. 

The report from the researchers was that the cave was as it was left. They forayed into the depths of it, eventually crawling through spaces on their bellies.

This time, prepared for the find with the appropriate lighting and cameras, they documented it. 

It had only 2 toes and for that reason, they determined it must be an ostrich and not a dinosaur which had 3 toes. 

But how? Why? It was so far into the cave that there was no light, so a bird with no vision in the dark, going that far back and crawling under tiny spaces to get back there and die is a very odd happening. In fact, it was doubtful an ostrich could truly crawl on its belly or be motivated to even try!

The head was missing, as it had been several years earlier on the first excursion. The body was tucked in such a way that it looked as if it had just sat there and passed away. But, where did it come from and how did it navigate the tangled and convoluted trip to the half mile in little nook behind the lava flow? 

I examined the the skeleton photos from many years previously on the initial find. I sketched out a potential shape for the body. The assumption was that these were arms and not wings due to where they seemed to attach. We considered for a time a therapod, like something in the raptor family.

So far as we know, the ostrich is the only 2-toed bird. 

Out of curiosity, I did a bit of research on whether there were 2-toed dinosaurs and one had been found in the UK. It was from the 100,000,000 year range and thought to be an ancestor of future flightless birds.

These lava tube caves were created perhaps 15,000 years ago, way too soon for something to go in there and hide that had existed 100,000,000 years ago. 

What bothered me was the missing head. If this creature managed to get past the odds of being out in the middle of nowhere Idaho, racing into a cave, against its instincts, going deep inside into complete darkness, managing to feel around to get on its belly and crawl through a tight space with only its awkward gangling legs to push it, go back into a side corridor, sit down and die, but its head doesn't remain: That was about the weirdest scenario possible.

So, the head is missing on an unusual bird. The skull would be collectible to anyone who came across the body. I'd want to keep the head. It'd be dinosaur like and cool. Someone could have come across the body and took the head. I get that. We still haven't explained why it was way back there and how it got there.

If a person were to try to get an ostrich to do anything, they'd regret it, so the only way a person could take it back there would be to drag its dead body through those tight passes and crawl spaces. They would have had to prop it up so it's in a seated position and then remove its head and leave its body to decay. Now, this still doesn't make sense. If you wanted the bird or to keep its head, you would have just freaking taken it off where you killed it and bury it, not drag it through a dangerous and tight, dark area to leave it, propping it up in a natural position.

Now if it died back there in the cave and a bear or scavenger managed to go back there and find it, why did it remove the head, but not tear apart the body to feast on it? The bones were not scattered. 

As you can see, even if we have answered that this is an ostrich, we still have not figured out how this entire scenario unfolded.

I leave this case partially open for the simple reason that it has defied any logical explanation for either a dinosaur or an ostrich being there in that situation and in that condition.

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