Wikipedia articles of interest

1. War of the Triple Alliance. A war taking place from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

“One estimate places total Paraguayan losses — through both war and disease — as high as 1.2 million people, or 90% of its pre-war population.[2][3] A different estimate places Paraguayan deaths at approximately 300,000 people out of its 500,000 to 525,000 prewar inhabitants.”

Yeah, you guessed right, Paraguay lost the war. Naturally: “The specific numbers of casualties are hotly disputed”. Most people didn’t die in battle: “The high rates of mortality, however, were not the result of the armed conflict in itself. Bad food and very poor hygiene caused most of the deaths, many of which were due to cholera. Among the Brazilians, two-thirds of the war dead died either in hospital or on march to face the enemy.”

A bit more:

“Although the Paraguayan army had somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 men at the beginning of the conflict, they were badly equipped. Most of the infantry armament consisted of inaccurate smooth-bore muskets and carbines, slow to reload and with short range. The same applied to the artillery. The officers had no training or experience and there was no command system, as all decisions were made by López. Food, ammunition and armament were scarce and logistics and hospital care were deficient, if existent at all.[21]

The armies of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay were a fraction of the total size of the Paraguayan army. Argentina had approximately 8,500 regular troops and a naval squadron of four vapores and one goleta. Uruguay entered the war with fewer than 2,000 men and no navy. Many of Brazil’s 16,000 troops were initially located in its southern garrisons.[22] The Brazilian advantage, though, was in its navy: 42 ships with 239 cannons and about 4,000 well-trained crew. A great part of the squadron had already met in the Río de la Plata basin, where it had acted, under the Marquis of Tamandaré, in the intervention against Aguirre.

Brazil, however, was unprepared to fight a war. Its army was unorganized. The troops used in the interventions in Uruguay were composed merely of the armed contingents of gaucho politicians and some National Guard staff. The Brazilian infantry who fought in the War of the Triple Alliance were not professional soldiers but volunteers, the so-called Voluntários da Pátria. The army was heavily recruited from the landless, largely black, underclass.” The article also mentions “8,570 [Brazilian] ex-slaves who had been freed to be sent to war” – ‘had been freed to be sent to war’. One wonders if they got a say in the matter.

2. Oliver Cromwell.

3. Mantis. I’d prefer to be a female:

“Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may start feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating had begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” […]

“The reason for sexual cannibalism has been debated, with some considering submissive males to be achieving a selective advantage in their ability to produce offspring. This theory is supported by a quantifiable increase in the duration of copulation among males who are cannibalized, in some cases doubling both the duration and the chance of fertilization. This is further supported in a study where males were seen to approach hungry females with more caution, and were shown to remain mounted on hungry females for a longer time, indicating that males actively avoiding cannibalism may mate with multiple females. The act of dismounting is one of the most dangerous times for males during copulation, for it is at this time that females most frequently cannibalize their mates. This increase in mounting duration was thought to indicate that males would be more prone to wait for an opportune time to dismount from a hungry female rather than from a satiated female that would be less likely to cannibalize her mate. Some consider this to be an indication that male submissiveness does not inherently increase male reproductive success, rather that more fit males are likely to approach a female with caution and escape.”

Anyway, if you’re a male mantis, you run a significant risk that your girlfriend will bite your head off while you’re having sex. Literally.

4. Slime mold. Related comic.

5. Clovis culture.


March 28, 2011 - Posted by | Archaeology, Biology, History, Wikipedia, Zoology

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