Vulture Attacking a Dead Soldier

Vulture Attacking a Dead Soldier

Black vulture

The black vulture (Coragyps atratus), also known as the American black vulture, is a bird in the New World vulture family whose range extends from the northeastern United States to Peru, Central Chile and Uruguay in South America. Although a common and widespread species, it has a somewhat more restricted distribution than its compatriot, the turkey vulture, which breeds well into Canada and south to Tierra del Fuego. It is the only extant member of the genus Coragyps, which is in the family Cathartidae. Despite the similar name and appearance, this species is unrelated to the Eurasian black vulture, an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae (which includes eagles, hawks, kites, and harriers). It inhabits relatively open areas which provide scattered forests or shrublands. With a wingspan of 1.5 m (4.9 ft), the black vulture is a large bird though relatively small for a vulture. It has black plumage, a featherless, grayish-black head and neck, and a short, hooked beak.

  • C. a. atratusBechstein , 1793
    North American black vulture
  • C. a. foetensLichtenstein , 1817
    Andean black vulture
  • C. a. brasiliensisBonaparte , 1850
    South American black vulture

Vultur atratus Bechstein, 1793

The black vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carrion, but will also eat eggs or kill newborn animals (livestock such as cattle). In areas populated by humans, it also feeds at garbage dumps. It finds its meals either by using its keen eyesight or by following other (New World) vultures, which possess a keen sense of smell. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It lays its eggs in caves or hollow trees or on the bare ground, and generally raises two chicks each year, which it feeds by regurgitation. In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This vulture also appeared in Mayan codices.


The turkey vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male wild turkey, while the name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer", and is a reference to its feeding habits. [9] The word buzzard is used by North Americans to refer to this bird, yet in the Old World that term refers to members of the genus Buteo. [10] The turkey vulture was first formally described by Carl Linnaeus as Vultur aura in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae, and characterised as "V. fuscogriseus, remigibus nigris, rostro albo" ("brown-gray vulture, with black wing flight feathers and a white beak"). [11] It is a member of the family Cathartidae, along with the other six species of New World vultures, and included in the genus Cathartes, along with the greater yellow-headed vulture and the lesser yellow-headed vulture. Like other New World vultures, the turkey vulture has a diploid chromosome number of 80. [12]

The taxonomic placement of the turkey vulture and the remaining six species of New World vultures has been in flux. [13] Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world. Some earlier authorities suggested that the New World vultures were more closely related to storks. [14] More recent authorities maintained their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World vultures [15] or place them in their own order, Cathartiformes. [16]

However, recent genetic studies indicate that neither New World nor Old World vultures are close to falcons, nor are New World vultures close to storks. [17] Both are basal members of the clade Afroaves, [18] with Old World vultures comprising several groups within the family Accipitridae, also containing eagles, kites, and hawks, [19] [20] while New World vultures in Cathartiformes are a sister group to Accipitriformes [18] (containing the osprey and secretarybird along with Accipitridae [20] ).

There are five subspecies of turkey vulture:

  • C. a. aura is the nominate subspecies. It is found from Mexico south through South America and the Greater Antilles. This subspecies occasionally overlaps its range with other subspecies. It is the smallest of the subspecies, but is nearly indistinguishable from C. a. meridionalis in color. [21]
  • C. a. jota, the Chilean turkey vulture, is larger, browner, and slightly paler than C. a. ruficollis. The secondary feathers and wing coverts may have gray margins. [22]
  • C. a. meridionalis, the western turkey vulture, is a synonym for C. a. teter. C. a. teter was identified as a subspecies by Friedman in 1933, but in 1964 Alexander Wetmore separated the western birds, which took the name meridionalis, which was applied earlier to a migrant from South America. It breeds from southern Manitoba, southern British Columbia, central Alberta and Saskatchewan south to Baja California, south-central Arizona, southeastern New Mexico, and south-central Texas. [23] It is the most migratory subspecies, migrating as far as South America, where it overlaps the range of the smaller C. a. aura. It differs from the eastern turkey vulture in color, as the edges of the lesser wing coverts are darker brown and narrower. [21]
  • C. a. ruficollis, the tropical turkey vulture, is found in Panama south through Uruguay and Argentina. It is also found on the island of Trinidad. [24] It is darker and more black than C. a. aura, with brown wing edgings which are narrower or absent altogether. [24] The head and neck are dull red with yellow-white or green-white markings. Adults generally have a pale yellow patch on the crown of the head. [22]
  • C. a. septentrionalis is known as the eastern turkey vulture. The eastern and western turkey vultures differ in tail and wing proportions. It ranges from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States. It is less migratory than C. a. meridionalis and rarely migrates to areas south of the United States. [21]

A large bird, it has a wingspan of 160–183 cm (63–72 in), a length of 62–81 cm (24–32 in), and weight of 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3 lb). [25] [26] [27] [28] Birds in the northern limit of the species' range average larger in size than the vulture from the neotropics. 124 birds from Florida averaged 2 kg (4.4 lb) while 65 and 130 birds from Venezuela were found to average 1.22 and 1.45 kg (2.7 and 3.2 lb), respectively. [29] [30] [31] It displays minimal sexual dimorphism sexes are identical in plumage and in coloration, and are similar in size. [32] The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings. [25] The adult's head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak. [33] The irises of the eyes are gray-brown legs and feet are pink-skinned, although typically stained white. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid. [34]

The two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases. [35] Tracks are large, between 9.5 and 14 cm (3.7 and 5.5 in) in length and 8.2 and 10.2 cm (3.2 and 4.0 in) in width, both measurements including claw marks. Toes are arranged in the classic, anisodactyl pattern. [36] The feet are flat, relatively weak, and poorly adapted to grasping the talons are also not designed for grasping, as they are relatively blunt. [3] In flight, the tail is long and slim. The black vulture is relatively shorter-tailed and shorter-winged, which makes it appear rather smaller in flight than the turkey vulture, although the body masses of the two species are roughly the same. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate from the side one can see through the beak. [37] It undergoes a molt in late winter to early spring. It is a gradual molt, which lasts until early autumn. [6] The immature bird has a gray head with a black beak tip the colors change to those of the adult as the bird matures. [38] Captive longevity is not well known. As of 2020 [update] there are two captive birds over 45 years old: the Gabbert Raptor Center on the University of Minnesota campus is home to a turkey vulture named Nero with a confirmed hatch year of 1974, [39] and another male bird, named Lord Richard, lives at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, CA. Lord Richard hatched in 1974 and arrived at the museum later that year. [40] The oldest wild captured banded bird was 16 years old. [4]

Leucistic (sometimes mistakenly called "albino") turkey vultures are sometimes seen. [41] [42]

The turkey vulture, like most other vultures, has very few vocalization capabilities. Because it lacks a syrinx, it can only utter hisses and grunts. [5] It usually hisses when it feels threatened, or when fighting with other vultures over a carcass. Grunts are commonly heard from hungry young and from adults in their courtship display.

The turkey vulture has a large range, with an estimated global occurrence of 28,000,000 km 2 (11,000,000 sq mi). It is the most abundant vulture in the Americas. [3] Its global population is estimated to be 4,500,000 individuals. [1] It is found in open and semi-open areas throughout the Americas from southern Canada to Cape Horn. It is a permanent resident in the southern United States, though northern birds may migrate as far south as South America. [4] The turkey vulture is widespread over open country, subtropical forests, shrublands, deserts, and foothills. [43] It is also found in pastures, grasslands, and wetlands. [1] It is most commonly found in relatively open areas which provide nearby woods for nesting and it generally avoids heavily forested areas. [25]

This bird with its crow-like aspect gave foot to the naming of the Quebrada de los Cuervos (Crows Ravine) in Uruguay, where they dwell together with the lesser yellow-headed vulture and the black vulture. [44]

The turkey vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups, which sometimes even include black vultures. It roosts on dead, leafless trees, and will also roost on man-made structures such as water or microwave towers. Though it nests in caves, it does not enter them except during the breeding season. [6] The turkey vulture lowers its night-time body temperature by about 6 degrees Celsius to 34 °C (93 °F), becoming slightly hypothermic. [35]

This vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged or horaltic stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria. It is practiced more often following damp or rainy nights. This same behavior is displayed by other New World vultures, by Old World vultures, and by storks. [7] Like storks, the turkey vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. [45] It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs. [46] The turkey vulture has few natural predators. Adult, immature and fledging vultures may fall prey to great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles, while eggs and nestlings may be preyed on by mammals such as raccoons and opossums. [7] [26] [47] [48] [49] Foxes can occasionally ambush an adult but species that can climb are more likely to breach and predate nests than adults. [50] Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance, which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest. [6] It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal to take flight to flee from a potential predator. [33] Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years, with a captive life span of over 45 years being possible. [51] [52] [39]

The turkey vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet. [33] While soaring, the turkey vulture holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the turkey vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring. [53]

Breeding Edit

The breeding season of the turkey vulture varies according to latitude. [54] In the southern United States, it commences in March, peaks in April to May, and continues into June. [55] In more northerly latitudes, the season starts later and extends into August. [56] Courtship rituals of the turkey vulture involve several individuals gathering in a circle, where they perform hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partially spread. In the air, one bird closely follows another while flapping and diving. [43]

Eggs are generally laid in the nesting site in a protected location such as a cliff, a cave, a rock crevice, a burrow, inside a hollow tree, or in a thicket. There is little or no construction of a nest eggs are laid on a bare surface. Females generally lay two eggs, but sometimes one and rarely three. The eggs are cream-colored, with brown or lavender spots around their larger end. [43] Both parents incubate, and the young hatch after 30 to 40 days. Chicks are altricial, or helpless at birth. Both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them, and care for them for 10 to 11 weeks. When adults are threatened while nesting, they may flee, or they may regurgitate on the intruder or feign death. [6] If the chicks are threatened in the nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating. [43] The young fledge at about nine to ten weeks. Family groups remain together until fall. [43]

Feeding Edit

The turkey vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead, and avoiding carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. They may rarely feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, coconut [57] and other crops, live insects and other invertebrates. [43] In South America, turkey vultures have been photographed feeding on the fruits of the introduced oil palm. [58] [59] [60] They rarely, if ever, kill prey themselves. [61] The turkey vulture can often be seen along roadsides feeding on roadkill, or near bodies of water, feeding on washed-up fish. [4] They also will feed on fish or insects that have become stranded in shallow water. [6] Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion, which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease. [62]

The turkey vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world, often flying low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. [7] The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals. [7] This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King vultures, black vultures, and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the turkey vulture to carcasses. The turkey vulture arrives first at the carcass, or with greater yellow-headed vultures or lesser yellow-headed vultures, which also share the ability to smell carrion. [7] It displaces the yellow-headed vultures from carcasses due to its larger size, [62] but is displaced in turn by the king vulture and both types of condor, which make the first cut into the skin of the dead animal. This allows the smaller, weaker-billed turkey vulture access to food, because it cannot tear the tough hides of larger animals on its own. This is an example of mutual dependence between species. [63]

The turkey vulture is sometimes accused of carrying anthrax or hog cholera, both livestock diseases, on its feet or bill by cattle ranchers and is therefore occasionally perceived as a threat. [64] However, the virus that causes hog cholera is destroyed when it passes through the turkey vulture's digestive tract. [33] This species also may be perceived as a threat by farmers due to the similar black vulture's tendency to attack and kill newborn cattle. The turkey vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of black vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind. Nonetheless, its appearance at a location where a calf has been killed gives the incorrect impression that the turkey vulture represents a danger to calves. [65] The droppings produced by turkey vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation. [66] The turkey vulture can be held in captivity, though the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prevents this in the case of uninjured animals or animals capable of returning to the wild. [67] In captivity, it can be fed fresh meat, and younger birds will gorge themselves if given the opportunity. [33]

The turkey vulture species receives special legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States, [8] by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada, [68] and by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals in Mexico. [68] In the US it is illegal to take, kill, or possess turkey vultures, their eggs, and any body parts including but not limited to their feathers violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for organizations, and/or a prison term of 1 year. [67] It is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List. Populations appear to remain stable, and it has not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in 10 years or three generations. [1]

Notes Edit

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Bibliography Edit

  • Ffrench, R. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 0-7136-6759-1
  • Stiles and Skutch. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. 0-8014-9600-4
  • Kirk, D. A. and M. J. Mossman. 1998. "Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)". In The Birds of North America, No. 339 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • "Turkey vulture media". Internet Bird Collection. at VIREO (Drexel University) at Selu Conservancy, Radford, Virginia.

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Old World vultures

The cinereous vulture, sometimes called the black vulture (Aegypius monachus), is one of the largest flying birds. Many scientists consider this bird to be the largest vulture and the largest bird of prey. It is about 1 metre (3.3 feet) long and 12.5 kg (27.5 pounds) in weight, with a wingspan of about 2.7 metres (8.9 feet). Entirely black with very broad wings and a short, slightly wedge-shaped tail, it ranges through southern Europe, Asia Minor, and the central steppes and highest mountains of Asia, nesting in tall trees. Many of these regions are also inhabited by the slightly smaller bearded vulture, or lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus).

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), also called Pharaoh’s chicken, is a small Old World vulture about 60 cm (24 inches) long. It is white with black flight feathers, a bare face, and a cascading mane of feathers. This vulture’s range is northern and eastern Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East to Afghanistan and India.

The common griffon (Gyps fulvus), or Eurasian griffon, is an Old World vulture of northwestern Africa, the Spanish highlands, southern Russia, and the Balkans. Gray above and reddish brown with white streaking below, it is about a metre long. The genus Gyps contains seven similar species, including some of the most common vultures. In South Asia three Gyps species, the Asian white-backed vulture (G. bengalensis), the long-billed vulture (G. indicus), and the slender-billed vulture (G. tenuirostris), have been brought close to extinction by feeding on the carcasses of dead cattle that had been given pain-killing drugs the pain killers cause kidney failure in the vultures.

The lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), sometimes called the eared, or Nubian, vulture, is a huge Old World vulture of arid Africa. Being a metre tall, with a 2.7-metre (8.9-foot) wingspan, it dominates all other vultures when feeding. It is black and brown above and has a wedge-shaped tail there is white down on the underparts. Large folds of skin hang from the sides of its bare head. The face is pink or reddish.

The palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) lives in western and central Africa. It is about 50 cm (20 inches) long and has a bare orange face and yellow beak. It is unusual in being primarily vegetarian, although it sometimes takes crustaceans and dead fish.

The red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), often called the Pondicherry vulture or the Indian (black) vulture, is an Old World vulture ranging from Pakistan to Malaysia. It is about 75 cm (30 inches) long and has a wingspan of about 2.7 metres (8.9 feet). It is black with white down on the breast and has a huge black beak and large lappets on the sides of the neck.

The white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) is about 80 cm (31 inches) long and has a wingspan of about 1.8 metres (6 feet). Black with white secondary wing feathers and belly, it has a high black neck fringe and a massive red beak. This bird has a uniquely triangular head, which is pale yellowish and bare except for a cap of white down.

Old World vultures comprise the subfamily Aegyptiinae of the hawk and eagle family, Accipitridae, which is part of the order Falconiformes.

Beating a Dead Player

So your life bar is down to its last sliver, or maybe you're a One-Hit Point Wonder. You're going along, trying to be careful, and BAM, something kills you. You fall down dead. It'll be a second or three before a mercifully-invincible replacement flickers into existence, or the screen fades out and you appear back at the last checkpoint, or, if that was your last life, anyway, the big Game Over. But, not content to celebrate over your fallen corpse, they just keep attacking it. What are these guys doing?

They're Beating A Dead Player. It can make you wonder if they're vainly trying to Make Sure He's Dead, perhaps they can somehow remember your cruelty towards them?

It's notable that there are multiple different versions of this. There's just lazily programmed games in which it's blatantly obvious that people keep on shooting at you even though, heh, you just exploded or something. Many older games do this, as there often wasn't enough room to program them to do anything else. Some games do it right and on purpose, with the enemies walking up to you and delivering a coup de grace or celebrating their victory with a few potshots.

Then there are games in which people can do this themselves. Like fighting games, in which before the end of a round or something, one guy will still be mid-air and you can land a couple of hits on them. Some multiplayer games reward you for this with a Surplus Damage Bonus.

Often combines with Ragdoll Physics in amusingly gory ways.

May also apply if you're in one of those outdrive-the-cops games, and they stop you. but that doesn't stop them from ramming you repeatedly for good measure.

Kevin Carter knew the stench of death. As a member of the Bang-Bang Club, a quartet of brave photographers who chronicled apartheid-­era South Africa, he had seen more than his share of heartbreak. In 1993 he flew to Sudan to photograph the famine racking that land. Exhausted after a day of taking pictures in the village of Ayod, he headed out into the open bush. There he heard whimpering and came across an emaciated toddler who had collapsed on the way to a feeding center. As he took the child’s picture, a plump vulture landed nearby. Carter had reportedly been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, so instead of helping, he spent 20 minutes waiting in the hope that the stalking bird would open its wings. It did not. Carter scared the creature away and watched as the child continued toward the center. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and wept. The New York Times ran the photo, and readers were eager to find out what happened to the child—and to criticize Carter for not coming to his subject’s aid. His image quickly became a wrenching case study in the debate over when photographers should intervene. Subsequent research seemed to reveal that the child did survive yet died 14 years later from malarial fever. Carter won a Pulitzer for his image, but the darkness of that bright day never lifted from him. In July 1994 he took his own life, writing, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain.”

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Dead Roman soldiers: History's first gas attack casualties?

Almost 2,000 years ago, 19 Roman soldiers rushed into a cramped underground tunnel, prepared to defend the Roman-held Syrian city of Dura-Europos from an army of Persians digging to undermine the city's mudbrick walls. But instead of Persian soldiers, the Romans met with a wall of noxious black smoke that turned to acid in their lungs. Their crystal-pommeled swords were no match for this weapon the Romans choked and died in moments, many with their last pay of coins still slung in purses on their belts.

Nearby, a Persian soldier &mdash perhaps the one who started the toxic underground fire &mdash suffered his own death throes, grasping desperately at his chain mail shirt as he choked.

These 20 men, who died in A.D. 256, may be the first victims of chemical warfare to leave any archeological evidence of their passing, according to a new investigation. The case is a cold one, with little physical evidence left behind beyond drawings and archaeological excavation notes from the 1930s. But a new analysis of those materials published in January in the American Journal of Archaeology finds that the soldiers likely did not die by the sword as the original excavator believed. Instead, they were gassed.

In the 250s, the Persian Sasanian Empire set its sights on taking the Syrian city of Dura from Rome. The city, which backs up against the Euphrates River, was by this time a Roman military base, well-fortified with meters-thick walls.

The Persians set about tunneling underneath those walls in an effort to bring them down so troops could rush into the city. They likely started their excavations 130 feet (40 meters) away from the city, in a tomb in Dura's underground necropolis. Meanwhile, the Roman defenders dug their own countermines in hopes of intercepting the tunneling Persians.

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The outlines of this underground cat-and-mouse game was first sketched out by French archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson, who first excavated these siege tunnels in the 1920s and 30s. Du Mesnil also found the piled bodies of at least 19 Roman soldiers and one lone Persian in the tunnels beneath the city walls. He envisioned fierce hand-to-hand combat underground, during which the Persians drove back the Romans and then set fire to the Roman tunnel. Crystals of sulfur and bitumen, a naturally occurring, tar-like petrochemical, were found in the tunnel, suggesting that the Persians made the fire fast and hot.

Something about that scenario didn't make sense to Simon James, an archaeologist and historian from the University of Leicester in England. For one thing, it would have been difficult to engage in hand-to-hand combat in the tunnels, which could barely accommodate a man standing upright. For another, the position of the bodies on du Mesnil's sketches didn't match a scenario in which the Romans were run through or burned to death.

"This wasn't a pile of people who had been crowded into a small space and collapsed where they stood," James told LiveScience. "This was a deliberate pile of bodies."

Using old reports and sketches, James reconstructed the events in the tunnel on that deadly day. At first, he said, he thought the Romans had trampled each other while trying to escape the tunnel. But when he suggested that idea to his colleagues, one suggested an alternative: What about smoke?

Chemical warfare was well established by the time the Persians besieged Dura, said Adrienne Mayor, a historian at Stanford University and author of "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World" (Overlook Press, 2003).

"There was a lot of chemical warfare [in the ancient world]," Mayor, who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. "Few people are aware of how much there is documented in the ancient historians about this."

One of the earliest examples, Mayor said, was a battle in 189 B.C., when Greeks burnt chicken feathers and used bellows to blow the smoke into Roman invaders' siege tunnels. Petrochemical fires were a common tool in the Middle East, where flammable naphtha and oily bitumen were easy to find. Ancient militaries were endlessly creative: When Alexander the Great attacked the Phoenician city of Tyre in the fourth century B.C., Phoenician defenders had a surprise waiting for him.

"They heated fine grains of sand in shields, heated it until it was red-hot, and then catapulted it down onto Alexander's army," Mayor said. "These tiny pieces of red-hot sand went right under their armor and a couple inches into their skin, burning them."

So the idea that the Persians had learned how to make toxic smoke is, "totally plausible," Mayor said.

"I think [James] really figured out what happened," she said.

In the new interpretation of the clash in the tunnels of Dura, the Romans heard the Persians working beneath the ground and steered their tunnel to intercept their enemies. The Roman tunnel was shallower than the Persian one, so the Romans planned to break in on the Persians from above. But there was no element of surprise for either side: The Persians could also hear the Romans coming.

So the Persians set a trap. Just as the Romans broke through, James said, they lit a fire in their own tunnel. Perhaps they had a bellows to direct the smoke, or perhaps they relied on the natural chimney effect of the shaft between the two tunnels. Either way, they threw sulfur and bitumen on the flames. One of the Persian soldiers was overcome and died, a victim of his own side's weapon. The Romans met with the choking gas, which turned to sulfuric acid in their lungs.

"It would have almost been literally the fumes of hell coming out of the Roman tunnel," James said.

Any Roman soldiers waiting to enter the tunnels would have hesitated, seeing the smoke and hearing their fellow soldiers dying, James said. Meanwhile, the Persians waited for the tunnel to clear, and then hurried to collapse the Roman tunnel. They dragged the bodies into the stacked position in which du Mesnil would later find them. With no time to ransack the corpses, they left coins, armor and weapons untouched.

After du Mesnil finished excavations, he had the tunnels filled in. Presumably, the skeletons of the soldiers remain where he found them. That makes proving the chemical warfare theory difficult, if not impossible, James said.

"It's a circumstantial case," he said. "But what it does do is it doesn't invent anything. We've got the actual stuff [the sulfur and bitumen] on the ground. It's an established technique."

If the Persians were using chemical warfare at this time, it shows that their military operations were extremely sophisticated, James said.

"They were as smart and clever as the Romans and were doing the same things they were," he said.

The story also brings home the reality of ancient warfare, James said.

"It's easy to regard this very clinically and look at this as artifacts &hellip Here at Dura you really have got this incredibly vivid evidence of the horrors of ancient warfare," he said. "It was horrendously dangerous, brutal, and one hardly has words for it, really."


'When we first went out in the helicopter looking for the body, we saw numerous vultures without realising what they were doing,' he said.

'There were only bones, clothes and shoes left on the ground.

'They took 40 to 50 minutes to eat the body.'

'Conservation issue': An EC ruling that dead animals must be burned due to danger of BSE transmission has critically lowered the vultures' food supply

The incident is the latest in a series to cast the griffon vulture in a villanous light, which has prompted rural French and Spanish of the region to ask for the right to shoot the protected birds.

For centuries, the Pyrenean farmers lived in symbiotic harmony with the griffon vulture. Wheeling over their flocks and fields, the birds were seen as neither a threat nor even a nuisance, but as a vital part of the ecosystem.

When farmers had to dispose of a dead animal, they would simply take it to one of hundreds of carcass dumps scattered across the moutains where the scavengers gathered to do their work.

But now, after an EC ruling that dead animals must be burned due to the danger of BSE transmission, the vultures' food supply has been critically lowered and they have been forced to spread further afield.

Fear of vultures has been growing in recent years as they have spread from their mountain eyries.

French news weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, in 2007 reported of 'mutant vultures', with one woman saying that a group of the birds, whose wingspans can exceed seven feet, gathered menacingly near to where her children were sitting.


Before being thrown out of business by Damage Control, Toomes was apparently a hard-working man who supported his family honestly. However, after being thrown out of business he became desperate knowing he and his family would suffer, showing that he deeply cared for their well-being. As a result, he became a ruthless and calculating man who was willing to commit crimes to do whatever it takes to support his family. Outside of his new criminal career Toomes continues to be an ordinary family man.

Despite his criminal career, Toomes makes it a point not to get his family involved in any of his black market business nor does he want them to find out by staying off the Avengers' radar for years. Despite his intense hatred towards Tony Stark, Toomes does not actively seek revenge against him either because it would draw attention towards his activities. He was fully prepared to quit his criminal career should his family be close to finding out or if his operations were discovered. Upon being arrested, Toomes asked his wife and daughter to move to another city so that they wouldn't have to see his trial and incarceration either.

Initially, Toomes was annoyed by Spider-Man and tried multiple times to get the young hero out of his way, his realistic worldview clashing with Spider-Man's boundless idealism. Nevertheless he was impressed by the hero's sheer determination and to some degree stubbornness. However, after his daughter was saved by Spider-Man, and learning that he was actually Peter Parker, Liz's date, he gradually developed a sense of respect for him and even tried to convince him to join his side. When Toomes and Parker were alone in his car, he offered Parker the chance to end their feud in a peaceful manner if Spider-Man agreed not to hunt him down any further, however he was still willing to kill him if he tried to thwart his plans again.

Toomes proved to still be an honorable man, as after Spider-Man ruined his operations and put him in prison, he showed some degree of gratefulness towards Parker for saving his life and his daughter's by pretending he hadn't figured out Spider-Man's secret identity yet when asked by Mac Gargan about it.

How Many Were Killed on D-Day?

It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 brave young soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in a bold strategy to push the Nazis out of Western Europe and turn the tide of the war for good.

In planning the D-Day attack, Allied military leaders knew that casualties might be staggeringly high, but it was a cost they were willing to pay in order to establish an infantry stronghold in France. Days before the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was told by a top strategist that paratrooper casualties alone could be as high as 75 percent. Nevertheless, he ordered the attack.

Because of bad weather and fierce German resistance, the D-Day beach landings were chaotic and bloody, with the first waves of landing forces suffering terrible losses, particularly the U.S. troops at Omaha beach and the Canadian divisions at Juno beach. But thanks to raw perseverance and grit, the Allies overcame those grave initial setbacks and took all five Normandy beaches by nightfall on June 6.

The first Allied cemetery in Europe was dedicated just two days after the D-Day invasion on June 8, 1944. And since that day, military officials and memorial organizations have attempted to come up with a definitive count of Allied D-Day deaths in order to properly honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the free world.

The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is one of those organizations. At its memorial site in Bedford, Virginia, there are 4,414 names enshrined in bronze plaques representing every Allied soldier, sailor, airman and coast guardsman who died on D-Day. That figure was the result of years of exhaustive research by librarian and genealogist Carol Tuckwiller on behalf of the Foundation, and remains the most accurate count of Allied fatalities within the 24-hour period known as D-Day.

John Long, director of education at the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, says that when the memorial was first being planned in the late 1990s, there were wildly different estimates for Allied D-Day fatalities ranging from 5,000 to 12,000. German casualties on D-Day, meanwhile, have been estimated to beꂾtween 4,000 and 9,000 killed, wounded or missing. The Allies also captured some 200,000 German prisoners of war. 

Men from the Red Cross give a blood transfusion to an injured man on the shore of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

While military records clearly showed that thousands of troops perished during the initial phases of the months-long Normandy Campaign, it wasn’t nearly as clear when many of the troops were actually killed. In the chaos of the beach landings, for example, some soldiers ended up fighting, and ultimately dying, in different companies. Commanders did their best under difficult circumstances to accurately register the fallen, but death dates weren’t always definitive in the fog of war.

“Their mission was to win a World War against Hitler,” says Long, “not to keep records that would satisfy peacetime researchers 75 years later.”

Tuckwiller began with all of the grave markers at the Normandy American Cemetery inscribed with a June 6th death date. Then she combed through what’s left of WWII military records—many were lost in a fire in the 1970s—looking for �ter action” reports from the invasion that included confirmed D-Day deaths.

Something interesting Tuckwiller learned was that the US military would officially declare a soldier dead after he was missing for a full year. So many soldiers who went missing on D-Day—some bodies, for example, were swept out to sea or destroyed in violent plane crashes—had a death date on their military records of June 7, 1945, a year and a day later.

Of course, Tuckwiller couldn’t automatically include all military personnel who died on June 7, 1945 in her record of D-Day fatalities. She needed to confirm that each fallen soldier’s division would have been in Normandy on June 6th. For example, there were men still fighting in Europe and the Pacific in 1945, so those names had to be scrubbed.

Dozens of dead GIs are covered with sheets only yards from the seashore after D-Day, on June 17, 1944.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Long knows that the Foundation’s list isn’t complete, but says that it’s the best figure that we have to date. Of the 4,414 Allied deaths on June 6th, 2,501 were Americans and 1,913 were Allies. If the figure sounds low, Long says, it’s probably because we’re used to seeing estimates of the total number of D-Day casualties, which includes fatalities, the wounded and the missing.

While casualty figures are notoriously difficult to verify—not all wounded soldiers are counted, for example—the accepted estimate is that the Allies suffered 10,000 total casualties on D-Day itself. The highest casualties occurred on Omaha beach, where 2,000 U.S. troops were killed, wounded or went missing at Sword Beach and Gold Beach, where 2,000 British troops were killed, wounded or went missing and at Juno beach, where 340 Canadian soldiers were killed and another 574 wounded.

The vast majority of the men who died perished in the very first waves of the attack. The first soldiers out of the landing craft were gunned down by German artillery. Once those pillboxes were destroyed and the machine guns silenced, the later waves of troops faced far better odds.

Among the stunning losses of those first-wave soldiers were 19 young men known as “the Bedford Boys.” The U.S. Congress chose Bedford, Virginia as the site of the National D-Day Memorial because it suffered the highest per capita D-Day losses of any community in the nation. The 19 Bedford Boys were mostly National Guardsman who were some of the first to land on Omaha beach.

𠇊s a result, their losses were just staggeringly high,” says Long.

Video: Frank DeVita Describes Landing on Omaha Beach

Two decades after the National D-Day Memorial Foundation began its search for the D-Day fallen, another name was recently added to the bronze plaques. On Memorial Day 2019, the Foundation announced the addition of John Onken, a German-born soldier who was likely one of the first to die for his adoptive country during the seaborne phase of the D-Day invasion.

Watch the video: Vulture attacks news reporter