A Primate of Modern Aspect

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Human evolution, paleontology, and natural history.

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  • May 19, 2011
  • 06:30 PM

Standing up to fight, and human uniqueness

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

A new paper published in PLoS ONE by David Carrier tests the hypothesis that bipedalism in humans evolved because it helps them to fight better. The first fatal flaw lies in the first sentence: Many quadrupedal animals stand on their hindlimbs to fight. How then, does this explain human uniqueness? Clifford Jolly wrote in The [...]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2011
  • 03:59 PM

Penis Spines, Pearly Papules, and Pope Benedict’s Balls

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

The following guest post by Eric Michael Johnson is part of the Primate Diaries in Exile blog tour. You can follow other stops on this tour through his RSS feed or by following him on Twitter. If this is your first time visiting A Primate of Modern Aspect make sure to browse some of the [...]... Read more »

McLean, C., Reno, P., Pollen, A., Bassan, A., Capellini, T., Guenther, C., Indjeian, V., Lim, X., Menke, D., Schaar, B.... (2011) Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human-specific traits. Nature, 471(7337), 216-219. DOI: 10.1038/nature09774  

  • February 4, 2011
  • 10:04 AM

Adaptationism in the Human Penis

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

As Scicurious’ mom points out, penises are funny lookin’. As long as humans have been humans, men and women have looked down and thought, “now what could be the possible reason for that?” The question no doubt vexed our early ancestors so much that they simply had to evolve larger brains to think about it [...]... Read more »

Bowman EA. (2010) An explanation for the shape of the human penis. Archives of sexual behavior, 39(2), 216. PMID: 19851854  

BIRKHEAD, T., & HUNTER, F. (1990) Mechanisms of sperm competition. Trends in Ecology , 5(2), 48-52. DOI: 10.1016/0169-5347(90)90047-H  

  • September 16, 2010
  • 01:52 PM

Darwinius massillae, continued…

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

I found a new paper in my reader this morning from the crew who published the first description and taxonomic statements about Darwinius massillae, Phillip Gingerich and his colleagues.  This paper is a reply to Williams et al. (2010), which … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • August 3, 2010
  • 09:33 PM

Slow-burning Orangs

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Lately, I’ve been a little stressed.  Long hours in the lab and moving into a new apartment have created the perfect storm for “treating myself” to restaurant food, served with a side of inactivity and sloth.  As I sit here at my desk, chowing down on crackers and reading the latest issue of the PNAS, [...]... Read more »

Pontzer, H., Raichlen, D., Shumaker, R., Ocobock, C., & Wich, S. (2010) Metabolic adaptation for low energy throughput in orangutans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1001031107  

  • June 23, 2010
  • 08:11 PM

Kadanuumuu: All about the torso!

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

A new fossil discovered by Yohannes Haile-Selassie has been announced this week in the PNAS. The partial skeleton, nick-named Kadanuumuu, or “Big Man,” is taxonomically consistent with other postcranial fossils belonging to Australopithecus afarensis. But, there are a few interesting and notable bones represented in this fossil which amend our understanding of how early Australopithecus [...]... Read more »

Haile-Selassie, Y., Latimer, B., Alene, M., Deino, A., Gibert, L., Melillo, S., Saylor, B., Scott, G., & Lovejoy, C. (2010) An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1004527107  

  • June 10, 2010
  • 07:29 AM

The Evolution of a Short Back

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

One of the issues raised by the recent Sarmiento comments is that of the Miocene apes and the evolution of a short back. All extant apes possess a “short back,” by which we mean a reduction in the lumbar spine combined with an upward elongation of the blades of the pelvis.  This back is a nice, [...]... Read more »

  • May 29, 2010
  • 12:29 PM

How to define a meaningful trait

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

The recent technical comments on Ardipithecus has left some of us scratching our heads and thinking about how to define a meaningful phylogenetic trait. Drew Rendall and Tony DiFiore wrote one of my favorite papers on the subject, which deals specifically with the perceived “special” status of behavior in human and primate evolution. I think [...]... Read more »

  • May 27, 2010
  • 10:42 PM

Ardipithecus Drama!

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Ooooo, is there some Ardi drama today!  Two technical comments were published in science which question the conclusions reached by Tim White and his team in last September’s Ardi blitz.  The comment by Esteban Sarmiento was particularly interesting, particularly this quote: In contrast to what the authors describe in other papers, the LCA character conditions [...]... Read more »

  • May 16, 2010
  • 10:02 AM

Of Brains and Faces

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

A new paper in the Journal of Human Evolution discusses the effect of both brain size and facial size on the basicranium. I am excited to see it because it talks about an old hypothesis by one of my favorite Great Anatomists, Josef Biegert. The basicranium is basically the bottom of your skull. When you [...]... Read more »

Bastir, M., Rosas, A., Stringer, C., Manuel Cuétara, J., Kruszynski, R., Weber, G., Ross, C., & Ravosa, M. (2010) Effects of brain and facial size on basicranial form in human and primate evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 58(5), 424-431. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.03.001  

  • April 22, 2010
  • 09:24 PM

How old was the Olduvai Hominid?

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

In 1960, Mary Leaky discovered a set foot bones composed of seven tarsals (in your ankle) and five metatarsals (in the area between your ankle and your toes).  These bones are those of a biped, with the joints reflecting an in-line big toe.  For these bones, the surrounding debate hasn’t been over whether or not [...]... Read more »

DeSilva, J., Zipfel, B., Van Arsdale, A., & Tocheri, M. (2010) The Olduvai Hominid 8 foot: Adult or subadult?. Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.03.004  

  • March 22, 2010
  • 08:52 AM

Adaptation and Anthropoid origins

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Blythe Williams, Richard Kay, and Christopher Kirk have published a new article in the PNAS which does a very nice job in synthesizing some new fossils and new genetic data with current hypotheses for the origins of anthropoids, the group which includes old world monkeys (catarrhines), new world monkeys (platyrrhines) and apes (hominoids).
One of the [...]... Read more »

Williams, B., Kay, R., & Kirk, E. (2010) New perspectives on anthropoid origins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(11), 4797-4804. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0908320107  

  • March 5, 2010
  • 04:09 AM

What makes a Haplorrhine a Haplorrhine?

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Williams, Richard Kay, Christopher Kirk and Callum Ross have published a new paper in the Journal of Human Evolution reassessing the phylogenetic placement of Darwinius masillae, the much-hyped Adapid fossil published last summer.  Brian Switek at Laelaps and Eric Michael Johnson at The Primate Diaries have written some excellent posts summarizing the most recent [...]... Read more »

  • February 21, 2010
  • 11:07 AM

Eating Disorders, Oxytocin, and Vasopressin

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

February 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  I have a history of some pretty disordered eating which landed me in the hospital a few years back, but it’s not something that I’m extremely comfortable talking about.  In the spirit of “awareness,” I’ve decided that it’s something I should talk about more.  In my personal [...]... Read more »

  • January 28, 2010
  • 12:14 PM

Is Homo floresiensis really that strange?

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

BMC Biology has recently published a paper (It’s Open Access!) which explores trends in brain size in the Primates.  A trend toward a larger brain is usually considered one of the “hallmarks” of the Primates, but Stephen Montgomery and his colleagues have shown that in many lineages, there is a trend towards secondarily “shrunken” brains.
The [...]... Read more »

  • January 11, 2010
  • 01:25 PM

So… Did knuckle walking evolve twice?

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Almost certainly.
We had lots of clues that this was the case before Ardi, but now that we’ve got Ardi- the palmigrade extraordinaire, we know that humans did not go through a knuckle-walking phase, and that chimpanzee knuckle-walking has evolved since the split with our last common ancestor with them.  Which would also means that it [...]... Read more »

  • December 21, 2009
  • 11:20 PM

Miocene “Monkey”: Pliopithecus canmatensis

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

What could possibly be a better Christmas present than a new fossil primate?  Nothing, that’s what!
The most recent addition to our family bush is a Pliopithecine from Spain named Pliopithecus canmatensis.  Pliopithecoids are gibbon-like in many ways, including their long limbs, large hands, and maybe the ability to brachiate.  However, the pliopithecoids are much too [...]... Read more »

  • November 11, 2009
  • 12:02 PM

The third trochanter and gluteus maximus of Ardipithecus

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

The femur can be an extremely informative bone when reconstructing the locomotor behaviors of fossil primates. The head and neck are particularly informative. The morphology of the head can tell you how flexible the hip joint is. If you can get a good CT scan, the distribution of cortical bone at the [...]... Read more »

  • October 17, 2009
  • 09:42 AM

Skepticism is good, but…

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

Well-informed skepticism is the best!
Earlier this week, Eric Michael Johnson drew my attention to a post by psychologist Christopher Ryan at his blog Sex At Dawn.  Ryan attacks Lovejoy’s monogamous humans model by citing many different lines of evidence.
I became so distracted by the reported testes:body mass ratio of 1/160 in humans that I couldn’t [...]... Read more »

  • October 16, 2009
  • 08:31 AM

Genital Morphology and Social System

by zinjanthropus in A Primate of Modern Aspect

In primates, it has been noticed that if you live in a competitive mating system and you’re a male, you’ll have a very fancy penis.  Maybe some spines, or a few ridges here and there. These embellishments are keratinous structures and act to promote rapid ejaculation, which is useful if you’ve got nine other males [...]... Read more »

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