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A study recently published by Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche of the M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis, addresses the question of an apparent rise in the frequency of diagnosed autism in California.
This study is quickly becoming the focus of attention as the various factions with an interest in autism square off on assessing its validity. In the mean time, the study itself is rather modest in what it attempts and what it concludes.
Let's have a look. Read the rest of this post... | Rea........ Read more »
Irva Hertz-Picciotto, & Lora Delwiche. (2009) The Rise in Autism and the Role of Age at Diagnosis. Epidemiology, 20(1), 84-90. DOI: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181902d15
The previous story, about the Volcanic eruption of the Rwenzori Mountains a few kilometers from our camp ("Fire on the Mountain"), actually occurred AFTER the story I'm about to tell. But I'm telling them out of sequence as a matter of character development. (The complexity of the real life situation significantly exceeds the complexity of this story line, as you may well imagine.)
I want to say a little about the research being done in the Semliki. After all, that is the reason we were the........ Read more »
A. Brooks, D. Helgren, J. Cramer, A Franklin, W Hornyak, J. Keating, R. Klein, W. Rink, H Schwarcz, J. Smith.... (1995) Dating and context of three middle stone age sites with bone points in the Upper Semliki Valley, Zaire. Science, 268(5210), 548-553. DOI: 10.1126/science.7725099
J. Yellen, A. Brooks, E Cornelissen, M. Mehlman, & K Stewart. (1995) A middle stone age worked bone industry from Katanda, Upper Semliki Valley, Zaire. Science, 268(5210), 553-556. DOI: 10.1126/science.7725100
Alison S. Brooks, & Catherine C. Smith. (1987) Ishango revisited: new age determinations and cultural interpretations. The African Archaeological Review, 5(1), 65-78. DOI: 10.1007/BF01117083
Harris, J.W.K., Williamson, P.G., Morris, Paul J., Heinzelin, Jean de, Verniers, Jacques, Helgren, David, Bellomo, R.V., Laden, G., Spang, T., Stewart, K.M.... (1990) Arcaheology of the Lusso Beds. Stratigraphy and Geological History of the Upper Semliki: A Preliminary Report .
Verniers, Jacques, & Heinzelin, Jean de. (1990) Stratigraphy and Geological History of the Upper Semliki: A Preliminary Report. Evolution of environments and Hominidae in the African Western Rift Valley.
One of the most interesting and exciting stories in science is that of the Younger Dryas. The Younger Dryas was a climate event that had important effects on human history, and that has been reasonably linked to some of our most important cultural changes, and ultimately some evolutionary changes as well. That is one reason why it is interesting. In addition, the Younger Dryas was a pretty big deal ... a climate change or something like a climate change that caused massive changes all around ........ Read more »
D. J. Kennett, J. P. Kennett, A. West, C. Mercer, S. S. Q. Hee, L. Bement, T. E. Bunch, M. Sellers, & W. S. Wolbach. (2009) Nanodiamonds in the Younger Dryas Boundary Sediment Layer. Science, 323(5910), 94-94. DOI: 10.1126/science.1162819
I think of her now as the Tea Lady, because she was drinking tea when I met her and had an English accent to go along with her English colonial outfit. She was one of the first native white South Africans I had met on my very first trip to that country. And now the Tea Lady, who was in fact a volunteer for the local historical society of a small town a couple hours drive north of Pretoria, was chugging her way up this steep, gravelly mountain path with the rest of us trailing behind gasping fo........ Read more »
A ESTERHUYSEN, V SANDERS, & J SMITH. (2008) Human skeletal and mummified remains from the AD1854 siege of Mugombane, Limpopo South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.12.006
It turns out that a recently discovered population of land iguanas on the Galapagos is probably a new species that represents the basal (original) form of Galapagos land iguana. Moreover, this iguana is found in an unexpected place, according to a paper just coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
And it's pink. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
G. Gentile, A. Fabiani, C. Marquez, H. L. Snell, H. M. Snell, W. Tapia, & V. Sbordoni. (2009) An overlooked pink species of land iguana in the Galapagos. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806339106
Snell, H.L., Snell, H.M., & Tracy, C.R. (1984) Variation among populations of Galapagos land iguanas (Conolophus): contrasts of phylogeny and ecology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Sociey, 185-207.
C. S. HICKMAN, & J. H. LIPPS. (1985) Geologic Youth of Galapagos Islands Confirmed by Marine Stratigraphy and Paleontology. Science, 227(4694), 1578-1580. DOI: 10.1126/science.227.4694.1578
South of the Zambezi River, along the eastern side of Africa, things get dryer and dryer as you go south, until you finally reach the southernmost end of the continent where things become a little bit moister again.
A couple of thousand years ago cattle keeping people speaking Bantu languages and possessing mainly Banutu cultural traits ... the ancestors of the present day Shona, Venda Tswana, Zulu, etc. .... were living in this area, keeping their cattle, and doing all sorts of interesting stu........ Read more »
T HUFFMAN. (2008) A cultural proxy for drought: ritual burning in the iron age of southern africa. Journal of Archaeological Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.11.026
Ebola is a viral disease that only occasionally infects humans, but when it does, he fatality rate is very high. In some population, where culturally determined methods of treating the dead involve a lot of contact with bodily fluids and where people are unaware of techniques to avoid spread of infection and are otherwise at risk, a large percentage of a rural village population can become infected, and the survival rate once infected can be as low as 10%. With increased awareness of how to av........ Read more »
D. W. Leung, N. D. Ginder, D. B. Fulton, J. Nix, C. F. Basler, R. B. Honzatko, & G. K. Amarasinghe. (2009) Structure of the Ebola VP35 interferon inhibitory domain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0807854106
With the increased seismic activity in the Yellowstone Caldera, it is likely that there is some increased interest in in the geology of the area. Here are some resources that should be of interest.
First, we have a fairly recent peer reviewed publication on the "Super Volcano" known as Yellowstone, including some discussion of just what a "Super Volcano" is.
The largest scale of volcanic eruptions, the so-called super-eruptions, can
destroy all living beings and infrastructure over tens of ........ Read more »
Lowenstern, J.B., & Hurwitz, S. (2008) Monitoring a Supervolcano in Repose: Heat and Volatile Flux at the Yellowstone Caldera. Elements, 35-40.
Jacob B. Lowenstern, Robert B. Smith, & David P. Hill. (2006) Monitoring super-volcanoes: geophysical and geochemical signals at Yellowstone and other large caldera systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 364(1845), 2055-2072. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1813
Naturalism is a potential source of guidance for our behavior, morals, ethics, and other more mundane decisions such as how to build an airplane and what to eat for breakfast.1 When it comes to airplanes, you'd better be a servant to the rules of nature or the airplane will go splat. When it comes to breakfast, it has been shown that knowing about our evolutionary history can be a more efficacious guide to good nutrition than the research employed by the FDA, but you can live without this appr........ Read more »
S Eaton. (2003) An evolutionary perspective on human physical activity: implications for health. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular , 136(1), 153-159. DOI: 10.1016/S1095-6433(03)00208-3
Eaton, S. Boyd, & Konner, Melvin. (1985) Paleolithic nutrition: A Consideration of its nature and current implications. . New England Journal of Medicine, 312(5), 283-289.
Dear reader, I know I promised you snakes in this particular post, but but before I get to the snakes, I have to make a digression to mention the elephants. The elephants in the Upper Semliki River Valley in the Eastern Congo at the time our expedition (late 1980s) are especially interesting because at the time it was believed that no elephants lived there. Yet, as part of my research, I discovered that this was inaccurate. A herd of invisible elephants roamed the park. I told almost no one ........ Read more »
Tarryne Burke, Bruce Page, Gus Van Dyk, Josh Millspaugh, & Rob Slotow. (2008) Risk and Ethical Concerns of Hunting Male Elephant: Behavioural and Physiological Assays of the Remaining Elephants. PLoS ONE, 3(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002417
Stephen Blake, Sharon L. Deem, Samantha Strindberg, Fiona Maisels, Ludovic Momont, Inogwabini-Bila Isia, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, William B. Karesh, & Michael D. Kock. (2008) Roadless Wilderness Area Determines Forest Elephant Movements in the Congo Basin. PLoS ONE, 3(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003546
Bindi Thomas, John D. Holland, & Edward O. Minot. (2008) Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Home Ranges in Sabi Sand Reserve and Kruger National Park: A Five-Year Satellite Tracking Study. PLoS ONE, 3(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003902
Leigh-Ann Woolley, Joshua J. Millspaugh, Rami J. Woods, Samantha Janse van Rensburg, Robin L. Mackey, Bruce Page, & Rob Slotow. (2008) Population and Individual Elephant Response to a Catastrophic Fire in Pilanesberg National Park. PLoS ONE, 3(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003233
Owing to popular demand among the readership of this blog, I've taken a closer look at the original article claiming that spent coffee grounds can be employed as a source of fuel. There are several important details that come though in the paper coming out in the next issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that have not come through in the press reports. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Kondamudi, NarasimharaoMohapatra, Susanta, & Misra, Mano. (2008) Spent Coffee Grounds as a Versatile Source of Green Energy. Agicultural and Food Chemistry.
What was Neanderthal-Modern Human interaction really like? Fifty four teeth (some of which are fragments) and nine other bones dating to about 40-43,000 years ago represent the "most recent, and largest, sample of southern Iberian late Neanderthals currently known."
These and some closely related remains may indicate that these Middle Paleolithic holdouts were kissing cousins of nearby anatomically modern humans. Or maybe not.
We know that Neanderthals occupied all of Europe for over 125........ Read more »
Michael J. Walker, Josep Gibert, Mariano V. Lopez, A. Vincent Lombardi, Alejandro Perez-Perez, Josefina Zapata ́ ́ ́, Jon Ortega, Thomas Higham, Alistair Pike, Jean-Luc Schwenninger.... (2008) Late Neandertals in Southeastern Iberia: Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Murcia, Spain . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: http://www.pnas.org.floyd.lib.umn.edu/content/early/2008/12/12/0811213106.abstract
Black is beautiful, without a doubt. We are all versions of Africans with varying degrees and patterns of non-adaptive and often unfortunate mutations owing to chance, inbreeding, or genetic isolation, and we are all subject to clinally manifest selective forces resulting in clinally distributed phenotypes. Here and there there may be a pocket of people who really stand out from the rest of the species, but that is rare and is presumably a short term phenomenon, and the level of difference if ........ Read more »
Individual animals that live and and forage in groups may not always benefit from a particular move (to or from a foraging site) in the same way as other individuals in the group. Therefore, there must be some kind of negotiation among the critters. Theoretical work almost always seem to show that consensus based group decisions will prevail because this minimizes individual costs. The altnernative, despotic decision (where a dominant individual decides where the group goes) should rarely happ........ Read more »
A KING, C DOUGLAS, E HUCHARD, N ISAAC, & G COWLISHAW. (2008) Dominance and Affiliation Mediate Despotism in a Social Primate. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.048
Allen's Rule. One of those things you learn in graduate school along with Bergmann's Rule and Cope's Rule. It is all about body size. Cope's Rule ... which is a rule of thumb and not an absolute ... says that over time the species in a given lineage tend to be larger and larger. Bergmann's Rule says that mammals get larger in colder environments. Allen's Rule has mammals getting rounder in colder climates, by decreasing length of appendages such as limbs, tails and ears.
All three rules ........ Read more »
M. A. Serrat, D. King, & C. O. Lovejoy. (2008) Temperature regulates limb length in homeotherms by directly modulating cartilage growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803319105
A new paper by Kevin Padian of UC Berkeley is just out in Comptes Rendus Biologies, a French peer reviewed journal, on American creationism.
Padian summarizes the history of creationism in the US. From the abstract: Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
K PADIAN. (2008) The evolution of creationists in the United States: Where are they now, and where are they going?. Comptes Rendus Biologies. DOI: 10.1016/j.crvi.2008.07.004
A new study published by Chiao et al. in the journal PLoS ONE explores the gendered nature of American voting behavior. Subjects were asked to rank politicians -- based only on photographs of each politician's face -- along different quality scales, and also to choose among these photographs who should be President. The study concludes that male and female candidates are evaluated on distinctly different terms, and that male and female voters do this evaluation in somewhat (but not dramaticall........ Read more »
Joan Y. Chiao, Nicholas E. Bowman, & Harleen Gill. (2008) The Political Gender Gap: Gender Bias in Facial Inferences that Predict Voting Behavior. PLoS ONE, 3(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003666
The genome of the extinct woolley mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) has been sequenced, and reported in Nature. This confirms that elephant genomes are large, like the elephants themselves. It confirms previously proposed relationships amongst the elephants (see phylogeny below) and refines the known phylogeny. Interpopulation differences among mammoths were also demonstrated.
Here's the phylogeny:
Comparison of phylogenies of elephants and hominoids. "We show estimated divergence times, th........ Read more »
Webb Miller, Daniela I. Drautz, Aakrosh Ratan, Barbara Pusey, Ji Qi, Arthur M. Lesk, Lynn P. Tomsho, Michael D. Packard, Fangqing Zhao, Andrei Sher.... (2008) Sequencing the nuclear genome of the extinct woolly mammoth. Nature, 456(7220), 387-390. DOI: 10.1038/nature07446
A protist is a single celled eukaryotic organism, and they are usually pretty small. You can often see them, though! Before you put that sample of pond water under the microscope, take a close look: Many protists are at the boundary of visibility for humans.
Then, there are the giant protists, grape size, living on the bottom of the sea where they roll around in the mud. It has been known for some time that there are giant deep sea protazoans that are not mobile. Here, though, is a bit o........ Read more »
M MATZ, T FRANK, N MARSHALL, E WIDDER, & S JOHNSEN. (2008) Giant Deep-Sea Protist Produces Bilaterian-like Traces. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.028
Atheists are smarter than Calvinists in Dutch Study. But, the Calvinists are quicker at identifying small shapes than the Atheists.
Despite the abundance of evidence that human perception is penetrated by beliefs and expectations, scientific research so far has entirely neglected the possible impact of religious background on attention. Here we show that Dutch Calvinists and atheists, brought up in the same country and culture and controlled for race, intelligence, sex, and age, differ with ........ Read more »
Lorenza S. Colzato, Wery P. M. van den Wildenberg, & Bernhard Hommel. (2008) Losing the Big Picture: How Religion May Control Visual Attention. PLoS ONE, 3(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003679
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