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  • December 12, 2010
  • 05:34 PM
  • 831 views

Speaking of Ester Boserup

by teofilo in Gambler's House

The paper I discussed earlier on the connection between plow-based agriculture and highly inegalitarian gender roles was based on a theory proposed by Ester Boserup.  Boserup was a Danish economist who had a lot of interesting ideas about the relationship between population growth and agricultural intensification.  She’s best known for arguing that intensification of agricultural [...]... Read more »

  • December 10, 2010
  • 09:52 AM
  • 1,411 views

No Substitute for IRL Relationships for Adolescents

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice



Credit: Scott Hampson
It's no secret that the Internet is a black hole when it comes to time. Fifteen minutes on Twitter spirals into an hour or two of witty banter. A quick stop on Facebook to read statuses or water crops becomes three hours looking at photos from someone's vacation or wedding. (And email? Fuggedaboutit!) But it's easy to be online—simple and almost instantaneous access to all your friends and connections, and none of them need to know you're in your pajamas. And you can reinvent yourself online, which is handy for those of us with histories of awkwardness (or present awkwardness for that matter). The Internet is always with us. It's in our pockets and bags on our phones, and wherever free WiFi can be found for those with netbooks, tablets, and laptops, which provides us with a handy way to escape uncomfortable situations—how many of your with smart phones have checked (or pretended to check) email, Facebook, or Twitter at a party where the conversation wasn't going quite right? 
For adolescents and teens in particular unmonitored access can quickly lead to problematic Internet use (PIU), which in turn can develop into Internet addiction. In a relatively small study, researchers Milani, Osaualdella, and Di Blasio (2009) discuss the ways online social interactions can help adolescents develop a sense of belonging, particularly in instances of self-imposed or group-driven social isolation. Online social interactions in these cases offer simple ways of restoring a sense of normalcy:the association between loneliness and the negative consequences of Internet use is effectively mediated by the preference for online social interactions, which allows individuals with particular problems in this are to perceive themselves as more secure and more at ease than in traditional face-to-face interactions [Caplan 2007 by Milani et. al. 2009] (681).Using a sample of Italian students, Milani and colleagues demonstrated the potential relationship between PIU, quality of interpersonal relationships, coping skills, and capacity to internalize/externalize social norms. To this end, they employed the following tools:an Italian-version Internet Addiction Test (IAT) (cutoff score for PIU is 50, and effective dependence is 80); 
Test of Interpersonal Relationships (TRI), which measures the quality of relationships;
an Italian-version Children's Coping Strategies Checklist (CCSC), which measures coping skills;
and a Questionnaire for the Recording of Internet Use Habits, which measured participants' browsing habits.
Approximately, 37% (of a sample population of 98) participants had an IAT score of 50 or higher. The small sample size for this study is a bit problematic, but the researchers believe that their data demonstrates that adolescents with PIU have less quality relationships in their lives: These individuals scored higher on sub-tests within the CCSC for avoidance behaviors as a coping strategy. Avoidance behaviors can be a predictor for PIU as the authors report that there is a connection between Internet dependency and certain personality traits, such as preference for solitary activities and low social openness (2009: 681).This, adolescents with poor interpersonal relationships and a predisposition for adopting an avoidance coping strategy are at a greater risk of developing PIU (683).The bottom line is that socializing online cannot substitute for real life connections, particularly for adolescents who are still learning and developing strategies for coping with real world situations and relationships. This is not necessarily new news, but as the DSM-V considers whether to include IAD, studies such as this confirm the impact of digital technologies on our lives, and invite a closer look as potential long-term effects.

Cited:Milani, L., Osualdella, D., & Di Blasio, P. (2009). Quality of Interpersonal Relationships and Problematic Internet Use in Adolescence CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12 (6), 681-684 DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0071

... Read more »

  • December 10, 2010
  • 03:50 AM
  • 1,999 views

The Antikythera Mechanism

by GrrlScientist in GrrlScientist

Two years ago, a paper was published in Nature describing the function of the oldest known scientific computer, a device built in Greece around 100 BCE. ... Read more »

  • December 8, 2010
  • 04:19 PM
  • 1,239 views

The men of the north: the Sami

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression


Ole Magga, Norwegian politician
On this blog I regularly get questions about the Sami (Lapp*). That’s because I often talk about Finnish genetics, have readers such as Clark who are of part-Sami origin, and, the provenance and character of the Sami speak to broader questions about the emergence of the modern European gene pool. More precisely [...]... Read more »

Maki-Torkko, Elina, Aikio, Pekka, Sorri, Martti, Huentelman, Matthew J, & Camp, Guy Van. (2010) A genome-wide analysis of population structure in the Finnish Saami with implications for genetic association studies. European Journal of Human Genetics. info:/10.1038/ejhg.2010.179

  • December 7, 2010
  • 08:58 PM
  • 1,162 views

A tale of two foreigners in Japan

by Lachlan Jackson in Language on the Move

This is the first in a series of blog posts about my experiences undertaking an ongoing research project. In this series I will be detailing some of the methodological challenges I encounter as well as the strategies I adopt to … Continue reading →... Read more »

Maher, J. C. (2005) Metroethnicity, language and the principle of cool. International Journal of the Sociology of Languages, 83. info:/

  • December 6, 2010
  • 10:15 AM
  • 1,845 views

The Evolutionary Roots of Talking With Our Hands

by Krystal D'Costa in Anthropology in Practice



Human and bonobo ape hands. © SPL

New Yorkers are hand talkers—we often use gestures to add emphasis to our conversations. Whether we're pointing to direct tourists, or waving to demonstrate our exasperation with traffic, drivers, or pedestrians, or trying to interject (New Yorkers don't interrupt!) we're gesticulating. We're not the only ones to do this, of course, but in my experience we do tend to employ this element of communication fairly frequently.
The role of gestures in communication has been on my mind recently because my goddaughter is just beginning to communicate beyond crying and laughing. She recently celebrated her first birthday, and she's begun to speak her first words. ("Shoe!" is a favorite even when it is in fact a sock, as is "No!" and "Elmo!" I'm working on "Dinosaur" but that one is slow going.) It's extremely exciting. I find it really interesting that she points with increasing frequency to emphasize her exclamations—Elmo isn't just a word, he's a recognizable part of her world, from the decorations that were a part of her birthday celebration to her stuffed muppet that laughs when shaken. Her gestures help her bridge a communication gap.
Gestures are an integral part of language. Arbib, Liebal, and Pika (2008) believe that gestures, via pantomime and protosigns, may have played a large role in the emergence of vocalization (protospeech) leading to the development of protolanguage (1054). Their hypothesis is based on the structure of the brain, specifically a mirroring of structures in the brain: near Broca's area, a region of the brain said to be involved in language production, is a region "activated for both grasping and observation of grasping" (1053). The proximity of a grasping region to a language region is intriguing. Individuals who have suffered damage to Broca's area have difficulties with language production. They can often understand others perfectly, but they have difficulty responding in all but the simplest of ways. Arbib and colleagues suggest that because damage to Broca's area also impedes the emergence of signed languages as well, the region should be understood in relation to multimodal language processes and not just vocalization. They believe this creates a strong case for understanding the place of gestures in the evolution of language.
Gestures are common to many species of monkeys and apes, however, usage seems to vary between captive and wild groups. For example:Siamangs have demonstrated at least 20 different tactile and visual gestures in captive groups (1).
Approximately 10 different gestures have been reported for wild orangutans and 30 have been described for captive groups,
Captive gorillas use at least 30 different tactile, visual, and auditory gestures—but little is known about their gestures in the wild.
Chimpanzees also have a large repertoire of gestures in captivity, with about a dozen having been recorded in the wile.
These numbers refer to entire populations. Within the group, an individual's use of gestures depends on age, sex, and rank. There are also group-specific gestures, such as:"Offer arm with food pieces" in orangutans, "arm shake" in gorillas, and "punch" in bonobos are examples reported from captive groups, while "leaf clipping" and "grooming hand clasp" are described as group-specific gestures in wild chimpanzees (1057). Small, stable groups tend to have less intra-group variability than large, socially complex groups. Larger groups tend to have greater variability between members, requiring greater variety and variability in communicative means.


Adult male gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)
with a two-year-old juvenile. © SPL
The higher number of observed gestures in captive groups also hints at an ability to learn (2). Basic forms of gestures and communication seem to be genetically preprogrammed (e.g., "chest beat" has been reported for gorillas that had never seen other gorillas). A process called ontogenetic ritualization may explain how gestures are learned—"a communicative signal is created by two individuals shaping each other's behaviors in repeated instances of an interaction over time," allowing behaviors to become signals (Arbib, Liebal, and Pika 2008: 1058). The example the authors provide is the "arm rise": a stylized gesture that chimpanzees use to signal that they are about to hit each other and initiate rough-and-tumble play (3). Gestures are also used referentially, indicating that they can be intentionally deployed to manipulate or direct the actions of others. Captive chimpanzees, for example, use the "directed scratch": a loud and/or exaggerated scratching motion to indicate where the grooming partner should focus attention (1057).
This discussion supports the criteria by which gestures are judged to be language:whether they are used intentionally or are side effects of emotional states
whether they are flexible
whether they have an inherent meaning or whether the meaning is conveyed by social context
whether they are inherited or learned
whether they are used referentially
These criteria allow us to compare gestural communication between apes and humans. Referential gestures (or triadic gestures) begin to appear in prelinguistic children at around the age of 12 months. But even before this stage, children may demonstrate dyadic gestures,  which direct attention to the actor. Chimpanzee infants begin to employ gestures around the age of 9 to 12.5 months, however, with few exceptions the majority of gestures used are dyadic. Attempts to teach apes to speak have not been very successful. Kanzi, a bonobo who spent the early years of his life observing his mother while she used a computerized keyboard, remains a rare success story. He learned many of the symbols (lexigrams) that his mother had not likely through exposure, which is similar to the way in which children learn to speak. They pick up on patterns from the behaviors of adults around them. His ability to understand English compares to a 2-year-old human child: He is able to combine two or three lexigrams or a lexigram and gesture, and order items (Arbib, Liebal, and Pika 2008: 1060).

His success aside, apes generally acquire symbols at a much slower rate when ... Read more »

  • December 4, 2010
  • 07:15 AM
  • 628 views

Autism and Old Fathers

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A new study has provided the strongest evidence yet that the rate of autism in children rises with the father's age: Advancing paternal age and risk of autism. But questions remain.The association between old fathers and autism has been known for many years, and the most popular explanation has been genetic: sperm from older men are more likely to have accumulated DNA damage, which might lead to autism.As I've said before, this might explain some other puzzling things such as the fact that it's more common in the wealthy; it might even explain any recent increases in the prevalence of autism, if people nowadays are waiting longer to have kids.But there are other possibilities. It might be that the fathers of autistic people tend to have mild autistic symptoms themselves (which they do), and this makes them likely to delay having children, because they're socially anxious and so take longer to get married, or whatever. It's not implausible.The new study aimed to control for this, by looking at parents who had two or more children, at least one of them with autism, and at least one without it. Even within such families, the autistic children tended to have older fathers when they were born - that is to say, they were born later. See the graphs below for details. This seems to rule out explanations based on the characteristics of the parents.However, there's another objection, the "experienced parent" theory. Maybe if parents have already had one neurotypical child, they're better at spotting the symptoms of autism in subsequent children, by comparison with the first one.The authors tried to account for this as well, by controlling for the birth-order ("parity") of the kids. They also controlled for the mother's age amongst several other factors such as year of birth and history of mental illness in the parents. The results were still highly significant: older fathers meant a higher risk of autism. As if that wasn't enough, they also did a meta-analysis of all the previous studies and confirmed the same thing.So overall, this is a very strong study, but there's a catch. The study population included over a million children (1,075,588) born in Sweden between 1983 and 1992. Of these, there was a total of 883 diagnosed cases of autism. That's a rate of 0.08%.The most recent estimates of autism prevalence in Britain have put the figure at somewhere in the region of between 1% and 2% e.g. Baird et al (2006) and Baron-Cohen et al (2009) with American studies, using slightly different methods, generally coming in just below 1%. So the Swedish figure is more than 10 times lower than modern estimates. Whether this reflects different criteria for diagnosis, national differences, or increased prevalence over time, is debatable but it does raise the question of whether these findings still apply today.The only way to know for sure would be to do a randomized controlled trial - get half your volunteer men to wait 10 years before having children - but I don't think that's going to happen any time soon...Hultman CM, Sandin S, Levine SZ, Lichtenstein P, & Reichenberg A (2010). Advancing paternal age and risk of autism: new evidence from a population-based study and a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Molecular psychiatry PMID: 21116277... Read more »

  • December 1, 2010
  • 12:30 PM
  • 1,341 views

Gratitude: Uniquely Human or Shared with Animals?

by Jason Goldman in The Thoughtful Animal



"Two chimps had been shut out of their shelter by mistake during a cold rain storm. They were standing dejeted, water streaming down their shivering bodies, when Professor Köhler chanced to pass." Upon opening the door for the two chimps, Dr. James Leuba recounts, "instead of scampering in without more ado, as many a child would have done, each of them delayed entering the warm shelter long enough to throw its arms around his benefactor in a frenzy of satisfaction."

"Chimpanzees," primatologist Frans de Waal points out, "do not normally hug their caretakers for no reason." It's a compelling image, isn't it? The idea that at least some animals might be capable of feeling and communicating gratitude? If we wish to make an argument that some animals possess at least some sort of proto-gratitude, or the cognitive building blocks required for them to feel and express gratitude, we first have to decide what gratitude really means.

Impala are large antelopes native to Africa that groom eachother. Grooming exchanges among African impala are usually unsolicited: one individual grooms the neck of a second individual, and then the second individual returns the favor, and grooms the first individual for an equivalent amoung of time. Hart and Hart suggested that this mutual grooming behavior serves to remove ticks from parts of the body that an individual can't reach itself.

Vampire bats, as you might expect, survive only on blood, and most feed at least once every three days. And while adult vampire bats regularly miss meals, they need not worry, as other individuals will regurgitate blood to feed them.

While the impala and vampire bat examples are interesting, they can be explained by much a simpler mechanism than gratitude: symmetry-based reciprocity. That is, "if members of a species preferentially direct favors to close associates, the distribution of favors will automatically be reciprocal due to the symmetrical nature of association." In other words, the mutual back-scratching of the impala and blood-vomiting of the vampire bat could simply be correlational: individuals who hang out together will tend to engage in reciprocal interactions, but only because they tend to hang out together. These sorts of interactions do not require any sophisticated mental computation for directing repayment only at certain individuals or for keeping track of services received and rendered over time.

Perhaps it seems like your adopted dog or cat pays special attention to you, perhaps in gratitude for his or her rescue? Bonnie and de Waal write:
Even though we have all heard of (and the authors have personal experience with) pets adopted from a miserable stray existence into the comfort of modern homes, it is possible to tell if their greater-than-average appreciation (e.g. tail wagging, purring) of our care and food has anything to do with gratitude. The simpler alternative is that, after prolonged deprivation, there is a constrast effect that lasts a lifetime, making these animals show greater-than-average expressions of pleasure at receiving a full bowl of food. In humans, no one would confuse pleasure with gratitude. On the other hand, if the pleasure is expressed in a personal manner, aimed specifically at the individual who delivers it, are not we getting closer to gratitude?

De Waal observed the common exchange of food for grooming among chimpanzees in order to determine if the trade of food for grooming is simply the result of proximity (as in the impala or vampire bat), or good feelings (as in the adopted domestic dog), or if it is somehow more computationally intensive, such as requiring the ability to direct reciprocity at specific individuals.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Krisin E. Bonnie, & Frans B. M. de Waal. (2004) Primate Social Reciprocity and the Origin of Gratitude. in Robert A. Emmons , 213-229. info:/

Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002) Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(6868), 137-140. DOI: 10.1038/415137a  

  • November 27, 2010
  • 08:27 PM
  • 751 views

Extinct Giant Manabou Stork Discovered in Flores, Indonesia

by bonvito in time travelling

Bones of a giant manabou stork have been unearthed recently from the Pleistocene of Liang Bua cave in Flores, Indonesia. This new species, Leptoptilos robustus, is estimated to be 1.8 meters in length with an estimated weight of 16 kg. This stork has a reduced capacity for flight and would have been oriented more towards [...]... Read more »

HANNEKE J.M. MEIJER and ROKUS AWE DUE. (2010) A new species of giant marabou stork (Aves: Ciconiiformes) from the Pleistocene of Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. info:/

  • November 27, 2010
  • 09:35 AM
  • 691 views

The Town That Went Mad

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

Pont St. Esprit is a small town in southern France. In 1951 it became famous as the site of one of the most mysterious medical outbreaks of modern times.As Dr's Gabbai, Lisbonne and Pourquier wrote to the British Medical Journal, 15 days after the "incident":The first symptoms appeared after a latent period of 6 to 48 hours. In this first phase, the symptoms were generalized, and consisted in a depressive state with anguish and slight agitation.After some hours the symptoms became more clearly defined, and most of the patients presented with digestive disturbances... Disturbances of the autonomic nervous system accompanied the digestive disorders-gusts of warmth, followed by the impression of "cold waves", with intense sweating crises. We also noted frequent excessive salivation.The patients were pale and often showed a regular bradycardia (40 to 50 beats a minute), with weakness of the pulse. The heart sounds were rather muffled; the extremities were cold... Thereafter a constant symptom appeared - insomnia lasting several days... A state of giddiness persisted, accompanied by abundant sweating and a disagreeable odour. The special odour struck the patient and his attendants.In most patients, these symptoms, including the total insomnia, persisted for several days. In some of the patients, these symptoms progressed to full-blown psychosis:Logorrhoea [speaking a lot], psychomotor agitation, and absolute insomnia always presaged the appearance of mental disorders. Towards evening visual hallucinations appeared, recalling those of alcoholism. The particular themes were visions of animals and of flames. All these visions were fleeting and variable.In many of the patients they were followed by dreamy delirium. The delirium seemed to be systematized, with animal hallucinations and self-accusation, and it was sometimes mystical or macabre. In some cases terrifying visions were followed by fugues, and two patients even threw themselves out of windows... Every attempt at restraint increased the agitation.In severe cases muscular spasms appeared, recalling those of tetanus, but seeming to be less sustained and less painful... The duration of these periods of delirium was very varied. They lasted several hours in some patients, in others they still persist. In total, about 150 people suffered some symptoms. About 25 severe cases developed the "delirium". 4 people died "in muscular spasm and in a state of cardiovascular collapse"; three of these were old and in poor health, but one was a healthy 25-year-old man.At first, the cause was assumed to be ergotism - poisoning caused by chemicals produced by a fungus which can infect grain crops. Contaminated bread was, therefore, thought to be responsible. Ergotism produces symptoms similar to those reported at Pont St. Esprit, including hallucinations, because some of the toxins are chemically related to LSD.However, there have been other theories. Some (including Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD) attribute the poisoning to pesticides containing mercury, or to the flour bleaching agent nitrogen trichloride.More recently, journalist Hank Albarelli claimed that it was in fact a CIA experiment to test out the effects of LSD as a chemical weapon, though this is disputed. What really happened is, in other words, still a mystery.Link: The Crazies (2010) is a movie about a remarkably similar outbreak of mass insanity in a small town.GABBAI, LISBONNE, & POURQUIER (1951). Ergot poisoning at Pont St. Esprit. British medical journal, 2 (4732), 650-1 PMID: 14869677... Read more »

GABBAI, LISBONNE, & POURQUIER. (1951) Ergot poisoning at Pont St. Esprit. British medical journal, 2(4732), 650-1. PMID: 14869677  

  • November 24, 2010
  • 07:35 PM
  • 723 views

We were all Africans…before the intermission

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression

Quick review. In the 19th century once the idea that humans were derived from non-human ancestral species was injected into the bloodstream of the intellectual classes there was an immediate debate as to the location of the proto-human homeland; the Urheimat of us all. Charles Darwin favored Africa, but in many ways this ran against the [...]... Read more »

Jinchuan Xing, W Scott Watkins, Ya Hu, Chad D Huff, Aniko Sabo, Donna M Muzny, Michael J Bamshad, Richard A Gibbs, Lynn B Jorde, & Fuli Yu. (2010) Genetic diversity in India and the inference of Eurasian population expansion. Genome Biology. info:/10.1186/gb-2010-11-11-r113

  • November 24, 2010
  • 11:49 AM
  • 702 views

Indian population genetics study published in Genome Biology

by Tara Cronin in BioMed Central Blog

Population genetics have revolutionized human anthropology, with differences in the DNA sequences between existing populations allowing for the retracing of human migration over time. In a new population genetics study published in Genome Biology, the labs of Lynn B Jorde and Fuli Yu present evidence for an ancient northern migration route out of Africa taken by the common ancestors of Eurasians, from whom today’s East Asians, Europeans and Indians are descended. Their data also support a “delayed expansion” hypothesis for the history of Eurasians.By sequencing a small part of the genomes of 92 individuals from four Indian population groups, and comparing the results with existing sequences of other populations from the HapMap project, Indian populations were shown to be highly genetically diverse. Surprisingly, in some cases Indian populations were found to be nearly as diverse as African populations.Analyses of the sequences suggested that the Eurasian ancestors separated from African populations approximately 90 – 110,000 years ago but that the next expansion into separate population groups (East Asians, Europeans and Indians) was delayed, not occurring for another 40,000 years. The analyses also suggested that the Indian populations included in the study (Brahmin, Yadava and Mala/Madiga castes and the Irula tribe) had migrated to India via a northern route.The findings from this study, in particular the high degree of genetic diversity and the discovery of a large number of new genetic variants, highlight the need for including multiple Indian populations in any wider discovery effort relating to the demographic history of the human Eurasian expansion.

... Read more »

Jinchuan Xing, W Scott Watkins, Ya Hu, Chad D Huff, Aniko Sabo, Donna M Muzny, Michael J Bamshad, Richard A Gibbs, Lynn B Jorde and Fuli Yu. (2010) Genetic diversity in India and the inference of Eurasian population expansion . Genome Biology, 11(11). info:/

  • November 24, 2010
  • 10:11 AM
  • 1,188 views

From Natyural to Nacheruhl: Utterance Selection and Language Change

by Wintz in A Replicated Typo 2.0

Most of us should know by now that language changes. It’s why the 14th Century prose of Geoffrey Chaucer is nearly impenetrable to modern day speakers of English. It is also why Benjamin Franklin’s phonetically transcribed pronunciation of the English word natural sounded like natyural (phonetically [nætjuɹəl]) . . . → Read More: From Natyural to Nacheruhl: Utterance Selection and Language Change... Read more »

  • November 23, 2010
  • 01:36 AM
  • 824 views

Some new yellow-tailed woolly monkeys on the block.

by seriousmonkeybusiness in This is Serious Monkey Business

Here's something to get some holiday cheer in your lives a little early: a new population of critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey was discovered recently!--but who are these guys and what exactly does this mean?... Read more »

Anneke M. DeLuycker. (2007) Notes on the Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) and Its Status in the Protected Forest of Alto Mayo, Northern Peru. Primate Conservation, 41-47. info:/

  • November 22, 2010
  • 11:01 AM
  • 812 views

Stressing Motherhood: A primatologist discovers the social factors responsible for maternal infanticide. (Scientific American)

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Scientific American:Throughout history, from the fictional Medea to the tragic reports of modern times, women have taken the lives of their children under a variety of contexts, whether it is to punish the father, escape from the burden of motherhood, or even to protect a child from what they perceive as a fate worse than death. In this regard humans share yet another feature, albeit a tragic one, with nonhuman animals since females in a variety of species have been observed to abandon, abuse, or even kill their own offspring. To stress the importance of motherhood in human societies today, how can we best understand this behavior so that we can better predict, and prevent, its recurrence?Dario Maestripieri has spent most of his career studying maternal behavior in primates. In particular, he’s focused on the factors that influence a mother’s motivation towards her young. As a professor of Comparative Human Development, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago he has enjoyed the kind of cross-disciplinary success that most scientists only dream of. His 153 academic papers and six books have been cited more than a thousand times by scholars (including this one) in many of the world’s top scientific journals. His latest paper is scheduled to be published in early 2011 by the American Journal of Primatology. In it Maestripieri lays out the argument he’s built over the last two decades showing how one of the most serious impacts on maternal behavior, one with potentially lethal results, is so common in modern life as to be nearly invisible: stress.Read the rest of the post here and stay tuned for the next entry in the Primate Diaries in Exile tour.Reference:Maestripieri, D. (2010). Emotions, stress, and maternal motivation in primates American Journal of Primatology DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20882... Read more »

  • November 22, 2010
  • 11:01 AM
  • 684 views

Stressing Motherhood: A primatologist discovers the social factors responsible for maternal infanticide. (Scientific American)

by Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries in Exile

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Scientific American:Throughout history, from the fictional Medea to the tragic reports of modern times, women have taken the lives of their children under a variety of contexts, whether it is to punish the father, escape from the burden of motherhood, or even to protect a child from what they perceive as a fate worse than death. In this regard humans share yet another feature, albeit a tragic one, with nonhuman animals since females in a variety of species have been observed to abandon, abuse, or even kill their own offspring. To stress the importance of motherhood in human societies today, how can we best understand this behavior so that we can better predict, and prevent, its recurrence?Dario Maestripieri has spent most of his career studying maternal behavior in primates. In particular, he’s focused on the factors that influence a mother’s motivation towards her young. As a professor of Comparative Human Development, Evolutionary Biology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago he has enjoyed the kind of cross-disciplinary success that most scientists only dream of. His 153 academic papers and six books have been cited more than a thousand times by scholars (including this one) in many of the world’s top scientific journals. His latest paper is scheduled to be published in early 2011 by the American Journal of Primatology. In it Maestripieri lays out the argument he’s built over the last two decades showing how one of the most serious impacts on maternal behavior, one with potentially lethal results, is so common in modern life as to be nearly invisible: stress.Read the rest of the post here and stay tuned for the next entry in the Primate Diaries in Exile tour.Reference:Maestripieri, D. (2010). Emotions, stress, and maternal motivation in primates American Journal of Primatology DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20882... Read more »

  • November 22, 2010
  • 08:55 AM
  • 903 views

The Blood of Louis XVI

by Terri Sundquist in Promega Connections

A bloody handkerchief stored in an ornately decorated gourd seems like a gruesome keepsake, but that is exactly what scientists are using to obtain the presumptive genetic profile of King Louis XVI of France. “Who would want such an odd souvenir?” you might ask. Well, apparently a bloody handkerchief was a perfectly acceptable memento from [...]... Read more »

Carles Lalueza-Fox, Elena Gigli, Carla Bini, Francesc Calafell, Donata Luiselli, Susi Pelotti, Davide Pettener. (2010) Genetic analysis of the presumptive blood from Louis XVI, king of France. Forensic Science International: Genetics. info:/doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2010.09.007

  • November 22, 2010
  • 03:29 AM
  • 713 views

The flux of genes on the South Seas

by Razib Khan in Gene Expression


Huli Wigman from the Southern Highlands, Painting of Tahitian Women on the Beach by Paul Gauguin
Many demographic models utilized in genetics are rather simple. Yet the expansion and retreat of various demes in post-Ice Age Europe seems to be far more complex than had previously been assumed, though I suspect part of the rationale for [...]... Read more »

Wollstein A, Lao O, Becker C, Brauer S, Trent RJ, Nürnberg P, Stoneking M, & Kayser M. (2010) Demographic History of Oceania Inferred from Genome-wide Data. Current biology : CB. PMID: 21074440  

  • November 21, 2010
  • 06:41 AM
  • 682 views

Autism Gives You Biblical Superpowers

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

We've all heard about autistic "savants" with amazing mathematical, memory or artistic abilities. But could autism give you the power to kill 1,000 men armed only with a donkey bone?Samson was the original Chuck Norris. Granted mighty strength by God so long as he didn't cut his hair or shave, Samson's first act of heroism was ripping a lion to shreds with his bear hands. Then he moved onto people. According to the Book of Judges:"And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men." - Judges 15:16Samson later bested even this achievement. Finding himself trapped in a building with over 3,000 enemies who were about to sacrifice him to their pagan god, Samson single-handedly demolished the building by smashing some pillars, killing everyone including himself.Samson owed his pagan-slaying powers to God, who promised him mighty strength, so long as he didn't shave or cut his hair. Anyway, what does this have to do with autism? Well, according to Indian neurologists Mathew and Pandian in a new paper, it shows that Samson had it. No, really.One of the earliest incidents recorded from Samson's adult life is the journey to Timnath with his parents where he tears a lion with his bare hands. On his return, he finds a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion, which he eats, and offers his parents (Judges 14:8-9). Abnormal eating is one of the atypical behaviors noted among children with autism [ref].Throughout Samson's life, it is seen that he performed extraordinary physical feats... It is possible that Samson was able to perform these feats as he may have been insensitive to pain, which is occasionally seen among autistics [ref]. A study of hospitalized individuals carried out in Sweden had reached the conclusion that individuals with autism or autism spectrum disorders are prone to acts of violence [ref].Hmm. Fair to say this falls into the "speculative" category. They also diagnose other Biblical characters with various disorders ranging from strokes to acromegaly but Samson's autism is certainly the most "interesting" of the bunch.Link: This study also blogged at Autism Jabberwocky, an extremely good blog I only found out about yesterday. I've subscribed, you should too.Mathew SK, & Pandian JD (2010). Newer insights to the neurological diseases among biblical characters of old testament. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 13 (3), 164-166 PMID: 21085524... Read more »

  • November 19, 2010
  • 11:51 PM
  • 849 views

Trampling Over The Dikika Cut Marks

by Anthropology.net in Anthropology.net

Well, I feel somewhat vindicated. Remember the post where I criticized hominin cut marks from over 3 million years ago? Others have also had an eye of suspicion and have published their concerns in PNAS this week. I was wrong in considering the croc marking differential to the cut marks. But I was not wrong [...]... Read more »

Domínguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR, & Bunn HT. (2010) Configurational approach to identifying the earliest hominin butchers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 21078985  

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