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  • September 19, 2013
  • 07:25 AM
  • 551 views

When dogs die: the science of sad

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Farewell to ElkeAh, Julie...I’m not even really sure where to start. "On Sunday I sat outside in the sun, stroking Elke's so-soft ears, while my husband patted her long, sleek back, and we farewelled our first girl. We learned on Friday that her liver and spleen were full of cancer. We are so grateful to have shared 12.5yrs with her and will miss her dearly." is what my Facebook status update said.But let's start at the beginning...Little Elke-Moo and her cow hips, at RSPCAI met Elke (pronounced Ell-kee) when I was in my third week of employment in the RSPCA shelter. What a sucker I was! She was seized as part of a cruelty case from a property where an elderly man with dementia had over forty dogs. Because of the dementia, the dogs weren’t receiving proper care and he sometimes fed them chicken pellets. Of her litter, Elke was the only survivor. She looked like a 5 week old puppy but she was actually 12 weeks old. She was always small. Our ‘bonsai pointer’, we called her. We joked that she was little, but could lay a good egg.  My boyfriend at the time and I had been speaking about getting a dog, and pointers had come up as a breed we were interested in – he wanted a dog to run with him. After three weeks of rehabilitation at RSPCA, she came home with me. I was 23 years old. Since then, she has been a fixture in the landscape of our lives - through house moves, our engagement and marriage, the death of my father, the arrival of our daughter, the comings and goings of oh-so-many other dogs (occupational hazard!).Elke and my daughter - a fantastic introduction to dogsElke was energetic, excitable and hilarious. She wasn't perfect, but neither were we. We were a perfect match. She realised, as a young dog, that she could redirect attention to herself if visitors were over, by trawling our dirty clothes basket for recent underwear and then parading it through the lounge room for everyone to see.  Post-beach snooze with our other dog, CalebShe didn’t like thunderstorms or fireworks. She loved running off lead at the park, the beach or through the bush and she adored retrieving. She would regularly throw herself into water without stopping to check for a way out. One time I had to walk along a river back for about 500m while she swam and we looked for a place where she could scramble up the riverbank to get out again! We took Elke to obedience training and she taught us so much. Elke was also more than our pet. She helped as a friendly adult dog at puppy preschool classes, she posed as a jaunty model as Australia legislated for the end of tail docking, she tried to distract trainee guide dogs and she visited nursing homes as a certified visiting therapy dog. They were all things we did together, my spotty dog and I.Elke loved playing swim-retrieve in the water She and our other dog Caleb were very close. They had a silly play ritual they indulged in every day. Twice a day. A close-quarters mouthing and growling game that ended in howling calamity. It was sometimes annoying (working from home, it wasn’t always compatible with work-related phone calls!), but always made me smile. But now our house is very quiet.We all loved time at the beachWe didn’t know Elke was sick until a week before she was euthanased. We took her to the vet, her temperature was up, a blood sample was taken, antibiotics were commenced. We didn’t know just how si... Read more »

Archer John, & Winchester Gillian. (1994) Bereavement following death of a pet. British Journal of Psychology, 85(2), 259-271. DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1994.tb02522.x  

Weisman Avery D. (1990) Bereavement and Companion Animals. OMEGA--Journal of Death and Dying, 22(4), 241-248. DOI: 10.2190/C54Y-UGMH-QGR4-CWTL  

Podrazik Donna, Shackford Shane, Becker Louis, & Heckert Troy. (2000) The Death of a Pet: Implications for Loss and Bereavement Across the Lifespan. Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss, 5(4), 361-395. DOI: 10.1080/10811440008407852  

Field Nigel, Orsini Lisa, Gavish Roni, & Packman Wendy. (2009) Role of Attachment in Response to Pet Loss. Death Studies, 33(4), 334-355. DOI: 10.1080/07481180802705783  

Crossley Michelle. (2013) Pet Loss and Human Bereavement: A Phenomenological Study of Attachment and the Grieving Process. PhD Thesis. info:other/http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/8451

  • September 18, 2013
  • 09:11 AM
  • 727 views

Music, Memory, and Voices

by sedeer in Inspiring Science

Humans are remarkably talented musicians. We can recognize a tune despite changes like being slowed down or sped up or …Continue reading »... Read more »

Weiss MW, Trehub SE, & Schellenberg EG. (2012) Something in the way she sings: enhanced memory for vocal melodies. Psychological science, 23(10), 1074-8. PMID: 22894936  

Trehub SE. (2003) The developmental origins of musicality. Nature neuroscience, 6(7), 669-73. PMID: 12830157  

  • September 17, 2013
  • 07:57 AM
  • 783 views

Slaves as grave gifts for the Vikings

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

Grave goods and burial gifts consist of any item given to the dead at burial or taken by the deceased into their grave. It may be an offering to the gods, an item for the next life, or a personal item of the deceased. We know that humans have been practicing intentional burial with placement … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • September 16, 2013
  • 04:00 AM
  • 388 views

Epic Fire Marked ‘Beginning of the End’ for Ancient Culture of Cahokia, New Digs Suggest

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

Excavations in the Midwest have turned up evidence of a massive ancient fire that likely marked “the beginning of the end” for what was once America’s largest city, archaeologists say.... Read more »

  • September 15, 2013
  • 07:25 AM
  • 289 views

Neuroskeptic Citations

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Over the past few months, this blog has been cited twice in peer-reviewed journals: here in a discussion about publication bias in industrial psychology, and again in a paper about publication bias in studies about breakfast. To cap it off, one of my tweets got quoted in this interesting-looking article about evolutionary psychology: We need [...]The post Neuroskeptic Citations appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • September 12, 2013
  • 08:50 AM
  • 417 views

Continuity or Colonization: Debating Anglo-Saxon Migration

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

Recently, I  have been reading quite a bit about migration during the Early Medieval period. Traditional narratives of this period tend to argue that as the Roman Empire was declining in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, various barbarians groups from Germany and Eastern Europe began invading and raiding Western Europe. In England, this … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • September 12, 2013
  • 04:17 AM
  • 306 views

The Curious Case of Mr. Hans Jonatan: Iceland, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and Genetics in Archaeology

by Colleen Morgan in Middle Savagery

Recent research into genetics and the complicated history of the Transatlantic slave trade has revealed an unlikely but important ancestor of nearly 500 Icelandic people: Hans Jonatan. EUROTAST, a Marie Curie-funded research initiative from a consortium of international universities into … Continue reading →... Read more »

Kristín Loftsdóttir, & Gísli Pálsson. (2013) Black on White: Danish Colonialism, Iceland and the Caribbean. Scandinavian Colonialism and the Rise of Modernity: Small Time Agents in a Global Arena. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6202-6_3  

  • September 11, 2013
  • 04:00 PM
  • 630 views

Complete mtDNA genomes of Filipinos reveal recent and ancient lineages

by nath in Imprints of Philippine Science

The plot thickens! It still fascinates me how regions of  the earth have been reached and populated by humans.  Particularly, I …Continue reading »... Read more »

Pugach I, Delfin F, Gunnarsdóttir E, Kayser M, & Stoneking M. (2013) Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(5), 1803-8. PMID: 23319617  

  • September 7, 2013
  • 05:40 AM
  • 509 views

The Erogenous Zones of The Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A paper just published in the journal Cortex discusses the nature of human erogenous zones: Reports of intimate touch The results cast doubt on a number of popular theories about this topic – including one from a leading neuroscientist. Oliver Turnbull and colleagues of Bangor University in the UK had 793 volunteers anonymously complete an [...]The post The Erogenous Zones of The Brain appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Turnbull OH, Lovett VE, Chaldecott J, & Lucas MD. (2013) Reports of intimate touch: Erogenous zones and somatosensory cortical organization. Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior. PMID: 23993282  

  • September 5, 2013
  • 11:00 PM
  • 362 views

Fossil Camel Discovered in Oklahoma by Oil Workers

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

It wasn’t until about 5 million years ago that modern camels first appeared, but they, along with primordial horses like that recently found in Oklahoma, remained on the ancient range well into the days of human habitation.

In fact, a recent study of hand-hewn stone tools discovered in what’s now Boulder, Colorado, found that they contained traces of camel and horse meat, as well as proteins associated with other Ice Age animals like the short-faced bear.... Read more »

  • September 4, 2013
  • 11:03 PM
  • 486 views

Music on the Move

by Mahesh Radhakrishnan in Language on the Move

An important element of language relates to its aesthetic use, in other words, how we make our lives beautiful and present ourselves to the world beautifully through language. Anthropologists and linguists have been interested in this dimension throughout the 20th … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • September 3, 2013
  • 05:58 AM
  • 536 views

The rectangular and oriented lakes in the Bolivian Amazon are not tectonic, and now what?

by Umberto in Up and Down in Moxos

Our latest paper has been published a few days ago in Geomorphology. The title is: "The origin of oriented lakes: Evidence from the Bolivian Amazon". Here goes a very short version of it.The presence of hundreds of rectangular and oriented lakes is one of the most striking characteristics of the Llanos de Moxos landscape (Fig. 1). Many different mechanisms have been proposed for their formation, including subsidence resulting from the propagation of bedrock faults through the foreland sediments, scouring caused by large-scale flooding, paleo deflation combined with wind/wave action and human agency. Nevertheless, amid this diversity of hypothesis, the most commonly accepted cause of lake formation to date has been tectonics.Figure 1. Landsat image of oriented and rectangular lakes in the Llanos de MoxosPlafker’s tectonic model (Fig. 2) has never been tested. If faulting is involved, the displacement should be visible and measurable through sediment profiling. The only element needed is a stratigraphic marker that allows the measurement of the vertical displacement.Figure 2. Tectonic model for lake formation (Plafker, 1967). According to Plafker, the lakes' rectangular shape results from the propagation of bedrock fractures through unconsolidated sediments.Thanks to our recent discovery of a paleosol below mid-Holocene fluvial sediments in the south-eastern LM (Lombardo et al., 2012), where several lakes are found, it is now possible to test the tectonic hypothesis. If lakes were formed by local subsidence induced by bedrock faults, we should find the paleosol at a greater depth below the lake than in the area surrounding it. This is how we cored the lakesStratigraphic profiles from transects that cut across the borders of three lakes show otherwise (Fig. 3): the depth of the paleosol is the same. Hence, tectonics, as the mechanism behind the formation of the lakes, can be ruled out. The origin of the Moxos rectangular and oriented lakes is still very much unresolved. A more detailed discussion about the possible mechanisms behind the lakes' formation can be found in Lombardo & Veit (In Press). Figure 3. Stratigraphic transects from the outside to the inside of the lakes. Dotted white lines define the lakes’ basins. The early to mid-Holocene paleosol acts as a stratigraphic marker (see Fig. 2). Cores 52, 63, 81, 170, 205 and 210 provide the reference depth of the paleosol outside the lakes; cores 77 and 204 have been performed in areas of the original lakes’ basins that have been infilled; cores 78, 169, 171 and 209_b come from inside the lakes. Continuous black lines reconstruct the original lake bottom (previous to lacustrine infilling); dashed black lines connect the paleosol. Source of digital images: Google earth.References:Lombardo, U., May, J.-H., & Veit, H. (2012). Mid- to late-Holocene fluvial activity behind pre-Columbian social complexity in the southwestern Amazon basin The Holocene DOI: 10.1177/0959683612437872Lombardo, U., & Veit, H. (2013). The origin of oriented lakes: Evidence from the Bolivian Amazon Geomorphology DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.08.029Plafker, G. (1964). Oriented Lakes and Lineaments of Northeastern Bolivia Geological Society of America Bulletin DOI: 10.1130/0016-7606(1964)75[503:OLALON]2.0.CO;2... Read more »

  • August 30, 2013
  • 08:04 AM
  • 325 views

The Elephant Man: Old Curiosity and New Medical Research

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

The Elephant Man was an object of terror, curiosity and sympathy throughout his life. He was studied by Victorian medical specialists, and was an object of wonder for the general public in this era. He was well known throughout London after he began living at the London Hospital. Since his death, he has continued to … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 29, 2013
  • 09:10 PM
  • 560 views

Beyond the mother tongue

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

This book review was originally published in Language in Society 42 (4), 463-466. [Copyright: Cambridge University Press; Language in Society] Access pdf version of this review here. Yasemin Yildiz , Beyond the mother tongue: The postmonolingual condition. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • August 22, 2013
  • 08:40 AM
  • 691 views

On Food and Funerals in the Middle Neolithic

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

I’ve talked before about the close relationship between food and funerals, specifically in relationship to what Anthony Bourdain has taught me about the importance of food within cultures. The food served during a funeral is a final expression of a culture, the ultimate comfort food to ease the loss felt by the mourning community. Food … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 20, 2013
  • 10:50 AM
  • 538 views

Forensics Techniques to Examine Iron Age House Fire Fatalities

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

When examining arson or domestic fire deaths, forensics specialists have a careful job to do in determining manner of death, and the relationship between death and the fire. There are five primary goals of forensics specialists examining fire related sites with human remains: 1) determine the identity of the deceased, 2) determine whether they were … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • August 18, 2013
  • 01:08 PM
  • 558 views

Climate Change = Extreme Weather = More Climate Change

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

The last several decades of climate change, and climate change research, have indicated and repeatedly confirmed a rather depressing reality. When something changes in the earth’s climate system, it is possible that a negative feedback will result, in which climate change is attenuated. I.e., more CO2 could cause more plant growth, the plants “eat” the…... Read more »

Reichstein, Markus, Bahn, Michael, Ciais, Phillipe, & Et Al. (2013) Climate extremes and the carbon cycle. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12350  

  • August 15, 2013
  • 05:07 PM
  • 307 views

Antidepressant Use Peaks Just Before Divorce

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

People are almost twice as likely to be taking antidepressants or other psychotropic medication just before getting a divorce. This striking graph, from a new paper out of Finland, shows the data. The vertical bar represents the divorce date. The solid curve is the divorcees, and the other two are comparison individuals who were either [...]The post Antidepressant Use Peaks Just Before Divorce appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • August 13, 2013
  • 12:32 PM
  • 958 views

Gibbon Moms Help Daughters Practice Their Singing for Future Mates

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish




Before their daughters grow up and leave home, mothers may impart some lessons in the womanly arts—for example, the proper way to whoop and hoot with your mate while sitting in a tree branch. As an adult, a female gibbon sings elaborate duets with her male partner. But before she leaves the family, her mother seems to take responsibility for the daughter's vocal lessons.

Young gibbons spend many years learning to vocalize like adults. By age six or so, "sub-adult" apes can match the vocal prowess of a grownup. Mothers and daughters often sing at the same time, though it's not clear why. Researchers traveled into the rainforests of Sumatra to make audio recordings of gibbon families and try to figure out whether these sing-alongs are significant.

Lead author Hiroki Koda of Kyoto University and his colleagues studied six families of agile gibbons (that's a species name, not just a descriptor). Koda explains that gibbons are monogamous, and male and female young grow up with their parents before departing the group to find their own partners. Each family in the study included a nearly adult daughter, and the researchers captured recordings of these daughters and their mothers singing together.

They found that some daughter gibbons were better than others at singing in sync with their mothers. They were also better at matching their mothers' tunes. But these talented daughters actually duetted with their mothers less often. Koda thinks that's because the ones who "showed more skillful songs" are the most mature, and are nearly ready to leave home. Daughters who still need the practice sing with their mothers more often.

Here, a mother and daughter gibbon match each other's calls as they sing together:

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here


The researchers also found that mothers who sing more often with their daughters—the ones who are still giving lessons—modify their own songs more when they do so. Koda says this may be similar to the "motherese" that humans speak to their babies. Like human moms talking slowly and at a high pitch, gibbon moms alter their vocalizations when duetting with their daughters.



Koda says that in the past, primate calls have been seen as "completely different from human language development." Rather than learning from their parents, young monkeys and apes seem to figure out their calls on their own. But this is the first evidence of mothers helping offspring learn to vocalize in gibbons—or any other nonhuman primate.

By paying more attention to vocal interactions between parents and offspring, Koda thinks scientists might discover other examples of primate parents getting involved in their children's learning. (After that, maybe they'll discover primate parents getting too involved. "Don't you take that tone with me, young lady! I heard what you just hooted!")





Images: Top, singing gibbon by patries71, via Flickr (not, as far as I know, the study species). Bottom, a mother gibbon from the study by Hiroki Koda.

Hiroki Koda, Alban Lemasson, Chisako Oyakawa, Rizaldi, Joko Pamungkas, & Nobuo Masataka (2013). Possible Role of Mother-Daughter Vocal Interactions on the Development of Species-Specific Song in Gibbons PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071432

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  • August 13, 2013
  • 08:00 AM
  • 528 views

Mercury Poisoning And The Day Before Death

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

As archaeologists, we are usually pretty happy to have any evidence of death such as a clear sign of cranial trauma or a obvious disease like advanced tuberculosis. However, most of the time the skeleton its self is not the most helpful in trying to determine what caused their death. They may have a number … Continue reading »... Read more »

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