Monday, October 21, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Dmanisi Skull

UK Guardian (Link)

The UK Guardian does its usual great job on science coverage, here detailing the initial findings and implications of the Dmanisi Skull publication, which came out yesterday.

John Hawks on "Hunting the Denisovan Belt"


"What remains to throw a wrench in this problem is the possibility that Denisovan ancestry has been incorrectly estimated. The estimation of Denisovan ancestry for any individual requires an elaborate correction based on the assumption that Denisovan and Neandertal genomes can be cleanly separated; and that sub-Saharan Africans have neither. This procedure requires a population model that is probably wrong."

Thanks, John, for this very well written, accessible, yet nuanced article.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paleolithic Cave Painters Were Often Women

Hand prints from the El Castillo caves

Nidhi Subbaraman, NBC News, Full Article (Link)

"Alongside drawings of bison and horses, the first painters left clues to their identity on the stone walls of caves, blowing red-brown paint through rough tubes and stenciling outlines of their palms. New analysis of ancient handprints in France and Spain suggests that most of those early artists were women."

"This is a surprise, since most archaeologists have assumed it was men who had been making the cave art. One interpretation is that early humans painted animals to influence the presence and fate of real animals that they'd find on their hunt, and it's widely accepted that it was the men who found and killed dinner."

"But a new study indicates that the majority of handprints found near cave art were made by women, based on their overall size and relative lengths of their fingers."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Our Stone Age Bodies Struggle To Stay Healthy In Modern Times

Fresh Air interviews Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman on his new book.

Fresh Air audio and text highlights


"Our immune systems evolved to be active. Just like our muscles and skeletons evolved to be used and stressed, our immune systems evolved to cope with all of those germs in the outside world. We've now created environments that are very sterile, that are extremely clean; we have very few pathogens that we have to deal with. And if we do get them, we nuke them with antibiotics. In so doing, we are now affecting how our immune system functions; it's still there, and it's primed and ready and waiting to attack all those germs and worms that used to make us sick, but now those pathogens are absent, so it sometimes by chance finds the wrong targets. So that's the hypothesis for why so many allergies and autoimmune diseases are on the rise — is that our immune systems are essentially not being used properly, and as a result they go into overdrive; they attack ourselves."