Co-Residence Patterns in Hunter-Gatherer Societies Show Unique Human Social Structure, Science
Abstract: Contemporary humans exhibit spectacular biological success derived from cumulative culture and cooperation. The origins of these traits may be related to our ancestral group structure. Because humans lived as foragers for 95% of our species’ history, we analyzed co-residence patterns among 32 present-day foraging societies (total n = 5067 individuals, mean experienced band size = 28.2 adults). We found that hunter-gatherers display a unique social structure where (i) either sex may disperse or remain in their natal group, (ii) adult brothers and sisters often co-reside, and (iii) most individuals in residential groups are genetically unrelated. These patterns produce large interaction networks of unrelated adults and suggest that inclusive fitness cannot explain extensive cooperation in hunter-gatherer bands. However, large social networks may help to explain why humans evolved capacities for social learning that resulted in cumulative culture.
- Source: Co-Residence Patterns in Hunter-Gatherer Societies Show Unique Human Social Structure, Kim R. Hill, Robert S. Walker, Miran Božičević, James Eder, Thomas Headland, Barry Hewlett, A. Magdalena Hurtado, Frank Marlowe, Polly Wiessner, and Brian Wood, DOI: 10.1126/science.1199071, Science Vol. 331 no. 6022 pp. 1286-1289, 2011/03/11
Danny Hillis: Understanding cancer through proteomics, TED.com
About this talk: Danny Hills makes a case for the next frontier of cancer research: proteomics, the study of proteins in the body. As Hillis explains it, genomics shows us a list of the ingredients of the body -- while proteomics shows us what those ingredients produce. Understanding what's going on in your body at the protein level may lead to a new understanding of how cancer happens.
- Source: Danny Hillis: Understanding cancer through proteomics, TED.com, 2011/03
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Deb Roy: The birth of a word, TED.com
About this talk: MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language -- so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water." Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn.
Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?, Nature
Abstract: Palaeontologists characterize mass extinctions as times when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short interval, as has happened only five times in the past 540 million years or so. Biologists now suggest that a sixth mass extinction may be under way, given the known species losses over the past few centuries and millennia. Here we review how differences between fossil and modern data and the addition of recently available palaeontological information influence our understanding of the current extinction crisis. Our results confirm that current extinction rates are higher than would be expected from the fossil record, highlighting the need for effective conservation measures.
- Source: Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?, Anthony D. Barnosky, Nicholas Matzke, Susumu Tomiya, Guinevere O. U. Wogan, Brian Swartz, Tiago B. Quental, Charles Marshall, Jenny L. McGuire, Emily L. Lindsey, Kaitlin C. Maguire, Ben Mersey & Elizabeth A. Ferrer, DOI: 10.1038/nature09678, Nature 471, 51�"57, 2011/03/03
Nonlinear deterministic equations in biological evolution, arXiv
Abstract: We review models of biological evolution in which the population frequency changes deterministically with time. If the population is self-replicating, although the equations for simple prototypes can be linearised, nonlinear equations arise in many complex situations. For sexual populations, even in the simplest setting, the equations are necessarily nonlinear due to the mixing of the parental genetic material. The solutions of such nonlinear equations display interesting features such as multiple equilibria and phase transitions. We mainly discuss those models for which an analytical understanding of such nonlinear equations is available.
- Source: Nonlinear deterministic equations in biological evolution, Kavita Jain and Sarada Seetharaman, arXiv:1103.0097, 2011/03/01
Selection for smaller brains in Holocene human evolution, arXiv
Abstract: Background: Human populations during the last 10,000 years have undergone rapid decreases in average brain size as measured by endocranial volume or as estimated from linear measurements of the cranium. A null hypothesis to explain the evolution of brain size is that reductions result from genetic correlation of brain size with body mass or stature.
Results: The absolute change of endocranial volume in the study samples was significantly greater than would be predicted from observed changes in body mass or stature.
Conclusions: The evolution of smaller brains in many recent human populations must have resulted from selection upon brain size itself or on other features more highly correlated with brain size than are gross body dimensions. This selection may have resulted from energetic or nutritional demands in Holocene populations, or to life history constraints on brain development.
- Source: Selection for smaller brains in Holocene human evolution, John Hawks, arXiv:1102.5604, 2011/02/28