The Demise Of The University Of Missouri Press: A Sign Of The Anti-Intellectual Times

I just found out, via NPR that the president of the University of Missouri has decided to kill off the University of Missouri Press, which sounds like a pretty idiotic thing to do if you ask me. Apparently, it will cost $400,000 to keep the press open, but the university needs that money to help defray the costs of the athletic departments transition to the SEC so the academic side of the university’s mission is getting screwed. Because, you know, college athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry that pays its employees (student-athletes) diddly squat for their revenue producing labor. Come to think of it I guess the student athletes are getting screwed too, but that is another issue…

At any rate, if you would like to help save the University of Missouri Press there is a Facebook page where you can learn more.

What Did Australopithecus sediba Eat?

The answer may surprise you, or not. A new paper in Nature provides some insight into Australopithecus sediba’s diet. I don’t have access to Nature but Science Daily has the press release where we learn:

The researchers concluded from their scientific tests that bark and other fracture-resistant foods were at least a seasonal part of the A. sediba diet. While bark and woody tissues had not been previously documented as a dietary component of any other ancient African hominids, such foods are consumed by many contemporary primates and contain both protein and soluble sugars. The diet of A. sediba may have been similar to that of today’s African savanna chimpanzees, Sandberg said.

Researchers performed stable isotope analysis, analyzed phytoliths trapped in dental plaque, and examined microwear on the teeth of Au. sediba to arrive at those conclusions. I have to agree with Matt Sponheimer on this:

“What fascinates me is that these individuals are oddballs,” said CU-Boulder’s Sponheimer. “I had pretty much convinced myself that after four million years ago most of our hominid kin had diets that were different from living apes, but now I am not so sure. And while our sample is too small to be conclusive, the rate at which Malapa is spewing hominid fossils makes me reasonably certain we won’t have to wait another two million years to augment our data set. “

As mentioned above I don’t have access to Nature so can some one send me a copy of the article? My email address is on the “about” tab and the article can be found at DOI: 10.1038/nature11185.

Interesting Science Picture XVI

The story:

“Scientists have collected tens of thousands of fossils at this site in recent decades,” notes co-author Dr. Stephan Schaal of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, “but only these turtles are known to occur in pairs, a total of nine so far.” Detailed analysis of the fossil material revealed that each pair consists of a female and male individual. More importantly, even though the males typically face away from the females, the tail of some male individuals can be found wrapped under the shell of the female. “There is no doubt in my mind,” says Dr. Joyce, “These animals died some 47 million years ago in the act of mating. No other vertebrates are known to have died during this important biological process and then been fossilized.”

Source: W. G. Joyce, N. Micklich, S. F. K. Schaal, T. M. Scheyer. Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0361

Vampires In The News

Rather than focus on the impending zombie apocalypse I thought I would focus on something less frightening, namely vampires. Continue reading

In Memoriam: Phillip Tobias – A Giant Passes

Phillip Tobias passed away today according to the University of the Witwatersrand. He was 86. Tobias was a giant in the field of paleoanthropology having studied both the East African fossil material- his monographs on Zinjanthropous and Homo habilis were masterpieces – and the South African fossil material – most notably at Sterkfontein. He was interested in the evolution of the human brain – The Brain in Hominid Evolution is a must read. According to wikipedia he also studied

…the Kalahari San, the Tonga people of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and numerous black tribes of Southern Africa.

I learned some interesting things about Tobias from here.

A South African colleague, archaeologist Lyn Wadley, said Tobias also should be remembered for speaking out against apartheid.

In 1986, during a period that saw clashes between anti-apartheid activists and the white racist government’s security forces that some historians have compared to civil war, Tobias spoke at a university meeting that drew thousands of students and staff members. He and others urged the government to free detainees and end a state of emergency that gave it broad powers to crack down on protests and dissent.

“Today, in the emergency, freedom is under siege as never before,” Tobias said.

Wadley said Thursday: “The thing that I really admired so much is that during the darkest ages of South Africa, when he could have got a job anywhere in the world, he chose to stay here, because this was his country, where he could make a difference.”

That takes courage.

Wadley said Tobias would ask his first-year students to send him their photographs before classes started. He would memorize names and faces, and greet scores of students by name during the first class, she said.

“That was sort of symptomatic of his love of people,” she said.

I don’t know many people that would do that.

And finally:

In a statement, South African President Jacob Zuma lauded Tobias for leading the nation’s efforts to reclaim the remains of Saartjie Bartmann, a South African slave who was taken to Europe and displayed in life and then in death as an ethnological curiosity — known as the “Hottentot Venus” — in the 19th century.

Bartmann’s fate has come to symbolize Europe’s arrogance and racism in its relationship with Africa. After becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Nelson Mandela asked that her remains be taken from a French museum and brought to South Africa. After years of negotiations led by Tobias, Bartmann was brought home in 2002 and buried in southeastern South Africa. Her grave has been declared a national heritage site.

More here.

Mississippian Era Suburb of Cahokia

I think I have written a post about this story before, but after almost 3,000 posts I’ll be damned if I can find it in my archives. At any rate, NPR has an interesting article (there is a link where you can listen to an audio version as well) on a Mississippian era suburb of Cahokia. The site was discovered during the ongoing construction of a new bridge. Continue reading

In Memoriam: Alan Thorne

I recently learned that Alan Thorne passed away on May 21, 2012, due to Alzheimers Disease. Thorne was an ardent proponent of multiregional continuity and coauthored a number of papers with Milford Wolpoff on the subject. (See here for one of Thorne’s early papers on the subject). Additionally, as the wikipedia article indicates, Thorne worked Lake Mungo and Kow Swamp. Not mentioned in the wikipedia article, or in any of the obituaries I have run across, is his work with snakes. How do snakes relate to human evolution? See here. He will be missed.

Obituaries
The Age
ABC News
The Telegraph

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