Ungulates, Tooth Size and Longevity

One of the more interesting areas of paleoanthropological research concerns the timing of growth and development. For example, in macaques infancy is from birth to 1.4 years, childhood from 1.4-3.2 years, and adolescence from 3.2-5.8 years. In captivity macaques can live to be 30 years old, or more. In chimps the figures are; infancy birth – 3.3, childhood 3.3-6.5, childhood 6.5-11.4. In captivity chimps can live to be in excess of 60 years old. For humans the figures are: infancy birth – 5.9, childhood 5.9-11.3, adolescence 11.3-18. Each of these stages can be defined based on a combination of tooth eruption and epiphyseal closure (which is also helpful to forensic anthropologists). Presumably, the common ancestor of chimps and humans followed the chimp pattern of development and one of the things paleoanthropologists would like to explain is how and when the human pattern evolved. I mention this because an interesting paper has been published in The American Naturalist which seems relevant to the above issues.

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Pigs and the Spread of Farming in Europe

Back in March I wrote a post about what the ancient pig DNA can tell us about the colonization of the Pacific Islands by Polynesians. A new article that will be published in PNAS, by the same group behind the last study, looks at Europe and the spread of farming. Science Daily has some details:

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Know Your Primate: Pliopapio alemui

Order: Primates
Infraorder: Catarrhini
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Tribe: Papionini
Genus: Pliopapio
Species: Pliopapio alemui
Between 1992 and 199 over 900 cercopithecoid specimens were recovered by the Middle Awash Research Project. The sample dates to about 4.39 million years ago. Two new species have been named based on the material recovered. One is a colobine (to be discussed in a future post), the other is Pliopapio alemui.

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Chris O’Brien on T-Rex Teeth

Chris has an excellent post called More On Ham’s Creation Museum, Tyrannosaur Teeth And The Scientific Process that totally shreds the T-Rex coconut eater myth Ham is foisting off on unsuspecting visitors to his fantasyland. One wonders what some of the T-Rex specialists such as Erickson or Holtz would make of Ham’s argument. I haven’t checked yet, but I am sure there is an abundant literature on the morphology and function of T-Rex teeth.

Interesting Zooarchaeology Blog

Okay, it’s not exactly zooarchaeology, but it is about animal bones. The blog, and blog owner, are named Alexandra van der Geer. Check it out – it’s full of all sorts of interesting info about animals.

Boiling Brains and Other Zooarchaeology Trivia

Robert Symmons tells us all about using boiled brains to tan hides. He also talks about other things we can learn from animal bones.

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Thylacine and Wolf Skulls

Book Review: The First Steps of Animal Domestication: New Archaeological Approaches

Animal Domestication

Identifying the origins of domestication is a perennial topic among archaeologists and zooarchaeologists. Darwin even discussed it in The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. As he discussed each domestic animal, he also tried to track down their wild progenators (one of these days I’m going to have to compare what Darwin thought with current thinking on the subject to see how accurate he was). In the past, key indicators of domestication included, size reduction, demographic profiles, and differential representation of skeletal elements (do we have the enitire skeleton or just easily transportable parts of the skeleton).

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Gizzard Stones and the Thanksgiving Turkey

Determining how artifacts make their way into the archaeological record is an important concern for archaeologists. Classifying them afterwards is just as important. The Crow Canyon e-Newsletter has an interesting example of some lateral cycling, or perhaps reuse would be a better word.

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Neanderthal Genomes and the Domestication of the Horse

The two are not, of course, related. As I pointed out recently there seems to be a race to sequence the Neanderthal genome. National Geographic has a story on it, which focusses mainly on the work of James Noonan. It doesn’t add much to what we already know about the story. It does drop one interesting tidbit from Svante Paabo:

Based on his results to date, Paabo expects to see some surprises as his project proceeds. “Neandertal DNA is degraded in specific ways that we had not anticipated, and in some ways Neandertals actually look closer to humans than we had expected[emphasis mine – afarensis],” he said.

It would have been nice if they would have asked a follow up question like “Could you explain what you mean by that?”

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