Anthropology

The origins of modern humans continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics among anthropologists, and there is little consensus about where and when the first members of our species, Homo sapiens, became fully modern. While fossil evidence tells a complex tale of mosaic change during the African Stone Age, almost nothing is known about changes in human 'life history,' or the timing of development, reproductive scheduling, and lifespan. Research during the past two decades has shown that early fossil humans (australopithecines and early Homo) possessed short growth periods, which were more similar to chimpanzees than to living humans.

University College London researchers have found the first physiological evidence that invisible subliminal images do attract the brain's attention on a subconscious level. The wider implication for the study, published in Current Biology, is that techniques such as subliminal advertising, now banned in the UK but still legal in the USA, certainly do leave their mark on the brain.

Using fMRI, the study looked at whether an image you aren't aware of ¬– but one that reaches the retina – has an impact on brain activity in the primary visual cortex, part of the occipital lobe. Subjects' brains did respond to the object even when they were not conscious of having seen it.

How do female chimps make sure they only get the best mates? By never wanting to reproduce at the same time, insuring that none of them have to settle for less.

Female chimpanzees may have found a fool-proof way to ensure they mate with only the highest ranking males, namely those with important social and physical characteristics that their offspring may inherit, according to a new study by Akiko Matsumoto-Oda from the Department of Welfare and Culture at Okinawa University in Japan. Female chimpanzees do not synchronize their reproductive activities which reduces the opportunities for less-desirable males to coerce them into mating.

In the March 2007 issue of BioScience, an international team of 19 researchers calls for better forecasting of the effects of global warming on extinction rates. The researchers, led by Daniel B. Botkin, note that although current mathematical models indicate that many species could be at risk from global warming, surprisingly few species became extinct during the past 2.5 million years, a period encompassing several ice ages. They suggest that this "Quaternary conundrum" arises because the models fail to take adequate account of the mechanisms by which species persist in adverse conditions.

People who see the world as essentially fair can just maintain this perception through a diminished sense of moral outrage, according to a study by researchers in New York University's Department of Psychology. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science.

Psychologists have long studied system-justification theory, which posits that people adopt belief systems that justify existing political, economic, and social situations or inequities in order to make themselves feel better about the status quo. Moreover, in order to maintain their perceptions of the world as just, people resist changes that would increase the overall amount of fairness and equality in the system.

Ancient people living in Panama were processing and eating domesticated species of plants like maize, manioc, and arrowroot at least as far back as 7,800 years ago – much earlier than previously thought – according to new research by a University of Calgary archaeologist.

One of the most hotly debated issues in the discipline of archaeology is how and why certain human societies switched from hunting and gathering to producing their own food through agriculture. Dr.

Fundamental theories in evolutionary biology have long proposed that biological kinship is the foundation of the family unit. It not only creates the sense of altruism that exists among genetically related family members, but also establishes boundaries regarding sexual relations within the nuclear family. Questions have persisted, however, regarding the means by which humans recognize family members -- particularly siblings -- as close genetic relatives.

A team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found evidence of a nonconscious mechanism in the human brain that identifies genetic siblings on the basis of cues that guided our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Their findings will be published in the February 15 issue of the science journal Nature.

We may not be as fit as the people of ancient Athens, despite all that modern diet and training can provide, according to research by University of Leeds exercise physiologist, Dr Harry Rossiter.

Dr Rossiter measured the metabolic rates of modern athletes rowing a reconstruction of an Athenian trireme, a 37m long warship powered by 170 rowers seated in three tiers. Using portable metabolic analysers, he measured the energy consumption of a sample of the athletes powering the ship over a range of different speeds to estimate the efficiency of the human engine of the warship. The research is published in New Scientist today (February 8).


Trireme in a harbour. (Image courtesy of University of Leeds)

The first public revelation of the earliest continuous Semitic text ever deciphered has taken place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Spell from the Egyptian pyramid text states in a Semitic language, but written in hieroglyphics: "Mother snake, mother snake says mucus-mucus." (Image courtesy of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Bergmann`s rule is one of the most studied and controversial “ecogeographical” patterns, and refers to the increasing body size of organisms towards higher latitudes.

Although it has been studied since the mid 19th Century, it is not until now that new statistical techniques have made it possible to disentangle the underlying influences of evolutionary history and ecology.

In a new study in the journal Ecography, an inter¬national team of researchers have analyzed Bergmann`s rule in European carnivore mammals. Their approch allows them to, for the first time, partition body mass variation into historical and ecological components.