Anthro in the news 5/10/10

• A shot heard round the world
Yes, they did. Have sex. The news is out, and the media worldwide are buzzing about it. Svante Pääbo, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is the lead scientist of the 58-member international research team that decoded the Neanderthal genome using material extracted from some Croatian bones. Results indicate that Eurasian populations carry up to 4 percent of Neanderthal genes. As quoted by BBC, Pääbo says that Neanderthals…”are not totally extinct, in some of us they live on–a little bit.” During an NPR interview, Harvard geneticist and team member David Reich is asked if Neanderthals and modern humans did more than exchange trading cards and had sex. His brief but definitive reply: “That’s right.” So, they had sex, and more importantly it was really great sex: it led to reproductively viable offspring who in turn generated the modern-day populations of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. Watch for major efforts at Neanderthal rebranding starting now!

• Precious Alaskan heritage: welcome home, for a while
Six hundred invaluable objects dating from 1850 to 1900, from the US National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian, will be on display in the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum starting May 22. According to the initial agreement, the objects can remain in Anchorage for seven years. Most have been in storage for decades and will be seen by the public for the first time. Smithsonian anthropologists, headed by Aron Crowell, director of the Arctic Studies Center, reviewed 30,000 items in Washington, DC, with assistance from 40 native elders. Hundreds of other Alaska natives contributed to the project. Many were videotaped telling stories about the objects and describing the memories they invoke. The videotapes will run continuously on large screens.

The Big Five to make way for paleo-tourism?
Recent fossil discoveries in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, where several important fossils of early human ancestors have been found starting in 1947, promise to boost paleo-tourism to the region. Mark Tennant, one of Africa’s leading paleo-anthropological-tourism specialists, says that South Africa can become “one of the world’s premier heritage destinations.” While a long way from attracting the numbers of safari-focused tourists out to see the Big Five, paleo-tourism offers a growing niche for specialized tours.

• A lot of shaking going on
Videos of chimpanzees and bonobos made in six European zoos show several instances of “preventive headshaking.” Christel Schneider of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, made the discovery after studying the taped material.

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