Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Four Stone Hearth #93

The Four Stone Hearth is here again! Welcome to the 93rd edition, hosted by yours truly. There wasn't many submissions for this edition so I had to deploy my baboons to prance around the blogosphere in hopes that they will fetch me more blog posts. I am happy to tell you that my baboons did well and came back with lots of goodies. Don't worry, they are just prancing baboons not those terrifying flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Anyway, without further ado, here's Four Stone Hearth #93:


Martin Rundkvist from Aardvarchaeology writes about an interesting field work method by Swedish rock art surveyor, Einar Kjellén (1903 - 2000). Do you know that it is good field method to crawl around with a blanket in your head? Read about Kjellén's technique in "Kjellén's Blanket: Methods of a Rock-Art Master Surveyor".

On A Hot Cup of Joe, Carl Feagans discusses about The Application of Cognitive Archaeology to the material record.

Greg Laden from Greg Laden's Blog shows us what "falsehood" is in his post, "Primitive Cultures are Simple, while Civilization is Complex: Part 1".

On Anthropology in Practice, Krystal D'Acosta explores ethnic food trucks on the streets of New York City with her post "The Lunch Truck: Providing a Small Taste of Ethnic Foods for the Adventurous". Yum! My favorite are the halal carts. What's yours?

On A Primate of Modern Aspect, Zinjanthropus's blog post "Of Brains and Faces" talks about the relationship between brain size and facial size on the basicranium, and also the relationship between brain size and facial size on the position of foramen magnum in humans and non-human primates.

"Monkey Stress" is about male Barbary macaques's strategy in coalition building among group members by carrying infants of other males. Infant carriers were observed to have significantly stronger relationships with other macaques than non-carriers. However, infant carriers had higher stress hormone outputs than non-carriers. Read more about this blog post on Barbara J. King's self titled blog.

Eric Michael Johnson wrote "Punishing Cheaters Promotes the Evolution of Cooperation" on his blog, The Primate Diaries. While William Hamilton's theory of kin selection and Robert Trivers's theory of reciprocal altruism explains the evolution of cooperation between kin and individuals in close knit communities (low level of immigration and emigration), these theories do not explain the evolution of cooperation between societies of unrelated individuals (with high level of immigration and emigration). So, a new model proposed by Boyd et al. posit that fitness is enhanced if individuals come together to punish those that don't cooperate (cheaters) thus these coordinated punishments leads to cooperation. Take that Tiger Woods and Jesse James!

On This Is Serious Monkey Business read about the pros and cons of primate "Captive Breeding".

On Language LogDavid Bamman guest blogged an interesting post about Twitter and language analysis. In Bamman's "Mapping the Demographics of American English with Twitter", he analyzed words used in tweets by geographical location and age demographics. He did so by using Lexicalist, a program he developed himself.

Ewelina Gonera on Ewelina Gonera's Blog wrote How baby words are made, not "goo-goo-ga-ga" but how new words in modern English came to be. Sorta like the birds and bees of modern English, as told by linguistic geeks.


Well I guess that's it. Thank you for reading this edition of Four Stone Hearth and I hope you enjoyed your visit. A big THANK YOU to all the contributors. The next Four Stone Hearth will be hosted by Anthropology In Practice on June 9th. Please send your submissions to the blog owner or to Martin Rundkvist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Photo of the day: Polymorphism in Ebony langurs

Silver leaf langurs (Trachypithecus cristatus cristatus) Ebony langurs (Trachypithecus auratus auratus) are endemic to the islands of Java but the red morph (like the one above) occurs only in the eastern part. Photo taken at Bronx Zoo's Jungle World.

Correction: Thanks to reader Vincent Nijman for pointing out that it is an Ebony langur, not Silver leaf langur. That oughta teach me to write notes, not use mental notes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Four Stone Hearth: Call for submission!

The Prancing Papio will be hosting the Four Stone Hearth #93 next Wednesday. The Four Stone Hearth focus on four subfields: archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology and linguistic anthropology. You are encourage to submit your own work as well as others. Please email me on PrancingPapio at gmail dot com.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another Homo in the family!

I just love saying, "Another Homo in the family"! Anyways, it seems like a new species of Homo has been identified from a partial skull found in Sterkfontein Caves, near Johannesburg by anthropologist Dr. Darren Curnoe from University of New South Wales (School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences) and paleoanthropologist Dr. Phillip Tobias. This specimen, known only by its museum catalog name Stw 53, was  found in 1977 and had largely been ignored until Dr. Curnoe restored and reconstructed the skull with Dr. Tobias. They had initially concluded that Stw 53 is a Homo habilis but after years of examination and comparing it with other fossils, they are both confident that Stw 53 is a new species and named it Homo gautengensis.

Side by side comparison. Stw 53 (Homo gautengensis), (left) and KNM ER 1813 (Homo habilis), (right). H. gautengensis photo by Dr. Darren Curnoe and H. habilis photo from Wikipedia.

Dr. Curnoe believe that H. gautengensis predates H. habilis, making it the earliest Homo in our family tree so far. H. gautengensis walked upright in southern Africa about two million years ago until 600,000 years ago. Fully grown, it stood about 3 feet tall (just over 1 meter tall) and weigh about 110 lbs (about 50 kilograms). It has relatively large molars and premolars, which suggest that its diet consist large of plant matter and requires a lot of chewing. There were stone tools found near Stw 53, described as "fairly primitive" by Dr. Curnoe. They are also thought to have the knowledge of fire, perhaps using it to obtain and/or prepare food. Stw 53 was found in the same caves with Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus robustus (or Paranthropus robustus). However, Dr. Curnoe does not believe that H. gautengensis gave rise to Homo sapiens.

Beale B. 2010. New species of human ancestor identified. Retrieved May 21, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 21st: Endangered Species Day

Tomorrow (May 21st, 2010), is Endangered Species Day. It is a day for people to learn about endangered animals and plants and also to share the importance of wildlife conservation with friends and family. I urge you to visit the National Wildlife Federation's website to learn more about Endangered Species Day.

The IUCN Red List does a great job highlighting endangered animals and plants, one species every day on their Species of the Day project which I've blogged about. You can get involved by following them on Twitter (@speciesoftheday) or including a IUCN Red List: Species of the Day button on your website (click here for the code).

If you are a resident of New York City, please tell City Hall to STOP the budget cuts on the Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium and other NYC cultural institutions by signing a petition online. Budget cuts are imperative in an economy like this but proposing budget cuts on institutions that play a big role in conservation definitely sends the wrong message. We need these institutions to educate the public about conservation and to provide a place for them to see animals that they otherwise would not have a chance to see up close. As evident from last year's severe budget cut on the Bronx Zoo, some exhibits were closed and its resident sent packing to another zoo including the endangered Arabian Oryx.

Cross River Gorilla, one of the most endangered primate species. 

So, join me as we celebrate Endangered Species Day tomorrow by raising awareness on wildlife conservation and learning more about endangered species. You can do so simply by either participating in any Endangered Species Day event (click here for a full list), spend a day with your family at a zoo or an aquarium, tweet about Endangered Species Day or even raise awareness through your Facebook profile.

Here is a (current) list of the world's 25 most endangered primates, by region:


  • Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus)
  • Gray-headed Lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps)
  • Sclater’s Black Lemur/Blue-Eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons)
  • Northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)
  • Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus)


  • Rondo Dwarf Galago (Galagoides rondoensis)
  • Roloway Guenon (Cercopithecus diana roloway)
  • Tana River Red Colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus)
  • Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey (Procolobus epieni)
  • Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji)
  • Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)


  • Siau Island Tarsier (Tarsius tumpara)
  • Javan Slow Loris (Nycticebus javanicus)
  • Simakobu or Pig-Tailed Snub-Nose Langur (Simias concolor)
  • Delacour’s Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri)
  • Golden-headed Langur or Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus)
  • Western Purple-faced Langur Trachypithecus (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor)
  • Grey-shanked Douc Monkey (Pygathrix cinerea)
  • Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus)
  • Eastern Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)
  • Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)
  • Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Central and South America:

  • Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)
  • Variegated or Brown Spider Monkey (Ateles hybridus)
  • Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey (Oreonax flavicauda)

Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates (2008 - 2010) is a list compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Home for Oliver"

"Home for Oliver" is an inspiring project by Andy Cockrum. Here in his own words:
I want to create a web series about the life of Oliver the chimpanzee and efforts to build him a new living area at a Texas sanctuary. My hope is that the series will document, promote and inspire the building of new habitats for Oliver and other captive chimpanzees and monkeys who are cast-offs from the pet trade, entertainment and biomedical research industries ... Today, Oliver lives at the sanctuary with another chimpanzee named Raisin. While the sanctuary is continuing to create larger grass-bottomed habitats for all of its chimpanzees, in a tough economy, they have not been able to raise funding to build a new, larger, grass habitat for Oliver, who also has special needs due to blindness and advanced age.
I am looking to raise a total of $4600.00, which should allow me to produce two to three webcasts per month for six months. Those webcasts will feature animal stories, expert interviews and the sanctuary's efforts toward building Oliver a new living area. Additionally, I may travel to other U.S. sanctuaries to conduct documentary research into the best type and size of habitat to build, and ways to utilize green building techniques.
Please note: 
My hope is to create this web series as the first step towards the goal of giving Oliver a new and more natural living area. The money I am seeking will go toward producing these webcasts and will not directly support the construction of Oliver’s new home, which could cost between $30,000 and $170,000. Those who would like to directly support the renovations at the sanctuary can do so through their web site,
About my involvement with the sanctuary:
I have volunteered my production and post-production services to the Primarily Primates animal sanctuary for several years now, having filmed, produced and edited over 50 videos for the sanctuary. These can be found in the “videos” section of the sanctuary’s web site at
Thank you!
Andy Cockrum

So, if you can, please help the chap out by backing his project. Click on the banner above for more information (it will redirect you to the project's website where you can donate and watch web series).

Oliver in his earlier days.

Born around 1958 in the Republic of Congo (then Zaire), Oliver was "acquired" at about 2 years old by trainer Frank and Janet Berger. Perhaps the most peculiar behavior exhibited by Oliver was habitually walking upright (instead of walking on his knuckle like most chimpanzees do). However, due to old age and arthritis, Oliver no longer walks upright (he is 52 this year!) and had reverted to walking on his knuckles like his fellow chimps. 

Human and chimpanzee genome. M indicated Mitochondrial DNA. Illustration from Wikipedia.

Some of you might know Oliver as the "humanzee", thought to be an intermediate form of humans and chimpanzees due to Oliver's habitually bipedal gait and supposedly having 47 chromosomes (humans have 46 chromosomes and chimpanzees have 48 chromosomes). A paper by Ely et al. (1998) disproved that Oliver has 47 chromosomes. They found that Oliver, in fact, display 48 chromosomes (as expected of chimpanzees) and displayed a high sequence homology to the Central African variety of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes).

Ely, J.J. Leland, M. Martino, M. Swett, W. Moore, C.M. 1998. Technical note: Chromosomal and mtDNA analysis of Oliver. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 105(3) 395-403. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199803)105:3<395::AID-AJPA8>3.0.CO;2-Q

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Four Stone Hearth #92

Four Stone Hearth #92 is now live on Sorting Out Science. So hurry to the website and check out the latest blog posts on this Anthropology carnival.

The next Four Stone Heart edition (#93) will be hosted here at The Prancing Papio on May 26th. Please submit your content to the next issue by emailing me (click Contact Me on top). You are encouraged to submit other bloggers' work as well as your own. If you would like to host the carnival, please write to Martin Rundkvist. As of now, June 9th is still vacant.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Four Stone Hearth

The Four Stone Hearth is a blog carnival that specializes in anthropology in the widest (American) sense of that word. Here, anthropology is the study of humankind, throughout all times and places, focussing primarily on four lines of research:
  • archaeology
  • socio-cultural anthropology
  • bio-physical anthropology
  • linguistic anthropology
Each one of these subfields is a stone in our hearth. Four Stone Hearth is published bi-weekly, Wednesdays in odd-number weeks.

If you would like to submit content to the next issue of the carnival, please write to the keeper of the blog in question or to Martin Rundkvist. You are encouraged to submit other bloggers' work as well as your own. If you would like to host the carnival, please write to Martin Rundkvist.

The next edition of Four Stone Hearth (#92) will be hosted by Sorting Out Science. Please submit content of your blog post or others by contacting the owner of Sorting Out Science.

Four Stone Hearth #93 (May 26th) will be hosted here at The Prancing Papio. Let's keep this blog carnival alive!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day from The Prancing Papio

Happy Mother's Day from The Prancing Papio. Being a mother is no easy task. So on this day, we salute all the mothers of the world, animals and human alike. A special Mother's Day wishes to my mummy, my mummy in law, grandma Messier and my late grandmothers. You girls rock!

Matara (Mimi), mother of four. One of my favorite hamadryas baboon from The Prospect Park Zoo. Happy Mother's Day, girl!

A baboon mother and her baby. Photo from ecmorgan on Flickr. 

 Gelada mother and baby. Photo from Stefan Geens on Flickr.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Philippine tarsiers: Not world's smallest primates, not marsupials

BBC's Meeting the world's smallest primate (click link for the site and video), is being criticized for its inaccurate information.  Made as an educational piece to show that the animal's popularity with tourists is affecting the animals' welfare, poor research and possibly bad editing culminated in some errors. While these errors are minute, they affect the overall educational purpose of this video. 

A Philippine tarsier (T. syrichta)

The show's host referred to Philippines tarsiers (Tarsius syrichta) as marsupials. T. syrichta (and all tarsiers for that matter) do not have marsupium, the hallmark of marsupials. Tarsiers are primates, grouped in the suborder of Haplorrhini. Tarsier offspring are born precocial, while marsupial offspring (joey) are born altricial

A baby tarsier with its mother. Tarsier offspring are born precocial.

Precocial offspring are relatively mature and mobile after birth. There is a distinct slowing down in brain growth relative to body growth at around time of birth. Altricial offspring on the other hand are born helpless. Their brain growth declines during the developmental stage instead of around the time of birth. Human babies are unique within primates because they are born "secondarily altricial" (Martin, 2007). While human offspring are born helpless, their brain growth relative to body growth continues for about a year before slowing down. Calling tarsiers marsupials is just rude (don't we all want to be primates?).

The claim that Philippines tarsiers is the smallest primate is also false. The title for the smallest primate actually goes to Berthe's mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae(Dammhahn & Kappeler, 2005). 

A Berthe's mouse lemur (M. berthae).

Male Philippines tarsiers weigh 119-153 g (4.2-5.4 oz) and females weigh 110-132 g (3.9-4.7 oz) (Gron, 2008). Philippines tarsiers exhibit sexual dimorphism, where males are slightly heavier than females. Berthe's mouse lemur weigh 30.6 g (1.1 oz) for both males and females (Gron, 2009). Clearly, Philippines tarsiers weigh more than Berthe's mouse lemur.

Philippines tarsiers have a  head and body length of 11.7-12.7 cm (4.6-5.0 in) for both males and females (Gron, 2008)Berthe's mouse lemur have a head and body length of 9.2 cm (3.6 in) for both males and females (Gron, 2009). Clearly, Philippines tarsiers is longer in size than Berthe's mouse lemur. 

Also read Bonn Aure's BBC’s Faulty Tarsier Video on Time Travelling for his take on this video.


Dammhahn, M. Kappeler, PM. 2005. Social System of Microcebus berthae , the World’s Smallest Primate. International Journal of Primatology 407-435. Retrieved May 08, 2010

Gron, K. 2008. Primate Factsheets: Tarsier (Tarsius).
Primate Info Net Retrieved May 08, 2010

Gron, K. 2009. 
Primate Factsheets: Mouse lemur (Microcebus). Primate Info Net Retrieved May 08, 2010

Martin, RD. 2007. The evolution of human reproduction: a primatological perspective. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 45:59-84. Retrieved May 08, 2010[UID]

Friday, May 7, 2010

There are some Neandertal in us

Two papers published by Science on the May 7th 2010 issue posit that Neandertal genes exist in all of us (modern humans). The paper by Green et al. drafts the sequence of the Neandertal genome from three Neandertal individuals and compared them with the genomes of five modern humans, while the paper by Burbano et al. explains the method for sequencing target regions of Neandertal DNA.

John Hawks from John Hawks Weblog has a detailed write-up of these two papers. Check out his post, NEANDERTALS LIVE! Also check out Zacharoo's post from Lawn Chair Anthropology, Neandertal Nuclear Genome: Multiregional Evolution is the new Out of Africa.

The sequencing of the Neandertal genome brings back the age old question of human evolution: Multiregional or Out of Africa?

Link to papers:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Using mice to assess the degree of relatedness in chacma baboons

The concept of "family" and relatedness are prevalent in the animal kingdom. Individuals seem to be able to tell if they are related to one another, probably in effort to avoid incest breeding (to increase fitness). While "phenotype matching" is proposed to be one of the kin recognition mechanism between animals to assess their relatedness, "phenotype matching" using olfactory cues (body odor) have been poorly investigated and tested in anthropoids.

A chacma baboon.

Célérier et al. (2010) uses mice to assess the relatedness of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) through olfactory cues. But, why mice you asked?
Human noses are often quite weak compared with the rest of the animal kingdom, making it hard for us to find out if baboons can be told apart by smell. Researchers therefore decided to draft much better noses — those of mice. The researchers swabbed the armpits and groins of wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) from two different troops of the primates in Namibia. They next tested 24 adult male Swiss mice to scents from 14 adult female baboons. They chose female baboons partly because "some male mice were peeing on male baboon odors as if they were in competition," said researcher Aurélie Célérier, a behavioral biologist at the CNRS and the University of Montpellier II, France.

Their research shows that mice can detect odor differences between individuals of the same sex and age class in another mammal species, and that the mice can perceive a higher similarity between baboons that are related than baboons that are unrelated. These results show that olfactory cues may play a role assessing the degree of relatedness in among individual baboons. Detective mice assess relatedness in baboons using olfactory cues by Célérier et al. (2010) was published on The Journal of Experimental Biology. Also read Detective Mice Help Scientists Study Baboons by Charles Q. Choi on LiveScience.

Anyone has access to this article, by any chance?