Archives for category: linkfest

sorry that there haven’t been any linkfests over the past few weeks. it’s just turning out to be one of those years, i’m afraid. (>.<)

i will try to get back on schedule after easter. yes, i am taking two weeks off for spring break! (^_^)

Stone Age skull from Kenya reveals astonishing human diversity“A partial human skull found at a site in Kenya suggests early humans living in Africa were incredibly diverse. The 22,000-year-old skull is not a new species and is clearly that of an anatomically modern human, but is markedly different from similar finds from Africa and Europe from the same time, the researchers said…. [T]he new findings suggest that during this early period of human history, Africa may have supported even greater human diversity, with small, offshoot lineages that no longer exist today….”

A New Theory on How Neanderthal DNA Spread in Asia“Researchers have discovered that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of Asians at two points in history, giving this population an extra infusion of Neanderthal DNA.”

Division of labor by sex and age in Neandertals: an approach through the study of activity-related dental wear“The study reveals that all individuals have cultural striations, but those detected on the adult females are longer than the striations found in adult males. Regarding the distribution of dental chipping, the prevalence of this trait is higher in the maxillary dentition of males whereas females have the majority of dental chipping on their mandibular teeth. T he differences detected on the overall activity-related dental wear pattern denote a difference or a division of labor by age and sex in Neandertals while using the mouth as a third hand, i.e., in activities other than the provisioning of food, and provide new evidence for the lifestyle of this Pleistocene fossil human species.” – h/t paleogenomics!

European languages linked to migration from the east“Large ancient-DNA study uncovers population that moved westwards 4,500 years ago.” — see also Massive Migration and Origins from greg cochran.

A story of 69 ancient Europeans – from dienekes. you need to read this one!

Genetic Characterization of Human Populations: From ABO to a Genetic Map of the British People – see map here @dienekes’.

Y chromosomes and Catalan surnames“‘By genotyping 17 Y-STRs and 68 SNPs in ~2500 male samples that each carried one of the 50 selected Catalan surnames, we could determine sets of descendants of a common ancestor, the population of origin of the common ancestor, and the date when such a common ancestor lived. Haplotype diversity was positively correlated with surname frequency, that is, rarer surnames showed the strongest signals of coancestry. Introgression rates of Y chromosomes into a surname by non-paternity, adoption, and transmission of the maternal surname were estimated at 1.5−2.6% per generation, with some local variation. Average ages for the founders of the surnames were estimated at ~500 years, suggesting a delay between the origin of surnames (twelfth and thirteenth centuries) and the systematization of their paternal transmission. We have found that, in general, a foreign etymology for a surname does not often result in a non-indigenous origin of surname founders; however, bearers of some surnames with an Arabic etymology show an excess of North African haplotypes.'” – @dienekes’.

Genetic evidence for an origin of the Armenians from Bronze Age mixing of multiple populations

Stone Age skeleton judged Norway’s oldest – 8000 years old.

Italic “Eteocretan” Sea peoples? – also @dienekes’.

Making Discoveries about Human Evolution Using 3D Technology

Make Love, Not Disease“New research on the genetic advantages of sexual reproduction has found that blending our genes through sex helps purge us of disease mutations.”

Human Genome Studies Reveal How Little Is Necessary To Explain the Human DNA Behind our Bigger Brains

Gene Changes Make Humans’ Sense of Taste Unique“Our ability to eat bitter plants help distinguish us from our ancestors and chimpanzees today.”

Dominance Genetic Variation Contributes Little to the Missing Heritability for Human Complex Traits – h/t gerome breen!

Elevated germline mutation rate in teenage fathers [pdf] – “We observe, as expected, that the overall mutation rate for fathers is seven times higher than for mothers. Also as expected, mothers have a low and lifelong constant DNA mutation rate. Surprisingly, however, we discover that (i) teenage fathers already set out from a much higher mutation rate than teenage mothers (potentially equivalent to 77–196 male germline cell divisions by puberty); and (ii) ageing men maintain sperm DNA quality similar to that of teenagers….” – h/t andrew sabisky! jayman tweeted: “8.2% false paternity rate in West Africans and 1.3% in Middle Easterners in this sample.”

Escape from crossover interference increases with maternal age – h/t billare! who tweeted: “Higher recombination rates in older women, being less concentrated in the usual hotspots. Men tend to stick w/theirs.”

Predicting and retrodicting intelligence between childhood and old age in the 6-Day Sample of the Scottish Mental Survey 1947“Terman–Merrill Stanford–Binet intelligence test scores at age 11 years correlated .72 with verbal intelligence at age 77. Adding another test from age 11 and educational took the multiple R to .81. National Adult Reading Test scores at age 77 and educational had a multiple R of .75 with IQ scores at age 11.” – h/t stuart ritchie! — see also Steady as she goes from dr. james thompson.

Peer effects: they exist but they’re not very big – from ben southwood.

Indian states: G and S factors – from emil kirkegaard.

State IQ estimates (2013) and 2013 IQ estimates by state, total and white only and State IQ estimates, blacks only (2013) and State IQ estimates, Hispanics only (2013) and IQ by race and parental educational attainment – from the awesome epigone.

Nailing liberalism / conservatism by the 50 U.S. States – from bryan pesta.

Low IQ ups risk of heavy drinking among men“The researchers analysed data collected from 49,321 Swedish males born during 1949 to 1951 and who were conscripted for Swedish military service from 1969 to 1971. IQ results were available from tests performed at conscription, and questionnaires also given at conscription provided data on total alcohol intake (consumed grams of alcohol/week) and pattern of drinking, as well as medical, childhood and adolescent conditions, and tobacco use. Adjustments were made for socio-economic position as a child, psychiatric symptoms and emotional stability and the father’s alcohol habits. ‘We found that lower results on IQ tests in Swedish adolescent men are associated with a higher consumption of alcohol, measured in both terms of total intake and binge drinking,’ Sjolund said.” h/t ruta akula!

Mathematical Proof Is Not Minutiae And Irreducible Complexity Is Not A Theory: A Final Response To Burt And Simons And A Call Tl Criminologists – from brian boutwell et al. brian tweeted: “Our second response to the call within Criminology to ban twin research.”

Familial Clustering of Tic Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – h/t amir sariaslan!

A two-dimensional model of psychopathy and antisocial behavior: A multi-sample investigation using items from the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised – h/t richard harper! who tweeted: “[P]sychopathy as fearless affect plus disinhibited lifestyle, then plus anti-social to get crime.”

Birds of a “bad” feather flock together: The Dark Triad and mate choice“[W]omen high in psychopathy considered the Dark Triad traits in potential male partners more physically attractive and desirable for an one-night stand, as well as a potential husband. Men who were high on psychopathy were likewise attracted to psychopathy in potential mothers.”

Cads and dads“Promiscuity and fidelity seem to be specific biological adaptations. Their manifestations in men and women are not as different as you might expect.” (whatever’s gotten into the economist these days?)

Genetic similarity between mates predicts extrapair paternity — a meta-analysis of bird studies

Who cares? Why evolution suggests parenting responsibility is seldom equally shared

Sex Differences in Preferences for Humor: A Replication, Modification, and Extension [pdf] – “[M]en prefer women who are receptive to their humor whereas women prefer men who produce humor. These findings held even after we modified Bressler et al.’s questionnaire for better conceptual validity. Furthermore, using a separate measure designed to assess trade-offs, we found that men viewed humor receptivity as a necessity and humor production as a luxury when they were asked to create an ideal long-term partner. For women, it was just the opposite.”

How Big are Psychological Sex Differences?“Sex Differences are Not Small if You Know Where to Look” – h/t claire lehmann!

Prenatal hyperandrogenic environment induced autistic-like behavior in rat offspring – h/t simon baron-cohen!

The influence of prenatal hormones on occupational choice: 2D:4D evidence from Moscow“Women in enterprising occupations exhibited lower measured 2D:4D ratios than average. Those in conventional and social work had higher 2D:4D ratios. Results confirm previous findings on 2D:4D and gender-specific occupational interests.”

Examining the Impact of Peer Group Selection on Self-Reported Delinquency: A Consideration of Active Gene–Environment Correlation – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Do peers still influence adolescent delinquency after taking into account genetic influences? No.”

Socioeconomic status and sick leave granted for mental and somatic disorders: a prospective study of young adult twins“Low SES is associated with a higher level of sick leave granted for both mental and somatic disorders among young adults, but these associations are confounded by factors that are common to co-twins. Education and income are therefore not likely to strongly affect sick leave in young adulthood.”

List of genetic confounds – from emil kirkegaard.

Sibling differences in low birth weight, dopaminergic polymorphisms, and ADHD symptomatology“[L]ow birth weight siblings are at significantly greater risk of exhibiting symptoms of ADHD during childhood relative to their normal birth weight siblings. Moreover, possessing greater genetic risk on three dopaminergic genes (DAT1, DRD2, and DRD4) relative to a sibling appears to exacerbate the link between sibling differences in birth weight and sibling differences in ADHD symptomatology.”

What is different about the brains of “SuperAgers”“Compared with average elderly individuals, they found fewer Alzheimer-type neurofibrillary tangles and an increased packing density of von Economo neurons, especially in the anterior cingulate.”

“Bad genes” & criminal responsibility – MAOA stuff.

Heritability & the left“[T]here’s no conflict between leftism and a belief in the heritability of ability.” – that’s what i said! see also: Heritability, Left and Right.

What does it say about Owen Jones that he isn’t interested in scientific research?“What I find irritating about progressive politics is that it ignores and contradicts science, while at the same time pretending to be in favour of reason. The entire worldview is based on the tabula rasa idea of human nature which is contradicted by science. The blank slate makes the progressive goal of equality of outcomes possible; indeed, if equality is not achieved there can only be nefarious forces at work and ‘more work to be done’.” – from ed west. see also Fancy a job in academia or the media? Best brush up on the new political correctness“[Political correctness is] a faith, and it does not matter how daft the belief systems of a faith appear to a rational mind; if its critics sound backwards and out of touch and rural – literally ‘pagan’ – it will succeed.”

Both liberals and conservatives have anti-science biases, study finds“New research suggests that liberals, as well as conservatives, can be biased against science that doesn’t align with their political views.” — see also Nuclear Power and the Anti-Science Ideology of the “Progressive” Left from helian.

Why science is so hard to believe“Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. ‘We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,’ says Marcia McNutt. ‘People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.'”

John Derbyshire On Culturalists vs. Biologians; Or, Where Is The American Harald Eia?

Have Mormons been bred for gullibility? – from agnostic.

Islam Is Not a Religion of the Book“By this, I mean that as a whole humans are prone to accepting the primary causal role of reflective cognition, of beliefs avowed and rationales offered. We are confident in our conscious self control, despite a robust body of cognitive psychology which implies that much of our cognition is not under the control or constraint of rational faculties. This problem is particularly extreme among intellectuals, the very class which also attempts to understand human phenomena. Through the simple process of introspection and extrapolation intellectuals tend to reduce human action to the outcome of ratiocination, inference from eternal axioms. This is wholly inadequate to a phenomenon as complex as religion.” – from razib.

Your DNA is everywhere. Can the police analyze it?“Supreme Court weighing if we must live in sealed bubbles to maintain DNA privacy.”

FDA panel could soon approve 23andMe home genetics test

Linguists link English, Hindi to single ancestor language spoken 6,500 years ago – h/t steve stewart williams!

Old India’s Village of Warriors Becomes Birthplace of Bouncers“Look closely and it becomes clear that the bouncers are all of a single physical type, their chests and biceps built like the front bumper of a sport utility vehicle. If they look like cousins, it is because they are. A startling number of them share a family name, Tanwar, and when the nightclubs close many will return to the same nearby village, a place where women walk down dusty lanes with their faces obscured by a cloth, balancing stacks of dried cow dung on their heads, much as their ancestors did three centuries ago…. The musclemen from the village of Fatehpur Beri are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the city, a genetic line that fortified itself over the course of centuries as they defended their village against waves of invaders on their way to the seat of empire. The sons and grandsons of cow and goat herders, they were born in an outpost surrounded on all sides by croplands. As Fatehpur Beri was swallowed by the expanding city, its spartan strongmen continued to train in the traditional way, stripping down to loincloths and wrestling in a circle of mud. But they were forced to look for a new line of work. ‘There is an element of the warrior in the Tanwars,’ said Ankur Tanwar, who opened the village’s first gym about a decade ago. ‘We fought with the Muslim invaders. We fought with the Britishers.'”

Ancient Egyptians had state-supported health care – at least some of them did.

bonus: Man’s best friend…unless you’re lying: How dogs can sense whether a person is trustworthy – h/t ninja economics! also: When you’re happy and you show it, dogs know it.

bonus bonus: The Cold May Have Cost Penguins Most of Their Taste Buds“Recent genetic analysis shows that penguins can’t taste sweet or bitter, and scientists think sub-zero temps may be to blame.”

bonus bonus bonus: Limpet teeth set new strength record

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Study Finds Jack Shit – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Lost Sherlock Holmes story discovered

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: a poem. (^_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: #TheTitleOfMySexTape (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. limpet tooth.)

Humans are still evolving despite massive recent lifestyle changes, study finds – no way! =P – “The researchers analysed church records of births, marriages and deaths for 10,000 inhabitants of seven parishes in Finland since the beginning of the 18th Century and concluded that evolution is still occurring despite the dramatic cultural changes over the same period. ‘We are still evolving. As long as some individuals have more children and other individuals have fewer children than others, there is potential for evolution to take place,’ said Elisabeth Bolund of Uppsala University in Sweden. Dr Bolund and her colleagues at the universities of Sheffield and Turku in Finland…found that between 4 and 18 per cent of the variations between individuals in lifespan, family size and ages of first and last childbirth were influenced by genes. ‘This is exciting because if genes affected differences between individuals in these traits, it means they could also change in response to natural selection,’ Dr Bolund said…. The study, published in the journal Evolution, showed that the genetic influence on the timing of when someone is likely to begin a family and the overall size of the family has actually risen higher in recent times compared to the 18th and 19th Centuries. This means that modern humans could still be evolving because people are responding to Darwinian natural selection on the genetic differences between individuals within the population, the scientists said. ‘It is possible that we in modern societies have more individual freedom to express our genetic predispositions because social influences are more relaxed, and this leads to the genetic differences among us explaining more of the reproductive patterns,’ Dr Bolund said.” – h/t ed west!

The decline of human endogenous retroviruses: extinction and survival“[W]e show that the human genome and that of other hominoids (great apes and gibbons) have experienced an approximately four-fold decline in the ERV integration rate over the last 10 million years.” – huh.

Did Fishermen Find Evidence of an Unknown Group of Primitive Humans?“A fossilized jawbone pulled from the seafloor near Taiwan may be from an ancient type of hominin new to science…. [M]ultiple lineages of extinct humans may have coexisted in Asia before the arrival of modern humans.”

Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula earlier than in the rest of Europe

from lawrence kruass“An interesting fact from Svante Paabo: How related are we to Neanderthals? On average like 1 Neanderthal relative 6 generations back!”

Fossil Provides Evidence Of Early Human Migration To Europe“Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don’t know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.” – see also The Manot 1 skull and how we now look at Neandertal ancestry in early modern humans from john hawks.

Before Agriculture, Human Jaws Were a Perfect Fit for Human Teeth“The emergence of agricultural practices initiated major changes to the jaw structure of ancient humans, leading to dental problems we still experience.”

Half of our [european] ancestry comes from the Pontic-Caspian steppe“Here’s the latest teaser for the new David Reich et al. paper on the ethnogenesis of present-day Europeans. It’s part of an abstract for a seminar to be held by Professor Reich at Jesus College, Oxford, on February 9. Interestingly, it argues that migrations from the steppe resulted in a ~50% population turnover across northern Europe from the late Neolithic onwards.” – see also Strong (?) linguistic and archaeological evidence for steppe Indo-Europeans from dienekes.

A couple of AAPA 2015 abstracts to blow your socks off“‘The origins of the Aegean palatial civilizations from a population genetic perspective.'” – cool! (^_^)

Mapping 61 Ancient Tattoos on a 5,300-Year-Old Mummy – ötzi the iceman had 61 tattoos!

Large multiallelic copy number variations in humans“Thousands of genomic segments appear to be present in widely varying copy numbers in different human genomes…. We find that mCNVs give rise to most human variation in gene dosage—seven times the combined contribution of deletions and biallelic duplications—and that this variation in gene dosage generates abundant variation in gene expression.”

Your IQ in 13 genes (or about 29% of it) – from dr. james thompson.

105 years of the Flynn effect: very fluid“Into this torrent of Flynn-Effectism jump Jakob Pietschnig and Martin Voracek with a large raft of a paper which runs to 179 pages, which is what you get when you have the temerity and the Teutonic thoroughness to plough through 105 years of data and assemble 271 independent samples from 31 countries, totalling almost four million participants. What sorts of childhood do German speakers have, which drives them to these immense labours?” – (~_^) – also from dr. james thompson.

Academic performance of opposite-sex and same-sex twins in adolescence: A Danish national cohort study – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Opposite sex DZ twins & their math grades shows little evidence of hormonal masculinization in utero.”

from sam dumitriu“Serial killers who kill for enjoyment rather than financial gain are on average 10 IQ points smarter.” [source] (…out of the ones that have been caught. =/ )

Intergenerational Wealth Mobility in England, 1858-2012: New evidence based on rare surnames“Descendants of the wealthy people of England in 1850 are still wealthy. They also have longer life spans than the average person; they are much more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge; they still live in more expensive neighbourhoods; and they are more likely to be doctors or lawyers.”

Social mobility barely exists but let’s not give up on equality“Too much faith is placed in the idea of movement between the classes. Still, there are other ways to tackle the unfairness of society.” – from greg clark. h/t ben southwood!

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

Genetic analysis of human extrapair mating: heritability, between-sex correlation, and receptor genes for vasopressin and oxytocin“[W]e used data on recent extrapair mating in 7,378 Finnish twins and their siblings. Genetic modelling showed within-sex broad-sense heritability — i.e. the percentage of variation in extrapair mating due to genetic variation — of 62% in men and 40% in women. There was no between-sex correlation in extrapair mating, making indirect selection unlikely. Based on previous animal and human findings, we also tested for association of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A gene (AVPR1A) and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) with extrapair mating. We found gene-based association for AVPR1A in women but not in men, and OXTR showed no significant association in either sex. Overall, these findings confirm genetic underpinnings of extrapair mating in humans, but do not suggest that women’s predisposition to extrapair mating is due to selection on men.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Sources of Marital Conflict in Five Cultures [pdf] – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “‘Marital conflict tends to arise around issues relevant to reproductive strategies.'”

Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting”“Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is ‘self-correcting’ — that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence — may not be correct in all contexts.” – no, indeed. =/ – from nathan cofnas.

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience II“‘To what extent is research on politicized topics in social psychology, psychology, and the social sciences distorted by political bias?’ Or, put differently, how much does political bias lead us to entirely unjustified and invalid conclusions?” – h/t claire lehmann! see also Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience I.

Harsh environments and “fast” human life histories: What does the theory say?“A common belief among human life history researchers is that ‘harsher’ environments – i.e., those with higher mortality rates and resource stress – select for ‘fast’ life histories, i.e. earlier reproduction and faster senescence. I show that these ‘harsh environments, fast life histories’ – or HEFLH – hypotheses are poorly supported by evolutionary theory.” – h/t razib!

Lifecycle Patterns in the Socioeconomic Gradient of Risk Preferences [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Risk tolerance drops by 0.5sd between adolescence and age 40, but for badly-off it continues dropping to extremity.”

Evidence of polygenic selection on human stature inferred from spatial distribution of allele frequencies – from davide piffer who tweeted: “Different populations have different levels of genotypic height.”

Shared Genetic Influences Between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Traits in Children and Clinical ADHD

Dorian Gray without his portrait: Psychological, social, and physical health costs associated with the Dark Triad“Examined the Dark Triad and health in American, Australian, and British samples. Psychopathy was best associated with ‘negative’ health outcomes. Narcissism was associated with ‘positive’ health outcomes…. Sex differences in health outcomes were partially mediated by the Dark Triad.”

DNA methylation age of blood predicts all-cause mortality in later life – h/t stuart ritchie! (i don’t wanna die! =o )

Study uncovers genetics of motion sickness – i betcha i have every. single. one. =/

Correlation: The devil rides again? – bryan pesta on correlation…on his new(-ish) blog!

I Don’t Belong Here – on immigrants in france and their problems. lots o’ data! as usual from those who can see!

Your DNA Is Nothing Special“It’s time to relax about genetic testing.” see also: It’s time for the United States to talk about genetics.

diana fleischman tweets: “85% of students in my lecture today think people shouldn’t be able to choose the sex of their baby.” also, from pew: “83% of Americans say changing a baby’s genes to make it more intelligent takes science too far.”

Why There Is No Perfect Human In Puerto Rico or Anywhere Else – h/t shrikant mantri!

Amazonian horticulturalists live in larger, more related groups than hunter–gatherers“Endogamous marriages among kin create intensive kinship systems with high group relatedness, while exogamous marriages among nonrelatives create extensive kinship with low group relatedness. Here, a sample of 58 societies (7,565 adults living in 353 residential groups) shows that average group relatedness is higher in lowland horticulturalists than in hunter–gatherers. Higher relatedness in horticulturalists is remarkable given that village sizes are larger, harboring over twice the average number of adults than in hunter–gatherer camps. The relatedness differential between subsistence regimes increases for larger group sizes.” – h/t andrew sabisky! (thanks, andrew! (^_^) )

On the Whole How You Raise Kids Doesn’t Matter Much – from razib.

Searching For The Origins Of Individualism And Collectivism

The Implicit Assumptions Test“Does the IAT measure what proponents claim it does?” – short answer: no. – h/t steve stewart williams!

Liberal countries have more satisfied citizens while conservatives are happier individuals

How secular family values stack up“[Bengston] was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation. ‘Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the “religious” parents in our study,’ Bengston told me. ‘The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose….’ [N]onreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of ‘questioning everything’ and, far above all, empathy. For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated…. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: ‘The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy … how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions.'”

Iceland to build its first temple to the Norse gods in 1,000 years

Formation-flying birds swap places to share out lift – h/t steve stewart williams! who tweeted: “Reciprocal altruism is rare in nonhuman animals, but it looks like scientists have found another example.”

Commentary: Weighing the cost of ‘home rule’ in Maine“The state’s system of strong municipal governments is rooted in the early Puritans’ fear of centralization of power.” – from colin woodard.

The Massacre of Europe’s Songbirds – by italians and balkan populations. h/t mr. robert ford!

Ancient tablets reveal life of Jews exiled in Babylon“…where the Judeans traded, ran businesses and helped the administration of the kingdom. ‘They were free to go about their lives, they weren’t slaves,’ Vukosavovic said. ‘Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy.'”

Discovery of writing at Peru’s Checta – possible 5000 year old writing from peru. h/t charles mann!

Found in Spain: traces of Hannibal’s troops – h/t donna yates!

Among New York Subway’s Millions of Riders, a Study Finds Many Mystery Microbes“Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College released a study on Thursday that mapped DNA found in New York’s subway system — a crowded, largely subterranean behemoth that carries 5.5 million riders on an average weekday, and is filled with hundreds of species of bacteria (mostly harmless), the occasional spot of bubonic plague, and a universe of enigmas. Almost half of the DNA found on the system’s surfaces did not match any known organism and just 0.2 percent matched the human genome.” – ruh roh. =/

bonus: Even cockroaches have personalities – personality goes a long way. (~_^)

bonus bonus: In Bedbugs, Scientists See a Model of Evolution – h/t hbd bibliography!

bonus bonus bonus: from john hawks“[M]ale anthropology instructors are vastly more likely to exude spittle than any other field.” =P

bonus bonus bonus bonus: ricky gervais loves natural selection. (~_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: A Great Idea: Create an HMS Beagle in LEGO Form“Vote to turn this tiny version of a famous ship into a LEGO kit available for all to enjoy.” – legohhhhhhhhs!!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Closest Thing to STAR WARS’ Greedo is Now a CatfishPeckoltia greedoi! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. baby olinguito!)

Human evolution tied to a small fraction of the genome“Only about 7.5 percent of the human genetic instruction book shaped the evolution of human traits, a new study suggests. And it’s often not genes, but the how-to instructions for using those genes that are most important, researchers report January 19 in Nature Genetics…. Previously, researchers have mostly looked for evolutionary clues in protein-producing genes because proteins do much of the important work in cells and organisms. Altering a protein may change the way an organism looks or acts. But mutations that alter proteins often are devastating to an organism and therefore aren’t passed on to offspring. Gulko and colleagues found that only 9 percent of the DNA that got evolution’s attention resides in protein-coding parts of the genome that are shared with other species. About 52 percent of the places showing signs of natural selection were in intergenic regions, the stretches of DNA between genes. Another 35 percent were in introns — spacer DNA found within genes but not involved in encoding proteins. Both intergenic regions and introns often contain DNA responsible for controlling gene activity. These findings suggest that human evolution works mostly through changes in how genes are used, rather than by altering genes and the proteins they encode.”

The Wrists of Birds Reveal Evolution Undoing Itself“Contrary to earlier claims, a new study shows that evolution may be reversible.” – previously from greg cochran: Back to the trees.

Kennewick Man was Native American“‘Genetic analysis is still under way in Denmark, but documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act say preliminary results point to a Native-American heritage.'” – from dienekes. see also from razib: Native Americans Are Evolutionarily Elegant“One insight of modern ancient DNA is that there has been a great deal of population turnover over the past ~10,000 years, as well as admixture between disparate lineages. When Kennewick Man died ~9,000 years ago Europeans as we understand them did not exist genetically.”

The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States“Over the past 500 years, North America has been the site of ongoing mixing of Native Americans, European settlers, and Africans (brought largely by the trans-Atlantic slave trade), shaping the early history of what became the United States. We studied the genetic ancestry of 5,269 self-described African Americans, 8,663 Latinos, and 148,789 European Americans who are 23andMe customers and show that the legacy of these historical interactions is visible in the genetic ancestry of present-day Americans. We document pervasive mixed ancestry and asymmetrical male and female ancestry contributions in all groups studied. We show that regional ancestry differences reflect historical events, such as early Spanish colonization, waves of immigration from many regions of Europe, and forced relocation of Native Americans within the US. This study sheds light on the fine-scale differences in ancestry within and across the United States and informs our understanding of the relationship between racial and ethnic identities and genetic ancestry.” – see also: The Fluidity of Race from greg cochran.

Genghis Khan’s genetic legacy has competition“The Mongolian leader left a strong footprint in the Y chromosomes of modern descendants — but he was not the only one.”

Largest-ever autism genome study finds most siblings have different autism-risk genes“In the new study, Dr. Scherer’s team sequenced 340 whole genomes from 85 families, each with two children affected by autism. The majority of siblings (69 percent) had little to no overlap in the gene variations known to contribute to autism. They found that the sibling pairs shared the same autism-associated gene changes less than one third of the time (31 percent). The findings challenge long-held presumptions. Because autism often runs in families, experts had assumed that siblings with the disorder were inheriting the same autism-predisposing genes from their parents. It now appears this may not be true.” – h/t shrikant mantri!

Genetic mutation for metabolic disease identified within an Inuit population“The disease in question, glycogen storage disease type IIIa, is caused by mutations in the AGL gene, leading to less-active glycogen-debranching enzymes. The disorder disrupts the body’s capacity to release sugar from glycogen, resulting in the formation of damaging glycogen deposits…. Glycogen storage disease IIIa affects around one in 100,000 people in North America. However, the researchers estimate that the disorder may affect around 1 in 2,500 people in Nunavik – the homeland of the Inuit in Quebec.” – maybe they should stick to eating seal blubber. srsly!

Admixture in the Americas: Admixture among US Blacks and Hispanics and academic achievement“[W]e see the expected directions and order, for Blacks (who are mostly African), American admixture is positive and European is more positive…. We do not see the expected results per genetic model. Among Hispanics who are 73% European, African admixture has a positive relationship to academic achievement. American admixture is negatively correlated and European positively, but weaker than African. The only thing that’s in line with the genetic model is that European is positive. On the other hand, results are not in line with a null model either….” – from emil kirkegaard.

School“In summary, it very much looks like more years of education are associated with an increase in intelligence test scores, but not anything like as strongly to underlying general intelligence or to underlying basic processing speeds.” – from dr. james thompson.

Genetic Pleiotropy Explains Associations between Musical Auditory Discrimination and Intelligence“[A] large sample of Swedish twins (N = 10,500) was used to investigate the genetic architecture of the associations between intelligence and performance on three musical auditory discrimination tasks (rhythm, melody and pitch). Phenotypic correlations between the tasks ranged between 0.23 and 0.42 (Pearson r values). Genetic modelling showed that the covariation between the variables could be explained by shared genetic influences. Neither shared, nor non-shared environment had a significant effect on the associations. Good fit was obtained with a two-factor model where one underlying shared genetic factor explained all the covariation between the musical discrimination tasks and IQ, and a second genetic factor explained variance exclusively shared among the discrimination tasks. The results suggest that positive correlations among musical aptitudes result from both genes with broad effects on cognition, and genes with potentially more specific influences on auditory functions.” – h/t rosalind arden!

The Role of Parenting in the Prediction of Criminal Involvement: Findings From a Nationally Representative Sample of Youth and a Sample of Adopted Youth [pdf] – “The role of parenting in the development of criminal behavior has been the source of a vast amount of research, with the majority of studies detecting statistically significant associations between dimensions of parenting and measures of criminal involvement. An emerging group of scholars, however, has drawn attention to the methodological limitations — mainly genetic confounding — of the parental socialization literature. The current study addressed this limitation by analyzing a sample of adoptees to assess the association between 8 parenting measures and 4 criminal justice outcome measures. The results revealed very little evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal behavior before controlling for genetic confounding and no evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal involvement after controlling for genetic confounding.” – h/t jayman!

Hospitals Aim to Better Match Blood Donors and Recipients“People fall into one of four main blood groups — A, B, AB and O — and they have a so-called Rh factor that is either positive or negative. But scientists over the last few decades have discovered around 33 blood groups and continue to identify more. Each group also contains multiple variations that go to make up a patient’s exact blood type.”

Ageing research: Blood to blood“By splicing animals together, scientists have shown that young blood rejuvenates old tissues. Now, they are testing whether it works for humans.” – parabiosis. it’s baaaack!

Comparative analysis of the human saliva microbiome from different climate zones: Alaska, Germany, and Africa [pdf] – “Here we analyze the saliva microbiome from native Alaskans (76 individuals from 4 populations), Germans (10 individuals from 1 population), and Africans (66 individuals from 3 populations) based on next-generation sequencing of partial 16S rRNA gene sequences. After quality filtering, a total of 67,916 analyzed sequences resulted in 5,592 OTUs (defined at ≥97% identity) and 123 genera. The three human groups differed significantly by the degree of diversity between and within individuals (e.g. beta diversity: Africans > Alaskans > Germans; alpha diversity: Germans > Alaskans > Africans). UniFrac, network, ANOSIM, and correlation analyses all indicated more similarities in the saliva microbiome of native Alaskans and Germans than between either group and Africans. The native Alaskans and Germans also had the highest number of shared bacterial interactions.”

Tuberculosis genomes track human history“A study of nearly 5,000 samples of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from around the world shows how a lineage of the bacterium that emerged thousands of years ago in Asia has since become a global killer that is widely resistant to antibiotic drugs. Although M. tuberculosis probably first emerged some 40,000 years ago in Africa, the disease did not take hold until humans took to farming…. [T]he common ancestor of all the M. bacterium strains circulating today began spreading around 10,000 years ago in the ancient Fertile Crescent, a region stretching from Mesopotamia to the Nile Delta that was a cradle of agriculture…. But of all the M. bacterium strains circulating today, few strike more fear in public-health officials than the ‘Beijing lineage’. First identified in greater Beijing in the mid-1990s, this lineage now circulates throughout the world and many strains are resistant to drugs that vanquish other types of TB…. Consistent with its name, the Beijing lineage did indeed emerge near north-eastern China…. And it did so around 6,600 years ago, the researchers found, which coincides with archaeological evidence for the beginnings of rice farming in China’s upper Yangtze River valley.” – h/t billare!

Your Friends Know How Long You Will Live: A 75-Year Study of Peer-Rated Personality Traits“To test whether friends’ reports of personality predict mortality risk, we used data from a 75-year longitudinal study (the Kelly/Connolly Longitudinal Study on Personality and Aging). In that study, 600 participants were observed beginning in 1935 through 1938, when they were in their mid-20s, and continuing through 2013. Male participants seen by their friends as more conscientious and open lived longer, whereas friend-rated emotional stability and agreeableness were protective for women. Friends’ ratings were better predictors of longevity than were self-reports of personality, in part because friends’ ratings could be aggregated to provide a more reliable assessment.”

Voluntary Activities and Daily Happiness in the US [pdf] – “This paper analyzes differences in daily happiness between those individuals in the United States who perform voluntary activities during the day, and those who do not…. [T]hose who devote any time to voluntary activities during the day report higher levels of daily happiness than those who do not…. [W]hen the issue of reverse causality is taken into account, we find no differences in daily happiness between volunteers and non-volunteers, which indicates that happier individuals are also more likely to volunteer.” – h/t ben southwood!

Aberrant Gene Expression in Humans“The uniqueness of individuals is due to differences in the combination of genetic, epigenetic and environmental determinants. Understanding the genetic basis of phenotypic variation is a key objective in genetics…. One of our major findings is that private SNPs may contribute to aberrant expression in outlier individuals. These private SNPs are more frequently located in the enhancer and promoter regions of genes that are aberrantly expressed, suggesting a possible regulatory function of these SNPs.”

Recurrent loss of sex is associated with accumulation of deleterious mutations in Oenothera“Sexual reproduction is nearly universal among eukaryotes. Theory predicts that the rarity of asexual eukaryotic species is in part caused by accumulation of deleterious mutations and heightened extinction risk associated with suppressed recombination and segregation in asexual species. We tested this prediction with a large dataset of 62 transcriptomes from 29 species in the plant genus Oenothera, spanning 10 independent transitions between sexual and a functionally asexual genetic system called permanent translocation heterozygosity…. These results confirm that an important advantage of sex is that it facilitates selection against deleterious alleles, which might help to explain the dearth of extant asexual species.” – h/t melissa wilson sayres!

Perceptions Of Required Ability Act As A Proxy For Actual Required Ability In Explaining The Gender Gap – @slate star codex. make sure to read jayman’s comment there! this one, too.

Lewontin wins the Crafoord Prize“The Crafoord Prize for 2015 was awarded to Richard Lewontin and Tomoko Ohta, for their discovery that there was very much more genetic variation that had been expected. Lewontin discovered this using protein gel electrophoresis to study a number of loci in Drosophila. It’s an important result. The problem is, virtually everything he’s said and done since that time has been a pile of steaming ideological crap.” – from greg cochran.

Single Markers Tell You Only a Bit About Individual Ancestry“A new paper in The American Journal of Human Genetics, Estimates of Continental Ancestry Vary Widely among Individuals with the Same mtDNA Haplogroup, tells you something which should be obvious: one marker tells you only so much about individual ancestry. In other words, the history of one gene can only tell you so much about the whole genome. Because mtDNA and Y chromosome* does not recombine you can treat it as one long genetic marker…. But Richard Lewontin’s insight that a great deal of human genetic variation is not partitioned across populations, but within them, applies to mtDNA and the Y chromosomes as well. Where Lewontin’s insight misleads is that using just a few more markers one can obtain relatively robust phylogenetic trees which reflect well the population structure and history of a given species.” – also from razib.

The Economist takes a half step forwards“They do not examine the usual finding that educated parents are more influential than rich parents in supposedly ‘boosting’ intelligence. They leave out the genetic element entirely, and say it is ‘incomes’ which are inherited. If so adoption into a rich household should have massive effects on intellect, but that is not found. If adoption cannot wipe the slate clean, what chance a kindergarten?” – from dr. james thompson.

Gender divide in religious belief, survey suggests“A big gender divide exists between men and women in their 40s in belief in God and life after death, a poll suggests. Of the British men surveyed, 54% said they were atheists or agnostics compared with only 34% of women. The study also showed that Muslims in the survey had the fewest doubts about the existence of God and the afterlife. The research involving more than 9,000 British people born in 1970 was analysed at the University of Essex.” – h/t ed west! who tweeted: “71% of evangelical Christians have no doubts about God’s existence. 33% of Catholics, 16% of Anglicans & Methodists.”

This Woman Can’t Feel Fear“Damage from a rare genetic condition appears to have knocked out the ‘fear center’ in her brain.”

Thumb bones in pre-humans make them more like us, study says“Some of our tree-swinging pre-human ancestors may have been a bit more like us than previously thought, thanks to a tiny section of their thumbs. One key attribute that separates humans from other animals is our opposable thumb, and the way parts of the thumb are structured to allow for a strong yet precise grip that fostered advanced use of tools. It’s what allows us to throw items more precisely, pick guitars and turn a key. And now, thanks to high-tech tools of our own, scientists have determined that a couple million years ago one of our pre-human ancestors had the same human-defining precision grip, even though researchers think of them as little more than upright walking apes, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. That supports earlier but controversial evidence that the small-brained Australopithecus africanus fashioned early tools.” – h/t regular ron!

‘Designer babies’ debate should start, scientists say – h/t avi tuschman!

Darwin May Have Experienced Extreme Anxiety

Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium“Despite the pain, millions of Chinese women stood firm in their devotion to the tradition.”

Thomas Cromwell was the Islamic State of his day“No one can be sure of the exact figure, but it is estimated that the destruction started and legalised by Cromwell amounted to 97% of the English art then in existence. Statues were hacked down. Frescoes were smashed to bits. Mosaics were pulverized. Illuminated manuscripts were shredded. Wooden carvings were burned. Precious metalwork was melted down. Shrines were reduced to rubble.”

bonus: When it comes to speedy evolution, you can’t outpace this lizard’s penis

bonus bonus: FDA Considering Releasing Genetically-Modified Mosquitos In Florida – h/t sam bowman!

bonus bonus bonus: Fish Live Under Antarctica’s Ice Shelf, Where It Seems They Shouldn’t Survive“Biologists expected the seafloor under a glacier to be nearly barren, until life swam into view.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: This fish lived in peace for 70 million years. Then it met the Army Corps of Engineers.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: All in the (bigger) family“A decade of genetic data and other evidence has persuaded most researchers that insects and crustaceans, long considered widely separated branches of the arthropod family, actually belong together. The new arthropod tree puts hexapods — six-limbed creatures that include insects, springtails, and silverfish — as closer kin to crabs, lobster, shrimp, and crayfish than those ‘standard’ crustaceans are to others such as seed shrimp.”

(note: comments do not require an email. comparing apples and oranges.)

Ancient Jomon people not like present-day East Asians“‘We found a unique genetic position of the Jomon people who had diverged before the diversification of most of present-day East Eurasian populations including East Eurasian Islanders. This indicates that Jomon people were a basal population in East Eurasia and genetically isolated from other East Eurasians for long time.'” – h/t charles!

Uncovering the Genetic History of the Present-Day Greenlandic Population“[W]e analyzed ∼200,000 SNPs from more than 10% of the adult Greenlandic population (n = 4,674). We found that recent gene flow from Europe has had a substantial impact on the population: more than 80% of the Greenlanders have some European ancestry (on average ∼25% of their genome). However, we also found that the amount of recent European gene flow varies across Greenland and is far smaller in the more historically isolated areas in the north and east and in the small villages in the south. Furthermore, we found that there is substantial population structure in the Inuit genetic component of the Greenlanders and that individuals from the east, west, and north can be distinguished from each other. Moreover, the genetic differences in the Inuit ancestry are consistent with a single colonization wave of the island from north to west to south to east. Although it has been speculated that there has been historical admixture between the Norse Vikings who lived in Greenland for a limited period ∼600–1,000 years ago and the Inuit, we found no evidence supporting this hypothesis. Similarly, we found no evidence supporting a previously hypothesized admixture event between the Inuit in East Greenland and the Dorset people, who lived in Greenland before the Inuit.” – h/t razib!

Y chromosome super-fathers“Most of these lineages are so young that there are good chances that their founders were figures from history or mythology.” – from dienekes.

Bone Tool Discovered at Neanderthal Site in France“A bone tool from the Grotte du Bison at Arcy-sur-Cure in France is further evidence that Neanderthals had abilities usually attributed solely to modern humans….”

Early age of alcohol initiation is not the cause of alcohol use disorders in adulthood, but is a major indicator of genetic risk. A population-based twin study.“The association between early age of alcohol initiation and alcohol use disorders in later life does not reflect a causal relationship, but is due almost entirely to common genetic risk factors.”

α-Actinin-3: Why Gene Loss Is an Evolutionary Gain – h/t billare! who tweeted: “Positive selection for broken proteins: Derived ACTN3 mutation seems to help fast-twitch muscles fatigue less slowly.”

Do viruses make us smarter?“[R]etroviruses seem to play a central role in the basic functions of the brain, more specifically in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when.”

Estimating the genotypic intelligence of populations and assessing the impact of socioeconomic factors and migrations – from davide piffer who tweeted: “New version of my paper with genetic distances. Migrations or drift less likely to explain results.” also, from the paper: “The results also provide preliminary evidence in favor of the hypothesis that poor environmental conditions (i.e. economic and sociocultural) tend to depress national IQ scores. Countries with lower per capita GDP and a lower index of Human Development tended to have larger positive ‘residuals’, that is the difference between the score predicted by the regression (of IQs for developed countries on the 4 SNPs g factor) and the actually measured IQ was larger in countries with lower GDP and HDI (r around 0.7). Thus, poorer and less developed countries have yet to reach their full intellectual potential. The results of this study indicate that the gaps in intellectual performance between some populations can be narrowed via adequate improvement of environmental conditions, however the overall pattern of intellectual scores is due to relatively stable and fixed (genetic) factors and cannot be substantially altered.” – see also terrific post from anatoly karlin on this paper!: Genetics, IQ, and Convergence.

Evidence of polygenic selection on human stature inferred from spatial distribution of allele frequencies – also from davide piffer.

Geographical Variation in Dementia: Examining the Role of Environmental Factors in Sweden and Scotland“We found a 2- to 3-fold geographical variation in dementia odds in Sweden, after twin random effects — likely to capture genetic and shared environmental variance — were removed. In Scotland, we found no variation in dementia odds in childhood but substantial variation, following a broadly similar pattern to Sweden, by adulthood. Conclusion: There is geographical variation in dementia rates.” – h/t erwin schmidt! – also Genetics and Underlying Pathology of Dementia.

Archaeogenomic insights into the adaptation of plants to the human environment: pushing plant–hominin co-evolution back to the Pliocene“The colonization of the human environment by plants, and the consequent evolution of domesticated forms is increasingly being viewed as a co-evolutionary plant–human process that occurred over a long time period, with evidence for the co-evolutionary relationship between plants and humans reaching ever deeper into the hominin past. This developing view is characterized by a change in emphasis on the drivers of evolution in the case of plants. Rather than individual species being passive recipients of artificial selection pressures and ultimately becoming domesticates, entire plant communities adapted to the human environment.” – h/t george perry!

Son of Edar“[S]omebody should look for characteristic racial differences in tears, sebaceous glands, Meobomian glands, and salivary glands. And possibly fingernails. They may well exist, be driven by this EDAR mutation, and some might play a role in its selective advantage.” – from greg cochran.

Quality vs Quantity“To the extent that human capital is a product of genetic factors (quite a lot), this tradeoff *does not exist*.” – also from greg cochran.

Lower mortality rates among Asian, Hispanic lupus patients“Asian and Hispanic patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have lower mortality rates compared to Black, White, or Native Americans with the disease, scientists have found. Findings indicate that the risk for death among White patients is much lower than in Black and Native American SLE patients.”

Genetic errors linked to more ALS cases than scientists had thought – h/t jayman!

Is your face special?“Face recognition is highly heritable and weakly related to *g* so it probably has its own module, or a favoured set of circuits which only partly taps into the central processor power of general intelligence. So, not only is your face is special. but your specialised ability to recognise faces is even more special.” – from dr. james thompson.

Are flu shots effective? Your genetics determine how the immune system responds

Environment, more than genetics, shapes immune system“Everyone’s immune system is slightly different—a unique mixture of hundreds of these cells and proteins. But the main driver of this variation is unclear. Although scientists know that our immune system can adapt to our environment—that’s why vaccines work, for instance—it is also built by our genes…. After recruiting 210 identical and fraternal twins between 8 and 82 years old, Davis and colleagues took blood samples and measured more than 200 parameters of their immune systems. For example, they measured the numbers of 95 kinds of immune cells and 51 kinds of proteins. Today, the researchers report online in Cell that identical twins’ immune systems were too different for the variation to boil down to genetics. Indeed, environment overshadowed inheritance in three-quarters of the measurements, and half showed no measurable genetic influence. Moreover, younger twins were more similar than were older twins, evidence that as the twins aged and were exposed to different environments, their immune systems diverged over time.”

Levels of Selection Are Artefacts of Different Fitness Temporal Measures“I show by comparing the fitness of individuals with that of collectives of individuals in the same environment and over the same period of time – as required to decide if one or more levels of selection is acting in a population – that the selection of collectives is a by-product of selection at the individual level; thus, talking about two or more levels of selection represents merely a different perspective on one and the same process.”

Does incidental disgust amplify moral judgment? A meta-analytic review of experimental evidence [pdf] – “We meta-analyzed all available studies, published and unpublished, that experimentally manipulated incidental disgust prior to or concurrent with a moral judgment task (k=50). We found that there is evidence for a small amplification effect of disgust (d=.11), which is strongest for gustatory/olfactory modes of disgust induction. However, there is also some suggestion of publication bias in this literature, and when this is accounted for, the effect disappears entirely (d=-.01). Moreover, prevalent confounds mean that the effect size that we estimate is best interpreted as an upper bound on the size of the amplification effect. The results of this meta-analysis argue against strong claims about the causal role of affect in moral judgment and suggest a need for new, more rigorous research on this topic.” – h/t stuart ritchie!

The DNA photofit: Amazing breakthrough means police can tell suspect’s colour, height and even age – from a tiny speck of blood – daily mail.

The Coming Stability? The Decline of Warfare in Africa and Implications for International Security“The years 2010–2013 saw an increase of 35 per cent in African battle deaths over 2005–2010, but they still are 87 per cent lower than the 1990–1999 average…. Consequently, there is no Africa exception to the systemic shift towards lower levels of armed conflict.” – h/t mugwump!

The Scariest Explanation for America’s Vast Prison Population: We Want It That Way“[I]n federal prisons at least, Hispanics have overtaken blacks in the dubious distinction of being the most disproportionately imprisoned. Nor can we blame the war on drugs. The idea that vast numbers of Americans are in prison for smoking pot or snorting blow turns out to be a fantasy. About 20 percent of inmates are in for drug-related crimes, but those crimes are rarely limited to their own casual use. According to a 2004 estimate, only about 12,000 people were incarcerated for simple possession, without intent to traffic or distribute.”

Sorry, liberals, Scandinavian countries aren’t utopias“Finland, which tops the charts in many surveys (they’re the least corrupt people on Earth, its per-capita income is the highest in Western Europe and Helsinki often tops polls of the best cities), is also a leader in categories like alcoholism, murder (highest rate in Western Europe), suicide and antidepressant usage….” – [huh. even with all that tango dancing!] – “It turns out that the ‘warrior gene’ — actually the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, which is linked to impulsive behavior, violence and alcoholism — is especially prevalent in Finland. ‘Dark’ doesn’t just describe winter in the Arctic suburbs, it applies to the Finnish character.” – h/t ninja economics!

The relationship between anti-gay prejudice and the categorization of sexual orientation“[I]ndividuals reporting higher levels of anti-gay bias appear to be less accurate judges of sexual orientation.” but “Italians reporting greater anti-gay bias miscategorized fewer gay faces as straight.” – h/t ben southwood!

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couples and Family Formation“It has long been debated how legalizing same-sex marriage would affect (different-sex) family formation. In this article, I use data on OECD member countries for the period 1980–2009 to examine the effects of the legal recognition of same-sex couples (through marriage or an alternative institution) on different-sex marriage, divorce, and extramarital births. Estimates from difference-in-difference models indicate that the introduction of same-sex marriage or of alternative institutions has no negative effects on family formation…. In addition, the country-by-country case studies provide evidence of homogeneity of the estimated effects.”

Pair-Bonding, Romantic Love, and Evolution – The Curious Case of Homo sapiens“We conclude there is interdisciplinary support for the claim that romantic love and pair-bonding, along with alloparenting, played critical roles in the evolution of Homo sapiens.”

Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans – among the makushi people of guyana.

Antiquity of dairy farming in Ireland revealed“Research published today in the Journal of Environmental Archaeology shows that dairying on the island goes back approximately 6,000 years, revealed through traces of ancient dairy fats found in pots dating to around 4,000 to 2,500 BC.” – h/t frau katze!

The origin and evolution of maize in the American Southwest

A Breeder Apart: Farmers Say Goodbye to the Bull Who Sired 500,000 Offspring“Fans Commemorate ‘Toystory,’ a Dairy Legend With a Ravenous Libido” – the genghis khan of bulls! h/t mr. robert ford!

Items lost in the Stone Age are found in melting glaciers“Mittens, shoes, weapons, walking sticks – lost in the high mountains of Norway thousands of years ago – are now emerging from melting ice.”

bonus: ‘I can haz genomes’: cats claw their way into genetics“Canine dominance bows to tabby chic as cat sequencing takes off.”

bonus bonus: Some Microbes Can Eat And Breathe Electricity – whoa.

bonus bonus bonus: Britain’s oldest person Ethel Lang dies aged 114“Ethel Lang was believed to be the last person living in the UK who was born in the reign of Queen Victoria.” – h/t ed west!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Two New Studies Posit At Least Two New Planets Out Beyond Pluto

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Whaleworld: Looking for cetacean culture – h/t steve stewart williams! who tweeted: “Millions of years before human culture appeared, there was culture in the ocean.” – cool!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Medieval Apps.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Archaeologists find 132-year-old Winchester rifle leaning against Nevada desert tree

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Irn Bru release 57 Scottish tartan labels and clan finder website promotion (~_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: “At some German crossings you can play a game of Pong with the person standing at the other side.” (^_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: If birds in a truck fly, does the truck get lighter? – hey…don’t bogart that joint, new scientist!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Publish a Novel About Sherlock Holmes’s Brother Mycroft – danced a few dances with kareem! (^_^) (not a euphemism. for anything!)

(note: comments do not require an email. i can haz genomz?)

Genetic Variation in the Nuclear and Organellar Genomes Modulates Stochastic Variation in the Metabolome, Growth, and Defense“Systems biology is largely based on the principal that the link between genotype and phenotype is deterministic, and, if we know enough, can be predicted with high accuracy. In contrast, recent work studying transcription within single celled organisms has shown that the genotype to phenotype link is stochastic, i.e. a single genotype actually makes a range of phenotypes even in a single environment. Further, natural variation within genes can lead to each allele displaying a different phenotypic distribution. To test if multi-cellular organisms also display natural genetic variation in the stochastic link between genotype and phenotype, we measured the metabolome, growth and defense metabolism within an Arabidopsis RIL population and mapped quantitative trait loci. We show that genetic variation in the nuclear and organeller genomes influence the stochastic variation in all measured traits. Further, each trait class has distinct genetics underlying the stochastic variance, showing that there are different mechanisms controlling the stochastic genotype to phenotype link for each trait.” – h/t kevin mitchell! who tweeted: Some genomes are ‘noisier’ than others – robustness of developmental outcome is itself a genetic trait.

Evolutionary pattern in the OXT-OXTR system in primates: Coevolution and positive selection footprints“It was previously believed that placental mammals present no variability in oxytocin (OXT). The present study reports novel data on the diversity of OXT and its receptor (OXTR) in primate species, including New World monkeys. Contrary to prior expectations, we found three novel OXT forms and several OXTR nonsynonymous changes not previously described. In the Cebidae family, signals of positive selection were found for an OXT variant at position 8, which is associated with larger litter sizes. We detected positive selection for OXTR forms and report a coevolutionary process between changes in OXT and OXTR.”

Effects of the demographic transition on the genetic variances and covariances of human life history traits“The recent demographic transitions to lower mortality and fertility rates in most human societies have led to changes and even quick reversals in phenotypic selection pressures. This can only result in evolutionary change if the affected traits are heritable, but changes in environmental conditions may also lead to subsequent changes in the genetic variance and covariance (the G matrix) of traits. It currently remains unclear if there have been concomitant changes in the G matrix of life history traits following the demographic transition. Using 300 years of genealogical data from Finland, we found that four key life history traits were heritable both before and after the demographic transition. The estimated heritabilities allow a quantifiable genetic response to selection during both time periods, thus facilitating continued evolutionary change. Further, the G matrices remained largely stable but revealed a trend for an increased additive genetic variance and thus evolutionary potential of the population after the transition.” – h/t ruben c. arslan!

Mapping granny: ancestry inference for admixed individuals“In the December issue of G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, Yang et al. describe a method for ancestry inference of admixed individuals that uses a geographic approach to explicitly model some of the messy realities of populations. Testing the new method on data from the Population Reference Sample project, the authors were able to localize the grandparents of admixed Europeans to within around 500 kilometres of their reported ancestry, while simultaneously identifying which segments of each person’s genome were inherited from each ancestor.”

Different neurodevelopmental symptoms have a common genetic etiology“Parents of all Swedish 9- and 12-year-old twin pairs born between 1992 and 2002 were targeted for interview regarding problems typical of autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and other neurodevelopmental conditions (response rate: 80 percent). Structural equation modeling was conducted on 6,595 pairs to examine the genetic and environmental structure of 53 neurodevelopmental problems. One general genetic factor accounted for a large proportion of the phenotypic covariation among the 53 symptoms. Three specific genetic subfactors identified ‘impulsivity,’ ‘learning problems,’ and ‘tics and autism,’ respectively.” – h/t jayman! who tweeted: More evidence for the p-factor. Common genetic factor underlies many mental disorders in study of all Swedish twins.”

Measuring missing heritability: Inferring the contribution of common variants“[T]he most reasonable hypothesis concerning ‘missing heritability’ is simply that larger sample size is required to find the many remaining alleles of small effect. Fisher’s infinitesimal model will turn out to be a good first approximation for most human traits.” – from steve hsu.

Self evident but unexplored – how genetic effects vary over time – from jason collins.

Mendelian and polygenic inheritance of intelligence: A common set of causal genes? Using next-generation sequencing to examine the effects of 168 intellectual disability genes on normal-range intelligence“Despite twin and family studies having demonstrated a substantial heritability of individual differences in intelligence, no genetic variants have been robustly associated with normal-range intelligence to date. This is largely ascribed to the high polygenicity of intelligence, i.e., to its being subject to the effects of a large number of genes of individually small effect. Intellectual disability, on the other hand, frequently involves large effects of single genetic mutations, many of which have been identified…. Using an existing pool of known intellectual disability genes, we constructed a set of 168 candidate genes for normal-range intelligence, and tested their association with intelligence in 191 individuals (aged 5–18) sampled from the high and low ends of the IQ distribution. In particular, we 1) employed exon sequencing to examine the possible effects of rare genetic variants in the 168 genes, and 2) used polygenic prediction to examine the overall effect of common genetic variants in the candidate gene set in a larger sample (N = 2125, mean age 20.4, SD = 14.1). No significant association between the candidate gene set and intelligence was detected.”

IQ and Birth Order Effects: Real? No – from jayman.

Educated parents more important than rich parents“Having a mobile phone, a video recorder and a game computer are associated with lower scholastic ability, and the only substantial positive correlation is with the number of books, and of course the cause may not be the books themselves, but the intellect and character of the families who choose to buy books.” – from dr. james thompson.

The inconsistency of studies of gender differences in cognitive abilities: due to using different methods? – from emil kirkegaard.

Familial Mediterranean fever – from greg cochran.

The etiologic role of genetic and environmental factors in criminal behavior as determined from full- and half-sibling pairs: an evaluation of the validity of the twin method“Heritability estimates for CB from full- and half-siblings closely approximated those found from twins in the same population, validating the twin method.” – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “N=1,005,471 study of Swedish siblings and half-siblings (reared together & apart) estimates criminal behaviour is 33-56% heritable.”

Genetic polymorphisms predict national differences in life history strategy and time orientation“Polymorphisms in three genes have been linked to aspects of life-history strategy. National frequencies of these polymorphisms form a strong single genetic factor. The genetic factor is strongly associated with national differences in life-history strategy. This association remains after controlling for national socioeconomic differences.”

Genetic clue points to most vulnerable children“Some children are more sensitive to their environments, for better and for worse. Now Duke University researchers have identified a gene variant that may serve as a marker for these children….” – h/t carlos esteban!

French lesson“Modern France is founded on Western principles of equality, human betterment, and universal morality. Anyone anywhere can become French. That view, the official one, seems more and more disconnected from reality.” – from peter frost.

Is Nothing Sacred? – thosewhocansee on the charlie hebdo killings.

Twin study suggests genetic factors contribute to insomnia in children, teens

Monkeys seem to recognize their reflections“Trained macaques studied themselves in mirrors, fuelling debate over animals’ capacity for self-recognition.”

Insights into hominin phenotypic and dietary evolution from ancient DNA sequence data“Nuclear genome sequence data from Neandertals, Denisovans, and archaic anatomically modern humans can be used to complement our understanding of hominin evolutionary biology and ecology through i) direct inference of archaic hominin phenotypes, ii) indirect inference of those phenotypes by identifying the effects of previously-introgressed alleles still present among modern humans, or iii) determining the evolutionary timing of relevant hominin-specific genetic changes. Here we review and reanalyze published Neandertal and Denisovan genome sequence data to illustrate an example of the third approach.”

A New Antibiotic That Resists Resistance

There is A Scientific Reason That Cold Weather Could Cause Colds“The rhinovirus that most commonly causes colds likes chillier temperatures, where the host’s immune system doesn’t fare so well…. [W]e now know that covering your nose might actually help it stay cold-free, in more than one way.” – yes! fiiiiinally!

Remains of long-dead viruses in our genomes aid our immune response

Skip Your Annual Physical“Regardless of which screenings and tests were administered, studies of annual health exams dating from 1963 to 1999 show that the annual physicals did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease…. [S]creening healthy people who have no complaints is a pretty ineffective way to improve people’s health. If you screen thousands of people, maybe you’ll find tens whose exams suggest they might have a disease. And then upon further tests, you’ll find it is really only a few individuals who truly have something. And of those individuals, maybe one or two actually gain a health benefit from an early diagnosis. The others may have discovered a disease, but one that either would never have become clinically evident and dangerous, or one that is already too advanced to treat effectively. For instance, early detection of most thyroid cancers leads to surgery, but in many cases those cancers would not have caused serious problems, much less death. Conversely, for individuals whose annual exams lead to the diagnosis of esophageal or pancreatic cancer, the early diagnosis might extend the time they know they have cancer but is unlikely to extend their lives.” – h/t jason collins!

Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions“Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to ‘bad luck,’ that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells.”

Germs May Play Key Role in Wound-Induced Skin Cancer

Race and Police Killings: Additional Thoughts – from robert verbruggen who tweeted: “Three data sets now show that racial disparities in police shootings can be explained by violent crime rates.”

In Search of an Association Between Conception Risk and Prejudice [pdf] – h/t lars penke! who tweeted: “4 large studies (1 pre-reg) by @BrianNosek et al. fail to replicate menstrual cycle effects on racial biases.”

The Strange Inevitability of Evolution“Good solutions to biology’s problems are astonishingly plentiful…. [T]wo crucial things about the RNA sequence space. First, there are many, many possible sequences that will all serve the same function. If evolution is ‘searching’ for that function by natural selection, it has an awful lot of viable solutions to choose from. Second, the space, while unthinkably vast and multi-dimensional, is navigable: You can change the genotype neutrally, without losing the all-important phenotype. So this is why the RNAs are evolvable at all: not because evolution has the time to sift through the impossibly large number of variations to find the ones that work, but because there are so many that do work, and they’re connected to one another.” – h/t billare!

Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Claims about Telomeres in the Scientific and Pseudoscientific Literature – h/t richard harper!

Mathematicians refute oft-cited ‘diversity trumps ability’ study“‘Diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it,’ Page told The New York Times in 2008. ‘The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly,’ Page said. ‘What the model showed was that diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups of the best individuals at solving problems.’ But Thompson’s paper in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society systematically dismantles Page’s sophistic mathematics.”

Easter Island’s Demise May Have Surprising New Explanation“The downfall of Easter Island may have had more to do with preexisting environmental conditions than degradation by humans….”

13,000 Year Old Cosmic Impact Actually Just a Stone Age House Fire

bonus: Deep bacteria may evolve even without passing genes on“Bacteria living hundreds of metres below the seafloor carry more genetic changes than their peers nearer the surface – even though the deep microbes are unlikely to reproduce and undergo natural selection in its traditional sense…. The results show – for the first time, Briggs thinks – that the bacterial genomes change with depth: the micro-organisms at 554 metres carry more mutations in genes that code for energy-related processes like cell division and biosynthesis of amino acids than are seen in their shallower counterparts…. [I]f you take evolution in its broader sense to mean genetic changes across the population, then it might be occurring even without cell division, says Briggs. That’s because in theory, bacteria in these environments grow so slowly that they may survive for hundreds of thousands of years. Individual bacteria might have begun life at the seafloor before being gradually buried, over a period of thousands of years, as more sediment accumulated at the bottom of the sea. If so, perhaps the bacteria now at 554 metres were rare cells in the initial population that have now come to dominate because the other cells, which didn’t carry their genetic mutations, have all died.”

bonus bonus: Insights into the evolution of longevity from the bowhead whale genome“The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is estimated to live over 200 years and is possibly the longest-living mammal. These animals should possess protective molecular adaptations relevant to age-related diseases, particularly cancer. Here, we report the sequencing and comparative analysis of the bowhead whale genome and two transcriptomes from different populations. Our analysis identifies genes under positive selection and bowhead-specific mutations in genes linked to cancer and aging. In addition, we identify gene gain and loss involving genes associated with DNA repair, cell-cycle regulation, cancer, and aging. Our results expand our understanding of the evolution of mammalian longevity and suggest possible players involved in adaptive genetic changes conferring cancer resistance. We also found potentially relevant changes in genes related to additional processes, including thermoregulation, sensory perception, dietary adaptations, and immune response.”

bonus bonus bonus: A Museum’s Butterfly Emerged Half Male, Half Female“The rarity is like a natural experiment that tells scientists how genes and hormones interact to produce different sexes.”

(note: comments do not require an email. bowhead whale!)

Zigzags on a Shell From Java Are the Oldest Human Engravings“The early human Homo erectus also made the oldest known shell tools half a million years ago.” — see also: The art of Homo erectus“What we can say is that these artifacts carry information about the capabilities of their makers. The few non-perishable marked objects also speak to the likely presence of design in perishable elements of material culture. Clothing, however rudimentary, was likely to have been decorated in some way. Wooden tools were also probably notched and zigzagged — as the occasional bone and ivory implements suggest. They lived for the first time in a world that they could change.” – from john hawks.

Genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa revealed[T]he researchers also found that there were more genetic similarities across Africa than they had thought. Dr Sandhu said: ‘The diversity among populations is not as diverse as we expected it to be….’ The researchers found that many Africans have some Eurasian DNA within their genetic ancestry, which suggests that Eurasians migrated back into Africa many thousands of years after they first left. And several of the populations were descended from the Bantu, a group that spread across Africa about 5,000 years ago.” — see also: The African Genome Variation Project shapes medical genetics in Africa.

and here is dienekes on the above study: African Genome Variation project paper“In too many papers to count, decreasing genetic diversity from East Africa was taken as evidence of an origin of H. sapiens in that locality and its expansion from there to Eurasia. This ‘East Africa=cradle of mankind’ theory has, as far as I can tell, nothing really to stand on. Granted, the oldest anatomically modern human remains have been found in East Africa 200-150 thousand years ago. But, the fact that old sapiens have been found in East Africa and not elsewhere is easily explained by the excellent conditions for preservation (as opposed, e.g., deserts or rainforests of Africa or elsewhere), and by the extraordinary effort by palaeoanthropologists in that area. One also needs to overlook a century of physical anthropology that concluded that East Africa was a contact zone between Caucasoids and Sub-Saharan Africans. We now know that there is no deep lineage of humans in modern east Africans. Take out the Eurasian ancestry and only a paltry Fst=0.027 remains with other Sub-Saharan Africans, a fraction of the Fst between, say, Europeans and East Asians.”

Living African group discovered to be the most populous humans over the last 150,000 years“New genetic research reveals that a small group of hunter-gatherers now living in Southern Africa once was so large that it comprised the majority of living humans during most of the past 150,000 years. Only during the last 22,000 years have the other African ethnicities, including the ones giving rise to Europeans and Asians, become vastly most numerous…. ‘This and previous studies show that the Khoisan peoples and the rest of modern humanity shared their most recent common ancestor approximately 150,000 years ago, so it was entirely unexpected to find that this group apparently did not intermarry with non-Khoisan neighbors for many thousand years….'” — see also The Least Bottlenecked Humans of All from razib.

Ants, altruism and self sacrifice“It’s the selfishness of genes that makes us unselfish…. ‘Group selection’ has always been portrayed as a more politically correct idea, implying that there is an evolutionary tendency to general altruism in people. Gene selection has generally seemed to be more of a right-wing idea, in which individuals are at the mercy of the harsh calculus of the genes. Actually, this folk understanding is about as misleading as it can be. Society is not built on one-sided altruism but on mutually beneficial co-operation. Nearly all the kind things people do in the world are done in the name of enlightened self-interest. Think of the people who sold you coffee, drove your train, even wrote your newspaper today. They were paid to do so but they did things for you (and you for them). Likewise, gene selection clearly drives the evolution of a co-operative instinct in the human breast, and not just towards close kin.” – from matt ridley. — see also: E.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth from jason collins. h/t billare!

Genetic Variation in Human DNA Replication Timing“Replication timing, a driver of locus-specific mutation rates, varies among humans…. Replication timing associates with common polymorphisms near replication origins….” – whoa.

Genetic and environmental exposures constrain epigenetic drift over the human life course – h/t casey brown! who tweeted: “Worth repeating: DNA methylation is more genetic than epigenetic.”

IQ is in the genes“How parents raise us has no impact on how smart we become, a new study finds.”

Link discovered between fathers’ criminal history and sons’ intelligence“Sons whose fathers have criminal records tend to have lower cognitive abilities than sons whose fathers have no criminal history, data from over 1 million Swedish men show. The research, conducted by scientists in Sweden and Finland, indicates that the link is not directly caused by fathers’ behavior but is instead explained by genetic factors that are shared by father and son.”

Are bright people normal?“‘We found no support for the genetic Discontinuity Hypothesis that nonadditive genetic variance is greater for high intelligence….'” – from dr. james thompson.

Booze culture may date back 10 million years say scientists“A new study suggests that primates may have begun drinking alchol 10 million years ago, as fermented fruit on the forest floor…. Experts at Santa Fe College in the US studied the gene ADH4 which produces an enzyme to break down alcohol in the body. It was hypothesised that the enzyme would not appear until the first alcohol was produced by early farmers. But scientists were amazed to find it 10 million years earlier, at the end of the Miocene epoch.” – (them’s *my* ancestors right there! (~_^) )

Psychiatry: End of the Road for “Endophenotypes”?“In a nutshell, the researchers ran seven different genetic studies to try to find the genetic basis of a total of seventeen neurobehavioural traits, also known as ‘endophenotypes’…. Essentially an endophenotype is some trait, which could be almost anything, which is supposed to be related to (or part of) a psychiatric disorder or symptom, but which is ‘closer to genetics’ or ‘more biologica’ than the disorder itself. Rather than thousands of genes all mixed together to determine the risk of a psychiatric disorder, each endophenotype might be controlled by only a handful of genes – which would thus be easier to find…. Over 89% of the searches came up null in this way; for eight of the seventeen traits, the researchers found no associated genes using *any* strategy.” – from neuroskeptic.

Unequal fates for maths superstars“The fates of US child prodigies of the 1970s reveal great accomplishments but strong gender differences…. [B]oth genders reported unusually high levels of satisfaction with their lives and careers. ‘It seems that both sexes got what they wanted from life, even if those things were somewhat different….'” – h/t charles! – see also: Sometimes men and women want different things from ben southwood.

Are Chinese babies more docile? – peter frost on the freedman studies.

Inferior Faunas – from greg cochran.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 released this week.

Domestication and Human Evolution Symposium @getCARTA sessions now available to watch online.

Does evolution need a revolution? – from jerry coyne.

Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds – birds have culture.

A Magisterial Synthesis Of Apes And Human Evolution“[Russell H.] Tuttle’s tome is a grand synthesis of all the latest research and data about apes and their relation to us…. He believes that bipedalism preceded the development of the brain in early humans –and was likely something inherited from smaller apes already used to using their feet to move laterally along branches in trees. Although chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest relatives on the evolutionary tree, they do not represent in their own locomotion good proto-models of what led to human upright posture and walking.”

‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat“A growing chorus of researchers say the evidence is now overwhelming that a significant share of the bacteria present in India — in its water, sewage, animals, soil and even its mothers — are immune to nearly all antibiotics.” – h/t razib!

The RNA World: molecular cooperation at the origins of life“The RNA World concept posits that there was a period of time in primitive Earth’s history — about 4 billion years ago — when the primary living substance was RNA or something chemically similar. In the past 50 years, this idea has gone from speculation to a prevailing idea. In this Review, we summarize the key logic behind the RNA World and describe some of the most important recent advances that have been made to support and expand this logic. We also discuss the ways in which molecular cooperation involving RNAs would facilitate the emergence and early evolution of life.”

Tool to edit DNA revolutionizing research in Boston area – CRISPR.

Thomas Docherty on academic freedom“Managerial fundamentalism has taken hold in universities, with scholars viewed as resources that must be controlled…. A creeping incremental assault on academic freedom threatens not just what can be spoken aloud, but also what it is permissible to think: thought itself is to be subjected to management, so that its critical power is neutered or constrained….”

The Dark Enlightenment for Newbies“So what is dark about the Dark Enlightenment? Absolutely nothing. The Dark Enlightenment only looks dark in contrast to the blinding (as in, it blinds you) optimism of flash in the pan of blank slate equalism. The things that the DE contend about human nature — that parents naturally favor their children, that sexual attraction is a biological phenomenon, that some people are naturally smarter than others — were all accepted as common sense for most or all of human history. It is the unrealistic utopianism of modern liberalism which is ridiculously absurd. The Dark Enlightenment might be better termed The Return to Normalcy. So the phrase “Dark Enlightenment” might not be the best, but it has received enough attention that I don’t think we should abandon it.” – very nice post from empedocles.

Tanzania evicting 40,000 people from homeland to make room for Dubai royal family“It will become a private hunting reserve” – =/ (i’m linking to salon!) – h/t john durant!

bonus: Why Some Mosquitoes Spread Malaria and Others Don’t“Sequencing the genomes of numerous Anopheles mosquito species from locations around the world has shown why some can carry and spread the deadly disease malaria while others don’t.” – h/t srikant mantri!

bonus bonus: Humpback Whales in the Arabian Sea Have Been Isolated for 70,000 Years

bonus bonus bonus: A diet to die for“One bird feasts on food that would leave most other animals stone dead.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Insect Swarms Go Critical“Scientists have found tantalizing evidence that diverse biological systems, including the human brain, gene expression networks, bird flocks, and fish schools, behave as though they are near the ‘critical point’ of a phase transition, like correlated spins in a magnet on the verge of ordering.” – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Weird Physics Can Make an Invisible Cat Visible“These cat pictures are brought to you by quantum entanglement as discussed by Einstein and Schrödinger.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Now Completely Online

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Tette per la Scienza – boobies! (it really IS this time! (~_^) )

(note: comments do not require an email. quantum cats!)

look! another linkfest! (^_^)

Our Cats, Ourselves“Which brings us to the genome of one critical tame animal: ourselves, humans. The Nobel Prize-winning zoologist Konrad Z. Lorenz once suggested that humans were subject to the same dynamics of domestication. Our brain and body sizes peaked during the end of the last ice age, and declined with the spread of agriculture…. Our cultural flexibility and creativity since the end of the ice age have not freed humans from evolutionary forces, but have opened up novel and startling paths. Thinking of domestication as an evolutionary process that occurs through ‘artificial’ selection creates a false dichotomy of nurture and nature that plays into a conceit of human exceptionalism. In fact, the idea that we are apart from nature, that it is ours to tame and exploit, is an outmoded approach. A more useful interpretation is that over the past 10,000 years, humans fashioned their own ecosystem. We were part of a natural process that altered the landscape…. The same forces that reshaped the genomes of our domesticates also reshaped ours.” – from razib. in the new york times! (^_^)

Ancient Easter Islanders Interbred With Native Americans“According to the recent study conducted by geneticists, the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island met and interbred with Native Americans long before Westerners arrived…. The recent genetic study is published on Thursday in the Current Biology journal. According to the study, these ancient people had significant contact with Native Americans hundreds of years ago, before the westerners reached the Island in 1722…. The finding of the study suggests that the intermixing occurred 19 to 23 generations ago. The researchers said that the Polynesian people (Rapa Nui’s) are not believed to have started mixing with Europeans until much later, the 19th century. Malaspinas said the genetic ancestry of today’s Rapa Nui people is roughly 75% Polynesian, 15% European and 10% Native American.”

Barley fuelled farmers’ spread onto Tibetan plateau“Cold-tolerant crop enabled high-altitude agriculture some 3,600 years ago”

Faster than Fisher“[M]igration and conquest, must explain the wide distribution of many geographically widespread selective sweeps and partial sweeps. They were adaptive, all right, but expanded much faster than possible from purely local diffusion.” – from greg cochran.

The Germ of Laziness – also from greg cochran.

Putting IBD to Bed – from razib.

The Red Queen Model of Recombination Hotspots Evolution in the Light of Archaic and Modern Human Genomes – h/t mwpennell! who tweeted: “Recombination hotspots in humans appear to be young…evidence for Red Queen theory for evolution of recombination?”

Inclusive fitness and sexual conflict: How population structure can modulate the battle of the sexes – h/t rebecca sear!

Do Chinese people get bored less easily?“Advanced farming — intensive land use, task specialization, monoculture — has profoundly shaped East Asian societies, particularly China. This is particularly so for rice farming. Because the paddies need standing water, rice farmers must work collectively to build, dredge, and drain elaborate irrigation networks. Wheat farming, by comparison, requires no irrigation and only half as much work. Advanced farming seems to have favored a special package of predispositions and inclinations, including greater acceptance of monotony. This has been shown in two recent studies.” – from peter frost.

Culture and state boredom: A comparison between European Canadians and Chinese“European Canadians (vs. Chinese) are more likely to experience state boredom.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Gender differences in preferences, choices, and outcomes: SMPY longitudinal study“The figures show significant gender differences in life and career preferences, which affect choices and outcomes *even after ability is controlled for*…. According to the results, SMPY men are more concerned with money, prestige, success, creating or inventing something with impact, etc. SMPY women prefer time and work flexibility, want to give back to the community, and are less comfortable advocating unpopular ideas. Some of these asymmetries are at the 0.5 SD level or greater.” – from steve hsu.

Are liberals and conservatives differently wired? – also from peter frost.

Detecting ‘polygenes’ using signals of polygenic selection. Tools for increasing the power of GWAS – from davide piffer who tweeted: “Watson and Venter’s genomes have higher frequency of intelligence polygenenes.”

Intelligence lost at 1.23 IQ points per decade“Michael Woodley of Menie spends much of his time tending his ancestral estate, pacing the linen-fold panelled rooms of the ancient house, warming his hands at the towering stone fireplace and meditating on the collapse of the aristocracy, the paucity of contemporary innovation and the lamentable and persistent downward drift of the national intellect. Now he sends me a barefoot runner with his latest manuscript, which I have read as the autumn mists creep across the Nadder valley, before penning this reply for the poor urchin to carry back to his master. Young Woodley avers that, not only are we going to hell in a handcart, but we are doing so at a pace which he can predict with some accuracy (1.23 IQ points per decade), composed as it is of two dysgenic effects: the dull have been reproducing with greater fecundity than the bright (.39), and increasing paternal age has increased the rate of deleterious mutations (.84).” – from dr. james thompson.

Gypsy intelligence – also from dr. james thompson.

Lower Body Symmetry and Running Performance in Elite Jamaican Track and Field Athletes – h/t keith laws! who tweeted: “More symmetrical knees & ankles in Elite Jamaican track and field athletes…Of course…”

Great Ape Origins of Personality Maturation and Sex Differences: A Study of Orangutans and Chimpanzees

The Case Against Early Cancer Detection“[C]ancer screening may harm more people than it helps.” – h/t jason collins!

In the U.S., Few Heavy Drinkers Are Actually Alcoholics“About 90 percent of people who drink excessively — more than eight drinks a week for women, 15 for men — are not alcohol dependent.” – h/t ray sawhill!

Genes tell new story: Alcohol in moderation only benefits 15% of population“An alcoholic beverage a day, especially wine, is widely believed to help keep heart disease risk low, but new research from the University of Gothenburg shows that only about 15% of the human population — those with a specific the form of the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) gene — actually gain this benefit from moderate alcohol consumption.”

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis“What a growing body of research reveals about the biology of human happiness — and how to navigate the (temporary) slump in middle age.”

Despite its problems, the United States of America is still the best. Thing. Ever.“Other aspects of America’s story, though, seem less important now that the quest for racial equality has become almost a religious mission; this week I finally got around to watching the HBO series John Adams, which begins with the Massachusetts lawyer defending Captain Thomas Preston, the officer blamed for the Boston massacre. The mob wanted to avenge the deaths but, this being a colony where people passionately believed in their ancestral English liberties, ‘due process’ was followed – a term that dates back to the Parliament of Edward III but was obviously influenced by Clause 39 of the Magna Carta. Due process is what was followed in the Ferguson case, but maybe that’s just a boring old racist Anglo-Saxon idea that we can forget about now (grand juries are literally Anglo-Saxon, dating back to the reign of Ethelred II, or possibly the vibrant culturally-enriching Viking maniac King Canute).” – from ed west.

Children are not science projects“What do we tell to prospective adoptive parents? The first answer, and the only answer that ultimately counts, is that they are doing the Lord’s work. They have the opportunity to provide love and nurturing to a child who needs it. There are few better things that human beings can do with their time. The second answer is that they, like biological parents, are not miracle-workers. They will be unable to mold the child. Sometimes their adopted child will experience problems that are not the adoptive parents’ fault; sometimes they will reveal gifts of talent and character that are equally not to the adoptive parents’ credit. What is to the credit of good parents, adoptive and biological alike, is enfolding the child in love.” – from charles murray…who’s really just a big softie after all. (^_^) — see also: Adopt a child, but discard an illusion from dr. james thompson.

In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists – which came (or *should’ve* come) as a surprise to absolutely no one….

When exactly did the Industrial Revolution start?

Europe’s Bronze Age Collapse Not Caused by Climate Change

How Thanksgiving, the ‘Yankee Abolitionist Holiday,’ Won Over the South

Your Inner Feather“About 300 million years ago, our ancestors began to lay hard-shelled eggs. Those early animals would give rise to mammals, reptiles, and birds (collectively known as amniotes, named for the amniotic egg). Edwards and his colleagues found that the first amniotes already had the *entire* complement of feather patterning genes. That means you, as an amniote, have them too.” – cool!

Viruses as a Cure

Stop eating cats and dogs say animal rights campaigners in Switzerland“Cat appears on traditional Christmas menus in some areas of Switzerland.” – wait. what?!

bonus: Snakes are ‘righties’ — with their penis, that is

bonus bonus: Snakes Leave Identity Within Their Fang Marks“Getting a DNA swab from the fang marks of a snake bite can accurately identify the type of snake, a team working in Nepal has found.”

bonus bonus bonus: Monterey Bay researchers capture rare deep-sea anglerfish on video for first time – whoa!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Ants Regularly Pack Up and Dig New Nests, and Nobody Knows Why

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Red Baron’s WWI German Fokker triplane rebuilt by flying enthusiast – oooo! pretty. (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. a face only a mother could love. maybe.)

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