African Tools Push Back the Origin of Human Technological Innovation

By about 320,000 years ago, humans in Kenya began using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools. Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Scientists have discovered sophisticated tools in Kenya that are much older than expected.    By Dr. Patrick Randolph-Quinney (left) and Dr. Anthony Sinclair (right) / 03.15.2018 Randolph-Quinney: Reader/Associate Professor in Biological and Forensic Anthropology, University of Central Lancashire Sinclair: Professor of Archaeological[…]

Combining Linguistics, Archaeology, and Ancient DNA Genetics to Understand Deep Human History

TonelloPhotography/Shutterstock.com Each discipline tells us only part of the story. And so the truest picture of prehistory comes from triangulating these independent lines of evidence.    By Dr. Michael Dunn (left) and Dr. Annemarie Verkerk (right) / 03.29.2018 Dunn: Professor in Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University Verkerk: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for the[…]

Studying Chimpanzee Calls for Clues about the Origins of Human Language

Nisarg Desai observes wild chimps known as Sandi, Ferdinand and Siri in Tanzania. Michael Wilson, CC BY-ND Do chimpanzee talk to each other? Scientists follow and record chimpanzees in the wild to find out – and to fill in details about how human language might have evolved. By Dr. Michael Wilson / 05.08.2018 Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota Freud, Wilkie and the[…]

Our Ancient Obsession with Food: Human as Evolutionary Master Chefs

A reconstruction of Homo erectus making fire, Zhoukoudian Museum, China. Darren Curnoe, Author provided Few of us pause to reflect on the hugely important role diet plays in the ecology and evolutionary history of all species. By Dr. Darren Curnoe / 06.05.2015 Associate Professor Biological Anthropology and Archaeological Science UNSW Australia Amateur cook-offs like the hugely popular MasterChef series now in its[…]

Imprinting and Attachment in Biology

A Mallard Duck hen calls vigorously as she leads her ducklings who have already formed an attachment to her. / Photo by Crystal Marie Lopez (2010), Flickr, Creative Commons By Dr. Patrick Bateson Former Professor of Ethology, University of Cambridge Former President of the Zoological Society of London Introduction[1] Imprinting provides a striking example of[…]

The Reason We Like the Tidy Feelings of Home is Evolutionary

James Vaughan/Flickr By Dr. John S. Allen / 04.25.2016 Neuroanthropologist and Research Scientist University of Southern California Is your house tidier than it used to be? If it is, then you have probably read Marie Kondo’s international bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2011). Kondo’s book is ostensibly a manual for home improvement. She suggests[…]

Darwin’s Polar Bear

“Polar Bear”, artist unknown, ca. 1870s — Library of Congress Musings upon the whys and wherefores of polar bears, particularly in relation to their forest-dwelling cousins, played an important but often overlooked role in the development of evolutionary theory. By Michael Engelhard / 02.21.2018 Anthropologist As any good high school student should know, the beaks of[…]

New Type of Virus Found in the Ocean

Electron microscope images of marine bacteria infected with the non-tailed viruses studied in this research. The bacterial cell walls are seen as long double lines, and the viruses are the small round objects with dark centers. / Courtesy of researchers The unusual characteristics of these abundant, bacteria-killing viruses could lead to evolutionary insights. By David L.[…]

Plague Bacteria Hiding in Soil and Water Microbes, Waiting to Emerge

Children at a school in Antananarivo, Madagascar, during a plague outbreak, Oct. 3, 2017. AP Photo/Alexander Joe By David Markman / 02.26.2018 PhD Candidate in Biology (Biosecurity and Infectious Disease) Colorado State University Plague is a highly contagious disease that has killed millions of people over the past 1,400 years. Outbreaks still sporadically occur in as[…]

How We Discovered that Neanderthals Could Make Art

Neanderthal art. P. Saura    By Dr. Chris Standish (left) and Dr. Alistair Pike (right) / 02.22.2018 Standish: Postdoctoral Fellow of Archaeology Pike: Professor of Archaeological Sciences University of Southampton What makes us human? A lot of people would argue it is the ability of our species to engage in complex behaviour such as using language,[…]

Fossil Jaw Bone from Israel is Oldest Modern Human Found Outside Africa

Fossilized teeth from a modern human who lived in Israel close to 200,000 years ago. Israel Hershkovitz, Tel Aviv University, Creative Commons By Dr. Rolf Quam / 01.25.2018 Associate Professor of Anthropology Binghamton University (SUNY) New fossil finds over the past few years have been forcing anthropologists to reexamine our evolutionary path to becoming human. Now[…]

The Naturalist and the Neurologist: On Charles Darwin and James Crichton-Browne

James Crichton-Browne, A woman with pursed lips, West Riding Lunatic Asylum, c. 1869 – Wellcome Library Stassa Edwards explores Charles Darwin’s photography collection, which includes almost forty portraits of mental patients given to him by the neurologist James Crichton-Browne. The study of these photographs, and the related correspondence between the two men, would prove instrumental in the[…]

Virtual Fossils Revolution the Study of Evolution

Courtesy Doug Boyer/Morphosource By Dr. Douglas Martin Boyer / 02.25.2016 Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology Duke University ‘Seeing is believing’, as the saying goes, and so empirical data are the lifeblood of science and the scientific method. Science progresses by winnowing out those hypotheses or theories that fail under increasingly large amounts of data; favoured hypotheses[…]

Neanderthals in 3D: L’Homme de La Chapelle

A neanderthal skull, left hand side of one of Boule’s stereographs included in his L’Homme de La Chapelle (1911) – Source: author’s scan. More than just a favourite of Victorian home entertainment, the stereoscope and the 3D images it created were also used in the field of science. Lydia Pyne explores how the French palaeontologist Marcellin Boule[…]

In Conversation with Jane Goodall

Henry Nicholls talks to Jane Goodall about her remarkable career studying chimpanzee behaviour, her animal welfare activism, and accusations of plagiarism in her latest book. By Henry Nicholls / 03.31.2014 In February 1935, the year of King George V’s silver jubilee, a chimpanzee at London Zoo called Boo-Boo gave birth to a baby daughter. A couple of months later, a little[…]

‘A Natural History of Human Thinking’: Time and Other Primates

Dr. Michael Tomasello    By Dr. Nicolas Langlitz (left), Stephanie Schiavenato (right), and Esther Rottenburg (no photo) / 12.20.2016 Langlitz: Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research Schiavenato: Doctoral Student in Anthropology, New York University Rottenburg: MA Candidate in Global Health, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands Tomasello, Michael. 2014. A Natural History of Human[…]

The AMNH ‘Man in Africa Hall’ at 50: Exploring African Ethnographic History

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in NY circa 2000. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.    By Dr. Enid Schildkrout (left) and Jacklyn Lacey (right) / 10.14.2017 Schildkrout: Curator Emerita of African Ethnology, Division of Anthropology Lacey: Museum Specialist II, African Ethnology, Pacific Ethnology American Museum of Natural History The “Man in Africa Hall”[…]

Biologist Dives Hundreds of Underwater Caves in Search of New Forms of Life

Author Tom Iliffe leads scientists on a cave dive. Jill Heinerth , CC BY-ND By Dr. Thomas M. Iliffe / 01.07.2018 Professor of Marine Biology Texas A&M University at Galveston Maybe when you picture a university professor doing research it involves test tubes and beakers, or perhaps poring over musty manuscripts in a dimly lit library, or maybe[…]

Charles Darwin’s American Adventure: A Melodrama in Three Acts

British scientist Charles Darwin. Darwin’s scientific discoveries concerning evolution had an immediate impact on the scientific community. But, their impact on society, politics, and debates about science and religion have had much longer term implications for American society. / Wikimedia Commons 2009 was celebrated around the world as ‘The Darwin Year.’ It marked the 200th[…]

As Emerging Diseases Spread from Wildlife to Humans, Can We Predict the Next Big Pandemic?

Photo courtesy of PREDICT/Mike Cranfield Two ambitious projects aim to understand when and how the next human disease will emerge from wildlife, and what we can do to minimize harm when it does. By Karl Gruber / 12.07.2017 PhD Candidate in Biological Sciences University of Western Australia Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO)[…]

On Being Human

Analyzing the genetics of ancient humans means changing ideas about our evolution. By Gaia Vince / 03.07.2017 The Rock of Gibraltar appears out of the plane window as an immense limestone monolith sharply rearing up from the base of Spain into the Mediterranean. One of the ancient Pillars of Hercules, it marked the end of[…]

The Biology and Psychology of Good and Bad Behavior

Tipping the balance of behavior: Social neurons and asocial neurons / Image by ZEISS Microscopy (Creative Commons) In Behave, Robert Sapolsky offers an inspired synthesis of how biology shapes human behavior—both the good and the bad. By Dr. C. Brandon Ogbunu / 12.01.2017 Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology University of Vermont The re-emergence of Neo-Nazi ideology; crowd-funded[…]

Hundreds of Pterosaur Eggs Help Reveal the Early Life of Flying Reptiles

Alexander Kellner (Museu Nacional/UFRJ) By Dr. Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone / 11.30.2017 Postgraduate Research Assistant in Palaeontology University of Bristol A hoard of fossilised pterosaur eggs discovered in China is helping scientists gain a rare insight into the extinct flying reptiles. Newly released research into over 200 eggs and 16 embryos from the pterosaur Hamipterus, including the first computed tomography[…]