Friday, November 19, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol.16

Lots of folks are at the AAA conference this week down in New Orleans, so I hope we can expect some good write-ups in the coming weeks. In the meantime ...

I have stuff. You have stuff. There's stuff everywhere! The Story of Stuff is a video that takes viewers through the life-cycle of, well, the stuff that we come to own. It's a 20 minute video (which is why I didn't post it here), so maybe save it for lunch. There are also additional—and more recent videos—on the story of electronics, cosmetics, bottled water, and trade.

Brian Switek responds to "Why are there still monkeys?"
During part of the evolutionary history of our species, our ancestors were monkeys. (Just as our ancestors were cynodonts, tetrapodomorphs, gnathostomes, etc. etc. etc. at different points in time.) If we had a complete roll of all the animals which ever existed during prehistory and a few years to do the work, we could trace our direct line of ancestry through a succession of anthropoid primates nested within a tangled tree of diverse species, some related to modern monkeys and others not. We share a common ancestry with all living monkeys, but extant primate species are our evolutionary cousins and cannot be cast as representing our actual ancestors. It may be simple, but this idea of branching is essential to understanding how evolution works.
I'd like to turn this into a leaflet and hand it out.

Thoughtomics has an interesting post on how freshwater crabs have helped researchers understand India's geographic history. It's a really well-written piece showing how the fossil record can reveal clues about the landscape:
They found that the Indian and Southeast Asian crabs living today shared their last common ancestor before the main collision between Tibet and India 35 million years ago. Moreover, the biogeographical models reveal that the crabs spread from India to Southeast Asia. Since freshwater crabs rarely cross open seas, these results suggest that India and Southeast Asia were in contact at some point before the main collision. The crabs clearly favour the double collision hypothesis!
Finally, here's a short post from Ed Yong on the housecleaning tactics of spider mites, who live in close quarters. Here's a hint: it's like cleaning up lint. It's a quick read and an interesting look at the natural world. 

That's it for this week. I'll be traveling over the weekend and into next week, so I am taking a few days off. I'll be back with the next Anthro Reader, so send me stuff that I can use.


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