11 September 2011

Evolution of the "Hero's Journey"

When I was a child, my father told me stories of his time spent working for a gold mining company in the Amazon jungle. He brought home tales of fishing for piranhas, evading giant venomous snakes, and nearly being eaten alive by a swarm of ants. Dad also traded with indigenous tribes. My curiosity was piqued by photos of those natives, so shockingly naked, and their beautifully crafted bows and arrows. Dad had one on display that he had acquired in exchange for a pair of jeans, which my brother and I used to play with until it almost broke (leading to a stern warning).

Dad's stories have stuck with me to this day and I've often reflected on the influence they’ve had on my life. Each story had a some sort of moral in it, although I didn't know it. They’ve guided me in all sorts of situations, be they social, financial or otherwise. Now, as if following wise ancient tradition, he tells these same stories to my children and nephews, his grandchildren.

06 September 2011

What chimpanzee predatory behavior can tell us about early human diets

Among primates, we humans are unique in how much meat we eat. On average we eat 10 times as much meat as chimpanzees, who eat the most meat among wild apes. And, unlike any other primate, humans specialize in eating big-game animals (larger than ourselves) like reindeer and mammoths. 

Because of how much meat humans eat, a few major questions are under discussion among biologists and anthropologists: What role did meat play in human evolution? How much meat did human ancestors really eat early on?

Cutmarks on bones, unfortunately, don't say much about whether meat was eaten once a day, once a week, or once a month. But could a few clues into early human diets be gleaned from the extensive field research into the predatory nature of wild chimps?