Daily Archives: December 11, 2012

Is Childhood The Most Important Human Adaptation?

Human infants require more care than they should, if we form our expectations based on closely related species (apes, and more generally, Old World simian primates). It has been said that humans are born three months early. This is not accurate. It was thought that our body size predicted a 12, instead of 9 month gestation, and some suggested that Neanderthals would have had such, but this research conclusion has been set aside based on new analysis. But it is still true that developmentally, human children do not reach a stage of development that allows some degree of self care for a very long time compared to apes. The actual sequence of development is not directly comparable: It is not the case that after a certain amount of time humans reach a specific stage reached earlier in the lifecycle by Chimpanzees, as the differences are more complicated than that. For the present purposes, we can characterize the human condition for early development like this: Human babies are more helpless in more ways and for longer than comparable ape babies.
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The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide to Birding Books

This is a summary of several of the better books I’ve had the opportunity to review here, organized in general categories. This is written from a North American perspective since most of my readers are North American (though many of you live to the west of the “Eastern Region” … but you probably know that). So, when not specified, a book with a regional focus is likely to be for that area, and the “Outside the US” section is labeled thusly.

Everybody needs a basic field guide. If you need more than one field guide because you are a family of birders, or because you like to keep one in the car and one by the feeder, than make your second (and third?) guides different from your first, because there will be plenty of times you will want to look something up in more than one place. A field guide is a good starting point, but the “How to be a birder” section includes books that you will be very glad you read once you read them, and if you are going to pick one “how to” book for yourself or as a gift, make it the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding. If you know a young person getting interested in birding, the National Geographic Birding Essentials is essential, and if they are in the Eastern US, the Young Birder’s Guide is perfect.

I’ve not covered bird song here, other than the one, rather spectacular iBook.

Field and Identification Guides

How to be a birder

Categorial Guides

Regional Bird Guides Outside the US

Academic or Topically General Books About Birds

Bird Song (and more)

  • Music of the Birds Volume 1 is an experimental book, in iAuthored iBook format, focusing on a handful of selected species in Eastern North America.

Children’s Books

Also, don’t forget to read ALL of my posts at 10,000 birds! There’s some other good posts there too.

Masters of the Planet

Yesterday I wrote about Chris Stringer’s modified version of human evolution. Today, let’s have a look at Ian Tattersall’s new book, Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (Macsci). Tatersall’s boo, like Sringer’s, is a good overview of the newer evidence in the constantly changing field, but he goes back earlier and provides a much broader context for human evolution. His main thesis is that the features that made modern humans unique have two main characteristics: 1) they were sufficient and causal in the process of making that one species “master of the planet” and 2) the transition to fully modern form, with respect to those features, is relatively late. Tattersall argues for a late and rather sudden development of symbolic abilities and language (I disagree with this) and seems to agree with Klein in something like a “single gene” theory describing this transition as sudden and dramatic. So, I basically disagree with his thesis, but if you want a good source to find out about the “symbolic explosion” version of modern humans, this is accessible and the documentation is pretty thorough.