Berry Go Round #3

Welcome to Berry Go Round #3, the blog carnival deicated to all things botanical.The previous installment, Berry Go Round #2, is located here, at Further Thoughts. If you would like to submit an item to the next Berry Go Round, you may use this handy submission form. The Berry Go Round Home Page is here. (more…)

Why the Hobbits of Flores Were Probably Not Broken People

There is a new paper out suggesting that the Flores hominids, known as Hobbits, were “human endemic cretins.”From the abstract of this paper:

… We hypothesize that these individuals are myxoedematous endemic (ME) cretins, part of an inland population of (mostly unaffected) Homo sapiens. ME cretins are born without a functioning thyroid; their congenital hypothyroidism leads to severe dwarfism and reduced brain size, but less severe mental retardation and motor disability than neurological endemic cretins. We show that the fossils display many signs of congenital hypothyroidism, including enlarged pituitary fossa, and that distinctive primitive features of LB1 such as the double rooted lower premolar and the primitive wrist morphology are consistent with the hypothesis. We find that the null hypothesis (that LB1 is not a cretin) is rejected by the pituitary fossa size of LB1, and by multivariate analyses of cranial measures. We show that critical environmental factors were potentially present on Flores, how remains of cretins but not of unaffected individuals could be preserved in caves, and that extant oral traditions may provide a record of cretinism.

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The Origin of the Chicken

i-66885db037f0fdfa03ea6dcc53abc6b2-red_junglefowl.jpgFrom whence the humble chicken? Gallus gallus is a domesticated chicken-like bird (thus, the name “chicken”) that originates in southeast Asia. Ever since Darwin we’ve known that the chicken originated in southeast Asia, although the exact details of which one or more of several possible jungle fowls is the primal form has been debated. The idea that more than one wild species contributed to the early chicken has been on the table for a long time, though perhaps not as long as the chickens themselves have been on the table. (more…)

The Great Potato Origins Debate May be Settled

ResearchBlogging.orgSolanum tuberosum, is an American cultivar related to the tomato and the eggplant (Remarkably, they are all in the same genus, but rarely to all three appear in the same dish). Potatoes, the lovely underground storage organ (USO) without which we would not have French Fries, or dipping chips to eat during the Super Bowl, twice baked potatoes, or Mr. Potato Head and his family, were domesticated by Native Americans in two local centers, one in the high Andes in eastern Venezuela and northern Argentina, and in the lowlands of south-central Chile. During the last half of the 16th century, they spread worldwide, as did many other food crops.The origin of the “European” version of the potato has been the subject of intense debate. Did the European potato come from the Andes or from Chile? Over the last several decades, the former has been the more accepted theory. The fact that all modern potato varieties show Chilean origins has been explained by the hypothesis that the Andean varieties were all wiped out by the great potato blights of the 19th century. (more…)