Small variety of humans found in Micronesia

I found this on Anthropology net. Bones from 1500 – 3000 years ago were found in caves on the Rock Islands of Palau in Micronesia. That’s only about 1600 km north of Flores, where H. floresiensis was found. According to the site,

The Palau fossils are of small people, similar in size to the Flores hominins. Preliminary analysis of more than a dozen individuals, including a male weighing about 43 kg and a female weighing about 29 kg, document that these were tiny.

… these individuals were simply small H. sapiens adapted for life on a small island.

Below: H. sapiens, skull from Palau, H. floresiensis

normal, Palau, Flores - image from National Geographic

The lead author, Lee R. Berger, was kayaking around the island when he found two caves littered with bones. The article is here: “3000 Year Old Small Body Humans in Palau, Micronesia.”

The height of the skull and other bone proportions show that these were modern humans; however, they share some features, such as relatively large teeth, with H. floresiensis. Those features might be simply the result of size reduction.

I can do no better than to echo the author:

…the paper is published in PLoS One, which is an open access journal. That means you can download the original report and read it for yourself for free. I really recommend you do, this seems like one of the more significant paleoanthropological finds for 2008. Here’s the citation:

Berger, L.R., Churchill, S.E., De Klerk, B., Quinn, R.L., Hawks, J. (2008). Small-Bodied Humans from Palau, Micronesia. PLoS ONE, 3(3), e1780. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001780

National Geographic will be airing a show about the bones next Monday.

Japan cancels human rights

A blog of note, Vegetable Japan, is declaring a Day of Mourning for the death of human rights in Japan. Foreign residents in and visitors to Japan are being fingerprinted, harassed, intimidated, and made to feel unwelcome.

With the institution of the fingerprinting, photographing and questioning of non-Japanese visitors entering Japan, and even of residents and permanent residents every time they come back from a visit abroad, I declare that the last vestige of human rights here is dead.

In “Terrorism or Tyranny?” she continues the story. The government’s excuse is that fingerprinting will catch dangerous criminals. But Japanese residents do not have to give their fingerprints. She points out that all the acts of terrorism committed in Japan so far have been committed by Japanese citizens. I guess no True Japanese would be a dangerous criminal. She adds,

It’s lazy police work. The police won’t actually have to do anything when there’s a crime committed, except scan through their computer database and try to find someone to arrest. Whether that person may have been somewhere perfectly innocently or not probably won’t be considered, because once they have the “evidence” they will go into typical mode here, arrest the suspect and then question them for up to 23 days with no recourse to a lawyer, using tactics of sleep deprivation and psychological intimidation until they confess.

Finally, she asks us to read and sign an online petition:

If you want to send the Japanese government a message that it is not all right to fingerprint only non-Japanese arriving and living in Japan, please sign the online petition against it.

Here’s the link: Abolition of fingerprinting for non-Japanese.

Of course, human rights died in the U.S. some time earlier, when they threw out the law of habeas corpus (ya gotta have evidence to make a case) and began torturing political prisoners.

Pakistan suspended from Commonwealth

Pervez Musharraf has refused to lift the state of emergency in Pakistan, which allows him to arrest members of the Opposition and tear-gas “activist” lawyers and judges. As he has failed to restore democracy, Pakistan has been suspended from the Commonewealth.

Homo floresiensis physiognomy

TV Ontario is showing a special about Homo floresiensis. Her physiognomy is not that of a modern human. The professional reconstruction first restored missing chips of bone and teeth inserted into the root-grooves. The resulting skull is clearly not modern: it has prominent eyebrow ridges and lacks a chin. The most similar skulls and brain casts are those of Homo erectus. And since Flores has been an island for a million years, if Homo got there, they travelled over the sea, if only by rafts.

A demonstration project has shown that plain, keel-less rafts and paddles can get humans to islands such as Komodo.

Rare giant squid washes up in Australia

I missed this a week ago: One of the largest specimens of Architeuthis ever recorded has been found on a beach in Tasmania.

Wallace’s Line

Alfred Russell Wallace noticed this line of demarcation between biogeographical regions. It separates Asian from Australasian fauna and flora.

According to Wikipedia, “At times when sea levels were lower, what are now islands were exposed and joined as continuous land masses, but the deep water between these two large shelf areas was — for a period in excess of 50 million years — a barrier that kept the flora and fauna of Australia largely separate from that of Asia.” I have also read that it represents land-masses on different tectonic plates. In either case, it shows the results of evolution occurring separately in the two regions for millions of years.

You’ll note that the island of Flores, ancestral home of Homo floresiensis, in in Australasia.

Green dinosaur: Hydatellaceae

Hydatellaceae, an obscure family of dwarf, aquatic flowering plants. is a survivor from before the evolutionary split between dicot and monocot plants. (A monocot has one leaf in the seed, like grass, and a dicot has two, like a bean.)

Previously, the Hydatellaceae were thought to be in the Poales (the order of flowering plants including grasses, sedges, bromeliads, etc.). Instead, they are early angiosperm plant family that belongs near the very root of the evolutionary tree of flowering plants. (The flowering plants began to diversify at least 135 million years ago, in the age of the dinosaurs.)

Through DNA analysis and morphological investigations, the researchers found evidence that the Hydatellaceae are more closely related to the Nymphaeaceae, or water lilies.

The research team was led by scientists at the UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research. The researchers, led by UBC Associate Professor Sean Graham and his graduate students Jeffery M. Saarela (now at the Canadian Museum of Nature) and Hardeep Rai.

The discovery was announced in the March 15, 2007 issue of Nature. As noted in the abstract to the article, this discovery rewrites our understanding of angiosperm structural and reproductive biology, physiology, ecology and taxonomy”.

Sea dragons

The waters around Tasmania and southern Australia are home to the leafy sea dragon and weedy sea dragon, two camouflaged species of seahorse. Individual leafy sea dragons can be disgtinguished by their facial patterns. Divers are asked to report, and to photograph if possible, their encounters with sea dragons and send them to the Dragonsearch web site.

Humans are the greatest threat to these fish: effluent and pollution kills the sea grass on which the depend. Hundreds of hectares of sea grass have been killed.

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Jeffords and

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