Why do humans have so little hair, at least compared to all other primates? At Smithsonian, Jason Daley shares the latest genetic research on the biological factors that result in humans' minimal body hair and its unusual distribution. Daley also surveys the fascinating current theories about why we evolved into the only naked apes. From Smithsonian:
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One popular idea that has gone in and out of favor since it was proposed is called the aquatic ape theory. The hypothesis suggests that human ancestors lived on the savannahs of Africa, gathering and hunting prey. But during the dry season, they would move to oases and lakesides and wade into shallow waters to collect aquatic tubers, shellfish or other food sources. The hypothesis suggests that, since hair is not a very good insulator in water, our species traded in most of our fur for a layer of fat. The hypothesis even suggests we might have developed bipedalism to become more effective waders. But this idea, which has been around for decades, hasn’t received much support from the fossil record and isn’t taken seriously by most researchers.
A more widely accepted theory is that, when human ancestors moved from the cool shady forests into the savannah, they needed better thermoregulation. Losing all that fur made it possible for hominins to hunt during the day in the hot grasslands without overheating. An increase in sweat glands, many more than other primates, also kept early humans on the cool side. The development of fire and clothing meant that humans could keep cool during the day and cozy up at night.
Jake Gardiner was walking in the woods in the foothills of La Crescenta, a suburb of Los Angeles, when he heard rustling in the trees. He recorded video on his mobile phone and later noticed what many are saying looks like an ape-like creature swinging around the branches.
“It could be some kind of ape, it also could be a bear, it could be a large bird,” says Andrew Hughan, a spokesman with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
He added that it could be someone's pet but it's difficult to say based on the blurry video and lack of physical evidence.
“It’s an interesting mystery right at the moment, and we'll see what happens," he says.
(Los Angeles Times)
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A lovely orangutan kissed this 37-week pregnant woman's belly through the glass at England's Colchester Zoo. The woman's partner Jay Clarke writes Read the rest
I saw the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes over the weekend and was amazed by its greatness. I applauded at the end with the rest of the audience. The acting, by both the humans and the “apes,” was superb. The revolutionary special effects – using “performance capture” cgi technology in ways never used before, created the most realistic digitalized characters I’ve ever seen. And the engaging and moving storyline with its themes on war, trust and humanity tied it all together into a perfect package. I love the rare science fiction film that surpasses expectations on every level, and this one hits every mark with incredible precision. So it was with great interest that I opened up Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, a book that looks behind the scenes and explains the incredible ingenuity and talent that went behind the two latest movies in the Planet of the Apes franchise. With tons of photos that show how the effects were created along with a fascinating narrative that tells the journey of creating these films, this is a behind-the-scenes book that any Planet of the Apes or special effects fan will thoroughly enjoy.
See high-res sample pages from the book at Wink.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films
by Sharon Gosling, Matt Hurwitz, and Adam Newell Read the rest
My dad calls the first few months of a baby's life "the necessary larval stage". I've heard other people refer to it as "the fourth trimester". Basically, newborn human babies are pretty useless, as far as baby animals go. This is especially true in comparison to baby apes, who come out of the womb at a much higher level of development. Scientific American has an excerpt from an upcoming book by Chip Walter that talks about this fact and its connection to two key moments in human evolution — the development of bigger brains (and thus, bigger heads) and walking upright (which has the side effect of creating a narrower birth canal). Read the rest