Episodes of Palaeolithic cannibalism have frequently been defined as ‘nutritional’ in nature, but with little empirical evidence to assess their dietary significance. This paper presents a nutritional template that offers a proxy calorie value for the human body. When applied to the Palaeolithic record, the template provides a framework for assessing the dietary value of prehistoric cannibalistic episodes compared to the faunal record. Results show that humans have a comparable nutritional value to those faunal species that match our typical body weight, but significantly lower than a range of fauna often found in association with anthropogenically modified hominin remains. This could suggest that the motivations behind hominin anthropophagy may not have been purely nutritionally motivated. It is proposed here that the comparatively low nutritional value of hominin cannibalism episodes support more socially or culturally driven narratives in the interpretation of Palaeolithic cannibalism.
Systematic infanticide of unrelated young has been reported in several animal taxa. Particular attention has been given to carnivores and primates, where infanticide is a sexually selected strategy of males to gain increased access to female mating partners. Cannibals must ensure avoiding their own offspring and targeting only unrelated young. Therefore, decision rules are needed to mediate parental and cannibalistic behaviour. Here we show experimentally that male poison frogs adjust their parental responses - care or infanticide - towards unrelated clutches according to their territorial status. Male frogs followed the simple rule ‘care for any clutch’ inside their territory, but immediately switched to cannibalism when establishing a new territory. This demonstrates that simple cognitive rules can mediate complex behaviours such as parental care, and that care and cannibalism are antagonistically linked. Non-parental infanticide is mediated by territorial cues and presumably serves to prevent misdirected care in this poison frog. Our results thus prompt a re-consideration of evolutionary and causal aspects of parental decision making, by suggesting that selective infanticide of unrelated young may generally become adaptive when the risks and costs of misdirected care are high.
Despite significant efforts to reform undergraduate science education, students often perform worse on assessments of perceptions of science after introductory courses, demonstrating a need for new educational interventions to reverse this trend. To address this need, we created An Inexplicable Disease, an engaging, active-learning case study that is unusual because it aims to simulate scientific inquiry by allowing students to iteratively investigate the Kuru epidemic of 1957 in a choose-your-own-experiment format in large lectures. The case emphasizes the importance of specialization and communication in science and is broadly applicable to courses of any size and sub-discipline of the life sciences.
Numerous studies have attempted to identify the presence of uniquely derived (autoapomorphic) Neandertal features. Here, we deal with the medial pterygoid tubercle (MTP), which is usually present on the internal face of the ascending ramus of Neandertal specimens. Our study stems from the identification of a hypertrophied tubercle in ATD6-96, an Early Pleistocene mandible recovered from the TD6 level of the Atapuerca-Gran Dolina site and attributed to Homo antecessor. Our review of the literature and study of numerous original fossil specimens and high quality replicas confirm that the MTP occurs at a high frequency in Neandertals (ca. 89%) and is also present in over half (ca. 55%) of the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos (SH) hominins. In contrast, it is generally absent or minimally developed in other extinct hominins, but can be found in variable frequencies (