Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Indonesia


There is increasing recognition of the long-lasting effects of tsunamis on human populations. This is particularly notable along tectonically active coastlines with repeated inundations occurring over thousands of years. Given the often high death tolls reported from historical events though it is remarkable that so few human skeletal remains have been found in the numerous palaeotsunami deposits studied to date. The 1929 discovery of the Aitape Skull in northern Papua New Guinea and its inferred late Pleistocene age played an important role in discussions about the origins of humans in Australasia for over 25 years until it was more reliably radiocarbon dated to around 6000 years old. However, no similar attention has been given to reassessing the deposit in which it was found-a coastal mangrove swamp inundated by water from a shallow sea. With the benefit of knowledge gained from studies of the 1998 tsunami in the same area, we conclude that the skull was laid down in a tsunami deposit and as such may represent the oldest known tsunami victim in the world. These findings raise the question of whether other coastal archaeological sites with human skeletal remains would benefit from a re-assessment of their geological context.

Concepts: Human, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Tsunami, Pleistocene, New Guinea, Mangrove


New plantations can either cause deforestation by replacing natural forests or avoid this by using previously cleared areas. The extent of these two situations is contested in tropical biodiversity hotspots where objective data are limited. Here, we explore delays between deforestation and the establishment of industrial tree plantations on Borneo using satellite imagery. Between 1973 and 2015 an estimated 18.7 Mha of Borneo’s old-growth forest were cleared (14.4 Mha and 4.2 Mha in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo). Industrial plantations expanded by 9.1 Mha (7.8 Mha oil-palm; 1.3 Mha pulpwood). Approximately 7.0 Mha of the total plantation area in 2015 (9.2 Mha) were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5-4.8 Mha (24-26% of Borneo-wide deforestation) were planted within five years of forest clearance (3.7-3.9 Mha oil-palm; 0.8-0.9 Mha pulpwood). This rapid within-five-year conversion has been greater in Malaysia than in Indonesia (57-60% versus 15-16%). In Indonesia, a higher proportion of oil-palm plantations was developed on already cleared degraded lands (a legacy of recurrent forest fires). However, rapid conversion of Indonesian forests to industrial plantations has increased steeply since 2005. We conclude that plantation industries have been the principle driver of deforestation in Malaysian Borneo over the last four decades. In contrast, their role in deforestation in Indonesian Borneo was less marked, but has been growing recently. We note caveats in interpreting these results and highlight the need for greater accountability in plantation development.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Forestry, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Malay language


The red palm weevil (RPW) is a major pest of palms. It is native to southeast Asia and Melanesia, but in recent decades has vastly expanded its range as the result of multiple accidental anthropogenic introductions into the Middle East, Mediterranean Basin, Caribbean, and U.S.A. Currently regarded as a single species, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier), RPW displays remarkable color variation across its range, and consequently has a taxonomic history littered with new species descriptions and synonymization. We compared DNA sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene from RPW populations throughout the native and invaded ranges, to investigate the specific status and invasion history of this serious economic pest, and to identify possible common routes of entry. Analyses of COI haplotype data provide conclusive support, corroborated by sequences of additional nuclear gene regions, for the existence of at least two predominantly allopatric species. The true R. ferrugineus is native only to the northern and western parts of continental southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and is responsible for almost all invasive populations worldwide. In contrast, the second species, which is currently synonymized under R. ferrugineus and should be resurrected under the name R. vulneratus (Panzer), has a more southern distribution across Indonesia, and is responsible for only one invasive population; that in California, U.S.A. The distribution of COI haplotypes is used to discuss the possible existence of further cryptic species, sources and routes of entry of different invasive populations, and the implications of our findings for current control methods.

Concepts: DNA, Southeast Asia, Species, Middle East, Indonesia, Philippines, Asia, Curculionidae


We examine representations of time among the Mianmin of Papua New Guinea. We begin by describing the patterns of spatial and temporal reference in Mian. Mian uses a system of spatial terms that derive from the orientation and direction of the Hak and Sek rivers and the surrounding landscape. We then report results from a temporal arrangement task administered to a group of Mian speakers. The results reveal evidence for a variety of temporal representations. Some participants arranged time with respect to their bodies (left to right or toward the body). Others arranged time as laid out on the landscape, roughly along the east/west axis (either east to west or west to east). This absolute pattern is consistent both with the axis of the motion of the sun and the orientation of the two rivers, which provides the basis for spatial reference in the Mian language. The results also suggest an increase in left to right temporal representations with increasing years of formal education (and the reverse pattern for absolute spatial representations for time). These results extend previous work on spatial representations for time to a new geographical region, physical environment, and linguistic and cultural system.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Sun, Geography, Indonesia, Space, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Empire of Japan


This study was initiated to determine the psychometric properties of the Smart Phone Addiction Scale (SAS) by translating and validating this scale into the Malay language (SAS-M), which is the main language spoken in Malaysia. This study can distinguish smart phone and internet addiction among multi-ethnic Malaysian medical students. In addition, the reliability and validity of the SAS was also demonstrated.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Constitution of Malaysia, Malay language, Jawi script


Evidence shows that the government of Papua New Guinea is failing to provide basic services in health to the majority of its people. Local non-government organisations (NGOs), partnered with international NGOs, are attempting to fill this gap. With limited resources, these small Indigenous organisations must focus much of their effort on training that supports self-reliance as the main strategy for communities to improve their quality of life. This project explored the training content and methodology of Touching The Untouchables (TTU), a small Indigenous NGO based in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, that has trained a network of village volunteers in health promotion and safe motherhood.
Village life imposes multiple demands, from self-sufficiency in food to maintaining law and order. There are established attitudes about power and dependence, referred to as ‘cargo thinking’. Cargo thinking stands as a barrier to the necessity of self-reliance, and requires training strategies that seek to empower participants to create change from their own initiative. Empowerment is understood as oriented towards individual people taking collective action to improve their circumstances by rectifying disparities in social power and control. To achieve self-reliance, empowerment is necessarily operational on the levels of person, community and society.
In addition to being operational on all three levels of empowerment, the training content and methodology adopted and developed by TTU demonstrate that empowering practice in training employs approaches to knowledge that are evidence-based, reflexive, contextual and skill-based. Creating knowledge that is reflexive and exploring knowledge about the broader context uses special kinds of communicative tools that facilitate discussion on history, society and political economy. Furthermore, training methodologies that are oriented to empowerment create settings that require the use of all three types of communication required for cooperative action: dramaturgical, normative and teleological communication.
The success of TTU’s training content and methodology demonstrates that creating the conditions for achieving collective self-reliance through empowerment is a necessary part of primary health promotion in Papua New Guinea, and that underlying the success of empowerment oriented training are definable types of knowledge and communication.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Non-governmental organization, New Guinea, Papuan languages, Torres Strait, German New Guinea


The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caught millions of coastal residents and the scientific community off-guard. Subsequent research in the Indian Ocean basin has identified prehistoric tsunamis, but the timing and recurrence intervals of such events are uncertain. Here we present an extraordinary 7,400 year stratigraphic sequence of prehistoric tsunami deposits from a coastal cave in Aceh, Indonesia. This record demonstrates that at least 11 prehistoric tsunamis struck the Aceh coast between 7,400 and 2,900 years ago. The average time period between tsunamis is about 450 years with intervals ranging from a long, dormant period of over 2,000 years, to multiple tsunamis within the span of a century. Although there is evidence that the likelihood of another tsunamigenic earthquake in Aceh province is high, these variable recurrence intervals suggest that long dormant periods may follow Sunda megathrust ruptures as large as that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Concepts: Indonesia, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Somalia, Sumatra, Aceh


Although recent research revealed an impact of westernization on diversity and composition of the human gut microbiota, the exact consequences on metacommunity characteristics are insufficiently understood, and the underlying ecological mechanisms have not been elucidated. Here, we have compared the fecal microbiota of adults from two non-industrialized regions in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with that of United States (US) residents. Papua New Guineans harbor communities with greater bacterial diversity, lower inter-individual variation, vastly different abundance profiles, and bacterial lineages undetectable in US residents. A quantification of the ecological processes that govern community assembly identified bacterial dispersal as the dominant process that shapes the microbiome in PNG but not in the US. These findings suggest that the microbiome alterations detected in industrialized societies might arise from modern lifestyle factors limiting bacterial dispersal, which has implications for human health and the development of strategies aimed to redress the impact of westernization.

Concepts: Gut flora, Southeast Asia, Ecology, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Guinea


Positive news about Sumatran orangutans is rare. The species is critically endangered because of forest loss and poaching, and therefore, determining the impact of future land-use change on this species is important. To date, the total Sumatran orangutan population has been estimated at 6600 individuals. On the basis of new transect surveys, we estimate a population of 14,613 in 2015. This higher estimate is due to three factors. First, orangutans were found at higher elevations, elevations previously considered outside of their range and, consequently, not surveyed previously. Second, orangutans were found more widely distributed in logged forests. Third, orangutans were found in areas west of the Toba Lake that were not previously surveyed. This increase in numbers is therefore due to a more wide-ranging survey effort and is not indicative of an increase in the orangutan population in Sumatra. There are evidently more Sumatran orangutans remaining in the wild than we thought, but the species remains under serious threat. Current scenarios for future forest loss predict that as many as 4500 individuals could vanish by 2030. Despite the positive finding that the population is double the size previously estimated, our results indicate that future deforestation will continue to be the cause of rapid declines in orangutan numbers. Hence, we urge that all developmental planning involving forest loss be accompanied by appropriate environmental impact assessments conforming with the current national and provincial legislations, and, through these, implement specific measures to reduce or, better, avoid negative impacts on forests where orangutans occur.

Concepts: Indonesia, Endangered species, Orangutan, Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatra


The avifauna of Indonesia is one of the richest in the world but the taxonomic status of many species remains poorly documented. The sole species of scops owl known from Lombok has long been assigned to the widespread Moluccan Scops Owl Otus magicus on the basis of superficial similarities in morphology. Field work in 2003 has shown that the territorial song of the scops owls inhabiting the foothills of Gunung Rinjani differs dramatically from that of O. magicus and is more similar to those of Rufescent Scops Owl O. rufescens and Singapore Scops Owl O. cnephaeus. Detailed comparisons of sound recordings and museum specimens with those of other scops owls in Wallacea and the Indo-Malayan region have confirmed the distinctiveness of the Lombok population. We describe Otus jolandae as a new species, the Rinjani Scops Owl. It is locally common at elevations from 25-1350 m. and occurs within Gunung Rinjani National Park. The new species is known from seven specimens collected by Alfred Everett in 1896. Otus jolandae represents the first endemic bird species from Lombok.

Concepts: Bird, Indonesia, Owl, Owls, Lombok, Scops-owl, Palau Owl, Mount Rinjani