SciCombinator

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

Concept: Kenya

326

Homo naledi is a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. This species is characterized by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations but a small endocranial volume similar to australopiths. Cranial morphology of H. naledi is unique, but most similar to early Homo species including Homo erectus, Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis. While primitive, the dentition is generally small and simple in occlusal morphology. H. naledi has humanlike manipulatory adaptations of the hand and wrist. It also exhibits a humanlike foot and lower limb. These humanlike aspects are contrasted in the postcrania with a more primitive or australopith-like trunk, shoulder, pelvis and proximal femur. Representing at least 15 individuals with most skeletal elements repeated multiple times, this is the largest assemblage of a single species of hominins yet discovered in Africa.

Concepts: Species, Kenya, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Africa, Human evolution, Homo ergaster, Human

170

Abstract. The Schistosomiasis Consortium for Operational Research and Evaluation (SCORE) includes communitywide treatment in areas with ≥ 25% prevalence of schistosomiasis along the shores of Lake Victoria using community health workers (CHWs). The CHWs are key drivers in community-owned mass drug administration (MDA) intervention programs. We explored their experiences and perceptions after initial MDA participation. Unstructured open-ended group discussions were conducted after completion of MDA activities. Narratives were obtained from CHWs using a digital audio recorder during the group discussion, transcribed verbatim and translated into English where applicable. Thematic decomposition of data was done using ATLAS.t.i. software. From the perspective of the CHWs, factors influencing MDA compliance included drug side effects, food supply stability, and conspiracy theories about the “real” purpose of treatment. The interest of CHWs to serve as community drug distributors stemmed from both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Feedback from CHWs can promote more effective MDA in rural Kenyan communities.

Concepts: Lake Victoria, Health care, Motivation, Perspective, Community, Conspiracy theory, Kenya, Digital audio

61

The nature of inter-group relations among prehistoric hunter-gatherers remains disputed, with arguments in favour and against the existence of warfare before the development of sedentary societies. Here we report on a case of inter-group violence towards a group of hunter-gatherers from Nataruk, west of Lake Turkana, which during the late Pleistocene/early Holocene period extended about 30 km beyond its present-day shore. Ten of the twelve articulated skeletons found at Nataruk show evidence of having died violently at the edge of a lagoon, into which some of the bodies fell. The remains from Nataruk are unique, preserved by the particular conditions of the lagoon with no evidence of deliberate burial. They offer a rare glimpse into the life and death of past foraging people, and evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

Concepts: Lake Turkana, Violence against women, Domestic violence, Kenya, War, Life, Holocene, Violence

42

Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), caused predominantly by Leishmania donovani and transmitted by both Phlebotomus orientalis and Phlebotomus martini, is highly endemic in East Africa where approximately 30 thousands VL cases are reported annually. The largest numbers of cases are found in Sudan - where Phlebotomus orientalis proliferate in Acacia forests especially on Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia, followed by South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Long-standing civil war and unrest is a dominant determinant of VL in East African countries. Here we attempt to identify the correlation between VL epidemics and civil unrest.

Concepts: Africa, African Union, Sudan, Kenya, East Africa

42

Since its discovery in 1972 (ref. 1), the cranium KNM-ER 1470 has been at the centre of the debate over the number of species of early Homo present in the early Pleistocene epoch of eastern Africa. KNM-ER 1470 stands out among other specimens attributed to early Homo because of its larger size, and its flat and subnasally orthognathic face with anteriorly placed maxillary zygomatic roots. This singular morphology and the incomplete preservation of the fossil have led to different views as to whether KNM-ER 1470 can be accommodated within a single species of early Homo that is highly variable because of sexual, geographical and temporal factors, or whether it provides evidence of species diversity marked by differences in cranial size and facial or masticatory adaptation. Here we report on three newly discovered fossils, aged between 1.78 and 1.95 million years (Myr) old, that clarify the anatomy and taxonomic status of KNM-ER 1470. KNM-ER 62000, a well-preserved face of a late juvenile hominin, closely resembles KNM-ER 1470 but is notably smaller. It preserves previously unknown morphology, including moderately sized, mesiodistally long postcanine teeth. The nearly complete mandible KNM-ER 60000 and mandibular fragment KNM-ER 62003 have a dental arcade that is short anteroposteriorly and flat across the front, with small incisors; these features are consistent with the arcade morphology of KNM-ER 1470 and KNM-ER 62000. The new fossils confirm the presence of two contemporary species of early Homo, in addition to Homo erectus, in the early Pleistocene of eastern Africa.

Concepts: Pleistocene, Homo erectus, Neanderthal, Evolution, Africa, Kenya, Human evolution, Human

38

The Acheulean technological tradition, characterized by a large (>10 cm) flake-based component, represents a significant technological advance over the Oldowan. Although stone tool assemblages attributed to the Acheulean have been reported from as early as circa 1.6-1.75 Ma, the characteristics of these earliest occurrences and comparisons with later assemblages have not been reported in detail. Here, we provide a newly established chronometric calibration for the Acheulean assemblages of the Konso Formation, southern Ethiopia, which span the time period ∼1.75 to <1.0 Ma. The earliest Konso Acheulean is chronologically indistinguishable from the assemblage recently published as the world's earliest with an age of ∼1.75 Ma at Kokiselei, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya. This Konso assemblage is characterized by a combination of large picks and crude bifaces/unifaces made predominantly on large flake blanks. An increase in the number of flake scars was observed within the Konso Formation handaxe assemblages through time, but this was less so with picks. The Konso evidence suggests that both picks and handaxes were essential components of the Acheulean from its initial stages and that the two probably differed in function. The temporal refinement seen, especially in the handaxe forms at Konso, implies enhanced function through time, perhaps in processing carcasses with long and stable cutting edges. The documentation of the earliest Acheulean at ∼1.75 Ma in both northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia suggests that behavioral novelties were being established in a regional scale at that time, paralleling the emergence of Homo erectus-like hominid morphology.

Concepts: Periodization, Time, Turkana people, Ethiopia, Chronology, Lake Turkana, Homo erectus, Kenya

34

Road accidents kill 1.3 million people each year, most in the developing world. We test the efficacy of evocative messages, delivered on stickers placed inside Kenyan matatus, or minibuses, in reducing road accidents. We randomize the intervention, which nudges passengers to complain to their drivers directly, across 12,000 vehicles and find that on average it reduces insurance claims rates of matatus by between one-quarter and one-third and is associated with 140 fewer road accidents per year than predicted. Messages promoting collective action are especially effective, and evocative images are an important motivator. Average maximum speeds and average moving speeds are 1-2 km/h lower in vehicles assigned to treatment. We cannot reject the null hypothesis of no placebo effect. We were unable to discern any impact of a complementary radio campaign on insurance claims. Finally, the sticker intervention is inexpensive: we estimate the cost-effectiveness of the most impactful stickers to be between $10 and $45 per disability-adjusted life-year saved.

Concepts: Kenya, Placebo, Statistical power, Clinical trial, Efficacy, Effectiveness, Hypothesis, Null hypothesis

32

The history of southern Africa involved interactions between indigenous hunter-gatherers and a range of populations that moved into the region. Here we use genome-wide genetic data to show that there are at least two admixture events in the history of Khoisan populations (southern African hunter-gatherers and pastoralists who speak non-Bantu languages with click consonants). One involved populations related to Niger-Congo-speaking African populations, and the other introduced ancestry most closely related to west Eurasian (European or Middle Eastern) populations. We date this latter admixture event to ∼900-1,800 y ago and show that it had the largest demographic impact in Khoisan populations that speak Khoe-Kwadi languages. A similar signal of west Eurasian ancestry is present throughout eastern Africa. In particular, we also find evidence for two admixture events in the history of Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ethiopian populations, the earlier of which involved populations related to west Eurasians and which we date to ∼2,700-3,300 y ago. We reconstruct the allele frequencies of the putative west Eurasian population in eastern Africa and show that this population is a good proxy for the west Eurasian ancestry in southern Africa. The most parsimonious explanation for these findings is that west Eurasian ancestry entered southern Africa indirectly through eastern Africa.

Concepts: World War II, Southern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Lion, Kenya, Madagascar, East Africa, Africa

30

The gradient of air temperature with elevation (the temperature lapse rate) in the tropics is predicted to become less steep during the coming century as surface temperature rises, enhancing the threat of warming in high-mountain environments. However, the sensitivity of the lapse rate to climate change is uncertain because of poor constraints on high-elevation temperature during past climate states. We present a 25,000-year temperature reconstruction from Mount Kenya, East Africa, which demonstrates that cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum was amplified with elevation and hence that the lapse rate was significantly steeper than today. Comparison of our data with paleoclimate simulations indicates that state-of-the-art models underestimate this lapse-rate change. Consequently, future high-elevation tropical warming may be even greater than predicted.

Concepts: Temperature, Nairobi, Tropics, Differential calculus, Future, Kenya, Gradient, History of climate

29

With land privatization and fencing of thousands of hectares of communal grazing areas, East Africa is struggling with one of the most radical cultural and environmental changes in its history. The 668,500-hectare Greater Mara is of crucial importance for the great migrations of large mammals and for Maasai pastoralist culture. However, the magnitude and pace of these fencing processes in this area are almost completely unknown. We provide new evidence that fencing is appropriating land in this area at an unprecedented and accelerating speed and scale. By means of a mapped series of multispectral satellite imagery (1985-2016), we found that in the conservancies with the most fences, areal cover of fenced areas has increased with >20% since 2010. This has resulted in a situation where fencing is rapidly increasing across the Greater Mara, threatening to lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem in the near future. Our results suggest that fencing is currently instantiating itself as a new permanent self-reinforcing process and is about to reach a critical point after which it is likely to amplify at an even quicker pace, incompatible with the region’s role in the great wildebeest migration, wildlife generally, as well as traditional Maasai pastoralism.

Concepts: Great Migrations, Pasture, Tanzania, Wildebeest, Kenya, Masai Mara, Human migration, Area