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

Concept: Papua New Guinea


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


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


Among Oceania’s population of 35 million people, the greatest number living in poverty currently live in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. These impoverished populations are at high risk for selected NTDs, including Necator americanus hookworm infection, strongyloidiasis, lymphatic filariasis (LF), balantidiasis, yaws, trachoma, leprosy, and scabies, in addition to outbreaks of dengue and other arboviral infections including Japanese encephalitis virus infection. PNG stands out for having the largest number of cases and highest prevalence for most of these NTDs. However, Australia’s Aboriginal population also suffers from a range of significant NTDs. Through the Pacific Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, enormous strides have been made in eliminating LF in Oceania through programs of mass drug administration (MDA), although LF remains widespread in PNG. There are opportunities to scale up MDA for PNG’s major NTDs, which could be accomplished through an integrated package that combines albendazole, ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and azithromycin, in a program of national control. Australia’s Aboriginal population may benefit from appropriately integrated MDA into primary health care systems. Several emerging viral NTDs remain important threats to the region.

Concepts: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Melanesia, Oceania, Neglected diseases, Hookworm, Tropical diseases


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


Averaged demographic data from previously unfished populations of Nautilus and Allonautilus (Cephalopoda) provide a baseline to determine if a population is undisturbed and in “equilibrium” or is in “disequilibrium” as a result of fishery pressure. Data are available for previously undisturbed local nautiloid populations in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Palau, American Samoa, New Caledonia and Vanuatu (total n = 2,669 live-caught, tagged and released animals). The data show that unfished populations average ~75% males and ~74% mature animals. By contrast, unpublished, anecdotal and historical records since 1900 from the heavily fished central Philippines have shown a persistent decline in trap yields and a change in demographics of N. pompilius. By 1979, a sample of fished live-caught animals (n = 353) comprised only ~28% males and ~27% mature animals. Continued uncontrolled trapping caused collapse of the fishery and the shell industry has moved elsewhere, including Indonesia. In addition, we show that estimated rates of population decline are offered by unpublished tag-release records in unfished Palau. These data show that patterns of trap yields and demographic differences between fished and unfished populations in relative age class and sex ratios can indicate disequilibria wrought by fisheries pressure that can render local populations inviable. Given adequate samples (n ≥100 live-caught animals), a threshold of <50% males and mature animals in fished populations should signal the need to initiate curative conservation initiatives. The current trajectory of uncontrolled nautiloid fisheries can only mean trouble and possibly extinction of local populations of this ancient, iconic molluscan lineage.

Concepts: Demography, Demographics, Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Demographic economics, Mollusca, New Guinea, Nautilus


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


The population history of Aboriginal Australians remains largely uncharacterized. Here we generate high-coverage genomes for 83 Aboriginal Australians (speakers of Pama-Nyungan languages) and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. We find that Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25-40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ~10-32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama-Nyungan languages. We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51-72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. Finally, we report evidence of selection in Aboriginal Australians potentially associated with living in the desert.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Continent, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Indigenous Australian languages, Constitution of Australia, Indigenous Australians


The global flux of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted by passive volcanic degassing is a key parameter that constrains the fluxes of other volcanic gases (including carbon dioxide, CO2) and toxic trace metals (e.g., mercury). It is also a required input for atmospheric chemistry and climate models, since it impacts the tropospheric burden of sulfate aerosol, a major climate-forcing species. Despite its significance, an inventory of passive volcanic degassing is very difficult to produce, due largely to the patchy spatial and temporal coverage of ground-based SO2 measurements. We report here the first volcanic SO2 emissions inventory derived from global, coincident satellite measurements, made by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite in 2005-2015. The OMI measurements permit estimation of SO2 emissions from over 90 volcanoes, including new constraints on fluxes from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Aleutian Islands, the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka. On average over the past decade, the volcanic SO2 sources consistently detected from space have discharged a total of ~63 kt/day SO2 during passive degassing, or ~23 ± 2 Tg/yr. We find that ~30% of the sources show significant decadal trends in SO2 emissions, with positive trends observed at multiple volcanoes in some regions including Vanuatu, southern Japan, Peru and Chile.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Sulfur, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Volcano, Sulfur dioxide, Pacific Ring of Fire


Large numbers of metallic starlings (Aplonis metallica) migrate annually from New Guinea to the rainforests of tropical Australia, where they nest communally in single emergent trees (up to 1,000 birds). These aggregations create dense and species-rich faunal “hot-spots”, attracting a diverse assemblage of local consumers that utilise this seasonal resource. The starlings nested primarily in poison-dart trees (Antiaris toxicaria) near the rainforest-woodland boundary. Surveys underneath these colonies revealed that bird-derived nutrients massively increased densities of soil invertebrates and mammals (primarily wild pigs) beneath trees, year-round. Flying invertebrates, nocturnal birds, reptiles, and amphibians congregated beneath the trees when starlings were nesting (the wet-season). Diurnal birds (primarily cockatoos and bush turkeys) aggregated beneath the trees during the dry-season to utilise residual nutrients when the starlings were not nesting. The abundance of several taxa was considerably higher (to > 1000-fold) under colony trees than under nearby trees. The system strikingly resembles utilisation of bird nesting colonies by predators in other parts of the world but this spectacular system has never been described, emphasizing the continuing need for detailed natural-history studies in tropical Australia.

Concepts: Ecology, Bird, Reptile, Papua New Guinea, Rainforest, Bird migration, Bird nest, Aplonis


Global efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis are based on the annual mass administration of antifilarial drugs to reduce the microfilaria reservoir available to the mosquito vector. Insecticide-treated bed nets are being widely used in areas in which filariasis and malaria are coendemic.

Concepts: Malaria, Southeast Asia, Mosquito, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Filariasis, New Guinea, Mosquito net