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

Concept: Southeast Asia


Little is known about the timing of modern human emergence and occupation in Eastern Eurasia. However a rapid migration out of Africa into Southeast Asia by at least 60 ka is supported by archaeological, paleogenetic and paleoanthropological data. Recent discoveries in Laos, a modern human cranium (TPL1) from Tam Pa Ling’s cave, provided the first evidence for the presence of early modern humans in mainland Southeast Asia by 63-46 ka. In the current study, a complete human mandible representing a second individual, TPL 2, is described using discrete traits and geometric morphometrics with an emphasis on determining its population affinity. The TPL2 mandible has a chin and other discrete traits consistent with early modern humans, but it retains a robust lateral corpus and internal corporal morphology typical of archaic humans across the Old World. The mosaic morphology of TPL2 and the fully modern human morphology of TPL1 suggest that a large range of morphological variation was present in early modern human populations residing in the eastern Eurasia by MIS 3.

Concepts: Human, Southeast Asia, World population, Human evolution, Archaic Homo sapiens, Humans, Anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens idaltu


Escaping from predators often demands that animals rapidly negotiate complex environments. The smallest animals attain relatively fast speeds with high frequency leg cycling, wing flapping or body undulations, but absolute speeds are slow compared to larger animals. Instead, small animals benefit from the advantages of enhanced maneuverability in part due to scaling. Here, we report a novel behavior in small, legged runners that may facilitate their escape by disappearance from predators. We video recorded cockroaches and geckos rapidly running up an incline toward a ledge, digitized their motion and created a simple model to generalize the behavior. Both species ran rapidly at 12-15 body lengths-per-second toward the ledge without braking, dove off the ledge, attached their feet by claws like a grappling hook, and used a pendulum-like motion that can exceed one meter-per-second to swing around to an inverted position under the ledge, out of sight. We discovered geckos in Southeast Asia can execute this escape behavior in the field. Quantification of these acrobatic behaviors provides biological inspiration toward the design of small, highly mobile search-and-rescue robots that can assist us during natural and human-made disasters. We report the first steps toward this new capability in a small, hexapedal robot.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Ecology, English-language films, Behavior, Robot, American films, Escape, Escape character


Dengue poses a substantial economic and disease burden in Southeast Asia (SEA). Quantifying this burden is critical to set policy priorities and disease-control strategies.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Dengue


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


The genome of P. marneffei, the most important thermal dimorphic fungus causing respiratory, skin and systemic mycosis in China and Southeast Asia, possesses 23 polyketide synthase (PKS) genes and 2 polyketide synthase nonribosomal peptide synthase hybrid (PKS-NRPS) genes, which is of high diversity compared to other thermal dimorphic pathogenic fungi. We hypothesized that the yellow pigment in the mold form of P. marneffei could also be synthesized by one or more PKS genes.

Concepts: Bacteria, Amino acid, Southeast Asia, Fungus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Nonribosomal peptide, Polyketide synthase


The Southeast Asian liver fluke (Opisthorchis viverrini) chronically infects and affects tens of millions of people in regions of Asia, leading to chronic illness and, importantly, inducing malignant cancer ( = cholangiocarcinoma). In spite of this, little is known, at the molecular level, about the parasite itself, its interplay with its hosts or the mechanisms of disease and/or carcinogenesis.

Concepts: Medicine, Cancer, Medical terms, Southeast Asia, Digenea, Asia, Opisthorchis viverrini, Liver fluke


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 sustainability of future water resources is of paramount importance and is affected by many factors, including population, wealth and climate. Inherent in current methods to estimate these factors in the future is the uncertainty of their prediction. In this study, we integrate a large ensemble of scenarios-internally consistent across economics, emissions, climate, and population-to develop a risk portfolio of water stress over a large portion of Asia that includes China, India, and Mainland Southeast Asia in a future with unconstrained emissions. We isolate the effects of socioeconomic growth from the effects of climate change in order to identify the primary drivers of stress on water resources. We find that water needs related to socioeconomic changes, which are currently small, are likely to increase considerably in the future, often overshadowing the effect of climate change on levels of water stress. As a result, there is a high risk of severe water stress in densely populated watersheds by 2050, compared to recent history. There is strong evidence to suggest that, in the absence of autonomous adaptation or societal response, a much larger portion of the region’s population will live in water-stressed regions in the near future. Tools and studies such as these can effectively investigate large-scale system sensitivities and can be useful in engaging and informing decision makers.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Population, Population ecology, Effect, Futurology, Future, Population density, Forecasting