In honor of the 100th anniversary of Mary Leakey's birthday, Google has made a lovely illustration of her in the field, with her beloved Dalmatians. You can read about the creation of the doodle here. We love that her dogs made the cut! What do you think?
Did you know that grantees of The Leakey Foundation, as well as project sites funded by the Foundation, were part of this summer's Disneynature documentary Chimpanzee?
The lead scientific consultant to the movie, Dr. Christophe Boesch, has been studying wild chimps for 30 years. During Boesch's early years of research, The Leakey Foundation funded his work in Tai National Forest, where the film crew spent three years filming for this movie.
Today, Dr. Boesch is the Director of the Department of Primatology at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany. In 1999, he founded the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), with the mission "to enhance the survival of the remaining wild chimpanzee populations and their habitat, the tropical rain forest, throughout tropical Africa." WCF hopes to reach this goal for 20-25,000 chimpanzees in the 17 countries in which they still exist in fairly intact habitat and to cover thereby the behavioral diversity of the species, still widely unknown today.
The Leakey Foundation has also helped fund the work of Dr. John Mitani, who served as a scientific consultant to the film. The film features footage of the chimpanzees Mitani has been studying in Kibale National Park, Uganda for nearly 20 years.
Dr. Mitani, who also serves on The Leakey Foundation's Scientific Executive Committee, has said "the chimpanzees that I study are a large troop, about 180 strong, and with so many males, they frequently interact aggressively with other chimpanzees who live in neighboring groups". This is why it was so unexpected that the film documents a special relationship between Oscar, "the star" of the film and Freddy the alpha male of Oscar's group. Oscar, a young chimpanzee who is orphaned and left to fend for himself, is adopted by Freddy. This is a very rare occurrence that has never before been caught on film before now. Mitani explains that "orphaned infants are often adopted by older siblings, or by other members in their groups. But Freddy has no relationship that we know of to Oscar. That's the mystery."
Research like Dr. Boesch's and Dr. Mitani's has given us much insight into chimpanzee behavior. With continued research at long-term study sites like Tai and Kibale, researchers might be able to delve deeper into what set us apart from our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.
If you didn't catch Chimpanzee in the theatre, you'll soon be able to buy it. On August 21, 2012, Chimpanzee, debuts as a Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD), Digital and On-Demand viewing. To celebrate the in-home debut of the film, Disneynature will continue the “See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees” conservation program which was initiated with the film’s theatrical release.
For every purchase of the movie through August 27, 2012, Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute to conserve chimpanzee habitat, educate the next generation, and provide care for orphaned chimpanzees. Check the official Chimpanzee website for details.
It is with great sorrow that The Leakey Foundation shares the news of the passing of Dr. Phillip Vallentine Tobias (b. October 14, 1925).
Dr. Tobias was a world-renowned expert in the field of human origins and Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He received numerous honors and awards including South Africa's Order for Meritorious Service and three nominations for Nobel Prize. Tobias worked closely with Leakey Foundation namesake Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey. Together with John Napier they identified, described and named the new species Homo habilis. Later in life Tobias served on the Foundation's Scientific Executive Committee (SEC) and then sat as an Emeritus member of the SEC. Phillip Tobias was a dear friend to The Leakey Foundation and his contributions to human origins science are innumerable. He will be greatly missed.
Dr. Tobias passed away today, Thursday, June 7, 2012 in Johannesburg after a lengthy illness. We offer our deepest condolences to family and friends of Dr. Tobias, and those who worked with him and knew him well. An interment ceremony will be held on Sunday, June 10th at West Park Jewish Cemetery, in Johannesburg.
Q: How did you first come to study human origins?
A: During my first semester [of college], I participated in a program in which a small group of freshmen took several classes around one interdisciplinary theme. Knowing that I was interested in science, I chose the one science-oriented theme available at the time – evolution. I had learned next-to-nothing about evolution in high school, and was fascinated with the explanatory power of evolutionary theory.
Q: Once you learned more about evolutionary theory, how did you decide upon a focused area of research?
A: I realized that I loved studying primates in the field and wanted to continue to do so. In order to gain the experience I needed to conduct research in such settings, I took a field position with the Kakamega Monkey Project in Kenya where I managed a team of international and local field assistants. A year later, I entered the graduate program at Columbia and began my doctoral research at the same fieldsite.
Q: What will this grant form The Leakey Foundation help you research and better understand about primates and our own evolution?
A: Sociality is a hallmark of the primate order. The relationship between social and mating systems is an unending source of questions in evolutionary biology. There is an integral connection between social and mating systems, as how individuals are distributed in the environment depends primarily on their strategies for maximizing reproduction. With this research, I want to evaluate the effect of intrasexual competition on male reproduction in primates living in one-male groups.
This project focuses on wild blue monkeys which live in one-male social groups, but in which preliminary genetic evidence suggests (1) a surprising lack of resident male reproductive monopoly and (2) high inter-annual variability in resident and non-resident (i.e. bachelor) male reproductive output.
Male mammals compete with each other for access to fertile females. When animals live in one-male/multi-female groups, the single resident male should have a reproductive advantage over non-residents (i.e. bachelors).
I will investigate this assumption by extracting DNA from fecal samples [which I will non-invasively collect] and assigning paternity to approximately 140 infants born over a ten-year period. Quantifying reproduction by resident and bachelor males will allow me to determine the relative success of reproductive strategies.
I will then use long-term behavioral and demographic records to evaluate how variables including the number of reproductive opportunities, the number of competitor males, dominance rank, and body size affect resident and bachelor reproduction. This model will clarify the relationship between social and mating systems and thereby allow us to better infer patterns of sociality and reproduction in both extant and extinct taxa, including human ancestors.
2012 Spring Grants Report
Scientists are turning to The Leakey Foundation for funding now more than ever.
During the most recent grants cycle, Spring 2012, we received a record number of applications (the highest number in 44 years). The competition was stiff, and the funding decisions were even more difficult than usual. Here is a breakdown of some statistics for the cycle.
The Female In Evolution Symposium is now sold out!
Live online streaming
Not in San Francisco? We are very pleased to announce The Female In Evolution Symposium will be streamed live online via FORA.tv. For more information and details on how to register for live streaming, please visit the FORA.tv special event page.
Full Schedule, Lecture Abstracts and Speaker Biographies
Saturday, April 28, 2012
at the California Academy of Sciences.
Greeting from the California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Terry Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections
Leslea Hlusko, Daniel Lieberman, and Dean Falk
Jill Pruetz, Joan Silk and Dorothy Cheney
1 PM to 1:45 PM
Brooke Scelza, Kristen Hawkes, and Rebecca Bird
Biographies and Abstracts
Kelly Stewart, Symposium Chairperson
University of California, Davis
Dr. Kelly Stewart is a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. During her college summers, Dr. Stewart dug up fossils in northern Kenya with Richard Leakey. She later became a student of Dian Fossey, and has been observing, thinking about, and writing about gorilla behavior and conservation ever since. She is the co-author of Gorilla Society, with her husband and research partner Dr. Alexander Harcourt.
The Real Females of Human Evolution
When woman-the-gatherer was first proposed as a counter to man-the-hunter, we were only beginning to understand the many faces of primate females – their role as teachers, tool users, carriers of tradition, and as the social glue in society. In ensuing decades we have learned about the skills and talents of female primates which have been key ingredients in the evolution of our species.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Adrienne Zihlman, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has had major impacts on the field of human evolution. Her critique of the Man-the-Hunter concept made way for understanding the role of women in evolution, an approach that has become mainstream. Her publications cover human locomotion, sexual dimorphism and growth and development. She is author of The Human Evolution Coloring Book, co-editor of The Evolving Female, and is co-authoring a book on comparative ape anatomy.
Leslea Hlusko, Session Chairperson
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Leslea Hlusko earned her PhD from Penn State University in 2000. She is currently an Associate Professor Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. Her research focuses on how genes influence skeletal variation and how this has evolved through time as seen in the fossil record, focusing on primates and human evolution. Her lab projects include gene expression studies and quantitative genetic analyses. She co-directs the Olduvai Vertebrate Paleontology Project at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.
Overview Lecture: Millions of Years of Moms
Natural selection was hard at work changing the human body over the last few million years, and much of that selection was driven by the challenges of being a mother. I will present a brief review of the evolution of the human female body, focusing on how natural selection helped mothers cope with the biomechanical demands of being a pregnant biped, with carrying infants and food over long distances, and with giving birth to large-brained babies.
Dr. Daniel Lieberman is a Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University and Chair of the Biological Anthropology Department, while also serving on the Curatorial Board of the Peabody Museum. Dr. Lieberman is recognized as a leading expert on morphology and is especially interested in when, how and why early hominins first became bipeds, and then became so exceptional as long distance endurance runners. He is a member of the Leakey Foundation Scientific Executive Committee.
Case Study: The Role of Prehistoric Mothers in the Evolution of Language
Clues about the emergence of protolanguage appear every day in the interactions between modern parents and their infants. Parents the world over speak to infants in a special way—known as baby talk, musical speech, or motherese, which helps them acquire their native language. This presentation considers how and why motherese may have been invented by prehistoric mothers and their infants, and the possible role of infant-directed speech in the origin of language.
Florida State University
Dean Falk is an evolutionary anthropologist who splits her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico where she is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research (SAR), and Tallahassee, Florida where she is the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State University. Her work focuses on the evolution of the human brain and cognition. Recent projects include collaborative research on Homo floresiensis (“Hobbit”) and an investigation of the brain of Albert Einstein.
Jill Pruetz, Session Chairperson
Iowa State University
Dr. Jill Pruetz is the Walvoord Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Anthropology) at Iowa State University. As a primatologist, Dr. Pruetz has studied the behavior of non-human primates such as chimpanzees, spider monkeys, howling monkeys, tamarins, patas monkeys, and vervets in various locales. She is interested in the influence of ecology on primate and early human feeding, ranging, and social behavior. She currently has an ongoing research project in southeastern Senegal to study chimpanzees in a habitat similar to that of early hominids.
Overview Lecture: The Natural History of Social Bonds
For female baboons close and stable social bonds are the foundation of cooperation. These relationships help females cope with stress, and also enhance their reproductive success and longevity. These findings parallel evidence that social ties have positive effects on physical and mental health in humans. And as with humans, for female baboons the strength and stability of these bonds are more important than their number.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Joan Silk’s research interests are wide ranging and include biological anthropology, primate behavior, and evolutionary biology. She is especially interested in how natural selection shapes social evolution in primates. Her recent focus is on social strategies of female baboons and the origins of altruistic behavior. Dr. Silk is a prolific writer, an author of over 80 publications and co-author of a biological anthropology text, How Humans Evolved. She is a member of the Leakey Foundation Scientific Executive Committee.
Case Study: Primate Social Cognition
Studies on both animals and humans have shown definitively that individuals who are able to establish strong social bonds experience better health and higher offspring survival. It seems likely that natural selection has also favored the cognitive abilities to monitor and manage social relationships. There is growing evidence that monkeys and other animals are adept at recognizing other individuals’ social relationships and dominance ranks. At the same time, there are also many fundamental differences between animal social cognition and the social cognition of humans.
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Dorothy Cheney is an expert on primate social behavior, communication, cognition. In 1977, together with her husband and collaborator Robert Seyfarth, she began an 11 year field study of vervet monkeys in Kenya, which led to the publication of How Monkeys See the World. From 1992 through 2007 Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth studied baboons in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. In 2007, they published Baboon Metaphysics.
Evolution of Mothering: How Long Should a Mother Suckle Her Baby?
All primates have drawn-out life histories with long pregnancies and extended suckling. Time devoted to individual offspring more than compensates for limited daily investment in reproduction. A key part of intensive maternal care in primates is frequent suckling on demand, reflected in milk composition. In all these respects, humans are typical primates; but we also have special features, notably in brain development. But how long should a mother suckle her baby? Biological comparisons yield clues to the natural breastfeeding period for which women are adapted.
The Field Museum
Dr. Robert Martin is A. Watson Armour III Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He has devoted his career to exploring the evolutionary tree of primates, as summarized in his 1990 textbook Primate Origins. Dr. Martin is particularly interested in reproductive biology and the brain, because these systems have been of special importance in primate evolution. His research is based on broad comparisons across primates, covering reproduction, anatomy, behaviour, palaeontology and molecular evolution.
Dr. Brooke Scelza, Session Chairperson
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Brooke Scelza is an assistant professor at UCLA. A human behavioral ecologist, Dr. Scelza is interested in understanding the adaptive nature of behavior as a function of local socioecological context. Her research focuses mainly on questions related to reproductive decision-making and parental investment, and on understanding the social environment as a critical influence on how people negotiate life history trade-offs. She is currently conducting fieldwork with the Himba, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists living in northwest Namibia.
Overview Lecture: From Men’s Hunting to the Importance of Grandmothers: Lessons About Human Evolution from the Behavioral Ecology of Foragers
Beginning my ethnographic work with hunter-gatherers I assumed that most distinctive human features evolved as a consequence of ancestral females pairing with hunting males to form nuclear families with men provisioning their wives and dependent offspring. Challenges to that “hunting hypothesis” have mounted in paleoanthropology and archaeology, but it was behavioral findings that forced my own paradigm shift. I’ll review some of those findings, including evidence of the important role of grandmothers, and some life history comparisons between humans and chimpanzees.
University of Utah
Kristen Hawkes is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. Her ethnographic projects with hunter-gatherers investigate sex and age differences in foraging strategies to improve hypotheses about human evolution. The importance of grandmothers’ help for youngsters when their mothers have newborns focused her attention on the evolution of human longevity, and prompted continuing comparisons of human and chimpanzee life history. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Scientific Executive Committee of the Leakey Foundation.
Case Study: Beyond Woman the Gatherer: Women’s Cooperative Hunting, Sharing, and Social Networks in Aboriginal Australia
Gender roles among foraging peoples are usually considered to be nearly universal: that men are hunters and women gatherers of plant foods, that men are more productive than women and that women cooperate mainly with spouses in a division of labor designed to care for dependent offspring; a pattern that is rooted in our evolutionary past. I describe an alternative perspective of women as hunters who cooperate extensively in acquiring small animals, sharing food and caring for children.
Dr. Rebecca Bliege Bird is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is an ecological anthropologist interested in the socioecology of subsistence in small scale societies. Dr. Bird pursues such topics as the gender division of labor in hunting and gathering, cooperation, costly signaling, indigenous conservation/land management, and fire ecology. She’s currently involved in a long-term ethnographic and ecological research project with Martu people in Australia’s Western Desert.
Symposium Wrap Up
Dr. Leslie Aiello is the President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation of Anthropological Research, which is largest private foundation in existence devoted solely to the support of international anthropological research. She is evolutionary anthropologist with special interests in the evolution of human adaptation as well as in broader issues of evolutionary theory, life history and the evolution of the brain, diet, language and cognition. Previously Dr. Aeillo was head of University College London’s Anthropology Department and Graduate School. She is a former editor of the Journal of Human Evolution.
Produced in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences, this special symposium is generously sponsored by Jean and Ray Auel, Gordon Getty, and with support from Wells Fargo Bank.
Live Video Stream Available!
Symposium:The Female in Evolution
Saturday, April 28, 2012 A human female is born, lives her life, and dies within the span of a few decades, but the shape of her life has been strongly influenced by 50 million years of primate evolution. Join leading scientists for a special symposium, in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences, as they discuss the The Female in Evolution.
The Leakey Foundation was proud to host Dr. Robert D. Martin, Curator of Biological Anthropology at The Field Museum and Dr. Ian Tattersall, Curator at The American Museum of Natural History, in a rousting debate over the origins of the mysterious Homo floresiensis. In case you missed it, here is footage of the debate.
Do You Accept Evolution? Keep Human Origins Research Alive, Make a Donation.
Funding for human origins research is becoming all too scarce, and biological evolution is discounted by 61% of the American population. A generous donor has pledged to give one dollar for every two dollars that you give, making sure your contribution will go further!
In November, Board President Don Dana, along with Leakey Grantees Nick Toth and Kathy Schick ventured into the dense jungle of the Amazon Rainforest in search of the Huaorani tribe. Their quest... to learn about the Huaorani's method of hunting with blowguns and poison darts, dipped in curare. Though The Leakey Foundation did not have a hand in funding this amazing trip, we thought you'd enjoy reading Don's dispatches from deep in the Amazon. Read them here:
November 10: Departure from Quito
Drove south from Quito through Avenida de Los Volcanos. Many of the volcanos continue to be very active. Crossed the Andes at Banos, the Gateway to the Amazon, heading for Shiripuno River. The last two legs of our travel were by small planes and dugout canoes.
November 11: Contact with Huaorani
Made contact with the Huaorani. Homes are thatched huts with earthen floors used my multiple families. The Huaorani were discovered in the mid 1950s by discovering the bodies of the first five missionaries who tried to make contact with them. Contrary to popular misinformation, the Huaorani are not cannibals, nor to they shrink heads. The head shrinking is done by the Shwar, the tribe immediately south of here.
The woman in the photo is Dawa, one of the first Huaorani to meet, but not subsequently kill missionaries. She is the only family member to have survived first contact. The rest died from polio and other diseases caught from the missionaries.
November 13: Hunting Methods
The Huaorani hunt with spears and blowguns, but are best known for their blowguns, which shoot darts tipped with curare poison. The hunters can easily hit small birds and monkeys from 30 yards or more. The black colored poison on the tip of the darts paralyzes the muscles of the hunted animal.
The Huaorani eat all that they kill, and everyone in the village shares the meat. Although women and men do different work, women have equal status with men. One of the main jobs of women is to make chicha for the men when they return from the hunt. The drink is made by women thoroughly chewing the yucca plant, spitting out the mixture, then letting the liquid ferment.
23 Grants Awarded in Fall 2011 Session
This fall, we received 74 applications for grants in Behavioral & Paleoanthropology, of which 23 have been recommended for funding. Final approvals of grants were made at our December Board Meeting and Granting Session, totaling $254,287.
A terrible drought that ended in 2001 devastated the pasture lands of the Maasai in Kenya's Rift Valley. The Maasai women desperately needed a way to obtain medical supplies, and to feed, clothe, and educate their children. Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai in the bush, came up with an idea that would utilize the excellent beading abilities of the Maasai women, and it used grass, an available sustainable resource, as the primary element.
Soon after, Maasai women were harvesting grass, one blade at a time. The long grass was dried and cut into bead-size pieces and dyed lovely hues, which were then strung into jewelry. Zulugrass was born.
These Zulugrass designs, available for purchase here, make unique gifts while providing economic opportunity to the Maasai communities. To purchase jewelry from The Leakey Collection, visit our store.
Interested in the latest research funded by The Leakey Foundation? Final Reports from our most recent pool of grantees are now available on our website. Whether you're an avid science enthusiast, or a scientist yourself, our grantees' Final Reports give you a glimpse at a broad range of the most current research into human origins. View the Final Reports here.
Grant Funding Increases Despite Tough Economy
In these tough economic times, we work hard to maintain our grant funding for scientific research projects. Despite this challenging environment, we have been able to increase our grant funding over the last two years, adding $85,000 overall to our total annual grants given since 2008.
John Mitani and Terry Harrison join the SEC
We are pleased to announce the addition of two esteemed scientists as the newest members of our Scientific Executive Committee (SEC): Terry Harrison and John Mitani. We'd like to welcome them to the Committee and thank them for their essential contribution to our mission.
During The Leakey Foundation 2011 Annual Auction and Dinner, Foundation Trustee Mrs. Carolyn Farris bid on and won the "naming rights" for the next chimpanzee born at the Fongoli site in Senegal. Fongoli, which is run by Leakey Grantee Jill Pruetz, is home to a unique group of chimpanzees that have adapted to living in a savanna environment, often seen by Pruetz and her team hunting bush babies with "spears". Mrs. Farris chose the name "Pistache" for the newest male chimp at Fongoli, born to Natasha sometime in April of this year.
In a letter sent to the Foundation, Mrs. Farris remarked:
"I would like to name Natasha’s baby “Pistache” (French for pistachio nut), after my long hair Chihuahua. I adopted her from the Helen Woodward Animal Center and she was named after a character in a book. The chain of events that led to her adoption started on Bastille Day, so I thought a French name would be appropriate for her. The name is pronounced Pee-stash. My little dog is popular with everyone she meets, as she is loving, cuddly and playful. She is also tall for a Chihuahua, just as Natasha and her son are tall."
You can read more about Natasha and Pistache in Dr. Pruetz's newest post on the Fongoli Chimps Blog. Once there are photos taken of Pistache, we will be sure to post them!
Notes from the Field
by Jill Pruetz, Leakey Grantee
"Some exciting events have occurred this month, including quite a bit of predation attempts by the Fongoli chimps as well as an encounter with a potential predator." Dr. Jill Pruetz shares her first post from the field, stay tuned for more to come!
Leakey Foundation Grantee Sarah Mathew was published in today's PNAS Early Edition.
She was awarded a research grant by The Leakey Foundation in 2009.
Her dissertation research examines how the Turkana, an acephalous pastoral society in East Africa, solve the collective action problem in warfare. She also examines the scale of cooperation and norms in Turkana warfare, to evaluate the role of cultural evolutionary processes in shaping the scale of human cooperation. The following is an abstract of and link to the article in PNAS.
Punishment sustains large-scale cooperation in prestate warfare
by Sarah Mathew, UCLA
Abstract: Understanding cooperation and punishment in small-scale societies is crucial for explaining the origins of human cooperation. We studied warfare among the Turkana, a politically uncentralized, egalitarian, nomadic pastoral society in East Africa. Based on a representative sample of 88 recent raids, we show that the Turkana sustain costly cooperation in combat at a remarkably large scale, at least in part, through punishment of free-riders. Raiding parties comprised several hundred warriors and participants are not kin or day-to-day interactants. Warriors incur substantial risk of death and produce collective benefits. Cowardice and desertions occur, and are punished by community-imposed sanctions, including collective corporal punishment and fines. Furthermore, Turkana norms governing warfare benefit the ethnolinguistic group, a population of a half-million people, at the expense of smaller social groupings. These results challenge current views that punishment is unimportant in small-scale societies and that human cooperation evolved in small groups of kin and familiar individuals. Instead, these results suggest that cooperation at the larger scale of ethnolinguistic units enforced by third-party sanctions could have a deep evolutionary history in the human species.
Several articles were written on this paper, follow links below:
On May 9, 2011 Dr. Donald Johanson spoke about 'Lucy' at California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco. Here is video from that lecture.
BIO - Donald C. Johanson Donald C. Johanson is the director of the Institute of Human Origins. For the past 30 years he has conducted field and laboratory research in paleoanthropology. Most notably, he discovered the 3.18 million year old hominid skeleton popularly known as "Lucy." Through grants from The Leakey Foundation, National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society, Johanson has carried out field research in Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Tanzania.