Monday, August 27, 2012

Behavioral Ecology: Serious Time.

 Originally, evolutionary decisions were thought to have been made to benefit the species as a whole, and not the individual itself.  After a study of reproductive ecology by David Lack, it became apparent that there are distinguishing decisions made between individual and group interests concerning reproduction.
                  A study of the langurs has illustrated the individual reproductive decision making well. Langur males will commit infanticide on those infants who are not their own when taking over a brood. Once thought to be random acts of violence have now been concluded as a decision made by the male individual, not on behalf of the species, but on behalf of himself. Once the female’s unweaned offspring has been killed, the female will become sexually receptive sooner, thus the new male will have a higher chance at reproducing his own offspring. The violent manner in which this is executed also has to do with the short-lived reproductive life of the male. Males are only in control of their brood for a few years, thus if he can get his females to be sexually receptive sooner, the more offspring he will have and the higher chance his offspring have at surviving to reproductive age.

                  The female langur also makes a reproductive choice concerning her as an individual rather than for the good of the species. The female could fight off the male who is trying to kill her infant, but with sexual dimorphism and the male’s relentlessness stacked against her, she is not left many options. The female could wait to solicit a kinder male, but her offspring would be at a disadvantage against the more aggressive competition. Again, the decision is made in favor of the individual’s offspring surviving to reproductive age, and not the survival of the species as a whole.
                  Brian Bertram studied the reproductive behavior in lions and produced two observations. While the male lions behave as the male langurs, committing infanticide when they take over a pride, thus a reproductive decision based on the individual, the lionesses have made reproductive decisions that have enabled the cubs to more successfully mature. The lionesses will all have a synchronous oestrus, thus the adaptive advantage is having more cubs survive. Lionesses have communal suckling, and raise young together, thus when all females are lactating the synchronously born are cared for more easily. Male cubs are also evicted from the pride and survive better if they have a companion, yet to have a companion the cubs need to be the same age. These reproductive advantages are for the interest of the group, rather than the specific individual, such as from the male lion’s decisions.

                  There is a distinguishing importance when defining whether the observation is actually in the interest of the group or the interest of the individual. How one observes the study will depend on how it is recorded and understood. For instance, the female langurs could be considered as ‘bad’ mothers, or as Hrdy as stated, ‘less intelligent’ when it comes to making critical decisions for the group’s well being, but when viewed as making reproductive decisions from the interest of herself as an individual, the female langur is making the best reproductive choice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I call you 'Sexy'.

After a whole summer of soaking up copious amounts of vitamin D, I must say that returning to life as I knew it is... well, difficult. It seems as if this summer has been to my life as the Easter Annals were to the calendar system, thus saying that my life is now measured in Pre Range Creek and Post Range Creek. But before I go careening off into my adventures in time and space, I feel like a touch of information is due.

Range Creek... An archaeological field school. This is a canyon located in east central Utah, near a more famous Nine Mile Canyon and Desolation Canyon. Range Creek Canyon is a hidden gem in the archaeological world. It's the last of the Time Lords, it's the Darcy among men, it's the Elder Wand to- well, you get it. It is portrayed as a large canyon that houses pristine archaeological sites - untouched by the crushing hand of development. While I cannot say that this is entirely true, it certainly is one of the most pristine sites on the planet. It was once inhabited by the people associated with the Fremont Culture, a Native American peoples. Now, keep in mind that 'Fremont' does not mean one tribe or even one nation, but rather a set of peoples with like characteristics. For example, 'Fremont' pottery is typically plain gray ware, thus where you find plain gray ware there can be an argument made that it is a 'Fremont' site.
In the canyon, the structures to be found are pit houses and granaries. Pit houses, well, the non brain dead can assume that they are indeed PIT - HOUSES. Literally a pit... with a house... around it...
Here's a picture. In case you're brain dead.

As for granaries, they are storage units. Usually storing corn, but other food stuffs can be stored within as well. Within Range Creek they are notoriously found perched precariously on cliff ledges and are difficult to access - unless you're Spiderman. But if you are Spiderman, there really is no need for you in Range Creek. Not a whole lot of crime in these parts. Seriously. Stay in the cities.

Anyway, granaries are found in many different conditions; bits of mortar are left, or even left completely intact - with 1000yr + old timber still in place.
1000yr old timber. On a cliff. Engineering at its finest.

Hold on, wait. I don't intend to give a large pre-history lesson - it cant be called history, there is no written record - because if a lesson is wanted, there are other places for that. Like school. Or internet. Just open a tab. Search. Easy.

My original purpose was to say how positively fantastic this field school was. Two months of sleeping in a tent, rising with the sun, hiking all day, excavating, holding precious artifacts from a time long past... More than enough to make me swoon and realize that archaeology is my one true love. Such a simple life that was led this summer. No bills to worry about, no car to gas, no worldly news, no social networking and internet to clog up the day... just simple living. Realizing that this is only the field season and not everyday life when I returned was and is frustrating. Drowning in an environment where the brain's cogs are constantly in motion, a never ending exciting adventure, connecting to a people long dead, learning what daily life could have been like where no written record exists... then to return to a city life? Sleeping in beds, paying bills, having the brain slow to what seems the speed of Jayne's while eyeing a companion is just quite rubbish.

In short, I think - to refresh the mind and calm the soul - a connection to a more evolutionary life is best, for me at least. I have never slept so well as I have in my tent, I have never awoken so easily and rested as I did with the sun bearing over the mountains, and I have never felt so fulfilled as I have with my brain being constantly challenged. I wish the bliss I felt this summer on everyone. I hope everyone finds their passion, their TARDIS, their escape from reality to a passion that they cannot consume enough of.

Keep Calm. Find Your Passion.