March 2011 Archives

Dr. Lawrence Greksa, Professor and Head of Anthropology from Case Western Reserve University will be the speaker for this week's colloquium. 

The title of his talk is "Coping with Modernity: The Old Order Amish in America."  Colloquium will be held on Friday, March 25, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. in 202 Carpenter Building.

Please plan to attend.  Everyone is welcome!

Time change for episodes of American Treasures

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If you tune into Discovery Channel this evening at 10 pm to catch Kirk and Jason on American Treasures, you'll miss the show. According to the American Treasures' TV listing on the Discovery Channel Web site, the next episode (tonight - March 15) is scheduled to be broadcast at 7 pm. On March 22, there will be two episodes - one at 7 pm and one at 7:30 pm.

So tune in at 7 pm tonight! You won't want to miss it!

The paper entitled "Human-specific loss of regulatory DNA and the evolution of human specific traits" was published in the March 10 issue of the journal Nature. The paper received significant attention from international press. Read further below:

Penn State Live:

The Guardian:




Humans differ from other animals in many aspects of anatomy, physiology, and behaviour; however, the genotypic basis of most human-specific traits remains unknown. Recent whole genome comparisons have made it possible to identify genes with elevated rates of amino acid change or divergent expression in humans, and non-coding sequences with accelerated base pair changes. Regulatory alterations may be particularly likely to produce phenotypic effects while preserving viability, and are known to underlie interesting evolutionary differences in other species. Here we identify molecular events particularly likely to produce significant regulatory changes in humans: complete deletion of sequences otherwise highly conserved between chimpanzees and other mammals. We confirm 510 such deletions in humans, which fall almost exclusively in non-coding regions and are enriched near genes involved in steroid hormone signalling and neural function. One deletion removes a sensory vibrissae and penile spine enhancer from the human androgen receptor (AR) gene, a molecular change correlated with anatomical loss of androgen-dependent sensory vibrissae and penile spines in the human lineage. Another deletion removes a forebrain subventricular zone enhancer near the tumour suppressor gene growth arrest and DNA-damageinducible, gamma (GADD45G), a loss correlated with expansion of specific brain regions in humans. Deletions of tissue-specific enhancers may thus accompany both loss and gain traits in the human lineage, and provide specific examples of the kinds of regulatory alterations and inactivation events long proposed to have an important role in human evolutionary divergence.

Nina Jablonski will present the lecture, "Human Skin Pigmentation: Its Evolution and Consequences for Disease" in the Friday Lecture Series at Rockefeller University in New York City on March 18th. Further details of the talk are available at:

Graduate student Chris Percival (advisor Joan Richtsmeier) has received an award from the National Science Foundation for his Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal titled "The Influence of Angiogenesis on Primate Cranial Vault Development and Evolution."

Graduate student John Starbuck (advisor Joan Richtsmeier) has been awarded $10,774 by the National Science Foundation for his Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal titled "Understanding Gene Dosage Imbalance and Biological Mechanisms Responsible for Craniofacial Variability and Variation".

Margaret Brown Vega, Nathan Craig, and their Peruvian colleague have paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The paper is entitled "Ground Truthing of Remotely Identified Fortifications on the Central Coast of Perú", by Margaret Brown Vega, Nathan Craig, and Gerbert Asencios Lindo

Remote imagery, including freely available satellite images viewed in Google Earth® and historic aerial photographs, was used to identify anomalies in a 25,000 km2 macroregion encompassing 13 river valleys along the Peruvian coast. These anomalies, located atop hills and mountains, were hypothesized prehispanic fortifications. A sample of remotely identified anomalies was ground truthed in the Huaura and Fortaleza Valleys on the Central Coast of Perú. 140 positive anomalies were documented and assessed using a simple defensibility index. Our results significantly increase the number of fortifications identified in both valleys. We demonstrate the efficacy of this method for locating fortifications in a very large region to facilitate the systematic documentation of these durable indicators of warfare.

Graduate students Chris Percival and John Starbuck have each been awarded the William S. Pollitzer Student Travel Award to attend the 2011 American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) conference in Minneapolis, MN in April.  

Please click on the attached link for the article on Penn State LIVE:

Nina Jablonski will be at Bard College in Rhinecliff, New York on Tuesday 1 March as a visiting Distinguished Scientist and as part of their Women and Science Project.  She will visit science classes and give an evening lecture entitled, "The Evolution and Meaning of Human Skin Pigmentation."


This film festival will present three world class ethnographic films and discussion with well respected anthropologists. This year's focus is on how people around the world deal with many of the same pressures and dangers of modern life that we deal with. These include drugs, sex, and the promise that some new product will make our lives better. The films highlight the interface of traditional cultures with modern western consumer society.  Anybody interested in anthropology, sociology, psychology, or just learning about other cultures will find something of interest in these films. The festival will take place Saturday March 26, 11 am- 5pm, followed by a public reception. It will be held in the HUB Auditorium, on the Penn State University Park campus. For complete schedule and more information, please visit

Lecturer Brianne Beisner1,2* recently had her paper entitled: "Detecting Instability in Animal Social Networks: Genetic Fragmentation is Associated with Social Instability in Rhesus Macaques" published in PLoS One.  Co-authors of the paper were: Megan E. Jackson1, Ashley N. Cameron1, and Brenda McCowan1,3

1 California National Primate Research Center, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America, 2 Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States of America, 3 Department of Population Health & Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America

You can access the entire article at: