Articles to 2014-04-04

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

I’m very surprised by the explanation for zebra stripes by Caro et al. (unfortunately the full article is only accessible at an extortionate price) being touted as a new result. In his “Rätsel der Menschwerdung” Josef Reichholf already gave this reason in 2004 and he also supplied a full evolutionary account why of all animals in the African savannah only the equines selected this solution to the tsetse problem.

While Falchi et al. certainly seem to have found a valid result, what does it mean? In spite of an effect at the population level there is nearly total overlap in both the range and the inner two quartiles in all their diagrams for both directions. The most glaringly obvious point here is the treatment of results like these by the media. Although Murray & Herrnstein only ever discussed population level effects and fully acknowledged their meaninglessness at the individual level, they were comprehensively denounced. In a medicinal and health context the population level is nearly meaningless but in spite of that media keep touting pointless results, that are no help whatever to the afflicted individual.

Wilde et al. contradict my supposition of last week, that light skin was selected for from the Early Neolithic and place it later to the Epineolithic and Bronze Age and after. Unfortunately there exist neither Early Neolithic nor Western European data for comparison, so the question is open for now. They too offer vitamin D as the most probable driver. Another possibility they discuss is sexual selection favouring light skin, so the environment only needs to make it possible and not necessarily advantageous.

Although I lack the basics to follow their argument, Decker et al. claim to have disproved a third independent cattle domestication in Africa.

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