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Productive Summers

August 2018 volume 2.2
The summer fantasy is long, lazy days lounging on the beach and vacations to far flung locations. Ah, but the IHO academic life is less lazy summer days and more far flung locations. But not for vacation!

This summer, IHO faculty are doing their work from China, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Kalahari deserts. They, and the graduate students working with them, will soon return with new discoveries, new ideas, and new stories of friendships formed and cultures absorbed into their very beings.

Summer work is the nectar that feeds the science throughout the rest of the year.

Featured stories

Articles highlighting news, partnerships, and research

Ancient Chinese tomb reveals previously unknown extinct species

An international team of researchers, including Alejandra Ortiz, a postdoctoral researcher with the  Institute of Human Origins, has discovered a new genus and species of gibbon in an unusual place—a tomb.

The Junzi imperialis, an ape that lived in China as recently as 2,200 years ago, was discovered in what was the ancient capital of Chang’an (now Xi’an) in the high-status tomb of Lady Xia, which contained 12 pits with animal remains and other grave goods.

Buried during China’s late Warring States period (475–221 B.C.), Lady Xia was the grandmother of China’s famous first emperor Qin Shi Huang (259–210 B.C.), who not only created a unified imperial system that lasted until the early 1900s, but also commissioned ambitious projects such as the Terracotta Army and the Great Wall of China.

"As soon as I looked at its skull and teeth, I knew there was something different about Lady Xia’s gibbon,” said Ortiz. 

Read more about the discovery in ASU News. The story was covered widely by the national and internation media—read articles in The New York Times and Nature.

Sarah Mathew with Turkana

The competitive edge: Dietary competition played a key role in the evolution of early primates

Since Darwin first laid out the basic principles of evolution by means of natural selection, the role of competition for food as a driving force in shaping and shifting a species’ biology to outcompete its adversaries has played center stage. So important is the notion of competition between species, that it is viewed as a key selective force resulting in the lineage leading to modern humans.

New research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, led by Laura K. Stroik, an alumna of IHO and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change (SHESC) and currently assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Grand Valley State University, and Gary T. Schwartz,  Associate Professor with SHESC and IHO Research Associate with IHO, confirms the critical role that dietary adaptations played in the survival and diversification of North American euprimates, the earliest true primates that lived about 55 million years ago across what is now North America.

Read more about how micro CT scanning was used in this research.

Kaye Reed Scholarship Endowment established

IHO has long supported an increased opportunity for women in paleoanthropology—65 percent of PhD graduates affiliated with IHO scientists have been women. So we are delighted to announce a new endowment that will advance and inspire young women's participation in human origins science.

The idea for this scholarship was sparked by Elaine Reiss, a long-time supporter of IHO and champion of women in science. IHO Research Associate, Director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and ASU President's Professor Kaye Reed began her career with IHO as a postdoctoral scholar with funding from a Reiss family scholarship 22 years ago for field work. During her career, Reed has been a role model for young women in science and anthropology, encouraging students in the field and in the lab. 

Read more about the scholarship endowment or donate to the scholarship endowment and leave a lasting legacy for women in science. Visit the webpage for how to donate.

New publications

The newest developments in human origins science from IHO
(IHO-related researchers in bold; a subscription is required to access the full article) 

The role of dietary competition in the origination and early diversification of North American euprimates
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 285, issue 1884
Laura K. Stroik, Gary T. Schwartz
New genus of extinct Holocene gibbon associated with humans in Imperial China
Science, vol 360, 6395:136–1349
Samuel T. Turvey, Kristoffer Bruun, Alejandra Ortiz, James Hansford, Songmei Hu, Yan Ding, Tianen Zhang, Helen J. Chatterjee
Evo-devo models of tooth development and the origin of hominoid molar diversity
Science Advances vol 4, no. 4
Alejandra Ortiz, Shara E. Bailey, Gary T. Schwartz, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Matthew Skinner


Featured events

Engage with IHO scientists and research
IHO Annual New York Event

Friday, November 9, 2018
5:30 to 8:30 pm
Metropolitan Club
New York City

This will be the fifth year that IHO has hosted one of the preeminent human origins science events in New York City. This event continues to grow in size, so for last and this year, the event is at the storied and beautiful Metropolitan Club across from Central Park. 

This year's lecture will be given by IHO alumna Jessica Thompson PhD, who is currently an Assistant Professor at Emory University. She and IHO Associate Director Curtis Marean have provocative new ideas about how the earliest human ancestors began consuming fats from animal brains and bones, changing the direction of human evolution.

​Read more about this event—which also raises funds for research and student scholarships—here.

RSVP and Purchase Tickets

Exploring Time Expeditions

Fuel your mind as well as your sense of adventure!

Float the Canyon with IHO 
Are you ready to go?  

Only FIVE spaces left—May 26 through June 2, 2019

We knew that this trip would fill up fast, and it has!

One of those trips of a lifetime—floating and splashing down the Colorado River! Looking up at towering rock cliffs during the day and a star-filled sky at night.

Sleep in tents or on cots under the stars, eat three meals under a bright blue Arizona sky, and travel down the river as we go back two billion years of Earth's history, revealed by our guides—ASU scientists with expertise in geology and the deep history of the Earth.

This is an amazing bucket list experience and includes not only some of the biggest, most famous rapids (negotiated expertly by long-time river operators Hatch Expeditions) but also the awesome beauty of the Canyon itself! 

Don't wait to book this trip! For more information, go to IHO's travel page or contact Julie Russ at or 480.727.6571. 

Learn more about the Grand Canyon Trip

Noted and quoted

IHO science coverage and expertise in the media
Scientists find monkeys using stone tools
Washington Post

Scientists were astounded to discover white-faced capuchins using stone tools to crack open nuts and shellfish on a Panamanian island. This makes the monkeys the fourth group of nonhuman primates known to do so, and, writes author Sarah Kaplan in the Washington Post, they present a perfect opportunity for evolutionary anthropologists to learn about how our human ancestors entered the Stone Age.

IHO Research Affiliate Joan Silk, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, commented on the value of this discovery to the field of evolutionary anthropology.

“It's just more good natural history to add to what we know about the way animals use tools in the wild,” she said. “And knowing more about tool use in other animals is super interesting because it helps us see how human tool use is different.”

Secrets of the Y Chromosome
The New York Times

As a sizable percentage of men age, their blood and other body cells begin to spontaneously jettison copies of the Y chromosome, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. That unfortunate act of chromosomal decluttering appears to put the men at a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia, and other disorders.
After speculation in the 1990s that the Y chromosome was still shrinking and might someday vanish altogether—leaving who knows what sex determination protocol in its wake—scientists are now confident the chromosomal attrition has ended.

"It's dynamic but stable” said Melissa Wilson Sayres, who studies sex chromosomes at Arizona State University. “It may lose a gene or two, but it may also gain sequences. It’s not a dead end.” Wilson Sayres is an IHO Research Affiliate and Assistant Professor with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Of interest

Top stories from around ASU
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences moves to Armstrong Hall

The largest college within Arizona State University has coalesced under one roof.

In July, deans and administrative staff of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences packed up their offices, scattered at various points across the Tempe campus, and headed for Armstrong Hall. 

As CLAS’ new home, Armstrong Hall will serve as a main hub for students, providing a standardized set of courses and orientations for incoming freshmen and transfer students, as well as services to help outgoing undergrads secure internships and prepare for graduate studies.

”Having a central location with a more uniform approach is really going to be beneficial for our students,” said CLAS Dean Patrick Kenney.

ASU Launches Sun Devil Shelflife

Short on summer reading? Ever wonder if IHO's cadre of scientists have published any new books lately? A new website, organized by ASU Now, gathers all books published by ASU faculty members into one place.

IHO faculty have 22 monographs and textbooks listed in the new database—from The Paleobiology of Australopithecus, to A Different Kind of Animal: How Culture Transformed Our Species, to Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind (of course!). 

To see all IHO faculty books, go to the Shelflife website and search "Institute of Human Origins."

Search for more books at ​the Shelflife website.

Thank your for your ongoing support and interest in IHO science, research, and outreach!
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