Short Science, April 14, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 April, 2013, 12:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 April, 2013, 2:16am


Scrapings signal early start to farmer lifestyle

Charred food residues scraped from the world's oldest pots show humans used ceramics for cooking in the late Ice Age, long before hunter-gatherers  became farmers, a study said. The discovery raises questions about the turning point in history that saw hunters abandon their roaming lifestyle about 10,000 years ago to start domesticating animals and plants, and gain food security. Scrapings taken from more than 100 shards of Japanese pots dated between 11,800 and 15,000 years ago were analysed to derive a chemical "fingerprint" from heating tiny samples. They revealed fatty molecules called lipids, which came from cooked fish and from "non-ruminant" animals, said the paper published in Nature. More details about the meal were unknown. The pieces were found at 13 sites around Japan but mainly on the western coast of Honshu. AFP


Fledglings 'blackmail' parents for extra food

Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said. When hungry, pied babbler fledglings flutter from the nest to the ground, where predators roam, and start screeching to highlight their plight, said a study published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "This stimulates adults to increase their provisioning rates," the team wrote. "Once satiated, fledglings return to the safety of cover." This is dangerous, as the birds are not good flyers at this tender age and at risk.  But the short-term risk of being caught is probably lower than the long-term costs of being small and weak, said the paper. AFP


Man's face can shape his skill in sport

The shape of a man's face can help predict his sporting acumen, a study has found. Japanese baseball players whose faces were relatively broad rather than long were most likely to hit a home run, it found. University of London psychologists measured the facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) of 104 batters in Japan's professional Central League Pennant in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In both seasons, the players who scored the most home runs had the highest fWHR, said the study in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Previous research has focused on Caucasians, not Asians. The new data suggests the link "may be generalisable across cultures", the paper said. Why facial bulk appears to be so important in sporting success is unclear. AFP