Monday, 03 September 2007

seminar

So, Becky gave her seminar on Primate Hybrids and Human Evolution. It was a simply phenomenal talk, covering her work on known hybrid populations. One of the big problems with hybrids, which result from populations that were diverged coming back together and interbreeding after sufficient separation to cause genetic differences between them... Anyway, one of the huge problems with hybrids is that you don't have controlled populations, so you don't know what's a first generation hybrid, what's the product of backcrossing [where hybrids breed with non-hybrids of either parent population] or what happens when hybrids breed. Becky has been lucky enough to be working with a controlled population and found a number of interesting things - additional sutures where they shouldn't be, bilateral full-size supernumery mandibular teeth, extra maxillary canines [which are the big scary ones in baboons] and so on.... More importantly from our [archaeological] perspective - if a hybrid can be identified in the fossil record [and that's a very big if!] from some of the dental characteristics - that can suggest things about selection for a whole suite of ectodermal characteristics. Things like skin colour, hair colour, hair location, hair length and thickness, sweat glands, etc. Fascinating stuff, if you're interested.

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