Let George Do It

I was thinking about how people would have adapted to local differences in essential micronutrients, stuff like iodine, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, etc. Australia, for example,  hasn’t had much geological activity in ages and generally has mineral-poor soils. At first I thought that Aboriginals, who have lived in such places for a long time,  might have developed better transporters, etc – ways of eking out scarce trace elements.

Maybe they have, but on second thought, they may not have needed to.  Sure, the Aboriginals were exposed to these conditions for tens of thousands of years, but not nearly as long as kangaroos and wombats have been.  If those animals had effective ways of accumulating the necessary micronutrients,  hunter-gatherers could have solved their problems by consuming local fauna. Let George do it, and then eat George.

The real problems should occur in people who rely heavily on plant foods (European farmers) and in their livestock, which are generally not adapted to the mineral-poor environments. If I’m right, even in areas where sheep without selenium supplements get white muscle disease (nutritional muscular dystrophy), indigenous wildlife should not.

 

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76 Responses to Let George Do It

  1. lel@lel.tv says:

    Dammit Greg, I read to the bottom and was excited to see the rest of your abbo series, but my journey was cut tragically short as this is the only post so tagged. More abbo content please, imo they’re the most interesting living hominid.

  2. dearieme says:

    Is there any history of Abo cannibalism?

    • Anthony says:

      Yes, yes there is. The Stolen Generations would have been eaten if they weren’t stolen.

      http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/eserv/UQ:242712/Qld_heritage_v1_no7_1967_p25_29.pdf

      Lots more if you google, but the topic is even more disreputable than racial IQ differences.

      • dearieme says:

        “the topic is … disreputable”: how odd. It’s no secret at all that there was plenty of Maori cannibalism.

      • Sandgroper says:

        That’s a pretty disreputable topic in certain quarters in NZ, along with the recent arrival of the Maori and extinction of the moa. Basically, anything that detracts from the basic noble savage/environmentally sensitive custodian narrative/origin myths just about anywhere will be regarded as disreputable. I don’t doubt that recounting evidence of human sacrifice in England would be greeted by indignation by many, and yet it was undoubtedly practised. Hell, a lot of people are still clinging to the belief that Europe was colonised by anatomically modern humans 40,000 years ago and that modern Europeans evolved in situ, and a modern white Australian myth about how the ‘Australian national character’ was created in the process of getting their arses well and truly kicked by a disappointingly small number of Turks at Gallipoli has been created literally within the last 20 years, seemingly from nowhere. The human capacity for self-delusion appears limitless.

    • Sandgroper says:

      “the whole or part of the bodies of Aborigines killed in battle were eaten by their enemies” – as documented by that largely now forgotten and under-appreciated author Ion L. ‘Jack’ Idriess, who wrote about an Aboriginal warrior killing his enemy and then cutting out and eating his liver raw, and elsewhere about the practice of eating the kidney fat of enemies. (Gordo: I don’t know if Jack Idriess was colour blind, but he acted as a spotter for the sniper Billy Sing at Gallipoli.) Idriess documented a lot of stuff about Aboriginal people from first hand observation; his accounts, which are largely non-fictional, are an under-appreciated resource – he was sympathetic to Aboriginal people but was no ideology-pushing cultural anthropologist, he was just an observant writer, so he just accurately documented what he saw and heard. The bad news is that these accounts are scattered through many of his 50 published books, although there are some obvious ones to look at first. One of my minor claims to 15 minutes of reflected glory is I once met an Aboriginal girl who was the grand-daughter of one of the characters in one of Idriess’ books, titled “Forty Fathoms Deep”. Her capacity for exotic cocktails and habit of throwing them down her throat in one swallow were terrifying to behold, and pay for. Nice girl, though, just really frightening and expensive drinking habits. “Grasshopper.” Gulp. “Screwdriver.” Gulp. “What can I have next?” Erm…a stomach pump? Anyway, that serves to illustrate that Idriess didn’t just make people up – the girl confirmed to me, in between high-priced cocktails, that Idriess’ portrayal of her grandfather was accurate.

      • Jim says:

        I live in Houston and the Karankawa Indian Tribe who lived in this area were cannibals as were many of the other Gulf Coast tribes. I have read a number of eyewitness accounts of cannibalism on the Texas Gulf Coast. Things around here in the late 18th and early 19th century were pretty exciting as in addition to cannibals the Texas Gulf Coast also had a lot of pirates. Lafitte had his last pirate base in Galveston.

        As a loyal Houstonian I am proud of our cannibal and pirate heritage.

      • lel@lel.tv says:

        c’mon son, a screwdriver is a highball. It may even be the true Platonic form of highball.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Oh, what would I know?

  3. Flinders Petrie says:

    Very interesting – the domesticated animals probably fared worse than humans.

    Maybe the trick for migrating Levantine farmers migrating was to breed with West Hunter women so that their offspring inherited the mom’s adaptations to local nutrients and the dad’s tolerance to exotic grains. As in this study.

    European farmers also had to contend with raiding, pillaging Sibermen, who perhaps inadvertently spread lactase persistence. As possibly here.

    Exogamy must have had its benefits in those days.

    That must have still sucked for those poor copper-deficient swayback sheep, though.

  4. Tasmania was (and is) iodine poor. The local aboriginals reportedly developed a response to that by including in their circuits a coastal location, harvesting seaweed etc there.

    The European population had significant issues up until around 1950 when iodised foodstuffs were introduced.

    • dearieme says:

      And yet the Tas Abos lost the ability to go to sea. They couldn’t even paddle across a bay but had to walk around the shore. Some things in life are scarcely explicable.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Max. population 5,000, totally isolated for a very long time. Lots of stuff could be lost, particularly stuff you no longer really need. That seems one of the less difficult things to explain.

        But then, if you believe Greg’s post of Jan 15 2013, they never got the magic Indian admixture. But then, you have to explain how people got to Australia 50,000 years ago. And there are holes in the story – like how the Indians couldn’t have been shipwrecked on the coast of Arnhem Land, because that was one of few areas that were never penetrated by Pama-Nyungan languages, along with the Kimberley, where people were making disappointingly sophisticated, resharpenable ground stone axes 30,000 years ago, while elsewhere people were engaging in creative rock art, including pictures of what look like extinct Pleistocene fauna.

        The Arnhem Land Abos lost the ability to make vessels capable of the longish ocean crossing people needed to make to get to Australia in the first place, presumably because after arriving, people no longer needed the technology. I don’t buy the ‘one pregnant woman clinging to a broken branch’ theory.

        Something happened about 3,500 years or so ago, because the dingo arrived, and other pretty notable stuff seems to have happened. AFAIAC, the jury is still out on exactly what it was. There’s no harm in speculating. The ship-wrecked Indians are a lot less wild than the totally fanciful, deranged crap that Alan Thorne peddled out of ANU for decades, to the detriment of Australian paleoanthropology.

        What about insects and reptiles – what are they like at collecting and concentrating micronutrients from leached soils?

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but the fact that the Tasmanians lost the ability to sail once they’d arrived isn’t all that unusual. Didn’t just the same thing happen to the Polynesians who got to Hawaii and to Easter Island? These were both terminal destinations. It seems that once you get as far as you can go you just forget how you got there.

        Someone wrote a few years back that if a new President wanted to get to the moon again by the end of the decade – we could no longer do it.

      • Sandgroper says:

        The Tasmanians could walk there from the mainland 42,000 years ago, but were then cut off by rising sea level.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        What about insects and reptiles – what are they like at collecting and concentrating micronutrients from leached soils?

        Aboriginals in parts of Australia used to feast on the Bogong moth when it swarmed.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Not to mention the larvae urgh.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchetty_grub

      • See also the Guanches, food producing white people from North Africa who must have arrived upon the Canaries on board vessels, but subsequently abandoned seafaring. The Canaries were never connected to the mainland of Europe or Africa and walking across was never an option, besides the oldest evidence of colonisation being late.

      • johnny says:

        How would anybody forget how to build ships instead of developing them more once you have the technology? Is giving up fishing logical for any tribe development once you can catch them with vesels? Sounds ilogical.
        They were transported in aircrafts.

  5. FivePercenter was informed that Europeans needed to import an African mycorrhizal fungus to allow their cattle industry. I’m sceptical because I doubt the Victorians were scientifically able to do this, consciously at least. Can anyone confirm this?

  6. Hmm. Macrobiotic diet, then. Damn hippies.

  7. dearieme says:

    “I don’t doubt that recounting evidence of human sacrifice in England would be greeted by indignation by many”: many who? We were taught about it at primary school.

  8. dearieme says:

    “Didn’t just the same thing happen to the Polynesians who got to Hawaii and to Easter Island?”

    Dunno about Hawaii, but apparently untrue for Easter Island since it’s thought that they’d touched the S American coast, and thus brought the sweet potato into the Polynesian world (which also implies that they were capable of sailing a long way west west as well as a long way east). Once the rats had destroyed their woodland, then they were stuffed for sea-faring. Hardly a prob in Tas, that.

  9. melendwyr says:

    The problem with the OP’s reasoning is that it applies equally well to each stage of the food chain, except to the producers that can’t move. Each level of predators derives their nutrients from their prey, because it’s easier to let the quick-evolving edible things do the hard work. The only nutrients animals expend effort to accumulate are those that they can’t reliably derive from plants, mostly because plants aren’t dependent on them and so don’t bother to gather them.

    If an animal needs a nutrient, it can seek out sources of it. It’s only the plants that are stuck with their local conditions that need to specialize in extracting nutrients from deprived environments.

    Animals in nutrient-poor environments won’t get better at storing nutrients. They’ve already had selection pressure to keep the stuff they can’t easily find, so they can’t improve much there. For the other things, they’ll get better at finding sources among the life lower on the food chain.

    We have a complex system to concentrate and recycle iodine, a nutrient that plants don’t need to live and don’t concentrate themselves. We don’t have anything like such a system to recycle iron. We constantly run through our supply and discard iron-bearing compounds. Hmmm.

  10. j3morecharacters says:

    Animals in essential nutrients-poor environments tend to store them. Sometimes to the point of excess: lead, chrome, silver, mercury and other heavy metals accumulate in animal tissues to toxic concentrations. Probably evolution managed to protect us from nutrient scarcity, but we are defenseless against high concentrations of micro-nutrients in the environment.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      In a essential nutrient poor environment the fat of a carnivore, or another human, would be especially prized, because that is where these rare nutrients are most likely to be stored. But fast forward to the present and as j3more has explained this once prized commodity is now toxic. Eating a plateful of delicious swordfish can skyrocket the mercury in your blood to dangerous levels.

    • melendwyr says:

      We actually do have systems to get rid of nutrients our distant ancestors would have been exposed to in excess. We lack defenses against heavy metals for the same reason whelks lack defenses against supernovas: no selection pressure in the distant past.

  11. Sandgroper says:

    http://phys.org/news/2014-04-simple-australian-artefacts-assumption.html

    At the very least, this calls for a more nuanced interpretation.

    Greg previously said that the oldest woomera ever found was only 5,000 years old. Woomeras are made from hardwood, mostly, except for the tip that fits into the hollowed out butt of the spear. In a country literally crawling with termites, so voracious and determined that they will tunnel through concrete to get to some hardwood, I am surprised a buried wooden artefact could survive 5,000 years, unless it was deposited in a peat swamp or some other mildly acidic preservative medium.

    If people could get to Australia 50,000 years ago, and then see off some pretty fearsome looking Pleistocene megafauna like Thylacoleo carnifex and Megalania, the assumption that they would be a push-over for a small number of new arrivals with a Neolithic tool kit deserves a rethink. Bringing down a Diprotodon without woomeras would definitely be a challenge.

    • Sandgroper says:

      Until 8,000 years ago, you could walk from PNG to northern Queensland. I have been puzzled why the bow and arrow was technology that was never transferred to Australians. One possible reason is that there was not actually that much contact, although there is evidence of periodic trade contacts, and Australians seemed resistant to new technology. Another possible reason is the shortage of string. Aboriginal women made belts and carrying bags out of human hair, but that would not have enough tensile strength to serve as a bow string. Kangaroo sinew might, if you could get a piece long enough, but I don’t know how long it would last – it could serve to help fasten wooden barbs to the sharpened head of a hardwood spear, something that would probably need frequent replacement anyway, but maybe not well enough to serve as a bow string.

      I have used tennis racquets strung with natural gut – they work beautifully well, better than synthetics, until the strings get wet, at which point they unravel and self-destruct. Definitely useless in a relatively damp tropical environment. Even top professional players these days prefer not to use natural gut strings due to the lack of durability.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      “The suggestion that all innovation has to come from the Old World is not true because clearly ground-stone axes were created here,” Prof Balme says.
      She notes that they were also made in Japan at a slightly later date, by people who would have had no contact with either Australian Aborigines or people in Africa and Europe.

      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I think it more likely that the people who populated Australia brought their technology with them and that we simply have not found evidence for it other places. Perhaps because higher population densities in other places mean that much has been destroyed and the occupants of marginal places tend to be marginal peoples.

      People tend to romanticize creativity and think of isolated peoples creating all sorts of new technology for their new circumstances, but I rather suspect that it requires some selection.

      Also:

      If people could get to Australia 50,000 years ago, and then see off some pretty fearsome looking Pleistocene megafauna like Thylacoleo carnifex

      I suspect that was due to increased competition for prey species rather than killing the competitor and perhaps the specialization of the predator’s behavior around the prey species and the lack of time for selection to operate on Thylaceleo carnifex so that it could successfully hunt humans. While it is true that lions are fearsome creatures, there are many more humans in Africa than lions.

      • Sandgroper says:

        And the prey species were…?

        If people arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago (the most recent possible date), then by 35,000 years ago, the population density in the more fertile areas would not have been any lower than anywhere else – why would it? Rock carvings have been dated to 32,000 years old. There is nothing to suggest that those people were any more dumb or culturally backward than the first anatomically modern people who moved into Europe. What was ‘marginal’ about them? Or does your ideology dictate that cold weather somehow always magically induces higher IQ and greater creativity? In that case, the Inuit should be the smartest, most creative people on earth. No, wait, they’re not white, so that doesn’t work.

        Innovation has to happen somewhere. Ground axes (i.e. stone axes sharpened by grinding) have been found in the Kimberley (definitely occupied by 48,000 years ago) dated to 30,000 years, and flakes from ground axes have been found in Arnhem Land dated to 35,000 years ago. That technology could have been imported, or developed in situ – I don’t see any rational objective reason to suppose either way.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        What was ‘marginal’ about them?

        Perhaps I did not explain my self well enough. I meant that in non-marginal areas the overturning of the environment possibly left few artifacts, while those occupying marginal areas might not have been as capable and thus we would not expect to see interesting stuff from their areas.

        And the prey species were…?

        Kangaroos, wallabies. Surely you don’t believe that the new human occupants of Australia left them alone.

        Innovation has to happen somewhere. Ground axes (i.e. stone axes sharpened by grinding) have been found in the Kimberley (definitely occupied by 48,000 years ago) dated to 30,000 years, and flakes from ground axes have been found in Arnhem Land dated to 35,000 years ago. That technology could have been imported, or developed in situ – I don’t see any rational objective reason to suppose either way.

        Well, sure, innovation has to happen somewhere, but why assume that the human occupants of Australia arrived without the technology? How well have all the areas they traversed on their journey to Australia been searched for similar technology? It seems to me that the most parsimonious explanation is that they arrived with the technology package complete. The sorts of selection that has operated in Australia since their arrival seems to have worked in a direction that increased hardwired support for what is needed to get through life …

        Certainly with Tasmania, all we see is a loss of technology, not the invention of new technology …

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Aboriginal Australians did not arise in Australia. They are descended from people who traveled through South East Asia to arrive in Australia.

        What you are saying is: The people who became Aboriginal Australians didn’t bother to invent this stuff on their Journey to the South, but when they arrived in Australia, they said “It’s time” (to reuse a political slogan from some time ago) and invented this new technology.

        I think people who think that are short-changing the precursors to the Aboriginal Australians.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Prey species – left them alone? Hell no, why would I assume that? They were too smart to be vegetarians. I was thinking more of wombats the size of rhinoceroses.

        I am not assuming either way – they could have brought the technology with them, or they could have developed it in situ. I don’t see compelling evidence for either, and don’t see that one is more parsimonious than the other. Those people had very hard woods available to them, some of them so hard you can’t hammer a steel nail through them, the nail just bends – to use it as flooring, you have to drill it, you can’t nail it down. Why bother to make a stone spear point that will just break in an animal, when you can sharpen a hardwood spear, and then further harden the point in a fire? The lack of a lot of stone artefacts does not mean that people did not have technology – actually for a lot of purposes maybe better than stone technology for a nomadic foraging people, but which would not survive in the archaeological record.

        One thing is clear – fairly recently, there was something of a tech revolution, with the appearance of backed blades, and it gives every appearance of being introduced, although that is not a certainty. Certainly the dingo was introduced. That does not mean that everything had to be introduced.

        Tasmanians were a special case – they existed as a small population totally isolated for a very long time; the population was so small that technology transmitted by oral tradition could easily die out, especially stuff that was not essential for survival. Those conditions did not apply to the Australian mainland, where the peak pre-colonisation population could have been half a million (some claim a million, but I think a reasonable carrying capacity for foragers in Australia would have been more likely to be around half of that, even with pretty dense semi-sedentary populations in areas that were particularly food-rich like around the Murray), and where artefacts demonstrate conclusively that they had trade contacts that operated over extremely long distances – thousands of miles.

      • Sandgroper says:

        “What you are saying is” – no, you are putting words into my mouth. What I am saying is that technology did not necessarily have to be imported or introduced, it could have been developed in situ. It almost seems to be a meme with archaeologists now that all tech must have been introduced, either by diffusion or replacement. Everything new had to be invented some f*cking where. Humans are creative, innovative creatures, at least since about 50,000 years or so ago; even the dumbest, least creative populations have their upper tail.

        I’m open to the idea that the first arrivals in Australia were pretty hi-tech people for their time – either they had to be to get there, unless it was some very highly unlikely accident.

    • If LPA people compete and survive successfully in other predator-rich biomes, I doubt Australia was more difficult in that regard. If anything the ‘Megalania’ (Varanus priscus) would likely be vulnerable to human predation as juveniles, like other large monitor lizards are today. And since today LPA human ecological interactions with giant snakes in the Philippines are complex with bidirectional predation, human predation upon Wonambi is likely. Nonetheless Wonambi had a weak bite and weak teeth, meaning that Wonambi was not ecologically akin to a rock python or an anaconda as is commonly supposed and unlikely to prey on human prey even at large sizes.

      There are no ethnohistorical examples to show how Pleistocene people coped with the terrestrial (but supposedly only present in aquatic deposits) Quinkana, presuming actual coexistence with humans in this case. However the marsupial carnivores were likely no ‘worse’ than mammals elsewhere. At 101-130 kg (Wroe) Thylacoleo was comparable to the Panthera cats and the largest endothermic predator.

      Some people have claimed to identify the megalania in Aboriginal folklore but the evidence turns out either to relate to living monitors, or to be inadmissable for inferring experiential basis (ie. stories about six-legged whowies do not sound convincingly alike a living four-legged lizard.)

      Pleistocene Australia was actually deficient in large carnivores.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Bones – I don’t buy that things can survive that long in oral tradition, anyway – do you?

        Thylacoleo does appear to have been adapted to preying on very large prey animals, though, and reportedly had more bite force than an African lion.

        Still, people had fire.

        But something or someone extincted Diprotodons, and I don’t buy the climate change theories.

      • I read a few times that Aboriginal oral traditions remember offshore landforms that disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene. But on the other hand, historian Ronald Hutton points out that British folk history about English ruins is largely inaccurate despite the low time depth between local people today and the events in question. It is the case that some folk memories are by nature selectively neutral, whilst others are under positive or negative selection. As such it seems that there exists no time depth for the accuracy of oral tradition, but nor is its testimony at all reliable unless its claims can be propped up by evidence.

        Do remember that Thylacoleo was likely a solitary hunter and not as smart as the large Carnivoran cats. These factors may have impaired their ability to guard their kills and their ability to adapt to human arrival. (Remember how the Hadza obtain their meat,)

        Note though that I still find overkill inappropriate for continental fauna. It fails for example to explain why Leipoa gallinacea would be hit but not the living malleefowl, Leipoa ocellata. Other problems relate to the extinction of one species in one ecosystem but not its relatives inhabiting another. Komodo dragons are descended from Australian giant monitors and as island endemics might be predicted more vulnerable than their mainland cousins. Yet the insular Varanus komodoensis survives while the mainland V.priscus did not enter the Holocene.

  12. dearieme says:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2607675/Did-scurvy-strike-Christopher-Columbus-crew-Skeletons-suggest-New-Worlds-European-settlers-suffered-disease.html

    This made me think about a small population arriving on a new continent. They would probably find the fish, mammals and birds sufficiently familiar to hunt, cook and eat. But how long would it take them to master the local fruit and veg as food?

  13. hbd chick says:

    yeah. maybe they ate lots of wallaby sausages. (~_^)

    • dearieme says:

      I can confirm that kangaroo tastes pretty good. Though my beloved refused to butcher and cook roadkill kangaroo, so we eventually had to eat the beast in a restaurant.

      • Sandgroper says:

        A young one tastes a bit like very lean beef, and not overly tough. Kangaroo tail soup and stew are absolutely delicious. And I’m not into eating a lot of exotic stuff – I strongly dislike the taste of crocodile. I quite like snake, and frog is OK. Sea slugs are rubbery and unimpressive, as are jellyfish, but not too repulsive to eat, just bland to the point of pointlessness.

        But I will die before I will put a snail or a witchetty grub into my mouth. I don’t care how much butter and garlic they have on them, snails are disgusting, and I’m not eating them.

      • dearieme says:

        Good grief. We even spent one summer collecting snails from our own garden to eat. They tasted just like French snails i.e. of butter and garlic. Naturally we used our own garlic and parsley: locavores, that’s us.

  14. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Tangentially on topic, but it seems like males should avoid producing nutritious semen if they don’t want females to develop large, penis-like copulatory organs.

  15. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Someone found a way to improve minority graduation rates:

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/04/17/the-left-wing-medias-war-on-americas-first-latina-governor/

    I wonder what it is?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Martinez doesn’t have the faintest idea how to improve education in New Mexico. Who does? She wants to crush the teacher’s union, but that won’t help.

      I like to have people spy on the fools at the top.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Given that all graduation rates seemed to go up, I imagine they fiddled the data somehow.

      • dearieme says:

        “She wants to crush the teacher’s union, but that won’t help.” It might not help, but it’s surely a good thing of itself?

      • Jim says:

        Is the public educational system in New Mecico really bad or are the low scores mostly a matter of demographics?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Mostly demographics. Here are some 2009 NAEP numbers:

          8th grade math scores – (Hispanic and white)

          NM 262 288
          IOWA 266 287
          CA 256 289
          National 266 292

          8th grade reading scores – (Hispanic and white)

          NM 248 271
          Iowa 249 267
          CA 241 269
          National 248 271

          Of course “Hispanic” means different demographics in different states.

          My kids go to a mostly-Hispanic public school in Albuquerque, generally considered a not-very-good school. In other words, a higher fraction of the kids are Hispanic than in some of the other schools in the city. Poorer, too.

          Same books, same curriculum as the ‘good’ schools in town, and as far as I can see, kids with the same qualities do the same in one or the other.

          My kids have done OK.

      • ziel says:

        “She wants to crush the teacher’s union, but that won’t help.”
        Not with improving the schools, but it might help her win re-election – teachers’ unions tend to spend lots of money supporting Democrats.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Given that all graduation rates seemed to go up, I imagine they fiddled the data somehow.

        An alternative, and simpler, explanation is that they relaxed the graduation requirements.

  16. Jim says:

    From that data it seems that it’s pretty much a matter of demographics. So the New Mexican schools are probably OK. I agree that “Hispanic” is a very-poorly defined term.

  17. Sandgroper says:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-21/prevalence-of-rare-brain-disease-increasing-in-nt-communities/5401948

    I am optimistic that one day Aboriginal people, real Aboriginal people, will embrace genomics, simply because they will have no choice.

    Inbreeding in remote isolated communities must be a concern.

    • Sandgroper says:

      For background, these isolated communities did not always exist – they are the remnants of abandoned missions. Traditionally, Aboriginal people would have been much more ‘networked’ and inter-connected. The process goes like this:

      (1) The traditional groups are shattered by introduced disease (the first round being smallpox introduced to the north coast by Makassan traders which spread progressively everywhere, that actually preceded the first fleet of European settlers, followed by successive waves of other infectious disease epidemics introduced by whoever that are probably still continuing – the Abos were hit particularly hard by the polio epidemics of the early 50s, and are particularly susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes, respiratory diseases and all kinds of other stuff).
      (2) The shattered remnants of the traditional Aboriginal groups were rounded up by missionaries and herded into remote, isolated missions, taught about the white fella’s God, decultured in various ways and made dependent on hand-outs for survival.
      (3) The missions were then abandoned for whatever reasons, leaving remote, isolated groups who were no longer able to return to their traditional way of life/means of feeding themselves, and who remain dependent on government handouts for survival.

      It’s a great process. It virtually guaranteed inbreeding (and therefore spreading of rare genetic variants like MJD and all kinds of other bad stuff, as well as resentment by taxpayers. The Aboriginal lawyer/activist Noel Pearson says that handouts are the wrong approach – my response to Noel is (1) OK, but what’s the alternative, and (2) how does anyone now fix that which is hopelessly broken?

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        (1) The traditional groups are shattered by introduced disease (the first round being smallpox introduced to the north coast by Makassan traders which spread progressively everywhere, that actually preceded the first fleet of European settlers, followed by successive waves of other infectious disease epidemics introduced by whoever that are probably still continuing – the Abos were hit particularly hard by the polio epidemics of the early 50s, and are particularly susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes, respiratory diseases and all kinds of other stuff).

        Kind of a replay of what happened to the Native Americans?

        However, this illustrates something interesting. Isolation from the mainstream of humanity (as Native Americans and Australian Aborigines were for a long time) can be a boon but can also be disastrous.

        Disaster occurs when those other populations are selected for immunity to diseases that your isolated population is not selected for. If you are a member of an isolated population you better hope that you can develop superhuman intelligence so you can deal with the diseases introduced by those other populations before they destroy you all.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Yes, exactly, with about the same outcome – probably around a 90% wipeout, by the time the main epidemic diseases had worked their way round one after another.

        Preserving Aboriginal culture in its ‘native’ state was never going to happen – it couldn’t. They were shattered, just by meeting the new neighbours. Actually, if Judy Campbell is to be believed (and she is a serious, evidence-driven historian with no apparent political axes to grind who researched very carefully, and deserved not to be so stupidly or trivially dismissed), it had started before the new neighbours even started to move in.

        And Polynesians – check out what happened to Tahitians.

  18. Sandgroper says:

    Meanwhile, I am very diplomatically and thoughtfully not mentioning the results of the Boston Marathon, but I see some lady whose father’s name is Dibaba (sound familiar?) only managed to come third, after previously winning the Xiamen Marathon.

    The men’s winner is not Ethiopian or Kenyan, for the first time since 1991. He was born in Eritrea (doh!).

    • Still the Great African Rift Valley, though.

      • Sandgroper says:

        I am inclined to go along with the idea that suggesting ancestry and geography provide a competitive edge at the highest elite levels of athletics is ‘racist’, simply to prevent any suggestion that such an advantage is somehow ‘unfair’. If high altitude Rift Valley people end up winning every medium to long distance race on the planet, even to the extent that every single runner in the field has that natural genetic advantage, then they do, and it’s still a ‘world’ competition.

        I only say that because I recently heard some commentator complaining about the number of Ethiopian girls in the final of some middle distance race. That’s like complaining about tall players dominating basketball. If Olympics and World Championship finals end up being contested by 10 Ethiopians, or Eritreans, or Kenyans, AFAIAC so be it. The high altitude adaptation provides one slight edge – they still need a whole suite of the right genes, and still need to work extremely hard for it.

  19. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    It seems that a disease has taken hold in the Albuquerque police department.

  20. Sandgroper says:

    Drive the NSA nuts.

    I’m guessing Outer Hebrideans don’t suffer iodine deficiency, but it’s just a guess.

  21. neilfutureboy says:

    Also Abos, Kangaroos, etc are competing with other creatures also suffering from the same lack of micronutrients so the competition is less tough.

  22. Pingback: Traces of selection | West Hunter

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