Distance running may be an evolutionary ‘signal’ for desirable male genes

PH-Cambridge

New research shows that males with higher ‘reproductive potential’ are better distance runners. This may have been used by females as a reliable signal of high male genetic quality during our hunter-gatherer past, as good runners are more likely to have other traits of good hunters and providers, such as intelligence and generosity.

Persistence hunting may have been one of the most efficient forms of hunting, and as a consequence may have shaped human evolution” – Danny Longman

Read University of Cambridge News Article here

Can Persistence Hunting Signal Male Quality?

Daniel Longman, Jonathan C. K. Wells, Jay T. Stock

Abstract

Various theories have been posed to explain the fitness payoffs of hunting success among hunter-gatherers. ‘Having’ theories refer to the acquisition of resources, and include the direct provisioning hypothesis. In contrast, ‘getting’ theories concern the signalling of male resourcefulness and other desirable traits, such as athleticism and intelligence, via hunting prowess. We investigated the association between androgenisation and endurance running ability as a potential signalling mechanism, whereby running prowess, vital for persistence hunting, might be used as a reliable signal of male reproductive fitness by females. Digit ratio (2D:4D) was used as a proxy for prenatal androgenisation in 439 males and 103 females, while a half marathon race (21km), representing a distance/duration comparable with that of persistence hunting, was used to assess running ability. Digit ratio was significantly and positively correlated with half-marathon time in males (right hand: r = 0.45, p<0.001; left hand: r= 0.42, p<0.001) and females (right hand: r = 0.26, p<0.01; left hand: r = 0.23, p = 0.02). Sex-interaction analysis showed that this correlation was significantly stronger in males than females, suggesting that androgenisation may have experienced stronger selective pressure from endurance running in males. As digit ratio has previously been shown to predict reproductive success, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that endurance running ability may signal reproductive potential in males, through its association with prenatal androgen exposure. However, further work is required to establish whether and how females respond to this signalling for fitness.

Read article here

PLOS

Published: April 8, 2015, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121560

A New Generation of Master Trackers

Mark&Adriaan

Today we are pleased to announce that Adriaan Louw, South Africa, and Mark Elbroch, USA, have been awarded Master Tracker certificates in recognition of their exceptional contribution to the growth of the art of tracking. They represent a new generation of Master Trackers who is taking the art of tracking into the future – a tradition that goes back hundreds of thousands of years and which may otherwise have died out with the last hunter-gatherers.

CyberTracker will in future recognize five categories of Master Trackers. We honour them not so much as individuals on their own, but for the contribution they have made collectively to the art of tracking as a whole. The different categories of Master Trackers complement one another. Together they have contributed to the growth of tracking in a way that no single individual could have achieved working alone. Significant attributes of the Master Tracker includes humility, wisdom, generosity and the desire to contribute to the growth of others.

The full range of attributes of the Master Tracker categories will in due course be documented and published on the CyberTracker website. A brief summary of the most important attributes include:

Elder Master Tracker

The Master Tracker certificate was created in honour of the memory of the elder generation of traditional hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari. The Elder Master Trackers were hunter-gatherers who may have passed away before they were officially recognized under the CyberTracker evaluation system, or those who may still be alive but due to old age and poor eyesight may no longer be able to track as well as they did when they were younger. These include the late !Nam!kabe Molote of Lone Tree, Botswana, !Namka and /Xantsue of Bere, Botswana, /Dzau /Dzaku and Xa//nau of Groot Laagte, Botswana, Bahbah, Jehjeh and Hewha, Ngwatle Pan, Botswana, Tso!oma, Ganamasi and Mutsabapu of Old Xade, Central Kalahari, Botswana, !Nani //Kxao, Ghau ≠Oma and Tsisaba Debe of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Namibia.

Traditional Master Tracker

The Traditional Master Tracker was or still is a traditional hunter, using the persistence hunting method and/or the traditional poison bow-and-arrow in a hunter-gatherer context.

Master Tracker: Exceptional Practical Skill and Expertise

A Master Tracker who did not practice traditional hunting, but have demonstrated exceptional practical skill and expertise in tracking. In future the minimum requirements will include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she mentored younger trackers, thereby making a contribution to the growth of tracking.

Master Tracker: Exceptional Contribution to the Growth of the Art of Tracking

A Master Tracker who contributed to the growth of tracking through the mentoring, evaluation and certification of a significant number of trackers. The minimum requirements include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she mentored younger trackers, and issued a large number of tracker certificates, thereby making a significant contribution to the growth of tracking.

Master Tracker: Original Contribution to the Art of Tracking

A Master Tracker who contributed to the growth of tracking through original publications, including books and/or scientific papers, or developing new technology and/or applying technology to tracking in an innovative way, or achieving a PhD that involved the application of tracking. The minimum requirements include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she published original new knowledge on the art of tracking and/or applying innovative technology to tracking, thereby making a significant contribution to the growth of tracking.

Louis Liebenberg, 23 March, 2015

Early Days of CyberTracker

This video from ABC News: Tracking Animals With GPS from the year 2000 takes us back to the early days of CyberTracker. At that time, we had one CyberTracker running on an Apple Newton unit in the Karoo National Park in South Africa and just started our second project with the Kwe San Bushmen in Namibia, using the PalmPilot.

Video: ABC News – Tracking Animals With GPS

ABC-News

Citizen science: creating an inclusive, global network for conservation

Technology is allowing anyone to contribute to scientific research, with implications for conservation, disease prevention and much more.

Louis Liebenberg explains in The Guardian

See also the UNEP Year Book 2014 emerging issues update:

Realizing the Potential of Citizen Science

rhino

CyberTracker data shows impact of Ebola on Lowland Gorillas

GorillaThe outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have resulted in huge cost in human lives and economic losses. Even the indirect economic impact on Africa as a whole has been huge as tourists have cancelled visits to Africa due to the fear of Ebola. In future it may be more cost-effective to monitor signs of potential outbreaks of Ebola among wildlife, especially along trade routes that may spread Ebola to highly populated areas.

The BBC reports that Bill Gates says “surveillance systems” are needed to spot the signs of a disease outbreak earlier and prevent crises like the Ebola situation in West Africa. See BBC Report here.

A cost-effective solution may include forest patrols especially along trade routes that could introduce Ebola via bush meat to high population areas. As indicated by the attached images, Ebola may be introduced to humans via the consumption of Duiker and Bush Pig. Using CyberTracker to monitor the tracks & signs of Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Duiker and Bush Pig may indicate potential outbreaks of Ebola even before it infects human populations.

Data collected from 2000 to 2003 by trackers working for the ECOFAC programme and using the CyberTracker have showed up the extent of the Lowland Gorilla mortality due to Ebola in the Lossi Sanctuary, Republic of Congo.

Wild animal outbreaks began before each of the 5 human Ebola outbreaks. Twice we alerted the health authorities to an imminent risk for human outbreaks, weeks before they occurred.

Impact of Ebola 1

Impact of Ebola 2

Impact of Ebola 3

This information has been confirmed by the Spanish primatologist, Dr Magdalena Bermejo, who has studied the gorillas in Lossi for ten years, and by the veterinaries of the International Medical Research Center of Franceville (CIRMF).

All the eight families (139 individuals) followed by Dr Bermejo since 1994 have now disappeared from the study area (40 km2). Two of these families were habituated to human presence. This habituation was not only a first with lowland gorillas but also was a first sight tourism experience in association with villages.

The CIRMF veterinaries have been able to collect a lot of samples and to confirm the presence of the virus in Chimpanzees and Gorillas. And, carcasses from other species have been found in the same area. Abundance indications collected on other species by the trackers, such as Duiker and Bush Pig, (see table) indicates that these species were also infected by Ebola.

Ebola, like other emerging diseases, remains a critical area of study to be explored not only to understand large primate dynamics and for their conservation, but for its potential impact on humans.

Wild animal mortality monitoring and human Ebola outbreaks

National Otter Survey of Ireland Recommends CyberTracker Certification for Europe

otter

The European Commission Habitats Directive requires that changes in the conservation status of designated species are monitored. Nocturnal and elusive species are difficult to count directly and thus population trajectories are inferred by variation in the incidence of field signs.

The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), listed by the IUCN as ‘near threatened’, is monitored throughout Europe using the ‘Standard Otter Survey’ method. The report explores the reliability of this approach by analysing species incidence throughout Ireland.

Surveillance of wild animal populations is notoriously problematic due to the difficulty in detecting individuals directly and the associated costs of surveying remote areas or rough terrain. For nocturnal and elusive species, researchers frequently sacrifice quantifying abundance and concentrate on determining patch occupancy. Consequently, indirect survey methods that record species presence using tracks, faeces or scent markings have become standard protocol for many species. These have comparatively low costs and, therefore, are widely used not only for assessing distribution and abundance but also in studies of habitat selection, behaviour and diet. However, binary presence/absence data are vulnerable to both Type I (false positive), and more significantly, Type II (false negative) errors.

False positives occur when the target species is recorded erroneously, for example by the misidentification of scats or where transient individuals are detected but are not resident whilst false negatives occur when the target species goes undetected at a site at which it occurs due to the apparent absence of field signs. Such errors can result in highly biased estimates of site occupancy, population size and habitat use. False positives can be avoided by surveyor training and testing as provided by the CyberTracker Certification used in the USA to quantify the skills of field observers (see http://trackercertification.com) or by independent verification, for example, DNA testing faeces to confirm the target species identity.

Quantifying the skills of observers working on wildlife surveys to be used as an explanatory variable in data analysis would be helpful. Thus, it is essential to accurately record the identity of surveyors and estimate their reliability during pre-survey training. For otter surveys throughout Europe, it may be beneficial to develop a similar programme to that offered by the CyberTracker Certification in the USA to provide an objective test of an observer’s reliability (see http://trackercertification.com).

Read the full Report here…