Collections and Research News for the Week of August 24, 2012

Staff & Student News: 

Research Scientist Torsten Dikow (BioSynC) has accepted a new postdoctoral position as a Peter Buck Fellow in the Department of Entomology at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.   He will leave BioSynC and The Field Museum at the end of August after four-and-a-half years and starts his new project on robber flies at the NMNH in September.


Research Associate Maxine McBrinn (Anthropology) has been named Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, NM.  Maxine was a content specialist for Ancient Americas.

Research & Publications: 

Bats are known to harbor a number of viruses that affect human health, the most notorious being rabies, and are implicated as vectors or reservoirs of some emerging diseases, such as Ebola and SARS.  Newly-published research from the lab of Research Associate Katharina Dittmar (Zoology/Insects and University of Buffalo) has identified novel genotypes of Bartonella, intracellular bacteria that infect a wide range of mammals including humans, in 19 species of bat flies.  Half the known species of bartonellae are causative agents of disease in their hosts.  Besides uncovering a remarkable diversity of new bartonellae, researchers isolated the same strains of bartonellae in bat flies and their host bats, presumably from the blood-feeding habits of the flies.

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Bats are known to harbor a number of viruses that affect human health, the most notorious being rabies, and are implicated as vectors or reservoirs of some emerging diseases, such as Ebola and SARS.  Newly-published research from the lab of Research Associate Katharina Dittmar (Zoology/Insects and University of Buffalo) has identified novel genotypes of Bartonella, intracellular bacteria that infect a wide range of mammals including humans, in 19 species of bat flies.  Half the known species of bartonellae are causative agents of disease in their hosts.  Besides uncovering a remarkable diversity of new bartonellae, researchers isolated the same strains of bartonellae in bat flies and their host bats, presumably from the blood-feeding habits of the flies. They also isolated the same strains in adult and pupal bat flies, identifying a vertical mode of transmission among the flies.  These findings implicate bat flies in transmitting the bacteria among the individual bats within colonies, a key element in bacterial transmission and a new reason to learn much more about the bat-bat fly host-parasite system.  MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) and Research Associate Carl Dick (Zoology/Insects and Western Kentucky University) contributed to the research, which was supported by collaborative NSF grants; their Puerto Rican fieldwork was crucial for documenting patterns of transmission.  A copy of the article in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution can be found here.


Following an invitation from guest editors Gustl Anzenberger and Anthony Rylands in 2011, A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin (Anthropology) contributed a paper for a special issue of International Zoo Yearbook.  That special issue (volume 46), including Bob’s paper entitled “Reproductive characteristics of New World monkeys,” has just appeared in print.  In the paper, Bob reviews various aspects of reproduction of New World monkeys in an evolutionary context. Ovarian cycles and gestation are reviewed, notably in comparison to the sister group including Old World monkeys, apes and humans.  New World monkeys similarly have an invasive placenta and menstruation, but are unusual among primates generally because their ovarian cycle lengths (otherwise averaging about a month) are often reduced.  Like Old World monkeys, apes and humans, most New World monkeys give birth to a single infant at a time; but multiple births (usually twinning) clearly evolved as a secondary development in the small-bodied marmosets and tamarins.

 


Regenstein Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Golitko and Regenstein Curator John Terrell (both Anthropology) published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science entitled “Mapping Prehistoric Social Fields: Ceramic Compositional Analysis using Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry.”


Curator Gary Feinman (Anthropology) is one of the contributing authors to a new encyclopedic compendium, The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology, edited by Deborah L. Nichols and Christopher A. Pool (2012).  Gary’s essay, entitled “Mesoamerican States and Empires,” reviews current scholarship regarding hierarchically organized polities (states and empires) in this prehispanic world, including the political formations of the Maya, Zapotec, and Aztec.  The volume was published by Oxford University Press (New York).


Curator Emeritus Michael Dillon (Botany) published an account of the discovery and demise of a new species of Magnolia from northern Peru in the spring/summer edition of the journal of the Magnolia Society International.  The article, accompanied by a photo of this beautiful (and now apparently lost) plant, has now made its way to the Society’s web site.


MacArthur Field Biologist Steven Goodman (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) published a paper with several colleagues from South Africa and Madagascar in the journal Acta Chiropterologica, entitled “Wing loading correlates negatively with genetic structuring of eight Afro-Malagasy bat species (Molossidae).”  Data are presented in the paper on factors of bat wing aspect ratios, wing loading and body size (forearm length) as compared to some molecular diversity estimates among eight Afro-Malagasy species of Molossidae bats.  The main goal of the paper is to see if dispersal capacity in these bats is related to different measures of genetic diversity and to test several different hypotheses to explain the patterns found.

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Fieldwork & Collections: 

In late August, Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects), returned from a three-week trip to Uganda, Africa.  Corrie was an invited instructor for a field-based course on ant biology, taxonomy, and evolution held at the Makerere University Biological Field Station.  More than 30 students from 15 countries attended the course.  Although the focus of the course was on the ant diversity of western Africa, Corrie was also able to visit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see endangered mountain gorillas (see header image).

 


Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) undertook archaeological excavations at the Temple of Picchu Picchu on the archaeological site of Cerro Baul, Peru, in July and August 2012.  The excavations revealed a construction offering at the base of the temple platform that will confirm the date of construction of the temple.  Ryan’s study is part of a larger program investigating how religion has been used to incorporate foreign groups into the economy of an expanding empire.  The results of this research will provide new data on how religious ideas have been used to increase economic and political influence in foreign lands.

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In late August, Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects), returned from a three-week trip to Uganda, Africa.  Corrie was an invited instructor for a field-based course on ant biology, taxonomy, and evolution held at the Makerere University Biological Field Station.  More than 30 students from 15 countries attended the course.  Although the focus of the course was on the ant diversity of western Africa, Corrie was also able to visit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see endangered mountain gorillas (see header image).

 


Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) undertook archaeological excavations at the Temple of Picchu Picchu on the archaeological site of Cerro Baul, Peru, in July and August 2012.  The excavations revealed a construction offering at the base of the temple platform that will confirm the date of construction of the temple.  Ryan’s study is part of a larger program investigating how religion has been used to incorporate foreign groups into the economy of an expanding empire.  The results of this research will provide new data on how religious ideas have been used to increase economic and political influence in foreign lands.


Dr. Serge Bahuchet, Professor d'Ethnobiologie from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle toured the Economic Botany collection with Collections Manager Christine Niezgoda (Botany) on August 21.  He is in the process of revamping their collections in Paris, and was greatly interested in viewing the collection’s storage facilities, use of archival materials and documentation procedures.

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