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Love, Carnivores, Big Brain Evolution, and Mating Systems (NSFW)

Posted Dec 18 2012 9:07pm

Conjure One
'Endless Dream'  [click to listen]
Courtesy Youtube.com





"When the body sinks into death, the essence of man is revealed. 
Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. 
Only those relationships matter."


~From Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Sex: The Birds and The Bees

Sometimes one has to talk about the euphemistic 'birds and the bee's to young adults in one's hormonally peaked household... but really upon contemplation of evolutionary sexual biology, do we want to talk about the mating systems of the b-i-r-d-s and the b-e-e-s (adjunct to plant s*x), unless one is into hardcore advocation of polyamorous systems of mating?

Dunbar et al has produced a fascinating comparison of 4 mammalian groups and birds, comparing the average residual brain volume (corrected for body size and phylogeny) in pair-bonding members and non-pair-bonding members (polygamous, polygynous, etc). Interestingly among primate species (like us) there is no significant difference between average residual brain volumes and respective mating systems. It appears quite vanilla and equally diversified. However for carnivores, the larger the brain volume residual, the higher the percentage of carnivores in pair-bonding mating systems. For non-pair bonding carnivores, the average brain residual was even slightly negative.



Bird-Brains and Bat-Brains

For bats, this differential is way more pronounced.  Smaller-brained bats breed in groups and rear offspring in commune-like settings (e.g. two dads and two moms per two kids).  I've previously discussed  bat s*xxxx (NSFW) .  What I find the most fascinating about bats is that these omnivorous mammals are so varied and diverse in the way they look and appear and like humans the more complex the social network, the smarter and the more pair-bonded they are.

Birds (yellow circle) display an even greater relationship between small-residual brain volumes and non-pair bonded mating systems. The biological truth is that most birds mate quite non-selectively every season, and, for many species, several times a season if conditions prevail.

What about bees?  Yes they generously help flowers have flower-sex, to inseminate across space and long distances....spreading and mingling pollen from stamen to stamen. Yet bees mate too but only between the chaste newly hatched queen and a squadron of male drones, bred only to inseminate her. Upon escaping the egg casing, a new virgin queen is reared then goes upon a nuptial flight to be mated with a dozen male drones (or even 100). The sperm is saved and the queen lays fertilized eggs for the next few years for the life of the hive and its entire future population. Diagram PDF (click) .





Oxytocin

An earlier post discussed a seminal PNAS article which reviewed how ancestral divergence among proteins contributed to the rapid evolution of the primate and hominid brain. Oxytocin is one such protein, a nona-neuropeptide (9 amino acids) which is secreted in nearly every organ system in humans. Tremendous interspecies variation in receptor density and secretion patterns exist. It is quite dangerous to extrapolate animal data to human data. Humans are not voles. Or bees or birds (yellow circle).

Our human hominid oxytocin  is different. It goes up with so many of our human deep emotional interactions,  cements the memories we have for positive connections and enables trusted communication in relationships. It helps us to mind-read. To tell the thoughts of our loved ones and others. It helps us to read visual and non-visual environmental cues. It produces perhaps both the hunter's trance and lover's glance....




Carnivores and Iron Deficiency Anemia (Driving Evolutionary Force)

Been reading a lot of Shlain lately, his brilliant and magnificent STP ('Sex Time Power').  He proposes that humans had vast evolutionary changes in our relationships when there was perhaps a bottleneck of female hominids some 150,000 years ago.  Something changed 150,000 years ago and perhaps it was the way that females and males related and hooked up with one another...

Going back to the birds and bees, many things may have changed the last 150,000 years. His theory was that if suddenly there were scarce and only a few female hominids but a relative overpopulation of male hominids (Hss, Hs. neanderthalenesis, H. heidelbergenesis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, etc), something drove a dramatic change in archaic human interconnectedness and relationships. He postulated that maternal mortality was high. Many females may have been suffering and dying from a coalescence of evolutionary events --  bipedalism, narrow hips, early ontogeny and neonatal prematurity, troubled tortuous births and a doubling of neonatal brains (during the first year of life). The demand for iron during maternal gestation, birth and lactation for the maternal hominid was never higher. And still is (except for those genetically adapted with hemachromatosis).

And how could she hunt with babies clinging or fecund bellies? Or leaving predator-triggering, blood-tainted tracks during the period of menstrual blood?

Shlain hypothesizes a lot and I think he is actually right on about the majority.....  from the evolutionary point of view, iron is not only a critical brain nutrient for neurons but it is also crucial for all mitochondrial (e.g. cytochrome structures) and oxygen-related metabolic and circulatory processes. Have you ever drowned? Been anemic? Suffocated? Had CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning?  Seen a subpar-IQ kid with an iron-deficient mom?  Because iron deficiency anemia still plagues humans to this day, I think his point has huge merit and requires consideration.

Iron.

Need it for life or will die... slowly or dumbly or both.

I can see from Shlain's point of view (a surgeon's) the importance of iron for blood, metabolism, brain growth and maturation, and IQ. Perhaps with other factors, human relationships required the binding transcendant force of a tight pair-bond that only carnivorous pairing could achieve?  When food resources were scarce and fecund females too fatigued to procure, defend, hunt or fight?

In China, a small sexual revolution is occurring.  Because of the last few decades of China's 'one-child birth policy', many families are faced with a crisis and burgeoning population of male offspring and insufficient brides.  Brides are not only scarce, some marry outside of the Chinese race.  As a result many Chinese local females are in a position to bargain for the best candidates.  The resources brought to the table by the male and their familes are I think higher than normal -- house, good job, family wealth, etc.  Looks, romance, hearts-n-flowers?  I don't actually know but if you watch Chinese dating shows (I don't) apparently the check off list also includes talents like killer singing, wooing, and more singing.

Is this any different than paleo times?

Perhaps no.

The scavenger/hunter/gatherer/fisherperson of the past 10,000 - 2 million years learned to bring home the bacon (iron)... and provide shelter, warmth, extended family help, and other resources to trade.



Meat/Seafood = Outsourced Nutrition

Nutritional science is fascinating to me.  So many nutrients must be consumed by carnivores and omnivores because they are not produced or synthesized endogenously in any significant amount -- Vitamin B12, Taurine, Saturated Fatty Acids, Vitamin K2 (menaquinones), Retinol/Vitamin A, Vitamin C, et cetera.   Some require our gut microbiome participation to conjugate or produce these nutrients, but again, outsourcing of these nutrients to the hominid diet was far more nutritionally economical over the millenia as our guts shrunk from transforming from primate frugivores to carnivores and later omnivores.

Other nutrients and micronutrients that are 100% or profoundly outsourced--iron
--methylated B-vitamins, formyltetrahydrofolates, choline (all from yolks, meat/seafood, organ meats)
--long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (IQ-increasing)
--other minerals: zinc selenium iodine

Meat and seafood contains all of the above, particularly iron which is the most bioavailable and easily assimiliated form of iron in existence. Regarding folates, be careful of supplementation with folic acid, one of the synthesized vitamins that is not find in food in great abundance ( less than 10% ). Animal- and plant-sourced food has a spectrum of folates and derivatives: 5-MTHF (5-methylformyltetrahydrofolate), folinic acid and formyltetrahydrofolates.

Use of folic acid supplementation and food fortification are now associated with higher incidence of cancers.  More shades of super f-cked up ....

All the above nutrients affect a newborn's brain growth and subsequent intelligence.

All the above nutrients are not found in great quantities in vegetable sources, if at all.



Tripling of Brain Size: Australopithecus to Now (0.45 L to present 1.4 L cranial volume)

For most of our existence, I think we have been predators . The introduction of meat to the diet may have occured about ~2 million years ago. The cooking of meat and other foods may have occurred gradually since that time.  Each become more consistent and regular over time.  Shlain asserted that humans experienced an increase in the neocortex and tripling of the hominid brain over that period of time. He believed it was related to a combination of forces -- choosy and picky, bipedal, big brained females and a dire iron deficiency syndrome.  Language flourished and like song birds attracting mates, dancing bees or croaking bullfrogs, suddenly men and women were able to communicate their attraction outside of undetected pheromonal scents. Sexual dimorphism retreated to the neocortex (brain, the big phat brain). All overt signs of estrus disappeared.  Humans are the ONLY animal species on the planet that does not enter into estrus -- we are sexually receptive ALL THE TIME. (sorta, except PMS 'pack my suitcase' for the guys) Males are ready to go at any minute, any second given appropriate cues (visual, verbal, scent, sex-text, etc). Testicular size moderated. Harems extinguished. Males and females were and are polygamous (83%, Murdock, 1967).

Language became the main sexual dimorphism.  Shlain points to the evidence that iron started it.  Then as brain size and its subsequent accoutrements (language, art, culture) thrived, so did our thinking and metaphysical cognition.

I think on our march of evolving as beings, we have zigged and zagged -- starting as frugivores then emerging as carnivores and then reverting slightly back to herbivores. Our brains perhaps have followed the same analogous path. We started as primate groups, then had small tribal coalitions similar to social carnivores, then we have perhaps reverted back to large complex primate social networks. We no longer groom each other for hours and hours on end chewing the cud, but we gab and gossip.  We share stories and tell tales. We admonish our children and train them with truths.  We heed our mentors' words. We problem solve and support in tears and laughter over coffee or working out.

The brain and our language serve dimorphic purposes as well maintenance of tight social/family connections and possibly hierarchy.



Foresight

Shlain posits that at vital point in history, humans determined the relationship between death and its finality. Our thoughts transcended the present dimension and envisioned the future. Funeral ceremonies, burial rituals and grave artifacts may have developed around 50,000 years ago at the same time in human history when art, culture and language erupted (' Great Leap ').  Securing consistent brain nutrient and micronutrients I believe heralded these adjustments.  Society brought on more regular trade. Trade of goods enabled complex social networks and stability.


Play/Foreplay

Only carnivores and certain omnivores engage in play... Why? Why do little boys play guns and war? Why take 10 years of piano or violin lessons?  Why compete in speech and debate, chess or tennis matches? Why enjoy the sparring with kickboxing gals in class or watching MMA fights?

Why?

It takes 10 years to grow a tree, but 100 years to grow a human being (ancient Chinese saying; thanks W).

(Is it all foreplay? . . . m a y b e)



Transcendance: Brain-F-cking (Merging)

Rapid changes have occurred in our communication in just the last short years. Technology has provided tools that never existed. How is our neocortex is adapting? Do you interact differently? Are we more deeply connected? How potent is virtual oxytocin? Is merging of our cognitive beings transforming our brains?  [Personally I've been in deep DEEP awe of my iPhone 4G since I graduated to one after breaking my 1994 old cell phone (archaic -- no camera, no nothing) in January.  Recently I dropped the beloved (phone) which required the LCD to be repaired. Realized in the few days it was broken how we are affected, dependent, and emotionally reliant on technology and being so-called plugged in.]

Shlain believed that a new human species is evolving. Similar insights have been put forth by other luminary thinkers like Gerald Hüther PhD and Bruce Lipton PhD .  Love, harmony, compassion, oxytocin, empathy, and our complex interconnectedness are leading adaptations and understanding that may be creating evolved beings that transcend the physical, hierarchical, material and other barriers.  'Increasing numbers of us live up to the potential that was encoded into each of our chromosomes at the moment of our conception. There can be little doubt that all these drastic alterations in our environment are collectively functioning as transformative agents fueling the human species' metamorphosis....' (Shlain STP, 2003)
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