National Geographic : 1989 Oct
NAOAL G AP AAZ G PH A Did Neandertals Speak? New Bone of Contention ould Neandertal man, the last hominid to appear before mod ern humans, speak? Scientists have wondered about that for a long time but have been hampered by the absence of definitive fossil evidence. Now an international research team MICHABAR-AM,MAGNUM has found what it believes is the Nean dertal version of a bone that is a key to modern human speech. It suggests that, whether or not Neandertals did speak, they could have. Baruch Arensburg of Tel Aviv Uni versity and his team unearthed the hyoid bone while digging in Israel's Kebara cave (GEOGRAPHIC, October 1988). It was part of a nearly complete skeleton that dates from about 60,000 years BP, a time when Neandertals were in the late stages of their existence and modern humans had appeared. The hyoid is a U-shaped bone that supports the tongue and its muscles. The Kebara hyoid is the oldest such bone found in a prehistoric site. "This bone was very modern in shape, in size, and in position," Arensburg says. "It is a bone so similar to modern bones that it may be an indication of anatomical capabilities." Arensburg notes that because the pop ulation in the Middle East 60,000 years ago was different from that in Europe, "we can't be 100 percent sure that this is a Neandertal." But if it is, it's a missing piece of an old puzzle. A Welcome Increase in Condor Hatchings he population of California con dors, which are hovering on the verge of extinction (GEOGRAPHIC, June 1989), took a welcome turn this year with the hatching of four chicks in the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Their arrival increases the number of condors to 32, all in captivity. The four chicks hatched from among seven eggs laid by condors in the Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Two eggs were infertile, and the sev enth, which also may have been infer tile, was destroyed by an adult condor. All the chicks are doing well with the aid of a condor puppet (below) to so cialize them to their own species. They will help provide a healthy genetic base for a viable population. If captive condors in Los Angeles and San Diego continue to produce RON GARRISON,ZOOLOGICALSOCIETYOF SAN DIEGO offspring, biologists will soon begin to release condors into the wild, says Wil liam Toone, curator of ornithology at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The new chicks are Mandan, the name of an Indian tribe; Towasinah, or "friend" in the Karok Indian language; Kaduku, "strong in spirit" in Konkow Indian; and Shasta, named for Indians in northern California. Scientists Identify a New Lemur Species emurs are under siege in their home land of Madagascar, as its forests are slashed and burned to provide desperately needed cropland, pasture, and firewood. Yet new species of lemurs continue to be identified. Scientists first sighted the golden bamboo lemur in 1986 (GEOGRAPHIC, August 1988). Now Elwyn Simons, DAVIDHARING director of the Duke University Primate Center in Durham, North Car olina, has identified another species, called the golden-crowned sifaka, from the noise it makes that sounds like "shi-fakh." Simons formally chris tened the lemur Propithecustattersalli, after British primatologist Ian Tatter sall, who photographed the animal in 1974 but was unable to determine if it was a distinct species. It is about 18 inches tall with a tail the same length and has prominent ears, mostly white fur, and a shock of golden orange on the crown of its head. Scientists at the Duke Primate Cen ter, which has received National Geographic Society support for work in Madagascar, believe there are only a few hundred golden-crowned sifakas, making them one of the most endan gered lemurs. Andrea Katz, who man ages the center's lemur colony, says researchers think more lemur species will be identified as scientists penetrate new areas of forest.