Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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


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.



Origins of Human Pair-Bonding?

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, job, wealth, health, right province, 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 vocal display.

Is this any different than Paleo or Pleistocene 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, Vitamin K2 (menaquinones), Retinol/Vitamin A, Vitamin C, etc.   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.  During gestation, a brain is built from scratch.  In the first year of life, the brain DOUBLES in size. The vehicle which carries our DNA forward, the baby, needs nutrients.

Other nutrients and micronutrients that are 100% or profoundly outsourced:
--iron
--methylated B-vitamins, 5-MTHF, 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 broad spectrum of folates and reduced derivatives: folinic acid, 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate; Dr.Tim Gerstmar's post), and formyltetrahydrofolates (meat meat meat).

Synthetic folic acid supplementation and industrial food fortification are associated with higher incidences of many cancers.  More shades of uber f-cked upness....

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.




The Carnivore-Fisherman Genetic Codes: SNPs

As an ancient SNP, Apo E4 confers longevity to those who follow the native diet of their ancestors.  Perhaps humans were hunter-gatherer-fishermen for so long, that outsourced all fat-soluble nutrients and cholesterol to the diet rather than producing on our own.  This makes sense as these are all downregulated in both absorption from the intestines and for endogenous production.  The global gradient for the E4 allele is increasing northward in Euroasia. The distribution for agrarian-adapted allele, apo E2, is the opposite and radiates in higher frequencies toward the fertile crescent where the birth of grain-dependence occurred. Several other adaptations are I believe protective reactions to phytates and grains/lectins (which chelate and reduce iron bioavailability or cause intestinal permeability, respectively) and less animal-sourced foods to secure nutrients for the fetal and postnatal brain growth and maturation -- altered metabolism of folates (MTHFR) and hemachromatosis (HFE),  higher fluffier LDL and HDL and less chronic diseases in long-lived Ashkenazi-Jewish (I405V CETP) and increased and larger fluffier LDL and HDL in intelligent Ashkenazi-Jewish with exceptional longevity (I405V CETP).





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. However, we are unique, different from lions, tigers, hyenas and bears. We are the only line of successful carnivores that descended from primates.   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. Like gorgeous song birds attracting mates, dancing bees or croaking bullfrogs, suddenly men and women were able to communicate their attraction outside of  pheromonal scents. Tasting kisses and tender touch blossomed. Love songs and lyrics exploded. Symphonies swayed heart and minds.  Operatic drama captured dreams and imagination.

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 during PMS 'pack my suitcase' for the guys) Males can beready to go at any hour, any minute, any second given appropriate cues (visual, verbal, scent, sex-text, etc). Testicular size moderated. Scents, hair, and apocrine glands downgraded. Harems extinguished. Hominid males lost the flaming red cues that signaled female hominid ovulation (without an app). Hooking up became subtle (or tribal orgies, e.g. clubbing). Human males and females were and are both pair bonded and 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 evolution as beings, we have zigged and zagged -- starting as frugivores then emerging as carnivores and then reverting slightly back to herbivores (some ethnicities more than others). 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 picking off fleas and varmin, but we gab and gossip.  We share stories and tell tales. We admonish our children and train them with truths.  We holler and heed our mentors' words. We solve problems and support in tears and laughter over coffee or sweating 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 a 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 enhanced 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 proverb; 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 from the archaic one (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)

[NSFW] As you are reading my thoughts and we connect, am I finger f-cking your brain?

9 comments:

zazendo said...

That was quite the meaty post.

I think about this alot, wondering how all this is going to play out.

Do we really want to adapt to a dependency on technology,herbivorous(mostly) diets, and sedentary lifestyles? What will we be giving up(selected out)?

Then again, there is eugenics...JOKE

Interesting though, the idea that as we became more and more carnivorous, we also became more pair-bonded.

Take that, hippie vegan folk:

Carnivorous living spawned love and romance.


Dr. B G said...

Z,

MEATY!! yay. I have your SAME sentiments...Could carnivory have really given us such great human gifts -- mind blowing pair bonding, love, romance?? Also I too wonder about the future (and deeply worry).

Under the chapter 'Carnivory/Vegetarianism' Shlain discusses 'As hominid predators became bolder and more successful, they began to discard essential enzymatic pathways [like methylation which is energetically costly] because they could eat what they needed to maintain their health. At some point in the recent past, Homo sapiens ceased being a highly successful predator living symbiotically within its ecological niche and instead became a parasite -- a very large parasite, but a parasite nonetheless.... It could be argued that Homo sapiens has degenerated from its beginnings as a symbiotic prey to a symbiotic predator to a parasite and has now transformed into a planet-devouring pathogen.'

More and more in 3rd world countries like China, you see the greedy taking advantage of natural resources and trashing the environment in its wake. Children are lead poisoned, villages devasted. GMO plants are affecting the intestinal permeability of all that consume and perhaps for even years or decades.... It is not good, Z.

It is funny some of the kindest and 'evolved' that I've met to note are vegetarians (sane ones) and the paleo former-vegetarians... Our powerful minds can supercede much.

Thank you for your insightful thoughts!

zazendo said...

I'm one of those former vegans turned Paleo.

I was going to add an Orwellian type reference in my earlier comment but resisted for want of a proper solution to the impending dystopia. :(

My thought experiments (ok daydreams-I won't sugar coat it bc sugar is bad ;p) have been questioning things like just what the hell are we supposed to be, are we evolving on an upwards tick (so called "progress") towards higher and higher goals, or is evolution like a series of overlapping circles that has no real end game....stuff like that.

I always get the feeling that we are lacking something important to our understanding of all this. Maybe it's me that lacks something. ;)

I do agree that we tend to act like parasites. And I rather like the idea of a symbiotic predator-reminds me of Native Americans, Hawaiians, and other indigenous people.

A true reverence for nature has nothing to do with what you eat and everything to do with how you live.

I think the Industrial Revolution made reverence for nature go extinct. It seems like it made us haughty, and sort of snub nosed about the earth.

And then we dump tankers of oil into the ocean, rape the seas of life, belch noxious chemicals into the sky, turn the ground where we grow food into a cesspool, among all the other stupid, reckless, arrogant business we conduct.

I'm not saying that we should necessarily return to our more primitive roots-and I don't think it's possible anymore short of a post apocalypse situation-but we def need an attitude adjustment and a resetting of our internal clocks.

I think there is a certain way, a very broad way to be sure, that all living things should conduct themselves while we occupy this place in space.

We are not doing it right.

Dr. B G said...

You've transcended quite a bit my friend.

George Henderson said...

Just a song to go with this comment thread:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YSl-3Z84zQ&feature=share

Thanks for the post - meaty as zazendo said!

Dr. B G said...

Thanks for the ROCKIN link.....

I didn't say it but I think it's worth pondering if the turn back to add vegetarian food source utilization from majority carnivory/seafood, did this change pair bonding? Increased polygamy? Changed food source v. changed mate sources? As Z mentioned crunchy free love hippie communes, how many of these were vegan?

Anonymous said...

I think that evolutionary we are going opposite direction. R-selection is starting to dominate K-selection (an area of love, empathy etc.) because offpring survival doesn't require intersexual cooperation anymore. The dark triad personality is sexually preferred by women and currently there is no environmental/evolutionary pressure to downregulate that preference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory

Dr. B G said...

Really enjoyed your comments -- I've not read EO Wilson's r/K selection theories til now. Very fascinating.

Yes I think we are moving away the divine feminine aspects and become severely unbalanced, away from collaboration, empathy, oxytocin, and the power that lies in celebrating nature and it's abundance. Perhaps Shlain still has relevance because I see serious neurodegeneration cultures that are predom vegetarian (China, India). Perhaps the loss of iron to subsequent generations coupled with replacing traditional fats (lard, ghee, respectively) is altering the course of our history by increasing r-traits for fast lives and abbreviated lifespans? Fast fecundity, small body size and heightened sexual maturation? Sounds like most of the Westrrn world? Our stature is shrinking, jaw occlusions abound and dental arches tighten. Even in the paleosphere, hubris, neuroticism, narcissism and psychopathy are not rare sadly. The damage is deep. Perhaps Gaia is just happy to see our fast mating strategies and shortening painful lives because we will implode on our selves eventually? Don't blame her!

Dr. B G said...

Btw I hope you expand on your thoughts. Thank you for your comment! The dark triad sounds like neurotoxins.... Mercury, arsenic, n6, food additives, MSG, sugar, B vitamin and other nutrient depletion syndromes, and othe ADHD TRIGGERS.