The conservation of the fossils recovered in archeopaleontological sites is an accurate work that demands specialized techniques. In order to improve the conservation of the 1 million year-old large mammals remains from the Barranc de la Boella site (Tarragona, Spain), Lucía López-Polín, conservator at IPHES (the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) has benefit from fellowship grant to conduct her research at the at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
The aim of this research was to study the packaging and storage systems for fossil vertebrates that are used in the above-mentioned Smithsonian museum. The study seek to assess if their methods would be useful for the fossils of proboscides and other large mammals from Barranc de la Boella, which have a unique problem due to their large dimensions and weights.
The work has been developed in the Conservation department headed by Catharine Hawks who is in charge of the conservation of the museum’s enormous collections. There, Lucía López-Polin has reviewed the different packaging systems of fossil vertebrates and she also carried out a series of quantitative analyzes on the protection that different packaging systems provide to the fossils. The experimental work that has been carried out along with Steven Jabo, preparator at the Paleobiology department.
Lucía López-Polín is a conservator-restorer specialized in the treatment of quaternary remains. Member of the Atapuerca Research Team since 1997, she joined the scientific team led by Eudald Carbonell at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili as a fellow in 2003. Since 2008 she has been a conservator at IPHES. She is an expert in field work and in the treatment of archaeopaleontological material from Paleolithic sites up to 1 million.
The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) has obtained the ‘HR Excellence in Research’ logo awarded by the European Commission. The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) proves that IPHES endorses the general principles of the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (Charter & Code), and firmly supports its commitment in improving internal policies and procedures.
This recognition of excellence is an opportunity to establish a comprehensive and coherent Human Resources Strategy, that should allow to achieve international visibility by providing favorable working environment for research with equal opportunities, ethical integrity and work life balance.
Our Human Resources Strategy for Researchers Action Plan (HRS4R Action Plan) was drawn up by a working group in a participative and open process involving this the representatives of the whole IPHES research areas through a general survey. The 2016- 2020 Action Plan comprises actions related to 4 pillars: ethical and professional aspects, recruitment, working conditions and Social Security, and training.
Homo sapiens are considered to be the only species with a predominance of a preferred use of the right hand, with a ratio of 9 right-handed to 1 left-handed people. However, when did the human handedness appeared in human evolution remains unknown. An international research recently published and led by Marina Lozano, researcher at IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), shows that this behaviour is more ancient than it was thought. At population level, Neandertal as far as 130,000 years ago, showed a well-stablished hand preference as our species. Nevertheless, this practice goes back to Homo habilis showing that handedness is an ancestral characteristic of our genus.
The scientific community has developed a huge amount of studies focused on handedness and brain laterality in hominins. However, in this work, a large sample has been analyzed, for the first time, following the same methodology. That is 120 individuals of five different human species (Homo habilis, Homo antecessor, preneandertals, European Neandertals and Homo sapiens), spanning almost 2 million years.
The main research teams focused on the study of handedness in fossil hominins are involved in this work. So, this is the result of an international collaboration between researchers of Spain, USA and Italy. Thanks to this work “we can affirm that the trend to have a preferred hand is an intrinsic characteristic of our genus. The handedness was established slowly in each of the species who precede us. From this research, we can do some inferences because handedness implies brain laterality that is closely related to language”, mentions the researcher Marina Lozano.
This international team studied the cultural dental wear, specifically the striations (cut marks) that result from the use of the mouth as a third hand, when some material is held between the anterior teeth and cut with a lithic tool. These marks are analyzed with environmental scanning electron microscopy.
The large scientific production of posters by the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) members that are presented in worldwide conferences is very relevant, and moreover some of them have won prizes thanks to the didactic and attractive displayed designs. A very accurate work that often is stored back at the research centre without any other visibility. With the idea of changing this situation, and making them public more permanently and bring them closer to the scientific community and the general public, an exhibition was firstly started at IPHES, showing two posters during a month, but finally a leap was taken to the internet creating a blog.
The initiative was launched by the IPHES researcher Ethel Allué, that doing this has promoted also the virtual archive of this open access contents. Since its creation on 2015 there have been 22 posts, each of which belongs to a poster and from each one there is an image and the information of the issues and the authorship, as well as the link to the congress in which they were presented. They are classified into categories and they can be also found chronologically according to the date of the post. The periodicity, between October and May, is of two per month and they are also exhibited physically at the resting hall at IPHES, located at the campus Sescelades of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, at Tarragona.
The poster issues that have already been blogged are diverse and they mainly refer to the research results carried out in this research centre, such as the study of tooth wear to acknowledge the hominid diet habits, that focused the two new posts this year. These belong to two posters presented by Marina Lozano (IPHES, researcher) to the Association of Physical Anthropology during the annual meeting held at New Orleans on April 2017.
Tarragona host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, organized by three Catalan Research Centers (IPHES, ICAC and ICRPC), together with the EXPERIMENTA association, and with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).
The Congress will gather researchers who use the experimental archaeology for solving problems derived from the study of ancient cultures. Within this forum, they will present their last results regarding didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.
There will be also a practical day where the specialist will make reproductions of prehistoric hafting, ropes or basketry, between others. The afternoon session will be open to the general public.
In the last decades, the archaeology has produced a higher interest in the experimental methodology used to validate hypothesis about the archaeological formation processes, the technology and the ways of living of past communities. Thus, the main specialists use the experimental reproduction as the way to reconstruct the environmental conditions and the behavioural patterns of the past human groups.
Within this context, Tarragona will host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, between the 25th and 27th of October. This is co-organized by three Catalan Research Centres, IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), ICAC (Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica), ICRPC (Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural) and the EXPERIMENTA association. These conferences count also with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).
The Congress will attend two days to theoretical presentations, both oral and poster communications, and discussion (25th and 26th October) and a day for the presentation of experiments, demonstrations and workshops (27th October). The theoretical sessions will be held in the Aula Magna of Facultade Lletres of the University Rovira i Virgili (Av. Catalunya, 35. 43002 Tarragona). The practical day will take place in the facilities of the Port of Tarragona, Refugi 4 and in the Port of Tarragona Museum (Moll de Costa, s/n).
The theoretical sessions will be organized by large thematic blocks: From hunter-gatherers to producer societies; from the beginning of complex societies to the present; and didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.
The practical day will be divided into two parts. The morning will be devoted to the live experiments, workshops and demonstrations to generate a proactive discussion within the participants to the congress. Some of these activities will be related with the action of tying, from the first hunter-gatherers to nowadays. So, the specialists will reproduce prehistoric hafting, ropes and basketry, looms, fishing nets, etc… During the afternoon, these activities will be open to the general public in an attempt to bring experimental archaeology to the society.
When faunal remains are discovered in an archeological site it is not always clear to which species they belong and providing a correct determination is often complex work. Finding a referent in the scientific literature is complicated and sometimes one simply does not exist. In this sense, describing osteologically endemic species from the Iberian Peninsula in order to facilitate their identification in archeological sites or in the diet of other species (pellets) is an essential task that constitutes one of the lines of research of the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES).
While it is a species that had been previously identified, all the parts of the skeleton of the Pyrenean frog (Rana pyrenaica) were never described. It is catalogued as an endangered species in the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The fragility of the environments where this frog lives, characterized by pure waters and virgin streams, is the cause of this situation.
The Rana pyrenaica (genus and subgenus Rana), is the smallest European brown frog, belonging to the Rana temporaria group, with adults reaching a maximum size of 5.5 cm and a robust morphology. Its ancestor was certainly more terrestrial, related to the common frog (Rana temporaria). However, the species described here became more aquatic, occupying high mountain streams. In its adaptation to this new environment the species developed longer legs and feet (in particular the third digit), some cranial bones (nasal and fronto-parietal) became longer and thinner and the articulation between the atlas and the skull tends to be more flexible. At the same time, the Pyrenean frog retained from its more terrestrial ancestor its generally robust skeletal morphology (despite its small size), the skull proportions, the overall morphology of the maxilla and the sphenetmoid, the degree of fusion between the fronto-parietals, and the lower dorsal crest on the ilium, attachment area of muscles important for locomotion.
The Rana pyrenaica is endemic to the Pyrenean mountain range where it is usually found in cool, well-oxygenated mountain streams with fast-running water, especially during snowmelt in late spring. The R. pyrenaica lives at altitudes ranging from 780 m to 2100 m, being more abundant between 1200 and 1800 m. Its distribution is mainly restricted to the central and western parts of the southern Pyrenean slopes (Aragón and Navarra), from the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park in the east, to the Irati area in the west. Some populations have been found as low as 780 m in the Irati forest area, where they also enter into French territory along small ravines belonging to the Ebro watershed.
Despite being described in 1993, the skeleton of R. pyrenaica was never been fully investigated. The recent publication by Blain & Arribas thus represents the first description of the osteology of this spring-dwelling Pyrenean small brown frog. In addition to increasing knowledge about R. pyrenaica, this study also aims to render easier the correct diagnosis of the species in fossil assemblages and its osteological identification in the diet of other vertebrates in trophic studies.
Long jumps to enter water and swimming
Brown frogs have several modes of life: some, such as R. temporaria and R. dalmatina, are very terrestrial and only enter still waters for reproduction, but R. pyrenaicaonly lives on the shores of running waters, and its escape behavior consists of long jumps to enter water and then swim. This mode of life involves swimming against fast-flowing waters, fitting into narrow crevices and anchoring itself among stones to avoid being dragged along by the currents.
Blain H.-A. & Arribas O. (2017). A description of the skeletal morphology of Rana pyrenaica (Anura: Ranidae), with comments on functional morphology, ecological adaptation and relationships with other Iberian ranids. Zootaxa, 4319 (3): 510-530.