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Why Your Ancestors Would Have Aced the Long Jump

Why Your Ancestors Would Have Aced the Long Jump



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This tiny ankle bone belonged to one of the earliest members of the primate family tree. Discovered more than 30 years ago by paleontologist Marc Godinot, the fossil is now housed at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

First Primates were built for leaping, fossil ankle suggests

These first primates spent most of their time in the trees rather than on the ground, but just how nimble they were as they moved around in the treetops has been a topic of dispute.

For years, scientists thought the ancestors of today's humans, monkeys, lemurs and apes were relatively slow and deliberate animals, using their grasping hands and feet to creep along small twigs and branches to stalk insects or find flowers and fruits.

Early primates possessed adaptations for ‘arboreal locomotion’ that enabled maneuvering along fine branches, as seen in this slender loris. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

But a fossil study published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution suggests the first primates were masters at leaping through the trees.

Paleontologists working in a quarry in southeastern France uncovered the quarter-inch-long bone, the lower part of the ankle joint.

The fossil matched up best with a chipmunk-sized creature called Donrussellia provincialis .

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Artists impression of a close relative ( donrussellia lusitanica) of the owner of the ankle bone (Source: guiadecampo)

Previously only known from jaws and teeth, Donrussellia is thought be one of the earliest members of the primate family tree, on the branch leading to lemurs, lorises and bush babies.

Duke University assistant professor Doug Boyer and colleagues studied scans of Donrussellia's ankle and compared it to other animals, using computer algorithms to analyze the 3-D digital shape of each tiny bone.

They were surprised to find that Donrussellia's ankle was not like those of other primates, but was more similar to those of treeshrews and other nonprimate species.

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Nicobar Treeshrew (Tupaia nicobarica nicobarica) photographed near Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar, India ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The team's analyses also suggest the animal didn't just clamber or scurry along small branches. Instead, it may have been able to bound between trunks and branches, using its grasping feet to stick the landing.

The researchers say that - contrary to what many scientists thought - the first primates may have evolved their acrobatic leaping skills first, while anatomical changes that allowed them to cling to slender branch tips and creep from tree to tree came later.

"Being able to jump from one tree to another might have been important, especially if there were ground predators around waiting to snag them," Boyer said.


Why your ancestors would have aced the long jump

IMAGE: This tiny ankle bone belonged to one of the earliest members of the primate family tree. The 52-million-year-old fossil suggests that the first primates were expert leapers. Discovered more than. view more

Credit: Photo by Douglas Boyer, Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. -- A 52-million-year-old ankle fossil suggests our prehuman ancestors were high-flying acrobats.

These first primates spent most of their time in the trees rather than on the ground, but just how nimble they were as they moved around in the treetops has been a topic of dispute.

For years, scientists thought the ancestors of today's humans, monkeys, lemurs and apes were relatively slow and deliberate animals, using their grasping hands and feet to creep along small twigs and branches to stalk insects or find flowers and fruits.

But a fossil study published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution suggests the first primates were masters at leaping through the trees.

Paleontologists working in a quarry in southeastern France uncovered the quarter-inch-long bone, the lower part of the ankle joint.

The fossil matched up best with a chipmunk-sized creature called Donrussellia provincialis.

Previously only known from jaws and teeth, Donrussellia is thought be one of the earliest members of the primate family tree, on the branch leading to lemurs, lorises and bush babies.

Duke University assistant professor Doug Boyer and colleagues studied scans of Donrussellia's ankle and compared it to other animals, using computer algorithms to analyze the 3-D digital shape of each tiny bone.

They were surprised to find that Donrussellia's ankle was not like those of other primates, but was more similar to those of treeshrews and other nonprimate species.

The team's analyses also suggest the animal didn't just clamber or scurry along small branches. Instead, it may have been able to bound between trunks and branches, using its grasping feet to stick the landing.

The researchers say that -- contrary to what many scientists thought -- the first primates may have evolved their acrobatic leaping skills first, while anatomical changes that allowed them to cling to slender branch tips and creep from tree to tree came later.

"Being able to jump from one tree to another might have been important, especially if there were ground predators around waiting to snag them," Boyer said.

Other authors include Séverine Toussaint of the Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7 and Marc Godinot of the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris.

This research was supported by Duke University and the National Science Foundation (BCS 1317525, BCS 1440742, BCS 1552848).

CITATION: "Postcrania of the Most Primitive Euprimate and Implications for Primate Origins," Doug Boyer, Séverine Toussaint and Marc Godinot. Journal of Human Evolution, October 2017. https:/ / doi. org/ 10. 1016/ j. jhevol. 2017. 07. 005

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Donrussellia Ankle Bone (image)

This tiny ankle bone belonged to one of the earliest members of the primate family tree. The 52-million-year-old fossil suggests that the first primates were expert leapers. Discovered more than 30 years ago by paleontologist Marc Godinot, the fossil is now housed at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Credit

Photo by Douglas Boyer, Duke University

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Why your ancestors would have aced the long jump

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Why your ancestors would have aced the long jump

This tiny ankle bone belonged to one of the earliest members of the primate family tree. The 52-million-year-old fossil suggests that the first primates were expert leapers. Discovered more than 30 years ago by paleontologist Marc Godinot, the fossil is now housed at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Credit: Douglas Boyer, Duke University

A 52-million-year-old ankle fossil suggests our prehuman ancestors were high-flying acrobats.

These first primates spent most of their time in the trees rather than on the ground, but just how nimble they were as they moved around in the treetops has been a topic of dispute.

For years, scientists thought the ancestors of today’s humans, monkeys, lemurs and apes were relatively slow and deliberate animals, using their grasping hands and feet to creep along small twigs and branches to stalk insects or find flowers and fruits.

But a fossil study published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution suggests the first primates were masters at leaping through the trees.

Paleontologists working in a quarry in southeastern France uncovered the quarter-inch-long bone, the lower part of the ankle joint.

The fossil matched up best with a chipmunk-sized creature called Donrussellia provincialis.

Previously only known from jaws and teeth, Donrussellia is thought be one of the earliest members of the primate family tree, on the branch leading to lemurs, lorises and bush babies.

Duke University assistant professor Doug Boyer and colleagues studied scans of Donrussellia’s ankle and compared it to other animals, using computer algorithms to analyze the 3-D digital shape of each tiny bone.

They were surprised to find that Donrussellia’s ankle was not like those of other primates, but was more similar to those of treeshrews and other nonprimate species.

The team’s analyses also suggest the animal didn’t just clamber or scurry along small branches. Instead, it may have been able to bound between trunks and branches, using its grasping feet to stick the landing.

The researchers say that — contrary to what many scientists thought — the first primates may have evolved their acrobatic leaping skills first, while anatomical changes that allowed them to cling to slender branch tips and creep from tree to tree came later.

“Being able to jump from one tree to another might have been important, especially if there were ground predators around waiting to snag them,” Boyer said.

Reference:
Doug M. Boyer, Séverine Toussaint, Marc Godinot. Postcrania of the most primitive euprimate and implications for primate origins. Journal of Human Evolution, 2017 111: 202 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.07.005

Note: The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Duke University. Original written by Robin Ann Smith.


In and Out of Time

The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance…
our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out of time.

When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun
and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor
I had always loved you more.
You freed your braids…
gave your hair to the breeze.
It hummed like a hive of honey bees.
I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there….
Mmmm…God how I love your hair.

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance.
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…
The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance our long way home.

I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out
in and out
in and out
of time.


Why Your Ancestors Would Have Aced the Long Jump - History


[ScienceD] Why your ancestors would have aced the long jump

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Why your ancestors would have aced the long jump

A 52-million-year-old ankle fossil suggests our prehuman ancestors were high-flying acrobats. For years, scientists thought the ancestors of today's humans, monkeys, lemurs and apes were relatively slow and deliberate animals, using their grasping hands and feet to creep along small twigs and branches. But a new study suggests the first primates were masters at leaping through the trees.


Contents

The United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution expressly gives the United States Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. [1]

Pursuant to this power, Congress in 1790 passed the first naturalization law for the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790. The law enabled those who had resided in the country for two years and had kept their current state of residence for a year to apply for citizenship. However it restricted naturalization to "free white persons" of "good moral character".

The Naturalization Act of 1795 increased the residency requirement to five years residence and added a requirement to give a three years notice of intention to apply for citizenship, and the Naturalization Act of 1798 further increased the residency requirement to 14 years and required five years notice of intent to apply for citizenship.

The Naturalization Law of 1802 repealed and replaced the Naturalization Act of 1798.

The Fourteenth Amendment, based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was passed in 1868 to provide citizenship for former slaves. The 1866 Act read, "That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude" shall have the same rights "as is enjoyed by white citizens." The phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment reversed the conditional clause to read: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." This was applied by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark to deal with the child of Chinese citizens who were legally resident in the U.S. at the time of his birth, with exceptions such as for the children of diplomats and American Indians. See the articles jus soli (birthplace) and jus sanguinis (bloodline) for further discussion.

In 1870, the law was broadened to allow blacks to be naturalized. [2] Asian immigrants were excluded from naturalization but not from living in the United States. There were also significant restrictions on some Asians at the state level in California, for example, non-citizen Asians were not allowed to own land.

The first federal statute restricting immigration was the Page Act, passed in 1875. It barred immigrants considered "undesirable," defining this as a person from East Asia who was coming to the United States to be a forced laborer, any East Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. In practice, it resulted mainly in barring entry to Chinese women.

After the immigration of 123,000 Chinese in the 1870s, who joined the 105,000 who had immigrated between 1850 and 1870, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which limited further Chinese immigration. Chinese had immigrated to the Western United States as a result of unsettled conditions in China, the availability of jobs working on railroads, and the Gold Rush that was going on at that time in California. The expression "Yellow Peril" became popular at this time.

The act excluded Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States for ten years and was the first immigration law passed by Congress. Laborers in the United States and laborers with work visas received a certificate of residency and were allowed to travel in and out of the United States. Amendments made in 1884 tightened the provisions that allowed previous immigrants to leave and return, and clarified that the law applied to ethnic Chinese regardless of their country of origin. The act was renewed in 1892 by the Geary Act for another ten years, and in 1902 with no terminal date. It was repealed in 1943, although large scale Chinese immigration did not occur until 1965. [ citation needed ]

The Empire of Japan's State Department negotiated the so-called Gentlemen's Agreement in 1907, a protocol where Japan agreed to stop issuing passports to its citizens who wanted to emigrate to the United States. In practice, the Japanese government compromised with its prospective emigrants and continued to give passports to the Territory of Hawaii where many Japanese resided. Once in Hawaii, it was easy for the Japanese to continue on to Japanese settlements on the west coast if they so desired. In the decade of 1901 to 1910, 129,000 Japanese immigrated to the continental United States or Hawaii nearly all were males and on five-year work contracts and 117,000 more came in the decades from 1911 to 1930. How many of them stayed and how many returned at the end of their contracts is unknown but it is estimated that about one-half returned. Again this immigrant flow was at least 80% male and the demand for female Japanese immigrants almost immediately arose. This need was met in part by what are called "postcard wives" who immigrated to new husbands who had chosen them on the basis of their pictures (similar marriages also occurred in nearly all cultures throughout the female-scarce west). The Japanese government finally quit issuing passports to the Territory of Hawaii for single women in the 1920s.

Congress also banned persons because of poor health or lack of education. An 1882 law banned entry of "lunatics" and infectious disease carriers. After President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist of immigrant parentage, Congress enacted the Anarchist Exclusion Act in 1903 to exclude known anarchist agitators. [3] A literacy requirement was added in the Immigration Act of 1917.

1920s Edit

In 1921 the United States Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, which established national immigration quotas. The quotas were based on the number of foreign-born residents of each nationality who were living in the United States as of the 1910 census. [4]

The crucial 1923 Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind created the official stance to classify South Asian Indians as non-white, which at the time allowed Indians who had already been naturalized to be retroactively stripped of their citizenship after prosecutors argued that they had gained their citizenship illegally. [5] The California Alien Land Law of 1913 (overturned in 1952 by the holding in Sei Fujii v. California, 38 Cal. 2d 718) and other similar laws prohibited aliens from owning land property, thus effectively stripping Indian Americans of land rights. The decision placated Asiatic Exclusion League demands and growing outrage at the so-called Turban Tide/Hindoo Invasion [sic] and "Yellow Peril". While more recent legislation influenced by the civil rights movement has removed much of the statutory discrimination against Asians, no case has overturned the classification of Indians as non-white.

A more complex quota plan, the National Origins Formula, replaced this "emergency" system under the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act), which set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, and effectively banned all immigration from Asia. [6] [7] The reference census used was changed to that of 1890, [7] which greatly reduced the number of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. An annual ceiling of 154,227 was set for the Eastern Hemisphere.

A 1929 act added provisions for prior deportees, who, 60 days after the act took effect, would be convicted of a felony whether their deportation occurred before or after the law was enacted. [8]

1930s–50s Edit

In 1932 President Hoover and the State Department essentially shut down immigration during the Great Depression as immigration went from 236,000 in 1929 to 23,000 in 1933. This was accompanied by voluntary repatriation to Europe and Mexico, and coerced repatriation and deportation of between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican Americans, mostly citizens, in the Mexican Repatriation. Total immigration in the decade of 1931 to 1940 was 528,000 averaging less than 53,000 a year.

The Chinese exclusion laws were repealed in 1943. The Luce–Celler Act of 1946 ended discrimination against Indian Americans and Filipinos, who were accorded the right to naturalization, and allowed a quota of 100 immigrants per year.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (the McCarran-Walter Act) revised the quotas again, basing them on the 1920 census. For the first time in American history, racial distinctions were omitted from the U.S. Code. As could be expected, most of the quota allocation went to immigrants from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany who already had relatives in the United States. [ citation needed ] The anti-subversive features of this law are still in force. [ citation needed ]

1960s Edit

The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Celler Act) abolished the system of national-origin quotas. There was, for the first time, a limitation on Western Hemisphere immigration (120,000 per year), with the Eastern Hemisphere limited to 170,000. The law changed the preference system for immigrants. Specifically, the law provided preference to immigrants with skills needed in the U.S. workforce, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as family members of U.S. citizens. Family reunification became the cornerstone of the bill. At the time, the then-chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee Edward Kennedy remarked that "the bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965. pp. 1–3.)

1980s Edit

The Refugee Act of 1980 established policies for refugees, redefining "refugee" according to United Nations norms. A target for refugees was set at 50,000 and the worldwide ceiling for immigrants was reduced to 270,000 annually.

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed, creating for the first time penalties for employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. IRCA also contained an amnesty for about 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States, and mandated the intensification of some of the activities of the United States Border Patrol or INS (now part of Department of Homeland Security).

1990s Edit

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, led by former Rep. Barbara Jordan, ran from 1990 to 1997. The Commission covered many facets of immigration policy, but started from the perception that the "credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in people who should not get in, are kept out and people who are judged deportable are required to leave". [9] From there, in a series of four reports, the commission looked at all aspects of immigration policy. [10] In the first, it found that enforcement was lax and needed improvement on the border and internally. For internal enforcement, it recommended that an automated employment verification system be created to enable employers to distinguish between legal and illegal workers. The second report discussed legal immigration issues and suggested that immediate family members and skilled workers receive priority. The third report covered refugee and asylum issues. Finally, the fourth report reiterated the major points of the previous reports and the need for a new immigration policy. Few of these suggestions were implemented.

The Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT) modified and expanded the 1965 act it significantly increased the total immigration limit to 700,000 and increased visas by 40 percent. Family reunification was retained as the main immigration criterion, with significant increases in employment-related immigration.

Several pieces of legislation signed into law in 1996 marked a turn towards harsher policies for both legal and illegal immigrants. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) vastly increased the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including green card holders, can be deported and imposed mandatory detention for certain types of deportation cases. As a result, well over 2 million individuals have been deported since 1996. [11]

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 affected American perspectives on many issues, including immigration. A total of 20 foreign terrorists were involved, 19 of whom took part in the attacks that caused the deaths of 2,977 victims, most of them civilians. The terrorists had entered the United States on tourist or student visas. Four of them, however, had violated the terms of their visas. The attack exposed long-standing weaknesses in the U.S. immigration system that included failures in the areas of visa processing, internal enforcement, and information sharing. [12]

The REAL ID Act of 2005 changed some visa limits, tightened restrictions on asylum applications and made it easier to exclude suspected terrorists, and removed restrictions on building border fences.

In 2005, Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy revived the discussion of comprehensive immigration reform with the proposal of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, incorporating legalization, guest worker programs, and enhanced border security. The bill was never voted on in the Senate, but portions are incorporated in later Senate proposals.

In 2006, the House of Representatives and the Senate produced their own, conflicting bills. In December 2005, the House passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The act was limited to enforcement and focused on both the border and the interior. In the Senate, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA) was sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and passed in May 2006. CIRA would have given a path to eventual citizenship to a majority of undocumented immigrants already in the country as well as dramatically increased legal immigration. Although the bills passed their respective chambers, no compromise bill emerged. [13]

In 2007, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was discussed in the Senate, which would have given a path to eventual citizenship to a large majority of illegal entrants in the country, significantly increased legal immigration and increased enforcement. The bill failed to pass a cloture vote, essentially killing it. [14]

Individual components of various reform packages have been separately introduced and pursued in the Congress. The DREAM Act is a bill initially introduced in 2001, incorporated in the various comprehensive reform bills, and then separately reintroduced in 2009 and 2010. The bill would provide legal residency and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or join the military.

Immigrant visa limits set by Congress remain at 700,000 for the combined categories of employment, family preference, and family immediate. There are additional provisions for diversity and a small number of special visas. In 2008 immigration in these categories totaled slightly less than 750,000 and similar totals (representing maximums allowed by Congress) have been tallied in recent years. [15]

Naturalization numbers have ranged from about 500,000 to just over 1,000,000 per year since the early 1990s, with peak years in 1996 and 2008 each around 1,040,000. These numbers add up to more than the number of visas issued in those years because as many as 2.7 million of those who were granted amnesty by IRCA in 1986 have converted or will convert to citizenship. [16] In general, immigrants become eligible for citizenship after five years of residence. Many do not immediately apply, or do not pass the test on the first attempt. This means that the counts for visas and the counts for naturalization will always remain out of step, though in the long run the naturalizations add up to somewhat less than the visas.

These numbers are separate from illegal immigration, which peaked at probably over 1 million per year around the year 2000 and has probably declined to about 500,000 per year by 2009, which seems comparable or perhaps less than the outflow returning to their native countries. [17] Some of the legal immigrant categories may include former illegal immigrants who have come current on legal applications and passed background checks these individuals are included in the count of legal visas, not as a separate or additional number.

For Mexico and the Philippines, the only categories of immigrant visa available in practice are those for immediate dependent family of U.S. citizens. Persons who applied since 1994 have not been in the categories for adult children and siblings, and trends show that these data are unlikely to change. In fact, the trend has recently been moving in the opposite direction. Immigrant work visas run about 6 to 8 years behind current. [ clarification needed ] [ citation needed ] While the government does not publish data on the number of pending applications, the evidence is that the backlog in those categories dwarfs the yearly quotas.

Legal immigration visas should not be confused with temporary work permits. Permits for seasonal labor (about 285,000 in 2008) or students (about 917,000 in 2008) [18] generally do not permit conversion to immigrant status. Even those who are legally authorized to work temporarily in the United States (such as H1-B workers) must apply for permanent residence separately, and gain no advantage from their temporary employment authorization. This is unlike many other countries, whose laws provide for permanent residence after a certain number of years of legal employment. Temporary workers, therefore, do not form a distinctly counted source of immigration. [19]

Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act 2010 (Arizona SB 1070) Edit

Under Arizona SB 1070, passed in 2010, it is a state misdemeanor for immigrants not to carry their immigration documents on their person while in Arizona, and people who are stopped or arrested by state police for any reason may be subject to verification of their immigration status. Arizona state or local officials and agencies cannot restrict enforcement of federal immigration laws. Anyone sheltering, hiring or transporting an undocumented immigrant is subject to penalty.

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 (S.744) Edit

On April 17, 2013, the so-called "Gang of Eight" in the United States Senate introduced S.744, the long-awaited Senate version of the immigration reform bill proposed in Congress. [20] Text of the proposed legislation was promptly released on the website of Senator Charles Schumer. On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed the bill on 68-32 margin. The bill has not been taken up by the United States House of Representatives. [21]

Executive actions Edit

On November 21, 2014, president Barack Obama signed two executive actions which had the effect of delaying deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. The orders apply to parents of United States citizens (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and young people brought into the country illegally (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). [22]


The Stories That Bind Us

I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August, and we were struggling with assorted crises. My parents were aging my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.

“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”

But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

It turns out to be an astonishingly good time to ask that question. The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.

Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.

The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers.

After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”

Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. . ”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.

Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.

Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.

“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.


Athletes with 80% of one fibre type are simply born lucky. For the rest of us, the percentages are closer to 50% fast-twitch and 50% slow twitch, and that percentage is determined at birth – Dunn-Lewis

"About 80% of an elite athlete's muscle fibres are either fast-twitch, if they are a power athlete, or slow-twitch, if they are endurance athletes," says Dunn-Lewis. "Consider the long, slender physique of a marathon runner, whose predominantly slow-twitch muscle fibres may be small but are resistant to fatigue and provide lasting energy kilometre after kilometre. This person is also burning less energy in a given unit of time. By comparison, an American football player or hockey player has predominantly large fast-twitch muscle fibres, moves with power and speed, but fatigues quite quickly. Athletes with 80% of one fibre type are simply born lucky. For the rest of us, the percentages are closer to 50% fast-twitch and 50% slow twitch, and that percentage is determined at birth. Fibre type is determined strictly by the nervous system, and for that reason cannot be changed with exercise."

Only top athletes have high concentrations of either fast- or slow-twitch muscle fibres, depending on their specialism (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

One way to picture the difference between these two types of fibre is to think about chicken.

Chicken leg meat is dark because it is denser in slow-twitch muscle fibres and myoglobin (a protein that binds with oxygen, delivering it to the muscles as part of aerobic respiration). Because myoglobin is rich in iron (a bit like blood), it gives muscles a dark, reddish colour.

In fact, when you cut through a steak, the red stuff that comes out is myoglobin not blood, which gets its red colour from the related haemoglobin.

Breast meat is light in colour because it is denser in fast-twitch muscle fibres and so less dense in myoglobin. Chicken breast muscles are only needed for short, sharp, anaerobic bursts of activity when the birds beat their wings, whereas their legs are more consistently being used.

In humans, the difference is less obvious. Our muscles are made up of a combination of these two fibres in lesser and greater amounts.

These fibres also play an important role in keeping us warm. When cold, our fast-twitch muscle fibres contract repeatedly and quickly – this is what shivering is. Each tiny, speedy contraction warms us up a little bit as energy is released. It's an energy-intensive way to keep warm, but it is quick and effective.

"One of the most effective methods for increasing body heat is muscle contraction," says Dunn-Lewis. "In fact, during exercise, 70-80% of calories burned result in heat."

Meanwhile our slow-twitch muscle fibres are always subtly engaged as part of tonus, producing efficient heat.

The protein α-actinin-3 is missing completely in about 1.5 billion people globally. While they still have fast-twitch muscle fibres, their muscles are less explosive and instead are denser in slow-twitch fibres, meaning they rarely succeed in sports requiring strength and explosiveness, but they do succeed in endurance sports, according to the paper's authors. While they might be less capable at anaerobic movements, they can use energy more efficiently.

A mutation in the gene that encodes for α-actinin-3 resulted in the ancestors of humans who migrated from Africa into Europe 50,000 years ago losing the protein. This gene mutation might have helped European's ancestors to cope with the colder climate by wasting less energy shivering, instead relying on the efficient heat of their tonus.

Long distance runners might fare better in colder conditions (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"[This genotype] tends to be seen less frequently in ethnic groups associated with warmer climates – 1% in Kenyans and Nigerians, 11% in Ethiopians, 18% in Caucasians, 25% in Asians," says Dunn-Lewis. "According to the out-of-Africa model, this suggests that this genetic polymorphism increased as people migrated to cooler climates."

People lacking α-actinin-3 are better at keeping warm and, energy-wise, are able to endure a tougher climate.

Another aspect of our genetics might determine how we handle the cold: our fat. Just as we have two major types of skeletal muscle fibres, we have two types of fat – white fat and brown fat – one of which is important to keeping us warm.


10. Save your finds.

Once you’ve found facts about your ancestors on Ancestry.com, what should you do with these records? Ancestry.com provides several built-in ways to save “hits” related to your family history. First, of course, you can print the records you find—always a good backup. It’s a good idea to print both the image of the original record, if available, and Ancestry.com’s transcription of it, then staple these together.

It’s also easy to save your finds digitally. When viewing a record, click the green Save button in the upper right corner. This brings up a box where you can choose to attach the record to someone in your tree or save it to your computer’s hard drive. An advantage of attaching a record to an Ancestry.com tree is that you can then view it using Ancestry’s free smartphone and tablet apps.

All these options are easy to use, and that’s a good thing. Once you’ve tried all 10 suggestions for using Ancestry.com for your search, you’ll have plenty of family history finds to save.

A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine.


Watch the video: Jumps in Daegu long jump, triple jump, high jump (August 2022).