The Washington Post

Human origins events at the Smithsonian; reengineering the Devil’s Hole pupfish

The National Museum of Natural History hosts two discussions this week on human origins. (iStockphoto)
What does it mean to be human?
Discussions, National Museum of Natural History

What does it mean to be human? That question is the theme behind two events this week at the National Museum of Natural History. On Dec. 20 from noon to 2 p.m., the museum will host a Q&A with John Yellen, the program director for archaeology at the National Science Foundation. Yellen is known for his fieldwork in the Kalahari Desert studying Kung Bushman hunter-gatherers and excavations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya. He will answer questions and discuss his work, which focuses on the emergence of modern human behavior. On Dec. 21 from 3 to 4 p.m., the museum will hold an informal discussion on “hot topics in human origins,” which organizers say will include elements of science and religion. Both events are free and open to the public at the Hall of Human Origins. For more information, visit

Reengineering the Devil’s Hole pupfish
Wired, December issue

The Devil’s Hole pupfish, which has survived for millennia, is finding itself in hot water — literally. After thousands of years in a warm aquifer in a corner of the Mojave Desert, the pupfish now can’t survive anywhere else. No bigger than a pinkie, only 75 of them are left, all requiring 90-degree waters and low oxygen levels. The species could be saved by crossing it with the Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish, which lives in a nearby spring, but the prospect of “saving” a species by reengineering its DNA is creating a philosophical dilemma for ecologists. The December issue of Wired magazine examines the issue of how much human intervention in pursuit of conservation is too much. There are plenty of nature-made hybrids, such as the pizzly bear (polar bear plus grizzly bear) and an unnamed American crocodile/Cuban crocodile mix. Even some humans are likely part Neanderthal. But man-made hybrids, such as the beefalo, are controversial, and for now the future of the pupfish remains unclear.

Maggie Fazeli Fard

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.