The announcement by the small Pacific island nation of Palau that it is designating a 193,000-square-mile fully protected marine reserve is dramatic in its own right. It would be the sixth-largest such area in the world, and would help protect more than a thousand species of fish and some 700 species of coral.

But in context, the news is even more momentous — it means the world has now announced plans to set aside more than 1 million square miles of highly protected ocean in 2015 alone, more than during any prior year, said figures provided by the Pew Charitable Trust. This is a gigantic area, bigger than Alaska and Texas combined.

“When you think about it from the perspective of the planet, the last 12 or 13 months, there’s been more of the planet protected than at any time in our history,” said Matt Rand, director of the Global Ocean Legacy project at Pew.


Complex system of hunger-gatherers

The division of labor in hunter-gatherer communities is complex and sophisticated, and crucial to their economic success, researchers report.

A paper in the journal Philosophical Transactions B looks at two hunter-gatherer groups: the Tsimane game hunters of lowland Bolivia, and the Jenu Kuruba honey collectors of South India.

“In contrast to the simple cave man view of a hunter-gatherer, we found that it requires a tremendous amount of skill, knowledge and training,” said Paul Hooper, an anthropologist at Emory University and one of the study’s authors.

He and his colleagues found that there is a clear division of labor between Tsimane and Jenu Kuruba men and women. And individuals often have specializations in hunter-gatherer communities, the researchers also found.

When Jenu Kuruba men go in search of honey, Hooper said, “there’s one man who specializes in making smoke to subdue the bees, another that climbs the trees, and others that act as support staff to lower combs.”

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