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Climatic Fluctuations Drove Key Events in Human Evolution PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 September 2011 07:39
Research at the University of Liverpool has found that periods of rapid fluctuation in temperature coincided with the emergence of the first distant relatives of human beings and the appearance and spread of stone tools.
 

Dr Matt Grove from the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology reconstructed likely responses of human ancestors to the climate of the past five million years using genetic modelling techniques. When results were mapped against the timeline of human evolution, Dr Grove found that key events coincided with periods of high variability in recorded temperatures.

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New Technique Fills Gaps in Fossil Record PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 20:20
University of Pennsylvania evolutionary biologists have resolved a long-standing paleontological problem by reconciling the fossil record of species diversity with modern DNA samples.
 

Cataloging the diversity of life on Earth is challenging enough, but when scientists attempt to draw a phylogeny -- the branching family tree of a group of species over their evolutionary history -- the challenge goes from merely difficult to potentially impossible. The fossil record is the only direct evidence scientists have about the history of species diversity, but it can be full of holes or totally nonexistent, depending on the type of organisms.

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Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of Large Ancient Shipyard Near Rome PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 20:16
University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, leading an international excavation of Portus -- the ancient port of Rome, believe they have discovered a large Roman shipyard.
 

The team, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, has uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or 'harbour', at the centre of the port complex.

University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director, Simon Keay comments, "At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships.

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3-D Microscope Opens Eyes to Prehistoric Oceans and Present-Day Resources PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 20:12
A University of Alberta research team has turned their newly developed 3-D microscope technology on ancient sea creatures and hopes to expand its use.
 

U of A engineering professor Dileepan Joseph and two graduate students produced a 3-D imaging system called Virtual Reflected-Light Microscopy. The technology consists of a regular optical microscope, a light source, a platform that moves the objects being photographed and software programs that extract shape and reflectance from images and transform this digital information into a 3-D image.

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Continents Influenced Ancient Human Migration, Spread of Technology PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 20:08
Researchers at Brown University and Stanford University have pieced together ancient human migration in North and South America. Writing in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the authors find that technology spread more slowly in the Americas than in Eurasia. Population groups in the Americas have less frequent exchanges than groups that fanned out over Europe and Asia.
 

How modern-day humans dispersed on the planet and the pace of civilization-changing technologies that accompanied their migrations are enduring mysteries.

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The cause of Earth's largest environmental catastrophe PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 19:17

The eruption of giant masses of magma in Siberia 250 million years ago led to the Permo-Triassic mass extinction when more than 90 % of all species became extinct. An international team including geodynamic modelers from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences together with geochemists from the J. Fourier University of Grenoble, the Max Plank Institute in Mainz, and Vernadsky-, Schmidt- and Sobolev-Institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences report on a new idea with respect to the origin of the Siberian eruptions and their relation to the mass extinction in the recent issue of Nature (15.09.2011, vol. 477, p. 312-316).

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Woolly Mammoth's Secrets for Shrugging Off Cold Points Toward New Artificial Blood for Humans PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 19:01
The blood from woolly mammoths -- those extinct elephant-like creatures that roamed Earth in pre-historic times -- is helping scientists develop new blood products for modern medical procedures that involve reducing patients' body temperature.
 

The report appears in ACS' journal Biochemistry.

Chien Ho and colleagues note that woolly mammoth ancestors initially evolved in warm climates, where African and Asian elephants live now, but migrated to the cold regions of Eurasia 1.2 million -- 2.0 million years ago in the Pleistocene ice age.

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Mother Tongue Comes from Your Prehistoric Father PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 September 2011 20:08
Language change among our prehistoric ancestors came about via the arrival of immigrant men -- rather than women -- into new settlements, according to new research.
 

The claim is made by two University of Cambridge academics, Peter Forster and Colin Renfrew, in a report to be published in Science on September 9.

They studied the instances of genetic markers (the male Y chromosome and female mtDNA) from several thousand individuals in communities around the world that seem to show the emergence globally of sex-specific transmission of language.

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Seaside Fortress Was a Final Stronghold of Early Islamic Power PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 September 2011 20:04
Archaeologists have long known that Yavneh-Yam, an archaeological site between the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast, was a functioning harbor from the second millennium B.C. until the Middle Ages. Now Tel Aviv University researchers have uncovered evidence to suggest that the site was one of the final strongholds of Early Islamic power in the region.
 
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Hummingbirds all a-flutter during courtship PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 18:24

Though famous for their mid-air hovering during hunting, tiny hummingbirds have another trait that is literally telltale: males of some hummingbird species generate loud sounds with their tail feathers while courting females. Now, for the first time, the cause of these sounds has been identified: a paper published in the Sept. 9, 2011 issue of Science by Christopher Clark of Yale University reveals that air flowing past the tail feathers of a male hummingbird makes his tail feathers flutter and thereby generate fluttering sounds.

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Aboriginal Australians: The First Explorers PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 September 2011 07:36
In an exciting development, an international team of researchers has, for the first time, pieced together the human genome from an Aboriginal Australian.
 

The results, published in the journal Science, re-interpret the prehistory of our species.

By sequencing the genome, the researchers demonstrate that Aboriginal Australians descend directly from an early human expansion into Asia that took place some 70,000 years ago, at least 24,000 years before the population movements that gave rise to present-day Europeans and Asians. The results imply that modern day Aboriginal Australians are in fact the direct descendents of the first people who arrived in Australia as early as 50,000 years ago.

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DNA Study Suggests Asia Was Settled in Multiple Waves of Migration PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 20:18
An international team of researchers studying DNA patterns from modern and archaic humans has uncovered new clues about the movement and intermixing of populations more than 40,000 years ago in Asia.
 

Using state-of-the-art genome analysis methods, scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have found that Denisovans -- a recently identified group of archaic humans whose DNA was extracted last year from a finger bone excavated in Siberia -- contributed DNA not just to present-day New Guineans, but also to aboriginal Australian and Philippine populations.

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Using Human Genomes to Illuminate the Mysteries of Early Human History PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 20:14
Cornell researchers have developed new statistical methods based on the complete genome sequences of people alive today to shed light on events at the dawn of human history.
 

They applied their methods to the genomes of individuals of East Asian, European, and western and southern African descent. They analyzed only six genomes, but made use of the fact that these genomes contain traces of genetic material from thousands of human ancestors, which have been assembled into new combinations over the millennia by genetic recombination.

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Primitive Birds Shared Dinosaurs' Fate PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 20:10
A new study puts an end to the longstanding debate about how archaic birds went extinct, suggesting they were virtually wiped out by the same meteorite impact that put an end to dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
 

For decades, scientists have debated whether birds from the Cretaceous period -- which are very different from today's modern bird species -- died out slowly or were killed suddenly by the Chicxulub meteorite. The uncertainty was due in part to the fact that very few fossil birds from the end of this era have been discovered.

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NASA's WISE Raises Doubt About Asteroid Family Believed Responsible for Dinosaur Extinction PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 20:05
Observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission indicate the family of asteroids some believed was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs is not likely the culprit, keeping open the case on one of Earth's greatest mysteries.
 

While scientists are confident a large asteroid crashed into Earth approximately 65 million years ago, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs and some other life forms on our planet, they do not know exactly where the asteroid came from or how it made its way to Earth. A 2007 study using visible-light data from ground-based telescopes first suggested the remnant of a huge asteroid, known as Baptistina, as a possible suspect.

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UF study names new ancient crocodile relative from the land of Titanoboa PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 19:16

Did an ancient crocodile relative give the world's largest snake a run for its money?

In a new study appearing Sept. 15 in the journal Palaeontology, University of Florida researchers describe a new 20-foot extinct species discovered in the same Colombian coal mine with Titanoboa, the world's largest snake. The findings help scientists better understand the diversity of animals that occupied the oldest known rainforest ecosystem, which had higher temperatures than today, and could be useful for understanding the impacts of a warmer climate in the future.

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Tree Resin Captures Evolution of Feathers on Dinosaurs and Birds PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 18:58
Secrets from the age of the dinosaurs are usually revealed by fossilized bones, but a University of Alberta research team has turned up a treasure trove of Cretaceous feathers trapped in tree resin. The resin turned to resilient amber, preserving some 80 million-year-old protofeathers, possibly from non-avian dinosaurs, as well as plumage that is very similar to modern birds, including those that can swim under water.
 

U of A paleontology graduate student Ryan McKellar discovered a wide range of feathers among the vast amber collections at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in southern Alberta. This material stems from Canada's most famous amber deposit, near Grassy Lake in southwestern Alberta.

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Ancient Crocodile Competed With Titanoboa, World's Largest Snake, for Food, Paleontologists Discover PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 September 2011 20:06
Did an ancient crocodile relative give the world's largest snake a run for its money?
 

In a new study appearing Sept. 15 in the journal Palaeontology, University of Florida researchers describe a new 20-foot extinct species discovered in the same Colombian coal mine with Titanoboa, the world's largest snake. The findings help scientists better understand the diversity of animals that occupied the oldest known rainforest ecosystem, which had higher temperatures than today, and could be useful for understanding the impacts of a warmer climate in the future.

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Newborn Dinosaur Discovered in Maryland: Youngest Nodosaur Ever Discovered PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 September 2011 20:02
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with help from an amateur fossil hunter in College Park, Md., have described the fossil of an armored dinosaur hatchling. It is the youngest nodosaur ever discovered, and a founder of a new genus and species that lived approximately 110 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Era. Nodosaurs have been found in diverse locations worldwide, but they've rarely been found in the United States. The findings are published in the September 9 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
 
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New evidence suggests that Au.sediba is the best candidate for the genus Homo PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 18:22

A series of five papers based on new evidence pertaining to various aspects of the anatomy of the species Australopithecus sediba (announced in April 2010 by Berger et al), will appear in the prestigious journal Science on Friday, 9 September 2011.

The papers will reveal new, important elements attributed to the two type skeletons, which will include an analysis of the most complete hand ever described in an early hominin, the most complete undistorted pelvis (hip bone) ever discovered, the highest resolution and most accurate scan of an early human ancestors brain ever made, new pieces of the foot and ankle skeleton, and one of the most accurate, if not the most accurate dates ever achieved for an early hominin site in Africa.

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