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Modern Teeth May Shed Light on Extinct Animal’s Diet

December 23, 2014 7:00 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

Reconstructing what extinct organisms fed on can be a real challenge. But, a study of tooth enamel in mammals living today in the equatorial forest of Gabon could ultimately shed light on the diet of long extinct animals, according to new research.

Sedentary Lifestyle Made Human Bones Lighter

December 23, 2014 7:00 am | by American Museum of Natural History | News | Comments

Research has shown that modern human skeletons evolved into their lightly built form only...

Clay Seals May Support Bible Story

December 22, 2014 9:26 am | by Associated Press, Janet McConnaughey | News | Comments

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of...

Science Announces 2014’s Top 10 Breakthroughs

December 19, 2014 7:00 am | by American Association for the Advancement of Science | News | Comments

The Rosetta spacecraft caught up with the comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko beyond Mars...

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Ancient Fossil Gives Clues to Fossil Formation

December 18, 2014 2:00 pm | by Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

A new study is challenging accepted ideas about how ancient soft-bodied organisms become part of the fossil record. Findings suggest that bacteria involved in the decay of those organisms play an active role in how fossils are formed— often in a matter of just a few tens to hundreds of years.

Q&A: Grant Zazula and the Disappearance of Mastodons

December 18, 2014 7:00 am | by Lily Barback, Associate Editor | News | Comments

This week’s Scientist of the Week is Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for the government of Yukon. He and a team debunked theories that over-hunting by early humans led to the disappearance of mastodons from the Arctic and Subarctic.

Earth May Have Made Its Own Water

December 18, 2014 7:00 am | by The Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely “both.” And the same amount of water that currently fills the Pacific Ocean could be buried deep inside the planet right now.

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Ancient, Hydrogen-rich Waters Found Around the Globe

December 17, 2014 2:00 pm | by Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

A team of scientists has mapped the location of hydrogen-rich waters found trapped kilometers beneath Earth's surface in rock fractures in Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia. Common in Precambrian Shield rocks— the oldest rocks on Earth— the ancient waters have a chemistry similar to that found near deep sea vents, suggesting these waters can support microbes living in isolation from the surface.

There Was No Single Paleo Diet

December 17, 2014 7:00 am | by Georgia State Univ. | News | Comments

The Paleolithic diet, or caveman diet, is a weight-loss craze in which people emulate the diet of plants and animals eaten by early humans during the Stone Age. But, there's very little evidence that any early hominids had specialized diets or there were specific food categories that seemed particularly important.

Jaws Didn't Wipe Out His Cousin

December 17, 2014 7:00 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

New research suggests our jawed ancestors weren't responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed. Instead, researchers believe rising sea levels are more likely to blame.

Commensal Bacteria were Shapers of Human Populations

December 16, 2014 2:00 pm | by American Society for Microbiology | News | Comments

Using mathematical modeling, researchers have shown that commensal bacteria that cause problems later in life most likely played a key role in stabilizing early human populations. The finding offers an explanation as to why humans coevolved with microbes that can cause or contribute to cancer, inflammation and degenerative diseases of aging.

Dental Plaque Sheds Light on Prehistoric Easter Island Diet

December 16, 2014 7:00 am | by Univ. of Otago | News | Comments

Known to its Polynesian inhabitants as Rapa Nui, Easter Island is thought to have been colonized around the 13th Century and is famed for its mysterious large stone statues or moai. A student analyzing dental calculus from ancient teeth is helping resolve the question of what plant foods Easter Islanders relied on before European contact.

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Volcanoes May Have Killed the Dinosaurs

December 12, 2014 8:07 am | by MIT, Jennifer Chu | News | Comments

Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid more than five miles wide smashed into the Earth at 70,000 miles per hour, instantly vaporizing upon impact. The strike obliterated most terrestrial life, including the dinosaurs, in a geological instant. But now scientists have found evidence that a major volcanic eruption began just before the impact, possibly also playing a role in the extinction.

Water Played Huge Role in Rise, Fall of Romans

December 12, 2014 7:00 am | by European Geosciences Union | News | Comments

Smart agricultural practices and an extensive grain-trade network enabled the Romans to thrive in the water-limited environment of the Mediterranean, a new study shows. But the stable food supply brought about by these measures promoted population growth and urbanization, pushing the Empire closer to the limits of its food resources.

Insights into Early Farming May Shape Future of Food

December 12, 2014 7:00 am | by Univ. of Sheffield | News | Comments

Agricultural decisions made by our ancestors more than 10,000 years ago could hold the key to food security in the future, according to new research that looked at why the first arable farmers chose to domesticate some cereal crops and not others.

DNA shows 40-million-year Battle Between Primates, Pathogens

December 12, 2014 7:00 am | by Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Examination of DNA from 21 primate species— from squirrel monkeys to humans— exposes an evolutionary war against infectious bacteria over iron that circulates in the host's bloodstream. Supported by experimental evidence, these findings demonstrate the vital importance of an increasingly appreciated defensive strategy called nutritional immunity.

Researchers Map Avian Tree of Life

December 11, 2014 2:40 pm | by Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

An international effort involving more than 100 researchers, nine supercomputers and about 400 years of CPU time has yielded the most reliable avian tree of life yet produced. The tree reflects the evolutionary relationships of 48 species of birds.

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Conservationists Take on 2,500-year-old Mummy

December 11, 2014 2:00 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Conservation work has started at Chicago's Field Museum on the 2,500-year-old mummy of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy. The boy, named Minirdis, was the son of a priest.

Origins of Earth's Water Still a Mystery

December 11, 2014 7:00 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

The mystery of where Earth's water came from got murkier this week when some astronomers essentially eliminated one of the chief suspects: comets. Over the past few months, the Rosetta space probe closely examined the type of comet that some scientists theorized could have brought water to our planet 4 billion years ago. It found water, but the wrong kind.

Q&A: Susanne Renner and the History of the Watermelon

December 11, 2014 7:00 am | by Lily Barback, Associate Editor | News | Comments

This week’s Scientist of the Week is Susanne Renner from Ludwig Maximilians Universität München. She and a team discovered that botanists made a mistake, over 80 years ago, when they concluded that edible watermelon came from South Africa.

Find Sheds Light on Enigmatic Group of Extinct Mammals

December 11, 2014 7:00 am | by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology | News | Comments

Mammals that lived during the time of the dinosaurs are often portrayed as innocuous, small-bodied creatures, scurrying under the feet of the huge reptiles. In reality, this wasn’t the case, and a new fossil from Madagascar further underscores this point, revealing fascinating perspectives on the growing diversity of Mesozoic mammals.

Balloon-shaped Fossil Clue to Life in Earth's Ancient Seas

December 9, 2014 2:00 pm | by Univ. of Leicester | News | Comments

A rare 520 million year old fossil, shaped like a “squashed bird’s nest,” which researchers hope will help to shed new light on life within Earth’s ancient seas, has been discovered in China by an international research team.

Image of the Week: Clues on How Water Helped Shape Mars

December 9, 2014 7:00 am | by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory | News | Comments

Observations by NASA's Curiosity Rover indicate Mars' Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. This interpretation of Curiosity's finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

DNA in Ancient Parchment Tells Agriculture, Diversity Tales

December 8, 2014 7:00 am | by Trinity College Dublin | News | Comments

Millions of documents stored in archives could provide scientists with the key to tracing agricultural development across the centuries. Thanks to increasingly progressive genetic sequencing techniques, the all-important historical tales these documents tell are no longer confined to their texts; now, vital information also comes from the DNA of the parchment on which they are written.

California's Drought is Worst in 1,200 Years

December 5, 2014 2:00 pm | by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | News | Comments

Watching the severity of the California drought intensify since last autumn, two researchers wondered how it would eventually compare to other extreme droughts throughout the state's history. As California finally experiences the arrival of a rain-bearing Pineapple Express this week, the pair have shown that the drought of 2012-2014 has been the worst in 1,200 years.

Beef, Beer Show Power Trumped Practicality for Vikings

December 5, 2014 7:00 am | by Baylor Univ. | News | Comments

Vikings are stereotyped as raiders and traders, but those who settled in Iceland centuries ago spent more time producing and consuming booze and beef, in part to achieve political ambitions in an environment very different from their Scandinavian homeland.

Dirt Sheds Light on Roman Burials

December 4, 2014 2:00 pm | by Univ. of Bradford | News | Comments

The first scientific evidence of frankincense being used in Roman burial rites in Britain has been uncovered by a team of archaeological scientists. The findings prove that, even while the Roman Empire was in decline, these precious substances were being transported to its furthest northern outpost.

Living African Group was Most Populous for 150,000 Years

December 4, 2014 2:00 pm | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

New genetic research reveals that a small group of hunger-gatherers, now living in Southern Africa, was once so large that it comprised the majority of living humans during most of the past 150,000 years. Only during the last 22,000 years have the other African ethnicities, including the ones giving rise to Europeans and Asians, become vastly most numerous.

Oldest Engraving Ever Found on Shell

December 4, 2014 7:00 am | by Leiden Univ. | News | Comments

Homo erectus on Java was already using shells of freshwater mussels as tools half a million years ago, and as a “canvas” for an engraving. The find provides new insights into the evolution of human behavior.

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