Tag Archives: History

Tooth wear sheds light on the feeding habits of ancient elephant relatives

How can we ever know what ancient animals ate? For the first time, the changing diets of elephants in the last two million years in China have been reconstructed, using a technique based on analysis of the surface textures of their teeth. The work was carried out by a University of Bristol student, working with […]

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* Desert elephants pass on knowledge — not mutations — to survive

Despite reported differences in appearance and behavior, DNA evidence finds that Namibian desert elephants share the same DNA as African savanna elephants. However, Namibian desert-dwelling elephants should be protected so they can continue to pass on their unique knowledge and survival skills to future generations. “The ability of species such as elephants to learn and […]

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Ridiculously cute mouse lemurs hold key to Madagascar’s past

“For a long time, scientists weren’t sure how or why Madagascar’s biogeography changed in very recent geological time, specifically at the key period around when humans arrived on the island a few thousand years ago. It has been proposed they heavily impacted the Central Highland forests,” says Steve Goodman, MacArthur Field Biologist at The Field […]

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* Monkeys in Brazil ‘have used stone tools for hundreds of years at least’

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New archaeological evidence suggests that Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts for at least 700 years. Researchers say, to date, they have found the earliest archaeological examples of monkey tool use outside of Africa. In their paper, published in Current Biology, they suggest it raises questions about the origins […]

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* New veterinary research helps distinguish accidents from abuse

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A veterinarian sees a canine patient with severe rib and head injuries whose cause of injury is unknown. Without having witnessed the incident, how can the veterinary professional distinguish an accident from abuse? Using data from criminal cases of animal abuse, researchers from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and the American Society […]

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30 years after Chernobyl, camera study reveals wildlife abundance in Chernobyl

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Thirty years ago, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, became the site of the world’s largest nuclear accident. While humans are now scarce in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, continued studies–including a just-published camera study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory–validate findings that wildlife populations are abundant at […]

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DNA proves mammoths mated beyond species boundaries

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Several species of mammoth are thought to have roamed across the North American continent. A new study in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, provides DNA evidence to show that these mammoths, which should only mate within their species boundaries, were in fact likely to be interbreeding. A species can be defined as […]

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Mammal-like reptile survived much longer than thought

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Teeth can reveal a lot, such as how the earliest mammals lived with their neighbors. Researchers have uncovered dozens of fossilized teeth in Kuwajima, Japan and identified this as a new species of tritylodontid, an animal family that links the evolution of mammals from reptiles. This finding suggests that tritylodontids co-existed with some of the […]

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Scientists discover how the brain repurposes itself to learn scientific concepts

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The human brain was initially used for basic survival tasks, such as staying safe and hunting and gathering. Yet, 200,000 years later, the same human brain is able to learn abstract concepts, like momentum, energy and gravity, which have only been formally defined in the last few centuries. New research from Carnegie Mellon University has […]

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New basal bird from China reveals the morphological diversity in early birds

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Over the past three decades, representatives of all major Mesozoic bird groups have been reported from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota of northeastern China. A new species, Chongmingia zhengi, reported in the journal of Scientific Reports on 25 January 2016, sheds light on the early evolution of birds. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that it is basal […]

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New species couldn’t hop, but outlived its fanged kangaroo contemporaries

A University of Queensland (UQ)-led study has discovered a new genus and two new species of extinct kangaroos which couldn’t hop, but may have been ancestral to all kangaroos and wallabies living today. Lead author Kaylene Butler of UQ’s School of Earth Sciences said the new kangaroo species were discovered in ancient fossil deposits at […]

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An ancestor of the rabbit connects Europe and Asia

The species Amphilagus tomidai was recently discovered — an ancestor of the rabbit which lived in present-day Siberia during the Miocene, about 14 million years ago. The discovery of this mammal, belonging to a family which was thought to only exist in Europe, reveals that the two continents were connected ‑free of natural barriers‑ due […]

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Ancient rodent’s brain was big … but not necessarily ‘smart’

If new U of T research on the brains of an ancient rodent tells us anything, it’s that bigger does not necessarily mean better. U of T Scarborough PhD candidate Ornella Bertrand along with Associate Professor Mary Silcox and undergraduate student Farrah Amador-Mughal recently reconstructed two endocasts of Paramys, the oldest and best-preserved rodent skulls […]

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Ancient wildebeest-like animal shared ‘bizarre’ feature with dinosaur

By poring over the fossilized skulls of ancient wildebeest-like animals (Rusingoryx atopocranion) unearthed on Kenya’s Rusinga Island, researchers have discovered that the little-known hoofed mammals had a very unusual, trumpet-like nasal passage similar only to the nasal crests of lambeosaurine hadrosaur dinosaurs. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 4 […]

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* Dog domestication may have increased harmful genetic changes, biologists report

The domestication of dogs may have inadvertently caused harmful  genetic changes, a UCLA-led study suggests. Domesticating dogs from gray wolves more than 15,000 years ago involved artificial selection and inbreeding, but the effects of these processes on dog genomes have been little-studied. UCLA researchers analyzed the complete genome sequences of 19 wolves; 25 wild dogs […]

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Extinct 3-horned palaeomerycid ruminant found in Spain

The extinct three-horned palaeomerycid ruminant, Xenokeryx amidalae, found in Spain, may be from the same clade as giraffes, according to a study published December 2, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Israel M. Sánchez from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-CSIC, Madrid, Spain, and colleagues. Palaeomerycids, now extinct, were strange three-horned Eurasian Miocene […]

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* Cheetahs migrated from North America

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is now at home on the African plains, but it started a migration 100, 000 years ago from North America towards its current habitat. The research, published in the open access journal Genome Biology, found that the migration from North America was costly for the species, triggering the first major reduction […]

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* Scientists peg Anthropocene to first farmers

A new analysis of the fossil record shows that a deep pattern in nature remained the same for 300 million years. Then, 6,000 years ago, the pattern was disrupted — at about the same time that agriculture spread across North America. “When early humans started farming and became dominant in the terrestrial landscape, we see […]

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Missing link between dinosaur nests and bird nests

The links between dinosaurs and birds keep getting stronger: skeletal structures, feathers—and now nests. Whereas some dinosaurs buried their eggs crocodile-style, a new analysis suggests that other dinosaurs built open nests on the ground, foreshadowing the nests of birds. Interpreting the fossil record is always tough, but analyzing trace fossils such as nests is especially […]

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* Odd creature was ancient ancestor of today’s giraffes

A distant relative of today’s giraffes was a bit of an odd creature: It was about the size of a bull moose, but it had a long neck that could stretch both up to eat tree leaves and down to eat grass. That’s the conclusion of the first comprehensive analysis of a complete set of […]

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Researchers analyzed fossil teeth to identify Apidium zuetina as a species new to science

During upheaval in Libya in 2013, a window of opportunity opened for scientists from the University of Kansas to perform research at the Zallah Oasis, a promising site for unearthing fossils from the Oligocene period, roughly 30 million years ago. From that work, the KU-led team last week published a description of a previously unknown […]

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Ancient viral molecules essential for human development

Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. They’ve identified several noncoding RNA molecules of viral origins that are necessary for a fertilized human egg to acquire the ability in early development to become all the cells and tissues of the body. […]

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* Ancient wild ox genome reveals complex cow ancestry

The ancestry of domesticated cattle proves more complex than previously thought, reports a paper published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The first nuclear genome sequence from an ancient wild ox reveals that some modern domestic cow breeds, including the Scottish Highland and Irish Kerry, had wild ancestors that were British, as well as […]

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Meet the first Iberian lynx on the Iberian Peninsula

The remains of an Iberian lynx specimen which lived 1.6 million years ago — the oldest ever discovered — were found resting in a cave in Barcelona (Spain). This discovery not only allows us to shed light on the origins of one of the world’s most endangered feline species, but it also means that the […]

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Ancient human ear-orienting system could yield clues to hearing deficits in infants

Vestigial organs, such as the wisdom teeth in humans, are those that have become functionless through the course of evolution. Now, a psychologist at the University of Missouri studying vestigial muscles behind the ears in humans has determined that ancient neural circuits responsible for moving the ears, still may be responsive to sounds that attract […]

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After 100 years in captivity, a look at the world’s last truly wild horses

In the 1870s, the world’s last truly wild horses, known as Przewalski’s horses, lived in the Asian steppes of Mongolia and China. But by the 1960s, those wild horses were no longer free. Only one captive population remained, descended from about a dozen wild-caught individuals and perhaps four domesticated horses. Thanks to major conservation efforts, […]

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Return on investment slipping in biomedical research

In a report published Aug. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found that while the number of scientists has increased more than nine-fold since 1965 and the National Institutes of Health’s budget has increased four-fold, the number of new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration has only […]

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Four million years at Africa’s salad bar

As grasses grew more common in Africa, most major mammal groups tried grazing on them at times during the past 4 million years, but some of the animals went extinct or switched back to browsing on trees and shrubs, according to a study led by the University of Utah “It’s as if in a city, […]

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Shifting winds, ocean currents doubled endangered Galápagos penguin population

Shifts in trade winds and ocean currents powered a resurgence of endangered Galápagos penguins over the past 30 years, according to a new study. These changes enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding — an expansion that could continue as the climate changes over the coming decades, the […]

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Competition from cats drove extinction of many species of ancient dogs

Competition played a more important role in the evolution of the dog family (wolves, foxes, and their relatives) than climate change, shows a new international study published in PNAS. An international team including scientists from the Universities of Gothenburg (Sweden), São Paulo (Brazil) and Lausanne (Switzerland) analyzed over 2000 fossils and revealed that the arrival […]

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