Tag Archives: History

Four-legged fossil snake is a world first

The first four-legged fossil snake ever found is forcing scientists to rethink how snakes evolved from lizards. Although it has four legs, Tetrapodophis amplectus has other features that clearly mark it as a snake, says Nick Longrich, a palaeontologist at the University of Bath, UK, and one of the authors of a paper describing the […]

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Data bank launched for global access to ancient DNA

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Medical and other researchers and science teachers around the world will be able to compare ancient DNA from humans from thousands of years ago with the genetics of modern day humans, thanks to a new world-first open access databank at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). The Online Ancient Genome Repository […]

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Dose-response relationship between antimicrobial drugs and livestock-associated MRSA in pig farming

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The farming community can be a vehicle for introduction of livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) in hospitals. During 2011–2013, an 18-month longitudinal study aimed at reducing the prevalence of LA-MRSA was conducted on 36 pig farms in the Netherlands. Evaluations every 6 months showed a slight decrease in MRSA prevalence in animals and a stable […]

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Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

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Dogs’ special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone. Earlier genome-based estimates have suggested that the ancestors of modern-day dogs diverged from wolves no more than 16,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age. Dogs’ special relationship to humans may go back […]

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Mammoth genomes provide recipe for creating Arctic elephants

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Catalogue of genetic differences between woolly mammoths and elephants reveals how ice-age giants braved the cold. Unlike their elephant cousins, woolly mammoths were creatures of the cold, with long hairy coats, thick layers of fat and small ears that kept heat loss to a minimum. For the first time, scientists have comprehensively catalogued the hundreds […]

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Bizarre ‘platypus’ dinosaur: Vegetarian relative of T. rex

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Although closely related to the notorious carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex, a new lineage of dinosaur discovered in Chile is proving to be an evolutionary jigsaw puzzle, as it preferred to graze upon plants. Palaeontologists are referring to Chilesaurus diegosuarezi as a ‘platypus’ dinosaur because of its bizarre combination of characters that resemble different dinosaur groups. For […]

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Brontosaurus is back! Brontosaurus is a unique genus after all

Although well known as one of the most iconic dinosaurs, Brontosaurus (the ‘thunder lizard’) has long been considered misclassified. Since 1903, the scientific community has believed that the genus Brontosaurus was in fact the Apatosaurus. Now, an exhaustive new study by palaeontologists from Portugal and the UK provides conclusive evidence that Brontosaurus is distinct from […]

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Mystery of Darwin’s ‘strange animals’ solved

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When Charles Darwin visited South America on HMS Beagle in the 1830s, he discovered fossils of several hefty mammals that defied classification, such as Macrauchenia, which looked like a humpless camel with a long snout; or Toxodon, with a rhino’s body, hippo’s head and rodent-like teeth — which he described as “perhaps one of the […]

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* Deadly frog fungus dates back to 1880s, studies find

A pair of studies show that the deadly fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, responsible for the extinction of more than 200 amphibian species worldwide, has coexisted harmlessly with animals in Illinois and Korea for more than a century. The research will help biologists better understand the disease caused by Bd, chytridiomycosis, and the conditions under which it […]

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‘Extinct’ bird rediscovered: Last seen in 1941

Jerdon’s babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) had not been seen in Myanmar since July 1941, where it was last found in grasslands near the town of Myitkyo, Bago Region near the Sittaung River. The rediscovery was described in the recently published issue of Birding Asia, the magazine of the Oriental Bird Club. The team found the bird […]

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Fossil ankles indicate Earth’s earliest primates lived in trees

A new study has found that Purgatorius, a small mammal that lived on a diet of fruit and insects, was a tree dweller. Paleontologists made the discovery by analyzing 65-million-year-old ankle bones collected from sites in northeastern Montana. Purgatorius, part of an extinct group of primates called plesiadapiforms, first appears in the fossil record shortly […]

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Stone Age humans weren’t necessarily more advanced than Neanderthals

A multi-purpose bone tool dating from the Neanderthal era has been discovered by University of Montreal researchers, throwing into question our current understanding of the evolution of human behaviour. It was found at an archaeological site in France. “This is the first time a multi-purpose bone tool from this period has been discovered. It proves […]

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Flock of geneticists redraws bird family tree

Birds at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC showcase some of the species that have had their genomes sequenced. Evolutionary geneticist Tom Gilbert was sipping a coffee in Madrid five years ago when an idea hit him — literally. “A pigeon crapped on me,” he says, “and I thought to myself, ’Huh, […]

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Turtles and dinosaurs: Scientists solve reptile mysteries with landmark study on the evolution of turtles

A team of scientists, including researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, has reconstructed a detailed “tree of life” for turtles. The specifics of how turtles are related — to one another, to other reptiles, and even to dinosaurs — have been hotly debated for decades. Next generation sequencing technologies in Academy labs have generated […]

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European Commission scraps chief scientific adviser post

Former president José Manuel Barroso had pledged in late 2009 to create the post. It was not filled until two years later, when Anne Glover, a molecular and cell biologist who was then CSA of Scotland, was appointed. Glover’s term of office as CSA for Europe ended last month, along with that of the rest […]

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Massive geographic change may have triggered explosion of animal life

A new analysis of geologic history may help solve the riddle of the “Cambrian explosion,” the rapid diversification of animal life in the fossil record 530 million years ago that has puzzled scientists since the time of Charles Darwin. A paper by Ian Dalziel of The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, […]

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First amphibious ichthyosaur discovered, filling evolutionary gap

Fossil remains show the first amphibious ichthyosaur found in China by a team led by a UC Davis scientist. Its amphibious characteristics include large flippers and flexible wrists, essential for crawling on the ground. The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur has been discovered in China by a team led by researchers at the University […]

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30.000 years ago kangaroos were ‘made’ for walking, study suggests of extinct enigmas

Based on a rigorous comparative analysis of kangaroo anatomy, researchers posit that the ancient family of sthenurine kangaroos that lived until 30,000 years ago likely preferred walking to hopping. A variety of anatomical features suggest that sthenurines could put their weight on one leg at a time, an essential capability for walking on two feet. […]

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Humans to blame for plummeting numbers of cheetahs

A new study led by Queen’s University Belfast into how cheetahs burn energy suggests that human activity, rather than larger predators, may force them to expend more energy and thus be the major cause of their decline. Wild cheetahs are down to under 10,000 from 100,000 a century ago with conventional wisdom blaming bigger predators […]

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Support for controversial Darwin theory of ‘jump dispersal’

More than one hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin hypothesized that species could cross oceans and other vast distances on vegetation rafts, icebergs, or in the case of plant seeds, in the plumage of birds. Though many were skeptical of Darwin’s “jump dispersal” idea, a new study suggests that Darwin might have been correct. […]

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Dinosaur family tree gives fresh insight into rapid rise of birds

The most comprehensive family tree of meat-eating dinosaurs ever created is enabling scientists to discover key details of how birds evolved from them. The study, published in the journal Current Biology, shows that the familiar anatomical features of birds — such as feathers, wings and wishbones — all first evolved piecemeal in their dinosaur ancestors […]

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Ecotourism rise hits whales

Whale-watching trips often come into very close contact with the animals. Boat trips to watch whales and dolphins may increasingly be putting the survival of marine mammals at risk, conservationists have warned. Research published this year shows that the jaunts can affect cetacean behaviour and stress levels in addition to causing deaths from collisions. But […]

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Neanderthals: Bone technique redrafts prehistory

Neanderthals and humans lived together in Europe for thousands of years, concludes a timeline based on radiocarbon dates from 40 key sites across Europe. The results, published today in Nature, may help to end a century-old deadlock over the demise of the Neanderthals and their relationship to humans. The researchers used 196 radiocarbon dates of […]

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Animals first flex their muscles: Earliest fossil evidence for animals with muscles

A new fossil discovery identifies the earliest evidence for animals with muscles. An unusual new fossil discovery of one of the earliest animals on earth may also provide the oldest evidence of muscle tissue — the bundles of cells that make movement in animals possible. The fossil, dating from 560 million years ago, was discovered […]

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Risks to penguin populations analyzed

A major study of all penguin species suggests the birds are at continuing risk from habitat degradation. Writing in the journal, Conservation Biology, scientists recommend the adoption of measures to mitigate against a range of effects including; food scarcity (where fisheries compete for the same resources), being caught in fishing nets, oil pollution and climate […]

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How amphibians crossed continents: DNA helps piece together 300-million-year journey

There are more than 7,000 known species of amphibians that can be found in nearly every type of ecosystem on six continents. But there have been few attempts to understand exactly when and how frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians have moved across the planet throughout time. Armed with DNA sequence data, Alex Pyron, an assistant […]

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Darwin’s ship library

As Charles Darwin cruised the world on the HMS Beagle, he had access to an unusually well-stocked 400-volume library. That collection, which contained the observations of numerous other naturalists and explorers, has now been recreated online. As of today, all of more than 195,000 pages and 5000 illustrations from the works are available for the […]

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Rise and fall of prehistoric penguin populations charted

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A study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too […]

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Origins of Arctic fox traced back to Tibet

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The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) was thought to have evolved in Europe as the ice sheet expanded when a glacial period swept the Earth about 2.6 million years ago. But fossil evidence now suggests that the animal ‘pre-adapted’ to living in the cold and harsh environment on lofty Tibetan terrains. While hiking up and down […]

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Oldest most complete, genetically intact human skeleton in New World

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The skeletal remains of a teenage female from the late Pleistocene or last ice age found in an underwater cave in Mexico have major implications for our understanding of the origins of the Western Hemisphere’s first people and their relationship to contemporary Native Americans. In a paper released today in the journal Science, an international […]

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