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June 13 2014

Endangered Bonobos Reveal Evolution of Human Kindness


Marked by their kindness to strangers, bonobos are helping scientists solve the mystery of a particularly human quality: our altruistic nature.

It's a cruel irony, then, that the very bonobos that are shedding light on how our humanity toward others arose are the orphans of mothers killed by, you guessed it, humans.

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June 13 2014

Chimps Outsmart Humans in Simple Strategy Game


Don’t underestimate the brainpower of a chimp — new research suggests chimpanzees are better than humans at some simple strategy games.

The researchers had chimps play a game in which the animals sat back to back facing computers and took turns selecting one of two blue boxes on the screen. The computer revealed each player’s choice to their opponent, and the player then had to predict what their opponent’s next selection would be based on the last choice. The chimps learned the game more quickly compared to undergraduate students who also played in a separate round.

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June 13 2014

Human and Chimp Genes May Have Split 13 Million Years Ago


The ancestors of humans and chimpanzees may have begun genetically diverging from one another 13 million years ago, more than twice as long ago as had been widely thought, shedding new light on the process of human evolution, researchers say.

Scientists also discovered that male chimps pass on far more genetic mutations to their offspring than male humans do, revealing previously unknown evolutionary differences between the species.

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June 13 2014

Dracula's tomb 'found in Naples': report


An Italian newspaper has claimed that the tomb of Dracula - the brutal Romanian leader linked to the modern vampire novel and films - has been found in the centre of Naples.

Count Dracula gained notoriety as a blood-thirsty vampire in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, hundreds of years after the death of the Romanian leader Vlad III Dracula.

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June 13 2014

Polish meteorite venerated by Neolithic man?


A meteorite found in the remains of a Neolithic hut in Bolkow, north west Poland, may have been used for shamanic purposes, academics have argued.

The meteorite was discovered among a large group of sacral objects in a hut on the banks of Swidwie Lake in the West Pomeranian region.

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June 13 2014

Fact or Fiction?: Mammoths Can Be Brought Back from Extinction


In a petri dish in the bowels of Harvard Medical School scientists have tweaked three genes from the cells of an Asian elephant that help control the production of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that carries oxygen. Their goal is to make these genes more like those of an animal that last walked the planet thousands of years ago: the woolly mammoth.

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June 13 2014

Dinosaurs 'neither warm nor cold blooded'


Dinosaurs fit in an intermediate class between warm and cold blooded animals, a study in the journal Science claims. Scientists compared the growth rates of hundreds of living and extinct species, using growth rings and bone size to calculate the rates for dinosaurs.

They linked growth rate to metabolic rate, the measure of energy use that divides warm and cold blooded animals.

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June 13 2014

Ancient Long-Necked 'Sea Monsters' Rowed Their Way to Prey


Predatory reptiles that trawled the oceans during the age of the dinosaurs used a rowing motion to scoop up prey, new track marks uncovered in China reveal.

The newly discovered tracks are from creatures called nothosaurs, the top predators of the seas during the Triassic period, which lasted from 251 million to 199 million years ago. The findings settle a long-standing debate about how the ancient sea creatures swam, said study co-author Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England.

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June 13 2014

Scientists discover why Diplodocus did not put all her eggs in one basket


A team of scientists have suggested reasons why the largest dinosaurs ever to have walked the Earth produced smaller eggs than might be expected. One of the defining characteristics of the dinosaurs was their vast size, and the sauropods – a suborder of dinosaurs which includes the famous Diplodocus – were the largest of all.

Yet scientists have been puzzled at the relatively small size of sauropod eggs. Both individual egg size and clutch size are smaller than might be expected for such enormous creatures, relative to modern egg-laying animals.

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June 13 2014

Parade of Creatures Colonized Land After Dinosaur Demise


The cataclysm that ended the Age of Dinosaurs not only drove land animals to migrate into the water, but also pushed aquatic creatures to colonize the land, a new study reveals.

The shifts between land and water in the animal kingdom are among the most pivotal in evolution. The most famous example is that of fish that made the switch from water to land — the first tetrapods, or four-legged animals, which gave rise to amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Animals also moved from land to water — for example, the ancestors of seafaring whales appear to have been deerlike ungulates, or hoofed mammals.

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June 13 2014

The First Genital In An Animal Evolved From An Extra Pair Of Legs


A recent analysis of placoderm fossils — an early jawed vertebrate — shows that the animal kingdom's first genital organ was a "clasper" that evolved from an extra set of legs, and that the first sexual mating position was likely to have been a missionary one.

We humans use the euphemism for sex that "we like to get a leg over" but the first jawed vertebrates – the placoderms – liked to get a leg in.

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June 13 2014

Earth's breathable atmosphere a result of continents taking control of the carbon cycle


Scientists investigating one of the greatest riddles of the Earth's past may have discovered a mechanism to help determine how oxygen levels in the atmosphere expanded to allow life to evolve.

High concentrations of atmospheric oxygen have been essential for the evolution of complex life on the Earth. Over the 4.5 billion years of Earth history, oxygen concentration has risen from trace amounts to 21% of the atmosphere today. However, the mechanisms behind this rise are uncertain, and it remains one of the biggest puzzles in geochemistry.

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June 13 2014

Earth may 'remember' more of its infancy than previously thought


Ancient gases trapped deep within the Earth's mantle may reveal clues about our planet's earliest days, according to a new study.

For the past decade scientists believed our planet's memory was reset 4.5 billion years ago when an object the size of Mars slammed into the Earth, releasing enough energy to cause most of the Earth to turn into a liquid magma ocean.


Related: From today, the Earth is around 60 million years older—and so is the Moon

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June 12 2014

Earth’s Magnetic Flips May Have Triggered Mass Extinctions


At several times in Earth’s history, mass extinctions have come close to wiping life out altogether. The reasons for these catastrophes are still unclear – they’ve been blamed on everything from asteroid impacts to cosmic ray blasts. But a new study has found that our planet itself could have a surprising hand in these disasters.

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June 12 2014

Ancient, tiny fish might be ancestor of almost all vertebrates (including you)


A stunningly preserved, soft-bodied fish that is more than 500 million years old could be the ancestor of almost all living vertebrates.

The fossilized fish, called Metaspriggina, sports characteristic gill structures that later evolved into jawbones in jawed vertebrates, according to a new study.

The primeval creature lived during a period from 543 million to 493 million years ago known as the Cambrian Explosion, the evolutionary "big bang" when almost all complex life appeared.

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June 12 2014

Geologists confirm oxygen levels of ancient oceans


Zunli Lu and Xiaoli Zhou, an assistant professor and Ph.D. student, respectively, in the Department of Earth Sciences, are part of an international team of researchers whose findings have been published by the journal Geology (Geological Society of America, 2014). Their research approach may have important implications for the study of marine ecology and global warming.

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June 12 2014

How Earth Dodged Warming 300 Million Years Ago


Carbon dioxide mysteriously dropped during the time of the ancient supercontinent Pangea despite conditions that seemingly would have caused CO2 to spike. Instead, the biggest drop in the last 500 million years occurred. The cause of the drop is uncertain, but a new study argues a massive mountain range was the cause.

Normally rain is slightly acidic because CO2 dissolves into it forming weak carbonic acid.

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