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March 4 2015

Aboriginal legends an untapped record of natural history written in the stars


Aboriginal legends could offer a vast untapped record of natural history, including meteorite strikes, stretching back thousands of years, according to new UNSW research.

Dr Duane Hamacher from the UNSW Indigenous Astronomy Group has uncovered evidence linking Aboriginal stories about meteor events with impact craters dating back some 4,700 years.

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March 4 2015

Precise dating of ancient charcoal found near skull is helping reveal a unique period in prehistory


A partial human skull unearthed in 2008 in northern Israel may hold some clues as to when and where humans and Neanderthals might have interbred. The key to addressing this, as well as other important issues, is precisely determining the age of the skull. A combination of dating methods, one of them performed by Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto, head of the Weizmann Institute's D-REAMS (DANGOOR Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) laboratory, has made it possible to define the period of time that the cave was occupied and thus the skull's age. The combined dating provides evidence that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis could have lived side by side in the area.

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March 4 2015

Study identifies first-ever human population adaptation to toxic chemical, arsenic


High up in the high Andes mountains of Argentina, researchers have identified the first-ever evidence of a population uniquely adapted to tolerate the toxic chemical arsenic.

For thousands of years, in some regions of the Andes, people have been exposed to high levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens when arsenic in the volcanic bedrock is released into the groundwater.

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March 4 2015

Fat? Sick? Blame Your Grandparents’ Bad Habits


Toward the end of World War II, the Nazis blocked all food and fuel supplies to the Netherlands, leading to famine. Many babies born during this famine suffered long-term effects, including a higher incidence of a variety of conditions such as heart disease, obesity, glucose intolerance, and obstructed airways. Severe trauma altered the victims’ gene code for life, even if the victim had yet to be born.

But here’s the weird part: The effects didn’t stop with a child or with a generation. Postwar and post-famine, later-born siblings were also affected. Even in periods when food was available and the war over, a genetic memory lingered.

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March 4 2015

After handshakes, we sniff people's scent on our hand


You won't believe you do it, but you do. After shaking hands with someone, you'll lift your hands to your face and take a deep sniff. This newly discovered behaviour – revealed by covert filming – suggests that much like other mammals, humans use bodily smells to convey information.

We know that women's tears transmit chemosensory signals - their scent lowers testosterone levels and dampens arousal in men - and that human sweat can transmit fear. But unlike other mammals, humans don't tend to go around sniffing each other.

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March 4 2015

Six Fish That Are Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For


Name a smart animal. Perhaps dogs, or dolphins, or chimpanzees came to mind. But why not goldfish, salmon, or moray eels?

Most people don’t associate intelligence with fishes. Blame it on the misconception that evolution is linear, with fishes sunk at the primitive end and primates raised near the top. Increasingly, though, scientists are appreciating the full spectrum of fish behaviors in their natural environments, thanks to advances in technology such as underwater ROVs and better recording equipment.


Related: Rare 'alien of the deep' goblin shark found in Australia

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March 4 2015

European Beavers Mate For Life; North American Beavers Prefer Free Love


European beavers mate for life, and remain faithful to their partners. North American beavers? Not so much. What's the reason behind this discrepancy ... and which of the two beaver species has the greater advantage?

A new genetic study headed up by Pavel Munclinger, a professor in the Department of Zoology at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, looked at a number of European beaver colonies living around Kirov, Russia.

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March 4 2015

Gorillas source of two HIV-1 lineages


Half the lineages of the main type of human immunodeficiency virus, HIV-1, originated in gorillas in Cameroon before infecting people, probably via bushmeat hunting, a new study has found.

HIV-1, which causes AIDS, is composed of four groups, each coming from a separate cross-species transmission of a simian version of the virus from apes to humans.

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March 4 2015

Germ-killing molecules identified in alligator blood


Thick armour and jaws packed full of teeth aren't the only defences that alligators and crocodiles have. They also have formidable immune systems and some of the protective molecules that enable this have now been identified. Their discovery in the blood of the American alligator might even pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics.

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March 4 2015

How 3D Printing Could End The Deadly Shortage Of Donor Organs


Three-dimensional printing has been used to make everything from pizza to prostheses, and now researchers are working on using the emerging technology to fabricate hearts, kidneys, and other vital human organs.

That would be very big news, as the number of people who desperately need an organ transplant far outstrips the number of donor organs available. On average, about 21 Americans die every day because a needed organ was unavailable.

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March 4 2015

Google has developed a technology to tell whether ‘facts’ on the Internet are true


The Internet, we know all too well, is a cesspool of rumor and chicanery.

But in a research paper published by Google in February — and reported over the weekend by New Scientist — that could, at least hypothetically, change. A team of computer scientists at Google has proposed a way to rank search results not by how popular Web pages are, but by their factual accuracy.


Related: Future Computers Could Express Ideas Like Humans

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March 4 2015

Doomsday vault: first tree samples arrive at underground, frozen seed store


The “doomsday” vault built into an Arctic mountain, which stores seeds for food crops in case of a natural disaster, has received its first delivery of tree samples.

Norway spruce and Scots pine seeds have arrived at the frozen vault, which is located on Svalbard, an archipelago owned by and north of Norway. The organisations behind the vault hope to bring more seeds from outside of the Nordic countries.


Related: Signs of spring 'shifting' in trees

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March 4 2015

New Theory Behind Dozens of Craters Found in Siberia


When a massive and mysterious hole was discovered in Siberia last July (see pictures), social media users pointed to everything from a meteorite to a stray missile to aliens to the Bermuda Triangle as possible causes. But the most plausible explanation seemed to be the explosive release of melting methane hydrate—an ice-like material frozen in the Arctic ground—thanks to global warming.

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March 4 2015

Termites: Guardians of the Soil


Researchers at Princeton University and their colleagues recently reported in the journal Science that termite mounds may serve as oases in the desert, allowing the plants that surround them to persist on a fraction of the annual rainfall otherwise required and to bounce back after a withering drought. The mounds could thus prove potential bulwarks against climate change, preventing fragile dryland from slipping into lifeless wasteland.

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March 3 2015

How hunting with wolves helped humans outsmart the Neanderthals


Dogs are humanity’s oldest friends, renowned for their loyalty and abilities to guard, hunt and chase. But modern humans may owe even more to them than we previously realised. We may have to thank them for helping us eradicate our caveman rivals, the Neanderthals.

According to a leading US anthropologist, early dogs, bred from wolves, played a critical role in the modern human’s takeover of Europe 40,000 years ago when we vanquished the Neanderthal locals.

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March 3 2015

Exclusive: Lost City Discovered in Honduran Rain Forest


An expedition to Honduras has emerged from the jungle with dramatic news of the discovery of a mysterious culture's lost city, never before explored. The team was led to the remote, uninhabited region by long-standing rumors that it was the site of a storied "White City," also referred to in legend as the "City of the Monkey God."

Archaeologists surveyed and mapped extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds, and an earthen pyramid belonging to a culture that thrived a thousand years ago, and then vanished. The team, which returned from the site last Wednesday, also discovered a remarkable cache of stone sculptures that had lain untouched since the city was abandoned.

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March 3 2015

Genomes document ancient mass migration to Europe


DNA analysis has revealed evidence for a massive migration into the heartland of Europe 4,500 years ago.

Data from the genomes of 69 ancient individuals suggest that herders moved en masse from the continent's eastern periphery into Central Europe.

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