The hornwort genome and early land plant evolution

Bryophytes are a group of plants that include mosses, liverworts and hornworts. They are often referred to as the early land plants marking the transition from freshwater to a terrestrial ecosystem. The timing of the conquest of land and the relationships among the main lineages of plants have been contentious for a long time. In … Read more The hornwort genome and early land plant evolution

How and when spines changed in mammalian evolution

From the long necks of giraffes that help them reach treetops to the flexibility of a cheetah’s spine that help it go from zero to sixty in three seconds, mammals not only have the figurative backbone to do amazing things but, more importantly, they have the literal one. But they weren’t always that way. A … Read more How and when spines changed in mammalian evolution

New study identifies Neanderthal ancestry in African populations and describes its origin

When the first Neanderthal genome was sequenced, using DNA collected from ancient bones, it was accompanied by the discovery that modern humans in Asia, Europe and America inherited approximately 2% of their DNA from Neanderthals – proving humans and Neanderthals had interbred after humans left Africa. Since that study, new methods have continued to catalogue … Read more New study identifies Neanderthal ancestry in African populations and describes its origin

The ‘firewalkers’ of Karoo: Dinosaurs and other animals left tracks in a ‘land of fire’

In southern Africa, dinosaurs and synapsids, a group of animals that includes mammals and their closest fossil relatives, survived in a “land of fire” at the start of an Early Jurassic mass extinction, according to a study published January 29, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Emese M. Bordy of the University of Cape Town … Read more The ‘firewalkers’ of Karoo: Dinosaurs and other animals left tracks in a ‘land of fire’

Squid brains approach that of dogs

We are closer to understanding the incredible ability of squid to instantly camouflage themselves thanks to research from The University of Queensland. Dr Wen-Sung Chung and Professor Justin Marshall, from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, completed the first MRI-based mapping of the squid brain in 50 years to develop an atlas of neural connections. “This the … Read more Squid brains approach that of dogs

Glimpse into ancient hunting strategies of dragonflies and damselflies

A new species of prehistoric scorpion from the early Siluarian period (approximately 437.5 to 436.5 million years ago) is described in a study in Scientific Reports. The findings suggest that Parioscorpio venator is the oldest-known scorpion reported to date and may have been capable of leaving its marine habitat and venturing onto land, a behaviour similar … Read more Glimpse into ancient hunting strategies of dragonflies and damselflies

Hummingbirds’ rainbow colors come from pancake-shaped structures in their feathers

Hummingbirds are some of the most brightly-colored things in the entire world. Their feathers are iridescent– light bounces off them like a soap bubble, resulting in shimmering hues that shift as you look at them from different angles. While other birds like ducks can have bright feathers, nothing seems to come close to hummingbirds, and … Read more Hummingbirds’ rainbow colors come from pancake-shaped structures in their feathers

African grey parrots spontaneously ‘lend a wing’

People and other great apes are known for their willingness to help others in need, even strangers. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 9 have shown for the first time that some birds – and specifically African grey parrots – are similarly helpful. “We found that African grey parrots voluntarily and spontaneously help familiar parrots … Read more African grey parrots spontaneously ‘lend a wing’

Early humans revealed to have engineered optimised stone tools at Olduvai Gorge

The research, published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface, shows that Palaeolithic hominins selected different raw materials for different stone tools based on how sharp, durable and efficient those materials were. They made these decisions in conjunction with information about the length of time the tools would be used for and the force with which … Read more Early humans revealed to have engineered optimised stone tools at Olduvai Gorge