Friday, 23 April 2010

We May All Be A Little Bit Neanderthal After All

A major new DNA study shows that we may all be carrying a few Neanderthal genes in our makeup. Neanderthals vanished off the face of the earth around 25,000 years ago, and the reasons why they disappeared has been a cause of major controversy between scientists.  Theories about why they disappeared range from climate change, to competition for food and resources, to being absorbed into the modern human population even through to the modern human population killing off the Neanderthal population.

The DNA study, undertaken by the University of Mexico, looked at 1,983 people from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas and the scientists involved then produced an 'evolutionary tree' that shows how and when differences in DNA of the people's of the world occurred.  There were two periods of interbreeding of the modern human population and another early human species, with the Neanderthals being the most likely candidate species.  One of the periods of interbreeding occurred in the eastern Mediterranean around 60,000 years ago and another around 45,000 years in the area of East Asia.

Read the whole article on how we may all be carrying Neanderthal DNA

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Nose-Dwelling Leech Discovered in the Amazon

Scientists have discovered a new species of nose-dwelling leech in the remoter parts of the Upper Amazon.  This new species was first seen in 2007 in Peru, when one of the leeches was removed from the nose of a young girl who had been bathing in the river.

The new species of leech has been named Tyrannobdella rex or 'tyrant leech king' and it enters the body orifices of both humans and animals and attaches itself to the mucous membranes by it's eight huge teeth. The leech's favourite orifice to inhabit seems to be the nose. The leech has some unusual characteristics, including one single jaw, the eight large teeth and extremely small genitalia. The scientists believe that the leech could live in the nose or mouth of an aquatic animal, and stay there feeding for months at a time.

Find out more about the new species of nose-dwelling leech

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

New Discovery of Roman-Era Style Mummy in Bahariya Oasis

In the remote Bahariya Oasis in Egypt, Egyptologists have made a new discovery of a mummy from the Roman era.   Bahariya Oasis is famous for being the home of the Valley of the Golden Mummies, which is a vast ancient necropolis from which hundreds of mummies of the Greco-Roman period have been excavated.

This new discovery is the first Roman-style mummy to be found at Bahariya and the mummy is encased in an elaborately carved plaster sarcophagus. The plaster sarcophagus portrays a diminutive woman with open eyes, dressed in a long robe with a head scarf, beaded jewellery and shoes.The new discovery has not yet been dated and was found in a cemetery containing around 14 tombs.

Read on for the whole article on the new mummy discovered in Bahariya Oasis

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

New Species of Dragon-Sized Lizard Discovered in the Philippines

Scientists have announced that they have identified a new species of dragon-sized lizard on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. This new lizard is a brightly coloured forest monitor that can grow to around 6ft in length but only weighs about 22lbs.  This lizard is unusual as it lives only on fruit and is one of only three fruit eating lizards in the world.  This lizard spends much of its time up in trees, so cannot carry the weight of the mighty Komodo dragons, who are also predator anf gain much of their bulk from eating meat.

This new lizard was first seen by scientists in photographs in 2001, but it was not until a month-long expedition in 2009 that one of the forest monitors was brought into camp and positively identified.  The lizard is a news species of the genus Varanus, and DNA testing shows that it nearest relative is Gray's monitor lizard that lives in the southern part of Luzon.

Read the whole news article for more on the discovery of a new dragon-like lizard

Monday, 5 April 2010

Human Evolutionary Missing Link Discovered in South Africa

Scientists believe that a 2 million old fossil skeleton of a young child discovered in South Africa could represent an entirely new species and could be the intermediary evolutionary step between our more ape-like ancestors and modern humans.

Scientists are hoping that studying the fossilised remains will help them to understand how humans started walking on two feet.  Unlike earlier finds that comprised mainly of teeth and bone fragements, this skeleton, which was found in the Malapa cave in the Sterkfontein region of South Africa, is almost complete. To have a spinal column, pelvis and leg and arm bones could gives the clues as to whether this species walked fully unpright or on all fours.  Studying the hand bones could also show how dextrous this species was.

Hopefully this new fossil will help scientists piece together how the apelike Australopithecus evolved into the more human Homo Habilis around 2.4 million years ago.

Read the full news article on finding the missing link in human evolution

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Giant 'Woodlouse' Shocks Oil Workers in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil workers in the Gulf of Mexico were stunned when a creature that looked like a giant woodlouse hitched a ride on the back of one of their submarines and was hauled onto their oil rig.

However, this was no alien creature from a far off planet, but is in fact a fairly common species of giant isopod that is usually found in deep sea waters at around depths of 8,500ft.  This specimen is a Bathynomous Giganteus and at two and a half feet long is possibly the largest of its kind ever to have been caught.  Usually members of this family are around half this size.  Bathynomous Giganteus is, in fact, a relative of the woodlouse commonly found in our back gardens, and is an example of deep-sea gigantism.  Crustaceans and invetebrates found in deep waters are commonly much larger than their counterparts who inhabit shallower waters, and Bathynomous Giganteus is abundant in the deeper, colder waters of the Atlantic and Pacific.

Read on for the whole news article on the giant 'woodlouse' that shocked the oil workers in the Gulf of Mexico.