Love song sung by Jurassic cricket recreated


Not many of us are aware that male crickets croon a love song to entice female counterparts and repel those of the same gender. One such mating song possibly sung by an extinct cricket nearly 165 million years back has been unleashed by scientists at the Bristol University.

This song is probably the most primitive track documented up till now. It has been reconstructed from the microscopic wing attributes on a fossil uncovered in North East China. Audiences now have an opportunity to listen to acoustics that would have been once heard by dinosaurs and other primates roaming through Jurassic forests during night time.

The researchers stumbled upon an extremely detailed bushcricket fossil hailing from the Mid Jurassic era. The wing features were apparently well-conserved which allowed for precise exploration of its stridulating organs. The latter are those which primarily produce sounds by rubbing of specific parts together.

The team dubbed this fossil as Archaboilus musicus and probed into its song producing instruments. This musical apparatus was pitted against a set of 59 live bushcricket species. The team concluded that this breed would have generated musical songs with pure and single frequencies.

Professor Daniel Robert, expert in the biomechanics of singing and hearing in insects, commented, “Singing loud and clear advertises the presence, location and quality of the singer, a message that females choose to respond to – or not. Using a single tone, the male’s call carries further and better, and therefore is likely to serenade more females. However, it also makes the male more conspicuous to predators if they have also evolved ears to eavesdrop on these mating calls.”

The investigators could reconstruct the songs sung by Archaboilus via detailed morphology. They believed that musicus’ every wave of singing may have continued for 16 seconds at a tone fine-tuned at 6.4kHz. This seemed to give the scientists a fair idea of the song after which they recreated it.

The findings are published in the journal, PNAS.

Origin of Stonehenge rocks explored

Stonehenge Rocks Text

The presence of large standing rocks at Stonehenge has always kept interested parties wondering as to what could have transported the heavy pieces to that place. In an important discovery from the University of Leicester and National Museum of Wales quarters, researchers have revealed some data that clue in on the transportation process of Stonehenge rocks.

The scientists conducted an extensive research by analyzing specimens from rock outcrops in Pembrokeshire. This helped them comprehend the origin of rocks at Stonehenge, which happens to be one of the most important archaeological sites on the globe.

Dr Rob Ixer of Leicester University, commented, “Being able to provenance any archaeologically significant rock so precisely is remarkable, to do it for Stonehenge was quite unexpected and exciting. However, given continued perseverance, we are determined that we shall uncover the origins of most, if not all of the Stonehenge bluestones so allowing archaeologists to continue their speculations well into a third century.”

The findings essentially disclosed that the large stones found at the Stonehenge stem from a particular 70m long region called Craig Rhos-y-felin near Pont Saeson. Further probes indicated that these rhyolites were apparently related to a specific class of outcrops. Moreover, the rhyolites found in South Wales were distinct in nature with regards to meters or tens of meters.

This helped the team correlate some samples to certain regions across the extreme northeastern threshold of the area minutely. The location is sufficiently small for archaeologists to explore what can put forth the missing parts of the story of how the rocks from Pembrokeshire traveled to Stonehenge.

The research is published in a new paper Archaeology in Wales.

Primal giant predator had highly sharp vision, says research

Anomalocaris Painting

Most will agree that predators have intense eyes that spot a vulnerable prey in the blink of an eye. Experts from the University of Adelaide have stumbled upon eyes pertaining to a huge 500 million-year-old marine attacker that spearheaded Earth’s first food chain.

The researchers set sights on the deadly metre-long predator namely Anomalocaris existing in the Cambrian ocean dating back to 500 million years. This species apparently had a very sharp vision, which surpassed the thresholds of most other live insects and crustaceans.

This predatory animal has always been the subject of gruesome fear in science related movies. It is positioned at the top of the earliest food chains owing to its large body mass, terrifying snatch claws located at the front region of its head and a circular mouth with acute raggedness.

Anomalocaris Eye Fossil

The findings showed the remains of their prey in the form of fossilized coprolites which presumably depicted the animal’s ruthlessness and dominance. The scientists essentially disclosed that the Anomalocaris possibly had an excellent vision which went in line with its predatory behaviors.

The eyes looked like compound eyes, the one seen in arthropods like flies and crabs which seemed to have eyes that were almost 3cm in length along with 16,000 lenses. The Anomalocaris probably possessed lenses and an optical design which seemed to be extraordinarily powerful and clear.

The eyes basically suggested that the Anomalocaris was presumably a close cousin of arthropods developed during the evolution of the latter. The research is published in the journal, Nature.

Early humans were presumably experts in deep sea fishing


Deep sea fishing is an art, but do we have any clue of who spearheaded the practice? Well, it all started nearly 42,000 years ago, when regional ancestors in Australia apparently perfected the ability of deep sea fishing, as stated by an expert from Australian National University (ANU).

The team found the globe’s most primal fish hook in a site near East Timor. Findings in the Jerimalai cave location unraveled that some of the regional ancestors seemingly had good maritime talents.

“The site that we studied featured more than 38,000 fish bones from 2,843 individual fish dating back 42,000 years. What the site in East Timor has shown us is that early modern humans in Island Southeast Asia had amazingly advanced maritime skills. They were expert at catching the types of fish that would be challenging even today – fish like tuna. It’s a very exciting find,” specified Professor Sue O’Connor of the College of Asia and the Pacific at ANU.

The newly discovered hook was constituted from a shell, which is almost 23,000 to 16,000 years old. This implied that human ancestors were good at fishing and possessed craftsmanship skills too. Notably, the hook did not look like they were made for pelagic fishing, however, other types of hooks were made around this time, O’Connor believed.

But one question that remained unanswered is how these primitive people managed to trap fast-moving fishes found deep in the ocean. Though the exact mechanism these people employed is not clear, it meant that high-end technologies may have been accessed by the ancestors. This research could also throw some light on how these natives of Australia first entered the continent.

The report is published in the journal, Science.

Humans and primates have similar socializing patterns: Study


Ever wondered why most humans are struck by the socializing bug? The reason could be hidden deep in evolution. Well, scientists from the Oxford University and the University of Auckland have put forth certain clues on socializing seen in primates and in humans.

As part of the investigation, the social patterns of nearly 217 primate species were scrutinized. They even looked for the root of the family tree. The team then utilized Bayesian data models to recreate the most likely validation for the formation of groups since 74 million years.

One important finding that came forward was the switch of primates from engaging in different activities at night to being active during the day. Once they started moving out in the day, they seemed to be prone to attack by predators unless they were not in a group. This is how ganging up started for the first time.

“There is an amazing flexibility in the way humans have managed to socialise, network and live together, both in groups and wider society. We have a huge variety of social settings to cope with, according to the different cultural practices and customs. This flexibility in the human lineage has not evolved to anything like this level in other primates. Our findings support previous studies that suggest that more brain power is needed for groups that have a more complicated social life,” quoted Lead author Dr Susanne Shultz, from the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

Various aspects of teaming up such as solitude, family bonds, pair bonds, harems, multi-male, and multi-female groups were analyzed. The researchers found that mating behaviors observed in primates was deeply rooted in their ancestors.

This put forth why humans also manifest similar bonding patterns. Also, once the transition from being alone to staying in groups took place, the phase didn’t apparently revert back. The scientists concluded that humans uniquely have been flexible enough to adjust and live in complex social settings.

The research is published in the journal, Nature.

Skull of pre-historic mammal looks like saber-toothed squirrel

Cronopio Dentiacutus Was there any animal the size of a shrew living during the dinosaur era? Well, the answer is yes, since experts from the University of Louisville have stumbled upon skulls that indicate the presence of a tiny animal with long canine teeth, a narrow muzzle and a short rounded skull.

The findings could help discover many evolutionary details of mammals which inhabited South America. This new creature was named Cronopio dentiacutus by the team and belongs to an extinct class of animals. It is apparently a dryolestoid that is remotely related to present day marsupials and placentals.

“The new dryolestoid, Cronopio, is without a doubt one of the most unusual mammals that I have seen, extinct or living,” remarked John R. Wible, PhD, curator of mammals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The researchers had spotted the fossil way back in 2006 in a distant location of northern Patagonia. Embedded in rocks, the 2 skulls were extracted after a lot of effort by the scientists after many years.

Lead author Guillermo Rougier added that the skull could unfold an array of information on the biological make-up of the creature. Also, the investigators believe that the mammal looks like the Scrat which is a saber-toothed squirrel from Ice age.

This mammal could be a beginning point for further trials to gauge the lineage of all mammals including humans too. The research is published in the November 3 issue of the journal, Nature.

People from Siberia share common genetic material with extinct human species

Uppsala University Logo Many reports have talked about the intermingling of different evolutionary species, which is why the belief that our ancestors must have probably interacted with other hominids looks true. In a similar research by professionals from the Uppsala University, it has been found that individuals in East Asia and Denisova man have a common genetic material. The latter are so called as they were first found in a cave in Siberia.

The findings showed that the process of hybridization took place in East Asia as well, like many other places. The genetic make-up for recent day humans is traceable from just a few persons whereas the genotype data can be attained from a multitude of people.

This information obtained was pitted against the genome patterns of Neanderthals and Denisova man, which have been gauged by using archeological material. In this case a little finger and a tooth had been explained from the latter. This team has made use of approximately more than 1,500 modern human groups worldwide for this analysis.

“Our studies cover a larger part of the world than earlier studies, and it’s perfectly clear that it’s not as simple as we previously thought. Instead, hybridization took place at several points in evolution, and the genetic traces of this are found in several places in the world. We’ll probably be uncovering more events like these,” elaborated Mattias Jakobsson, who performed the study together with Pontus Skoglund.

The results presented that people from Southeast Asia apparently have greater proportions of genetic variants of Denisova origin as compared to others from regions such as Europe, America, West and Central Asia, and Africa. Also, the gene flows from archaic human clans took place in mainland Asia.

However, Pontus Skoglund adds that not much is known about the historical past of these groups and their communication with modern day humans. Since the gene variants associated with Denisova were found in Southeast Asia and Oceania and not in Europe and America, the researchers believe that hybridization with the Denisova man must have occurred nearly 20,000-40,000 years ago.

The findings are published in the journal, PNAS.

Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur was apparently bigger than previously thought


The western North America native Tyrannosaurus rex (T.rex) termed as the king tyrant reptile was probably one of the largest meat eating dinosaurs of all time. A research conducted by scientists from The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in England and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, has shown that tyrannosaurus rex would have grown two folds faster than initially presumed.

The team explored high end 3D laser scans of actual skeletons and found that the reptile grew swiftly from 10kg hatchlings to full-grown adults weighing 7-9 tons in a span of 16-17 years.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Professor Hutchinson shared, “Previous estimates of the weight of an adult T. rex were developed by building scale models such as sculptures, using equations relating to body weights of other animals, or using computer modeling that estimate the ‘fleshy’ dimensions of body parts differently.”

The team estimated that the animal must have grown as fast as 1790kg a year during the teenage phase which is apparently more than two times the estimate of 5-7 tons. Notably, the investigators found that the mobility of the giant reptile also slowed during its growing years. This was seemingly as the main part of its body became longer and larger in size while the limbs became shorter and lighter, thus its center of balance got shifted.

The total limb of the animal was apparently even larger than an elephant or rhino. This was possibly due to its gigantic tail and hip muscles. However, the lower leg muscles appeared to be shorter than living birds and therefore it restricted the speed of the reptile. Thus T.rex was apparently not the fastest of land creatures. As per the scientists, the speed of a big T.rex would have been 10-25 mph.

The Field Museum conserved one of the study subjects namely Sue which is supposedly the largest and most complete T.rex found up till now. The analysis, ‘A computational analysis of limb and body dimensions in Tyrannosaurus rex with implications for locomotion, ontogeny, and growth’ is published in the journal, PLoS One.

Black Death DNA unfolded, claims research

Skull The Black Death has been one of the most damaging outbreaks in human history. In a research by professionals from the McMaster University and the University of Tubingen in Germany, the entire genome of the Black Death has been sequenced.

The Black Death was a plaque epidemic that was caused by a particular variant of the Yersinia pestis (Y.pestis) bacterium which killed a multitude of people across Europe between 1347 and 1351, as revealed in a previous study.

“The genomic data show that this bacterial strain, or variant, is the ancestor of all modern plagues we have today worldwide. Every outbreak across the globe today stems from a descendant of the medieval plague. With a better understanding of the evolution of this deadly pathogen, we are entering a new era of research into infectious disease,” commented geneticist Hendrik Poinar.

He added that using this same technique, they may be able to locate all historic pathogens. The same bubonic plague is apparently present even today to which many fall prey every year. What puzzled the team was why the epidemic was so deadly.

The investigators examined skeletal debris from victims buried in the East Smithfied plaque trenches in London. They targeted noticeable samples that had been tested for the incidence of Y. pestis from the dental remains of 5 bodies. They then extracted, purified and enriched precisely for the pathogen’s DNA. They eliminated the ambient DNA comprising human, fungal and other non-plague DNA.

The analysts were also able to gauge the age of the ancestor of the Yersinia pestis that was responsible for the medieval plague. It dated back to 12th and 13th centuries thus signifying that the Justinian plague which took place in the 6th century was likely to have been caused by some other pathogen and not Y. pestis.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Origin of Neolithic age apparently tracked by experts

Excavation The human species has come a long way, right from the hunting days to modern day farming. Now, a team of archaeologists from the University of Southampton and Liverpool are probing three island groups around Britain to comprehend the transition of the people living there from hunting and gathering foodstuffs to the recent day farming.

One of the reasons for this change that took place around 4000 B.C, the scientists feel, could be due to colonists intruding Britain and the other cause could be that the native population there eventually opted for farming. As part of the investigation, the archaeologists will be unearthing 3 island groups in the western seaways namely the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and the Outer Hebrides.The research particularly sees how the surroundings and sea underwent changes over the Neolithic period.

Dr Fraser Sturt, from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, quoted “How people changed from hunter-gatherers to agricultural lifestyles is one of the big questions in archaeology. We know that the first signs of domestication occurred in the Middle East around 10,000BC and reached France by 5,000BC. However, it appears to be another 1,000 years before Neolithic farming activities reached Britain.We are investigating why this happened by looking at changing social practices, possible environmental impacts and the nature of maritime technology and communication.”

As per Dr Duncan Garrow, from the University of Liverpool, archaeological evidences like bones of farm cattle obtained from fifth millennium BC, European pottery and progress in radiocarbon methods show that European colonists established their empire in Britain and introduced the idea of cultivation.The oceanographic work of the scientists seeks to unleash the environmental context through which this transition occurred and how seafaring actions affected people’s living.

This finding will give oceanographers and geographers knowledge of how the sea has undergone changes over the years.

Frankenstein was born when the moon was shining: Research

Donald Olson Right Not many of us may have pondered over the novel Frankenstein but it does have a rumbling mystery surrounding it. Astronomers from the Texas State University have tried to affirm if Frankenstein authored by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is just a romantic fiction or is there another horror under wraps.

It’s a dark stormy night on June 1816 and Shelley who is 18 at that time has attended a function with her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori. Just so that the time passes, the group reads ghost stories aloud and Byron challenges that every group member would also try to write such a tale.

Donald Olson, faculty member remarked, “Shelley gave a very detailed account of that summer in the introduction to an early edition of Frankenstein, but was she telling the truth? Was she honest when she told her story of that summer and how she came up with the idea, and the sequence of events?”

As per many books, Byron gave the idea of starting a ghost story by June 16 and by June 17 she is actually writing it. According to Olson, Shelley seems to be having thoughts of many days gone by where an idea wouldn’t have suddenly struck her. If this chronology is right, then she could have modified or fabricated her description of how it all took place.

There’s another version which says that Byron puts forth his view on June 16 and Shelley gives her story on June 22. This shows that there was a gap of 5 to 6 days for formulating a story. However this can’t be true because there would have not been any moonlight on the night she exclaims the moon was shining.

The researchers gauged that the moon must be shining on Shelley’s bedroom at about 2am on June 16. If there was no moonlight that night, it would have shown falsehood by her side. But, the evidence implies that the tales were suggested from June 10 to 13 and Shelley’s morning dream takes place around 2am to 3am on June 16, 1816.

Scientists have long been trying to recreate that night when the moon was shining. They also appear to have succeeded in doing so. The team concludes that they have no reason to doubt her story if the primary sources and astronomical values are to be believed.

The findings are published in the Sky & Telescope magazine.

Aboriginal Australian DNA offers clue for early migration

Aboriginal Australian Hair

Aboriginal Australians are considered native to the Australian continent. A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University College London have apparently sequenced the genome of an Aboriginal Australian through old strands of hair.

The findings show that the new Aboriginal Australians are direct successors of the continent’s early progeny. The study made use of a single lock of hair from the University of Cambridge’s Duckworth collection.

Dr. Marta Mirazon Lahr, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, where the Duckworth Collection is based, enthused, “This study is a wonderful example of how new techniques can bring alive old collections, and enhance their importance. We are delighted that the likely descendants of the Australian man – today members of the Goldfields Land and Sea Council, have been such a positive part of this research.”

This lock of hair was donated to the British anthropologist A.C Haddon by an Aboriginal man living in the Goldfields location of Western Australia in the 20th century and then preserved at the Duckworth Lab. After about 100 years, investigators seem to be successful in isolating DNA from the same hair to understand the genetics of primal Australians and to explore the idea of migration all over the Earth.

The findings reveal that these ancestors of modern Aboriginal Australians had seemingly begun an era of colonization and adaptation around 70,000 years ago. The scientists were able to find that ancestors of the Aboriginal man appeared to be separated from their ancestors of other human origins around 64 to 75,000 years back. They found out that Aboriginal Australians appear to directly follow primitive human expansion during this phase, while the relatives of Europeans and Asians lived in some parts of Africa and Middle East. Therefore, this study shows that Aboriginal Australians are the population residing outside Africa with the longest connection to the land where they live presently.

Their findings are published in the journal, Science.

Oldest human ancestor is seemingly 1.98 million years old

University Of Melbourne Scientists have long been trying to locate the onset of human’s own genus Homo. In this view, researchers from the University of Melbourne have examined cave sediments at the Malapa Cave region in South Africa and unraveled the oldest human ancestor.

This human relative namely Australopithecus sediba was supposedly found last fall. By using uranium lead dating of the flowstone and palaeomagnetic analysis, the age of the fossil was unfolded.

“Knowing the age of the fossils is critical to placing them in our family tree, and this new age means that Australopithecus sediba is the current best candidate for our most distant human ancestor. The results of these studies present arguably the most precise dates ever achieved for any early human fossils,” commented Dr Robyn Pickering, University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences and lead author of the paper.

Apparently, these fossils were deposited in the Malapa Cave during a 3,000-year span nearly 1.98 million years ago when the magnetic field of the Earth possibly inverted itself by 180 degrees and then back again.

As per Dr. Andy Herries from the La Trobe University, the process of identifying the date and locating this rare magnetic reversal instances was critical. It may improve techniques to better date fossil and archaeological sites in upcoming trials. The analysis may also help them comprehend the probable influences these events have on the weather, flora and fauna. The fossils were originally explored in 2008. An understanding of the site’s stratisgraphy and the advances in dating methods have supposedly led to increased preciseness.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

160 million year old fossil offers clue to early mammal evolution?

Fossil Evolution TextIn northeast China, the discovery of a rather well-preserved fossil offering details on the earliest ancestors of most placental mammals has a team of Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientists interested. The fossil it is understood fills the spaces in the fossil record, indicating an evolution of mammals nearly 35 millions year earlier than previously believed. It may also aid in modern DNA-based calibration methods.

Juramaia sinensis, a tiny shrew-like mammal, the team says lived in China approximately 160 million years ago. Having existed in the Jurassic period, it is the earliest known fossil of eutherians. The latter are known to be the group that all evolved into placental mammals. Juramaia sinensis meaning ‘Jurassic mother from China’ offers updated fossil evidence of the time when eutherian mammals bifurcated from other mammals.

Paleontologist Zhe-Xi Luo who led the findings shared, “Juramaia, from 160 million years ago, is either a great-grand-aunt or a great-grandmother of all placental mammals that are thriving today.”

It was in the Liaoning Province in northeast China that the Juramaia sinensis fossil was uncovered and is stored in the Beijing Museum of Natural History. An incomplete skull, part of the skeleton along with impressions of residual soft tissues like hair is a part of the fossil. The complete teeth and forepaw bones are however the important indicators which have paleontologists believing that it may be in close relation to living placentals on the mammalian family tree.

Adaptive features that could have helped eutherian newcomers make it through the tough Jurassic environment are revealed by Juramaia. Like the fossil shows forelimbs modified for climbing.

Luo says, “The divergence of eutherian mammals from marsupials eventually led to placental birth and reproduction that are so crucial for the evolutionary success of placentals. But it is their early adaptation to exploit niches on the tree that paved their way toward this success.”

According to scientists, the period of divergence in evolution namely when an ancestor branches off into two descendant lineages is one of the most crucial ones for information on evolution. Modern methods ascertain this by a molecular clock, which however has to be tested and cross-checked by the fossil record.

The findings have been published August 25 in the journal Nature.

Cooking was invented 1.9 million years ago?

Zarin Machanda Right

Those who are binge eaters can take this tip from our ancestors. Harvard researchers have stumbled upon new data that shows that cooking was essential to the stone age man as it apparently freed some time which would be otherwise used for eating.

As per the study, food processing through cooking tends to free up many hours used every day for consumption. This process is inclusive of ingesting, chewing, and swallowing foodstuffs. The time thus attained could be used for hunting to secure better food materials or producing weapons and for creating social rapport.

The scientists also examined anatomical alterations in primitive humans with time and analyzed cues to gauge when cooking must have started off. They saw that the practice of cooking was apparently not discovered by modern day humans but by an ancient ancestor who spread this idea through evolution above 1.9 million years back.

The researchers accessed statistics and evolutionary trees to predict the suitable time frame that people should allot for feeding each day. This knowledge was obtained by comparing body size and evolutionary relationship to the present day relatives who don’t cook, specifically chimapanzees. The investigators disclosed that theoretically people ought to spend 48 percent of their activity time feeding. However, they allot only 4.7 percent of their time which means one tenth of the appropriate duration. This is a significant difference that exposed primal beings to some gift of time.

Zarin Machanda, one of the paper’s authors and a lecturer on human evolutionary biology, shared, “the rewards from the advent of cooking weren’t shared equally, however. While men were likely freed up to hunt and pursue other activities, an increased burden of food gathering and preparation was placed on women that equaled the time freed up from chewing.

Richard Wrangham, Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology had revealed this thought long back that the process of cooking was not just a method to make a sumptuous meal but may have its roots in evolution. He added that cooking not only raised the calorie levels and activity time for ancestors but also seemed to cause physical modifications like larger brain, a smaller gut and other changes related to socializing surrounding the house and fireplace.

The research team examined the debris of 14 human ancestors and gauged the physical attribute having greater chances of being associated to the onset of cooking and consuming light food through molar size. Initial studies had shown that decrease in molar size that took place in Homo Erectus, Neanderthals, and in Homo Sapiens apparently surpasses the expectations when compared to other bodily changes associated with evolution. It came to light that Homo Erectus and Neanderthals seemingly engaged in the eating process just like present day human beings. This moved the analysts to conclude that cooking may have begun even before Homo erectus arrived, that is before 1.9 million years.

The research is published in the August 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.