Plaque deposit is visible on the rear molar (right) of this Neandertal. (Image by Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC)

Details of a Neanderthal’s diet revealed through ancient plaque

Good thing our Neanderthal cousins didn’t have a good brushing regimen, because what’s left of their dental plaque allows us to know more about their diets, habits, and diseases. New research sequenced DNA from the plaque of five Neanderthal specimens. The findings revealed that Neanderthal diets varied greatly from region to region: for example, the individual from […]


Extinct shelled fossil finds its true niche

Hyoliths, extinct sea creatures from the Cambrian period known for their cone-shaped shell and unusual appendages, have long been mistaken for a type of mollusc. However, a recent discovery by a U of T undergraduate student revealed that hyoliths belong to a group called lophophorates. The main trait that defines living lophophorates, such as brachiopods […]

This is a photo of a hatchling Protoceratops andrewsi fossil from the Gobi Desert Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia. (Image by AMNH/M. Ellison)

Dinosaur eggs resemble those of reptiles more than birds

Birds are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, which is why it was long assumed that dinosaur eggs developed similarly to avian embryos. But new research found that the incubation period for dinosaur embryos was approximately 3 to 6 months, which is closer to the development of reptile eggs. Researchers came to this conclusion after […]

Unique Arctic Inuit adaptations to cold temperatures a gift from ancestors

Previous research has identified potential genes that help the Greenland Inuit generate heat from a specific type of body fat. A new study analyzed a large sample of genetic data to trace origins of these adaptations. The genomic data used in the study was collected from nearly 200 Greenlandic Inuits and compared to the 1000 […]

The left bird, Dark batis (Batis crypta) has smaller round wings. The bird on the right, Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus), has long pointy wings evolved for long-distance flying. (Drawing by  Jon Fjeldså)

Shape of bird wings determines their habitat

Flying might give birds more mobility and freedom than some animals on the ground, but a new study shows the extent of that freedom is determined by the bird’s wing shape. Long pointy wings allow their owners to travel longer distances, while shorter, rounder wings restrict the birds’ habitat to a smaller area. Additionally, the […]

A mummy found in the same Lithuanian crypt where researchers extracted DNA from a small child, thought to have died of smallpox. (Image by Kiril achovskij)

Mummy DNA shows origins of smallpox more recent than initially thought

Prevalent theories place the origin of the deadly smallpox virus in ancient Egypt, India and China. But a recent analysis of smallpox DNA from a 17th-century mummy tells a different story. Researchers compared the strain with its modern variants, dating up to 1970s, and discovered evidence that the evolution of the modern form of virus […]

Spelt (pictured) was one of the earliest domesticated grains (Image by storebukkebruse via Flickr)

Syrian community the first to domesticate cereals – 11,000 years ago

Oldest evidence for domestication of three types of cereal – barley, spelt and farrow – was recently found at an archaeological site in Syria. Researhers say Neolithic Syrians were the first to gather wild cereals and attempt to domesticate them. They collected wild cereal grains, sowed them in autumn and harvested grain crops in late […]

The tip of a preserved dinosaur tail section, with feathers arranged down both sides of tail. (Image by Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar))

Feathered dinosaur tail discovered in a piece of amber

Scientific discoveries often come from unexpected places – like a Myanmar amber market, which is where a researcher from Dexu Institute of Palaeontology found an item that offers unique insights into feather evolution in dinosaurs. Browsing through the goods of an amber vendor, researcher Lida Xing found what turned out to be a part of […]

Aerial view of the Northern Flinders Ranges, where Warratyi Rock Shelter was discovered. (Image by Giles Hamm)

Humans arrived in Australia’s interior earlier than previously thought

Southern Australia’s interior, with its dry hot summers and cool winters, doesn’t sound like the most inviting environment for early humans. Yet a new study found evidence that early settlers arrived in the Flinders Ranges around 49,000 years ago—nearly 10,000 years earlier than it was initially reported. The authors analyzed results of an excavation at […]

Satellite image of Aluto volcano which is located in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley.(Photo by William Hutchison and NASA)

Early human evolution affected by volcanic activity in Ethiopia

A large pulse of volcanic activity in Ethiopia may have effected a major change in early human evolution. Authors of a new study, published in Nature Communications this week, have reconstructed the history of volcanic activity of a 200-kilometre segment along the East African Rift System. Their findings suggest a burst of highly explosive volcanism […]

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