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Ancient skull from China may rewrite the origins of our species

Posted on 14 Nov 2017 in Human Origins, Journalism

The origins of our species might need a rethink. An analysis of an ancient skull from China suggests it is eerily similar to the earliest known fossils of our species –found in Morocco, some 10,000 kilometres to the west. The skull hints that modern humans aren’t solely descended from African ancestors, as is generally thought. Image: Sheela Athreya

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The mass extinction that might never have happened

Posted on 19 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

Should the “big five” really be the “big four”? For decades, we have recognised five devastating mass extinctions that punctuate the last half-billion years of evolution. But now two geologists are controversially arguing that the end-Triassic extinction has no place on that list. Image: Sparkle Motion

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We’ve drawn iconic sail-wearing Dimetrodon wrong for 100 years

Posted on 13 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism, Palaeontology

Dimetrodon, one of the most recognisable of the pre-dinosaur predators, is due a makeover. For more than a century, it has been depicted as a sluggish, belly-dragging beast with sprawling legs – but it might actually have held its legs in a more upright position and kept its stomach off the ground as it walked. Image: puuikibeach

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Exploding stars could have kick-started our ancestors’ evolution

Posted on 9 Oct 2017 in Environment, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Was the rise of humankind written in the stars? A nearby star exploding 8 million years ago might have triggered more frequent lightning on Earth. Wildfires ignited by that lightning could help explain the rise of east African savannahs – which many researchers think provided a vital backdrop for the early evolution of hominins. Image: USFWS/Southeast

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Early farmers may have polluted the sea 4000 years ago

Posted on 4 Oct 2017 in Archaeology, Journalism

Humans have been polluting the environment for at least 4000 years. So say scientists who have analysed sediment from the South China Sea – but not everyone is convinced. Image: Pai Shih

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Ancient ‘sea woodlice’ had surprisingly complicated guts

Posted on 28 Sep 2017 in Earth Science, Journalism, Palaeontology

A rare glimpse inside a 510-million-year-old digestive system suggests feeding was a complicated business for the first arthropods. Even this early in animal evolution, some animals had a variety of structures in their gut for storing and processing food. Image: James St. John

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