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Dawn of the water eaters: How Earth got its oxygen

Posted on 5 Jun 2013 in Earth Science, Evolution, Featured, Journalism, Life

In Earth’s youth, photosynthetic life forms thrived for a billion years without producing so much as a whiff of oxygen. Why did some cells then start pumping out the gas that paved the way for animal life, and why did it take so long for this form of the reaction to evolve? Image: …-Wink-…

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1 in 13 people have bendy chimp-like feet

Posted on 30 May 2013 in Evolution, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Textbooks will tell you that the human foot is rigid, which allows more efficient walking. Other apes, in contrast, have flexible feet better suited to grasping branches as they move through the trees. But the textbooks are wrong, say Jeremy DeSilva and Simone Gill at Boston University. Image: Ken Wilcox

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Dinosaur dads may not have looked after the kids

Posted on 17 May 2013 in Animal Behaviour, Dinosaurs, Earth Science, Featured, Journalism, Palaeontology

Male dinosaurs may not have had a caring side after all. Five years ago a study of theropod dinosaur nests and fossils concluded that it was the male of the species that incubated the eggs. Now a new analysis of the same data suggests there are problems with that conclusion. Image: Georg Schwalbach (GS1311)

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Did tectonic rift push apes and monkeys apart?

Posted on 15 May 2013 in Earth Science, Evolution, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Long before humans appeared on Earth, the plate tectonics of the East African Rift may have been shaping our ancestors’ evolution. The rift, which passes through Tanzania, is famous for being the site of early hominin fossil discoveries. It has now yielded the earliest ape and Old World monkey. Image: Mauricio Antón

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Out of Asia: Our surprising origins

Posted on 10 May 2013 in Evolution, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Early in the 20th century most researchers believed we evolved in Eurasia rather than Africa. Surprisingly, they may have been partially correct. Recently, some prominent researchers have come round to the idea that hominins may have left their African cradle much earlier than we thought and undergone critical evolutionary transitions further north. Image: Cea.

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Deep life: Strange creatures living far below our feet

Posted on 27 Apr 2013 in Evolution, Featured, Journalism, Life

In some ways, the depths of the Earth’s crust are the final frontier for biologists. In these isolated ecosystems lurk organisms that defy many established biological rules. There are microbes that metabolise so slowly they may be millions of years old; bacteria that survive without benefiting from the sun’s energy; and animals that do what no animal should – live their entire lives without oxygen. Image: matthewvenn

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