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How some animals accelerate faster than all others

Posted on 19 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Featured, Journalism

The smashing mantis shrimp predatory attacks are so fast, and so brief, that their exact speed went unappreciated by scientists until about 15 years ago. And what does the mantis shrimp do with its astonishingly quick weapons? It uses them to attack an animal virtually synonymous with sluggishness: a snail. Image: Christian Gloor (mostly) underwater photographer

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Where will we find the first telltale signs of the Anthropocene?

Posted on 1 Sep 2016 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

The idea of the Anthropocene – the period in which human activity profoundly shapes the environment – has taken an important step closer to general acceptance. If it is made official the real work will begin. Somewhere near the top of the to-do list is one burning question: where in the world gives us the best view of the dawn of the Anthropocene? Image: Sara Simmonds

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Our ancestors may have spread anthrax all around the world

Posted on 6 Aug 2016 in Archaeology, Featured, Genetics, Health, Journalism

Somehow, a disease that is intrinsically unfit for international travel became a globetrotter thousands of years ago – and there is a good chance humanity is, inadvertently, to blame. Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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Tolerance of smoke may have given us an edge over Neanderthals

Posted on 3 Aug 2016 in Featured, Genetics, Human Origins, Journalism

Where there’s fire there’s often smoke – which might have been bad news for Neanderthals and other ancient hominins. Modern humans carry a genetic mutation that reduces our sensitivity to cancer-causing chemicals found in wood smoke. But Neanderthals and Denisovans apparently lacked the mutation. Image: jmw120

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Neanderthal skulls and brains may have developed just like ours

Posted on 25 Jul 2016 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Great minds grow alike. Evidence from Neanderthals’ skulls suggests that their large brains grew in the same way as ours do. That in turn suggests that Neanderthals were perhaps not so cognitively different from us – although not everyone agrees with this interpretation. Image: p_a_h

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Founders of Western civilisation were prehistoric dope dealers

Posted on 7 Jul 2016 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism

It must have been something in the air. During a short time window at the end of the last ice age, Stone Age humans in Europe and Asia independently began using a new plant: cannabis. Image: Lollyman

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