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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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Resurrected organisms reveal life’s bare essentials

Posted on 17 May 2017 in Evolution, Featured, Journalism, Life

Resurrected microbes aren’t just fascinating oddities. By inhabiting a twilight zone between life and death, they offer a unique opportunity to probe the very nature of life itself. Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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Plant keeps moths captive inside its fruits for almost a year

Posted on 1 Feb 2017 in Journalism, Life

Visit a forest in south-east China, say, in mid-March and you might catch one of the more unusual sights in the natural world. The ripe fruit of one species of tree burst open at that time each year – and fully developed moths fly out. Image: Dick Culbert

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Why cities are unleashing birds of prey into their skies

Posted on 4 Oct 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Environment, Journalism

While political hawks and doves clash inside the Palace of Westminster, real hawks patrol the skies above the famous buildings to control the population of feral pigeons – which, despite the name, are actually a kind of dove. Falconry is a hugely popular pest control measure. But is it effective? Image: left-hand

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Some of the earliest plants took root by growing up, not down

Posted on 8 Aug 2016 in Earth Science, Environment, Evolution, Journalism

It was one of the first examples of geoengineering: when plants began to colonise the land they stabilised sediments, generated soils and greened the planet. Now we have a window on the process, thanks to a spectacular rock formation in South China. Image: Jinzhuang Xue

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Elderly monkeys choose to have fewer friends – just like us

Posted on 23 Jun 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Featured, Health, Journalism, Life

Do you see as many friends now as you did 10 years ago? Your shrinking social circle isn’t just a human trait – it seems that, as they get older, monkeys become more selective about who they spend time with too. Image: David Holt London

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