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Ancient bee fossil reveals secrets of human ancestor’s habitat

Posted on 28 Sep 2016 in Human Origins, Journalism, Palaeontology

The skull of an ape-like Australopithecus found in 1924 and nicknamed the Taung Child revolutionised our view of human origins. It suggested humans evolved in Africa, not Eurasia as previously thought. No other hominin fossils have been found at the site since. But now a fossilised bee’s nest provides an insight into the local habitat in which that early human lived almost 3 million years ago – and hints that more fossils could be waiting to be discovered. Image: scead

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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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Tap-dancing songbirds drum with their feet to attract mates

Posted on 19 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Journalism

It is not just about speed. The only songbird known to perform a rapid tap dance during courtship makes more noise with its feet during its routines than at other times. Image: acornjfl

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Snub-nosed monkeys are so inbred they may struggle to survive

Posted on 16 Sep 2016 in Evolution, Journalism

With a global population below 250, things have been looking bleak for the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. But the creatures might be in even more trouble than we thought. One section of mitochondrial DNA seems to be identical in all members of the largest known population – a sign of inbreeding that can leave a species vulnerable to extinction. Image: dangnguyenxuan

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The strange reason why hagfish tie themselves into knots

Posted on 9 Sep 2016 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Journalism

Hagfish do not actually have bony vertebrae in their backs: they are literally spineless. They have several hearts, and at least twice as much blood in their bodies as other fish. On top of that, they have only half a jaw, yet they can still tear through tough flesh. And they can tie themselves in knots. Image: kinskarije

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White killer whales were a legend – now they are everywhere

Posted on 8 Sep 2016 in Evolution, Journalism

Call him the tip of the iceberg. Six years ago, on 11 August 2010, whale researchers working in the western North Pacific encountered something very unusual: a white male killer whale, or orca. Two days later the white whale, nicknamed Iceberg, reappeared in a large group of orcas – a group that included a second white whale. Image: Matthew_Allen

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