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Giant tortoises are rare today but once roamed four continents

Posted on 13 Dec 2017 in Evolution, Featured, Journalism

Tortoises evolved into giants on at least seven occasions and on four continents. The finding undermines the long-standing idea that tortoises become enormous only if they are stranded on remote islands. Image: Charles Luk

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How World War Zero wrecked three Bronze Age civilisations

Posted on 13 Dec 2017 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism

In June, Eberhard Zangger had an experience most archaeologists only dream of: his very own Tutankhamun moment. Just as Howard Carter had done in 1922 when he entered the boy king’s intact tomb, Zangger was exploring a chamber with the potential to revolutionise archaeology. Image: Following Hadrian

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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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