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Wed, 24 Apr 2019
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Previously unknown "proto-hominin" species suggests ancestor of humans evolved in Europe not Africa

Nikiti hominin
© David R. Begun
The hominin-like piece of upper jaw was found in Nikiti, Greece
The jaws of an ancient European ape might speak volumes about the origins of our ancestors. A new analysis of these fossils supports a controversial idea: that the apes which gave rise to humans evolved in south-east Europe instead of Africa.

Hominins are a group of primates that includes modern humans, extinct humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans, and our immediate ancestors, including australopiths like the famous Lucy.

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin suggested that the hominin group originated in Africa - an idea most anthropologists believe today. But he also wrote that the group may have arisen in Europe because, at that time, fossils of large apes had already been uncovered there. "Darwin was open-minded," says David Begun at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Comment: In the article Ancient teeth point to mysterious human relative they report on some interesting specualtion that may add more detail to the puzzle:
"It's strange. We don't know where to put it," says study author Song Xing of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. The four teeth join a growing number of finds in China that don't tidily fit onto the known branches of the human evolutionary tree, hinting that there's more to the story of human history in this region.

"We always think of Africa as the 'cradle of humankind,'" says study author María Martinón-Torres, director of Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana in Spain.
"I would say it's a cradle of probably one of the human kinds, which is Homo sapiens." But many human species once walked the Earth, and what is going on in Asia, she says, is likely "crucial to understanding the whole picture."
See also: Also check out SOTT radio's: The Truth Perspective: Mind the Gaps: Locating the Intelligence in Evolution and Design


Biologist study finds mercury in predator peregrine falcons

Peregrine falcon
A Nevada wildlife researcher has found that not even the fastest bird on Earth can escape mercury contamination.

The toxic element is turning up in feathers of peregrine falcons from coast to coast, including those at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, state Department of Wildlife biologist Joe Barnes .

Over the past decade, Barnes has tested for mercury in 700 individual peregrines in southern Nevada, Washington, Maryland and the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Every single one of them was impacted, regardless of whether they live in wide-open desert or Lake Mead or Greenland or coastal British Columbia, he said.

Comment: See also: Famous falcon family returns to FM building spire in Moscow


The fabella, tiny knee bone once lost in humans, is making a comeback

The Fabella
The fabella (small dot on the right of each scan) is a little bone embedded in a tendon of the knee in some people.
Textbooks will tell you that the human body contains 206 bones. But sometimes, there are 207. The fabella, a small bone in a tendon behind the knee, was lost over the course of early human evolution, but these days it's becoming more common, according to a study published this week (April 17) in the Journal of Anatomy.

The bone has been linked to knee problems, and the authors argue that the fabella should be taken into account when treating people with knee pain.

Michael Berthaume of Imperial College London and his colleagues gathered data from more than 21,000 studies of the knee spanning the past 150 years, and found that between 1918 and 2018, the fabella has become more than three times more common. In 1918, the bone was found in just 11 percent of the world population, according to their data. Last year, it was present in 39 percent of people. The researchers' analyses controlled for the method of data collection, which included X-rays, dissection, and MRI scans, as well as country of origin.

"The average human, today, is better nourished, meaning we are taller and heavier," Berthaume says in a press release. "This came with longer shinbones and larger calf muscles-changes which both put the knee under increasing pressure. This could explain why fabellae are more common now than they once were." The researchers suggest that genetics may influence whether people have the ability to develop fabellae, but if they do, environmental factors such as the mechanical forces that the knee experiences likely drive the bones' formation.

Fireball 4

Comet or Asteroid? Research team finds tiny fragment of a comet inside a meteorite

LaPaz meteorite
© Carles Moyano-Cambero/Institute of Space Sciences, Barcelona
The arrow in this view of the LaPaz meteorite points to where the scientists found the carbon-rich cometary fragment. The colors are produced by polarized light shining through a thin slice of the meteorite; the grid lines are spaced one millimeter apart.
ASU researcher part of Carnegie Institution for Science-led team; discovery could shed light on early solar system's chemistry

A tiny piece of the building blocks from which comets formed has been discovered inside a primitive meteorite. The discovery by a Carnegie Institution for Science-led team, including a researcher now at Arizona State University, was published April 15 in Nature Astronomy.

The finding could offer clues to the formation, structure and evolution of the solar system.


Researchers identify genetic causes of poor sleep

Sleep Study
© University of Exeter
The study has uncovered parts of our genetic code that could be responsible for causing poor sleep quality
The largest genetic study of its kind ever to use accelerometer data to examine how we slumber has uncovered a number of parts of our genetic code that could be responsible for causing poor sleep quality and duration.

The international collaboration, led by the University of Exeter and published in Nature Communications, has found 47 links between our genetic code and the quality, quantity and timing of how we sleep. They include ten new genetic links with sleep duration and 26 with sleep quality.

The Medical Research Council-funded study looked at data from 85,670 participants of UK Biobank and 5,819 individuals from three other studies, who wore accelerometers - wrist-worn devices (similar to a Fitbit) which record activity levels continuously. They wore the accelerometers continuously for seven days, giving more detailed sleep data than previous studies, which have relied on people accurately reporting their own sleep habits.

Among the genomic regions uncovered is a gene called PDE11A. The research team discovered than an uncommon variant of this gene affects not only how long you sleep but your quality of sleep too. The gene has previously been identified as a possible drug target for treatment of people with neuropsychiatric disorders associated with mood stability and social behaviours.

The study also found that among people with the same hip circumference, a higher waist circumference resulted in less time sleeping, although the effect was very small - around 4 seconds less sleep per 1cm waist increase in someone with the average hip circumference of around 100cm.


What makes jellyfish mobile?

medusa jellyfish
© CC0 / Pexels
Translucent jellyfish, colorful corals and waving sea anemones have very different bodies but all fall on the same big branch in the animal family tree. Jellyfish actually start out anchored to the sea floor, just like corals and anemones. Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) recently uncovered which genes allow jellyfish to graduate from this stationary stage and swim off into the sea.

Early in their life cycles, jellyfish develop from larvae into polyps -- immobile, stalk-like structures rooted into the sediment. Anemones and coral live out their lives in this state, which earned them the name anthozoa or "flower animals" in Greek. Jellyfish set themselves apart from anthozoans by being able to develop from the polyp stage to the medusa stage, blossoming into the luminous, bell-like creatures we know and love.

The new study, published in April 16, 2019 in Nature Ecology & Evolution, reports the genomes of two jellyfish species and investigated why some creatures can enter the medusa stage while others remain frozen as polyps. The genomes can be browsed online and compared to other species on the OIST BLAST server.

Monkey Wrench

Powerful CRISPR cousin accidentally mutates RNA while editing DNA target

The enzyme that gives a powerful tool known as a “base editor” the ability to change DNA also has an off-target effect on RNA (above).
When researchers first reported 3 years ago that they had created base editors, a version of the powerful genome-editing tool CRISPR, excitement swirled around their distinct powers to more subtly alter DNA compared with CRISPR itself. But the weaknesses of base editors have become increasingly apparent, and a new study shows they can also accidentally mutate the strands of RNA that help build proteins or perform other key cellular tasks. Researchers say this could complicate developing safe therapies with the technology and hamper other research applications.


Scientists predict the human brain could be connected to the internet in 'next few decades'

mind physics
© Getty Images
A new research study suggests that human brains could be merged with technology significantly sooner than many expect, perhaps "within decades."

Known as the "Human Brain/Cloud Interface" (B/CI), researchers at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in California have suggested that nanorobots could be implanted into the human body and connect to a network in real-time.

"These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier, and precisely autoposition themselves among, or even within brain cells," the study's senior author, Robert Freitas, Jr., said in a statement. "They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction."

Comment: It seems lost on materialists that many of the phenomena they're chasing after can be explored in the human condition.


HeH+: Universe's first molecule finally detected in space


1 / 1
Within 100,000 years of the Big Bang the very first molecule emerged, an improbable marriage of helium and hydrogen known as a helium hydride ion, or HeH+
Within 100,000 years of the Big Bang the very first molecule emerged, an improbable marriage of helium and hydrogen known as a helium hydride ion, or HeH+

In the beginning, more than 13 billion years ago, the Universe was an undifferentiated soup of three simple, single-atom elements.

Stars would not form for another 100 million years.

But within 100,000 years of the Big Bang, the very first molecule emerged, an improbable marriage of helium and hydrogen known as a helium hydride ion, or HeH+.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's: The Truth Perspective: Unlocking the Secrets of Consciousness, Hyperdimensional Attractors and Frog Brains


Researchers restore partial brain function in pig brains hours after death

Reanimated Pig
© Monika Skolimowska/Picture alliance via Getty Images
There is no threat of reanimated dead pigs terrifying passers-by, at least yet, but porcine brain function has been revived hours after death and decapitation.
Neuroscientists have succeeded in restoring partial function to the brains of decapitated pigs, hours after they were killed.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers led by Zvonimir Vrselja from the Yale School of Medicine in the US report "the restoration and maintenance of microcirculation and molecular and cellular functions of the intact pig brain" up to four hours after death.

The findings, they write, "demonstrate that under appropriate conditions the isolated, intact large mammalian brain possesses an underappreciated capacity" for restoration. The results are at once extraordinary and, legal experts and bioethicists say, deeply concerning.

In effect, Vrselja and colleagues have created the world's first zombie pigs.

They did so by first making a fluid, dubbed BrainEx, which was fed into the vascular system of the brains of the pigs. The animals had earlier been slaughtered for meat production.

The fluid is haemoglobin-based, but contains no cells and does not coagulate. It is propelled through brain veins, arteries and capillaries in a way that mimics the pulsation of proper blood at standard body temperature.

The researchers say BrainEx promotes tissue recovery from anoxia - a lack of oxygen - reduces vascular injury, prevents fluid build-up and "metabolically supports the energy requirements of the brain".