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Tue, 25 Feb 2020
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Last mammoths plagued by genetic defects

© Albert Protopopov
A mammoth at the Mammoth museum in Yakutsk
The world's last woolly mammoths, sequestered on an Arctic Ocean island outpost, suffered from serious genetic defects caused by generations of inbreeding that may have hampered traits such as sense of smell and male fertility in the doomed population.

Scientists said on Friday that the genome of one of the last mammoths from Wrangel Island off Siberia's coast showed that the population was riddled with deleterious mutations. They resurrected genes from this mammoth in the laboratory to find clues about the demise of this illustrious Ice Age species.

Most woolly mammoths went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago amid a warming climate and widespread human hunting. But isolated populations survived for thousands of years after that on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea and Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. The Wrangel Island population was the last, disappearing roughly 4,000 years ago.

Comment: Mammoths in Siberia were found to have been flash frozen, meanwhile, they, along with a variety of other mega-fauna, became extinct around the same time. These facts, along with a wealth of other data as detailed by Pierre Lescaudron in Of Flash Frozen Mammoths and Cosmic Catastrophes shows that the vast majority of these species were clearly the victims of cataclysmic events on our planet.

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Fossils shed new light on car-sized turtle that once roamed South America

Stupendemys geographicus, armed with sturdy horns, lived from about 13m to 7m years ago alongside giant crocodilians

Stupendemys geographicus
© JA Chirinos/Reuters
The huge extinct freshwater turtle Stupendemys geographicus, that lived in lakes and rivers in northern South America during the Miocene Epoch, is seen in an illustration.
Scientists have unearthed new fossils of one of the largest turtles that ever lived: a car-sized reptile which prowled the lakes and rivers of what is now northern South America from about 13m years ago to 7m years ago.

The fossils of the turtle - Stupendemys geographicus - were found in Colombia's Tatacoa Desert and Venezuela's Urumaco region, and for the first time provide a comprehensive understanding of the creature which grew up to 13ft (4 meters) long and 1.25 tons in weight.

Stupendemys males boasted sturdy front-facing horns on both sides of its shell very close to the neck. Deep scars detected in the fossils indicated that these horns may have been used like a lance for fighting with other Stupendemys males over mates or territory. Females did not have the horns.


Geneticists find evidence of unknown 'ghost archaic' human species

Ancient Skull
Researchers have concluded that this archaic population split an estimated million years ago from the lineage that led to modern humans, and is connected to neither the Neanderthal and Denisovan families whose DNA is carried in modern humans.

New research carried out by two geneticists from the University of California, Los Angeles, has found evidence of an extinct branch of human.
Geneticists Arun Durvasula and Sriram Sankararaman found pieces of DNA from a so-called ghost archaic population hiding in the genomes of some living populations in West Africa such as the Yoruba of Nigeria and the Mende of Sierra Leone.
The study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, is based on a comparison of genetic diversity in living Homo Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans to track how new genotype variants arose in each branch of humans.

Blue Planet

Is a 37,000 year old Aboriginal tale about a volcano the oldest story ever told?

Budj Bim
© Eugene von Guerard/WikiCommons/Creative Commons
A 19th century drawing of the lake in the crater at the top of Budj Bim.
Long ago, four giant beings arrived in southeast Australia. Three strode out to other parts of the continent, but one crouched in place. His body transformed into a volcano called Budj Bim, and his teeth became the lava the volcano spat out.

Now, scientists say this tale — told by the Aboriginal Gunditjmara people of the area — may have some basis in fact. About 37,000 years ago, Budj Bim and another nearby volcano formed through a rapid series of eruptions, new evidence reveals, suggesting the legend may be the oldest story still being told today.

The study raises a provocative possibility, says Sean Ulm, an archaeologist at James Cook University, Cairns, who was not involved with the work. "It is an interesting proposition to think about these traditions extending for tens of thousands of years." But he and others urge caution, as no other stories passed down orally are believed to have survived that long.

Comment: It's quite possible that a number of the world's myths and legends extend much further back into humanities history than we realize: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Pompeii's "excellent" drains to be brought back into service after 2,300 years

tunnels pompeii

Since 2018, the 1,500ft (457m) network of tunnels (pictured), which are big enough for a human to fit into, have been carefully assessed
Pompeii's ancient drainage system is in such good condition that it is set to be put back into active service, despite being built almost 2,300 years ago.

A 1,500ft stretch of tunnels underneath some of the famed Italian city's most iconic structures was originally built to drain water downhill away from Pompeii's centre.

Analysis of the tunnels revealed they had been almost untouched for millennia and the complex system is still in excellent condition.

'The entrances to the drains were blocked but since we have problems today with flooding from rain we will start using them again,' Massimo Osanna, the director of the site, told The Times.

Comment: One wonders whether this decision to use these drains is because they're suddenly seeing a repeat in weather patterns causing similar problems that the Pompeiians experienced, or the locals are just taking advantage of what lies, ready-made, beneath their feet?

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Treasure Chest

Havering hoard: UK's largest Bronze Age hoard hints to unknown links with Europe

© David Parry/PA
A rare terret ring discovered in the Havering hoard.
One of the largest and most mysterious bronze age hoards ever found in the UK contains objects that have astonished archaeologists, including items more commonly found in France and the Alps.

The Museum of London on Monday revealed new finds among the Havering hoard, a remarkable collection of 453 swords, axes, knives, chisels, sickles, razors, ingots and bracelets excavated from a quarry in east London over a period of three months and revealed last year.

Dating from 900-800BC, it is the third largest bronze age hoard ever discovered in the UK.

Closer examination has revealed a pair of terret rings believed to have been used to prevent the reins tangling on horse-drawn carts. Bronze age examples have been found before in France but not the UK.

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7,300-year-old Neolithic massacre discovered in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain

El Trocs Cave
© Alt et al. / Scientific Reports
El Trocs Cave (pictured above) is nestled in a serene, picturesque part of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, but 7,300 years ago, the area's tranquility was shattered by gruesome violence. Five adults and four children between the ages of three and seven were brutally murdered around 5300 BCE. Their skeletal remains were recently discovered and analyzed by an international team of researchers.

"The violent events in Els Trocs are without parallel either in Spain or in the rest of Europe at that time," the team reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

"The adults display consistent arrow-shot injuries to the skull but not to the perpendicular skeleton. The children and adults furthermore show traces of similar blunt violence to the skull and entire skeleton."

In short, these people were shot, struck, and hacked to death, a terrible truth evinced in their beaten and broken bones.

Blue Planet

15,000 year old carvings of dozens of animals and abstract symbols discovered in Spanish cave

© Generalitat de Catalunya
In a discovery that local media have dubbed the 'Catalan Altamira', an extraordinary trove of 15,000-year-old carvings, depicting dozens of animals, has been found in a cave in northeast Spain's Tarragona region.

Around 100 carvings of animals including horses, oxen and deer, as well as mysterious abstract symbols, were found in a cave in the village of L'Espluga de Francolí.

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Milk and Mongolia: What bacterial cultures reveal about ours

© Heirloom Microbes Project.
Herder Dalaimyagmar and her husband, Byambaa, demonstrate how to press whey from curds in creating aaruul, a staple dairy product in Mongolia.
Dairying is one of the great puzzles of history. An archaeologist set out to unravel it and, in the process, discovered Mongolia's hidden wealth of endangered microbes.

In the remote northern steppes of Mongolia, in 2017, anthropologist Christina Warinner and her colleagues were interviewing local herders about dairying practices. One day, a yak and cattle herder, Dalaimyagmar, demonstrated how she makes traditional yogurt and cheeses.

In spring, as livestock calve and produce the most milk, Mongolians switch from a meat-centered diet to one based on dairy products. Each year, Dalaimyagmar thaws the saved sample of the previous season's yogurt, which she calls khöröngo. She adds some of this yogurt to fresh milk, over several days, until it is revived. With this "starter culture," she is then able to make dairy products all summer.

Comment: It's notable that dairying, agriculture and particular cooking practices came into use around the same time, and in turn we see a deterioration in the health of people; one wonders what part environmental pressures played in this relatively sudden shift?

Blue Planet

9,900-year-old skeleton of horribly disfigured woman from mysterious isolated group found in Mexican cave

© Eugenio Acevez
Divers discovered the ancient woman's remains in the Chan Hol cave, near Tulum, Mexico. The underwater survey was led by Jerónimo Avilés, a speleologist (cave explorer and researcher) at the Museum of the Desert of Coahuila.
Cave divers have discovered the eerie underwater grave of an ancient woman with a deformed skull who lived on the Yucatán Peninsula at least 9,900 years ago, making her one of the earliest known inhabitants of what is now Mexico.

The woman's skull had three distinct injuries, indicating that something hard hit her, breaking the skull bones. Her skull was also pitted with crater-like deformations, lesions that look like those caused by a bacterial relative of syphilis, a new study finds.

"It really looks as if this woman had a very hard time and an extremely unhappy end of her life," study lead researcher Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, a professor of biostratigraphy and paleoecology at the Institute for Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University in Germany, told Live Science in an email. "Obviously, this is speculative, but given the traumas and the pathological deformations on her skull, it appears a likely scenario that she may have been expelled from her group and was killed in the cave, or was left in the cave to die there."

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