This figure shows how a gorilla and a human to grip and move an object. The dots indicate positions in which the object can be gripped. (Yale University) Biology Engineering 

Better Understanding the Human Grip

The human hand is an evolutionary wonder: 26 percent of the bones in our bodies are in our hands. Now, scientists are coming to better understand the grip and special grasping ability of humans and other primates. In a new study, a research team found that even the oldest known human ancestors may have had precision gripping skills comparable to modern humans. This includes Australopithecus afarensis, a creature that predates the first known stone tools by about a million years. Manual dexterity is traditionally viewed as a key adaptation that…

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Male panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) photographed in Madagascar (© Michel Milinkovitch) Animals Biology 

Chameleons’ Color Change Secret Revealed

Chameleons are known for the remarkable ability to perform complex and rapid color changes during social interactions. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has unveiled exactly how chameleons change their colors. According to the research team’s findings, chameleons can adjust a system of nanocrystals in their skin cells, called iridophores. Better yet, chameleons have two layers of these iridophores, and the second layer reflects infrared light. These two layers can be controlled independently of each other, enabling chameleons to put on their colorful displays.…

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Mantis Shrimp Animals Biology 

How the Mantis Shrimp Packs a Powerful Punch

The miniweight boxing title of the animal world belongs to the mantis shrimp, a cigar-sized crustacean with front claws that can deliver an explosive 60-mile-per-hour punch. The speed of a mantis shrimp’s strike has been compared to that of a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun. Now, a Duke University study of 80 million years of mantis shrimp evolution reveals how the animal’s fast weapons developed a dizzying array of shapes — from spiny and barbed spears to hatchets and hammers — while still managing to pack a characteristic…

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Frey suggests that the cerebellum, a region of the brain that has changed very little over time, may play a critical role in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled. (MU News Bureau) Biology Health Technology 

How the Brain Can Control Robotics

We recently reported on new technology that enables amputees and other disabled people to control robotic arms with their brains. Since then, scientists at the University of Missouri, Columbia have been further investigating how the human brain interacts with such robotic limbs and the findings are fascinating. A simple hand motion, such as grasping an object, actually involves a complex set of brain functions. First, the brain receives and processes visual signals. Next, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands as they reach for and grasp…

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