Biology Paleontology 

Microfossils Are Earliest Evidence Yet of Life on Earth

By Katherine Lindemann Researchers examining deposits from ancient hydrothermal vents in northeastern Canada have found evidence of microbial activity, possibly some of the earliest life on Earth. Hydrothermal vents deep beneath the oceans have long been thought to be where life originated, leading Matthew Dodd and colleagues to search where they did. The microbes were likely iron-metabolizing bacteria, and the structures they left are between 3.77 and 4.28 billion years old, making them even older than the microbes found last year to have lived near the surface of the ocean…

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DNA Analysis Reveals Four Distinct Giraffe Species Genetics and Heredity Zoology 

DNA Analysis Reveals Four Distinct Giraffe Species

By Katherine Lindemann Researchers have long recognized only a single species of giraffe, thought to be made up of several subspecies. However, a research collaboration has now identified four distinct species. Conservation biologist Julian Fennessy of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, geneticist Axel Janke of the Senckenberg Research Institute, and their colleagues collected and analyzed samples from giraffes across the African continent. Their results appear in the journal Current Biology. ResearchGate: When and why did you start genetically testing giraffes across Africa? Julian Fennessy: When I approached Axel Janke to help…

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Berlin Mounted Dinosaur Skeleton: The huge mounted Giraffatitan in the main hall in Berlin, dwarfing the Diplodocus that stands behind it. (Photo by Steven Spence) Paleontology 

Mounting a Monument to a Mesozoic Monster

Renowned paleontologist Dr. Dave Hone explains how the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world was put together. Photography by Steven Spence. By David Hone Dr. Dave Hone is a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in dinosaurs and pterosaurs. In addition to writing for The Guardian, he blogs at Archosaur Musings, is a contributor to Pterosaur.net, created Ask A Biologist, and has published more than 50 academic papers on dinosaur biology. His latest book, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles, is now available from Bloomsbury Publishing. Few visitors to the…

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Biology Paleontology Science Videos 

The Tiniest Fossils of All

This episode of the Shelf Life video series explores the fossils of tiny marine organisms known as foraminifera. That name is a mouthful, so even scientists often shorten it to forams. These single-cell organisms still live in Earth’s oceans today. The fossilized shells left behind by their foram forefathers serve as tiny time capsules for climate data from bygone eras. Finding Clues in Fossils Ammonite fossils also contain clues to past climates. Ammonites are a group of ancient mollusks related to modern animals like nautiluses, which most closely resemble squid and…

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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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Skull of the Olinguito: Shelf Life Episode 4 Biology Science Videos Zoology 

Skull of the Olinguito: Shelf Life Episode 4

The Skull of the Olinguito This video, fourth in the Shelf Life series, reveals how scientists in the field found the skull of a new species and identified it as the elusive olinguito. Thousands of new animal species are discovered every year, some living and some extinct. Researchers regularly make expeditions to the far-flung corners of the globe in search of new species, ranging from the single-celled organisms found in pools of volcanic sulfur (or even in your own stomach), to deep-sea organisms and larger animals like monkeys and birds.…

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