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Bashed-in prehistoric skull hints at the invention of violence

A 126,000 year-old human cranium (pictured right) exhibiting signs of localized blunt force trauma could represent the earliest known incident of interhuman aggression, says an anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand. The report, appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that a 14mm (0.6 inch) ridged, healed lesion with the […]

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Caveman cook calorie kerfuffle corrected

Despite our preoccupation with all things gastronomic, surprising little is known about how food preparation affects the energy it supplies to our bodies. Now, for the first time, Harvard researchers have shown that cooked food yields more energy than raw, leading them to speculate that cooking played a key role in driving the evolution of […]

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Artistic mega-octopus may topple ichthyosaur from top of Triassic food chain

Neatly arranged fossilized vertebrae from a number of bus-sized ichthyosaurs could actually be a self portrait composed by a verylarge prehistoric octopus predator previously unknown to science, according to paleontologist Mark McMenamin, from Mount Holyoke College. McMenamin’s proposed rejig of the Triassic food chain places the air-breathing, snaggle-toothed ichthyosaur beneath what he says was an […]

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Modern humans healthier thanks to Neanderthal nookie

Mating with Neanderthals and another close relative – the recently discovered Denisovans – has endowed some human gene pools with beneficial versions of immune system genes, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans all share a common ancestor in Africa, but the groups split into separate, distinct populations […]

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Clay bubbles may have nurtured self-organizing precursors to life

A team of researchers from Harvard, Princeton, and Brandeis universities have demonstrated how small, semi-permeable compartments that form in inorganic clay provide an ideal container for the compartmentalization of complex organic molecules. Scientists say the discovery opens the possibility that the Earth’s first primitive cells might have formed inside inorganic clay bubbles. “A lot of […]

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Mass extinction event linked to invasive species

The arrival of invasive species can stop the dominant natural process of new species formation and trigger mass extinction events, say researchers examining fossil records from the Late Devonian epoch. Worryingly, the study of the collapse of marine life 378 – 375 million years ago suggests that the planet’s current ecosystems, which are struggling with […]

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