Earth Recovered 10 Million Years After Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction


The greatest mass extinction pulse was the Permian-Triassic extinction event, and it happened about 250 million years ago, nearly wiping out life on Earth. It was Earth’s most severe extinction even, with 96% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It is the only known mass extinction that affected insects, 57% of all families and 83% of all genera were extinguished.

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Blond Hair of Melanesians Evolved Differently Than Those of Europeans


A new study of the people from the Solomon Islands in Melanesia, a group of islands northeast of Australia, has shown that blond hair evolved differently, genetically speaking, than in Europeans. About 5-10% of the people in Melanesia have naturally blond hair, which is the highest prevalence outside of Europe.

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Million-Year-Old Ash in South African Cave Yields Evidence of Cooking


Ash was discovered in a South African cave, and this indicates that humans were cooking with fire one million years ago. This is the earliest use of fire but experts say that more proof is needed to conclude that humans were cooking with fire regularly.

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Stickleback Fish Used Pre-Existing Genes to Go from Saltwater to Freshwater Environments


New research pinpoints to certain mutations that may have helped the stickleback, a tiny armored fish, to evolve quickly between saltwater and freshwater forms. Since the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, the ocean-dwelling three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) have repeatedly colonized freshwater streams and lakes. In the last ten generations, marine sticklebacks have managed to swap their armored plates and defensive spines for a form that’s smoother for freshwater.

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Relationships of Male Dolphins from Shark Bay Determined by Slow Swimming


In Shark Bay, Australia, the male dolphins are well known to marine biologists for their messy social entanglements. These relationships are so unique, that they’re more like intricate webs of the way that the Cosa Nostra and the Mafia work than the typically vertical hierarchies of chimpanzees. A team of scientists argues in a recent article, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, that this social system is unique among mammals.

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Jawless Vertebrate Conodont Had Sharpest Yet Minuscule Teeth


The conodont, an extinct primitive marine vertebrate, had the sharpest teeth ever known, with tips just one-twentieth of the width of a human hair, and was able to apply pressures that were comparable with the ones made with human jaws.

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Iceman Ötzi’s DNA Reveals Health Risks and Relations


Ötzi’s DNA has finally been sequenced. An international team published the almost complete DNA of the Iceman Ötzi from the Tyrolean Alps in the journal Nature Communications.

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Human Y-Chromosome Has Enough Genes to Stay for Millions of Years


The male-sex determining Y chromosome is here to stay, having lost only one gene in the last 25 million years, a new study of human and rhesus monkey states. The study questions the notion that the Y chromosome is shedding genes and doomed to eventually degenerate.

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Bonobo Great Apes are Domesticating Themselves


While it’s expected that the animal kingdom is a fierce place, where aggression for survival dominates, a new study on bonobos (Pan paniscus) published in January 20th’s Animal Behaviour suggests that some animals outcompete others by becoming ‘nicer’.

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Fungus Transforms North American Red Turpentine Beetle into Tree Killer in Asia


Microbial evolution has turned a mild-mannered North American beetle into a tree killer in Asia. The red turpentine beetle, Dendroctonus valens, is a wood-boring species native to North America. D. valens is unremarkable and harmless in its native region. However once it migrated to China, it wiped out more than seven million pines in the past 12 years, and it’s poised to spread throughout much of Asia and Europe.

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