A Neanderthal-eat-Neanderthal world may have spread a mad cow-like disease that weakened and reduced populations of the large Eurasian human, thereby contributing to its extinction, according to a new theory based on cannibalism that took place in more recent history.
Aside from illustrating that consumption of one’s own species isn’t exactly a healthy way to eat, the new theoretical model could resolve the longstanding mystery as to what caused Neanderthals, which emerged around 250,000 years ago, to disappear off the face of the Earth about 30,000 years ago.
“The story of Neanderthal extinction is one of the most intriguing in all of human evolution,” author Simon Underdown told Discovery News. “Why did a large-brained, intelligent hominid that shared so many traits with us disappear?”
Archive for the ‘Paleontology Update’ Category
A Kentucky nurse has found the oldest known mushroom, entombed in a 100-million-year-old piece of amber from Burma.
A closer examination of the mushroom cap measuring less than a tenth of an inch revealed it had been infected by an ancient parasite, which a second parasite was feeding on.
“I was amazed enough with the mushroom,” said George Poinar, a retired entomology professor in Corvallis, Ore. “But then seeing the parasites was astonishing. No one has ever seen this three-tier association before.”
Scientists will outline dramatic evidence this week that suggests a comet exploded over the Earth nearly 13,000 years ago, creating a hail of fireballs that set fire to most of the northern hemisphere.
Primitive Stone Age cultures were destroyed and populations of mammoths and other large land animals, such as the mastodon, were wiped out. The blast also caused a major bout of climatic cooling that lasted 1,000 years and seriously disrupted the development of the early human civilisations that were emerging in Europe and Asia.
‘This comet set off a shock wave that changed Earth profoundly,’ said Arizona geophysicist Allen West. ‘It was about 2km-3km in diameter and broke up just before impact, setting off a series of explosions, each the equivalent of an atomic bomb blast. The result would have been hell on Earth. Most of the northern hemisphere would have been left on fire.’
He may have come down from the trees, but prehistoric man did not stop swinging. New research into Stone Age humans has argued that, far from having intercourse simply to reproduce, they had sex for fun.
Practices ranging from bondage to group sex, transvestism and the use of sex toys were widespread in primitive societies as a way of building up cultural ties.
According to the study, a 30,000-year-old statue of a naked woman — the Venus of Willendorf — and an equally ancient stone phallus found in a German cave, provide the earliest direct evidence that sex was about far more than babies.
An adolescent female Tyrannosaurus rex died 68 million years ago, but its bones still contain intact soft tissue, including the oldest preserved proteins ever found, scientists say.
And a comparison of the protein’s chemical structure to a slew of other species showed an evolutionary link between T. rex and chickens, bolstering the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs.
The collagen proteins were found hidden inside the leg bone of the T. rex fossil, according to two studies published in the April 13 issue of the journal Science. Collagen is the main ingredient of connective tissue in animals and is found in cartilage, ligaments, tendons, hooves, bones and teeth. It yields gelatin and glue when boiled in water.
A 40,000-YEAR-OLD skeleton found in China has raised questions about the “out of Africa” hypothesis on how early modern humans populated the planet.
The fossil bones are the oldest from an adult “modern” human to be found in eastern Asia.
They contain features that call into question the widely held view that all humans alive today are descended from a small group of sub-Saharan Africans who made their way out of the continent about 60,000 years ago. Gradually they colonised other parts of the planet, replacing older human species such as the Neanderthals, which became extinct. The older humans had themselves originated in Africa but moved out more than 1 million years earlier.
Chimpanzees in West Africa used stone tools to crack nuts 4,300 years ago. The discovery represents the oldest evidence of tool use by our closest evolutionary relative. The skill could have been inherited from a common ancestor of chimps and humans, the authors say, or learnt from humans by imitation.
In a remarkable feat, three amateur explorers have stumbled upon more than 100 fossilised eggs of dinosaurs in Madhya Pradesh. The eggs, belonging to the Cretaceous Era (approximately 144 to 65 million years ago), have been discovered in Kukshi-Bagh area of Dhar district, some 150 kms south-west of Indore.
An astonishing collection of fossil animals from southern Australia is reported by scientists. The creatures were found in limestone caves under Nullarbor Plain and date from about 400,000-800,000 years ago. The palaeontological “treasure trove” includes 23 kangaroo species, eight of which are entirely new to science.