For decades, scientists have speculated about when exactly the bipedal apes known as Homo sapiens left Africa and moved out to conquer the world. That moment, after all, was a crucial step on the way to today’s human-dominated world. For many years, the consensus view among archaeologists placed the exodus at 60,000 years ago—some 150,000 years after the hominins first appeared.
When we see a large cat capturing its prey on the African savannah, we’re literally watching millions of years of evolution in action. But these attacks don’t always end in a meal, as “survival of the fittest” sometimes means the target gets to make a daring escape. New research uncovers the athleticism involved in these predator-prey encounters, and the best strategies for capturing prey—or avoiding being eaten.
If you’ve seen BBC’s Planet Earth, you may recall of one of its sillier scenes: the superb bird-of-paradise mating dance. A female hops up to a male, who unveils a mane of feathers and puts on a performance like a drunk rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at a karaoke bar. But when the male bird faces the camera, things go black—way black. Skip to 2:34 in the video below. This bird’s feathers are so black that you can’t see any of its facial features, just radiant blues on a sea of natural Vantablack.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Most of us think of Europe as the ancestral home of white people. But a new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived in most of the continent relatively recently. The work, presented here last week at the 84th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, offers dramatic evidence of recent evolution in Europe and shows that most modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago.
One November night each year, beneath the full moon, more than 130 species of corals simultaneously spawn in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Some corals spew plumes of sperm, smoldering like underwater volcanoes. Others produce eggs. But most release both eggs and sperm, packed together in round, buoyant bundles as small as peppercorns and blushed in shades of pink, orange, and yellow.
Dogs: We love them. Like, a lot. In fact, humans have been hanging out with doggos for at least 15,000 years or so, and likely a lot longer. Over the course of that long, mutually beneficial friendship, we’ve done a lot of strange things to our four-legged companions, controlling their reproduction to coax them into breeds that suit our (sometimes absurd) needs.
IN 1993, CONSTRUCTION workers building a new freeway in San Diego made a fantastic discovery. A backhoe operator scraped up a fossil, and scientists soon unearthed a full collection of bones, teeth, and tusks from a mastodon. It was a valuable find: hordes of fossils, impeccably preserved. The last of the mastodons—a slightly smaller cousin of the woolly mammoth—died out some 11,000 years ago.