Violence in Ancient Rome: Behavioral and Ideological Evolution

Inside Rome’s Colosseum visitors can view the chambers that once held animals and contenders below the arena floor. / Photo by Senior Airman Alex Wieman, Wikimedia  Commons The Roman state imposed a behavioral change that would over time alter the mix of genotypes, thus facilitating a subsequent ideological change. By Dr. Peter Frost Professor of Anthropology[…]

Homo Sapiens: Beyond DNA to Symbolic Communication

Skull of a Homo sapiens (a.k.a. modern human) individual, on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History / Photo by Chris Devers, Flickr, Creative Commons Homo sapiens (‘wise man’), or modern humans, are the only species of human still around today. By Emma Groeneveld / 03.31.2017 Historian Introduction Homo sapiens (‘wise man’), or modern[…]

Human Evolution: The Many Mysteries of Homo Naledi

This hand was discovered in articulation and all bones are represented except for the pisiform. / Photo by Lee Roger Berger Research Team, Wikimedia Commons More than 1500 fossils from the Rising Star cave system in South Africa have been assigned to a new human species, Homo naledi, which displays a unique combination of primitive[…]

Synthetic Palaeontology: Reconstructing Ancient Life with Modern Technology

Reconstruction of ancient life and environments is an extremely challenging problem. By Dr. William Irvin Sellers Professor, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Manchester Abstract One of the major goals of palaeontology is the reconstruction of life on earth at specific times in the past. The major pieces of evidence that we can[…]

Natural Selection in Action: Hurricanes Irma and Maria Affected Island Lizards

Holding on in hurricane-force winds. Colin Donihue, Creative Commons In the wake of two hurricanes in the Turks and Caicos Islands, researchers document for the first time that catastrophic storms can be agents of natural selection, influencing how species evolve. By Dr. Colin Donihue / 07.25.2018 Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Harvard University The Turks and Caicos anole is a small brown[…]

Rhythms of Change: The Victorian Science Poems of May Kendall

Ammonite fossil / Photo by Becks, Wikimedia Commons Nineteenth-century England saw a major revolution in the scientific understanding of the natural world. By Olivia Rosane / 05.17.2018 Nineteenth-century England saw a major revolution in the scientific understanding of the natural world. Charles Lyell’s 1830s Principles of Geology explained how landscapes were shaped and reshaped by daily processes like[…]

Bringing the Ocean Home

“The Ancient Wrasse”, a detail from the frontispiece to The Aquarium (1856, 2nd edition) — Biodiversity Library Bernd Brunner on the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse and how his 1854 book The Aquarium, complete with spectacular illustrations and a dizzy dose of religious zeal, sparked a craze for the “ocean garden” that gripped Victorian Britain. By Bernd Brunner /[…]

Redressing the Balance: Levinus Vincent’s Wonder Theatre of Nature

Detail from a print featured in the first part of Vincent’s Wondertooneel der Nature – Rijks Museum Bert van de Roemer explores the curiosity cabinet of the Dutch collector Levinus Vincent and how the aesthetic drive behind his meticulous ordering of the contents was in essence religious, an attempt to emphasise the wonder of God’s creations by restoring[…]

Mother’s Milk Holds the Key to Unlocking an Evolutionary Mystery from the Last Ice Age

Sunrise at noon in the Arctic. Little exposure to sun was a piece of the genetic puzzle. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, CC BY Why was one gene mutation that affects hair, teeth, sweat glands and breasts ubiquitous among ice age Arctic people? New research points to the advantage it provided for ancestors of Native Americans. By Dr. Leslea Hlusko / 04.26.2018 Associate Professor of Integrative[…]

Disease Evolution: Our Long History of Fighting Viruses

A virus is essentially an information system (encoded in DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protective coat. Tom Thai/Flickr, Creative Commons Humans have a deep history of viral infections, the evidence for which dates back to ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies. By Dr. Peter C. Doherty / 04.26.2016 Laureate Professor The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity A virus[…]

First Peoples: Two Ancient Ancestries ‘Reconverged’ with Settling of South America

New research using ancient DNA finds that a population split after people first arrived in North America was maintained for millennia before mixing again before or during the expansion of humans into the southern continent. Recent research has suggested that the first people to enter the Americas split into two ancestral branches, the northern and[…]

Testing Ancient Human Hearing via Fossilized Ear Bones

3D virtual reconstruction of two-million-year-old ear. Rolf Quam, CC BY-ND Beyond the cool factor of figuring out hominin hearing capacities two million years ago, these findings could help answer the tantalizing question of when did human vocalized language first emerge. By Dr. Rolf Quam / 09.25.2015 Associate Professor of Anthropology Binghamton University (SUNY) How did the world sound to our ancient human relatives[…]

Silk Road Trading Helped Produce the Modern Horse

Yeah, they messed with my genes. attawayjl Research shows that the genes of the modern horse were forged along the way. By Dr. William Feeney / 09.12.2013 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences The University of Queensland The Silk Road snaked across continents for more than a thousand years, shaping civilisations in East and West.[…]

Ancient Human Bone Reveals When We Bred with Neanderthals

Behold the femur. Bence Viola, MPI EVA Radiocarbon-dated to around 45,000 years old. By Dr. Daniel Zadik / 10.24.2014 Postdoctoral Researcher in Genetics University of Leicester When a human bone was found on a gravelly riverbank by a bone-carver who was searching for mammoth ivory, little did he know it would provide the oldest modern-human genome yet sequenced. The[…]

How Tiny Black Spots Shed Light on the Homo Naledi Mystery

A replica of a Homo naledi skull. GCIS/Flickr, CC BY-ND New evidence suggests that Homo naledi didn’t deliberately deposit their dead in a hidden chamber. By Dr. Francis Thackeray / 07.27.2016 Phillip Tobias Chair in Paleoanthropology Evolutionary Studies Institute University of the Witwatersrand Many questions have been thrown up by the discovery in South Africa of a previously unidentified human relative,[…]

How Yersinia Pestis Evolved Its Ability to Kill Millions via Pneumonic Plague

How did Yersinia pestis bacteria start to target the lungs and become so deadly? National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, CC BY It’s a deadly bacterium that can spread like wildfire. New research suggests Yersinia pestisfirst developed its ability to cause lung infection and then evolved to be highly infectious.    By Dr. Daniel Zimbler (left) and Dr. Wyndham Lathem (right) / 06.30.2015 Zimbler: Senior Scientist, Microbiology[…]

Human Ancestors Had the Same Dental Problems as Us – Even Without Fizzy Drinks and Sweets

Teeth fossils with evidence of dental lesions from Australopithecus africanus. Ian Towle, Author provided Prehistoric humans and their predecessors may have had a very different diet but their teeth suffered in similar ways to ours. By Dr. Ian Towle / 03.01.2018 Sessional Lecturer in Anthropology Liverpool John Moores University Dental erosion is one of the most common tooth problems in the world today. Fizzy[…]

Combining Linguistics, Archaeology, and Ancient DNA Genetics to Understand Deep Human History

TonelloPhotography/Shutterstock.com Each discipline tells us only part of the story. And so the truest picture of prehistory comes from triangulating these independent lines of evidence.    By Dr. Michael Dunn (left) and Dr. Annemarie Verkerk (right) / 03.29.2018 Dunn: Professor in Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University Verkerk: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for the[…]

Studying Chimpanzee Calls for Clues about the Origins of Human Language

Nisarg Desai observes wild chimps known as Sandi, Ferdinand and Siri in Tanzania. Michael Wilson, CC BY-ND Do chimpanzee talk to each other? Scientists follow and record chimpanzees in the wild to find out – and to fill in details about how human language might have evolved. By Dr. Michael Wilson / 05.08.2018 Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota Freud, Wilkie and the[…]

Andreas Vesalius: The Man Who Revolutionized Our Knowledge of the Human Body

Drawn directly from the flesh. Public Domain Review/Flickr, CC BY-SA By Dr. Richard Gunderman / 12.31.2014 Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Andreas Vesalius authored one of the most elegant and influential books in scientific history. His investigations revolutionized our understanding of the interior of the human body and the methods physicians use to[…]

Imprinting and Attachment in Biology

A Mallard Duck hen calls vigorously as she leads her ducklings who have already formed an attachment to her. / Photo by Crystal Marie Lopez (2010), Flickr, Creative Commons By Dr. Patrick Bateson Former Professor of Ethology, University of Cambridge Former President of the Zoological Society of London Introduction[1] Imprinting provides a striking example of[…]