New Human Species Discovered: Mitochondrial Genome of Previously Unknown Hominins from Siberia Decoded

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Archaeologists in the Denisova Cave in August 2005 where the tiny piece of finger bone was found.

An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has sequenced ancient mitochondrial DNA from a finger bone of a female found in southern Siberia. She comes from a previously unknown human species, which lived about 48,000 to 30,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains in Central Asia.

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Small Dogs Originated in the Middle East, Genetic Study Finds

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Yorkshire terrier.

A genetic study has found that small domestic dogs probably originated in the Middle East more than 12,000 years ago. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology traced the evolutionary history of the IGF1 gene, finding that the version of the gene that is a major determinant of small size probably originated as a result of the domestication of the Middle Eastern gray wolf.

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New Research Rejects 80-Year Theory of ‘Primordial Soup’ as the Origin of Life

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In rejecting the soup theory the researchers turned to the Earth’s chemistry to identify the energy source which could power the first primitive predecessors of living organisms: geochemical gradients across a honeycomb of microscopic natural caverns at hydrothermal vents. These catalytic cells generated lipids, proteins and nucleotides which may have given rise to the first true cells.

For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a ‘primordial soup’ of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the ‘soup’ theory has been over turned in a pioneering paper in BioEssays which claims it was the Earth’s chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which kick-started early life.

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Most European Males Descend from Farmers Who Migrated from the Near East

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Maps showing dates of the spread of early farming in Europe

A new study from the University of Leicester has found that most men in Europe descend from the first farmers who migrated from the Near East 10,000 years ago. The findings are published January 19 in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.

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Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics: ‘Magical’ Makeup May Have Been Medicine for Eye Disease

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Queen Nefertiti and other ancient Egyptian women may have worn heavy makeup to protect against eye infections that were a constant threat in the time of the pharaohs.

There’s more to the eye makeup that gave Queen Nefertiti and other ancient Egyptian royals those stupendous gazes and legendary beauty than meets the eye. Scientists in France are reporting that the alluring eye makeup also may have been used to help prevent or treat eye disease by doubling as an infection-fighter.

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Prussian Blue Salt Linked to Origin of Life

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This is Prussian blue. This salt could cause substances essential for life.

A team of researchers from the Astrobiology Centre (INTA-CSIC) has shown that hydrogen cyanide, urea and other substances considered essential to the formation of the most basic biological molecules can be obtained from the salt Prussian blue. In order to carry out this study, published in the journal Chemistry & Biodiversity, the scientists recreated the chemical conditions of the early Earth.

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Greening of Sahara Desert Triggered Early Human Migrations out of Africa

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The Sahara Desert on the border of Morocco and Algeria the way it looks today.

A team of scientists from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the University of Bremen (Germany) has determined that a major change in the climate of the Sahara and Sahel region of North Africa facilitated early human migrations from the African continent. The team’s findings will be published online in the Nov. 9th installment of Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Among the key findings are that the Sahara desert and the Sahel were considerably wetter around 9,000, 50,000 and 120,000 years ago than at present, allowing for the growth of trees instead of grasses.

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Rich Ore Deposits Linked to Ancient Atmosphere

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Volcano eruption on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

Much of our planet’s mineral wealth was deposited billions of years ago when Earth’s chemical cycles were different from today’s. Using geochemical clues from rocks nearly 3 billion years old, a group of scientists including Andrey Bekker and Doug Rumble from the Carnegie Institution have made the surprising discovery that the creation of economically important nickel ore deposits was linked to sulfur in the ancient oxygen-poor atmosphere.

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Ancient Penguin DNA Raises Doubts About Accuracy of Genetic Dating Techniques

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Adelie penguins have survived in Antarctica for thousands of years and are invaluable for genetic research.

Penguins that died 44,000 years ago in Antarctica have provided extraordinary frozen DNA samples that challenge the accuracy of traditional genetic aging measurements, and suggest those approaches have been routinely underestimating the age of many specimens by 200 to 600 percent.

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