World’s Oldest Homo sapiens Fossils Discovered

hominin skull

These images show two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. (Photo credit: Philipp Gunz/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

It’s time to rewrite the textbooks. Until now, the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils, found in Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dated to 195,000 years ago. The new fossils, discovered in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago. This means the new findings predate the previous oldest-known fossils by over 100,000 years.

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A Mouse That Sings

singing mouse

The deer mouse is just one type of mouse that is known to sing. (Photo credit: Thomas Kitchin and Victoria Hurst/Design Pics Inc./Alamy)

You are likely quite familiar with the sound of birds singing. You might have also heard the sounds of frogs singing a chorus around a pond or lake. But did you know that some mice sing too? What is the reason behind this unusual behavior? [Read more…]

Ambergris: A Perfume Ingredient with an Unusual Origin

ambergris

Ambergris is a valuable substance that originates in a sperm whale’s digestive system. (Photo credit: Michael Freeman/Corbis)

When a “strange and mysterious” object washed ashore on a public beach in Wellington, New Zealand, rumors began to spread that it was ambergris. Soon after, fortune hunters arrived and tore the mysterious substance apart with shovels, collecting pieces in plastic bags. [Read more…]

What Wombats Leave Behind

wombat

Wombats are furry marsupials endemic to Australia. (Photo credit: covenant/Shutterstock)

Let’s be honest, poop is kind of gross. It’s not something normally discussed in polite company. Yet, we can all agree it serves a purpose. Beyond the obvious purpose of eliminating wastes, what organisms excrete also can help both human and animal doctors diagnose illnesses and assess the general health of a patient. In the wild, “scat,” as it’s often referred to, has even greater significance. [Read more…]

Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes

New research indicates that your love (or hate) for cilantro depends on your genes. (Photo credit: Marnie Burkhart/Fancy/Alamy Images)

When it comes to the taste of cilantro in a spicy bowl of soup or wrapped up in a burrito, where do you stand? Do you find its taste refreshing? Or does it seem like you’re eating a mouthful of soap? This seemingly-benign herb elicits a love-hate relationship for many people. New research indicates that your genes may dictate your initial reaction to the flavor of this green herb.

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The Science Behind an Airplane Meal’s Lackluster Flavor

airplane food

Don’t blame the airplane food — it’s your senses (or lack thereof) that make it taste so bland. (Photo credit: Alex Segre/Alamy)

Airline meals have long been maligned for their bland flavor and strange textures. It turns out that at least some of the blame lies in an airline passengers sense of taste. [Read more…]

Yes, We Have No Bananas – The Demise of the Cavendish

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love a variety called the Cavendish is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world.(Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

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Want to Prevent Algal Blooms? Toilet Train Birds

cormorants resting on a rock in a lake

While they may not be the sole cause, recent research shows that an increase in the population of cormorants on a lake in South Korea may have contributed to algal blooms.(Photo credit: EAGiven/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Algal blooms are a rapid increase in the population of algae in a body of water. They are characterized by their bright green color. While they can be an entirely natural phenomenon, algal blooms can be very harmful. They can deplete lakes of oxygen, produce toxins, and ultimately kill much of the aquatic life. [Read more…]

Scientists Trigger Artificial Photosynthesis

blue LEDs

Researchers have developed a method to trigger photosynthesis using synthetic materials and blue light. (Photo credit: Mifid/Shutterstock)

Researchers have successfully triggered artificial photosynthesis in a synthetic material, producing both clean air and energy at the same time. This process may one day be used to in the development of technology that simultaneously reduces greenhouse gases and produces clean energy.  [Read more…]

A Breath of Fresh Fructose?

naked mole rat

Described by some as looking like “bratwurst with teeth,” naked mole rats live in communities with social structures resembling beehives, are coldblooded like reptiles, and now are known to get energy from fructose, like a plant. (Photo credit: Ger Bosma/Alamy)

It’s difficult to find an odder animal than the naked mole rat (Heterosphalus glaber). A native of east African deserts, these mammals live more like bees, in complex, underground societies complete with a queen who gives birth to worker offspring who will never reproduce.  [Read more…]