October 17, 2019

    The red ladder structure has been painted 64.000 years ago by Neanderthals. Image: P. Saura
    Neanderthals produced Iberian cave art

    An international team of researchers used the recently developed Uranium – Thorium method to date cave art on three different locations in Spain, and found that the objects and paintings there are over 64.000 years old, some even much older. This indicates they must have been produced by Neanderthals who populated Western Europe at that time, and not by our ancestors who arrived only 20.000 years later. The data indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans shared symbolic thinking and must have had comparable cognitive abilities.

    Read the full story: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
    Scientific publication: Science
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    Dike along the sea in the Netherlands to protect against sea level rising. Will it be high enough?
    Sea levels will rise even if goals of the Paris agreements will be met

    Scientists report that the global sea level will rise between 70 and 120 cm by 2300 when the goals of the Paris Agreements will be met. Also, the researchers estimate that with each five year delay of reaching peak CO2 levels, this will have to be increased with 20 cm more. The study shows that haste should be made to limit CO2 emissions to avoid dramatic floodings of especially coastal areas.

    Read the full story: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Contemporary Caribbeans share DNA sequences with indigenous Americans
    Indigenous Americans in the Caribbean have living descendants

    Thanks to the finding of a thousand-year-old tooth in the Bahamas, geneticists have found that the Taíno, who lived in the Caribbean when Columbus arrived, still have living descendants. Puerto Ricans were found to be more closely related to the Taíno than to any other indigenous population in the Americans. This study proofs there is some degree of continuity between the indigenous and contemporary inhabitants of the Caribbean, and that the Taíno cannot be considered to be extinct.

    Read the full story: St John’s College – University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Everyday cleaning and cosmetic products contribute to air pollution
    Everyday cleaning and cosmetic products contribute to air pollution - short science news - Earth

    An alarming finding has been reported by a new study investigating the quality of air in the Los Angeles city area. After measuring the level of air pollutants, scientists discovered that soap, perfumes and paints, common everyday products used in many households, contribute to air pollution almost to the same level as cars and industrial activities. The findings are surprising, but they are explained by the fact that many chemicals in common household products have their origin in oil and natural gas, rich sources of pollutants. The study has implications for reducing air pollution and likely new standards will be required to achieve this aim.

    Read the full story: NPR.org
    Scientific publication: Science

    Location of anomalous seafloor as showed by the study. Credit: Byrnes et al., 2018, Science Advances
    The meteorite the killed the dinosaurs triggered global-scale underwater volcanic activity - science

    New evidence suggests that the Chicxulub meteorite, responsible for wiping out the dinosaur in the late Cretaceous, induced high underwater volcanic activity. Following the impact, volcanic ridges lying on the edge of tectonic plates became active. This was the result of large seismic waves that were strong enough to push magma out of the mantle into the ocean volcanoes. This adds to the series of cataclysmic events that finally contributed to the extinction of three-quarters of species of Earth, including the mighty dinosaurs.

    Read the full story: smithsonianmag.com
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    Today’s temperatures are higher than any time over the last 11,000 years
    Global warming: how does it impact life on Earth according the latest climate research

    ScienceBriefss Editorial
    Today’s temperatures are higher than any time over the last 11,000 years and are ascribed to human industrial and agricultural activities. Quite a few studies on global warming have seen the light during the last weeks, the most important of which we have covered on sciencebriefss.com. The meaning of the results of these studies becomes much clearer when they are looked at in conjunction. This is the reason why we brought these studies together to better understand the past, the current, and the future of climate change.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss Editorial on global warming

    Less UV radiation from the sun expected by mid-century. Image: Pixabay
    Global warming will not halt when the sun emits less radiation by mid-century

    A period with less UV radiation from the sun is expected to occur in the middle of this century, researchers from UC San Diego found. The cooldown is a periodic phenomenon with diminished magnetism of the sun and less ultraviolet light will reach the Earth. This will slow down global warming, but not enough to stop it. These new data can be used in new models of climate changes. 

    Read the full story: UC San Diego
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal Letters

    Removing subsidies on fossil fuel will not decrease CO2 emission substantially. Image: Pixabay
    CO2 emission will not be reduced importantly by abandoning fossil fuel subsidies

    Removing subsidies (now hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide) on fossil fuels will only have a minor effect on CO2 emissions and use of renewable energy sources, a new study concluded. This is because there will be a switch from the use of oil or gas to emission-intensive coal in some cases, and the demand for energy will decrease by only a few percent. However, the effects will vary between regions, and will be most pronounced in areas that export gas and oil such as the Middle East, Latin-America, Russia and North Africa.

    Read the full story: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Rodents are an ideal group for palaeoecological studies. Image: Pixabay
    Rodents migrated to escape from climate change 12 million years ago

    Fossil records demonstrate that rodents living in humid areas on the Iberian Peninsula moved north as their habitats became more arid 12 million years ago. Species preferring dryer habitats populated the centre of Spain. These distinct migration patterns of rodent species may serve as a model of the consequences of the climate changes we are experiencing today, researchers say.

    Read the full story: Universidad Complutense Madrid
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Few amphibian species survived the rain forest collapse 307 million years ago. Image: Pixabay
    Climate change steered early vertebrate evolution

    The collapse of rain forests and a dryer climate 307 million years ago led to extinction of many early amphibians, but presented new opportunities for other early vertebrates. These early vertebrates were egg-laying animals and depended therefore less on water than amphibians. Climate changes are thus important for the evolution of vertebrates, leading to the extinction of some species, but favouring the development of others such as our early vertebrate ancestors.

    Read the full story: University of Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

    The atmosphere has an ozone layer that protects agains radiation. Credit: bigstockphoto
    Earth’s ozone layer continues to get thinner at mid-latitudes and tropics

    The earth’s atmosphere contains a layer of ozone, which protects life against high-energy radiation. In the last century, the ozone layer thinned considerably until 1989 when measures were taken to protect it. Since then, the layer has recovered over the poles, but a new study shows that ozone is continuing to decrease at mid- and tropical latitudes (60° S and 60° N). This phenomenon is happening in the lower part of the stratosphere (15 to 24 km) – where the ozone layer is at its densest. The reasons for the continuing decline are still unclear. Scientists are worried by this new discovery and they advocate for further research and measures to be taken in order to protect the ozone layer.

    Read the full story: www.sciencebriefss.com
    Scientific publication: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal

    Marble crayfish clone themselves and invade many habitats rapidly. Image: Frank Lyko, DKFZ
    The invasive marbled crayfish reproduce rapidly by natural cloning

    Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center have found that all individuals of an invasive crayfish descend from one single female. They are formed by natural cloning that started in an aquarium 30 years ago. Although all crayfish carry precisely the same genes, they can adapt to very different habitats, due to epigenetic mechanisms that switch on or off certain genes. This resembles cancers that also descend from one cell and grow by clonal expansion. Researchers are now keen to use the crayfish as an animal model for the study of processes in cancer.

    Read the full story: German Cancer Research Center
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution

    Ponds in the High Arctic are potentially sources of carbon emission. Image: Pixabay
    Ponds in the High Arctic as an unrecognized source of carbon emission

    With the warming of our planet, organic carbon that is dissolved in the High Arctic permafrost is being released into ponds. The organic carbon is essentially dead organic material that becomes dissolved in lakes and oceans, but can also be found in soil. Once released from the melting permafrost, it can be biodegraded by microorganisms, in ponds more than in rivers, and emitted into the atmosphere. This might form a previously unrecognised source of carbon emission that could accelerate global warming even further.

    Read the full story: University of Toronto
    Scientific publication: Environmental Science and Technology

    3D model of methane, CH4. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Converting methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into useful chemicals

    Scientists from the University of Southern California have found a simple way to convert the greenhouse gas methane directly into ethylene and propylene, or olefin, which can be used for manufacturing plastics, agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Methane is produced at large scale in the United States, India and China, and is more potent in heating up the earth than CO2. Efficient conversion of methane is especially important considering that the industrial and agricultural production of this gas is not expected to slow down any time soon.

    Read the full story: University of Southern California
    Scientific publication: Journal of the American Chemical Society

    A huge city dating from Maya period discovered in the jungle of Guatemala
    Ancient Maya megacity discovered in the jungle of Guatemala

    A recent aerial study using laser technology to scan 2,000 square kilometers of jungle in Guatemala discovered the ruins of an ancient Maya city, hidden beneath the forest. The size of the city is impressive, with over 60,000 structures, including pyramids, houses, irrigation canals and highways. The discovery still has to be confirmed by archeological research on the ground, inside the jungle. However, archeologists are already excited and hope that this discovery will help solve some of the remaining mysteries about the Mayan civilization.

    Read the full story: ArsTechnica

    Fires following cosmic impact 12,800 years ago destroyed 10% of earth's land surface. Image: Pixabay
    Comet impacted the earth at the end of the Ice Age, 10 percent of land surface consumed by fires

    A large comet of about 100 km (60 miles) in diameter broke apart and its fragments impacted the earth 12,800 years ago. A new study of geochemical and isotopic markers by the University of Kansas depicts this scenario with devastating consequences : wild fires, dust in sky blocking sunlight, plants and animals dying and prolonging the Ice Age by a thousand years.

    Read the full story: University of Kansas
    Scientific publication: Journal of Geology - Ice Cores and Glaciers
    Scientific publication: Journal of Geology - Lake, Marine, and Terrestrial Sediments

    Sea ice is melting, no more hunting base for polar bears. Image: Pixabay
    Polar bears are starving due to global warming

    Polar bears appear to be even more vulnerable to the warming of their habitat than previously thought. New research has shown that these predators need 60% more meat than comparable mammalian carnivores. As the sea ice that polar bears use for hunting, is melting under their feet due to global warming, many animals do not manage to eat what they need: one adult seal or 19 newborn seals every 10 to 12 days. 

    Read the full story: Nature
    Scientific publication: science

    Current temperatures in North America and Europe are extremely high. Image: Pixabay
    Today’s temperatures are the highest ever seen in 11,000 years

    Did you know that the high temperatures we are accustomed to are a rare phenomenon? Studies on fossilized pollen in North-America and Europe gave scientist a clear picture of temperature fluctuations from the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago until today. It appeared that we are experiencing the highest temperatures ever seen in the study period, and that our planet should be now in a period of cooling, rather than warming. This study supports the view that the current global warming can be ascribed to human activities.

    Read the full story: University of Wyoming
    Scientific publication: nature

    Reconstruction of the new dinosaur. Image: Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
    Spectacular dinosaur discovery provides an ancient link between Africa and Europe

    A newly discovered dinosaur (named Mansourasaurus) that lived some 80 million years ago at the end of the dinosaur era in what is now Egypt was closer related to European and Asian than to South African and South American dinosaurs. This is remarkable, considering that Africa had just separated itself from the other continents. Researchers conclude that exchange between Africa and Europe was possible in the Late Cretaceous, in spite of the continents drifting apart.

    Read the full story: Ohio University
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution

    Volcanic activity was important for continent formation. Image: Pixabay
    Pause in geologic activity of the earth important for continent formation

    A thorough analysis of geological data and freshly collected rocks indicate a pause in volcanic activity during a 100 million year period, between 2.3 and 2.2 billion years ago. This may have been at origin of continent formation, when huge amounts of lava cooled down and rose above sea level. Following this period of rest, volcanic activity came back to life again and “modern” tectonic drift, with continents fusing and breaking, started to form the continents as we know them today.

    Read the full story: Curtin University Australia
    Scientific publication: Nature Geoscience

    Birds and mammals shift habitats during climate change. Image: Pixabay
    Birds and mammals may adapt better to climate changes than reptiles and amphibians

    By analysing data from current distributions of species and from fossils, researchers have noticed that birds and mammals can shift their habitats easier than reptiles and amphibia. Birds and mammals can regulate their body temperature, allowing them to keep them warm in colder climates. Reptiles and amphibia adopt the temperature of their environment, and may therefore be less able to adapt to climate changes. This study helps to assess how current climate changes might affect biodiversity across the globe.

    Read the full story: University of British Columbia
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology and Evolution

    Chimpanzees' brain chemistry is different from ours. Image: Pixabay
    Brain chemistry might explain different evolutionary development of humans and apes

    What makes us humans different from our close relatives, the chimpanzees, gorillas and other apes? The answer might lie in the neurochemistry of a particular brain region that modulates behaviour: the striatum. The human striatum harbours much more dopamine than that of apes, which could be at the basis of human altruistic and empathic behaviour. Increased use of dopamine might also have been important for the development of monogamy during human evolution.

    Read the full story: Kent State University
    Scientific publication: pnas

    Volcano erupting. Image by Walter Lim, Flickr
    Hidden crystals from volcanic rocks could predict volcanic eruptions

    Volcanic rocks contain crystals formed when the magma moves from the depth towards the surface during volcanic eruptions. Recently, scientist studied the crystals using a new technique based on lasers. They discovered that these crystals contain growth layers similar to the growth rings from a tree. Interestingly, the layers represent a form of “memory” and understanding them may help predict volcanic eruptions. The crystals can record the changes occurring inside the volcano, before the eruption begins, thus providing a valuable warning signal.

    Read the full story: Trinity College Dublin
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Animals, like grizzly bears, migrate less worldwide
    Migration of wild animals reduced dramatically due to human activities

    Satellite-tracking data for more than 800 animals from 57 species show that animals living in areas heavily used by humans migrate between 50 and 66 percent less than animals living in untouched nature. This is due to physical barriers and altered availability of food in urbanised and cultured areas. Reduced migration might have a negative impact on the well-being of ecosystems.

    Read the full story: www.sciencemag.org/news/
    Scientific publication: science.sciencemag.org/content/

    Misliya Cave on Mt Carmel in Israel where the fossils were found. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Fossils of oldest humans outside Africa found in Israel

    In a cave, a team of Israeli researchers have found an upper jaw and teeth of our species Homo sapiens that lived there around 180.000 years ago. That makes these remains the oldest trace of human presence outside Africa, indicating that humans have spread to the Arabian Peninsula some 50.000 years earlier than previously assumed.

    Read the full story: www.nature.com/articles/
    Scientific publication: science.sciencemag.org/content/

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