Dehai News

Studying tiny fossils I Ancient DNA clues I Chimpanzee evolution

Posted by: The Conversation Global

Date: Friday, 18 September 2020


Museums aren’t just places to conserve heritage or view curiosities. Active research to advance science is a crucial part of their work. At Cape Town’s Iziko South African Museum, for example, scientists are turning to a little-known field of research – micropalaeontology – to understand more about climate and environmental change. Eugene Bergh and Mogammad Yaaseen Hendricks explain what microfossils – the remains of very small animals or organisms – can tell us.

Also in this week’s science and research news: how studying ancient DNA provides clues to the spread of people in east Asia and ever wondered why some chimpanzee populations fish with rods, dig wells and bathe, while others barely use tools at all? The answer lies in their evolution – and it could determine whether these primates can survive climate change.

Natasha Joseph

Freelance Commissioning Editor

Scientists examining microfossils aim to answer crucial questions to understand past and present climate crises. Dwayne Cloete

The study of tiny fossils reminds us that museums are key to advancing science

Eugene Bergh, Iziko Museums of South Africa; Mogammad Yaaseen Hendricks, University of the Western Cape

Microfossils offer up an array of information to scientists, like the time periods in which they lived and how environments have changed.

Pulverized ancient bone can provide DNA to scientists for analysis. Xin Xu Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

Ancient DNA is revealing the genetic landscape of people who first settled East Asia

Melinda A. Yang, University of Richmond

By studying the DNA of people who lived in East Asia thousands of years ago, scientists are starting to untangle how the region was populated.


Chimpanzees in volatile habitats evolved to behave more flexibly – it could help them weather climate change

Alexander Piel, UCL; Erin G Wessling, Harvard University; Fiona Stewart, Liverpool John Moores University

As in humans, environmental changes provoked chimpanzees to develop a diverse range of behaviours.


One of Earth’s most biodiverse habitats lies off the Scottish west coast – but climate change could wipe it out

Heidi Burdett, Heriot-Watt University; Cornelia Simon-Nutbrown, Heriot-Watt University

Maerl beds are the coral reefs of the British Isles. But like their tropical counterparts, they're threatened by climate change.

Primates are facing an impending extinction crisis - but we know very little about what will actually protect them

Jo Setchell, Durham University

Without adequate information, we can’t prioritise efforts and funding to best protect our primate relatives.

Health + Medicine

Alcohol and your brain: study finds even moderate drinking is damaging

Tony Rao, King's College London

Drinking at "safe" levels was shown to reduce the amount of a person's total brain tissue.

Marijuana and pregnancy: There’s no evidence that exposure is safe

Catherine Lebel, University of Calgary; Carly McMorris, University of Calgary; Kathleen Chaput, University of Calgary

Legalization and social acceptability of marijuana have contributed to a false perception that it's safe to use in pregnancy. The truth is, there is no known safe level of prenatal marijuana exposure.

Science + Technology

How tech billionaires’ visions of human nature shape our world

Simon McCarthy-Jones, Trinity College Dublin

What world will tech billionaires move us towards if they believe that humans are fundamentally dangerous?

‘I choose to be a cyborg’: Why I implanted computer chips in my hands

Tamara P Banbury, Carleton University

An increasing number of people are choosing to implant themselves with microchips. But conspiracy theories about the practice exploit fears surrounding body autonomy.

Arts, Culture + Society

Cities like Lagos need building designs that don’t just copy global styles

Dr Anthony Ogbuokiri, Nottingham Trent University; Dr Emmanuel Manu, Nottingham Trent University

To achieve sustainable, functional buildings, architects in cities like Lagos need to consider local realities.

Remembering Achmat Dangor, the South African novelist who redefined identity

Ronit Frenkel, University of Johannesburg

In each of his novels, he explored questions that shifted South Africa's cultural debates, especially about memory and race.


Danakali eyes finish line for Eritrea potash project

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