Evolution

    “Anatomically modern humans” (AMH), or the first subspecies which bore the closest resemblance to modern humans, lived in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago (the exact time frame is a point of contention for most archaelogists, but we'll stick with this one). AMH inhabited a relatively small region of Africa until somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago, when our ancestors suddenly became restless and began to venture out into surrounding areas, eventually reaching Europe and Asia 40,000 years ago.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

The idea that we are already inside a simulation is in a sense true anyway (if we define “simulation” as the possibility of being described as emergent from a computational substrate). Nick Bostrom, the director of Oxford University’s 'Future of Humanity Institute', and others became famous with such ideas, see Simulation Hypothesis on Wikipedia.


The holographic universe: A “simulation” anyway!

"Heritability" is a term used in many articles and through much of the scientific literature and invariably promotes the idea that it relates specifically to inherited traits.  As a result, it is often assumed that the heritability of a particular trait relates to how much influence genetics has on the trait manifesting in an individual.

However, that isn't what it means.

Heritability attempts to address the relationship between nature (genetics) and nurture (environment), so that as each changes, the variation between individuals within a population can be estimated based on these influences.  In this context, "environment" simply represents everything external to the genome that could effect expression. 

For more than 180 years, the origin of Cerataspis monstrosa - monster larva - has been a mystery as deep as the ocean waters it comes from.

Researchers have been trying track down the larva that has shown up in the guts of other fish over time but found no adult counterpart. Until now.

George Washington University Biology Professor Keith Crandall cracked the code to the elusive crustacean's DNA this summer.   It turns out this monster larva and the deep-water aristeid shrimp known as Plesiopenaeus armatus are one and the same: larvae and adult forms of the same species.

A recent, fascinating recent study is Decoding Animal Languages, by Con Slobodchikoff.  At one level, it is an inspiring demonstration of how new technologies can liberate us from preconceptions and open new avenues of empathy, helping humans to understand the other species who co-inhabit this planet with us.

A face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw are exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana which confirm that there were two additional species of our genus living alongside our direct human ancestral species, Homo erectus, almost two million years ago.

The finds were uncovered between 2007 and 2009 by the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP), led by Meave and Louise Leakey. 

A new edge-essay by Steven Pinker is bound to lead to vehement reactions: The False Allure of Group Selection. It is worth a read – Pinker is a clear writer and so his position is easy to locate, however, I get the feeling that his position is to smooth talk whatever a certain establishment likes to hear being defended. The last time I listened, he told modern society that it is the most peaceful ever (an amazing feat of cherry picking data and re-interpretation). Now it seems he simply roots for the more well established guys in a heated turf battle: who may talk about evolution.

At Science 2.0, we often joke that biologist Neil Shubin from the University of Chicago can make anything about fish. That's because we've never heard him not able to make anything about fish. His books, talks and research methods show great examples of multidisciplinary research - biology tells us what should have existed, geology tells us the conditions where something might be found and paleontology finds it.

A spine with multiple segments is a feature of land-dwelling animals but the discovery of the same anatomical feature in a 345-million-year-old eel suggests that this complex anatomy arose separately from, and perhaps before, the first species to walk on land.
Researchers announced the discovery of Afrasia djijidae, a new early anthropoid fossil.

The 37-million-year-old Afrasia djijidae resembles another early anthropoid, Afrotarsius libycus, recently discovered at a site of similar age in the Sahara Desert of Libya. That close similarity between Afrasia and Afrotarsius indicates that early anthropoids colonized Africa only shortly before the time when these animals lived. The colonization of Africa by early anthropoids was a pivotal step in primate and human evolution, because it set the stage for the later evolution of more advanced apes and humans there. 
There was a time when giant insects ruled the skies and it corresponded to high oxygen levels.

After the evolution of birds, about 150 million years ago, insects got smaller - despite rising oxygen levels.  What gives?

Insects reached their biggest sizes about 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods. This was the reign of the predatory griffinflies, giant dragonfly-like insects with wingspans of up to 28 inches - creepy. The leading theory attributed their large size to high oxygen concentrations in the atmosphere (over 30 percent, compared to 21 percent today), which allowed giant insects to get enough oxygen through the tiny breathing tubes that insects use instead of lungs.