‘Apeman’ toddler foot discovery


This 2015 video is called The Evolution From Ape To Man – Full Documentary.

From Dartmouth College in the USA:

Our human ancestors walked on two feet but their children still had a backup plan

Most complete foot of ancient human child ever

July 4, 2018

More than 3 million years ago, our ancient human ancestors, including their toddler-aged children, were standing on two feet and walking upright, according to a new study published in Science Advances.

“For the first time, we have an amazing window into what walking was like for a 2½-year-old, more than 3 million years ago”, says lead author, Jeremy DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the feet of our earliest ancestors. “This is the most complete foot of an ancient juvenile ever discovered.”

The tiny foot, about the size of a human thumb, is part of a nearly complete 3.32-million-year-old skeleton of a young female Australopithecus afarensis discovered in 2002 in the Dikika region of Ethiopia by Zeresenay (Zeray) Alemseged, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. Alemseged is internationally known as a leading paleontologist on the study of human origins and human evolution.

“Placed at a critical time and the cusp of being human, Australopithecus afarensis was more derived than Ardipithecus (a facultative biped) but not yet an obligate strider like Homo erectus. The Dikika foot adds to the wealth of knowledge on the mosaic nature of hominin skeletal evolution” explained Alemseged.

Given that the fossil of the tiny foot is the same species as the famous Lucy fossil and was found in the same vicinity, it is not surprising that the Dikika child was erroneously labeled “Lucy’s baby” by the popular press, though this youngster lived more than 200,000 years before Lucy.

In studying the fossil foot’s remarkably preserved anatomy, the research team strived to reconstruct what life would have been like years ago for this toddler and how our ancestors survived. They examined what the foot would have been used for, how it developed and what it tells us about human evolution. The fossil record indicates that these ancient ancestors were quite good at walking on two legs. “Walking on two legs is a hallmark of being human. But, walking poorly in a landscape full of predators is a recipe for extinction”, explained DeSilva.

At 2½ years old, the Dikika child was already walking on two legs, but there are hints in the fossil foot that she was still spending time in the trees, hanging on to her mother as she foraged for food. Based on the skeletal structure of the child’s foot, specifically, the base of the big toe, the kids probably spent more time in the trees than adults. “If you were living in Africa 3 million years ago without fire, without structures, and without any means of defense, you’d better be able get up in a tree when the sun goes down”, added DeSilva. “These findings are critical for understanding the dietary and ecological adaptation of these species and are consistent with our previous research on other parts of the skeleton especially, the shoulder blade”, Alemseged noted.

See also here.

Ancient tools and bones discovered in China by archaeologists suggest early humans left Africa and arrived in Asia earlier than previously thought: here.

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How brown bears became extinct in Britain


This 2017 video from Canada is called Brown Bear Grizzly – National Geographic Documentary.

From the University of Nottingham in England:

New study questions when the brown bear became extinct in Britain

July 4, 2018

New research provides insights into the extinction of Britain’s largest native carnivore.

The study — ‘The Presence of the brown bear in Holocene Britain: a review of the evidence’ published in Mammal Review — is the first of its kind to collate and evaluate the evidence for the brown bear in post-Ice Age Britain.

Previous research has failed to establish when the brown bear became extinct, and whether or not remains that have been found are of wild native bears or of bears that have been imported from overseas. There is also little evidence to determine why the bear became extinct on British shores.

The author of the paper, Dr Hannah O’Regan from the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, says: “The brown bear was Britain’s largest carnivore, yet we know surprisingly little about its history, both as a wild animal and in its relation to humans.

“There has never been a comprehensive review of the evidence of brown bears in Britain, and I believe what we are looking at could show that they were sadly killed off earlier than we previously thought.”

Dr O’Regan has examined the location of the sites where materials have previously been found, the dating evidence and the body parts present, to determine when the bear became extinct and where it was imported from other countries.

“Previous extinction evidence is unclear and I would suggest two scenarios should be considered — that they became extinct in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, or, in the early medieval period.

“Most of the remains that have been discovered from the Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon (early medieval) periods relate to skins that were included in burials”, says Dr O’Regan.

“Whilst there were live animals present during the Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods (when they were used for entertainment), these were most certainly imported, rather than native animals.”

Interpretations of where animals were living can be affected by the use of data from archaeological sites where their remains may have come from several different sources.

For example, determining when wild animals were present in the past is not straightforward, particularly when dealing with the brown bear where furs and live animals were moved and traded over huge distance and over long periods.

The remains of bears in Britain range from full skeletons to isolated toes or claws, and the sites range from caves to human cremations.

“At present the question of when and why the brown bear became extinct is impossible to answer, as there is still much that we don’t know about its distribution. There are 57 sites across Britain where clear dates have been determined, but there are an additional 25 that are thought to be Holocene, but have no further information.

“There is also a gap in radiocarbon dates of some 4000 years from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. Some of this gap is filled with specimens from archaeological sites, but further research is needed to establish bear distribution in the past.

“Whilst we can speculate on when the bear became extinct based on existing evidence, more research, particularly on the many undated specimens from caves and fens is needed before a clearer patterns of where brown bear distribution and extinction in Britain emerges”, according to one of the researchers.

Neanderthal deer hunting, new research


This 2011 video is called Neanderthals Hunt Down A Horse – Planet Of The Apemen; Battle For Earth – Episode Two – BBC One.

The video depicts Neanderthals as brown-skinned. However, living in not so sunny Ice Age Europe, they had long along lost the black complexion of their African ancestors. After modern humans came to Europe from Africa later, they were dark-skinned even still shortly after the Ice Age, and, like Neanderthals earlier, gradually became light complexioned.

From the Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz in Germany:

Neanderthals practiced close-range hunting 120,000 years ago

July 2, 2018

An international team of scientists reports the oldest unambiguous hunting lesions documented in the history of humankind. The lesions were found on skeletons of two large-sized extinct fallow deer killed by Neandertals about 120,000 years ago around the shores of a small lake (Neumark-Nord 1) near present-day Halle in the eastern part of Germany. The study was led by Professor Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser of the Department of Ancient Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and was now published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The study constitutes a significant step forward in our knowledge of the Neandertal niche. It demonstrates how Neandertals obtained their prey, first and foremost in terms of their much debated hunting equipment while also shedding light on their hunting skills.

With an innovative experimental ballistic setup including state-of-the-art motion-sensor technology, the researchers were able to reproduce the specific form of one of the lesions. The results prove the use of a wooden thrusting spear that was impacted with low velocity. This suggests that Neandertals approached animals very closely and thrusted rather than threw their spears at the animals, most likely from an underhand thrusting angle. Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment as well as close cooperation between individual hunters.

The lake where the hunts took place was surrounded by a close canopy forest, a type of environment deemed particularly challenging for hunter-gatherers, even modern human ones. Interestingly, the excavations in the Neumark-Nord area have yielded tens of thousands of bones of large mammals, including red and fallow deer, horses, and bovids, as well as thousands of lithic artefacts from this uniquely rich Last Interglacial lake landscape, attesting to the success of Neandertal survival in forested environments.

“Although hominins most likely started hunting with weapons more than 500,000 years ago, actual evidence on how wooden spear-like objects like those found at Clacton-on-Sea in England as well as in Schöningen and Lehringen in German were used was absent prior to the identification of the Neumark-Nord hunting lesions”, stated Gaudzinski-Windheuser. “As far as spear use is concerned, we now finally have the crime scene fitting to the proverbial smoking gun.”

Cambrian animals caused global warming


This 2015 video says about itself:

What caused the Cambrian explosion? | The Economist

For most of the Earth’s history, life consisted of the simplest organisms; but then something happened that would give rise to staggering diversity, and, ultimately, life as complex as that which we see today. Scientists are still struggling to figure out just what that was.

From the University of Exeter in England:

World’s first animals likely caused global warming

July 2, 2018

The evolution of Earth’s first animals more than 500 million years ago caused global warming, new research shows.

Some 520-540 million years ago, animal life evolved in the ocean and began breaking down organic material on the seafloor, leading to more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the atmosphere.

In the 100 million years that followed, conditions for these earliest animals became much harsher, as ocean oxygen levels fell and carbon dioxide caused global warming.

The research, published in Nature Communications, is from the Universities of Exeter, Leeds and Antwerp, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Like worms in a garden, tiny creatures on the seabed disturb, mix and recycle dead organic material — a process known as bioturbation”, said Professor Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter.

“Because the effect of animals burrowing is so big, you would expect to see big changes in the environment when the whole ocean floor changes from an undisturbed state to a bioturbated state.”

“We did indeed see a decrease in oxygen levels in the ocean around 520 million years ago”, said Professor Filip Meysman, from the University of Antwerp.

“But evidence from the rock record showed sediment was only a little disturbed.”

Professor Simon Poulton, from the University of Leeds, said: “This meant that the animals living in the seafloor at that time were not very active, and did not move very deep into the seabed.

“At first sight, these two observations did not seem to add up.”

Lead author Dr Sebastiaan van de Velde, of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, explained: “The critical factor was to realise that the biggest changes happen at the lowest levels of animal activity.

“This meant that the first bioturbators had a massive impact.”

The researchers said this realisation was the “missing piece of the puzzle,” and allowed them to construct a mathematical model of Earth around that time to look to the changes caused by these early life forms.

Dr Benjamin Mills, also from the University of Leeds, who led this part of the research, said: “When we ran our model, we were surprised by what we saw.

“The evolution of these small animals did indeed decrease the oxygen in the ocean and atmosphere, but also increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to such an extent that it caused a global warming event.

“We knew that warming occurred at this point in Earth history, but did not realise it could be driven by animals.”

This process made conditions worse for these animals, which possibly contributed to a number of mass extinction events during the first 100 million years of animal evolution.

“There is an interesting parallel between the earliest animals changing their world in a way that was bad for them, and what we human animals are doing to the planet now“, said Professor Lenton, director of Exeter’s new Global Systems Institute, which aims to develop transformative solutions to the challenges facing the world today.

“We are creating a hotter world with expanding ocean anoxia (oxygen deficiency) which is bad for us and a lot of other creatures we share the planet with.”

Moroccan Eocene mammal discovery


This video says about itself:

8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS FACTS for kids – SURPRISE TOYS Amebelodon Arsinoitherium Megacerops

23 jul. 2016

Hi guys, I’m Dan and today I will show you 8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS for kids. I will also tell you some interesting facts about them. These animals include strange looking Deinotherium and Daeodon. There are also the terrifying Andrewsarchus and Arsinoitherium.

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient Moroccan dental remains elucidate history of long-lost African fauna

June 28, 2018

Long before rhinoceros, giraffes, hippos, and antelopes roamed the African savannah, a group of large and highly specialized mammals known as embrithopods inhabited the continent. The most well known is Arsinoitherium, an animal that looked much like a rhinoceros but was in fact more closely related to elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 28 offer a glimpse into this ancient past with the discovery of the earliest and most ancient embrithopod yet described.

The approximately 55-million-year-old fossilized dental remains found in the first lower Eocene levels of the Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin in Morocco represent two new species in the genus Stylolophus, the researchers report. The earliest embrithopods were previously known from 48-million-year-old fossils collected in Africa and Turkey.

“The embrithopods were large and strange extinct mammals that belonged, together with hyraxes and elephants, to the early megaherbivorous mammalian fauna that inhabited the island Africa, well before the arrival about 23 million years ago of the Eurasian ungulate lineages such as the artiodactyls, including giraffes, buffalos, hippopotamus, and antelopes, and the perissodactyls, including zebras and rhinoceros“, says Emmanuel Gheerbrant of CNRS-MNHN in Paris, France. “They belong to the old endemic African fauna.”

Gheerbrant said that the origins of embrithopods had been uncertain, with two known co-existing families: one in Africa and the other in Turkey and Romania. It’s been unclear what the exact relationships of the embrithopods were with respect to sea cows and elephants.

The new phylogenetic study of the two species of Stylolophus found in Morocco confirms that they are basal embrithopods. It also shows that the extinct Embrithopod order is ancient, predating the divergence of the sea cows and elephants.

“Comparative anatomy of the new Moroccan species shows that the highly specialized embrithopod teeth derived from the ancestral dental morphology of all paenungulates, a clade including elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes, with the W-crested molars seen in some of the oldest hyracoids”, the group including hyraxes, Gheerbrant says. “The specialized design of the teeth with two transverse ridges, known in the most advanced forms such as Arsinoitherium, is a convergence of the embrithopods and the extant group of tethytheres, including manatees and elephants, towards leaf eating, which was favored by the ancient herbivorous niches available on the African island.”

The new species S. minor — which was unusually small at about the size of a sheep — is also the first to show the presence in embrithopods of enlarged and anteriorly inclined incisors, in the form of incipient tusks, as seen in the early ancestors of the group including elephants.

The early age and primitive state of Stylolophus, together with the high-level relationships (paenungulate and afrotherian), all support an African origin of the order Embrithopoda, the researchers say. The findings suggest that the Paleoamasiidae family found in Turkey arrived on the Eurasian shores of the Tethys Ocean (an ocean during much of the Mesozoic Era and the Paleogene period located between the ancient continents of Gondwana and Laurasia), after an early dispersal of an African ancestor resembling Stylolophus across the sea.

The researchers say that they’ll continue to search for paleontological evidence elucidating the evolutionary history and relationships of African ungulate-like mammals and insectivore-like afrotherian mammals, including golden moles, elephant shrews, tenrecs, aardvarks, and hyraxes. They’ll also continue the search for the enigmatic early roots of all placental mammals in Africa, going back even further in time to the Cretaceous Period.

Orangutan evolution and humans


This 2017 video says about itself:

Orangutans can explain the evolution of languagues.

Anthropologists in England claimed that the orangutans‘ voices to kiss could be a window into how modern languages ​​are formed.

According to the theory of evolution, orangutans, the closest ape species to humans, can answer the question of how modern languages ​​are formed. Anthropologists working on the subject recorded and analyzed 5,000 orangutans‘ “kissing squeak”.

Adriano Reis e Lameira found that the orangutans shriveled their lips to make sounds similar to the silent letters at the end of their analysis. Lameira stated that each lip movement is equivalent to a different message, and that this behavior can give an explanation of how the first words are formed. Following the article published in Nature Human Behavior, “The human language has a complex and sophisticated structure, and people can transfer virtually any information they want through voices”, said Reis e Lameire. … “Simply put, we use the orangutans‘ voice behaviors as a time machine, and we try to understand what kind of voices are used by our ancestors in the process leading to the formation of vowels and consonants.”

From Cardiff University in Wales:

Orangutan: How 70,000 years of human interaction have shaped an icon of wild nature

June 27, 2018

The evolution of the orangutan has been more heavily influenced by humans than was previously thought, new research reveals.

Professor Mike Bruford, of Cardiff University, was part of the team of scientists shedding light on the development of the critically endangered species. Their findings offer new possibilities for orangutan conservation.

One of humans’ close[s]t living relatives, the orangutan has become a symbol of nature’s vulnerability in the face of human actions and an icon of rainforest conservation.

But in the research paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team argues this view overlooks how humans, over thousands of years, have shaped the orangutan known today.

Professor Bruford, of the Sustainable Places Research Institute and the School of Biosciences who is a co-author of the paper, said: “This research offers new hope for how we can save the orangutan from extinction.

“Our studies show that orangutans actually have a long history of adapting their behaviour to survive in different areas, even those that have been heavily impacted by humans. This means they can live in much more varied habitats than previously thought.

“There needs to be a multifaceted approach to conservation efforts that incorporates human-dominated landscapes, reduces hunting and increases habitat quality.”

It was often assumed that environmental factors like fruit availability were primarily responsible for most features of modern-day orangutans, such as the fact that they usually live at low densities and have a restricted geographic distribution.

But the study indicates the orangutan that existed before modern humans arrived in Southeast Asia 70,000 years ago may have been quite different.

Lead author Stephanie Spehar, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, said: “Our synthesis of fossil, archeological, genetic and behavioral evidence indicates that long-term interactions with humans shaped orangutans in some pretty profound ways.”

These creatures were once far more widespread and abundant, with orangutan teeth among the most common animal remains in deposits in China, Thailand and Vietnam. They weathered many environmental changes and may even have lived in a wider range of environments than their modern counterparts.

Today, the orangutan is only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Studies of the species living in heavily human-impacted habitats, such as oil palm and forestry plantations, highlight that the apes can adapt to survive in such areas, at least in the short term.

It had always been assumed that orangutans were mostly arboreal, but camera traps in the forest showed they also walk extensively on the ground in some areas. The team is calling for these findings to be applied to conservation efforts immediately.

Professor Bruford added: “Although much effort has already been made to understand the endangered orangutan, this latest study shows that much work still needs to be done to ensure conservation strategies are as robust and wide-ranging as possible. Only then will we stand a fighting chance of preventing this incredibly important animal from being wiped out.”

Tyrannosaurus rex’s short arms, why?


This 26 June 2018 video says about itself:

Tyrannosaurus rex was big, Tyrannosaurus rex was vicious, and Tyrannosaurus rex had tiny arms. The story of how T-Rex lost its arms is, itself, pretty simple. But the story of why it kept those little limbs, and how it used them? Well, that’s a little more complicated.