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Posts Tagged ‘Anthropology’

Hitchhiking Virus Confirms Saga of Ancient Human Migration

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 22, 2013

AHominider19v study of the full genetic code of a common human virus offers a dramatic confirmation of the “out-of-Africa” pattern of human migration, which had previously been documented by anthropologists and studies of the human genome.

The virus under study, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), usually causes nothing more severe than cold sores around the mouth, says Curtis Brandt, a professor of medical microbiology and ophthalmology at UW-Madison. Brandt is senior author of the study, now online in the journal PLOS ONE.

When Brandt and co-authors Aaron Kolb and Cécile Ané compared 31 strains of HSV-1 collected in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, “the result was fairly stunning,” says Brandt.

“The viral strains sort exactly as you would predict based on sequencing of human genomes. We found that all of the African isolates cluster together, all the virus from the Far East, Korea, Japan, China clustered together, all the viruses in Europe and America, with one exception, clustered together,” he says.

“What we found follows exactly what the anthropologists have told us, and the molecular geneticists who have analyzed the human genome have told us, about where humans originated and how they spread across the planet,” said Curtis Brandt

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Did “Lucy” Climb Trees?

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on November 7, 2012

All of us who are human beings are in the image of God. But to be in his likeness belongs only to those who by great love have attached their freedom to God.”  —St. Diadochus of Photike

This question is at the root of a discovery just announced on the cover of Science magazine by Bay Area scientist Zeray Alemseged, Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences and Midwestern University Professor David Green.

Australopithecus afarensis (the species of the well-known “Lucy” skeleton) was an upright walking species, but the question of whether it also spent much of its time in trees has been hotly debated for 30+ years, partly because a complete set of A. afarensis shoulder blades has never before been available for study. In an extensive analysis of two complete shoulder blades from the fossil “Selam”—the only ones from this pivotal species known to science—Alemseged and Green found the bones to be quite apelike, suggesting that our forebears were still climbing trees as bipedalism was emerging.


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The Oscar Goes to “ARDI”

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on December 18, 2009

Science’s breakthrough of the year: Uncovering ‘Ardi’


Every December, the editors of Science face the challenge of reviewing what Science has accomplished around the world in the past 12 months, so as to select our “breakthroughs of the year.” The task is an invigorating one, providing a powerful reminder of both the enormous scope and the continual advance of science. For this year’s selections, the range is staggering. From the discovery of pulsars created by neutron stars that are many thousands of light-years distant, to the production of a new single-atom–thick material such as graphene, the same natural laws and logic have generated new understandings over a more than 1030-fold difference in scale. And there is usually special excitement when an advance directly concerns humans, as in the discovery of an ancient ancestor or a successful application of gene therapy to cure disease.

This year’s selection for the Breakthrough of the Year is the reconstruction of the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus skeleton and her environs, published in Science as a major series of 11 articles in October. This choice does not come easily, given the distaste of our editors for self-promotion. But this work changes the way we think about early human evolution, and it represents the culmination of 15 years of highly collaborative research. Remarkably, 47 scientists of diverse expertise from nine nations joined in a painstaking analysis of the 150,000 specimens of fossilized animals and plants.

The 11 Ardipithecus papers, requiring 89 pages of text plus 295 pages of supporting online material, provide an enormous amount of data for scientists around the world to reexamine. As described on p. 1598 in the current issue, some of those scientists are certain to challenge some of the findings, as further advances are built on those already published. With time, we will come to understand much more, and some current conclusions will probably be modified. This is both to be expected and hoped for: Science can only advance as a highly collaborative global endeavor, through which new knowledge improves on old knowledge based on logic and confirmable evidence.

Science’s list of the nine other groundbreaking achievements from 2009 follows.

2. Pulsars Detected by Fermi: NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope helped to identify previously unknown pulsars—highly magnetized and rapidly rotating neutron stars—and shed light onto their unique gamma-ray emissions.

3. Rapamycin: Researchers found that tinkering with a key signaling pathway produces life-extending benefits in mice—the first such result ever achieved in mammals. The discovery was particularly remarkable because the treatment did not start until the mice were middle-aged.

4. Graphene: In a string of rapid-fire advances, materials scientists probed the properties of graphene—highly conductive sheets of carbon atoms—and started fashioning the material into experimental electronic devices.

5. Plant ABA Receptors: Solving the structure of a critical molecule that helps plants survive during droughts may help scientists design new ways to protect crops against prolonged dry periods, potentially improving crop yields worldwide and aiding biofuel production on marginal lands.

6. LCLS at SLAC: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory unveiled the world’s first x-ray laser, a powerful research tool capable of taking snapshots of chemical reactions in progress, altering the electronic structures of materials, and myriad other experiments spanning a wide range of scientific fields.

7. Gene Therapy Comeback: European and U.S. researchers made progress in treating a fatal brain disease, inherited blindness, and a severe immune disorder by developing new strategies involving gene therapy.

8. Monopoles: In an experimental coup, physicists working with strange crystalline materials called spin ices created magnetic ripples that model the predicted behavior of “magnetic monopoles,” or fundamental particles with only one magnetic pole.

9. LCROSS Finds Water on the Moon: In October, sensors aboard a NASA spacecraft detected water vapor and ice in the debris from a spent rocket stage that researchers deliberately crashed near the south pole of the Moon.

10. Hubble Repair: In May, a nearly flawless final repair mission by space-shuttle astronauts gave the Hubble Space Telescope sharper vision and a new lease on life, resulting in its most spectacular images yet.


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This Is The Face of The First European

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 6, 2009

All Humans Ethiopians

This is the face of the first anatomically-modern human to live in Europe. It belonged to a man – or woman – who inhabited the ancient forests of the Carpathian Mountains in what is now Romania about 35,000 years ago.



The artist’s reconstruction – a face that could be male or female – is based on the partial skull and jawbone found in a cave where bears were known to hibernate. The facial features indicate the close affinity of these early Europeans to their immediate African ancestors, although it was still not possible to determine the person’s sex.

Richard Neave, the forensic artist who reconstructed the facial features in this clay model, based his assessment on a careful measurement of the bone fragments and his long experience of how the soft tissues of the face are built around the bones of the skull.

The reconstruction was made for the forthcoming BBC 2 series The Incredible Human Journey which documents human origins and evolution, from our birthplace in Africa to the long migratory routes that led us to populate the most distant parts of the globe. It is impossible from the bones to determine the skin colour of the individual, although scientists speculate it was probably darker than modern-day Europeans, reflecting a more recent African origin.

Mr Neave’s clay head of the “first modern European” now sits on the desk of Alice Roberts, the Bristol University anthropologist who will introduce the BBC series, which is scheduled for screening next Sunday evening on BBC 2. “It’s really quite bizarre. I’m a scientist and objective, but I look at that face and think ‘Gosh, I’m actually looking at the face of somebody from 40,000 years ago’, and there’s something weirdly moving about that,” Dr Roberts told the Radio Times.

“Richard creates skulls of much more recent humans and he’s used to looking at differences between populations. He said the skull doesn’t actually look European, or Asian, or African. It looks like a mixture of all of them. And you think, well, that’s probably what you’d expect of someone who was among the earliest populations to come to Europe.”

Potholers discovered the lower jawbone of the first modern European in 2002 in Pestera cu Oase, the “cave with bones”, located in the south-western Carpathians. The remaining fragments of skull were unearthed in 2003.

Scientists have dated the bones using radiocarbon analysis to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago when Europe was occupied by both Neanderthal man, who had lived in the region for tens of thousands of years, and anatomically-modern humans – Homo sapiens – who had recently arrived on a migratory route from Africa via the Middle East.

Although the skull shares many modern feature of human anatomy, it also displays more archaic traits, such as very large molar teeth, which led some scientists to speculate the skull may belong to a hybrid between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals – an idea discounted by other experts.

Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in Missouri, and one of the first specialists to study the bones in detail, said the jaw was the oldest, directly-dated modern human fossil. “Taken together, the material is the first that securely documents what modern humans looked like when they spread into Europe,” he said.

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Adam & Eve

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 17, 2008

One can with certainty speak that the Biblical Garden of Eden lies in Ethiopia. We know that all people are descended from Adam and Eve, and more recently from Noah and his wife. Both the Biblical and scientific documents confirm that Adam & Eve were created in Ethiopia.

Could the Volcanoes in Ethiopia, have been the birth place of life? Could the active volcano, “Erta Ale” in the Danakil area, be the very first kitchen, where God mixed his secret genetic soup? Could Lake Tana, the Garden of Eden, to the west and 300 miles from Erta Ale be the very first dining place where Adam & Eve had their first meal of the grain of paradise?

Did Volcanoes Spark Life on Earth?
16 October 2008

A once-discarded idea about how life started on our planet has been given a new life of its own, thanks to a serendipitous find.

The story traces back to the early 1950s, when chemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey of the University of Chicago in Illinois tried to recreate the building blocks of life under conditions they thought resembled those on the young Earth. The duo filled a closed loop of glass chambers and tubes with water and different mixes of hydrogen, ammonia, and methane–gases presumed at the time to be the main constituents of the atmosphere billions of years ago. Then, in an attempt to confirm a hypothesis that lightning may have triggered the origin of life, they zapped the mixture with an electrical current. The researchers then analyzed the gunk that began to collect after a few hours.
The residue contained traces of some of the amino acids that make up proteins. Their presence suggested that the molecular precursors of life could form through a simple electrochemical process. The problem was that theoretical models and analyses of ancient rocks eventually convinced scientists that Earth’s earliest atmosphere was not rich in hydrogen.

Last year, after Miller’s death, two of his former graduate students–geochemists Jim Cleaves of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) in Washington, D.C., and Jeffrey Bada of Indiana University, Bloomington–were examining samples left in their mentor’s lab. They discovered the vials of products from the original experiment and decided to take a second look with updated technology. Using extremely sensitive mass spectrometers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Cleaves, Bada, and colleagues found traces of 22 amino acids in the experimental residues. That is about double the number originally reported by Miller and Urey and includes all of the 20 amino acids found in living things, the scientists report tomorrow in Science.

So could lightning have helped jump-start life on Earth? Possibly, Cleaves says. Although Earth’s primordial atmosphere was not hydrogen-rich, as were the chambers in the Miller-Urey experiment, gas clouds from volcanic eruptions did contain the right combination of molecules. It is possible that volcanoes, which were much more active early in Earth’s history, seeded our planet with life’s ingredients. The big question is what happened next–how did those molecules turn into self-replicating organic compounds? “That’s the frontier,” Cleaves says, “and we’re sort of stuck there.”

The new study “highlights how easy it is to make the building blocks of life in plausible prebiotic conditions,” says geochemist Robert Hazen of CIW, who was not involved in the research. At the same time, he says, the findings reinforce “the pioneering insight and experiments of Stanley Miller and Harold Urey.”

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