After today's session with New Scientist, here are few articles that attracted my attention. They are mostly about the origin of man-kind. Like missing ancestors, booted ancestors and weird palm that turned up in a place it wasn't supposed to be. I won't draw any conclusions as obviously they may be quite questionable, all I'm saying is that these might be part of the puzzle of our past. Or might not.
Ancient bones suggest cavemen wore boots
Toe bones from a cave in China suggest people were wearing shoes at least 40,000 years ago.
Erik Trinkaus and Hong Shang, from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, measured the shape and density of toe bones from a 40,000-year-old skeleton found in Tianyuan cave near Beijing. They compared these bones with those from 20th century urban Americans, late-prehistoric Inuits and other late-prehistoric Native Americans.
Shoes alter the way a person walks. With a rigid sole the toes curl far less than when barefoot and less force is passed through the bones, leading to obvious differences in the three recent populations. Barefoot native Americans have strong, large toes, while modern Americans have little toes. Shoe-wearing Inuits lie somewhere in between.
Trinkaus and Shang found that the Tianyuan toe bones were most similar to the Inuits', indicating that this person regularly wore shoes (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2007.12.002). (source)
The strange anatomy of the brain
HUMAN curiosity about the workings of the brain dates back at least 46 centuries. The first appearance of the word "brain" is on the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, an Egyptian manuscript dating from around 1600 BC but thought to have been copied from the writings of Imhotep, an engineer, architect and physician who lived 1000 years earlier. The papyrus is the earliest known work on trauma medicine, and among other things it describes head injuries.
We do not know whether those injuries were suffered during the carnage of war or in the chaos of an ancient building site, but they make sobering reading: men who are paralysed, men who can only crouch and mumble, and men whose skulls are split open to reveal the "skull offal" inside, convoluted like "the corrugations... in molten copper". The author marvels at the opportunity to study this most mysterious of organs, and ...(source)
My comment: Here you can read more about this papyrus and the brain.
PALAEONTOLOGISTS, according to an item in Science & Consciousness Review that Richard Valentin has alerted us to, started searching for fossils of the great apes'ancestors long before the great apes came into existence: "Genetic studies suggest that humans and great apes split from a common ancestor about 8 million years ago, but palaeontologists have struggled to find fossils for the ancestors of modern African great apes for the past 13 million years." (source)
Giant Madagascan palm 'flowers itself to death'
An enormous new palm tree that flowers itself to death has been discovered in a remote area of north-western Madagascar.
Towering more than 18 metres above the forest floor with fan-shaped leaves 5 m in diameter, the evolutionarily distinct tree represents a new genus of palm. It is the largest palm ever found in Madagascar and one of the world’s biggest flowering plants.
Named Tahina spectabilis, the plant is the only Madagascan member of a family of palm trees found scattered across the Arabian Peninsula, Thailand, and China.
Baker says 95% of the world's palms flower at a steady rate throughout their lives making this newly discovered plant’s explosive end-of-life reproduction all the more unusual.
The giant palm was first found by Xavier Metz, a local cashew plantation manager who stumbled upon one of the trees while picnicking with his family, and was struck by the massive candelabra of flowers sprouting from its top.
Photos Metz took of the tree soon reached Baker and colleagues at Kew who later confirmed the plant's unique lineage through DNA testing.
Madagascar has 170 known species of palms, however, most of that diversity occurs along the island's eastern rainforest belt, where botanists have focused their search for new organisms in recent decades.
Raven says he is unsure how the plant ended up in Madagascar, which was connected to both Africa and India in its geologic past.
He notes, however, that most of the country’s flora and fauna reached the island via dispersal over or through the water from continental Africa, a distance of roughly 400 kilometres.
The newfound palm is limited to a relatively small area at the foot of a limestone outcrop and researchers estimate that only about 100 individuals exist.
Journal reference: Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society (vol 156, p 79) (source)