Scientists have sequenced ancient DNA from soil for the first time and the advance will transform what is known about everything from evolution to climate change. The findings have been described as the 'moon landings' of genomics because researchers will no longer have to rely on finding and testing fossils to determine genetic ancestry, links and discoveries - and it is thanks to Stone Age black bears who defecated in a remote cave in Mexico 16,000 years ago.
New, detailed study of the Renland Ice Cap offers the possibility of modelling other smaller ice caps and glaciers with much greater accuracy than hitherto. The study combined airborne radar data to determine the thickness of the ice cap with on-site measurements of the thickness of the ice cap and satellite data. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen gathered data from the ice cap in 2015, and this work has now come to fruition: More exact predictions of local climate conditions.
Language is one of the most notable abilities humans have. It allows us to express complex meanings and transmit knowledge from generation to generation. An important question in human biology is how this ability ended up being developed, and researchers from the universities of Barcelona, Cologne and Tokyo have treated this issue in a recent article.
Why don't we see rabbits rivaling the sizes of horses? Researchers led by Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute investigated the fossil record and evolutionary history to report that larger herbivore competitors were one evolutionary constraint limiting rabbits' size.
Various beetle species have gobbled through grain stores and weakened food production worldwide since ancient times. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a better way of targeting and eliminating these teeny pests. Instead of using toxic pesticides that damage biodiversity, environment and human health, the researchers seek to exploit beetles' greatest strength against them -- their precisely regulated mechanism of balancing fluids.
What keeps some plants squatting close to the soil while others -- even those closely related -- reach high for the skies? New research addressing the architecture and growth habit of plants has provided an answer to this question and may assist in the development of better performing crops.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and the University of Mainz, together with an international team, showed that the genome of symbiotic bacteria of beewolves is in the process of being reduced to their important protective function: the production of antibiotics. The bacterial genome is of great interest for understanding genome erosion and elucidating how the cooperation between bacteria and their host insects has evolved over long periods of time.
Diversity in diet plays a role in the complexity of venom in pit vipers such as rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. But new collaborative research by Clemson University scientists found the number of prey species a snake ate did not drive venom complexity. Rather, it was how far apart the prey species were from each other evolutionarily.
Our planet's worst mass extinction event happened 252 million years ago when massive volcanic eruptions caused catastrophic climate change. The vast majority of animal species went extinct, and scientists are still learning about the patterns of which animals went extinct and which ones survived, and why. In a new study in PNAS, researchers found that while extinctions happened rapidly in the oceans, life on land underwent a longer, more drawn-out period of extinctions.
The downward trajectory of plant and animal diversity constitutes a key issue of the Anthropocene. Whether diversity is changing also in the world of microbes is unknown, however -- a "profound ignorance" -- because the importance of these microorganisms maintain Earth's habitability. A paper published today frames the rate of change of microbial biodiversity as an important question on which progress is possible.