The earliest predators appeared on Earth 480 million years ago -- and they even had teeth which were capable of repairing themselves. A team of palaeontologists led by Bryan Shirley and Madleen Grohganz from the Chair for Palaeoenviromental Research at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have been able to discover more about how these organisms were able to grow and regenerate their teeth.
The mood-altering drug MDMA -- which promotes positive, friendly social interactions in humans by inhibiting serotonin uptake in nerve cells -- has a similar behavioral effect in an octopus species, scientists reported today. This indicates that serotonin has been functioning as a regulator of social behavior for at least 500 million years, when the human and octopus lineages evolutionarily diverged.
Researchers at University of Tsukuba used a novel approach for analyzing the central nervous system of a proto-vertebrate to identify a regulatory cocktail that induces the creation of dopaminergic neurons/coronet cells, a primitive version of the hypothalamus. The findings shed more light on how neurons differentiate into particular subtypes, with potential implications for the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson's disease.
Days after a fire tore through Brazil's National Museum and destroyed specimens of irreplaceable heritage, a team of scientists has quantified the vast number of fossils that sit unstudied in natural history collections. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP), and partner institutions are working to preserve these "dark data" in online databases, highlighting the need for underfunded museums around the world to invest in the digital preservation of their collections.
Land-based bird populations are becoming confined to nature reserves in some parts of the world -- raising the risk of global extinction -- due to the loss of suitable habitat, according to a report led by UCL. Researchers analyzed biodiversity in the peninsula of Thailand, Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Bali, one of the world's most biologically degraded regions. They found that up to 25 percent of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds have been made locally extinct in the region.
Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and overseas have discovered molecules of fat in an ancient fossil to reveal the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record that lived on Earth 558 million years ago.
By studying the genome of a kind of octopus not known for its friendliness toward its peers, then testing its behavioral reaction to a popular mood-altering drug called MDMA or 'ecstasy,' scientists say they have found preliminary evidence of an evolutionary link between the social behaviors of the sea creature and humans, species separated by 500 million years on the evolutionary tree.
The three stages of mammalian backbone evolution are far clearer now, thanks to work by a team of researchers that examined fossilized backbones of primitive mammal ancestors and applied novel statistical analyses.
A new study is challenging the long-held belief that specialization in mammal backbones date back to the earliest land animals. Evidence suggests that the spine gained regions during mammal evolution, with the first -- located in close proximity to the shoulders and front legs -- appearing some 250 million years ago, just as dramatic changes began to appear in the forelimbs of animals known as non-mammalian therapsids.
Dolphins swim, horses gallop, and humans walk on two legs -- mammals are able to move in lots of different ways. That's because we have unique backbones. And scientists exploring how mammals' backbones evolved have discovered that the key to our complex spines lies in mammals' flexible shoulders.