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Key: Meeting Journal Funder
Public Release: 18-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Ancient DNA offers clues to how barnyard chickens came to be
Ancient DNA adds a twist to the story of how barnyard chickens came to be, finds a study to be published April 21 in the journal PNAS. Analyzing DNA from the bones of chickens that lived 200-2,300 years ago in Europe, researchers report that some of the traits we associate with modern domestic chickens -- such as their yellowish skin -- only became widespread in the last 500 years, much more recently than previously thought.

Contact: Greger Larson
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Public Release: 17-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Chickens to chili peppers
Suddenly there was a word for chili peppers. Information about archaeological remains of ancient chili peppers in Mexico along with a study of the appearance of words for chili peppers in ancient dialects helped researchers to understand where jalapenos were domesticated. Special issue of PNAS on plant and animal domestication.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Beth King
202-633-4700 x28216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Public Release: 17-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
The story of animal domestication retold
A review of recent research on the domestication of large herbivores for 'The Modern View of Domestication,' a special feature of PNAS, suggests that neither intentional breeding nor genetic isolation were as significant as traditionally thought.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Diana Lutz
Washington University in St. Louis

Public Release: 17-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Genetic study tackles mystery of slow plant domestications
Did domesticating a plant typically take a few hundred or many thousands of years? Genetic studies often indicate that domestication traits have a fairly simple genetic basis, which should facilitate their rapid evolution under selection. On the other hand, recent archeological studies of crop domestication have suggested a relatively slow spread and fixation of domestication traits. An article in 'The Modern View of Domestication,' a special issue of PNAS, tries to resolve the discrepancy.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Diana Lutz
Washington University in St. Louis

Public Release: 16-Apr-2014
Annals of Human Biology
Study: The trials of the Cherokee were reflected in their skulls
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee have found that environmental stressors -- from the Trail of Tears to the Civil War -- led to significant changes in the shape of skulls in the eastern and western bands of the Cherokee people. The findings highlight the role of environmental factors in shaping our physical characteristics.

Contact: Matt Shipman
North Carolina State University

Public Release: 14-Apr-2014
Journal of Human Evolution
Neanderthals and Cro-magnons did not coincide on the Iberian Peninsula
The meeting between a Neanderthal and one of the first humans, which we used to picture in our minds, did not happen on the Iberian Peninsula. That is the conclusion reached by an international team of researchers after redoing the dating of the remains in three caves located on the route through the Pyrenees of the first beings of our species.

Contact: Matxalen Sotillo
Universidad del País Vasco

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Scientists reconstruct ancient impact that dwarfs dinosaur-extinction blast
Although scientists had previously hypothesized enormous ancient impacts, much greater than the one that may have eliminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, now a new study reveals the power and scale of a cataclysmic event some 3.26 billion years ago which is thought to have created geological features found in a South African region known as the Barberton greenstone belt. The research has been accepted for publication in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Contact: Nanci Bompey
American Geophysical Union

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Biology Letters
Sunken logs create new worlds for seafloor animals
When it comes to food, most of the deep sea is a desert. In this food-poor environment, even bits of dead wood, waterlogged enough to sink, can support thriving communities of specialized animals. A new paper by biologists at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute shows that wood-boring clams serve as 'ecosystem engineers,' making the organic matter in the wood available to other animals that colonize wood falls in the deep waters of Monterey Canyon.
David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Oxford Journal of Archaeology
Researchers say Neanderthals were no strangers to good parenting
Archaeologists at the University of York are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous. A research team from PALAEO and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.

Contact: David Garner
University of York

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Extinct carnivorous marsupial may have hunted prey larger than itself
The reconstruction of an extinct meat-eating marsupial's skull, Nimbacinus dicksoni, suggests that it may have had the ability to hunt vertebrate prey exceeding its own body size.

Contact: Kayla Graham

Public Release: 8-Apr-2014
New method confirms humans and Neandertals interbred
Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal GENETICS. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.
National Environmental Research Council UK

Contact: Tracey DePellegrin Connelly
Genetics Society of America

Public Release: 7-Apr-2014
Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
From athletes to couch potatoes: Humans through 6,000 years of farming
Research into the strength and shape of lower limb bones shows that, in the first 6,000 years of farming, our ancestors in Central Europe became less active as their tasks diversified and technology improved. Later this week Cambridge University anthropologist Alison Macintosh will show that this drop in mobility was particularly marked in men.

Contact: Alexandra Buxton
University of Cambridge

Public Release: 3-Apr-2014
Scientific Reports
Indigenous societies' 'first contact' typically brings collapse, but rebounds are possible
An analysis led by the Santa Fe Institute's Marcus Hamilton paints a grim picture of the experiences of indigenous societies following contact with Western Europeans, but also offers hope to those seeking to preserve Brazil's remaining indigenous societies.

Contact: Marcus Hamilton
Santa Fe Institute

Public Release: 3-Apr-2014
BioMed Research International
'Homo' is the only primate whose tooth size decreases as its brain size increases
Andalusian researchers, led by the University of Granada, have discovered a curious characteristic of the members of the human lineage, classed as the genus Homo: they are the only primates where, throughout their 2.5-million year history, the size of their teeth has decreased alongside the increase in their brain size.

Contact: Juan Manuel Jiménez Arenas
University of Granada

Public Release: 3-Apr-2014
Current Biology
Lactase persistence alleles reveal ancestry of southern African Khoe pastoralists
In a new study a team of researchers lead from Uppsala University show how lactase persistence variants tell the story about the ancestry of the Khoe people in southern Africa. The team concludes that pastoralist practices were brought to southern Africa by a small group of migrants from eastern Africa. The study is published in Current Biology today.

Contact: Carina Schlebusch
Uppsala University

Public Release: 2-Apr-2014
Dinosaur chase reconstructed 70 years after excavation
Scientists digitally reconstructed a model of a dinosaur chase using photos of theropod and sauropod footprints excavated 70 years ago.

Contact: Kayla Graham

Public Release: 1-Apr-2014
Journal of Near Eastern Studies
World's oldest weather report could revise Bronze Age chronology
An inscription on a 3,500-year-old stone block from Egypt may be one of the world's oldest weather reports -- and could provide new evidence about the chronology of events in the ancient Middle East.

Contact: Susie Allen
University of Chicago

Public Release: 1-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Ancient nomads spread earliest domestic grains along Silk Road, study finds
Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.
National Science Foundation, Lambda Alpha National Honor Society, Mary Morris-Stein Foundation

Contact: Gerry Everding
Washington University in St. Louis

Public Release: 27-Mar-2014
Natural history dying of neglect
Natural history provides essential knowledge for human wellbeing, yet its research, use and instruction in academia, government agencies and non-government organizations is declining drastically. Simon Fraser University ecologist Anne Salomon is among 17 authors of a new paper that claims this decline in the developed world could seriously undermine the world's progress in research, conservation and management.

Contact: Carol Thorbes
Simon Fraser University

Public Release: 25-Mar-2014
Neck ribs in woolly mammoths provide clues about their decline and eventual extinction
Researchers recently noticed that the remains of woolly mammoths from the North Sea often possess a 'cervical' (neck) rib -- in fact, 10 times more frequently than in modern elephants (33.3 percent versus 3.3 percent). In modern animals, these cervical ribs are often associated with inbreeding and adverse environmental conditions during pregnancy. If the same factors were behind the anomalies in mammoths, this reproductive stress could have further pushed declining mammoth populations towards ultimate extinction.

Contact: Frietson Galis

Public Release: 24-Mar-2014
Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists
Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri
The latest volume of a University of Cincinnati-edited papyrus research journal throws light on the perils of produce patrol and more stories from ancient times.

Contact: Tom Robinette
University of Cincinnati

Public Release: 20-Mar-2014
Ancient clam gardens nurture food security
A three-year study of ancient clam gardens in the Pacific Northwest has led researchers, including three from Simon Fraser University, to make a discovery that could benefit coastal communities' food production. PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed science journal, has just published their study. The researchers discovered that ancient clam gardens made by Aboriginal people produced quadruple the number of butter clams and twice the number of littleneck clams as unmodified clam beaches.

Contact: Carol Thorbes
Simon Fraser University

Public Release: 19-Mar-2014
Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists
Rice grad student deciphers 1,800-year-old letter from Egyptian soldier
A newly deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe to his family back home shows striking similarities to what some soldiers may be feeling here and now.

Contact: David Ruth
Rice University

Public Release: 18-Mar-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Ancient DNA shows moa were fine until humans arrived
New research shows humans may be to blame for the disappearance of the New Zealand 'emu.'

Contact: Professor Mike Bunce
Curtin University

Public Release: 18-Mar-2014
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Humans drive evolution of conch size
Smithsonian scientists found that 7,000 years ago, the Caribbean fighting conch contained 66 percent more meat than its descendants do today. Because of persistent harvesting of the largest conchs, it became advantageous for the animal to mature at a smaller size, resulting in evolutionary change.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama's National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation

Contact: Sean Mattson
202-633-4700 x28290
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute