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Biology
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
greger.larson@durham.ac.uk
44-796-390-5362
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Public Release: 18-Apr-2014
Geology
Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years
Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists exploring large fields of impact glass in Argentina suggest that what happened on Earth might well have happened on Mars millions of years ago. Martian impact glass could hold traces of organic compounds.

Contact: Mark Nickel
mark_nickel@brown.edu
401-863-1638
Brown University

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
dlutz@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis

Public Release: 16-Apr-2014
Geology
Scratching the surface: Microbial etchings in impact glass and the search for life on Mars
Haley M. Sapers and colleagues provide what may be the first report of biological activity preserved in impact glass. Recent research has suggested that impact events create novel within-rock microbial habitats. In their paper, 'Enigmatic tubular features in impact glass,' Sapers and colleagues analyze tubular features in hydrothermally altered impact glass from the Ries Impact Structure, Germany, that are remarkably similar to the bioalteration textures observed in volcanic glasses.

Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America

Public Release: 16-Apr-2014
PLOS ONE
Earliest ancestor of land herbivores discovered
New research from the University of Toronto Mississauga demonstrates how carnivores transitioned into herbivores for the first time on land.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Contact: Nicolle Wahl
nicolle.wahl@utoronto.ca
905-569-4656
University of Toronto

Public Release: 16-Apr-2014
Nature
Ancient shark fossil reveals new insights into jaw evolution
The skull of a newly discovered 325-million-year-old shark-like species suggests that early cartilaginous and bony fishes have more to tell us about the early evolution of jawed vertebrates -- including humans -- than do modern sharks, as was previously thought. The new study, led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, shows that living sharks are actually quite advanced in evolutionary terms, despite having retained their basic 'sharkiness' over millions of years.
Herbert & Evelyn Axelrod Research Chair in Paleoichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History

Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History

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
komunikazioa@ehu.es
Universidad del País Vasco

Public Release: 11-Apr-2014
American Journal of Botany
Berkeley graduate student brings extinct plants to life
Most fossilized plants are fragments indistinguishable from a stick, but a UC Berkeley graduate student hopes a new technique will allow paleontologists to more precisely identify these fossils. Jeff Benca showed the power of this technique by turning a 375 million-year-old lycopod fossil into a life-like rendering that made the cover of the centennial issue of the American Journal of Botany.

Contact: Robert Sanders
rlsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley

Public Release: 10-Apr-2014
Current Biology
Four-eyed daddy longlegs fossil fills in evolutionary tree
Living harvestmen -- a group of arachnids more commonly known as daddy longlegs -- have a single pair of eyes that help them navigate every continent except Antarctica. But a newly described 305-million-year-old fossil shows that wasn't always the case. Research led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Manchester indicates that primitive harvestmen had two pairs of eyes, adding significant details to the evolutionary story of this highly successful group.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History

Public Release: 10-Apr-2014
Journal of Paleontology
MU researchers find rare fossilized embryos more than 500 million years old
The Cambrian Period is a time when most phyla of marine invertebrates first appeared. Also dubbed the 'Cambrian explosion,' fossilized records from this time provide glimpses into evolutionary biology. Most fossils show the organisms' skeletal structure, which may give researchers accurate pictures of these prehistoric organisms. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found rare, fossilized embryos they believe were undiscovered previously. Their methods of study may help with future interpretation of evolutionary history.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Jeff Sossamon
sossamonj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia

Public Release: 10-Apr-2014
Current Biology
Ancient 'spider' images reveal eye-opening secrets
Stunning images of a 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil reveal ancestors of the modern-day arachnids had two sets of eyes rather than one.

Contact: Aeron Haworth
aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk
44-161-275-8387
University of Manchester

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Palaeontologia Electronica
La Brea Tar Pit fossil research shows climate change drove evolution of Ice Age predators
The La Brea Tar Pits are famous for ground sloths, mammoths, saber-toothed cats and dire wolves. But the climate during the end of the Ice Age (50,000-11,000 years ago) was unstable, with rapid warming and cooling. New research has documented the impact of this climate change on La Brea predators for the first time.

Contact: Kristin Friedrich
kfriedri@nhm.org
213-763-3532
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Reef fish arrived in 2 waves
The world's reefs are hotbeds of biological diversity, including over 4,500 species of fish. A new study shows that the ancestors of these fish colonized reefs in two distinct waves, before and after the mass extinction event about 66 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs.
National Science Foundation, Natural Environment Research Council

Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis

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
nbompey@agu.org
202-777-7524
American Geophysical Union

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
david.garner@york.ac.uk
44-019-043-22153
University of York

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
Nature Communications
Brain size influences development of individual cranial bones
In mammals, embryonic cranial development is modular and step-wise: The individual cranial bones form according to a defined, coordinated schedule. The typical increase in the size of the brain in mammals in the course of evolution ultimately triggered changes in this developmental plan, as a study conducted on embryos of 134 species of animal headed by palaeontologists from the University of Zurich reveals.

Contact: Nathalie Huber
41-446-344-464
University of Zurich

Public Release: 9-Apr-2014
PLOS ONE
Rare leafcutter bee fossils reveal Ice Age environment at the La Brea Tar Pits
The La Brea Tar Pits are celebrated for saber-toothed cats and mastodons. The site's insect collection is also of great significance. Recent examination of fossil leafcutter bee nest cells, led by Anna Holden of Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and colleagues, exemplifies how fossil insects reveal insights into the habitat and climate at the La Brea Tar Pits toward the last Ice Age. The findings appear in PLOS ONE on April 9, 2014.

Contact: Kristin Friedrich
kfriedri@nhm.org
213-763-3532
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Public Release: 8-Apr-2014
Genetics
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
tracey.depellegrin@thegsajournals.org
412-760-5391
Genetics Society of America

Public Release: 7-Apr-2014
Nature Communications
Ancient shrimp-like animals had 'modern' hearts and blood vessels
In 520 million-year-old fossil deposits resembling an 'invertebrate version of Pompeii,' researchers have found an ancestor of modern crustaceans revealing the first-known cardiovascular system in exquisitely preserved detail. The organ system is surprisingly complex and adds to the notion that sophisticated body plans had already evolved more than half a billion years ago.

Contact: Daniel Stolte
stolte@email.arizona.edu
520-626-4402
University of Arizona

Public Release: 4-Apr-2014
GSA Bulletin
GSA Bulletin: Rock avalanches, ancient weather, astronomical clocks, anoxia, and volcanism
Highlights from GSA Bulletin articles published online on March 20-April 1, 2014, include a discussion of a catastrophic rock avalanche in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco 4,500 years ago and that village situated there now; evidence of rain and humidity in ancient soils in the western United States; a contribution to the on-going EarthTime initiative, which is working to refine and calibrate deep time geochronometers; and a call for intensive field studies in volcanic areas.

Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America

Public Release: 3-Apr-2014
Geology
Geology spans the minute and gigantic, from skeletonized leaves in China to water on mars
New Geology studies include a mid-Cretaceous greenhouse world; the Vredefort meteoric impact event and the Vredefort dome, South Africa; shallow creeping faults in Italy; a global sink for immense amounts of water on Mars; the Funeral Mountains, USA; insect-mediated skeletonization of fern leaves in China; first-ever tectonic geomorphology study in Bhutan; the Ethiopian Large Igneous Province; the Central Andean Plateau; the Scandinavian Ice Sheet; the India-Asia collision zone; the Snake River Plain; and northeast Brazil.

Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America

Public Release: 3-Apr-2014
Lithosphere
A once-only cataclysmic event and other mysteries of earth's crust and upper mantle
The April 2014 Lithosphere is now available in print. Locations covered include the Acatlán Complex, Mexico; east Yilgarn craton, Australia; the eastern Paganzo basin, Argentina; the hotspot-related Yellowstone crescent, USA; and the western Alps. Locations investigated in four new papers published online on 2 April include the Banks Island assemblage in Alaska and British Columbia; The Diligencia basin of the Orocopia Mountains in California; a US post-Grenville large igneous province; and South Island, New Zealand.

Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America

Public Release: 2-Apr-2014
Zoosystematics and Evolution
Killing a name of an extinct sea cow species
In a recent publication of the open access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution, Manja Voss from the Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin deals with a new hypothesis of two distinct species that lived about 30 Millions of years ago in Central Europe and draws conclusions on the invalidity of the common species name Halitherium schinzii in favor of a new nominal framework for fossil sea cows.

Contact: Manja Voss
manja.voss@mfn-berlin.de
Pensoft Publishers

Public Release: 2-Apr-2014
PLOS ONE
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
onepress@plos.org
415-590-3558
PLOS

Public Release: 26-Mar-2014
Nature
Ancient sea creatures filtered food like modern whales
Ancient, giant marine animals used bizarre facial appendages to filter food from the ocean, according to new fossils discovered in northern Greenland. The new study, led by the University of Bristol and published today in Nature, describes how the strange species, called Tamisiocaris, used these huge, specialized appendages to filter plankton, similar to the way modern blue whales feed today.

Contact: Hannah Johnson
hannah.johnson@bristol.ac.uk
44-117-928-8896
University of Bristol