If the Supreme Court Overturns “Roe v. Wade,” It Will Impact Us All

A protester holds a purple sign reading "STOP BANNING ABORTION" during a protest
Abortion rights activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court to protest against recently passed anti-abortion laws across the country, on May 21, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

BYKia Guarino & Tara RomanoTruthoutPUBLISHEDJuly 19, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

In June of 2022, upwards of 35 percent of the U.S. could instantly lose access to legal abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark case in 1973 which held that a person’s right to choose an abortion was integral to their right to privacy and therefore should not be dictated by the government. Through decades of carefully orchestrated, conservative state-level action, 24 states are poised to overturn Roe protections, including 10 with immediate “trigger bans” in place, which would remove already limited abortion access as soon as federal protection ends. While this is overwhelming, there are steps we can take now to protect and expand abortion access. Since change happens from the ground up, one of the most critical things we can do is to increase our support of state- and local-level reproductive rights and justice activism.

For people living in these “trigger ban” states, or in historically excluded communities across the country, already limited abortion access could end entirely. For those in sanctuary states like Colorado, limited resources could become even more strained. For all states, tenuous abortion access laws are only as strong as the current makeup of that state’s lawmakers. It took decades in Washington State and in Virginia, for example, to build up progressive state legislatures to advance reproductive rights protections, but it would not take long to undo that progress if either state legislature flipped to a conservative majority. In Southern states like North Carolinaa conservative state legislature is continuing to push through abortion restrictions despite the fact that the majority of constituents support Roe.

Every single person in the U.S. would be impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We all know and love someone who has had an abortion. In fact, an estimated 23.7 percent of people who can give birth will have an abortion by age 45. Without Roe, it will be even more likely you or someone you love could be criminally charged for having a miscarriage: In Georgia, people could face up to 30 years in prison for miscarrying; in Alabama, an individual was charged with manslaughter in the loss of pregnancy after being shot; in Washington State for miscarrying in a hotel room — or even for using certain forms of birth control. Any one of us could be sued for driving a friend or partner to their abortion, under the new Texas law that criminalizes “aiding and abetting” of abortions. If you are lucky to live in a place with state-level abortion protections, you could expect that your independent clinics and abortion providers, who are already under-resourced, would be further constrained when people from neighboring states come to seek care. No one is exempt from the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade, and no one should underestimate the power of precedent when it comes to removing individual rights to bodily autonomy.

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The protection of reproductive rights at the state level, both the creation of policies that improve abortion access and the prevention of restrictive policies that reduce it, has taken decades. It has been most effective with local power- and relationship-building, the intentional centering of community voices and the cultivation of egoless leadership. Expanding reproductive rights can only be accomplished through the continued building of trust with and participation by community members in the grassroots organizing groups.

Central to this discussion is that reproductive rights are only a small piece of the abortion access ecosystem. Local and regional abortion funds, and organizations like SisterSong, have for decades emphasized that legal protections are only the bare minimum, and often not even that. The right to live in health and safety takes far more than basic legal protections, and actual abortion access is dependent on several more factors than just whether Roe holds. This remains true, and if Roe is overturned, abortion access would become even more dependent than it already is on where a person lives, their income level, their physical ability, their type of insurance, where they are in their pregnancy, and deeply ingrained disparities due to their race, gender and how they self-identify. Roe has never been enough. We need better.

Fortunately, we are not without power. We can donate to or volunteer with grassroots organizations in our states and communities. We can support local abortion funds and volunteer to escort patients at clinics. We can ask local candidates — from school board commissioners to city councilors to state legislators — where they stand on reproductive rights, health and justice issues. We can vote in all municipal and state elections, and hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises about abortion protection. We can remind each other that the decision to get an abortion is personal. We can and should speak out about why we support abortion access to help remove harmful abortion stigma. We can remind each other that the majority of people across the country support abortion access, and that the conservative action is not reflective of the majority viewpoint.

Abortion access impacts every single person in our country, regardless of gender, geographic location, income or political orientation. We cannot lose our fundamental right to private decision-making about our own bodies, and — while this feels frightening and overwhelming — we all can and should work together to make a difference. Your voice matters. Every voice does.

Just 7% of our DNA is unique to modern humans, study shows

https://apnews.com/article/science-4edeb2256900dd182f5cac5f26b8aa66

CHRISTINA LARSONtoday

FILE - This Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003 file photo shows a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, right, and a modern human skeleton on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York. According to a study published Friday, July 16, 2021 in the journal Science Advances, just 7% of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

FILE – This Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003 file photo shows a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, right, and a modern human skeleton on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York. According to a study published Friday, July 16, 2021 in the journal Science Advances, just 7% of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

WASHINGTON (AP) — What makes humans unique? Scientists have taken another step toward solving an enduring mystery with a new tool that may allow for more precise comparisons between the DNA of modern humans and that of our extinct ancestors.

Just 7% of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

“That’s a pretty small percentage,” said Nathan Schaefer, a University of California computational biologist and co-author of the new paper. “This kind of finding is why scientists are turning away from thinking that we humans are so vastly different from Neanderthals.”

The research draws upon DNA extracted from fossil remains of now-extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans dating back to around 40,000 or 50,000 years ago, as well as from 279 modern people from around the world.ADVERTISEMENT

Scientists already know that modern people share some DNA with Neanderthals, but different people share different parts of the genome. One goal of the new research was to identify the genes that are exclusive to modern humans.

It’s a difficult statistical problem, and the researchers “developed a valuable tool that takes account of missing data in the ancient genomes,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved in the research.

The researchers also found that an even smaller fraction of our genome — just 1.5% — is both unique to our species and shared among all people alive today. Those slivers of DNA may hold the most significant clues as to what truly distinguishes modern human beings.

“We can tell those regions of the genome are highly enriched for genes that have to do with neural development and brain function,” said University of California, Santa Cruz computational biologist Richard Green, a co-author of the paper.

In 2010, Green helped produce the first draft sequence of a Neanderthal genome. Four years later, geneticist Joshua Akey co-authored a paper showing that modern humans carry some remnants of Neanderthal DNA. Since then, scientists have continued to refine techniques to extract and analyze genetic material from fossils.

“Better tools allow us to ask increasingly more detailed questions about human history and evolution,” said Akey, who is now at Princeton and was not involved in the new research. He praised the methodology of the new study.

However, Alan Templeton, a population geneticist at Washington University in St Louis, questioned the authors’ assumption that changes in the human genome are randomly distributed, rather than clustered around certain hotspots within the genome.

The findings underscore “that we’re actually a very young species,” said Akey. “Not that long ago, we shared the planet with other human lineages.”

New prehistoric human unknown to science discovered in Israel

Hebrew U and Tel Aviv University researchers found remains of a new type of ‘Homo’ who lived in the region some 130,000 years ago.

By ROSSELLA TERCATIN   JUNE 24, 2021 21:56

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   https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/new-prehistoric-human-unknown-to-science-discovered-in-israel-671949?fbclid=IwAR02Qfvb_XoRR82RdBty5cZ5NGRbivVDjVfhEFm3lWrRRvY-UJ4E_ydFbCY

Skull found at the site among other items at Nesher Ramla. (photo credit: DR. YOSSI ZAIDNER)

Skull found at the site among other items at Nesher Ramla.(photo credit: DR. YOSSI ZAIDNER)AdvertisementA new type of early human previously not known to scientists has been discovered in Israel, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University researchers announced Thursday as their extraordinary findings appeared in the prestigious academic journal Science.Researchers believe the new “Homo” species intermarried with Homo sapiens and was an ancestor of the Neanderthals.Read More Related Articles

Recommended byTens of thousands of years ago, the busy central region of what is now a densely populated and traffic-jammed part of Israel, was a landscape that very much resembled the African savanna. It featured rhinos, wild horses and cattle and other large animals that were perfect game for ancient hunter-gatherers.The site of Nesher Ramla, a few kilometers from the modern-day city, was probably close to a water reservoir where early humans could hunt animals. Today, the dig site is filled with many animal bones, stone tools for making fire and butchering, and human bones, including skulls, TAU anthropologist Prof. Israel Hershkovitz said.https://www.youtube.com/embed/OGPKRuyd-5M “We know that modern humans – or Homo sapiens – arrived in this area some 200,000 years ago,” he said. “When we started excavating and examining the different archaeological layers, we found that they dated back between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago, so we expected to find remains of Homo sapiens. We did not realize that another form of human was living alongside them.”

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Top ArticlesREAD MOREHealth Ministry: Indoor mask mandate to be reinstatedtoday at 12:00 pmhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.469.0_en.html#goog_1451190850https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.469.0_en.html#goog_625171290https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.469.0_en.html#goog_638918881javascript:falsejavascript:falseThe site was discovered during a salvage excavation led by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Yossi Zaidner at the Nesher cement plant. Israeli law demands that a salvage excavation be carried out alongside any new construction project.
Thick archaeological layers uncovered during the dig at Nesher Ramla. (Photo credit: Dr. Yossi Zaidner)Thick archaeological layers uncovered during the dig at Nesher Ramla. (Photo credit: Dr. Yossi Zaidner)“This is an extraordinary discovery,” said Zaidner. “We never imagined that alongside Homo sapiens, archaic Homo roamed the area so late in human history.”The researchers believe that the newly discovered human type, which they named after the site, lived in the region hundreds of thousands of years ago and at least until 130,000 years ago.
The Nesher Ramla research team (Left to Right): Israel Hershkovitz, Marion Prevost, Hila May, Rachel Sarig and Yossi Zaidner. (Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)The Nesher Ramla research team (Left to Right): Israel Hershkovitz, Marion Prevost, Hila May, Rachel Sarig and Yossi Zaidner. (Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)Hershkovitz said it took a long time to determine that the bones they found indeed belonged to a hitherto unknown species.“There was no ‘eureka’ moment,” he noted.But the findings may radically change what researchers have so far believed about how ancient populations evolved and interacted, including how sapiens and Neanderthal, other ancient human types, related to each other.“We have shown that contrary to what was previously believed, the Neanderthals are not a European story, but very much a story of the Levant,” he said.Researchers believe the Nesher Ramla was an ancestor of the Neanderthals and other archaic Asian populations.“Previously, it was thought that Neanderthals arrived in [what is now] Israel around 70,000 to 50,000 years ago from Europe,” Hershkovitz remarked. “However, now we are talking about a population living here some 130,000 years ago.”Some features of the remains, like the teeth and the jaws, were more similar to Neanderthal species, while the skulls resembled the Homo type. But something did not make sense.
Fossil remains of skull and jaw found at Nesher Ramla. (Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)Fossil remains of skull and jaw found at Nesher Ramla. (Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)When the researchers understood that the bones they had retrieved did not belong to either a Neanderthal or a Homo sapiens, they started to examine the possibility that they belonged to the last survivors of a more archaic population that they thought had become extinct hundreds of thousands of years earlier.“We started to look for other members of this population, and we discovered that some fossils previously unearthed at other prehistoric sites in Israel, including the Qesem cave, belonged to the same group,” Hershkovitz said.“We therefore realized that we were dealing with a huge population that lived in the region, and probably also migrated in different directions, including in Asia and in Europe and later became the humans we know as Neanderthal.”According to Hershkovitz, Nesher Ramla Homo and Homo sapiens not only coexisted peacefully and exchanged technology, but also produced offspring.“They engaged culturally and biologically,” he said. “In Europe, the story was very different because when modern humans arrived there around 45,000 years ago, they completely eliminated the local Neanderthals. This did not happen here.”“We think that some later fossils we found in several caves dating back to 100,000 years ago probably belonged to offspring of sapiens and Nesher Ramla,” he added.For example, in the Qafzeh cave in the Lower Galilee, archaeologists found the remains of several humans presenting the features of both species, some closer to the sapiens, some to the Nesher Ramla.“It is similar to what happens when we see that certain children look more like their mother and some look more like their father,” Hershkovitz noted.The scientists were not able to extract any DNA from the fossils.“Warm weather destroys DNA,” Hershkovitz said. “In Israel, we have not been able to find any preserved DNA from earlier than 15,000 years ago.”For this reason, the researchers’ conclusions are based on the morphology of the bones found.“People think in paradigms,” said TAU Dr. Rachel Sarig. “That’s why efforts have been made to ascribe these fossils to known human groups like Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis or the Neanderthals. But now we say: No. This is a group in itself, with distinct features and characteristics.”In the past, geneticists had already suggested that an unknown population represented the missing link between sapiens and Neanderthal, as pointed out by another researcher, Dr. Hila May. The Nesher Ramla population could represent the answer.“As a crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia, the Land of Israel served as a melting pot where different human populations mixed with one another, to later spread throughout the Old World,” she added. “The discovery from the Nesher Ramla site writes a new and fascinating chapter in the story of humankind.”

Dolphin is found suffocated to death by a DIAPER that got caught in its teeth and throat while it swam off the coast of Mexico

  • The dolphin washed up on Bacocho beach in Puerto Escondido, southern Mexico
  • It was found to have suffocated after a diaper got stuck in its teeth and throat 
  • Local people also found that the animal had several wounds on its body and fins

By GEORGE MARTIN FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 09:34 EDT, 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 EDT, 20 August 2018

5kshares127View comments

These horrifying images show a a dead dolphin that washed up on a beach with a diaper stuck in its mouth and a broken jaw.

Tourists and fishermen, who spotted the washed-up striped dolphin with the man-made waste still attached to its teeth, believe it died from suffocation. 

The mammal was found on the Bacocho beach in the municipality of Puerto Escondido, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Gory photos showed extensive damage to the dolphin's body and a broken jaw with pieces of diaper inside+6

Gory photos showed extensive damage to the dolphin’s body and a broken jaw with pieces of diaper insideThe animal was found tragically death by locals in southern Mexico and is believed to have suffocated+6

The animal was found tragically death by locals in southern Mexico and is believed to have suffocated

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Local media report San Pedro Mixtepec Clean Beaches Committee, who found the female dolphin, said it had received blows all over its body and injuries to its fins as well as a broken jaw.Dailymail.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Daily MailPauseNext video0:42 / 2:01SettingsFull-screenRead More

Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) and the secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources along with the Sea University are investigating the case in order to discover the cause of the death of the mammal.

The striped dolphin was reportedly 1.57 metres (5.15 feet) long and weighed around 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs).

Authorities have now removed the dolphin’s body from the beach. 

The striped dolphin inhabits temperate or tropical, off-shore waters and is found in abundance in the North and South Atlantic Oceans, including the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) are now investigating+6

Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) are now investigating

More: Dolphin is found suffocated to death by a DIAPER that got caught in its teeth and throat while it swam off the coast of Mexico

One incredible ocean crossing may have made human evolution possible

https://theconversation.com/one-incredible-ocean-crossing-may-have-made-human-evolution-possible-157479


Yasni/Shutterstock

April 29, 2021 11.12am EDT

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  1. Nicholas R. LongrichSenior Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology and Paleontology, University of Bath

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Humans evolved in Africa, along with chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. But primates themselves appear to have evolved elsewhere – likely in Asia – before colonising Africa. At the time, around 50 million years ago, Africa was an island isolated from the rest of the world by ocean – so how did primates get there?

A land bridge is the obvious explanation, but the geological evidence currently argues against it. Instead, we’re left with a far more unlikely scenario: early primates may have rafted to Africa, floating hundreds of miles across oceans on vegetation and debris.

Such oceanic dispersal was once seen as far-fetched and wildly speculative by many scientists. Some still support the land bridge theory, either disputing the geological evidence, or arguing that primate ancestors crossed into Africa long before the current fossil record suggests, before the continents broke up.

But there’s an emerging consensus that oceanic dispersal is far more common than once supposed. Plantsinsectsreptilesrodents and primates have all been found to colonise island continents in this way – including a remarkable Atlantic crossing that took monkeys from Africa to South America 35 million years ago. These events are incredibly rare but, given huge spans of time, such freak events inevitably influence evolution – including our own origins.

Primate origins

Humans appeared in southern Africa between 200,000350,000 years ago. We know we come from Africa because our genetic diversity is highest there, and there are lots of fossils of primitive humans there.

Our closest relatives, chimps and gorillas, are also native to Africa, alongside baboons and monkeys. But primates’ closest living relatives – flying lemurs, tree shrews and rodents – all inhabit Asia or, in the case of rodents, evolved there. Fossils provide somewhat conflicting evidence, but they also suggest primates arose outside of Africa.

Evolutionary tree showing primates and their geographic distributions
Primates have differentiated over tens of millions of years. Nicholas R. Longrich/Wikimedia

The oldest primate relative, Purgatoriuslived 65 million years ago, just after the dinosaurs disappeared. It’s from Montana.

The oldest true primates also occur outside Africa. Teilhardina, related to monkeys and apes, lived 55 million years ago, throughout Asia, North America, and Europe. Primates arrived in Africa later. Lemur-like fossils appear there 50 million years ago, and monkey-like fossils around 40 million years ago.

But Africa split from South America and became an island 100 million years ago, and only connected with Asia 20 million years ago. If primates colonised Africa during the 80 million years the continent spent isolated, then they needed to cross water.

A map of the world's continents 50 million years ago
The continents 50 million years ago, when primates colonised Africa. Deeptimemaps, Author provided (No reuse)

Ocean crossings

The idea of oceanic dispersal is central to the theory of evolution. Studying the Galapagos Islands, Darwin saw only a few tortoises, iguanas, snakes, and one small mammal, the rice rat. Further out to sea, on islands like Tahiti, were only little lizards.

Darwin reasoned that these patterns were hard to explain in terms of Creationism – in which case, similar species should exist everywhere – but they made sense if species crossed water to colonise islands, with fewer species surviving to colonise more distant islands.

He was right. Studies have found tortoises can survive weeks afloat without food or water – they probably bobbed along until hitting the Galapagos. And in 1995, iguanas swept offshore by hurricanes washed up 300km away, very much alive, after riding on debris. Galapagos iguanas likely travelled this way.

A tortoise covered in barnacles
Floating 800km from the Seychelles to Africa, this tortoise washed up on shore – covered in barnacles, but alive. Catharine Muir

The odds are against such crossings. A lucky combination of conditions – a large raft of vegetation, the right currents and winds, a viable population, a well-timed landfall – is needed for successful colonisation. Many animals swept offshore simply die of thirst or starvation before hitting islands. Most never make landfall; they disappear at sea, food for sharks. That’s why ocean islands, especially distant ones, have few species.

Rafting was once treated as an evolutionary novelty: a curious thing happening in obscure places like the Galapagos, but irrelevant to evolution on continents. But it’s since emerged that rafts of vegetation or floating islands – stands of trees swept out to sea – may actually explain many animal distributions across the world.

Rafting

Several primate rafting events are well established. Today, Madagascar has a diverse lemur fauna. Lemurs arrived from Africa around 20 million years ago. Since Madagascar has been an island since the time of the dinosaurs, they apparently rafted the 400 kilometre-wide Mozambique Channel. Remarkably, fossils suggest the strange aye-aye crossed to Madagascar separately from the other lemurs.

Even more extraordinary is the existence of monkeys in South America: howlers, spider monkeys and marmosets. They arrived 35 million years ago, again from Africa. They had to cross the Atlantic – narrower then, but still 1,500 km wide. From South America, monkeys rafted again: to North America, then twice to the Caribbean.


Read more: Monkey teeth fossils hint several extinct species crossed the Atlantic


But before any of this could happen, rafting events would first need to bring primates to Africa: one brought the ancestor of lemurs, another carried the ancestor of monkeys, apes, and ourselves. It may seem implausible – and it’s still not entirely clear where they came from – but no other scenario fits the evidence.

A map of ocean crossings made by primates
Several primate rafting events are well established. R.Blakey/Wikimedia, Author provided (No reuse)

Rafting explains how rodents colonised Africa, then South America. Rafting likely explains how Afrotheria, the group containing elephants and aardvarks, got to Africa. Marsupials, evolving in North America, probably rafted to South America, then Antarctica, and finally Australia. Other oceanic crossings include mice to Australia, and tenrecsmongooses and hippos to Madagascar.

Oceanic crossings aren’t an evolutionary subplot; they’re central to the story. They explain the evolution of monkeys, elephants, kangaroos, rodents, lemurs – and us. And they show that evolution isn’t always driven by ordinary, everyday processes but also by bizarrely improbable events.

Macroevolution

One of Darwin’s great insights was the idea that everyday events – small mutations, predation, competition – could slowly change species, given time. But over millions or billions of years, rare, low-probability, high-impact events – “black swan” events – also happen.


Read more: Black swans and other deviations: like evolution, all scientific theories are a work in progress


Some are immensely destructive, like asteroid impactsvolcanic eruptions, and ice ages – or viruses jumping hosts. But others are creative, like genome duplicationsgene transfer between multicellular species – and rafting.

The role rafting played in our history shows how much evolution comes down to chance. Had anything gone differently – the weather was bad, the seas rough, the raft washed up on a desert island, hungry predators waited on the beach, no males aboard – colonisation would have failed. No monkeys, no apes – no humans.

It seems our ancestors beat odds that make Powerball lotteries seem like a safe bet. Had anything had gone differently, the evolution of life might look rather different than it does. At a minimum, we wouldn’t be here to wonder about it.

How new discoveries in west Africa could rewrite pre-history

https://qz.com/africa/1996308/what-do-we-know-about-human-evolution/

Tourists visit the ruins of Kunta Kinte island in the Gambia River, near Jufureh, Albreda
Archaeology in West Africa could rewrite the textbooks on human evolution.

By Eleanor Scerri

Independent Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistoryApril 17, 2021

Our species, Homo sapiens, rose in Africa some 300,000 years ago. The objects that early humans made and used, known as the Middle Stone Age material culture, are found throughout much of Africa and include a vast range of innovations.

Among them are bow and arrow technology, specialized tool forms, the long-distance transport of objects such as marine shells and obsidianpersonal ornamentation, the use of pigmentswater storage, and art. Although it is possible that other ancestors of modern humans contributed to this material culture in Africa, some of the earliest Middle Stone Age stone tools have been found with the oldest Homo sapiens fossils found so far.

The textbook view is that by around 40,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age had largely ceased to exist in Africa. This was a milestone in the history of our species: the end of the first and longest lasting culture associated with humanity, and the foundation for all the subsequent innovations and material culture that defines us today.

Despite its central role in human history, we have little understanding of how the Middle Stone Age ended. Such an understanding could tell us how different groups were organized across the landscape, how they may have exchanged ideas and genes, and how these processes shaped the later stages of human evolution.

Unfortunately, vast swathes of Africa remain near complete blanks on the map when it comes to such deep prehistory, making it difficult to address these questions. Research has tended to focus on areas such as eastern Africa, where preservation is known to be high, understandably minimizing risks and maximizing gains. However, the emerging consensus that all of Africa played some role in human origins means that we can no longer afford to neglect vast regions of the continent if we want to reconstruct our evolution in a realistic framework.

For these reasons, my colleagues and I have been focusing on west Africa, one of the least well understood African regions for human evolution. And our recent work is validating earlier claims of a rich Middle Stone Age past.

New work in Senegal

In 2014, our work in Senegal led to the discovery of a site in the country’s north that suggested the Middle Stone Age ended there far more recently than the textbooks suggested. Several young dates in west Africa had been reported in the past, but the work was largely dismissed owing to problematic dating conducted before the present-day standards existed.

Dates from Ndiayène Pendao indicated that the site was around 12,000 years old. Yet the material culture was classically Middle Stone Age, without any Later Stone Age tools or production methods. In 2016 and 2018, we returned to the field to look for sites in different regions of Senegal and on different river systems, on tributaries of the Senegal and the Gambia. This is because sources of fresh water were critical to people in the past, just as they are to people today; river terraces also often offer excellent preservation conditions and are therefore good places to search for archaeological sites.

The site of Laminia on the Gambia had never been dated. We conducted a detailed assessment of its rock layers to obtain dating samples we could confidently link to the artifacts. The samples returned a date of 24,000 years ago for the site, which confirmed that a young Middle Stone Age was indeed present in the region.

The site of Saxomununya produced an even greater surprise. As the classically Middle Stone Age artifacts, such as retouched Levallois points, and ‘scrapers’, from this site were found upon and within a young terrace of the Falémé River, it was obvious that the site was relatively young. However, the date of 11,000 years ago took the youngest Middle Stone Age into the Holocene epoch, the period after the last major ice age. This was the first time such old material culture had been found in such recent times in Africa. It indicated that the results from Ndiayène Pendao were neither a fluke nor an error.

These results extend the last known occurrence of the Middle Stone Age by a staggering 20,000 years. At the same time, work by colleagues in Senegal also suggested an equally late first occurrence of the Later Stone Age at around 11,000 years—younger than in most other African regions.

Why did the Middle Stone Age last so long and why did the Later Stone Age arrive so late?

Population expansions

Part of the answer to the first question may lie in the fact that parts of west Africa appear to have been less affected by the extremes of repeated cycles of climate change. This may have created stable environmental conditions over a long period of time. As a result of such stability, a finely tuned toolkit that had worked well for millennia might not have needed to change, regardless of the social complexity of the people who made the tools.

The answer to the second question lies in the fact that this region of Africa was relatively isolated. To the north, it meets the Sahara Desert and to the east, there are the Central African rainforests, which were often cut off from the west African rainforests during periods of drought. However, around 15,000 years ago, there was a major increase in humidity and forest growth in central and western Africa. This may have linked different areas and provided corridors for dispersal of human populations. This may have spelled the end for humanity’s first and earliest cultural repertoire and initiated a new period of genetic and cultural mixing.

What is clear is that the long-held simple unilinear model of cultural change towards ‘modernity’ is not supported by the evidence. Groups of hunter-gatherers embedded in radically different technological traditions may have occupied neighboring regions of Africa for thousands of years, and sometimes shared the same regions. Long isolated regions, on the other hand, may have been important reservoirs of cultural and genetic diversity. This matches genetic studies and may have been a defining factor in the success of our species. Our findings are a reminder of the dangers of ignoring gaps on the map.

Fears of AI human-to-human transmission in Russia

https://www.poultryworld.net/Health/Articles/2021/3/Fears-of-AI-human-to-human-transmission-in-Russia-726023E/

Mar 24, 2021

The Russian Union of Poultry Producers (NUPP) has issued a statement ensuring customers that poultry products on the grocery shelves are safe for consumers despite the rising avian influenza (AI) fears.

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In late February, Russia reported the first case of bird flu (H5N8) being passed from birds to humans. 7 workers at a poultry farm in Russia’s south were infected with the H5N8 strain in an outbreak dating back to December 2020. This incident is believed to the first confirmed case of H5N8 poultry-to-human transmission in the world.Transmission of Avian influenza is on the minds of consumers, but test after test prove that meat is safe. Photo: Bert JansenTransmission of Avian influenza is on the minds of consumers, but test after test prove that meat is safe. Photo: Bert Jansen

On 12 March, Anna Popova, head of consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, raised concerns that the new AI strain could mutate further, leading to a possible human-to-human transmission. “The prediction that this could happen is deemed highly probable,” Popova said, adding that there is still time to prepare for the new threat and to develop new tests and a vaccine. “We want to be prepared for it and warn the entire global community that the danger exists,” she said.

Concerns could impact consumption in Russia

Russian poultry farmers warned that concerns regarding the AI infection could impact poultry consumption in the country. In the statement, the NUPP ensured that, with all sanitary measures in place, the virus would not make it into the supply chain. Broiler meat and other poultry products are safe to eat when properly prepared. “No infected birds made it into the food chain, and consumers can remain confident in the safety of poultry meat. Safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of customers,” the NUPP said.

Russia reports first human infection of H5N8 bird flu
Russia has registered and reported the world’s first transfer of the H5N8 bird flu strain from birds to humans to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The workers at the farm where the AI outbreak was confirmed in December of 2020 likely got infected due to lack of compliance with sanitary regulations. “In the case of a recorded contamination of several employees of a small enterprise in February [when the poultry-to-human transmission was official confirmed], the theory is that safety measures were breached and the farm was non-compliant with veterinary and sanitary requirements by employees,” the NUPP said. Sergei Lakhtyukhov, chairman of NUPP, called AI in Russia “accidental and self-limiting”, adding that both market regulators and business unions are constantly monitoring the presence of AI to ensure the safety of customers.

Humans Share Genes With Weird Headless Creatures

Tim Childers  6 hrs ago


New cross-country storm to bring more severe weatherFans Are Calling Out Khloé Kardashian’s Photoshopping in New Bikini PictureResearchers traced genes found in humans back to some of the earliest multicellular animals to roam Earth.© Evans, et. al./Proceedings of the Royal Society B/Courtesy Christine Hall Researchers traced genes found in humans back to some of the earliest multicellular animals to roam Earth.

  • Researchers traced genes found in humans back to some of the earliest multicellular animals to roam Earth.
  • The 555-million-year old fossils belong to oceanic creatures that predate the Cambrian explosion.
  • The animals may be the missing link between the first complex life forms on Earth and humans.

Peer back far enough into the fossil record and the evolutionary links between modern animals and ancient creatures become increasingly unclear. Although some of Earth’s first organisms lacked now-common features like heads, arms, and legs, researchers have traced back genes found in today’s animals—including humans—to some of the oldest complex multicellular creatures.

➡ Science is bad***. Let’s nerd out over it together.

Their research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, uses genetic analysis to link the appearance of 555-million-year-old fossils of simple oceanic critters to the genes found in complex modern-day animals. These findings could help biologists understand the evolution of the first animals on Earth during one of the most critical periods of the planet’s history.

The Cambrian explosion has long been considered the“big bang” of the evolution of life on Earth. During this period, beginning more than half a billion years ago, almost every major animal group inhabiting the planet today appeared in the fossil record over the span of a few million years.

But recent discoveries are leading scientists to believe the Ediacaran era, a brief period beginning 40 million years before the Cambrian explosion, may have been just as pivotal in the history of evolution. The Ediacaran period is marked by the emergence of the earliest known complex multicellular organisms on Earth. It’s also when scientists believe some of the defining characteristics of animals first took form.

“None of them had heads or skeletons,” study coauthor Mary Droser, Ph.D., a geology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said in a statement. She continued:

“Many of them probably looked like three-dimensional bath mats on the seafloor, round discs that stuck up. These animals are so weird and so different, it’s difficult to assign them to modern categories of living organisms just by looking at them, and it’s not like we can extract their DNA—we can’t.”

Lacking concrete DNA evidence, the researchers examined the appearance and likely behaviors of the animals that are clearly represented by genetic markers in modern animals. These markers include genes like SoxB2, which is believed to play a key role in the formation of an animal’s nervous system.

“The fact that we can say these genes were operating in something that’s been extinct for half a billion years is fascinating to me,” said study coauthor Scott Evans, Ph.D., a professor in the department of geosciences at Virginia Tech.

From more than 40 species identified from the Ediacaran period, the researchers picked four animals to study closely.(a,b) Kimberella quadrata (K) with frill or muscular foot (MF), proboscis (P) and associated scratch marks (SM); (c,d) Ikaria wariootia with wider end indicated by white stars and with associated trace fossil Helminthoidichnites; (e) Dickinsonia costata with white arrow indicating the direction of movement; and (f) Tribrachidium heraldicum.© Evans, et. al./Proceedings of the Royal Society B/Courtesy Christine Hall (a,bKimberella quadrata (K) with frill or muscular foot (MF), proboscis (P) and associated scratch marks (SM); (c,dIkaria wariootia with wider end indicated by white stars and with associated trace fossil Helminthoidichnites; (eDickinsonia costata with white arrow indicating the direction of movement; and (fTribrachidium heraldicum.

The most iconic and largest of the bunch, the oval-shaped Dickinsonia, has been found to grow to almost a meter in length with a series of raised bands on its surface. Recently, scientists discovered Dickinsonia may have been capable of repairing itself from damage, showing the possibility of it having a primitive immune system.

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THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES

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The smallest critter, Ikaria, which Droser and her colleagues recently discovered, was about the size and shape of a grain of rice. It’s also one of the oldest bilaterians—an animal with two front and back openings connected by a gut—ever found. Scientists believe Ikaria was one of nature’s first scavengers, crawling using primitive muscles across the sea floor and eating organic matter.

The researchers also analyzed a teardrop-shaped animal called Kimberella, which may have scraped the ocean floor for food using a proboscis. Lastly, they studied Tribrachidium, a living ninja-star that the scientists, using computationational fluid mechanics simulations, believe used gravity to filter out particles of food falling into its spiral trap.

“Our work is a way to put these animals on the tree of life, in some respects,” Droser said.“And show they’re genetically linked to modern animals, and to us.”

Given their complexity, the researchers believe the animals likely had the genetic building blocks responsible for the formation of heads and sensory organs that could form a central nervous system. This includes genes like Hox, which are responsible for specifying the organization of parts of the body during development. However, the interaction between those building blocks wasn’t yet complex enough to create the concentrated nervous systems found in Cambrian-period animals.

In the future, the scientists hope to examine muscle development and perform functional studies to better understand this ancient period of animal evolution.

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Continued: Humans Share Genes With Weird Headless Creatures (msn.com)

How many early human species existed on Earth?

By Benjamin Plackett – Live Science Contributor 9 hours ago

It depends on your definition of human.

Australopithecus skullAn Australopithecus skull(Image: © Jose A. Bernat Bacete via Getty Images)

We Homo sapiens didn’t used to be alone. Long ago, there was a lot more human diversity; Homo sapiens lived alongside an estimated eight now-extinct species of human about 300,000 years ago. As recently as 15,000 years ago, we were sharing caves with another human species known as the Denisovans. And fossilized remains indicate an even higher number of early human species once populated Earth before our species came along.

“We have one human species right now, and historically, that’s really weird,” said Nick Longrich, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. “Not that far back, we weren’t that special, but now we’re the only ones left.”

So, how many early human species were there? 

Related: What’s the first species humans drove to extinction?CLOSEhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.435.0_en.html#goog_1361421722Volume 0% PLAY SOUND

When it comes to figuring out exactly how many distinct species of humans existed, it gets complicated pretty quickly, especially because researchers keep unearthing new fossils that end up being totally separate and previously unknown species.  

“The number is mounting, and it’ll vary depending on whom you talk to,” said John Stewart, an evolutionary paleoecologist at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom. Some researchers argue that the species known as Homo erectus is in fact made up of several different species, including Homo georgicus and Homo ergaster.

“It’s all about the definition of a species and the degree to which you accept variation within a species,” Stewart told Live Science. “It can become a slightly irritating and pedantic discussion, because everyone wants an answer. But the truth is that it really does depend.”

What is a species?

The definition of a species used to be nice and simple: If two individuals could produce fertile offspring, they were from the same species. For example, a horse and a donkey can mate to produce a mule, but mules can’t successfully reproduce with each other. Therefore, horses and donkeys, though biologically similar, are not the same species. In recent decades, however, that simplicity has given way to a more complex scientific debate about how to define a species. Critics of the interbreeding definition point out that not all life reproduces sexually; some plants and bacteria can reproduce asexually. 

Others have argued that we should define species by grouping together organisms with similar anatomical features, but that method has weaknesses as well. There can be significant morphological variation between the sexes and even individuals of the same species in different parts of the world, making it a very subjective way of classifying life. 

Some biologists prefer to use DNA to draw the lines between species, and with advancing technology, they can do so with increasing precision. But we don’t have the DNA of every ancient human — the genome of Homo erectus, for instance, has never been sequenced, Live Science previously reported

skulls of early human species
The skulls of various human species  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It gets even murkier when you consider that as much as 2% of the average European’s DNA comes from Neanderthals and up to 6% of the DNA of some Melanesians (Indigenous people from islands directly northeast of Australia in Oceania) comes from Denisovans. So, are we a separate species from these ancestors? 

“Some people will tell you that Neanderthals are the same species as us,” Stewart said. “They’re just a slightly different type of modern humans and the interbreeding is the proof, but again the definition of species has moved on from just interbreeding.”

Related: Why haven’t all primates evolved into humans?

After taking all of this into account, some experts have argued that the concept of a species doesn’t actually exist. But others say that, while a cast-iron definition of a species is almost impossible to achieve, it’s still worth the effort so that we can talk about evolution — including the evolution of our own species — in a meaningful way. 

So we muddle on, knowing that a species means different things to different people — which means, of course, that people will disagree on how many species of human have ever existed. It’s also a question of what constitutes a human. To answer this question, it helps to understand the word hominin, a large group that includes humans and chimps going back to their shared ancestor.

“The chimpanzee and us have evolved from a common ancestor,” Stewart said. If we decide that humans are everything that arrived after our split from ancient chimpanzees about 6 million to 7 million years ago, then it’s likely to be a diverse group. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has listed at least 21 human species that are recognized by most scientists. Granted, it’s not a totally complete list; the Denisovans, for instance, are missing. Advertisementhttps://9b6cef199583258d1315a400200ee204.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Those on the list include Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, the Indonesian hobbit-size peopleHomo erectus and Homo naledi. The list also includes other species that existed closer in time to the common ancestor of humans and chimps, and so look more like chimpanzees than modern-day humans. Despite their looks, these species are still known as early humans. “You can’t go back 5 million years and expect them to look like us,” Stewart said.RELATED MYSTERIES

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If the Smithsonian says there are 21, then you can be sure the diversity is much greater, Stewart said. That’s because the list errs on the side of caution, picking the species that are close to universally recognized. For instance, the recently discovered dwarf human species Homo luzonensis, who is known from just a few bones unearthed in an Indonesian cave, is not included on the Smithsonian’s list.

Researchers also suspect there are many other fossilized species yet to be excavated. “The list has only ever grown and I don’t see why that will change,” Stewart said.

Originally published on Live Science.

https://www.livescience.com/how-many-human-species.html

IS A NEW HUMAN SPECIES EMERGING FROM AN UNDERGROUND CAVE?

Homo Naledi

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Elizabeth Rayne@quothravenrayneJan 5, 2021, 8:45 PM EST (Updated)283Shared

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Most of us know by now that if anyone ever thinks “Neanderthal” is an insult, it’s probably true on both ends, because Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals. But is another human species hiding somewhere in our past?

Deep in the caves of Johannesburg, South Africa, many ancient human remains have been found. Lee Berger and his research team from the University of the Witwatersrand have found human bones that have survived thousands and thousands of years. They previously unearthed two new hominid species, and might have just stumbled on another one. Some of the many bone fragments scattered in Cave UW 105 stood out. These remains are unlike any from known hominids or modern humans — possibly an altogether different species.

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What began the quest to find out the identify of this mysterious human ancestor was a lower jaw fragment with just one tooth hanging on. Because it was initially piled up with bones and rubble from another excavation, it was set aside. Further investigation found between 100 and 150 pieces of ancient human bone. There were pieces of skulls, shoulder blades, teeth, and limb bones from at least four individuals, including an adult and two juveniles, that were out of place among known hominids.

Every time Berger and his team tried to make a connection between a known hominid species and the new bones they dug up, something didn’t fit. The closest they got was a molar found in Gondolin cave (shoutout to all you hardcore Tolkien fans out there who really know The Silmarillion). Even though the teeth looked similar to this molar, which belonged to Paranthropus Robusts, it was still not a match. P. Robustus appeared sometime between 1 and 2 million years ago. Its large, tough teeth had thick enamel and a strong jaw, thought to be ideal for tearing through plants that were otherwise difficult to chew.

What makes this even more complicated is that evolution can take unexpected turns. Ghosts of the past can return during different evolutionary phases. Powerful teeth and jaws as found in P. Robustus are often thought to be a primitive human trait, but define “primitive.” Homo Naledi, one of the two species discovered by Berger and his team, lived around 250,000 years ago, but its skull was not much larger than a chimpanzee’s and looks deceptively more primitive than its age suggests.

“[Homo Naledi’s] humanlike aspects are contrasted in the postcrania with a more primitive or australopith-like trunk, shoulder, pelvis and proximal femur,” Berger said in a study published in eLife after the discovery of this species.

The problem with the teeth of the unknown species goes further than archaeological stereotypes. Both its front and back teeth were large, compared to only the back teeth of P. Robustus, and the bones from the rest of its body were much slimmer. Most hominids with huge teeth also had robust bones to match. However, the other species discovered by Berger, Australopithicus sediba, also had a juxtaposition of features. Some of its teeth resembled those of more primitive species of Australopithicus while others were closer to Homo sapiens. The narrow upper chest of A. sediba also channeled its Australopithicus ancestors while its broader lower chest was a step forward towards becoming human.

The difference in so-called “primitive” and more evolved features could have something to do with how ancient hominids adapted to their environments. Though H. Naledi lived much later than other species with relatively small skulls, this part of its morphology may have given it an advantage where it lived. The same could be said of the teeth of the yet-unknown species that seem to be mismatched to its bones. While these hominids may have needed teeth that could withstand the wear and tear of tough plants and possibly meat, the rest of their environment might have not demanded a bulky body for survival.

Finding out the fossil’s age may reveal something more, so nobody evolve any more until those results are in.