Climate and Atmospheric Science (2021)4:45

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-021-00202-wI

Increasing heat and rainfall extremes now far outside the historical climate 

Alexander Robinson, Jascha Lehmann, David Barriopedro , Stefan Rahmstorf  and Dim Coumou 

AbstractOver the last decade, the world warmed by 0.25 °C, in-line with the roughly linear trend since the 1970s. Here we present updated analyses showing that this seemingly small shift has led to the emergence of heat extremes that would be virtually impossible without anthropogenic global warming. Also, record rainfall extremes have continued to increase worldwide and, on average, 1 in 4 rainfall records in the last decade can be attributed to climate change. Tropical regions, comprised of vulnerable countries that typically contributed least to anthropogenic climate change, continue to see the strongest increase in extremes. 

Opening paragraphs

The year 2020 was marked by a range of intense extreme weather events around the globe, including heat waves and wildfires, heavy rainfall resulting in flooding, and a record-breaking Atlantic Hurricane season. The year started with 377 mm of rain on January 1st in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, a record amount in observations stretching back to 1866, causing widespread flooding and displacing 30,000 people1. Often, record events result when natural variability and the influence of long-term climate change act in the same direction. For example, La Niña conditions tend to weaken vertical wind shear over the Atlantic and favor Hurricane formation2, in agreement with the large number of 30 named tropical storms in 2020. Still, the intensity of the storms, as well as the rapid intensification of 9 of those Hurricanes, are mostly driven by ocean temperatures which have been warming due to long- term climate change3. 

While this combination of natural variability and long-term climate change fundamentally holds for heat extremes as well, we are now entering an era with heat extremes that simply would not have occurred without climate change. For example, event- attribution analyses have shown that the prolonged heat-wave conditions in both Siberia and Australia in 2020 would have been virtually impossible without climate change4,5. The Siberian heat wave resulted in massive forest fires (releasing an estimated 56 Megatons of CO2) and infrastructure collapse by permafrost melting4, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency. A state of emergency was also declared for the Australian bushfires, associated with the exceptional summer heat from late 2019 to February 2020, also known as the Black Summer6. The fires caused disastrous impacts including at least 34 fatalities, hazardous air quality affecting millions of residents, nearly 6,000 buildings destroyed, and the loss of the lives of an estimated 0.5−1.5 billion wild animals7. Meanwhile, the area burned by the Amazon forest fire of 2019 has only been beaten by that of 20208. These, as well as record forest fires of 2020 in California and Colorado, were all initiated under periods of extreme heat9,10. Also, the record temperatures in parts of the US and Canada in 2021 (with almost 50 °C at 50°N) have been shown to be virtually impossible without the human-influence on climate11. It is becoming increasingly clear that the background conditions driving these destructive, prolonged heat waves only exist due to anthropogenic climate change. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~”The big challenge is still to deliver emissions reductions at the pace and scale needed, especially in a world where economies are driven by consumption.”

Sonja van Renssen.The inconvenient truth of failed climate policies. Nature Climate Change  MAY 2018

Are we eating ourselves to extinction?

‘In creating fields of identical wheat, we abandoned thousands of highly adapted and resilient varieties’
‘In creating fields of identical wheat, we abandoned thousands of highly adapted and resilient varieties.’ Photograph: uchar/Getty Images

It’s not just animals that are at risk of dying out, the world’s crops are in rapid decline. Here’s why it matters what is on your plateDan SaladinoFri 17 Sep 2021 07.00 EDT

In eastern Turkey, in a golden field overshadowed by grey mountains, I reached out and touched an endangered species. Its ancestors had evolved over millions of years and migrated here long ago. It had been indispensable to life in the villages across this plateau, but its time was running out. “Just a few fields left,” the farmer said. “Extinction will come easily.” This endangered species wasn’t a rare bird or an elusive wild animal, it was food, a type of wheat: a less familiar character in the extinction story now playing out around the world, but one we all need to know.

To most of us, one field of wheat might look much like any other, but this crop was extraordinary. Kavilca (pronounced Kav-all-jah) had turned eastern Anatolian landscapes the colour of honey for 400 generations (about 10,000 years). It was one of the world’s earliest cultivated foods, and is now one of the rarest.

A banana plantation in Vietnam.
All the fruit in one basket? A banana plantation in Vietnam. Photograph: Quynh Anh Nguyen/Getty Images

How can a food be close to extinction and yet at the same time appear to be everywhere? The answer is that one type of wheat is different from another, and many varieties are at risk, including ones with important characteristics we need to combat crop diseases or climate change. Kavilca’s rarity is emblematic of the mass extinction taking place in our food.Advertisement

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Many aspects of our lives are becoming more homogeneous. We can shop from identical outlets, see the same brands and buy into the same fashions around the world. The same is true of our diet. In a short space of time it has become possible for us to eat the same food wherever we are, creating an edible form of uniformity. “But hang on,” you might say, “I eat a greater variety of foods than my parents or grandparents ever did.” And on one level, that is true. Whether you’re in London, Los Angeles or Lima, you can eat sushi, curry, or McDonald’s; bite into an avocado, banana or mango; sip a Coca-Cola, a Budweiser or a branded bottle of water. What we’re being offered appears at first to be diverse, until you realise it is the same kind of “diversity” that is spreading around the globe in identical fashion.

Consider these facts: the source of much of the world’s food – seeds – is mostly in the control of just four corporations; half of all the world’s cheeses are produced with bacteria or enzymes manufactured by a single company; one in four beers drunk around the world is the product of one brewer; from the US to China, most global pork production is based around the genetics of a single breed of pig; and, perhaps most famously, although there are more than 1,500 different varieties of banana, global trade is dominated by just one, the Cavendish.

The source of much of the world’s food – seeds – is mostly in the control of just four corporations

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This level of uniformity has never been experienced before. The human diet has undergone more change in the last 150 years (roughly six generations) than in the entire previous one million years (around 40,000 generations). We are living and eating our way through one big unparalleled experiment.

For most of our evolution as a species, as hunter-gatherers and then as farmers, human diets were enormously varied. Our food was the product of a place and crops were adapted to a particular environment, shaped by the knowledge and the preferences of the people who lived there as well as the climate, soil, water and even altitude. This diversity was stored and passed on in the seeds farmers saved, in the flavours of the fruits and vegetables people grew, the breeds of animals they reared, the bread they baked, the cheeses they produced and the drinks they made.

Kavilca wheat is one of the survivors of disappearing diversity, but only just. It has a distinctive history and a connection to a specific part of the world and its people. It is only during our lifetimes that this singular grain, perfectly adapted to its environment and with a taste like no other, has become endangered and pushed to the brink of extinction. The same is true of many thousands of other crops and foods. We should all know their stories and the reasons for their decline, because our survival depends on it.

Kavilca wheat in Turkey.
A food future from the past … a field of Kavilca wheat in Turkey. Photograph: Dan Saladino

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My entry into food journalism took place during a crisis. It was 2008, and while the world was mostly focusing on the financial turmoil ripping through the banking system, a momentous food story was also unfolding. Wheat, rice and maize prices were spiralling to record highs, tripling on global markets at their peak. This pushed tens of millions of the poorest people on Earth towards hunger and also fuelled the tensions that later exploded into the Arab spring. Riots and protests toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt and helped trigger the conflict in Syria. For the first time in decades, people were asking serious questions about the future of our food. With 7.5 billion people on Earth and a projected 10 billion by 2050, crop scientists began telling the world that global harvests needed to increase by 70%. Calling for greater diversity seemed liked an indulgence. But now we’re starting to realise that diversity is essential for our future.

Trail pic for Arab springs interactive

Evidence of this shift in thinking came in September 2019 at the climate action summit held at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Emmanuel Faber, then CEO of the dairy giant Danone, told the business leaders and politicians present that the food system the world had created over the last century was at a dead end. “We thought with science we could change the cycle of life and its rules,” he said, that we could feed ourselves with monocultures and base most of the world’s food supply on a handful of plants. This approach was now bankrupt, Faber explained. “We’ve been killing life and now we need to restore it.”

Faber was making a pledge to save diversity backed by 20 global food businesses, including Unilever, Nestlé, Mars and Kellogg’s – companies with combined annual food sales in 100 countries of about $500bn. At the event, Faber expressed concern that in parts of the dairy industry 99% of the cows are a single breed, the Holstein. “It’s oversimplistic now,” he said of the global food system. “We have a complete loss of diversity.”

CEO of Danone Emmanuel Faber speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the UN in New York in 2019.
CEO of Danone Emmanuel Faber speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the UN in New York in 2019. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

If the businesses that helped create and spread homogeneity in our food are now voicing concerns over lost diversity, then we should all take notice. The enormity of what we’re losing is only now dawning on us, but if we act now, we can save it.Advertisementhttps://0a90b976fd064af9248bf032dfb3f569.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The decline in the diversity of our food, and the fact that so many foods have become endangered, didn’t happen by accident: it is an entirely human-made problem. The biggest loss of crop diversity came in the decades that followed the second world war when, in an attempt to save millions from starvation, crop scientists found ways to produce grains such as rice and wheat on a phenomenal scale. To grow the extra food the world desperately needed, thousands of traditional varieties were replaced by a small number of new super-productive ones. The strategy that ensured this – more agrochemicals, more irrigation, plus new genetics – came to be known as the “green revolution”.

The Hadza people in east Africa are some of the last  hunter-gatherers in the world.
The Hadza people in east Africa are some of the last hunter-gatherers in the world. Photograph: chuvipro/Getty Images

Because of it, grain production tripled, and between 1970 and 2020 the human population more than doubled. But the danger of creating more uniform crops is that they become vulnerable to catastrophes. A global food system that depends on just a narrow selection of plants is at greater risk of succumbing to diseases, pests and climate extremes.

Although the green revolution was based on ingenious science, it attempted to oversimplify nature, and this is starting to backfire on us. In creating fields of identical wheat, we abandoned thousands of highly adapted and resilient varieties. Far too often their valuable traits were lost. We’re starting to see our mistake – there was wisdom in what went before.

Of the 6,000 plant species humans have eaten over time, the world now mostly eats just nine, of which just three – rice, wheat and maize – provide 50% of all calories. Add potato, barley, palm oil, soy and sugar (beet and cane) and you have 75% of all the calories that fuel our species. As thousands of foods have become endangered and extinct, a small number have risen to dominance. Take soy, domesticated in China thousands of years ago, a bean relatively obscure outside Asia until the 1970s and now one of the world’s most traded agricultural commodities. Used in feed for pigs, chickens, cattle and farmed fish, which in turn feed us, soy plays a starring role in an increasingly homogeneous diet eaten by billions of people. These dietary shifts taking place at a global level, all pointing towards uniformity, are unprecedented.Advertisement

An individual human diet even a few thousand years ago was far richer in diversity than the one most of us eat today. In the Jutland peninsula of western Denmark in 1950, peat diggers discovered the intact body of a man who had been executed (or possibly sacrificed) 2,500 years ago. Inside the man’s stomach was a porridge made with barley, flax and the seeds of 40 different plants. In present-day east Africa, the Hadza, who are among the last of the world’s hunter-gatherers, eat from a potential wild menu that consists of more than 800 plant and animal species, including numerous types of tubers, berries, leaves, small mammals, large game, birds and types of honey. We can’t replicate their diets in the industrialised world but we can learn from them.

I am not calling for a return to some kind of halcyon past. But I do think we should consider what the past can teach us about how to inhabit the world now and in the future. Our current food system is contributing to the destruction of the planet: one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction; we clear swathes of forests to plant immense monocultures and then burn through millions of barrels of oil a day to make fertilisers to feed them. We are farming on borrowed time.

Dan Saladino in a Turkish wheatfield.
Dan Saladino in a Turkish wheatfield. Photograph: Dan Saladino

I can’t claim saving endangered foods will provide answers to all of these problems, but I believe it should be part of the solution. Kavilca wheat, for example, can thrive in conditions so cold and damp that modern crops are guaranteed to fail. Bere barley is a food so perfectly adapted to the harsh environment of Orkney that no fertilisers or other chemicals are needed for it to grow. And murnong, a juicy, nutritious and once abundant root from southern Australia, is proof that the world has much to learn from indigenous peoples about eating more in harmony with nature.Advertisementhttps://0a90b976fd064af9248bf032dfb3f569.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The concept of being endangered and at risk of extinction is usually reserved for wildlife. Since the 1960s, the red list, compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has catalogued vulnerable plant and animal species (about 105,000 at the time of writing), highlighting those at risk of extinction (nearly 30,000).The way we eat is killing us – and the planetFelicity LawrenceRead more

A version of the red list dedicated solely to food was created in the mid-1990s by Italy’s Slow Food movement and named the Ark of Taste. The group that created it saw that when a food, a local product or crop became endangered, so too did a way of life, knowledge and skill, a local economy and an ecosystem. Their call to respect diversity captured the imaginations of farmers, cooks and campaigners from around the world, who started to add their own endangered foods to the Ark.

As I write, the Ark of Taste contains 5,312 foods from 130 countries, with 762 products on a waiting list ready to be assessed. I have met many people saving endangered foods, including the farmer who showed me the rare field of Kavilca wheat. There are likely to be other champions in your own part of the world. You can help, too, by finding the foods that are endangered in your area, whether an apple variety or a local cheese. By eating these, you can help to save them. Such foods represent much more than sustenance. They are history, identity, pleasure, culture, geography, genetics, science, creativity and craft. And our future.

This is an edited extract from Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino, to be published by Jonathan Cape on 23

Scientists Just Identified Another Mysterious Surge in The Atmosphere Due to Humans

CARLY CASSELLA15 SEPTEMBER 2021

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-identify-yet-another-rising-atmospheric-emission-due-to-humans

Levels of molecular hydrogen (H2) in the atmosphere have surged in modern times due to human activity, according to new research.

When scientists analyzed air samples trapped in drilled cores of Antarctica’s ice, they found atmospheric hydrogen had increased 70 percent over the course of the 20th century.https://ee995e3b7d42c2062ca2efcd673d1e90.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Even as recent air pollution laws have sought to curb fossil fuel emissions, hydrogen emissions have continued to surge with no signs of slowing down. And there’s a chance that leakage is to blame.

Molecular hydrogen is a natural component of our atmosphere due to the breakdown of formaldehyde, but it is also a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, especially from automobile exhaust, and biomass burning.

While hydrogen doesn’t trap heat in the atmosphere on its own, it can indirectly impact the distribution of methane and ozone. After carbon dioxide, these are the two most important greenhouse gases, which means global hydrogen levels can also perturb the climate.

Nevertheless, the sources and sinks of atmospheric hydrogen are rarely studied. We don’t even have a good estimate of how much humans have emitted since industrial times.

The current study is the first to offer up a solid figure. Between 1852 and 2003, air samples from near the South Pole of Antarctica suggest atmospheric hydrogen jumped from 330 parts per billion to 550 parts per billion.

“Aging air is trapped in the perennial snowpack above an ice sheet, and sampling it gives us a highly accurate account of atmospheric composition over time,” explains Earth scientist John Patterson from the University of California Irvine.

“Our paleoatmospheric reconstruction of H2 levels has greatly enhanced our understanding of anthropogenic emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution.”

The news isn’t exactly good. As it turns out, we may have been significantly underestimating our hydrogen emissions.

Some tailpipe emissions have been mitigated in recent years with the use of catalytic converters, and ideally we would have seen hydrogen emissions decrease or even plateau as well.

Yet hydrogen levels have continued to rise in the atmosphere, almost uninterrupted.

“[W]e are likely underestimating nonautomotive sources of the gas,” says Patterson.

Instead, there must be another rapidly increasing source that is offsetting our progress in the automobile industry – we just don’t know where it’s coming from.

This isn’t the only dataset to identify such a discrepancy. Prior research has also shown a consistent rise in hydrogen from 2000 and 2015, distinct from trends in other forms of exhaust pollution.

In terms of human-caused emissions, hydrogen emissions are thought to mostly come from automobile exhaust, but hydrogen leakage from industrial processes is rarely considered.

No one has directly measured how much hydrogen leaks from these processes, but initial estimates suggest it could be significant. 

A 10 percent leakage rate between 1985 and 2005 would account for roughly half the rise in recent hydrogen emissions, researchers estimate.

They can’t be sure this is where the hydrogen is coming from – hydrogen emissions from coal combustion are also seriously understudied – but the authors argue it’s worth investigating more.

Especially since green hydrogen processes, which split hydrogen from water to create carbon-free power, could also result in substantial leakage if they are one day scaled up, as some climate scientists and environmentalists hope they will be.

This isn’t a new worry. It’s a concern scientists have been pointing out for years now.

If hydrogen one day leaks from industrialized hydrogen gas plants, experts are troubled it could increase the lifetime of methane in our atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Although, even with a small percentage of leaks, a global hydrogen economy would likely have far lower climate impacts than our existing fossil fuel-based energy system, researchers estimate.

Scientists are now on the hunt to find the mysterious source of hydrogen we seem to have been missing all along. If at least some of it turns out to be leakage, the future of green hydrogen might have a problem in need of solving.

The study was published in PNAS.

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-identify-yet-another-rising-atmospheric-emission-due-to-humans

China reports first human case

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announced Tuesday that a 41-year-old man had been confirmed as the first human case of infection with a rare avian flu called H10N3. The case was recorded in the Chinese province of Jiangsu in eastern China. Many different strains of bird flu exist in China, and some infect people sporadically, usually those who work with poultry. There is currently no evidence that H10N3 can be easily transmitted to humans.

The man, a resident of Zhenjiang City, was hospitalized on April 18 and diagnosed with H10N3 on May 28, the health commission said. He did not give any details about the man’s infection. It is now stable and ready to be released. Investigation of his close contacts revealed no other cases, the NHC said. No other cases of human infection with H10N3 have been reported worldwide, the commission said.

A weakly pathogenic virus

H10N3 is low in pathogen, which means it causes relatively less severe disease in poultry and is unlikely to cause widespread epidemic, the NHC added. The strain is “not a very common virus,” said Filip Claes, regional laboratory coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Emergency Center for Cross-Border Animal Diseases at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Analysis of the virus’ genetic data will be needed to determine if it looks like older viruses or if it is a new mix of different viruses, Claes said. Since the H7N9 strain killed around 300 people between 2016 and 2017, there have been no significant number of human infections with avian flu.

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.