Plants and Animals

World's Oldest Broken Bone Pushes Back Our Transition to Land by Two Million Years

Photo credit: Morphology of Ossinodus and its fractured right radius, with various views / P.J. Bishop et al., PLoS ONE 2015

Researchers analyzing the world’s oldest broken (and healed) bone have discovered that a 333-million-year-old amphibian-looking critter spent most of its life on land, not water. The findings on this remarkable paleopathology, published in PLoS ONE this month, push back the origin of our early terrestrial ancestors by at least two million years. 

Plants and Animals

Scientists Reconstruct the Life of a Teenage Girl from the Contents of a 3,400-Year-Old Coffin

Photo credit: Close up image of the Bronze Age Egtved Girl’s scalp hair and brain remains as well as her well preserved costume / Karin Margarita Frei, National Museum of Denmark

In 1921, archaeologists excavating near the Danish village of Egtved unearthed a 3,400-year-old oak coffin containing the remains of a high status Bronze Age female between 16 and 18 years old. They called her the Egtved Girl. While no bones survived the partially acidic, waterlogged environment in the coffin, her hair, tooth enamel, nails, and parts of the brain and skin were all preserved. She was buried in wool garments including a blouse and a short, corded skirt, and she had a disc-shaped bronze belt plate, which symbolized the sun.

Plants and Animals

First Snakes Had Cute Ankles And Toes

Photo credit: Julius Csotonyi. / Artist's impression of the first snake species, as scientists have reconstructed it from fossil and genetic relationships

Maybe if snakes had adorable little ankles and toes, we wouldn't be so scared of them. A comparison of 73 snake and lizard species found that early in their evolution, they probably did. That didn't stop them being terrifying predators on small vertebrates, which at the time included our ancestors, who maybe didn't think too much about the cute little hind-limbs while being eaten.

Health and Medicine

Thunder God Vine Extract Makes Obese Mice Rapidly Shed The Pounds

Photo credit: Konstantin Faraktinov on Shutterstock

Obesity is a complex disease, and consequently tackling it is often not as simple as advising lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and reducing calorie intake. While surgical interventions like gastric bands are effective, they’re expensive and extreme options; an effective diet drug would certainly find a place in modern medicine. A few potentials have surfaced recently, and it seems that scientists could have just stumbled upon another: Thunder god vine.

Space

Watch SpaceX's Emergency Pad Abort Test

Photo credit: Dragon spacecraft before launch / SpaceX

There have been enough spaceflight blunders recently to make it abundantly clear that getting things to and from space is no mean feat. And when humans are on board, there really is no room for error. That's why private company SpaceX, together with NASA, have been developing a capsule that will enable astronauts to safely travel to and from the International Space Station in 2017.

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