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Previously Unknown Human Relative Found On Philippine Island

Thirteen fossil bones and teeth excavated in a cave in the Philippines represent an enigmatic previously unknown human species, probably small in stature and possessing an unexpected mix of archaic and modern traits.

The discovery of remains of at least three individuals from this species, named Homo luzonensis, in Callao Cave on the northern part of the island of Luzon marked the second time in the 21st century that a bygone member of the human family has been found on southeast Asian islands.

The researchers were unable to extract DNA but did determine that one of the individuals lived 67,000 years ago and the other 50,000 years ago.

Previously Unknown Human Relative Found On Philippine Island

Reconstruction of female Homo floresiensis (Image Source)

Another ‘Hobbit’?

In 2003, fossils of another island-dwelling species – Homo floresiensis, dubbed the “Hobbit” due to its diminutive size – were unearthed in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, some 1,800 miles (3,000 km) from the Luzon site. There is no indication the two species interacted or were closely related.

Homo luzonensis was a contemporary not only of the Hobbit but of our own species, Homo sapiens, which emerged in Africa roughly 300,000 years ago.

The scientists said they could not rule out the possibility that the arrival of our species in the region contributed to the demise of Homo luzonensis. The Hobbit also disappeared about 50,000 years ago at the same time Homo sapiens was spreading through the region.

 More clues to human origins

The Luzon and Flores discoveries demonstrate that the story of human evolution is more complicated than previously understood, with Asia offering up surprises, potentially with more to come, the researchers said.

The researchers were circumspect in describing the physical appearance and lifestyle of Homo luzonensis, known only from a sparse assemblage of hand and foot bones, and teeth from two adults and one juvenile, with no skull fossils. Based on tooth size in particular, it appears it might have been much smaller than Homo sapiens, but it is unclear whether it was as little as the Hobbit, which was roughly 3-1/2 feet (1 meter) tall.

“We have to stay cautious about it, especially because people will immediately have Homo floresiensis in mind as a ‘model’ for the physical appearance of Homo luzonensis, which was certainly not the case,” said paleoanthropologist Florent Détroit of the Musée de l’Homme-Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

“We can only speculate but it might be only in the range of a pygmy Homo sapiens,” added archaeologist Armand Mijares, leader of the Callao Archaeological Project.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Based on animal bones with butchering marks found at the site, it appears these people ate meat and may have used stone tools, Détroit said.

The fossils from the seven-chamber cave, situated in the foothills of Luzon’s northern Sierra Madre mountains, boasted a combination of anatomical features setting it apart from other human species.

Some characteristics were similar to Homo sapiens as well as the Hobbit. Other traits were so archaic that they resembled Australopithecus, an earlier member of the human evolutionary lineage that died out roughly 2 million years ago, as well as the ancient human species Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

“For years – and until less than 20 years ago – human evolution in Asia was seen as very simple, with Homo erectus going out of Africa, settling in east and southeast Asia, and then nothing happened until the arrival of Homo sapiens at around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago and its ‘conquest’ of every region on Earth,” Détroit said.

“With the discoveries made on the field – fossils – and in the lab, for instance genetics, we now know that it was a much more complex evolutionary history, with several distinct species contemporaneous with Homo sapiens, interbreeding events, extinctions, et cetera,” Détroit added. “Homo sapiens was definitely not alone on Earth.”

source:Nature /DailySabah

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Planet Earth

33ft ‘frozen dragon’ pterosaur found in Canada

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 PaleoEquii

Cryodrakon was absolutely enormous. 

Palaeontologists have identified one of the largest flying creatures ever to live on planet Earth.

This gargantuan creature, which soared through the Cretaceous skies over 76 million years ago, has been named Cryodrakon boreas, which means ‘frozen dragon of the north.’

Originally discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta 30 years ago, the partial skeleton had been mistaken for another genus of pterosaur until very recently when a new analysis enabled experts to finally recognize it as a new species.

Thought to stand 9ft tall and with a weight of 250kg, this enormous flying reptile would have likely feasted on just about anything, including small dinosaurs.

Its 33ft wingspan – which would have made it similar in size to a small plane – is almost three times that of the wandering albatross which has the largest known wingspan of any living bird.

“These are among the most popular and charismatic of all fossil animals,” said Michael Habib from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. “They have been inspiration for countless movie monsters, they were critical parts of global ecosystems worldwide during the age of dinosaurs, so they are key to understanding the ecology and extinctions of that time.”

“Just like flying animals today, [they] could carry important clues about how animals at the time responded to major changes in climate.”

Source: Independent

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Planet Earth

Meteor Fireball Streaking Across the North Carolina Sky Captured by Dashcam

A car dashcam recorded a fireball streaking across the night sky in North Carolina.

An ABC11 viewer recorded the video Thursday night while driving on Raleigh Road in Wilson toward Airport Boulevard.

In the top right of the screen, a bright light can be seen entering the frame and streaking toward the horizon for about three seconds.

According to the American Meteor Society, as many as 20 witnesses from South Carolina to Virginia reported seeing something similar around 8:07 p.m.

With all of the reports are taken into consideration, AMS projects the fireball’s trajectory happened off the coast of Morehead City.

abc11.com

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Defending the Amazon, Indigenous Rights & Planetary Integrity

As the Amazon Rainforest crisis persists, our inability to protect our planet poses an existential threat to all of Earth’s inhabitants. As the sky recently turned black over Sao Paulo, Brazil because of smoke (thousands of kilometers away) from the fires that is so thick it can be viewed by NASA space satellites, the world’s leaders were assembled at the G-7 summit in Europe, seemingly more interested in exchanging sophomoric insults than solving the world’s most pressing and urgent problems.  According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, almost 73,000 forest fires have been documented this year alone. That’s an alarming 84% increase from what was observed in 2018. 

As Indigenous groups and conservationists scramble to defend the lungs of our planet, Brazil’ President Jair Bolsonaro audaciously shrugged off the news and blamed NGO’s and Indigenous groups for the glaring uptick in fires in the Amazon. Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has promised to roll back environmental protections and indigenous rights in order to exploit the Amazon for increased farming and mining, and he has made good on that promise.

Invasion of indigenous territories are on the rise in Brazil, and indigenous groups are increasingly under threat as titans of industry within mining, logging, and animal farming continue to encroach upon indigenous land and destroy precious parcels of the Amazon for commercial exploitation.   Bolsonaro has emboldened these invasions. Recently, a group of heavily armed miners invaded indigenous land in Northern Brazil and assassinated one of the community’s indigenous leaders.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil are once again on the front lines today of one of the most brutal attacks on their rights and on the forest in recent history. We’re now seeing the drastic rollback of 30 years of progress on human rights and environmental protection in Brazil under Bolsonaro’s regime, which romanticizes Brazil’s past when military dictatorship took helm and presided over wanton destruction of the forest. The Munduruku people have been resisting encroachment and destruction of their land for centuries, and their fight (along with other indigenous groups and the very spirit of the Amazon jungle itself) is more urgent than ever as Brazil’s government and commercial industries continue to violate with impunity.

The tragedy currently taking place in the Amazon is indicative of a broader cultural problem in regards to our relationship with our planet. 1/5th of all the world’s plants and birds and about 1/10th of all mammal species are found in the Amazon. Earth has lost half its wildlife in the past four decades. Based on an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species by the wildlife group WWF and the Zoological Society of London, our way of life has presided over the destruction of 60% of our animal populations since 1970. The report calculates a global “ecological footprint,” which measures the area required to supply the ecological goods and services humans use. It concludes that humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to supply these goods and services each year.

With the planet’s population expected to grow by 2.4 billion people by 2050, the challenge of providing enough food, water and energy (while sustaining planetary health) will be difficult. This should be the real “RED ALERT” placated all over the media, as the shocking and rapid decline of planetary biodiversity poses an imminent catastrophe that plagues all of us, requiring urgent and bold alterations to our way of life.

That being said, we have more than enough resources to profit food and shelter to billions of people. Solutions done seem to be the problem, it’s human consciousness, greed and ego.

Outrage is an understandable response to the Amazon crisis, but not sufficient to redress the problem.  We need to take individual action in our daily lives by altering our lifestyles. One of the most under-reported aspects of Amazonian deforestation is our addiction to consuming meat. Beef, soy, palm oil and wood drive the majority of tropical deforestation.

Animal agriculture is devastating for the Earth. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is a primary factor in the proliferation of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

“1.2 billion farmed animals are slaughtered globally every week for human consumption. In one week, more farmed animals are killed than the total number of people killed in all wars throughout history. Although these animals are treated as commodity, they are — in fact — sentient beings — like your pet cat or dog. We tend to assume that only vegans and vegetarians follow a belief system — but when eating animals is not a necessity (which is the case in much of the world today) — then it is a choice, and choices stem from beliefs. “Carnism” is a dominant philosophy — as eating animals is just the way things are — yet it runs contrary to core human values such as compassion, justice, and authenticity. And so — they need to use defense mechanisms that distort our thoughts and numb our feelings so that we act against our core values without fully realizing what we are even doing.” ~Dr. Melanie Joy  

The challenges that face our planet, our indigenous family, and our own imminent future are immense. It is easy to feel discouraged, angry, and hopeless about the state of the world, but the ability to harness humanity’s intelligence, creativity and compassion to steer the planet in a new direction is with us right now. We can take individual responsibility today, which can resonate immediately and create waves of influence that can lead to a collective change in behavior and attitudinal shift towards our relationship with nature and with ourselves.  This change starts from within, and this work begins with each of us making the choice to defend and protect this wondrous planet which has so graciously hosted our livelihood.

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