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mary caperton morton

Asian bats resist white nose fungus

White Nose Syndrome has devastated bats across North America in recent years, but possible genetic resistance to the fungus has now been identified in some species of Asian bats. Researchers comparing North American and Chinese bat populations in a new study have found lower levels of infection — and greater capacities for recovery — in bats from five cave sites in China.

27 Jul 2016

On the trail of Hannibal's army - and elephants - in the Alps

In the third century B.C., during the Second Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians, Carthaginian general Hannibal led a massive army over the Alps to invade Italy from the supposedly impenetrable north. It is one of the most famously brazen moves in military history, but the exact route that Hannibal’s army — which included tens of thousands of foot soldiers and cavalrymen, thousands of horses and nearly 40 elephants — took through the mountains has long been a mystery. Now, a team has found microbial evidence that a large number of horses crossed the Alps from France into Italy over the 3,000-meter Col de la Traversette pass around 218 B.C. But not everybody is convinced that the Traversette pass route matches detailed historical accounts of Hannibal’s journey.

24 Jul 2016

Jawless fish more like jawed fish than thought

Vertebrates come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing almost all have in common are jaws, which developed early in vertebrate evolution. Jawless fish, which evolved about 530 million years ago and are thought to be more primitive than their jawed relatives, are an exception. According to a new study, however, the brains of jawless fish have more in common with the brains of jawed vertebrates than previously thought.

24 Jul 2016

Denisovan DNA found in modern Pacific Islanders, ancient Spaniards

In the time that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were coexisting — and interbreeding — there was at least one more human species on the landscape, the Denisovans. First identified from a 41,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in Siberia, the Denisovans are now thought to have been widespread around Eurasia. In two new studies, scientists have shed additional light on the relationship of Denisovans to other humans, finding new traces of Denisovan DNA in ancient and modern genomes.

23 Jul 2016

Giant turbidite in Mediterranean Sea linked to ancient earthquake and tsunami

In A.D. 365, a giant earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 8 or higher struck the eastern Mediterranean, devastating Crete and causing widespread destruction throughout Greece, Egypt, Libya and Spain. The event was quickly followed by a tsunami that inundated the southern and eastern Mediterranean coasts, stranding ships as far as 3 kilometers inland. Now, scientists have uncovered evidence of a massive turbidity current triggered by these events in the Mediterranean.

19 Jul 2016

Late Antique Little Ice Age underpinned unrest and upheaval in Europe and Asia

Effects of climate change on society aren’t just a contemporary concern. A new study has found that a cold snap in the sixth and seventh centuries may have been the catalyst for a period of societal turmoil, marked by famine, plague and political tumult.

06 Jul 2016

Earthquakes can jump long distances

Earthquakes are known to “jump” from one fault to another, with the ground ­shaking from one rupture triggering movement on nearby faults. However, evidence for earthquake transference between faults separated by more than a few kilometers has been scarce. Now, researchers looking at two closely timed earthquakes that struck Pakistan in 1997 suggest that earthquakes can jump between faults more than 50 kilometers apart, a finding that may have implications for hazard projections in Southern California and elsewhere.

04 Jul 2016

Could early Homo pass the sniff test?

Like modern humans, early hominins walked upright and had opposable thumbs, but their faces were more ape-like, with flattened noses and protruding foreheads. It wasn’t until the evolution of the genus Homo that hominin faces began to look more human — flatter overall but with protruding noses. Along with changes in external appearance came internal changes as well, though these are less well understood as soft-tissue structures preserved in the fossil record are hard to come by. In a new study, researchers comparing both modern human and nonhuman primate nasal cavities offer some clues as to how our respiratory system evolved on the inside to compensate for the changes on the outside.

01 Jul 2016

Slow-moving super-eruptions still travel great distances

When Hollywood movies depict the destruction unleashed by volcanic eruptions, they usually focus on red-hot lava, but even more dangerous are pyroclastic flows: mixtures of rocky debris and searing hot ash and gas that move as fast as 700 kilometers per hour and can bulldoze, incinerate and suffocate anything in their paths. In a new study looking at pyroclastic flow deposits associated with the Silver Creek Caldera in the southwestern U.S., researchers have found that not all pyroclastic flows are so swift. Dense, slow-moving flows can still wreak havoc over vast distances.

29 Jun 2016

Giant armadillo look-alikes really were giant armadillos

Due to coincidences of evolution, extinct creatures sometimes resemble living animals, even if they’re not actually related. But in a new study looking at the family tree of glyptodonts, armored beasts resembling giant armadillos that once roamed South America, researchers have found that the animals actually were early relatives of modern armadillos.

24 Jun 2016

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