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Ancient floods degassed Lake Kivu

The deep, cold waters of Lake Kivu — a stratified volcanic lake in the East African Rift Valley on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — hold 300 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide gas and 60 cubic kilometers of methane, which seep from magmatic sources below the lake. An overturning of the thermally stratified waters could release those deadly gases onto a population of nearly 2 million.
16 Sep 2015

Earliest stone tools pre-date Homo

Tool making is thought to be one of the defining characteristics of the transition from apes to early man. Now, the discovery of a set of stone tools dating to 3.3 million years ago is pushing back this critical stage of early human development by more than half a million years, and, according to one researcher involved, disproving “the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool maker.”

05 Sep 2015

One whale's incredible journey details East Africa's uplift

About 17 million years ago, a 7-meter-long beaked whale took a wrong turn off Africa’s east coast and swam hundreds of kilometers up the Anza River before stranding. In 1964, the fossilized remains of the wayward whale were discovered at high elevation in West Turkana, Kenya, and then transported to the U.S., where they were subsequently lost in storage for more than 30 years before being rediscovered at Harvard in 2011. The whale’s incredible journey is now providing crucial clues about the timing of uplift in East Africa.
07 Jul 2015

Monkeys in the New World earlier than thought

Monkeys originated in Africa, but how and when they first appeared in Central and South America has long been something of a mystery. Now, a new set of fossilized teeth places monkeys in South America about 10 million years earlier than previously thought.

07 Jun 2015

The new anthropology: From bones and stones to biology and behavior

Paleoanthropology is embracing a more integrated approach to understanding our ancestors’ biology and behavior, overturning long-held narratives of human evolution.

15 May 2015

Out of Africa, time and again

There is widespread agreement among scientists based on fossil and geochemical evidence that modern humans evolved in Africa between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago before spreading around the world. But the timing and route of this dispersal, and whether it occurred as a single exodus or in multiple pulses, remain contested. Now, a new study throws its weight behind a multiple-dispersal hypothesis, suggesting a first group of modern humans left Africa as early as 130,000 years ago, followed by a second about 80,000 years later.

27 Sep 2014

Benchmarks: August 15, 1984 & August 21, 1986: African killer lakes erupt

Only three lakes in the world are known to explosively release dissolved gases from their bottom waters. All three are in Africa; two have erupted with deadly consequences.

18 Aug 2014

Mapping how malaria risk changes as new dams go up

Malaria is considered a leading public health problem in Ethiopia, with almost 70 percent of the total population at risk from the deadly disease. Combining computer simulations with field data from the Ethiopian countryside, researchers are studying how hydroelectric dams affect malaria prevalence. The hope is that the new research could provide fresh insight for malarial management programs. 

20 Apr 2014

Oceanic records paint a more complex picture of human evolution

It has long been hypothesized that human ancestors evolved the ability to walk upright — a feature that appeared about 6 million years ago — in response to African landscapes changing from forests to grasslands. Now, a group of scientists has assembled the most continuous timeline of landscape evolution and grassland development over the last 12 million years near the African Rift Valley in northeastern Africa — and the timeline contradicts conventional hypotheses.

17 Jun 2013

Modern humans arrived in South Asia 25,000 years later than previously thought?

Figuring out when modern humans left Africa and migrated throughout the world is a complicated task. For example, some evidence suggests modern humans may have migrated out of Africa and into Asia as early as 120,000 years ago. Further evidence puts modern humans in India and other parts of South Asia prior to the super-eruption of Mount Toba in Sumatra, which took place 74,000 years ago.

13 Jun 2013