A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Ancient DNA brings us closer to unlocking secrets of how modern humans evolved

Credit: Getty images

Advances in studying ancient DNA from prehistoric remains provide us with new insight into the life of our African ancestors and the emergence of modern human

Humans all share a common African ancestry, making African history everyone's history. Yet little is known about the genetic evolution of people living on the continent in the distant past.

Thanks to advances in genome sequencing technology, scientists are now able to compare the DNA of people alive today with DNA extracted from very old skeletons, giving us a unique snapshot of life in Africa from many thousands of years ago.

In the field of human genetics, the story of Mother Eve is a familiar one. It describes how all living humans descend from one woman who lived in Africa 200 000 to 300 000 years ago.

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Blind cave creatures light the way with DNA

Researchers studying the European olm, and other cave dwellers, believe these strange creatures can provide important answers about evolution and even human eye diseases. © Javier Ábalos Alvarez from Madrid, España, CC BY-SA 2.0

Underground caves fauna could cast light on longevity, surviving starvation, and eye diseases in humans

In watery underground caverns, there are creatures that live in eternal midnight. Over the course of generations, these animals have adapted to their isolated and unique environments, and scientists believe their pasty skin and blind eyes may hold secrets to evolution –– and to genetic adaptations that could cast light on longevity, surviving starvation, and eye diseases in humans.

'These caves are isolated worlds,' said Professor Peter Trontelj, a zoologist at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. 'If you go a couple of metres (below the surface), you enter a new world with totally different ecological conditions.'

Certain animals are able to adapt to these dark habitats where no plants grow, and lightless caves, like those found in Slovenia, are natural laboratories of evolutionary biology.

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Ancient DNA reveals surprises about how early humans lived, traveled and interacted

Credit: Hora Rockshelter in Malawi, where excavations uncovered individuals analyzed in an ancient DNA study; Jacob Davis

New research provides evidence of demographic shifts in sub-Saharan Africa

A new analysis of human remains buried in African archaeological sites has produced the earliest DNA from the continent, telling a fascinating tale of how early humans lived, traveled and even found their significant others.

An interdisciplinary team of 44 researchers outlined its findings in a paper published in Nature. The scientists report findings from ancient DNA from six individuals buried in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia who lived between 18,000 and 5,000 years ago.

"This more than doubles the antiquity of reported ancient DNA data from sub-Saharan Africa," said David Reich of Harvard University, whose lab generated the data in the paper. "The study is particularly exciting as a collaboration of archaeologists and geneticists."

The study also reanalyzed published data from 28 individuals buried at sites across the continent, generating new data for 15 of them. The result was an unprecedented dataset of DNA from ancient African foragers -- people who hunted, gathered or fished. Their genetic legacy is difficult to reconstruct from present-day people because of the many population movements and mixtures that have occurred.

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Amazing Scientific Facts

Credit: Gettyimages

DNA

Have you ever wondered what's the length of information encoded in our genetic memory? One extraordinary way to put it follows like that: there are over 3 billion base pairs of DNA in human genes and over 25,000 genes in the human genome. An entire copy of that genome exists in each of the 10 trillion cells in the human body. If all of that DNA were lined up, it would cover the distance between Earth and the sun 100 times, which is 152.03 million km x 100 = 15,2 billion kilometers.


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