Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ancient Human Footprints

LiveScience (Feb 26, 2009)

By Jeremy Hsu, Staff Writer

Early humans had feet like ours and left lasting impressions in the form of 1.5 million-year-old footprints, some of which were made by feet that could wear a size 9 men's shoe.

The findings at a Northern Kenya site represent the oldest evidence of modern-human foot anatomy. They also help tell an ancestral story of humans who had fully transitioned from tree-dwellers to land walkers.

"In a sense, it's like putting flesh on the bones," said John Harris, an anthropologist with the Koobi Fora Field School of Rutgers University. "The prints are so well preserved ."

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Monday, February 16, 2009

DNA can build an image of your face

Irish Times (Feb 16, 2009)
By Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor, in Chicago

Forensic science is about to take a startling new turn – reconstructing facial features and skin tone simply by reading your DNA.

This goes far beyond doing an identity-proving genetic fingerprint, it means the person’s actual face will emerge after analysing a collection of genes, according to a scientist from Pennsylvania State University.

The process, “forensic molecular photofitting” relies on mapping genes that are linked to skin pigmentation and in its more complex form, to groups of genes that control facial structure, stated Dr Mark Shriver.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Evolution is speeding up

Seattle Times

By Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times

Blue eyes typically are associated with beauty, or perhaps Frank Sinatra. But to University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks, they represent an evolutionary mystery.

For nearly all of human history, everyone in the world had brown eyes. Then, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the first blue-eyed baby was born somewhere near the Black Sea.

For some reason, that baby's descendants gained a 5 percent evolutionary advantage over their brown-eyed competitors, and today the number of people with blue eyes tops half a billion.

"What does it mean?" said Hawks, who studies the forces that have shaped the human species for the past 6 million years.

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