Two million years ago, three different early humans—Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and the earliest-known Homo erectus—appear to have lived at the same time in the same place, near the Drimolen Paleocave System. How much these different species interacted remains unknown. But their contemporaneous existence suggests our ancient relations were quite diverse during a key transitional period of African prehistory that saw the last days of Australopithecus and the dawn of H. erectus’s nearly two-million-year run.
Though archaeology can help us pin down the when and where of dog domestication (current thinking is that it happened at least 15,000 years ago in Europe, Asia, or both), bones are mostly silent on the how and the why of this story. By studying other canids like foxes and wolves, and by analyzing dog genes, behavior, and brains—their sweet, friendly, trusting brains—researchers are developing new ideas about how the big bad wolf became the dear little dog.
When the Denisovan genome was sequenced soon after, in 2012, it revealed similar instances of interbreeding. We now know that small populations from all three Homo lineages mixed and mingled at various times. The result is that our DNA today is speckled with contributions from ancient hominin groups who lived alongside us, but did not survive to the present day. Genes from Denisovans and Neanderthals are not present in everyone’s DNA — for example, some Africans have neither, while Europeans have just Neanderthal genes. But, these genetic echoes are loud enough to stand out clearly to scientists.
The Aldabra white-throated rail, a flightless bird that lives on its namesake atoll in the Indian Ocean, doesn’t look like anything special at first glance. But the small bird has big bragging rights, because it has effectively evolved into existence twice after first going extinct some 136,000 years ago.
Famous for playing the 1956 FA cup final with a broken neck, Trautmann went from Nazi soldier to goalkeeping legend and symbol of truth and reconciliation. Now, his life is the subject of a new film
IN 2011, THE storied space shuttle flew for the last time. Three spacecraft survive in retirement as specimens in museums around the country. But the program isn’t dead yet: Many of its parts are popping up as zombie components in spacecraft now in development.
How the rappers made amends for their early-career misogyny.
The Beastie Boys Book, the cinder-block-shaped testament to three decades of hip-hop shenanigans by Mike D and Ad-Rock, is a conversational and personable trip to a brighter, more fun world. It’s full of stories about MCA’s family dog stealing a pizza and Mike D getting freaked out by Bob Dylan at a party. But a bigger, more hopeful story undergirds the entire book: the Beasties’ journey from the toxic misogyny of their early days to the relative enlightenment of their late career.
Evolutionary anthropologist Dorsa Amir shared the story behind eight intriguing pieces of evolutionary baggage that humans carry with them to this day. These evolutionary leftovers include traits like your tailbone or wisdom teeth and are called vestigial structures.