Mummies found buried on ships in a desert in China have unexpected origins

New techniques in Ancient DNA analyzes are providing increasingly tantalizing details about prehistory, including some of the latest scientific discoveries from last week.

I’m Katie Hunt, replacing Ashley Strickland, who is on vacation.

In an inhospitable desert in northwest China, hundreds of incredibly intact mummies, buried in ships, were discovered in the 1990s. Bronze Age mummies date back 4,000 years. Its identity has puzzled archaeologists for a long time.

In a new study, scientists sequenced the genomes of 13 of the bodies and found that they were descendants of hunter-gatherers from the ice age.

While this population was genetically isolated, the clothing of the mummies and the food in their unusual tombs suggested that they interacted extensively with other groups living in the region at the same time. But the ships in which they were buried remain a mystery.

Change of climate

Ancient DNA that contains secrets from the past is not only found in old bones.

All animals, including humans, shed genetic material when they lose their hair, shed dead skin cells, pee, poop and bleeding. This genetic material seeps into the ground, where it can remain for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years, when conditions are right.

To track down the whereabouts of woolly mammoths and other giant ice age creatures, scientists took soil samples from locations across the Arctic, extracting DNA from permafrost and sediment. in an ambitious study.

Competing theories have been debated for a century, but what the research team found suggested that it was climate change that doomed mammoths to extinction. In fact, the last battle of this megafauna took place in a unique arctic ecosystem that does not exist today.

Other worlds

This composite image shows the Whirlpool Galaxy, with X-rays from Chandra and optical light from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope containing a box marking the location of the possible candidate planet.
The first planet outside our own solar system was discovered in 1995, an award-winning feat. the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2019.

We currently know more than 4,000 of these exoplanets. However, all identified exoplanets rotate within the Milky Way, our local galaxy, and are less than 3,000 light years away.

Now, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory may have detected signs of the first transiting planet from a star outside the Milky Way. Located in the Whirlpool Galaxy, the possible planet would be about 28 million light years away.

However, due to its large orbit, it will be up to the next generation of astronomers to confirm whether scientists have discovered an extragalactic exoplanet, using a strategy involving X-ray wavelengths.

Fantastic creatures

This might just be the weirdest cute animal you’ve ever heard of. Dicynodonts lived from about 270 million to 201 million years ago, before the rise of the dinosaurs. From rat to elephant size, these creatures had a turtle-shaped head and fangs that protruded from the upper jaw.

Their fossils are shedding light on the evolution of a surprising piece of anatomy common to mammals alive today (think hippos, wild boars, walruses, and elephants), but not found in birds, fish, or reptiles: Dicynodonts. they were the first animals to wear fangs.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a single time in their evolutionary history when tusks evolved, the researchers learned, but the variations shared a combination of characteristics found in mammals today.

Wild kingdom

This lemur has a rhythm.  A male indri is displayed in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Madagascar.

If you’ve ever caught the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” you have more in common with the lemurs of Madagascar than you might think.

It turns out that the rhythm patterns in that song are shared by intriguing vocalizations made by our primate cousin the Indri indri, an endangered species of lemur that is one of the few animal species with a sense of rhythm.

Discovering this was not easy: the researchers spent years tracking indris to capture recordings of them singing in the jungle pavilion. The results could expand our understanding of the origins of rhythmic skills.

The wonder

Before you leave:

– A new type of DNA analysis has revealed the closest living relative of the legendary Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
– Incidents of great white sharks biting humans are believed to be a case of mistaken identity, and now the latest research shows why this can really be what’s going on.
Marvel at the captivating images which won the British Ecological Society photography contest.
And to commemorate this Halloween, take a look the science behind the fear – whether you are a skittish cat or love a good scare.

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