Straddling the Evolutionary Divide

Just west of Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya, the rocky, arid terrain of the desert badlands, like a southern New Mexico landscape, can wear a hiker down very quickly. Without ample water supply, dehydration becomes one’s worst enemy. Temperatures typically vary between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit with little available shade. Venomous snakes and scorpions abound. Malaria is not uncommon among those who live and work here. For Sammy Lokorodi, a local Turkana tribesman who is a resident of these parts, this is a familiar and livable landscape. He is also, among other things, a fossil and artifact hunter. As an integral part of scientific field expeditions, he has been specially trained by experience to see and excavate fossils and artifacts that likely could be millions of years old, teasing them from a surrounding matrix of desert rock and soil that, to anyone with an untrained eye, would make them unrecognizable. On any given day, this would be routine for Lokorodi.

But one day in 2011, while working as a member of the field team for the West Turkana Archaeological Project (WTAP), he found himself front-and-center in a discovery that would end up raising new questions with far-reaching implications about the human evolutionary past. Read more.

Ancient child's tooth reveals picture of Alaska’s early inhabitants

Research on a newly rediscovered 9,000-year-old child’s tooth has reshaped our understanding of Alaska’s ancient people, their genetic background and their diets.

The tooth is only the third known remnant of a population of early migrants known as Ancient Beringians. Combined with previous University of Alaska Fairbanks research, the find indicates that Ancient Beringians remained in Alaska for thousands of years after first migrating across the Bering Land Bridge that connected eastern Asia and Alaska. Read more. See the video here.

City Rats Eat Meat. Country Rats Eat What They Can.

It’s been nearly 3,000 years since Aesop wrote “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” the fable in which an urban rodent exposes his rural cousin to the city’s superior dining options. A new study suggests Aesop was right about the geographical differences in rodent diets.

By analyzing the remains of brown rats that lived in and around Toronto between 1790 and 1890, researchers have determined that city rats enjoyed a higher-quality and more stable diet than rural rats did. Just as in Aesop’s tale, the city rats benefited from the largess of human waste, whereas country rats scraped by. Read more.

Nuclear Techniques Help Provide Zimbabwe Children with Healthy School Lunches

Students who attend two schools outside of Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, often arrived for class so hungry, they could not concentrate. Some were reported to have collapsed from hunger during school assemblies. Others did not go to school at all, because their parents were not able to pay their school fees. When the headmasters of the schools approached the Joint FAO/IAEA Division’s Zimbabwean counterpart and asked for assistance in establishing vegetable fields near the schools, the answer was “yes,” and a team was established to support the project. Read more.