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Feature article

A Stone Age “Rosetta Stone”

Image credits: R. Fullagar and J. Field

Modern experiments form the basis for studying use-wear on archaeological artefacts and microscopic residues preserved on ancient tools. The inset photos show a fish scale on a Pleistocene stone tool from Siberia (scale bar 1 mm), a grass compound starch grain from a Pleistocene grinding stone in Australia (scale bar 0.01 mm) and a grass phytolith from the same grinding stone (scale bar 0.005 mm). Images: R. Fullagar (main photo, fish scale) and J. Field (starch grain, phytolith)

By Richard “Bert” Roberts, Richard Fullagar & Linda Prinsloo

Our ancestors had the edge over several other contemporary species of human that were headed for extinction by about 40,000 years ago. What were they doing differently? Archaeological scientists are trying to find out using modern techniques to study traces of use left on stone tools and other artefacts.

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Mammals on the Brink

short-eared rock wallabies

Perhaps because of their rocky, inaccessible habitat, short-eared rock wallabies are one of a few species whose populations remain healthy in much of the Northern Territory. Credit: Ian Morris

By Mark Ziembicki

Traditional ecological knowledge and western science have combined to address one of Australia’s most pressing biodiversity conservation issues – the decline of its native mammal species.

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Tropical Invaders Seek a Cool Change

 Moorish idol

Larger-bodied tropical species, such as the Moorish idol, are more likely to show vagrant behaviour into high latitude regions.

By David A. Feary & David Harasti

As oceans warm, a new study has shown that certain measurable traits may help scientists predict which species of tropical fish will successfully shift into cooler temperate waters.

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Can Diet Be Tailored to Suit Our Genes?

foetus

The long-term impact of what your mother ate and drank, whether she was underweight or overweight and whether she smoked during pregnancy influences your chances of becoming obese, diabetic and even developing certain cancers.

By Helen Truby

Lifestyle factors such as a eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, getting a good night’s sleep and keeping physically active are the best way to help your genes keep you healthy.

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What Speed Sperm Should a Sea Squirt Squirt?

Sea Squirt

Sea squirts reproduce by broadcast spawning, where eggs and sperm are released into the ocean and the sperm have to swim around to find an egg to fertilise.

By Angela Crean

Sea squirt sperm is revealing how a male’s environment affects his sperm’s quality, with implications for the health of offspring that could also improve the success of human IVF procedures.

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Sex in the Economy

Paris Hilton

Only those with sufficient resources can afford to waste them, making conspicuous consumption attractive to a potential mate.

By Jason Collins

The imprint of the competition for mates and status can be seen in the past and present shape of our economy.

Jason Collins is a PhD student in the University of Western Australia’s Business School. He blogs at Evolving Economics (www.jasoncollins.org).

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Neural Interfaces: From Disability to Enhancement

Credit: Jaimie Duplass/Adobe

Credit: Jaimie Duplass/Adobe

By Scott Kiel-Chisholm

Neuroprosthetic arms, mind-controlled exoskeletons and brain–computer interfaces are already enabling the disabled, but what happens when these and other devices become mainstream consumer products that blur the lines between enhanced human and machine?

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The Cutting Edge of Cognition

Acheulean handaxe

Four views of an Acheulean handaxe created 300,000–500,000 years ago in France. Credit: Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons

By Natalie Rogers

Modern brain scans are revealing whether Stone Age hominins planned to make specific tools or whether their craftsmanship determined the outcome of their endeavours.

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A Kink in the History of Sex

The first act of copulation in vertebrates

The first act of copulation in vertebrates was in these 385 million-year-old antiarch fishes from Scotland (Microbrachius dicki). The male (right) uses his bony L-shaped claspers to inseminate the female (left). Credit: Brian Choo

By John Long

The discovery of the first vertebrate to have copulated reveals not only the genesis of different male and female forms but also some surprising kinks in how sex has evolved.

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Did Standing Up Drive Human Evolution?

Credit: travenian /iStockphoto

Credit: travenian /iStockphoto

By Mac Shine & Rick Shine

Watching a toddler learn to walk has led to a new hypothesis that bipedalism drove the evolution of the human brain.

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