Crows are no bird-brains: Neurobiologists investigate neuronal basis of crows' intelligence

Crows are no bird-brains. Behavioral biologists have even called them "feathered primates" because the birds make and use tools, are able to remember large numbers of feeding sites, and plan their social behavior according to what other members of their group do. This high level of intelligence might seem surprising because birds' brains are constructed in a fundamentally different way from those of mammals, including primates -- which are usually used to investigate these behaviors.

Lethal wounds on skull may indicate 430,000 year-old murder

 

Research into lethal wounds found on a human skull may indicate one of the first cases of murder in human history -- some 430,000 years ago -- and offers evidence of the earliest funerary practices in the archaeological record.

The study, conducted by an international team was carried out at the archeological site of the Sima de los Huesos in northern Spain. The site is located deep within an underground cave system and contains the skeletal remains of at least 28 individuals that date to around 430,000 years ago, during the Middle Pleistocene time period. The only access to the site is through a 13-meter deep vertical shaft.

A nearly complete skull, Cranium 17, from the Sima de los Huesos is composed of 52 cranial fragments recovered during excavations at the site over the last 20 years. This skull shows two penetrating lesions on the frontal bone, above the left eye. "Evidence for interpersonal violence in the human fossil record is relatively scarce, and this would appear to represent the coldest cold case on record," said Quam.

Babies can think before they can speak

Two pennies can be considered the same -- both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs.

Analogical ability -- the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas -- is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.

While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples.

What did the first snakes look like?

The original snake ancestor was a nocturnal, stealth-hunting predator that had tiny hindlimbs with ankles and toes, according to research.

The study, led by Yale University, analyzed fossils, genes, and anatomy from 73 snake and lizard species, and suggests that snakes first evolved on land, not in the sea, which contributes to a longstanding debate. They most likely originated in the warm, forested ecosystems of the Southern Hemisphere around 128 million years ago.

Lead author Allison Hsiang said: "While snake origins have been debated for a long time, this is the first time these hypotheses have been tested thoroughly using cutting-edge methods. By analyzing the genes, fossils and anatomy of 73 different snake and lizard species, both living and extinct, we've managed to generate the first comprehensive reconstruction of what the ancestral snake was like."

Warm-blooded fishes swim faster and farther than cold-blooded counterparts

Marine scientists have long known that some species of fish possess a unique physiological characteristic -- a web of arteries and veins lying very close together -- that enables them to raise their internal temperatures higher than that of the water surrounding them.

Now, a new study has demonstrated that species possessing the ability to warm their core -- a process called endothermy -- are able to swim two and a half times faster than those whose body temperature doesn't change. In addition, these species, which include some sharks and tunas, can also swim twice as far -- ranges comparable to those of warm-blooded animals such as penguins and other marine mammals.

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