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Kangaroo evolution: Two new non-hopping species discovered. Updated Two new non-hopping species of extinct kangaroos have emerged as possible ancestors of their modern-day counterparts, and are believed to have beaten out another species that had fangs in the evolutionary race for survival. The kangaroos, which could be the ancestors of all modern kangaroos and wallabies in Australia, were discovered by a team of scientists from the Western Australian Museum, the University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of New South Wales.

WA Museum Curator of Mammals, Dr Kenny Travouillon, said the species lived 15 to 23 million years ago. "They are quite small compared to modern kangaroos, they're about the size of a wallaby," he said. "These kangaroos moved about on all fours, we know they couldn't hop because their leg and ankle bones aren't the right shape. " The new species were discovered from an examination of fossils collected by UQ PhD student Kaylene Butler, from the Riversleigh World Heritage area in north-western Queensland. Bones from ancestor of 'giant duck' discovered in Australia. Updated An ancestor of the largest bird that ever lived on earth has been discovered in Australia. The Dromornis murrayi, a distant relative of the duck, could grow to weigh as much as 250 kilograms. Now, its 26-million-year-old bones have been discovered in north west Queensland.

Australian palaeontologists said it eventually evolved into the world's largest bird, the Dromornis stirtoni, which could grow to a massive 650 kilograms. The Dromornis murrayi had feathers, tiny wings, a wide beak, and was vegetarian. But despite having a very big body and head, the size of its brain was less grandiose. "Its brain was minuscule," said Trevor Worthy, a research palaeontologist at Flinders University and the lead author of the paper. "I mean, if a chicken was silly, these things were very much more silly," he said. We think there's going to be more that's going to turn up about this animal. "It was one-and-half metres high at the back and probably weighed 250 kilograms. Sydney's North Head cemetery: Archaeologists unearth hidden graves and last resting place of bubonic plague victims.

Posted Archaeologists are discovering scores of hidden graves at the cemetery that is the final resting place of the first person to die of the bubonic plague in Australia. The scientists are using ground-penetrating radar to survey the Third Quarantine Cemetery at North Head in Sydney. The quarantine station was in operation between the 1830s and 1984, and the cemetery opened in 1881. Sydney Harbour Foundation Trust heritage architect Libby Bennett said people buried at the site included Sydney residents. "There are people that lived in Pyrmont and The Rocks that are buried here," Ms Bennett said.

It is also the final resting place for at least 241 people, who were buried after they died from diseases including influenza, the bubonic plague and smallpox. Early results suggested the true number of people buried there was much higher. Among the now unmarked graves is Thomas Riley Dudley — the first person to die from the plague in Australia, in February 1910. First humans to arrive in Australia behind huge flightless bird's extinction, scientists believe. Updated At two-metres tall and weighing 225 kilograms, the Genyornis — a huge flightless bird that once roamed prehistoric Australia — was a mighty presence in the mammal world. The Genyornis Lived 1.8 million to 40,000 years agoFlightless bird, taller and heavier than the modern-day emuCo-existed with humans for 15,000 yearsLast of the large "thunder birds" local to AustraliaFossils found in Mt Gambier, SA and NSW.

Footprints found in dunes on southern Victoria Now the mystery behind the big bird's extinction may have been solved, after burnt eggshells revealed people may have been the culprits. Scientists revealed burn patterns detected on eggshell fragments showed the first humans to arrive in Australia, about 50,000 years ago, gathered and cooked the big birds' eggs. The practise wreaked havoc with its reproductive success. The birds are related to ducks, geese and swans. Genyornis vanished about 47,500 years ago, Professor Miller said. How did Australia's big animals die? Reuters. New species of ancient tropical flower found in amber from the Dominican Republic - Science. Updated The discovery of a new species of ancient flower beautifully preserved in amber indicates that ancestors of today's daisies, mints and tomatoes flourished in Caribbean jungles up to 45 million years ago.

Key points Flower fossils in two separate pieces of amber from Cordillera Septentrional mountains.First flowers from the asterid group in New World amber.New species is ancient relative of daisies, sunflower, mints, coffee and tomatoes The two flower fossils, found in the Dominican Republic, will help scientists understand how asterids — one of the world's three major evolutionary groups of flowering plants — spread around the globe. The amber formed sometime between 15 and 45 million years ago in a geological period known as the mid-tertiary, long before the Americas were joined by the Panama land bridge. The new flower, described in the journal Nature Plants, belongs to the Loganiaceae family, a relatively small family of subtropical and tropical herbs, shrubs, trees and vines. 'Hobbits' found on Flores island are not Homo sapiens, but mystery remains.

Updated Diminutive humans who died out on an Indonesian island some 15,000 years ago were not Homo sapiens but a different species, according to a study that dives into a fierce anthropological debate. Key points: Homo floresiensis found on Flores island are not Homo sapiensIn a new approach, researchers used high-tech tools to examine their skullsResults found minor maladies but no genetic diseasesInconclusive whether 'hobbits' are small Homo erectus or its own species Fossils of Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their tiny stature, were discovered on the island of Flores in 2003. Controversy has raged ever since as to whether they were an unknown branch of early humans or specimens of modern man deformed by disease.

The study, based on an analysis of the skull bones, shows once and for all that the pint-sized people were not Homo sapiens, according to the researchers. The proposed process for this is called "insular dwarfing". Mystery not quite solved. London skeletons reveal British capital's 2,000-year history as ethnic melting pot. Updated New research suggests the British capital London has long been a cultural melting pot. DNA analysis of the remains of 2,000-year-old London residents found at four different locations has revealed most of them were immigrants.

At a secure storage site deep in the heart of London, the remains of 20,000 people sit on shelves in non-descript cardboard boxes, where they have lain undisturbed for decades. The Museum of London's archaeological archive contains a treasure trove of remains, uncovered at thousands of archaeological sites found across the city. The museum has just conducted DNA analysis on four of London's earliest inhabitants.

They date back almost 2,000 years to a time when Jesus Christ was living on the other side of the Roman Empire in then-Judea. London itself was known then as Londinium and was in the process of being established by Roman invaders who arrived in 43AD. Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek. Scans suggest '90pc' chance of hidden chamber in King Tutankhamun's tomb, experts say. Updated Chances are high that the tomb of ancient Egypt's boy-king Tutankhamun has passages to a hidden chamber, which may be the last resting place of Queen Nefertiti, experts say.

Nefertiti, thought to have been Tutankhamun's stepmother, died in the 14th century BC, and the discovery of her final resting place would be the most remarkable Egyptian archaeological find this century. British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves announced plans for further investigations at a news conference with Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty, who said data would be taken to Japan for study and that chances were high that a chamber existed.

"We said earlier there was a 60 per cent chance there is something behind the walls. But now after the initial reading of the scans, we are saying now it's 90 per cent likely there is something behind the walls," Mr al-Damaty said. "There is, in fact, an empty space behind the wall based on radar, which is very accurate, there is no doubt. Fossils indicate dinosaurs evolved rapidly after first relatives appeared - Science. Posted December 08, 2015 07:07:24 The first dinosaur relatives may have emerged up to 10 million years later than previously thought then evolved rapidly into the animals that would take over the world, a new study suggests. Researchers have used a relatively new dating technique to accurately determine the age of fossils of early dinosaur relatives - known as dinosauromorphs - found in a large collection in Argentina.

"If you met an early dinosauromorph in a dark alley, you'd think it was a dinosaur," said lead author and palaeontologist Dr Randall Irmis, curator of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Utah. People previously thought [this fossil layer] was somewhere between 240-245 million years old and we showed that it was about 235 million years old. The Argentinian Chanares Formation includes fossils of dinosauromorphs such as the 70-centimetre-long Lagerpeton chanarensis that ran on its hind legs, and the even smaller Marasuchus dinosauromorph. 14,000-year-old thighbone renews mystery over identity of 'Red Deer Cave people' - Science.

Updated An ancient thighbone from southwest China provides more evidence prehistoric humans walked mainland Eurasia at the same time as modern humans, researchers say. Their analysis of a 14,000-year-old partial thighbone, recovered from Maludong (meaning Red Deer Cave) in Yunnan Province in 1989, is reported today in the journal PLOS ONE. It follows a 2012 analysis by the team of skull bones from Maludong and another site in China, that led to their first suggestion of the existence of the Red Deer Cave people.

We don't pretend for a moment that our ideas aren't pushing the envelope Associate Professor Curnoe The exact identity of these people remains a mystery, and at least one expert is not even convinced the thighbone is human at all. Despite the young age of the bone, the researchers argue their analysis of 15 of its traits suggests it comes from a human with "primitive anatomy". "This is a thighbone that is very different to modern humans," Dr Curnoe said. Ancient human bone - or not? The oldest-known fossil of a land-dwelling organism is a fungus - Science. Updated The beautifully preserved filaments from a fungus that lived 440 million years ago are the oldest-known fossils of a land-dwelling organism yet found, according to a new study.

Key points Analysis of tiny fossils indicates they are root-like filaments of fungus.Fungus appeared around 440 million years ago, just before moss-like plants.Likely that other organisms appeared on land earlier but fossil evidence is hard to find. The early pioneer, known as Tortotubus, helped lay the foundation for more complex organisms to take root and thrive on land, said palaeontologist Dr Martin Smith of Durham University in the United Kingdom. "It's hard to imagine the surface of the Earth before any vegetation — picture barren rocks, with any dust being quickly blown into rivers and the sea," said Dr Smith.

"The tiny threads of Tortotubus would have helped to consolidate and hold together early soils, allowing deeper soils to form. Fossil not likely to be first land-based organism. Portuguese shipwreck, rare 'ghost coin' discovered off coast of Oman, archaeologists say. Updated The wreckage of a Portuguese ship more than 500 years old — the earliest found from Europe's Age of Discovery — has been discovered and excavated off the coast of Oman, archaeologists announced. The Esmeralda was commanded by Vicente Sodre, the uncle of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, and sank off the coast of Al Hallaniyah island in Oman's Dhofar region in 1503. Although researchers found the wreck site in 1998, full-scale surveys and excavation did not begin until 2013. The team from the UK-based Blue Water Recoveries and the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture determined the debris came from the long-lost ship, which went missing in a violent storm.

Archaeologists found over 2,800 artefacts in the wreck, including a bronze bell with an inscription dating back to 1498, golden coins from the era, and a copper-alloy disc stamped with the Portugese royal coat of arms and an "esfera armilar" — a personal emblem of Dom Manuel I, the then-king of Portugal. Human sacrifice may have helped build and sustain social class systems - Science News. Posted Elaborate ritual killings such as being crushed under a newly built canoe and decapitation after being rolled off a house laid the foundations of class-based structures in modern societies, a new study of Austronesian cultures suggests. Key points Evidence of human sacrifice found in 40 out of 93 Austronesian culturesVictims were usually low status, instigators were elites such as priests and chiefsStudy suggests religious rituals played a darker role in the evolution of complex societies 12,000 years ago The New Zealand-based study, published today in Nature, tracks the evolution of human sacrifice alongside the development of class-based societies across 93 cultures.

Co-author Joseph Watts, a doctoral student at the University of Auckland, said until 12,000 years ago humans mainly lived in egalitarian groups of hunter-gatherers. "Our study shows in these early stages that human sacrifice might have helped to build and sustain the social class systems," he said. World's oldest known ground-edge stone axe fragments found in Western Australia - Science News. Updated A fragment of the world's oldest known ground-edge axe has been found in the remote Kimberley region of northern Australia. Key points Fragments originally unearthed in the early '90s found to be axe fragments Dating of sediment around fragments indicates they are 45,000 - 49,000 years old Timing coincides with arrival of people in AustraliaFinding indicates early arrivals adapted technologies to survive The discovery pushes back the technological advance to between 45,000 to 49,000 years ago, and coincides with the arrival of people in Australia.

The fragment is 10,000 years older than the previous oldest known fragments found in northern Australia in 2010. Archaeologists said the original axe would have been hafted — meaning it was made with a handle attached. Professor Sue O'Connor, who discovered the fragment, said the world's oldest known examples of hafted axes all came from Australia. "In Japan such axes [also] appear about 35,000 years ago. Fragments shaped from basalt. Neanderthals built complex underground structures 175,000 years ago. Posted Neanderthals were already building complex underground structures by firelight, possibly for rituals, 176,500 years ago, says a study that adds to a new, smarter image of our extinct cousins.

Key points: Six structures were found 300 metres inside a cave in south-west FranceThe finding suggests Neanderthals knew how to work as a groupRecent research has shown Neanderthals cared for their elderly, buried their dead, and may have made jewellery These ancient people wrenched fragments of stalagmite from the cave floor and stacked them into walls, some forming rough circles, standing up to knee high, according to research published in the journal Nature. Deep inside Bruniquel Cave in south-west France, more than 300 metres from the entrance, they built six such structures, one almost seven metres wide, tens of thousands of years before the first Homo sapiens arrived in Europe. "They were not mere brutes focused on chipping away at flint tools or killing bison for food.

" Bog butter unearthed at Irish property estimated to be 2,000 years old.