A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Many people are familiar with the African roots of the human family tree.
But in recent years, a torrent of exciting fossil and DNA discoveries across Asia has forced a radical rethink of our family saga.
It’s there that entirely new kinds of extinct humans have been unearthed – including relatives nicknamed tiny hobbits and the burly dragon man – as well as three little pigs painted on a cave wall that turned out to be the world’s oldest figurative art.
This week, prepare to have your mind blown by another tantalizing fossil find from the region that reveals just how sophisticated and knowledgeable our ancient ancestors really were.
We are family
In a remote cave on Borneo, Indonesia, archaeologists have made a discovery that upends our understanding of the Stone Age: an amputee who lived 31,000 years ago.
The young individual’s skeleton was missing its lower left leg, which Australian and Indonesian researchers believe was carefully severed just above the ankle by a surprisingly skilled prehistoric surgeon, likely using stone tools.
Only a century ago, most people who underwent amputation would have died – either from blood loss and shock or from subsequent infection.
Not only was this Stone Age surgery successful, but the amputee lived for another six to nine years, ultimately dying of natural causes before being delicately buried by caregivers, according to research.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have created synthetic mouse embryos in a lab dish – an exciting advance that ultimately could lead to new fertility treatments.
Without using sperm or egg, the researchers produced an embryo that developed a beating heart and a brain from the stem cells of mice.
By observing the embryos at this stage of life in a lab instead of a uterus, the scientists got a better view into the mystifying process to learn why a pregnancy might fail and how to prevent this loss.
They hope to move from mouse embryos to creating models of natural human pregnancies – many of which fail in the early stages.
The earliest mammal known to science, Brasilodon quadrangularis, was a shrew-like creature. It skittered at the feet of the first dinosaurs 225 million years ago.
In a case of mistaken identity, researchers previously thought the small animal was a reptile.
Now, a new study has revealed it was “definitively” a mammal, thanks to clues provided by three fossilized jawbones that belonged to the long extinct creature.
The discovery will help paleontologists better understand the evolution of modern mammals.
What’s going on with NASA’s Artemis I mission after two failed attempts to launch its mega moon rocket?
The space agency has delayed a third try until September 23 or September 27 – or perhaps even longer still as engineers find a way to fix a hydrogen fuel leak.
Complicating matters is the changeable Florida weather, with hurricane season in full swing, and existing commitments: NASA expects to launch the Crew-5 mission, which will carry a fresh team of astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket, on October 3.
For now, the moon rocket remains on the launchpad while engineers replace the seal on an interface between the liquid hydrogen feed line and the launcher.
The colossal rocket, however, may still need to roll back to Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
The Thwaites Glacier, located in West Antarctica and sometimes called the “doomsday glacier,” has for decades concerned scientists, who fear the extreme sea level rise that would accompany its potential demise.
Geophysicists have mapped the Florida-size glacier’s historical retreat, hoping to learn from its past what will likely happen in the future.
The research team found that at some point in the past two centuries, the base of the glacier dislodged from the seabed and retreated at twice the rate that scientists have observed in the past decade or so.
The glacier has the capability to undergo a rapid retreat once it recedes past a seabed ridge that’s helping to keep it in check, the findings have suggested. More simply, it’s holding on “by its fingernails,” as a marine geophysicist involved in the research explained.
Dive into these engrossing stories:
– Our imprint on space may seem minute compared with its vastness, but a space environmentalist says we need to start treating it like an ecosystem. Here’s his vision to protect inner space from orbital debris.
– Waste not: Human poop is a vastly untapped and undervalued natural resource that could revolutionize the way we live, according to a new book.
– A giant space tarantula has been caught by a Webb – NASA’s highly sensitive James Webb Space Telescope, that is.
Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writers Ashley Strickland and Katie Hunt. They find wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.