Qikiqtania wakei fossils

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the identification of a precursor of the tetrapods that lived on today’s Ellesmere Island, in Canada, in the Devonian period, about 375 million years ago. A team of researchers named it Qikiqtania wakei and illustrated similarities and differences with Tiktaalik roseae, the possible ancestor of today’s tetrapods. The anatomical characteristics of Qikiqtania wakei indicate that it descended from the precursors of the tetrapods that ventured to the mainland but unlike Tiktaalik roseae it went back to the water, where it developed fins suitable for aquatic life.

A map of the habitats of the various human species

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the results of a research on the correlation between climate changes that occurred over the last two million years and the evolution of human beings. A team of researchers led by Axel Timmermann, director of the IBS Center for Climate Physics (ICCP) at Pusan ‚Äč‚ÄčNational University, South Korea, used ICCP’s Aleph supercomputer to simulate climate history. The results were compared with the largest database of human fossils and archaeological artifacts built under the direction of Pasquale Raia of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. The result was that the best habitats for the human species that existed in these two million years match the climatic changes caused by the oscillation of the Earth’s axis and the periodic changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit.

A silhouette of Australopithecus sediba showing the available bones with the vertebrae and their 3D reconstruction

An article published in the journal “eLife” reports a study of Australopithecus sediba’s spine. A team of researchers created 3D reproductions of fossil vertebrae discovered in 2015 during excavations at the Malapa site, where the first bones attributed to this hominin species were discovered. This allowed obtaining an almost complete lower spine of the specimen cataloged as MH2 whose characteristics confirm the conclusions of previous studies that indicated that these australopithecines used their arms to climb trees like apes but used their legs in bipedal walking like the later species of the genus Homo.

Cyanobacteria of the species Prochlorococcus marinus

An article published in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences” reports the results of a study on the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis. A team of researchers developed a new gene analysis technique to estimate the origin of cyanobacteria capable of oxygenic photosynthesis. The conclusion is that all the species of these cyanobacteria existing today have a common ancestor that dates back to about 2.9 billion years ago and that the ancestors of cyanobacteria branched off from other bacteria about 3.4 billion years ago. Oxygenic photosynthesis probably evolved during that time interval.

Anthocerotibacter panamensis (Photo courtesy Fay-Wei Li. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” reports the discovery of a cyanobacterium that was named Anthocerotibacter panamensis. A team of researchers led by Fay-Wei Li of the Boyce Thompson Institute examined this bacterium discovered on a tropical plant in Panama and found that it has very rare characteristics that make it related to the rarest group of cyanobacteria, Gloeobacteria, which diverged from the most common group, Phycobacteria, about 2 billion years ago. The new species has some characteristics in common with both groups, which offers new insights into these oxygen-producing photosynthetic bacteria.