Adelaide, Australia
Adelaide, Australia

The South Australian Museum is a natural history museum and research institution in Adelaide, South Australia, founded in 1856. It occupies a complex of buildings on North Terrace in the cultural precinct of the Adelaide Parklands. Wikipedia.

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News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed. The study by The Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis -- one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago. Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java. Study leader Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered. "The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Argue said. "It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere." Homo floresiensis is known to have lived on Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago. The study was the result of an Australian Research Council grant in 2010 that enabled the researchers to explore where the newly-found species fits in the human evolutionary tree. Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders. Argue said none of the data supported the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus. "We looked at whether Homo floresiensis could be descended from Homo erectus," she said. "We found that if you try and link them on the family tree, you get a very unsupported result. All the tests say it doesn't fit -- it's just not a viable theory." Argue said this was supported by the fact that in many features, such as the structure of the jaw, Homo floresiensis was more primitive than Homo erectus. "Logically, it would be hard to understand how you could have that regression -- why would the jaw of Homo erectus evolve back to the primitive condition we see in Homo floresiensis?" The analyses could also support the theory that Homo floresiensis could have branched off earlier in the timeline, more than 1.75 million years ago. "If this was the case Homo floresiensis would have evolved before the earliest Homo habilis, which would make it very archaic indeed," she said. Mike Lee of Flinders University and the South Australian Museum, used statistical modeling to analyze the data. "When we did the analysis there was really clear support for the relationship with Homo habilis. Homo floresiensis occupied a very primitive position on the human evolutionary tree," Lee said. "We can be 99 percent sure it's not related to Homo erectus and nearly 100 percent chance it isn't a malformed Homo sapiens."


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed. The study by The Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis -- one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago. Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java. Study leader Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered. "The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Argue said. "It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere." Homo floresiensis is known to have lived on Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago. The study was the result of an Australian Research Council grant in 2010 that enabled the researchers to explore where the newly-found species fits in the human evolutionary tree. Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders. Argue said none of the data supported the theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus. "We looked at whether Homo floresiensis could be descended from Homo erectus," she said. "We found that if you try and link them on the family tree, you get a very unsupported result. All the tests say it doesn't fit -- it's just not a viable theory." Argue said this was supported by the fact that in many features, such as the structure of the jaw, Homo floresiensis was more primitive than Homo erectus. "Logically, it would be hard to understand how you could have that regression -- why would the jaw of Homo erectus evolve back to the primitive condition we see in Homo floresiensis?" The analyses could also support the theory that Homo floresiensis could have branched off earlier in the timeline, more than 1.75 million years ago. "If this was the case Homo floresiensis would have evolved before the earliest Homo habilis, which would make it very archaic indeed," she said. Mike Lee of Flinders University and the South Australian Museum, used statistical modeling to analyze the data. "When we did the analysis there was really clear support for the relationship with Homo habilis. Homo floresiensis occupied a very primitive position on the human evolutionary tree," Lee said. "We can be 99 percent sure it's not related to Homo erectus and nearly 100 percent chance it isn't a malformed Homo sapiens."


News Article | March 9, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

In a new study, DNA in hair samples confirms Aboriginal people’s longstanding connection to Australia. DNA from Aboriginal people gathered during expeditions from 1928 to the 1970s revealed that modern Aboriginal Australians descended from a certain group populating the same regions for up to 50,000 years, around which time the continent was still linked to the New Guinea. The first people’s populations spread rapidly around the east and west coasts and met somewhere in southern Australia about 2,000 years later, the team from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) of University of Adelaide concluded based on mitochondrial DNA from 111 hair samples. The populations appeared to stay in certain geographical areas while continental migration took place, being continuously present in such regions for the next 50,000 years. "This is unlike people anywhere else in the world and provides compelling support for the remarkable Aboriginal cultural connection to country,” said ACAD director and project lead Alan Cooper in a statement, hoping the findings will lead to a rewriting of the nation’s history to incorporate detailed Aboriginal history, spanning about 10 times the length of the European history currently being taught. Mitochondrial DNA allows the tracing of maternal ancestry. The hair samples in this study was obtained with permission from Aboriginal families forced to relocate to Queensland’s Cherbourg and South Australia’s Koonibba and Point Pearce communities. The university’s Board of Anthropological Research ran the expeditions from which the South Australian Museum’s collection of over 5,000 hair samples emerged. The study built on and lent data from a 2016 paper, which sequenced the genome of 83 Aboriginal people. It revealed that Aboriginal Australians living in desert environments may have developed certain biological adaptations to survive the harsh, arid conditions. According to its results, the occupation of the arid zone took place long before the last ice age, being contemporaneous with the Australian megafauna. The research puts into perspective the development of the Australian culture and civilization, by comparison to Europe's development. Study co-author Lesley Williams is the granddaughter of one of the donors of the hair samples. “A lot of non-Indigenous people said we weren’t here. This establishes the truth of what we’ve been saying all along,” she said in an ABC report. The DNA analysis was done only with consent from the donors and their descendants, with the results discussed face to face with families prior to publication and great sensitivity for the whole community employed, Williams added. Kaurna Elder Lewis O’Brien, among the original hair donors and sitting on the advisory group for the research, said the results affirmed existing knowledge. “But it is important to have science show that to the rest of the world,” he emphasized, hopeful that the project will assist those from the Stolen Generation and others raring to reunite with their families. The study was the first stage of a decades-long initiative to help people with Aboriginal heritage to trace their ancestry on the regional level and reconstruct their genealogical history, and to pursue the return of Aboriginal artifacts where they rightfully belong. It seeks to get results from up to 1,000 samples in the next two years, and to extend the study to investigate paternal ancestry from DNA. The findings were discussed in the journal Nature. A study from early last year showed that Aboriginal Australian men were in isolation for half a century since their initial settlement, challenging the previous hypothesis that suggested the arrival of early inhabitants from India up to 5,000 years ago. The modern humans who arrived in Australia almost 50,000 years ago were one of the earliest groups who settled outside of Africa, founding the ancestry of today's Aboriginal Australians. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | May 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers at the University of California, Riverside are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life. In their latest study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today's animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed. Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands--known as modules--on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia--placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct. "Part of this study was trying to put Dickinsonia in context in the development of early life. We wanted to know if these creatures were part of a group of animals that survived or a failed evolutionary experiment. This research adds to our knowledge about these animals and our understanding of life on Earth as an artifact of half a billion years of evolution," Droser said. To study Dickinsonia, the researchers travelled to South Australia's desert outback, which was once underwater and is now home to an abundance of Ediacaran fossils. They measured the size, shape and structure of almost 1,000 specimens of Dickinsonia costata, paying attention to the number and size of the modules. The work was done in collaboration with James Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia, who is a coauthor on the paper. The study showed that Dickinsonia's development, and particularly that of the modules, was complex and systematic to maintain the oval shape of the animal. The accumulation of new modules, by a process called terminal addition, suggests that Dickinsonia developed in a related way to bilaterians, a complex group that display bilateral symmetry, including animals ranging from flies and worms to humans. However, the researchers do not believe Dickinsonia was ancestrally related to bilaterians, since it lacked other features that most bilaterians share, most notably a mouth, gut and anus. "Although we saw some of the hallmark characteristics of bilateral growth and development, we don't believe Dickinsonia was a precursor to today's bilaterians, rather that these are two distinct groups that shared a common set of ancestral genes that are present throughout the animal lineage," Evans said. "Dickinsonia most likely represents a separate group of animals that is now extinct, but can tell us a lot about the evolutionary history of animals." The title of the paper is "Highly Regulated Growth and Development of the Ediacara Macrofossil Dickinsonia Costata." The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Exobiology.


News Article | May 17, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers at the University of California, Riverside are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life. In their latest study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today's animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed. Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands -- known as modules -- on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia -- placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct. "Part of this study was trying to put Dickinsonia in context in the development of early life. We wanted to know if these creatures were part of a group of animals that survived or a failed evolutionary experiment. This research adds to our knowledge about these animals and our understanding of life on Earth as an artifact of half a billion years of evolution," Droser said. To study Dickinsonia, the researchers travelled to South Australia's desert outback, which was once underwater and is now home to an abundance of Ediacaran fossils. They measured the size, shape and structure of almost 1,000 specimens of Dickinsonia costata, paying attention to the number and size of the modules. The work was done in collaboration with James Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia, who is a coauthor on the paper. The study showed that Dickinsonia's development, and particularly that of the modules, was complex and systematic to maintain the oval shape of the animal. The accumulation of new modules, by a process called terminal addition, suggests that Dickinsonia developed in a related way to bilaterians, a complex group that display bilateral symmetry, including animals ranging from flies and worms to humans. However, the researchers do not believe Dickinsonia was ancestrally related to bilaterians, since it lacked other features that most bilaterians share, most notably a mouth, gut and anus. "Although we saw some of the hallmark characteristics of bilateral growth and development, we don't believe Dickinsonia was a precursor to today's bilaterians, rather that these are two distinct groups that shared a common set of ancestral genes that are present throughout the animal lineage," Evans said. "Dickinsonia most likely represents a separate group of animals that is now extinct, but can tell us a lot about the evolutionary history of animals."


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers at the University of California, Riverside are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life. In their latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today’s animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed. Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands—known as modules—on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia—placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct. “Part of this study was trying to put Dickinsonia in context in the development of early life. We wanted to know if these creatures were part of a group of animals that survived or a failed evolutionary experiment. This research adds to our knowledge about these animals and our understanding of life on Earth as an artifact of half a billion years of evolution,” Droser said. To study Dickinsonia, the researchers travelled to South Australia’s desert outback, which was once underwater and is now home to an abundance of Ediacaran fossils. They measured the size, shape and structure of almost 1,000 specimens of Dickinsonia costata, paying attention to the number and size of the modules. The work was done in collaboration with James Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia, who is a coauthor on the paper. The study showed that Dickinsonia’s development, and particularly that of the modules, was complex and systematic to maintain the oval shape of the animal. The accumulation of new modules, by a process called terminal addition, suggests that Dickinsonia developed in a related way to bilaterians, a complex group that display bilateral symmetry, including animals ranging from flies and worms to humans. However, the researchers do not believe Dickinsonia was ancestrally related to bilaterians, since it lacked other features that most bilaterians share, most notably a mouth, gut and anus. “Although we saw some of the hallmark characteristics of bilateral growth and development, we don’t believe Dickinsonia was a precursor to today’s bilaterians, rather that these are two distinct groups that shared a common set of ancestral genes that are present throughout the animal lineage,” Evans said. “Dickinsonia most likely represents a separate group of animals that is now extinct, but can tell us a lot about the evolutionary history of animals.”


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: astrobiology.com

More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers at the University of California, Riverside are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life. In their latest study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Scott Evans, a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology, both in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, show that the Ediacaran-era fossil animal Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today's animals. The study helps place Dickinsonia in the early evolution of animal life, and showcases how the large, mobile sea creature grew and developed. Dickinsonia was a flat, oval-shaped creature that ranged in size from less than an inch to several feet, and is characterized by a series of raised bands--known as modules--on its surface. These animals are of interest to paleontologists because they are the first to become large and complex, to move around, and form communities, yet little is known about them. For years, scientists have been debating the taxonomic status of Dickinsonia--placing it with fungi, marine worms and jellyfish, to name a few. It is now generally accepted that Dickinsonia was an animal, now extinct. "Part of this study was trying to put Dickinsonia in context in the development of early life. We wanted to know if these creatures were part of a group of animals that survived or a failed evolutionary experiment. This research adds to our knowledge about these animals and our understanding of life on Earth as an artifact of half a billion years of evolution," Droser said. To study Dickinsonia, the researchers travelled to South Australia's desert outback, which was once underwater and is now home to an abundance of Ediacaran fossils. They measured the size, shape and structure of almost 1,000 specimens of Dickinsonia costata, paying attention to the number and size of the modules. The work was done in collaboration with James Gehling of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia, who is a coauthor on the paper. The study showed that Dickinsonia's development, and particularly that of the modules, was complex and systematic to maintain the oval shape of the animal. The accumulation of new modules, by a process called terminal addition, suggests that Dickinsonia developed in a related way to bilaterians, a complex group that display bilateral symmetry, including animals ranging from flies and worms to humans. However, the researchers do not believe Dickinsonia was ancestrally related to bilaterians, since it lacked other features that most bilaterians share, most notably a mouth, gut and anus. "Although we saw some of the hallmark characteristics of bilateral growth and development, we don't believe Dickinsonia was a precursor to today's bilaterians, rather that these are two distinct groups that shared a common set of ancestral genes that are present throughout the animal lineage," Evans said. "Dickinsonia most likely represents a separate group of animals that is now extinct, but can tell us a lot about the evolutionary history of animals." The title of the paper is "Highly Regulated Growth and Development of the Ediacara Macrofossil Dickinsonia Costata." The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Exobiology.


King B.,Flinders University | Lee M.S.Y.,University of Adelaide | Lee M.S.Y.,South Australian Museum
Systematic Biology | Year: 2015

Virtually all models for reconstructing ancestral states for discrete characters make the crucial assumption that the trait of interest evolves at a uniform rate across the entire tree. However, this assumption is unlikely to hold in many situations, particularly as ancestral state reconstructions are being performed on increasingly large phylogenies. Here, we show how failure to account for such variable evolutionary rates can cause highly anomalous (and likely incorrect) results, while three methods that accommodate rate variability yield the opposite, more plausible, and more robust reconstructions. The random local clock method, implemented in BEAST, estimates the position and magnitude of rate changes on the tree; split BiSSE estimates separate rate parameters for pre-specified clades; and the hidden rates model partitions each character state into a number of rate categories. Simulations show the inadequacy of traditional models when characters evolve with both asymmetry (different rates of change between states within a character) and heterotachy (different rates of character evolution across different clades). The importance of accounting for rate heterogeneity in ancestral state reconstruction is highlighted empirically with a new analysis of the evolution of viviparity in squamate reptiles, which reveal a predominance of forward (oviparous-viviparous) transitions and very few reversals. © 2015 © The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the Society of Systematic Biologists. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.


Skinner A.,University of Adelaide | Skinner A.,South Australian Museum
Systematic Biology | Year: 2010

Rates of phenotypic evolution derive from numerous interrelated processes acting at varying spatial and temporal scales and frequently differ substantially among lineages. Although current models employed in reconstructing ancestral character states permit independent rates for distinct types of transition (forward and reverse transitions and transitions between different states), these rates are typically assumed to be identical for all branches in a phylogeny. In this paper, I present a general model of character evolution enabling rate heterogeneity among branches. This model is employed in assessing the extent to which the assumption of uniform transition rates affects reconstructions of ancestral limb morphology in the scincid lizard clade Lerista and, accordingly, the potential for rate variability to mislead inferences of evolutionary patterns. Permitting rate variation among branches significantly improves model fit for both the manus and the pes. A constrained model in which the rate of digit acquisition is assumed to be effectively zero is strongly supported in each case; when compared with a model assuming unconstrained transition rates, this model provides a substantially better fit for the manus and a nearly identical fit for the pes. Ancestral states reconstructed assuming the constrained model imply patterns of limb evolution differing significantly from those implied by reconstructions for uniform-rate models, particularly for the pes; whereas ancestral states for the uniform-rate models consistently entail the reacquisition of pedal digits, those for the model incorporating among-lineage rate heterogeneity imply repeated, unreversed digit loss. These results indicate that the assumption of identical transition rates for all branches in a phylogeny may be inappropriate in modeling the evolution of phenotypic traits and emphasize the need for careful evaluation of phylogenetic tests of Dollo's law. © The Author(s) 2010.


Faith D.P.,South Australian Museum
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences | Year: 2013

Evolutionary biology is a core discipline in biodiversity science. Evolutionary history or phylogeny provides one natural measure of biodiversity through the popular phylogenetic diversity (PD) measure. The evolutionary model underlying PD means that it can be interpreted as quantifying the relative feature diversity of sets of species. Quantifying feature diversity measures possible future uses and benefits or option values. Interpretation of PD as counting-up features is the basis for an emerging broad family of PD calculations, of use to both biodiversity researchers and decision makers. Many of these calculations extend conventional species-level indices to the features level. Useful PD calculations include PD complementarity and endemism, Hill and Valley numbers incorporating abundance, and PD dissimilarities. A flexible analysis framework is provided by expected PD calculations, applied to either probabilities of extinction or presence-absence. Practical extensions include phylogenetic risk analysis and measures of distinctiveness and endemism. These support the integration of phylogenetic diversity into biodiversity conservation and monitoring programs. © 2013 The Authors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published by Wiley Periodicals Inc. on behalf of The New York Academy of Sciences.

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