Time filter

Source Type

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 | May 3, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A new study from The Australian National University (ANU) of the bony head-crests of male gorillas could provide some of the first clues about the social structures of our extinct human relatives, including how they chose their sexual partners. The study looks at the sagittal crest, a bone ridge on the top of the skull, in four species of apes. Lead researcher of the study Dr Katharine Balolia of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said that while the crests were long thought to develop in apes to provide extra space for the muscles used for chewing, this study indicates they could also be a form of social signalling that results from sexual selection. "We found that for male gorillas and orangutans, it is not just chewing that drives crest formation. There is also a social element to it. For example, females prefer male gorillas with larger sagittal crests," Dr Balolia said. Dr Balolia said the findings may provide clues to the social structures of some extinct human relatives. "Some species of extinct human relatives have a sagittal crest," she said. "And if sagittal crest size and social behaviour are linked in this way, then we could potentially establish that some of our extinct human relatives had a gorilla-like social system. "This would be a first, because otherwise the human fossil record provides precious little about how our extinct relatives chose their mates." The study used 3D scans of skull specimens and found two lines of evidence to support the finding. "In terms of gorilla social structures, the males establish dominance shortly after their wisdom teeth emerge. We found the sagittal crest appears right after their wisdom teeth emerge, so that fits in with the timing of social dominance," she said. "In contrast, in orangutans some males only become dominant quite late in their adult life, and the sagittal crest appears later," she said. In addition, statistical modelling suggests that, when present, crests in gorillas and orangutans are larger than what would be expected if they were simply there to provide more space for the larger chewing muscles needed by the big males. The paper has been published in the Journal of Anatomy.


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has solved the 168-year-old mystery of how the world's biggest and most active volcanoes formed in Hawaii. The study found that the volcanoes formed along twin tracks due to a shift in the Pacific Plate's direction three million years ago. Lead researcher Tim Jones from ANU said scientists had known of the existence of the twin volcanic tracks since 1849, but the cause of them had remained a mystery until now. "The discovery helps to better reconstruct Earth's history and understand part of the world that has captivated people's imagination," said Mr Jones, a PhD student from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES). "The analysis we did on past Pacific Plate motions is the first to reveal that there was a substantial change in motion 3 million years ago. It helps to explain the origin of Hawaii, Earth's biggest volcanic hotspot and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world." Twin volcanic tracks exist in other parts of the Pacific, including Samoa, and the study found that these also emerged three million years ago. Mr Jones said this kind of volcanic activity was surprising because it occurred away from tectonic plate boundaries, where most volcanoes are found. "Heat from the Earth's core causes hot columns of rock, called mantle plumes, to rise under tectonic plates and produce volcanic activity on the surface," he said. "Mantle plumes have played a role in mass extinctions, the creation of diamonds and the breaking up of continents." Co-researcher Dr Rhodri Davies from RSES said the twin volcanic tracks emerged because the mantle plume was out of alignment with the direction of the plate motion. "Our hypothesis predicts that the plate and the plume will realign again at some stage in the future, and the two tracks will merge to form a single track once again," Dr Davies said. "Plate shifts have been occurring constantly, but irregularly, throughout Earth's history. Looking further back in time we find that double tracks are not unique to young Hawaiian volcanism - indeed, they coincide with other past changes in plate motion." Hawaii sits at the south-eastern limit of a chain of volcanoes and submerged seamounts which get progressively older towards the north west. The researchers worked with the National Computational Infrastructure at ANU to model the Pacific Plate's change in direction and formation of the twin volcanic tracks through Hawaii. The study is published in Nature. For media assistance, contact Will Wright from the ANU Media Team on +612 6125 7979, +61 478 337 740 or media@anu.edu.au


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Desert lands cover about a quarter of the Earth's land mass and are home to some half a billion people and yet they are commonly portrayed as extreme places with marginalized communities. The people who live there are often perceived as living in hardship and isolation and surviving largely due to subsidies from the "mainstream" economy. New research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development suggests that for some desert regions, particularly Australia's "outback", there is huge potential given appropriate infrastructure and investment in it to become a place of great prosperity and wellbeing. Digby Race of the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation, in Alice Springs and The Australian National University, in Canberra and colleagues from other universities, report that there is great potential for 200,000 people who live in Australia's vast desert area which covers about 3.6 million square kilometers. However, the team asserts, "The multi-dimensional nature of the debate about the future of Australia's desert region often leaves policy makers with little overarching synthesis to guide public policy." The desert region of Australia includes the traditional homelands of many Aboriginal peoples, the team points out, and over the last century or so has developed a mixed economy based on pastoral operations, government education and health services, gas and mining operations, and tourism. However, the Aboriginal peoples commonly remain marginalized by mainstream society. The researchers have now drawn together research on climate change, energy, housing and transport to provide an analysis that spans disciplines of how Australia's desert region could become a highly livable and prosperous area for existing and new residents. It is, of course, hoped that such development would be in concert with the preferred lifestyles of the Aboriginal peoples. "While there will always be uncertainty about future conditions and challenges, investing in strategies that are culturally appropriate, have little regret (low risk) and provide multiple benefits appears the best pathway," the team suggests. "That is, investing in the connectivity and mobility of remote communities, creating a coordinated transport system, transitioning to renewable energy, and building super energy efficient housing can all be elements of re-designing the livability of desert Australia." Race, D., Dockery, A.M., Havas, L., Joyce, C., Mathew, S. and Spandonide, B. (2017) 'Re-imagining the future for desert Australia: designing an integrated pathway for enhancing livability', Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 20, Nos. 1/2, pp.146-165.


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

A new study from The Australian National University (ANU) of the bony head-crests of male gorillas could provide some of the first clues about the social structures of our extinct human relatives, including how they chose their sexual partners. The study looks at the sagittal crest, a bone ridge on the top of the skull, in four species of apes. Lead researcher of the study Dr. Katharine Balolia of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said that while the crests were long thought to develop in apes to provide extra space for the muscles used for chewing, this study indicates they could also be a form of social signalling that results from sexual selection. "We found that for male gorillas and orangutans, it is not just chewing that drives crest formation. There is also a social element to it. For example, females prefer male gorillas with larger sagittal crests," Balolia said. Balolia said the findings may provide clues to the social structures of some extinct human relatives. "Some species of extinct human relatives have a sagittal crest," she said. "And if sagittal crest size and social behaviour are linked in this way, then we could potentially establish that some of our extinct human relatives had a gorilla-like social system. "This would be a first, because otherwise the human fossil record provides precious little about how our extinct relatives chose their mates." The study used 3D scans of skull specimens and found two lines of evidence to support the finding. "In terms of gorilla social structures, the males establish dominance shortly after their wisdom teeth emerge. We found the sagittal crest appears right after their wisdom teeth emerge, so that fits in with the timing of social dominance," she said. "In contrast, in orangutans some males only become dominant quite late in their adult life, and the sagittal crest appears later," she said. In addition, statistical modelling suggests that, when present, crests in gorillas and orangutans are larger than what would be expected if they were simply there to provide more space for the larger chewing muscles needed by the big males. The paper has been published in the Journal of Anatomy.


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) say the early Earth was likely to be barren, flat and almost entirely under water with a few small islands, following their analysis of tiny mineral grains as old as 4.4 billion years. Lead researcher Dr Antony Burnham said the team studied zircon mineral grains that were preserved in sandstone rocks in the Jack Hills of Western Australia and which were the oldest fragments of the Earth ever found. "The history of the Earth is like a book with its first chapter ripped out with no surviving rocks from the very early period, but we've used these trace elements of zircon to build a profile of the world at that time," said Dr Burnham from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. "Our research indicates there were no mountains and continental collisions during Earth's first 700 million years or more of existence - it was a much more quiet and dull place. "Our findings also showed that there are strong similarities with zircon from the types of rocks that predominated for the following 1.5 billion years, suggesting that it took the Earth a long time to evolve into the planet that we know today." Dr Burnham said the zircon grains that eroded out of the oldest rocks were like skin cells found at a crime scene. "We used the granites of southeast Australia to decipher the link between zircon composition and magma type, and built a picture of what those missing rocks were," he said. The first known form of life emerged some time later, around 3.8 billion years ago. Dr Burnham said the zircon formed by melting older igneous rocks rather than sediments. "Sediment melting is characteristic of major continental collisions, such as the Himalayas, so it appears that such events did not occur during these early stages of Earth's history," he said. Dr Burnham said scientists in the field were able to build on each other's work to gain a better understanding of early Earth. "The samples of zircon from Jack Hills have been collected over the course of several decades by many people, while chemical analyses carried out by an ANU research group 20 years ago have proved invaluable," he said. The study, 'Formation of Hadean granites by melting of igneous crust', is published in Nature Geoscience. Journalists can receive a copy of the research paper, upon request. For media assistance, contact Will Wright from the ANU Media Team on +612 6125 7979, +61 478 337 740 or media@anu.edu.au


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

A new study from The Australian National University (ANU) of the bony head-crests of male gorillas could provide some of the first clues about the social structures of our extinct human relatives, including how they chose their sexual partners. The study looks at the sagittal crest, a bone ridge on the top of the skull, in four species of apes. Lead researcher of the study Dr. Katharine Balolia of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said that while the crests were long thought to develop in apes to provide extra space for the muscles used for chewing, this study indicates they could also be a form of social signalling that results from sexual selection. "We found that for male gorillas and orangutans, it is not just chewing that drives crest formation. There is also a social element to it. For example, females prefer male gorillas with larger sagittal crests," Balolia said. Balolia said the findings may provide clues to the social structures of some extinct human relatives. "Some species of extinct human relatives have a sagittal crest," she said. "And if sagittal crest size and social behaviour are linked in this way, then we could potentially establish that some of our extinct human relatives had a gorilla-like social system. "This would be a first, because otherwise the human fossil record provides precious little about how our extinct relatives chose their mates." The study used 3D scans of skull specimens and found two lines of evidence to support the finding. "In terms of gorilla social structures, the males establish dominance shortly after their wisdom teeth emerge. We found the sagittal crest appears right after their wisdom teeth emerge, so that fits in with the timing of social dominance," she said. "In contrast, in orangutans some males only become dominant quite late in their adult life, and the sagittal crest appears later," she said. In addition, statistical modelling suggests that, when present, crests in gorillas and orangutans are larger than what would be expected if they were simply there to provide more space for the larger chewing muscles needed by the big males. The paper has been published in the Journal of Anatomy.


News Article | May 5, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The oil and gas company Santos has admitted its business plans are based on a climate change scenario of a 4C rise n global temperatures, at odds with internationally agreed efforts. Its chairman, Peter Coates, made the comments at an AGM in Adelaide on Thursday, telling shareholders it was “sensible” and “consistent with good value”. Earlier this week, the Australian National University, which previously divested from Santos citing a commitment to its renewables research, appeared to have reinvested in the company. There has been a shareholder push for a resolution that Santos disclose its climate risk assessments and scenario analyses. Asked whether the analyses were conducted on a 2C pathway, Coates replied that the company had adopted a 4C pathway. “It’s in comparison to the [International Energy Agency] business-as-usual forecast on carbon emissions,” Coates said. “There’s been no nationally determined commitment to the 2C scenario, and even the 4C scenario is not funded. So I think what we’re doing is very sensible, and consistent with good value.” Will Steffen, councillor with the Climate Council, and an emeritus professor at ANU, said Coates’s revelation was “absolutely appalling”. “[A 4C pathway] really is a worst-case scenario,” he told Guardian Australia. “This is not some minor climatic blip we need to deal with. It’s a completely different climate system.” Steffen said the difference between the ice age and the Holocene age, which Earth has been in for about 12,000 years, was 4C. “You’d be locking in tens of metres of sea-level rise, and you can forget about the world cities,” he said. In 2015 Shell was accused of pursuing a business strategy based on 4C warming, which experts have said would lead to catastrophic climate change, including a devastating impact on world food production and the finance market. The Paris climate agreement, which came into effect late last year, sets a target of carbon emissions that would mean a global temperatures rise of no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels. There have already been warnings from UN agencies that current government pledges to cut emissions would only hold it to 3C – well beyond what climate scientists consider the limit of safety. Daniel Gocher, an analyst for Market Forces who attended the Santos meeting and pushed for the resolution, said Santos had breached the trust of its investors. “Two degrees means they’re serious about climate change. That’s what governments around the world agreed to in Paris. Four degrees means business as usual and that means they’re not taking it seriously.” Gocher said Santos had effectively displayed climate denialism, and “a breathtaking failure to come to grips with a world in transition”. At the meeting Coates also said there was no gas shortage, but there was a “policy shortage”, and he accused the federal government of not showing commitment and support for the development of an ongoing supply to the east coast, the ABC reported. The Australian National University has apparently bought back into Santos after controversially divesting its shares in 2014, Guardian Australia can reveal. In October 2014 ANU divested from about $16m worth of shares in seven fossil fuel companies. The vice chancellor, Ian Young, said at the time the ANU was a major environment and alternative energy researcher and had to “be able to say that we’re confident that the sort of companies that we’re investing in are consistent with the broad themes that drive this university”. The university was blasted by Coalition MPs and ministers, and in the media. Eighteen months later it also faced criticism from its own staff and students for not divesting the remaining estimated $45m it still had in the resource sector. However according to ANU disclosures, it appears the university has since bought back into at least four of the seven companies. A report on its 2016 investments, which totalled more than $326m, listed dozens of companies including Santos, Sandfire, Oil Search, and Newcrest Mining - all previously divested under its socially responsible investment policy, adopted in July 2013. “As a result of that policy, we don’t invest in companies whose primary business is coal, gambling, tobacco or pornography, and we have taken steps to reduce the carbon intensity of our portfolio,” an ANU spokesman told Guardian Australia. In October 2015 the university appointed an external portfolio manager. ANU’s website said it made no decision itself about stock selection, but had placed conditions on the manager’s decisions, including that investments: “These conditions were imposed on the external manager to decrease the university’s investment exposure to CO2-intensive industries without increasing the university’s exposure to volatility in the equities market,” it said. “If this balance was not managed, it might adversely impact the university’s financial stability, including its ability to meet obligations to pay superannuation liabilities.” The spokesman said an April meeting of the ANU council decided to make the report public in the interest of transparency. Matt Rogers of Fossil Free ANU welcomed the “step forward in disclosure” with the list’s publication, but criticised the reinvestment. “It fails to acknowledge the political dimensions of the issue and fails to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their climate change obstructionism and blatant disregard for environment,” he said. Gocher said ANU’s move was “strange”. “If they were going to get back into a fossil fuel company, Santos wouldn’t be it,” he said. Tom Swann, a researcher at the Australia Institute, said there was some progress shown by ANU’s report, including the investment disclosure itself, a commitment to proxy voting which could lead to pressure on the university to vote for companies to avoid resource projects like Adani, and a big investment in a Victorian windfarm. “I do think they’ve gone further than previously - but it is still concerning that they reinvested and didn’t tell anyone,” he told Guardian Australia. “I think there will be backlash. People on the ANU campus and the thousands that came out in support of them when they were being bullied will feel a bit betrayed by this.” Swann said there was a “broader lesson” about ethical investing for universities. “Clear policies, clear principles, and need to communicate really clearly about what you’re doing.”


Casagrande L.,The Australian National University | VandenBerg D.A.,University of Victoria
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society | Year: 2014

After a pedagogical introduction to the main concepts of synthetic photometry, colours and bolometric corrections in the Johnson-Cousins, 2MASS, and HST-ACS/WFC3 photometric systems are generated from MARCS synthetic fluxes for various [Fe/H] and [α/Fe] combinations, and virtually any value of E(B - V) ≤ 0.7. The successes and failures of model fluxes in reproducing the observed magnitudes are highlighted. Overall, extant synthetic fluxes predict quite realistic broad-band colours and bolometric corrections, especially at optical and longer wavelengths: further improvements of the predictions for the blue and ultraviolet spectral regions await the use of hydrodynamic models where the microturbulent velocity is not treated as a free parameter. We show how the morphology of the colour-magnitude diagram (CMD) changes for different values of [Fe/H] and [α/Fe]; in particular, how suitable colour combinations can easily discriminate between red giant branch and lower main-sequence populations with different [α/Fe], due to the concomitant loops and swings in the CMD. We also provide computer programs to produce tables of synthetic bolometric corrections as well as routines to interpolate in them. These colour-Teff-metallicity relations may be used to convert isochrones for different chemical compositions to various bandpasses assuming observed reddening values, thus bypassing the standard assumption of a constant colour excess for stars of different spectral type. We also show how such an assumption can lead to significant systematic errors. The MARCS transformations presented in this study promise to provide important constraints on our understanding of the multiple stellar populations found in globular clusters (e.g. the colours of lower main-sequence stars are predicted to depend strongly on [α/Fe]) and of those located towards/in the Galactic bulge. © 2014 The Authors.

Loading The Australian National University collaborators
Loading The Australian National University collaborators