An international research team found that a more than two million year-old early human ingested large nuts and seeds that may have been "foods of last resort". The ability to eat foods that were difficult to process could have been an ecologically significant adaptation.
The article "The feeding biomechanics and dietary ecology of Australopithecus africanus," is the first of a series devoted to the study of the mechanics of feeding in primates and Australopithecines.
The results showed that Australopithecus africanus, a human relative that lived in South Africa over two million years ago, had a facial skeleton that was well designed to withstand premolar bites. This suggests that A. africanus might have used its enlarged premolars and structurally reinforced face to crack open and ingest large hard nuts. These nuts may have been critical resources upon which these humans relied during times of resource scarcity or when their preferred foods were unavailable.
The scientists implement advanced techniques for their research. The team of Gerhard Weber from the University of Vienna provided the basis with Virtual Anthropology (VA). Then David Strait and his workgroup from the University of Albany, NY, conducted the Finite Element Analysis (FEA). The FEA an engineering method used to examine how objects of complex geometry respond to loads.
University of Vienna: Center of Virtual Anthropology
Before FEA can be applied, an accurate 3D model of the fossil’s skull is needed. At University of Vienna, Gerhard Weber’s workgroup “Virtual Anthropology” is one of the few centers where such kind of reconstructions of fossil specimens can be undertaken. After scanning the fossils with computer tomography the digital copies can be handled and measured electronically. Also unwanted structures like former plaster reconstructions or embedded stone matrix can be removed without touching the precious originals again. “In this case we were lucky to have teeth available from a very similar other specimen so that we could reconstruct the edentulous face of ‘Mrs. Ples’, as the fossil is called” says Weber.
Gerhard Weber leads a European network funded by the EU (European Virtual Anthropology Network – EVAN). The network aims to spread this kind of technology in Europe and to train young researchers. Applications meanwhile reached the medical sector as well where diagnosis and implant planning exploit the same methods as those used for investigating fossils.
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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