Aug 26, 2017

Ancient human relative probably ate nuts, roots or tubers

Homo naledi, a human ancestor that lived about 300,000 years ago, probably ate food that was hard or gritty, Bruce Bower writes for Science News. The study was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Why it matters: Naledi is known for its startling mix of modern and primitive traits and the fossils' relatively recent age: it may have overlapped with modern humans. Some think the chips, combined with H. naledi's small tooth size, could suggest it had a flexible diet, like modern humans. It's also another way H. naledi are unique among non-human primates, since no non-human ape species so far, fossil or otherwise, have shown this level of dental chipping.

What they found: The researchers looked at 126 fossil teeth from at least 15 individuals discovered in 2015 in one of the largest hominid fossils finds ever, and compared the chipping rates to other apes (fossil and modern). They found 44% of teeth were chipped, a higher number than any other ape species included in the analysis, ancient or modern. Chipping occurs when animals have a diet of hard foods like nuts or grit-covered foods dug up from the ground, like roots and tubers. The chips were in places consistent with damage from eating, not damage from tool use.

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America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.

Top NSC official may be moved after "Anonymous" rumor fallout

President Trump at the Daytona 500. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Trump administration officials are in discussions to reassign deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy from the National Security Council, per two sources familiar with the planning.

Why it matters: Coates' working relationship with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who elevated her to the deputy role only months ago, has strained amid an effort by some people inside the administration to tag her as "Anonymous" — a charge she has vehemently denied to colleagues.

Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion for climate change research

Bezos at Amazon Smbhav in New Delhi on Jan. 15. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the launch of his "Earth Fund" on Monday via Instagram to fund climate change research and awareness.

What he's saying: Bezos says he's initially committing $10 billion to fund "scientists, activists, and NGOS" that are working on environmental preservation and protection efforts.