Humans were apex predators for two million years

eurekalert.org – Researchers at Tel Aviv University were able to reconstruct the nutrition of stone age humans.

Source: Miki Ben‐Dor, Raphael Sirtoli, Ran Barkai. The evolution of the human trophic level during the Pleistocene. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2021.

Mummified Parrots Reveal 'Sophisticated' Trade In Ancient South American Desert

npr.org – Scientists found remains of parrots in the Atacama desert, far from the birds' home in the Amazon. The discovery allowed scientists to reconstruct ancient trading routes used to transport the birds.

Source: José M. Capriles, et al. Pre-Columbian transregional captive rearing of Amazonian parrots in the Atacama Desert. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021.

An on-off switch for gene editing

eurekalert.org – A new gene editing technology called CRISPRoff allows researchers to control gene expression with high specificity while leaving the sequence of the DNA unchanged. The method is stable enough to be inherited through hundreds of cell divisions, and is also fully reversible.

Source: James K. Nuñez, et al. Genome-wide programmable transcriptional memory by CRISPR-based epigenome editing. Cell, 2021.

Foliar application boosts the zinc content of wheat grain by up to 50%

eurekalert.org – A team from the Department of Agronomy at the UCO has demonstrated, through field tests carried out during 8 agricultural seasons, that foliar feeding with fertilizer increases the concentration of zinc in wheat more than if it is applied to the soil

Source: Antonio Rafael Sánchez-Rodríguez, et al. Zinc biofortification strategies for wheat grown on calcareous Vertisols in southern Spain: application method and rate. Plant and Soil, 2021.

Study: Scant evidence that 'wood overuse' at Cahokia caused collapse

eurekalert.org – Archaeologists from Washington University in St. Louis excavated around earthen mounds and analyzed sediment cores to test a persistent theory about the collapse of Cahokia, the pre-Columbian Native American city in southwestern Illinois that was once home to more than 15,000 people.

Source: Caitlin G. Rankin, Casey R. Barrier, Timothy J. Horsley. Evaluating narratives of ecocide with the stratigraphic record at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois, USA. Geoarchaeology, 2021.

Moffitt investigators identify STING gene methylation allows melanoma to evade the immune system

eurekalert.org – In a new article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Moffitt Cancer Center researchers demonstrate how an important defect in STING gene expression in melanoma cells contributes to their evasion from immune cell detection and destruction.

Source: Rana Falahat, et al. Epigenetic reprogramming of tumor cell–intrinsic STING function sculpts antigenicity and T cell recognition of melanoma. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021.

IU School of Medicine researchers develop blood test for depression, bipolar disorder

eurekalert.org – Worldwide, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a depressive episode in their lifetime. While current diagnosis and treatment approaches are largely trial and error, a breakthrough study by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers sheds new light on the biological basis of mood disorders, and offers a promising blood test aimed at a precision medicine approach to treatment.

Source: H. Le-Niculescu, et al. Precision medicine for mood disorders: objective assessment, risk prediction, pharmacogenomics, and repurposed drugs. Molecular Psychiatry, 2021.

More than 5,000 tons of extraterrestrial dust falls onto Earth every year

zmescience.com – Forget about killer asteroids for a second. Most of the extraterrestrial matter on Earth is invisible to the naked eye.

Source: J. Rojas, et al. The micrometeorite flux at Dome C (Antarctica), monitoring the accretion of extraterrestrial dust on Earth. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2021.

DNA analysis solves curious case of the stillborn fetus in the bishop’s coffin

arstechnica.com – The fetus was probably the grandson of 17th-century Swedish Bishop Peder Winstrup.

Source: Maja Krzewińska, et al. Related in death? A curious case of a foetus hidden in bishop Peder Winstrup’s coffin in Lund, Sweden. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 2021.

2 recent studies sequence DNA from the earliest Homo sapiens in Eurasia

arstechnica.com – One study includes DNA from the son of Neanderthal and a Homo sapiens parents.

Source: Mateja Hajdinjak, et al. Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry. Nature, 2021.