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How About Some Tasty Woolly Rhinoceros for Dinner?

The plaque DNA showed he had consumed poplar bark, containing the pain-killing active ingredient of aspirin, and a natural antibiotic mold

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FILE - A museum recreation shows Neanderthals in this undated photo.
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Australia, 11 March, 2017: Ancient DNA from dental plaque is revealing intriguing new information about Neanderthals, including specific menu items in their diet such as woolly rhinoceros and wild mushrooms, as well as their use of plant-based medicine to cope with pain and illness.

Scientists said on Wednesday they genetically analyzed plaque from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal remains from Spain and 36,000-year-old remains from Belgium. The plaque, material that forms on and between teeth, contained food particles as well as microbes from the mouth and the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.

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At Belgium’s Spy Cave site, which at the time was a hilly grassy environment home to big game, the Neanderthal diet was meat-based with woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep, along with wild mushrooms. Some 12,000 years earlier, at Spain’s El Sidron Cave site, which was a densely forested environment likely lacking large animals, the diet was wild mushrooms, pine nuts, moss and tree bark, with no sign of meat.

The two populations apparently lived different lifestyles shaped by their environments, the researchers said.

The researchers found that an adolescent male from the Spanish site had a painful dental abscess and an intestinal parasite that causes severe diarrhea. The plaque DNA showed he had consumed poplar bark, containing the pain-killing active ingredient of aspirin, and a natural antibiotic mold.

“This study really gives us a glimpse of what was in a Neanderthal’s medicine cabinet,” said paleomicrobiologist Laura Weyrich of Australia’s University of Adelaide, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

The findings added to the growing body of knowledge about Neanderthals, the closest extinct relative of our species, Homo Sapiens, and further debunked the outdated notion of them as humankind’s dimwitted cousins.

“I definitely believe our research suggests Neanderthals were highly capable, intelligent, likely friendly beings. We really need to rewrite the history books about their ‘caveman-like’ behaviors. They were very human-like behaviors,” Weyrich said.

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The robust, large-browed Neanderthals prospered across Europe and Asia from about 350,000 years ago until going extinct roughly 35,000 years ago after our species, which first appeared in Africa 200,000 years ago, established itself in regions where Neanderthals lived.

Scientists say Neanderthals were intelligent, with complex hunting methods, probable use of spoken language and symbolic objects, and sophisticated fire usage.

The researchers also reconstructed the genome of a 48,000-year-old oral bacterium from one of the Neanderthals.

“This is the oldest microbial genome to date, by about 43,000 years,” Weyrich said. (VOA)

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Microsoft takes ‘Project Sangam’ to Middle East and Africa

"Project Sangam" was commenced from Andhra Pradesh

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Microsoft's 99DOTS initiative helping TB patients in India
Microsoft expands 'Project Sangam'. Wikimedia commons

In a bid to bridge the widening skill gap, Microsoft on Monday announced expansion of the capabilities of its Cloud-powered “Project Sangam” to the Middle East and Africa.

Launched in India by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last year, “Project Sangam” is a Cloud-hosted platform that leverages Azure services and professional networking platform LinkedIn to support new entrants to the job market, enabling key stakeholders across the skilling ecosystem find the right talent.

Microsoft to pay $250,000 to help them catch chip bugs. Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft’s Sangam is a cloud-based platform. Wikimedia Commons

“Lack of skilled resources is one of the key issues that governments across the world are facing. There is an enormous scope for technology to come in to address the skill gap that exists in the workforce today,” Anil Bhansali, Corporate Vice President, Cloud & Enterprise, said in a statement.

Nadella launched “Project Sangam” to help the Indian government not only train but also assist people get jobs via LinkedIn that was acquired by the company for $26.2 billion in an all-cash deal in 2016. “Project Sangam” was commenced from Andhra Pradesh.

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“‘Sangam’ is the first project that wields the combined strength of LinkedIn and Microsoft to tackle the challenge of how to provide every person the opportunity to skill themselves,” added Bhansali who is also Managing Director of Microsoft India (R&D) Private Limited. As part of the expansion, Microsoft South Africa and the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) have launched “Thint’iMillion”, an online mass learning system.

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The project was first launched in Andhra Pradesh. VOA

Part of the “Tshepo 1Million Digital Mass” learning programme, the “Thint’iMillion” programme will be deployed on “Project Sangam”, allowing young people to access content via an on-phone app (Android only), tablet mode (Windows and Android) as well as an interactive web portal. IANS