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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of knowledge about Neanderthals, the closest extinct relative of our species, Homo Sapiens, and further debunked the outdated notion of them as humankind’s dimwitted cousins.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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As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

The World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems.

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Drought, Climate change, global warming
A farmer stands on cracked earth that three weeks earlier created the bottom of a reservoir on his farm, in Groot Marico, South Africa. VOA

Efforts to boost global action against climate change are stuttering, as several key nations have objected to a key United Nations-backed report on the impacts of rising temperatures at the COP24 talks in Poland.

Many developing nations say they are already suffering from the impact of climate change, especially in south Asia and Africa, where water shortages and intense storms are putting lives and livelihoods in danger.

In Malawi in southern Africa, a bustling fish market stood at Kachulu on the shores of Lake Chilwa just five months ago. Now, hundreds of fishing boats lie marooned across the vast bay as vultures circle over the cracked, sun-baked mud. Water levels here fluctuate annually, but scientists say climate change is making the seasonal dry-out of the lake far more dramatic. Fishermen are being forced to leave and look for work elsewhere, says Sosten Chiotha, of the non-governmental organization ‘LEAD’ – Leadership for Environment and Development.

“Climate change contributes to the current recessions that we are experiencing, because you can see that in 2012 there was a recession where the lake lost about 80 percent of its water. Then it recovered in 2013, but not fully. So since then every year we have been experiencing these recessions,” Chiotha said.

Scientists gathering at the COP24 climate talks say it is developing countries like Malawi that are being hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

The charity Water Aid has released a report ranking the countries worst-hit by water shortages, with Sudan, Niger and Pakistan making up the top three.

“There are people who are living with the impact of climate change right now. And they’re feeling those impacts not through carbon, but through water. And as we’ve seen over the past few years and will continue to see for many years to come unfortunately, is a huge increase in water stress and absolute water scarcity,” Water Aid’s Jonathan Farr told VOA from the climate talks currently underway in the Polish city of Katowice.

Richer nations have pledged $100 billion a year for poorer nations to deal with the consequences of climate change. Water Aid says they are failing to deliver the money.

Scientists say emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 to have any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – the target agreed in the Paris climate deal.

 

 

Global Warming, Climate Change, Africa
Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 8, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. VOA

However, the number of coal-fired power stations – the most polluting for

m of energy generation – is growing. The German organization ‘Urgewald’ calculates that $478 billion had been invested into expansion of the coal industry between January 2016 and September 2018.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Meanwhile the World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems, including malaria, malnutrition and heat exposure.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

There is little optimism at the talks that much concrete progress will be made, as several countries including the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia have already voiced objections to a key scientific report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (VOA)