Skull 17, a hominin skull found in the Sima de los Huesos cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain.
Credit: © Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films
From ancient parasites and epidemics to affectionate dogs and spiders with personality, here are the coolest stories we found from Science this week.
Neanderthal-like lineage revealed:
New findings based on Hominin fossils from a Spanish cave site indicate Neanderthal evolution may have begun with the development of front teeth that could be used as a "third hand." These findings point to a separate evolution of the defining characteristics of Neanderthal's rather than the features evolving together gradually.
[Full Story: Ancient Skulls Reveal 'Mixed' Neanderthal-Like Lineage]
Brown bears caught in the act:
A study published online in early June detailed a pair of male brown bears who, over the course of six years, have regularly engaged in fellatio. Scientists theorize the act could be either a relic of infantile behavior or an odd effect of living in captivity.
[Full Story: Brown Bears Caught Performing Oral Sex]
Ancient parasite found in tomb:
In an ancient Mesopotamian tomb, the egg of a parasite still active today was found. The findings are the oldest known evidence of parasites effecting humans. The freshwater parasite has been found to be more prevalent as farming technologies advance in a civilization.
[Full Story: Ancient Parasite Uncovered in Mesopotamian Tomb]
Remains of epidemic found in ancient Egypt:
In Egypt, archaeologists have discovered the remains of an ancient plague, described by one historian of the time as the beginning of the end. Kilns for lime and a giant bonfire with human remains inside were uncovered and some pottery remains indicate the severe epidemic was a part of the "Plague of Cyprian" from the third century A.D.
King Richard III's tomb design unveiled:
A British High Court concluded that the University of Leicester could reinter King Richard III's remains as announced June 16. The final plans for Richard's tomb include a lead ossuary, an English oak coffine, a brick-lined vault as well as a slab of dark Kilkenny marble. But of course there must be controversy surround Richard III, and several socieities have noted their displeasure with the burial plans.
[Full Story: King Richard III's Tomb Design Unveiled]
Farthest north spring discovered:
A spring gushing in the Arctic desert? Researchers followed a frozen river to a gushing spring on Canada's Ellesmere Island. While the explanation is far from complete, scientists believe the water may be supplied by glacial meltwater from distant mountains.
Oxytocin may make Fido more affectionate:
A whiff of oxytocin — the love hormone — has been found to make pups more affectionate toward their owners. The research suggests that oxytocin, in addition to strengthening bonds between humans, may help maintain relationships between different species.
[Full Story: Doggy Kisses: Oxytocin May Make Fido More Affectionate]
Odd bachelor party find:
Members of a bachelor party hiking in in Elephant Butte Lake State Park discovered a 3-million-year-old stegomastodon skull sticking out of the sand by the Rio Grande River. Paleontologists say this is one of the most complete mastodon fossils ever found.
[Full Story: Bachelor Party Stumbles Upon Rare Mastodon Skull]
Spiders have personalities, too:
Researchers who've studied the comb-footed spider noted two kinds of female spiders in the species: aggressive and docile. The findings support the idea that personality plays a part in the roles taken by the spiders when living in a colony.
Is free will an illusion?
A debate for thousands of years, researchers have been using technology to find out more about what we call "free will." Through EEG to measure brain waves, scientists found "noise" in the background indicated a person's decision before the person had consciously chosen the answer.