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SciTech Briefs

Scientists find early European footprints on Norfolk coast

A team of scientists led by Queen Mary University of London, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum have recently discovered footprints on the coast of England in northeast Norfolk that are over 800,000 years old. These ancient footprint findings are extremely rare; the only two footprints that have ever been found earlier are both in Africa and are 1.5 million and 3.5 million years old. If geologists had arrived at the scene of the footprints just two weeks later, the footprints would have already been eroded away by the tide. This fact illustrates the extremely unlikely chance of the discovery and the difficulty with which footprints are found. These footprints provide interesting insight into the movement patterns of ancient humans and provides evidence that they may have been migrating toward Great Britain when it was still connected to the main continent. The researchers used photogrammetry, a technique which pieces together photographs to create a 3-D image, to study the footprints.

Source: Science Daily

Sector of human brain contributes to advanced thought

Researchers at the University of Oxford have determined that the ventrolateral frontal cortex of human brains contains a region that gives humans the unique ability to process loads of information, make informed decisions, and create speech. During an experiment, researchers used MRI imaging and compared the brain activity of 25 adults to the brain activity of 25 macaque monkeys. The monkeys and humans had 11 regions that acted similarly out of 12 tested regions in the ventrolateral frontal cortex. However, the humans used a portion of their brain in the frontal cortex that the monkeys didn’t have. Scientists are hypothesizing that this portion of the brain is correlated with advanced thinking like multi-tasking and speech. This region of the frontal cortex could be what gives humans unique intelligence, given that a close relative of humans does not have this same region in their ventrolateral frontal cortex. The scientists have published their findings in the science journal Neuron.

Source: Science Daily

Gene identified in women that causes their slower growth

Research conducted on the X chromosome is instrumental to determining the factors that cause men and women to be different. The only genetic difference between a man and a woman is that the woman has two X chromosomes, while the man has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. To this end, researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, have found a gene that can help to explain the difference in height associated with men and women. The gene, ITM2A, causes the body to grow at a slower rate. The gene is found on the X chromosome and is active on both the X chromosomes in women. However, they are only found active once in men because they only have one X chromosome. Thus, with more ITM2A, women grow at a slower rate. While this gene has only been shown to contribute to about 1 to 2 percent change, it still could provide further insight and reasoning.

Source: Science Daily