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A diagram illustrating a brain connected to a cable, that reads out brain activity. Credit: https://www.caltech.edu/  

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Published in Neuron

What is happening inside your brain as you are reading this? Which areas and which neurons are active? A less-invasive technology called functional ultrasound has now shown the ability to map brain activity even from regions deep within the brain. It produces detailed images of the neural signals that could not be seen with other non-invasive techniques like fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).

Published in Science Advances

The tallest land animal has kept biologists busy for years as they struggled to decode its peculiar anatomy and evolutionary adaptations. Now a study of the giraffe’s whole genome has shown that a particular gene known as FGFRL1 may be responsible for its unique features. The team writes that this gene has undergone many changes in the giraffe compared to other animals.

Published in PNAS

Penguins are known to contain more haemoglobin in their blood compared to other land-dwelling birds. A new study that looked at ancient and modern penguins found that the haemoglobin evolved such that it can increase the pick-up and drop-off of available oxygen. This is vital for the bird as it has to spend more than 30 minutes holding its breath while hunting.

Published in Nature Communications

The ocean floor of Amami Sankaku Basin near Japan has yielded a new type of rock. Studies on samples collected from 1.5 km into the ocean floor showed a new type of basalt that had a different mineral composition compared to those found so far on Earth and Mars. The team says that it may be created during volcanic eruptions.

Published in Nature Ecology and Evolution

By studying the genomes of over 400 modern humans and ancient human cousins, researchers have now noted that two cousin species, Homo luzonensis and Homo floresiensis, were present in Island SouthEast Asia when modern humans arrived. Island Southeast Asia includes Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, and the new nation of East Timor. Further studies revealed that there were no interbreeding events.

The team also found DNA evidence for our mysterious ancient cousins called Denisovans from the region. These findings could tell us more about human evolution and migration across the globe.

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