Category Archives: News

Avocado: the ‘green gold’ causing environment havoc

The avocado boom means 11 billion pounds are consumed annually worldwide.

• Intensive production in Michoacán state, Mexico has caused environment damage on multiple fronts.

• The avocado supply chain desperately needs international monitoring and standards.

Maybe you start your day with an avocado toast, then you have an avocado salad for lunch, and you finish your day with some guacamole in your dinner. The delicious and nutritious fruit has gained immense popularity over the last years, linked to a healthy lifestyle. But the underlying truth is tough: Avocado production carries enormous environmental costs that you are probably not aware of.

Mexico produces more avocado than anywhere in the world, but the “green gold”, as it is known, is consumed mainly in North America, Europe and Asia. Each year, 11 billion pounds of avocado are consumed around the world. A few weeks ago, every six minutes, a truck full of avocados was leaving the Mexican state of Michoacán for export to the USA in preparation for the most important date for avocado producers in the year: the Super Bowl, which sees 7% of the annual avocado consumption in only one day.

Top avocado importing countries, 2018
Image: Hass Avocado Board

Michoacán produces eight out of 10 Mexican avocados and five out of 10 avocados produced globally. Avocado farming in the state has a land production size equivalent of 196,000 football fields; its regional economy is strongly dependent on a product with a market value of around $2.5 billion a year. 

Until two decades ago, US buyers did not have access to Mexican avocado. The US government maintained a ban on imports for 87 years because it was considered to represent a risk to agriculture. In 1997, Michoacán was declared free of the borer worm, and the massive export of avocado began. Exports were highly benefited by the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); by 2005, Mexican avocado was all over the supermarkets in the United States, currently the most important market in the planet for the fruit. Consumption in the US more than doubled in only 10 years. “Avocados from Mexico” was the first brand in the agricultural sector to pay for a television commercial in the Super Bowl.

Hass avocado sales in the US by year
Image: Hass avocado board

Despite this massive creation of value and success, extensive avocado production has substantial and irretrievable environmental costs and damages. Disproportionately huge demand for the fruit is creating a climate change effect. Forest lands with diverse wildlife have been destroyed to produce avocado, and many more were intentionally burned to bypass a Mexican law allowing producers to change the land-use permit to commercial agriculture instead of forest land, if it was lost to burning. 

US imports by quarter
Image: Hass Avocado Board

Shrubs and old trees are often taken down to provide avocado trees greater sunlight, contributing to deforestation and consequently to global warming and climate change. Currently, in Michoacán’s avocado-producing area, there has been an increase in temperature and erratic rainstorms. Research by the National Autonomous University of Mexico Campus Morelia identified that the state has a new tendency to be increasingly hot and dry, with less intense cold seasons necessary to maintain the environmental balance, and extended extreme hot seasons with increased irregular rainfall and greater cyclone strength. The loss of forest cover and other climate changes means the rate of arrival of the Monarch butterfly to Michoacán has also dropped.

Around 9.5 billion litres of water are used daily to produce avocado – equivalent to 3,800 Olympic pools – requiring a massive extraction of water from Michoacán aquifers. Excessive extraction of water from these aquifers is having unexpected consequences, such as causing small earthquakes. From 5 January to 15 February, 3,247 seismic movements were recorded in Uruapan municipality and surroundings, the most important avocado-producing area in the world. According to local authorities, avocado-related water extraction has opened up subsoil caverns that could be causing these movements.

Small earthquake activity in the avocado crop region
Image: Sismologico Nacional de Mexico

One hectare of avocado with 156 trees consumes 1.6 times more than a forest with 677 trees per hectare. When avocado trees are irrigated, because their roots are rather horizontal, the flow through preferential infiltration is less and makes it difficult for the water to seep into the subsoil; 14 times less compared to the pine tree. A study conducted by Carbon Footprint Ltd affirms a small pack of two avocados has an emissions footprint of 846.36g CO2, almost twice the size of one kilo of bananas (480g CO2) and three times the size of a large cappuccino with regular cow milk (235g CO2).

Intensive avocado production has caused biodiversity loss, extreme weather conditions, extensive soil degradation of the soil and is on the brink of causing an entirely human-made environmental disaster.

As we develop multistakeholder capitalism, we urgently need to start thinking about the origin of our foods and to create more sustainable consumption food chains. Awareness of the environmental impact of what we consume is the first step to reducing the climate impact of our food. The avocado situation makes it plain that not only meat is imposing a heavy environmental toll.

Source – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/avocado-environment-cost-food-mexico/

Portland Installs Turbines in City Water Pipes To Create Free Electricity

If you live in Portland, Oregon, your lights are now powered in part by the water flowing through your pipes.

The city recently installed new municipal water pipes equipped with four 42-inch turbines that create electricity from the water passing through them.

Historyically, hydropower has been created by damming rivers and installing turbines inside the dams, which can be damaging to fish and the river itself.

Tap-water hydropower creates virtually no effect on wildlife, as it is simply harnessing the energy of water that’s already flowing through the pipes.

“It’s pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there’s no environmental impact,” saysGregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, the Portland-based startup that designed the new system.

“But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That’s what’s exciting.”

Another bonus about hydro-power is, unlike wind and solar, it’s always working as long as water is flowing.

The turbines can only be installed in places where municipal water pipes flow downhill, as using electricity to pump water through them would defeat the purpose.

The four turbines are expected to produce at least $2 million worth of free electricity over the next 20 years. More turbines would produce more.

A larger tap-water hydro-power system could have a major impact in places like California where 20% of total energy consumption goes toward treating and pumping water to farms, residents and businesses, Fast Company notes.

Lucid Energy already has a pilot program in place in Riverside, California, where they city’s water utility is using the turbines to offset operating costs during the day and power streetlights at night.

Making Air Out of Moondust

ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust
Oxygen and metal from lunar regolith. Credit: Beth Lomax – University of Glasgow

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

A prototype  plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

“Having our own facility allows us to focus on , measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant,” comments Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose Ph.D. work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

“Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel.”

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse adds: “And now we have the facility in operation we can look into fine-tuning it, for instance by reducing the operating temperature, eventually designing a version of this system that could one day fly to the Moon to be operated there.”

Samples returned from the  confirm that  is made up of 40–45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element. But this oxygen is bound up chemically as oxides in the form of minerals or glass, so is unavailable for immediate use.

ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust
Credit: European Space Agency

ESTEC’s oxygen extraction is taking place using a method called molten salt electrolysis, involving placing regolith in a metal basket with molten calcium chloride salt to serve as an electrolyte, heated to 950°C. At this temperature the regolith remains solid.

But passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. As a bonus this process also converts the regolith into usable metal alloys.

In fact this molten salt electrolysis method was developed by UK company Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production. Beth’s Ph.D. involved working at the company to study the process before recreating it at ESTEC.

“At Metalysis, oxygen produced by the process is an unwanted by-product and is instead released as  and carbon monoxide, which means the reactors are not designed to withstand oxygen gas itself,” explains Beth. “So we had to redesign the ESTEC version to be able to have the oxygen available to measure. The lab team was very helpful in getting it installed and operating safely.”

ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust
Scanning electron microscope view of lunar simulant particles before the oxygen extraction process. Credit: Beth Lomax / University of Glasgow

The oxygen plant runs silently, with the oxygen produced in the process is vented into an exhaust pipe for now, but will be stored after future upgrades of the system.

“The production process leaves behind a tangle of different metals,” adds Alexandre, “and this is another useful line of research, to see what are the most useful alloys that could be produced from them, and what kind of applications could they be put to.

“Could they be 3-D printed directly, for example, or would they require refining? The precise combination of metals will depend on where on the Moon the  is acquired from—there would be significant regional differences.”

The ultimate aim would be to design a “pilot plant” that could operate sustainably on the Moon, with the first technology demonstration targeted for the mid-2020s.

ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust
Moondust simulant undergoing oxygen extraction. Credit: Beth Lomax / University of Glasgow

“ESA and NASA are heading back to the Moon with crewed missions, this time with a view towards staying,” says Tommaso Ghidini, Head of ESA’s Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division.

“Accordingly we’re shifting our engineering approach to a systematic use of lunar resources in-situ. We are working with our colleagues in the Human and Robotics Exploration Directorate, European industry and academia to provide top class scientific approaches and key enabling technologies like this one, towards a sustained human presence on the Moon and maybe one day Mars.”

Provided by European Space Agency

Fireflies Are Facing Extinction

(CNN) — Around the world, fireflies light up the night with their shimmering bodies. But scientists say this magical display is under threat — with the loss of their natural habitats, pesticide use and artificial light putting some of the 2,000 or so species at risk of extinction.

Habitat loss is leading to the decline of many wildlife species, with some fireflies suffering because they need certain environmental conditions to complete their life cycle, said Sara Lewis, a professor of biology at Tufts University, who led the research published Monday in the journal Bioscience.

For example, she said, one Malaysian firefly (Pteroptyx tener), famous for its synchronized flashing displays, needs mangroves and the plants they contain to breed but across Malaysia mangrove swamps have been converted into palm oil plantations and aquaculture farms.

More surprisingly, the researchers found that the use of artificial light at night, something that has grown exponentially over the past century, was the second most serious threat to the creatures.

Fireflies are facing extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides and artificial light
Fireflies are seen at a sanctuary conserved and protected by the National Forestry Commission near Nanacamilpa, Tlaxcala, Mexico on July 20, 2017.

Skyglow

Artificial light includes both direct lighting, such as street lights and commercial signs, and skyglow, a more diffuse illumination that spreads beyond urban centers and can be brighter than a full moon.

“In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms — including our own — light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals,” said Avalon Owens, a PhD candidate in biology at Tufts and a co-author of the study, in a news release.

Many fireflies rely on bioluminescence — chemical reactions inside their bodies that allows them to light up — to find and attract mates, and too much artificial light can interfere with this courtship. Switching to energy efficient, overly bright LEDs is not helping, said Owens.

The study noted that, according to conservative estimates, more than 23% of the planet’s land surface now experiences some degree of artificial brightness at night.

The authors of the study, who are affiliated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature Firefly Specialist Group, surveyed 350 members of the Fireflyers International Network to catalog the threats faced by the insect.

They said that more monitoring studies, with long-term data, were needed to understand to what degree firefly populations were declining. Most evidence about firefly numbers is anecdotal, they said.

Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex in the UK, said the ranking of habitat loss as the single most important driver, with pesticides a significant secondary concern, is in line with what is believed to be driving declines of insects more broadly.

“Of course fireflies are particularly vulnerable to light pollution, more so than perhaps any other insect group, so it makes sense that this also emerges as a major concern,” said Goulson, who was not involved in the research.

Scientists have detailed a “quiet apocalypse” among insect populations, with 41% of bug species facing extinction, according to a recent report on insect decline for the UK Wildlife Trusts authored by Goulson.

The firefly paper highlighted the risk posed by insecticides, like neonicotinoids, which is used in the US for corn and soybean seeds.

Fireflies are facing extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides and artificial light
This photo taken on August 18, 2015 shows fireflies kept in jars during in Guangzhou in China’s southern Guangdong province.

Firefly tourism

Another factor was what the authors called “firefly tourism.” In places like Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia, it’s long been a recreational activity to watch the spectacular light displays put on by some firefly species. However, it is now becoming more popular and widespread — attracting more than 200,000 visitors per year — impacting firefly numbers as a result.

In Thailand, the authors said that motorboat traffic along mangrove rivers in Thailand was toppling trees and eroding river banks and destroying habitat, while flightless species were getting trampled on by tourists in North Carolina and Nanacampila in Mexico.

The authors said guidelines were needed to establish and manage tourist sites that outline the best way to protect the fireflies from trampling, light pollution, and pesticides.

“Our goal is to make this knowledge available for land managers, policy makers, and firefly fans everywhere,” said co-author Sonny Wong of the Malaysian Nature Society. “We want to keep fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time.”

Decriminalize Nature DC Board of Elections Effort Today

 

Today, 2/18/20 at 11 AM, we head back to DC Board of Elections for one more step in the process to get @melissalava’s initiative on the ballot so that DC voters can decide to #decrimnature!
…..
#decrimnatureDC #entheogen #entheogens #magicmushrooms #phyrgian #ayahuasca #cactus #iboga #mesclun #restoringourroots #vote

Black History Meets Artistic Expression

Its Black History Month. And in order to celebrate it, every day for  28 days, Seattle mom Cristi Smith-Jones has been posting pictures to Twitter and Facebook of her daughter Lola dressed up as a different famous black woman. The result? One seriously epic photo series.

Just check out this shot of her 5-year-old (on the left) dressed up as infamous changemaker Rosa Parks (pictured at 42):

Pretty powerful, right?

During the past month, Cristi has also dressed Lola up as such modern icons as ballerina Misty Copeland:

And she’s honored scientist Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel into space:

So incredible! And according to Cristi, it all started back in January when Lola came home from school and told her parents she had learned about Martin Luther King Jr.

“She seemed to understand where we were coming from,” Cristi told CNN, then added: “Since it’s a heavy topic, we wanted to find a way to make learning about black history fun for her.”

So the creative mama compiled a list of women in history and showed their pictures to Lola so she could choose the ones she wanted to dress up as. Cristi then shot most of the pics on her phone—her photog friend Kayleigh Stefanko also lent a hand—with Lola tricked out in various wigs and old family clothes and accessories.

The project may have started out as a way to add some levity to a heady topic, but the result is a poignant and empowering celebration of 28 iconic black women. In fact, Cristi’s education-through-art is probably one of the most effective methods of teaching about Black History Month we’ve ever seen. Way to go, Mama—you and that brilliant little muse of yours are truly inspiring!

Check out the rest of the incredible images on Cristi’s Twitter feed.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Cause and Effect Project Human

Ahead of a series of major events later this year, The Foundation for Deep Ecology and the Population Media Center released a collection that illustrates the devastating effects of out-of-control growth and waste, and it’s breathtaking.

“This is an issue that people care about, and oftentimes it’s just not discussed by mainstream media,” Missie Thurston, director of marketing and communications at the Population Media Center, told Mic.

It’s difficult to always know the impacts of our daily choices, like the real effect of buying a bottled water or an extra TV or laptop. With 220,000 more people on the planet every day, and the average person generating over 4 pounds of waste a day — an almost 60% increase since 1960 — the impact of that growth and change in behavior is rarely seen like this.

Peter Essick/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Electronic waste, from around the world, is shipped to Accra, Ghana, where locals break apart the electronics for minerals or burn them. 

Pablo Lopez Luz/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Mexico City, Mexico, one of the most populous cities in the Western Hemisphere.

Digital Globe/Foundation for Deep Ecology

New Delhi, India, where many landfills are reaching a breaking point. The surrounding population of Delhi totals some 25 million people

Mike Hedge/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Los Angeles, California, which is famous for sometimes having more cars than people.

Mark Gamba/Corbis/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Kern River oil field, California, USA.

Daniel Dancer/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Former old-growth forest leveled for reservoir development, Willamette National Forest, Oregon, per the Population Media Center.

Jason Hawkes/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Coal power plant, United Kingdom. The tall center structure is a stack from the plant, while the surrounding structures are its cooling towers.

Cotton Coulson/Keenpress/Foundation for Deep Ecology

North East Land, Svalbard, Norway, where rising global temperatures are fundamentally changing the ecology.

Digital Globe/Foundation for Deep Ecology

The world’s largest diamond mine, Russia.

Daniel Beltra/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Amazon jungle burns to make room for grazing cattle, Brazil.

Garth Lentz/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Tar sands and open pit mining in an area so vast, it can be seen from space. Alberta, Canada.

Daniel Dancer/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Tires discarded in Nevada.

Garth Lentz/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Vancouver Island, Canada.

Yann Arthus Bertrand/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Industrial agriculture in Almeria, Spain, stretches for miles.

Garth Lentz/Foundation for Deep Ecology

Tar sands, Alberta, Canada.

Lu Guang/Foundation for Deep Ecology

A man turns away from the smell of the Yellow River in China.

Moon ‘shrooms? Fungi eyed to help build lunar bases and Mars outposts

Fungus could be very much among us when humanity sets up shop on the moon and beyond.

NASA researchers are investigating the potential of mycelia — the mass of nutrient-absorbing, widely branching underground threads that make up much of a fungus’s bulk — to help construct outposts on the moon and Mars.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle — carrying our homes with us on our backs,” project principal investigator Lynn Rothschild, of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, said in a statement.

This is “a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” she added in a NASA statement. “Instead, we can harness mycelia to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there.”

Video: How fungus among us could build moon bases  

Rothschild and her team are conducting their research with the aid of funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which seeks to encourage the development of potentially game-changing exploration technologies.

And the myco-architecture project could indeed be game-changing, if everything works out. (There’s certainly no guarantee that it will, however; the project is in the early stages.)

“Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars,” NASA officials wrote in the same statement. “Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat — all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.”

A researcher holding a petri dish containing mycelia — the underground threads that make up the main part of a fungus — growing in simulated Martian soil. (Image credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Lynn Rothschild)

There could be many different manifestations of off-Earth “mush-rooms.” For example, one habitat concept would consist of three layers, NASA officials explained. On top would be water ice, which may be sourced locally. (Both the moon and Mars are known to harbor the stuff.) The ice would shield the habitat’s human occupants from harmful radiation and would also provide resources to the tiny denizens of the middle layer — photosynthesizing microbes called cyanobacteria. These creatures would produce oxygen for the astronauts and nutrients for the fungal mycelia, the chief constituent of the bottom layer.

That basal layer provides the main structure of the habitat. The mycelia that make it up would be heavily processed, baked into sturdy bricks. This would kill the fungus, ensuring that none could escape and proliferate in the alien wilds. But as a second safeguard, any fungi used in this manner would be genetically altered to make them incapable of surviving beyond the base, NASA officials said.

The mycelia could do more than just serve as walls and ceilings, however. Fungi could also help filter water for off-Earth pioneers and extract minerals from their sewage, NASA officials said. And, like many technologies developed for space exploration, myco-architecture could end up having significant applications here on Earth as well — perhaps helping to reduce the huge carbon footprint of the construction industry, for example.

A stool constructed out of mycelia after two weeks of growth. The next step is a baking process process that leads to a clean and functional piece of furniture. The myco-architecture project seeks to design not only for habitats, but for the furniture that could be grown inside them as well. (Image credit: 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team)

“When we design for space, we’re free to experiment with new ideas and materials with much more freedom than we would on Earth,” Rothschild said. “And after these prototypes are designed for other worlds, we can bring them back to ours.”

Rothschild and her colleagues aren’t the only researchers working on novel and efficient habitat designs. For example, teams around the world are investigating the potential of 3D printing to construct habitats out of native Mars or moon material, spurred in part by competitions such as NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.

Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

30 Million Year Old Praying Mantis

Embedded within a clear piece of amber, a small praying mantis sits at attention, frozen forever in time. The piece, which measures just slightly over one inch tall, was sold via Heritage Auctions for $6,000 in 2016. The pristine piece of amber, which comes from the Dominican Republic, gives a rare view of this incredible mantis.

The amber itself derives from the extinct Hymenaea protera, a prehistoric leguminous tree. Most amber found in Central and South America comes from its resin. Amber from the Dominican Republic is known as Dominican resin, which is noted for its clarity and a high number of inclusions.

Heritage Auctions dates the piece in question to the Oligocene period, placing it anywhere from about 23 million  to 33.9 million years old. It’s an important period of time where the archaic Eocene transitions into more modern ecosystems of the Miocene period, which lasted until 5 million years ago. Incredibly, the mantis itself doesn’t appear so different from what we see today.

There are over 2,400 species of mantises today, mainly living in tropical climates. But the earliest mantis fossils, which date back 135 million years, come from a place that is, today, much colder—Siberia. Some early fossils even show mantises with spines on their front legs, just like modern mantises. Whoever bought this piece of amber took home an interesting piece of evolutionary history, one that can be gazed at each day.

Take a look at this 30 million-year-old praying mantis, encased in amber and forever frozen in time.

Source – https://mymodernmet.com/praying-mantis-dominican-amber/

West African Origins & Ghost DNA?

An artist’s rendering of DNA. Scientists have found traces of DNA that they say is evidence that prehistoric humans procreated with an unknown hominin group in West Africa.

Westend61/Getty Images/Westend61

About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn’t know existed.

There aren’t any bones or ancient DNA to prove it, but researchers say the evidence is in the genes of modern West Africans. They analyzed genetic material from hundreds of people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and found signals of what they call “ghost” DNA from an unknown ancestor.

Our own species — Homo sapiens — lived alongside other groups that split off from the same genetic family tree at different times. And there’s plenty of evidence from other parts of the world that early humans had sex with other hominins, like Neanderthals.

That’s why Neanderthal genes are present in humans today, in people of European and Asian descent. Homo sapiens also mated with another group, the Denisovans, and those genes are found in people from Oceania.

RESEARCH NEWS

Denisovans, A Mysterious Kind Of Ancient Humans, Are Traced To Tibet

The findings on ghost DNA, published in the journal Science Advances, further complicate the picture of how Homo sapiens — or modern humans — evolved away from other human relatives. “It’s almost certainly the case that the story is incredibly complex and complicated and we have kind of these initial hints about the complexity,” says Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist at UCLA.

The scientists analyzed the genomes of 405 West Africans. Sankararaman says they used a statistical model to flag parts of the DNA. The technique “goes along a person’s genome and pulls out chunks of DNA which we think are likely to have come from a population that is not modern human.”

The unusual DNA found in West Africa isn’t associated with either Neanderthals or Denisovans. Sankararaman and his study co-author, Arun Durvasula, think it comes from a yet-to-be-discovered group.

“We don’t have a clear identity for this archaic group,” Sankararaman says. “That’s why we use the term ‘ghost.’ It doesn’t seem to be particularly closely related to the groups from which we have genome sequences from.”

The scientists think the interbreeding happened about 50,000 years ago, roughly the same time that Neanderthals were breeding with modern humans elsewhere in the world. It’s not clear whether there was a single interbreeding “event,” though, or whether it happened over an extended period of time.

The unknown group “appears to have split off from the ancestors of modern humans a little before when Neanderthals split off from our ancestors,” he says.

Sharon Browning, a biostatistics professor at the University of Washington who has studied the mixing of Denisovans and humans, says “the scenario that they are discovering here is one that seems realistic.”

SHOTS – HEALTH NEWS

Ancient Bone Reveals Surprising Sex Lives Of Neanderthals

Browning notes that the ghost DNA appears frequently in the genetic material. “That tells us that these archaic populations might have had some DNA that did some useful stuff that’s proved to be useful to the modern population,” she says.

But at the moment, Sankararaman says, it’s not possible to know what, if any, role these genetic materials have for modern humans who carry them. “Are they just randomly floating in our genomes? Do they have any kind of adaptive benefits? Do they have deleterious consequences?” he added. “Those are all questions which would be fantastic to start thinking about

Read the full article at NPR