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By 8 October 2010 | Categories: news

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Chips and cracks

It seems our early ancestors sometimes bit off more than they could chew. Scientists write in a recent issue of the journal Biology Letters that analysis of chip patterns on hominin, gorilla and chimpanzee teeth, can be used to determine the bite force exerted by a tooth.
 
Of these analysed fossils, bigger teeth generally had more chips, which mean they exerted more bite force. This in turn suggests that more chips and cracks in the enamel tell of a diet that regularly included hard foods like nuts, seeds or bones.
 
Existing methods to determine what our ancestors ate usually require a complete skull to work out the jaw mechanics, but with the new method it seems a tooth may bring scientists just as close to the truth. 
 
Early birds
 
A little birdie told us that being an early chirper may not always be a good thing. According to a study published in a recent issue of the journal Cell Biology, urban night lighting may affect breeding behaviour of forest-breeding songbirds.
 
Researchers analysed several species of songbirds' dawn chirps and found that males in areas near street lights started singing much earlier than their buddies from deeper within the wood. Apparently female birds often preferentially seek out early risers as "high-quality" mates to improve the quality of their offspring.
 
But if urban lighting upsets this natural cue, female birds may not necessarily get what they bargained for and future bird populations may be the poorer for it. Bottom line? If you wake up early, keep it down for a while.
 
The big hole
 
Watching your step on the moon is much easier these days it seems. According to a recent issue of the journal Science, researchers have mapped and counted close to 5200 moon craters with diameters of 20 km or more using tools aboard the NASA Lunar Orbiter.
 
Counting in itself was a feat, but their analysis also shows that the oldest regions of the moon, lying along a north-south axis, were pummelled by large projectiles until about 3.8 billion years ago. Younger areas though, were hit by much smaller objects. This makes scientists think that conditions in the asteroid belt must have changed around that time.
 
Exactly what changed is not certain yet, but the findings may help astronomers to understand our planetary system a little better. 
 
Other cool reads:
 
What’s eating the stars out of our galaxy’s heart? 
The part of the brain that leads to introspection.
We only trust experts if they agree with us.

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