Anthropology & Archaeology
Eastern roots A mix of anatomical traits on a 40,000-year-old partial human skeleton unearthed in China supported the controversial possibility of interbreeding among Stone Age Homo species (171: 211).
Early walkers New fossil finds showed that 1.77-million-year-old human ancestors trekked from Africa to Asia using legs, feet, and spines shaped much like ours, although they had small brains and apelike arms (172:179 *).
Researchers excavated a 4,600-year-old village in southern England that was inhabited by the same people who built nearby Stonehenge as a memorial to their dead (171: 67).
A coastal South African cave yielded evidence of surprisingly complex behaviors, including shellfish harvesting and pigment use, about 164,000 years ago (172: 243).
Pacific trips DNA extracted from a chicken bone found in Chile suggested that Polynesian seafarers brought poultry to South America by about 620 years ago (171: 356 *). Other evidence indicated that, roughly 1,000 years ago, Polynesians sailed canoes to Hawaii and back (172:198).
Chimp hunters Researchers for the first time observed wild chimpanzees, mainly females and youngsters, making and using tools for hunting small animals (171: 131 *). An excavation in western Africa revealed that a chimp stone age started at least 4,300 years ago (171: 99 *).
A new analysis of fossil teeth from the fossilized remains of a nearly 8-year-old child suggested that people evolved an extended childhood at least 160,000 years ago (171: 163).
Tree walking Field work in Indonesia demonstrated that orangutans at times walk upright much as people do, suggesting that an upright stance evolved in a common ancestor of all living apes (172: 72 *).
Tool time Primate and brain-scan studies converged on the notion that human tool use grew out of an evolutionarily ancient neural capacity for manipulating objects (171: 88).
Alien orbs Astronomers found what they are calling Earth's closest known analog outside the solar system, an object with an average temperature that may allow water to be liquid (171: 259 *). A newly discovered planet outside the solar system--an exoplanet--appeared to be Neptune-sized and composed mainly of water solidified under high pressure (171: 308 *). Researchers for the first time recorded the spectra of radiation emitted by two exoplanets (171: 115 *). They also discovered the largest--and lowest-density--exoplanet yet found (172: 174).
Blooming comets Flaunting a majestic tail over southern skies, Comet McNaught became the brightest comet in more than 40 years (171: 52). In late October, Comet 17P/Holmes suddenly burst into brightness and became a naked-eye object for several weeks (172: 309).
Five in one With the discovery of a fifth planet circling the nearby star 55 Cancri, astronomers found the most populous--and heaviest--planetary system beyond the sun's (172: 334).
Death and life An exoplanet survived after its aging parent star ballooned into a red giant that almost engulfed it (172: 163), while infrared observations depicted dusty vestiges of a planetary system dancing around a dead star (171: 100). Material shed by a dying star might give birth to planets, researchers reported (171: 62).
Planetary prelude An infrared portrait of an embryonic, sunlike star revealed an early, crucial step in the process of planet formation (172: 358).
Joe average A collection of low-mass galaxies, dating from when the universe was just 2 billion years old, appeared to be the typical building blocks of large galaxies like the Milky Way (172:373).
In transit Observations of minieclipses that occur when a distant planet passes in front of its parent star revealed new insights into the size, composition, and temperature of exoplanets (172: 24 *). …