Protecting Cows—and People—from a Deadly Disease
Growing Healthier Tomato Plants
Keeping Bugs Away from Food
Poison Dart Frogs
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Sea Lilies on the Run
Koalas, Up Close and Personal
Little Bee Brains That Could
Newly named fish crawls and hops
Face values
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The hungry blob at the edge of the universe
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Sticking Around with Gecko Tape
It's a Small E-mail World After All
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Island of Hope
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Giant snakes invading North America
Flu river
Finding the Past
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Salt and Early Civilization
Prehistoric Trips to the Dentist
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A Pepper Part that Burns Fat
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March 21-22, 2013: Over 43,000 students will take the GSAT Exam
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Secrets of an Ancient Computer
Math is a real brain bender
How a Venus Flytrap Snaps Shut
Human Body
Remembering Facts and Feelings
A Long Trek to Asia
Cell Phone Tattlers
Gray Whale
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
How children learn
Project Music
Einstein's Skateboard
Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
Fast-flying fungal spores
A Change in Leaf Color
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Garter Snakes
Komodo Dragons
Space and Astronomy
A Darker, Warmer Red Planet
Roving the Red Planet
Chaos Among the Planets
Technology and Engineering
Reach for the Sky
Sugar Power for Cell Phones
Dancing with Robots
The Parts of Speech
What is a Verb?
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Flying the Hyper Skies
Robots on a Rocky Road
Middle school science adventures
A Change in Climate
Where rivers run uphill
Earth's Poles in Peril
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Words of the Distant Past

Some people just won't shut up. That's probably been true for a long time—maybe even hundreds of thousands of years. Computer reconstructions of ancient skulls show that our ancestors had ears built like ours as far back as 350,000 years ago. The ears of social mammals are typically designed to recognize sounds made by fellow species members. So, humanlike ears suggest humanlike speech, say researchers from Spain. Anthropologists don't know for sure when people started talking. To get a better idea, the new study focused on a group of fossils from a place in Spain called Sima de los Huesos. The fossils belong to a species called Homo heidelbergensis. Modern people did not evolve from H. heidelbergensis, but an ancient group called Neandertals might have. Using a computerized scanner, the researchers measured ear structures on the remains. Then, they used information about living people to make three-dimensional computer models of what the ancient ears looked like. Finally, they measured how sound would pass through the model ears. The results showed that the ears could handle almost exactly the same range of sounds that our ears can today. The researchers suggest that hearing and talking developed in a common ancestor shared by both Neandertals and modern people. Other experts are more skeptical. Some studies have turned up conflicting results about the ears and vocal chords of Neandertals. And anyway, hearing could have evolved long before talking. The two don't necessarily go together. If it's true that our ancestors could talk more than 350,000 years ago, that brings up another question. What kinds of things did they talk about?—E. Sohn

Words of the Distant Past
Words of the Distant Past

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