Life beyond us

Home » Health

Category Archives: Health


How 2-Million-Year-Old Ancestor Moved: Sediba’s Ribcage and Feet Were Not Suitable for Running

Researchers at Wits University in South Africa, including Peter Schmid from the University of Zurich, have described the anatomy of a single early hominin in six new studies. Australopithecus sediba was discovered near Johannesburg in 2008. The studies in Science demonstrate how our 2-million-year-old ancestor walked, chewed and moved.

The fossils discovered four years ago in Malapa near Johannesburg show a mixture of primitive features of australopiths and advanced features of later human species. The researchers led by Prof Lee Berger of Wits University are therefore of the opinion that the new species is currently the best candidate for a direct ancestor of our own genus Homo. Researchers are now presenting new studies, including those of Peter Schmid, who taught and did research at the University of Zurich until he retired. Also involved were UZH students Nakita Frater, Sandra Mathews a


nd Eveline Weissen.


Schmid has described the remains of Au. sediba‘s thorax. “They show a narrow upper ribcage, as the large apes have such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas,” says Peter Schmid. The human thorax on the other hand is uniformly cylindrical. Along with the largely complete remnants of the pectoral girdle, we see the morphological picture of a conical ribcage with a raised shoulder joint, which looks like a permanent shrug. The less well-preserved elements of the lower thorax on the other hand indicate a slim waist, similar to that of a human being.


Conical ribcage makes it difficult to swing arms when walking


The narrow upper thorax of apes enables them to move the shoulder blade, which is important for climbing and brachiation in trees. Its conical shape makes it difficult, however, to swing their arms when walking upright or running, plus they were a similar length to an ape’s. This is why Schmid assumes that Au. sediba was not able to walk or run on both feet as well as humans. “They probably couldn’t run over longer distances, especially as they were unable to swing their arms, which saves energy,” says Schmid.


An examination of the lower extremities shows a heel, metatarsus, knee, hips and back, which are unique and unprecedented. Sediba must have walked with feet turned sharply inwards. This inward turn distinguishes it from other australopiths. The conclusion to be drawn is that our early ancestors were able to move around in a different way.


Arms for climbing and brachiation


Au. sediba was an experienced climber. This is shown by the remains of the upper arm, radius, ulna, scapula, clavicle and fragment of sternum found in Malapa. These clearly belong to a single individual, which is unique in the entire previously known fossil record of the earliest hominins. With the exception of the hand bones described above, the upper extremity is exceptionally original. Au. sediba, like all the other representatives of the Australopithecus genus, had arms that were suitable for climbing as well as possibly for brachiation. Perhaps this capability was even more pronounced than has been assumed for this genus hitherto.


Differences from Australopithecus afarensis


Based on the dental crowns the researchers assume that Au. sediba does not belong phylogenetically to the eastern African australopiths but is closer to Au. africanus and thus forms a southern African sister group. This has an impact on our modern understanding of the evolution of early hominins from the late Pliocene. As such, Au. sediba and maybe even Au. africanus were not descended from Au. afarensis.


The lower jaw of the female skeleton was also examined along with previously unknown incisors and premolars. As noted already on the skull and other areas of the skeleton, the mandibular remains show similarities with other australopiths. They differ, however, in size and shape as well as in ontogenetic growth changes of Au. africanus. These results support the hypothesis that Au. sediba is taxonomically different from Au. africanus. In the relevant differences the parts of the lower jaw appear most to resemble those representatives of early Homo.


An analysis of the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral region of the spinal column shows that Au. sediba had the same number of lumbar vertebrae as modern man. The strong hollow back suggests that he was more advanced in this area than Au. africanus and may be more likely compared with Homo erectus.


The new studies show a unique image of a human species with a mosaic-like physique. Some body parts are similar to those of earlier and others to those of later hominins. “The numerous similarities with Homo erectus suggest that Au. sediba represents the most appropriate early form of the genus Homo,” says Peter Schmid. The previous candidates are too fragmentary to be capable of occupying this position.


More fake ingriedents in everyday foods

food-photoResearch by the U.S. food watchdog USP has shown that increasing food nepingrediƫnten be processed.

The scientific non-profit organization published its Food Fraud Database for the first time in April 2012. USP analyzed 1,300 published studies and news from the period between 1980 and 2010.

In 60 percent of cases, the watchdog noted that there was food fraud. Producers defraud the most with pomegranate juice. Pomegranate juice is relatively expensive and is often replaced by other juices or added sugar. It was also entirely ‘synthetic pomegranate juice “found no trace of real juice.

Olive oil is often adulterated with cheaper oils. Lemon juice is made cheaper by mainly water and add sugar. In many cases, only 15 to 35 percent lemon juice lemon juice as 100 percent on the package is stated. Tea bags are filled with lawn grass or yarrow. Spices like paprika and saffron tinted with hazardous dyes.

Furthermore, milk, honey, coffee and syrup according to the USP heavily exposed to food fraud. Seafood is also high on the list.

“There is certainly a health risk,” said John Spink from Michigan State University. “The composition of the food is influenced by people who are not responsible for and therefore can be contamination.”

Spink recommends buying from suppliers and brands that have an interest in the customer keeps coming back. Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of food producers say food adulteration ‘very serious’ take.

Why your consciousness is the greatest power in the universe

According ASAP Science, every thought we have the structure and function of our brains change.

The people of ASAP Science don’t mean this metaphorically. By thinking that you can do something positive and about, changing your brain.

The power of your thoughts can help you learn to play piano for example, or the muscle in your body to increase. Member of a gym is not necessary.

While thinking of the first and perhaps most important step, do the next steps no physical pain, so the researchers emphasize ASAP Science.

Meditation can inhibit chronic inflammation


meditation (Photo credit: HaPe_Gera)

People suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or asthma – may benefit from the mindfulness meditation technique.

According to a study by neurologists associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reducing stress through mindfulness, originally meant for patients with chronic pain, is achieved include through breathing exercises and bodily sensations.


“We wanted to develop an intervention that focused on positive change and the mindfulness approach compared to a similar surgery,” said lead researcher Melissa Rosenkranz. The research is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity .

During the study, two methods were compared. One program offered mindfulness while other programs aimed at improving health without making use of mindfulness. The latter program consisted of information about nutrition, physical activity and music.

With the aid of a stress test, and an ointment were respectively psychological stress and inflammation of the skin, after which the induced response of the immune and endocrine systems was measured. The mindfulness approach proved to be more effective in the inhibition of the inflammation.

Standard Treatment

The results have shown that people suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases may benefit from interventions that are designed to reduce emotional reactivity. The study further states that mindfulness inflammation knows better than to inhibit other activities to promote welfare.

Rosenkranz further pointed out that a significant part of the population does not improve the available pharmaceutical treatments. Some patients suffer as a result of the negative side effects of the medications, or simply do not respond to standard treatment.

“The mindfulness approach may offer an inexpensive alternative to standard treatments and can easily be practiced at home,” she said. The University of Wisconsin-Madison doing rigorous research into the physiological effects of meditation on the brain and the power of the mind to affect human health.