My friend Spot

The black-and-white spotted "Dalmatian" horses depicted in some prehistoric European cave art may have actually existed. (Via Steve Silberman) Read the rest

Crocodile bites human ancestor

Oldupai Gorge in Tanzania is kind of the human race's institute of higher learning. It was one of the places where our ancient ancestors congregated and changed. And it's become famous for the quantity and variety of fossil remains it still holds, giving us way more information about human evolution than we otherwise would have had. We're all alumni of OGU.

But we aren't alone. Other creatures lived in Oldupai besides proto-humans. Some were our food. And some, it seems, might have fed on us.

Crocodylus anthropophagus—that's "man-eating crocodile" for those keeping score at home—lived 1.84 million years ago. Technically, scientists can't say for sure that C. anthropophagus was actually killing people, but there is good, solid evidence that it at least gnawed on them a bit. In a newly published paper researchers analyzed a fossil left foot and a left leg that had once belonged to early hominids and which bear the marks of crocodile teeth. These fossils were found relatively close to fossils of C. anthropophagus. It's not exactly a smoking gun, but it does provide some evidence that the crocodile species and the hominids who'd been bitten by crocodiles lived around the same place and time. Correlation is not causation, but it does wink suggestively, and perhaps flash its sharp teeth.

This paper is a bit weird in that it was accepted for publication back in 2008, but only published this month. In the meantime, a paper that used this research as a source was actually published first. Read the rest