A cranium found in 1972 and the lower jaw of a newly discovered fossil,
shown reconstructed and combined above, are believed to be from
the same ancient hominid species.
The big-brained, upright primates of the genus Homo—the group to which we modern-day humans belong—evolved in East Africa around 2.4 million years ago. By half a million years later, Homo erectus, from whom we’re directly descended, was walking the plains near Lake Turkana in what is now Kenya. But anthropologists have increasingly come to believe that Homo erectus wasn’t the only hominid around. Three newly discovered fossils, detailed online this week in Nature, confirm that at least two other Homo species lived nearby—providing the strongest evidence yet that several evolutionary lineages split off in the genus’s early days.
What’s the News: We’ve all probably heard the myth, made popular by Disney’s Dumbo, that elephants are afraid of mice. While that idea may not be exactly true (video), elephants do make sure to avoid another tiny critter: bees. Knowing this, zoologists from the University of Oxford loaded fences in Kenya with beehives, in hopes of deterring roaming African elephants from eating or trampling farmers’ crops. Now, two years later, the researchers are reporting in the African Journal of Ecology that the novel barriers are working wondrously and could be a viable option for protecting African croplands.
For years, farmers in Kenya’s arid north have suffered huge losses when droughts wiped out their cattle herds. Now, they have a means to protect their sole source of livelihood when rains fail and grasslands disappear. A new insurance scheme hopes to safeguard cattle-rearers in northern Kenya’s drought-prone Marsabit district by using satellite imagery to track changing landscapes and the subsequent loss of cattle.
The program, launched by the International Livestock Research Institute, is being billed as the world’s first insurance program to track changing pastoral grounds. When the satellite photos reveal that a verdant green landscape has changed to a dry brown, the insurance kicks in and farmers can collect their payments. The program will make things easier for insurance companies–for whom estimating losses in the past has been all but impossible. Partly because it has simply been too expensive for insurers to go and count the number of dead animals which might be spread over a vast rural area [BBC]. The scheme’s launch comes at a time when the Marsabit region has suffered 28 droughts in the last 100 years and four in the past decade alone [Kenya Broadcasting Corporation].