Black Death’s mysterious origins have been revealed in a new DNA analysis

More than two years since the virus emerged in China, we still do not know how it spread to the human population or which animal or animals harbored the virus prior to that pivotal event.

Humans have lived with microbes since our earliest days, but we now live “in an age of pandemics,” said epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, CEO of Pandefense Advisory, a network of experts working on pandemic response. However, thanks to DNA analysis, the scientific detective work required to understand these pathogens is well advanced, as one of this week’s exciting discoveries reveals.

This is Katie Hunt, replacing Ashley Strickland in this issue of Wonder Theory.

Pictured is a tombstone from a burial site in Kyrgyzstan, where the plague outbreak that caused the Black Death likely originated.

The Black Death was the world’s most devastating plague outbreak. It is estimated that this is the case killed half of the European population in just seven years in the Middle Ages.

Historians and archaeologists have tried for centuries to pinpoint the source of this pandemic, and now science has stepped up and provided an answer.

Traces of diseases that sickened our ancestors – including the plague – are found hidden in ancient DNA of human remains.

Genome sequencing of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, found in teeth exhumed from two burial sites in modern-day Kyrgyzstan, may have solved the mystery of the Black Death’s mysterious origins.

Fantastic creatures

The life of a mastodon, an elephant-like creature that roamed North America 13,000 years ago, has been elucidated through an examination of its tusks.

It was a mama’s boy for the early years of its life – staying close to home with a female-led herd in what is now central Indiana before striking out on its own. The Mastodon died at the ripe old age of 34 when the tusk tip of another male mastodon pierced the right side of his mastodon Skull.

the creature Tusks stored geochemical information picked up from the shrubs, trees, and water consumed, allowing scientists for the first time to piece together the animal’s location traveled throughout his life.

through the universe

This is an artist's rendering of a black hole drifting through our Milky Way.

We now have the most complete map yet of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, and it’s showing us some pretty cool things.

Some stars in the Milky Way are experiencing strange and unexpected “tsunami-like” starquakes, new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia Space Telescope has revealed. The movement even changed the shape of some stars.

Hubble, another space telescope scanning the sky, discovered an equally fascinating cosmic phenomenon.

The invisible, ghostly remains of a once-bright star drift through the Milky Way. It’s the first time a roving black hole has been spotted – although astronomers believe there could be 100 million such objects floating around.

Wild Kingdom

The dichotomy of dominant males and docile females is one of nature’s most enduring gender stereotypes. A new book, Bitch: On the Female of the Species, debunks this sexist misconception and tells a more complete story about the role of females in the wild.

According to author Lucy Cooke, female creatures are just as promiscuous, competitive, aggressive, and dynamic as their male counterparts, and play an equal role in driving evolutionary change.

Her work describes the life of an array of colorful animals that will shake your ideas about what it means to be female: murderous meerkat mothers, unfaithful bluebirds and female dolphins who have an unusual strategy in the battle of the sexes.

climate changed

An adult female polar bear (left) and two one-year-old cubs walk across snow-covered freshwater glacier ice in south-east Greenland in March 2015.
Polar bears are getting thinner and having fewer cubs as sea ice in their Arctic habitat melts, scientists say: but a new discovery may offer a glimmer of hope.
A a special population of polar bears living in fjords in south-eastern Greenland shows how this species can survive as the climate crisis deepens.

Unlike most polar bears, which hunt seals on sea ice and roam widely, this particular population has adapted to living in a smaller habitat and preying on freshwater glacial ice.

“If you’re concerned about the conservation of the species, then yes, our results are hopeful.” said Kristin Laidre, polar researcher at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “But I do not think so The glacier habitat will support large numbers of polar bears. There just isn’t enough of it.”

discoveries

Marvel at these stories:

— The wreck of a warship that carried a royal VIP on his final voyage 340 years ago has been found off the coast of England.
– Scientists have found out exactly why cats are so crazy about catnip. And it serves a more useful purpose than just making our feline friends feel high.
— The Artemis I mega lunar rocket is ready for its fourth attempt at a final prelaunch test. fingers crossed
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