Astronomy Cast Ep. 361: Modern Women: Maria Zuber

Maria Zuber with students. Credit: NASA

Maria Zuber is one of the hardest working scientists in planetary science, being a part of six different space missions to explore the Solar System. Currently, she’s the lead investigator for NASA’s GRAIL mission.

Maria Zuber with students. Credit: NASA

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Lightweight skeletons of modern humans have recent origin

New research shows that modern human skeletons evolved into their lightly built form only relatively recently—after the start of the Holocene about 12,000 years ago and even more recently in some human populations. The work, based on high-resolution imaging of bone joints from modern humans and chimpanzees as well as from fossils of extinct human species shows that for millions of years extinct humans had high bone density until a dramatic decrease in recent modern humans. Published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the findings reveal a higher decrease in the density of lower limbs than in that of the upper limbs, suggesting that the transformation may be linked to humans’ shift from a foraging lifestyle to a sedentary agricultural one. —> Read More Here

The Plight of Kenya’s Warthogs

Tom Butynski inspecting a dry river bed in Turkana for warthog footprints. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong.

Two species of warthog occur in Kenya, the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and the desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus). The desert warthog is one of Africa’s least-known large mammals. In our previous blog posts, we presented findings from our project not only for the warthogs, but also for several other species. This project has now come to an end. This blog post, then, provides a brief overview of our “Quest for Kenya’s Desert Warthog.

Tom Butynski inspecting a dry river bed in Turkana for warthog footprints (Photo by Yvonne de Jong)

Together, northern and central Kenya support vast areas of desert, savannah, lava rock plain, sparsely wooded grassland, shrubland, and patches of mid-altitude forest and montane forest. In the area covered by this survey (no less than 128,000 sq. km), all of these ecosystems are represented. The altitude ranges from 260 m above sea level (Kora National Park, Tana River County) to 3,060 m asl (Cherangani Hills, Trans Nzoia County). Due to security issues in northern Kenya, few ground surveys of the larger mammals have been conducted in the past. For this same reason, we were somewhat restricted in our movements through the region and we had to avoid northeastern —> Read More Here

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