Quirks & Quarks

Oct 15: Did life on Mars exterminate itself? Stone-age super-glue, African origins for dinosaurs and more...

Wolves’ attachment to humans, Nobel for Neanderthals and downloading the mind

Wolves’ attachment to humans, Nobel for Neanderthals and downloading the mind

An illustration of modern humans, Denisovans and Neanderthals indicating their common genetic roots.
Svante Pääbo's work decoding and understanding the genome of two extinct species of humans, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, won the 2022 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. (The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine. Ill. Mattias Karlén)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

Did life on Mars exterminate itself?

Researchers have run a simulation to see what would have happened to life on Mars, billions of years ago when Mars was a more habitable planet – if it existed back then. They were shocked to find that their simulation showed biological activity quickly made Mars uninhabitable, so life on early Mars might have been the agent of its own extinction. The study was published in Nature Astronomy. Bob speaks with the paper's lead author, Boris Sauterey.

Hand raised-wolves become attached to human caregivers, similar to dogs

A woman cuddling a young wolf.
Behavioural Ecologist Christina Hansen Wheat with one of the wolves she hand raised as a pup, which shows dog-like attachment behaviour. (Peter Knut)

The bond between dogs and humans is thought to be unique, but researchers have found that wolves can bond with people just like domestic dogs do. Christina Hansen Wheat, a behavioural ecologist with the University of Stockholm, and her colleagues hand raised several litters of dogs and wolves from ten days old to ten months. They were then tested to measure attachment behaviour. The study, published in Ecology and Evolution, has implications for how humans may have domesticated dogs from wild gray wolves more than 15 thousand years ago. 

Oldest African dinosaur discovery sheds light on dinosaur origins

A small bipedal dinosaur wading in a stream
Illustration of of Mbiresaurus raathi, a fossil discovered in Zimbabwe, representing one of the earliest dinosaur lineages. (Andrey Atuchin. Credit: Virginia Tech)

A 230 million year old dog-sized dinosaur found in Zimbabwe is one of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever discovered. According to the paleontologist who discovered the fossil, Christopher Griffin from Yale University, what's most interesting about this find is what it tells us about where dinosaurs might have originated on the ancient supercontinent of Pangea. His work was published in the journal Nature.

100,000 years ago humans in Africa were distilling powerful glue

Archeologists have experimentally reproduced the technique used by stone-age people in southern Africa 100,000 years ago to make a powerful adhesive which they used to haft spears and make other tools. It turned out to be a surprisingly sophisticated chemical process involving distilling tar from plant resins. Patrick Schmidt, from the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tubingen in Germany led the work, which was published in the journal PNAS.

Neanderthal genome earns a Nobel prize

A cartoon illustration of Svante Paabo
Svante Pääbo, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to (Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach)

Paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo won this year's Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work reconstructing the genomes of the long-extinct human species, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and proving that many modern humans carry their DNA today. Bob speaks to Prof. Paabo about his work and his prize.

Ray Kurzweil on downloading the mind

To mark Bob's 30th anniversary as host of Quirks & Quarks, we're replaying excerpts from some of his more memorable interviews. Today, part of a piece from October 2002 on downloading the mind, featuring futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil.


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