Discovered: Human relative detected in hunter-gatherer DNA; watching the imperial cormorant's deep-sea food dive; endangered whale song recorded; malaria vaccines don't bestow malaria immunity.
Human "sister" species detected. By studying DNA samples extracted from 15 hunter-gatherer people living in Cameroon and Tanzania, a team of biologists was able to detect the genetic signature of a long-extinct species closely related to humans. This related species to the modern human most likely existed in isolation for a long time, but its DNA eventually joined the Homo sapiens gene pool through interbreeding. "There is a signal that demands explanation, and archaic admixture seems to be the most reasonable one at this point," says UC Santa Cruz genome biologist Richard "Ed" Green. More research will be needed to differentiate this mysterious species from Neanderthals and Denisovans. [Science News]
Song of endangered whales recorded. Kate Stafford, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, recorded bowhead whale sounds for a full year off the frigid east coast of Greenland, yet when she listened back on the tapes was surprised to hear them singing constantly. There have been only about 40 sightings of the rare bowhead whales since the 1970s. Stafford didn't expect to pick up much audio from whales crossing through the harsh Fram Strait. "We hoped to record a few little grunts and moans," says Stafford, who has identified 60 discrete songs. "We were not expecting to get five months of straight singing." The discovery suggests that the critically endangered bowhead whale may be rebounding. [University of Washington]