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Prehistory?Not the Way You Think It Was

Our science textbooks told tales of tiny mammals (ourancestors) huddling in fear from the gigantic dinosaursroaming the world, but it wasn't that way at all. Andmillions of years later, the early humans known asNeanderthals had beautiful soprano singing voices.

Jeff Hecht writes in New Scientist that newly discoveredfossils from China show that not only did large mammals livealongside dinosaurs, they went dinosaur hunting. These hugecritters lived in China about 130 million years ago,millions of years before the first humans. One fossil evenhas the remains of a dinosaur in its stomach! Scientists nowthink these animals may have played a part in dinosaurextinction.

Mammals and dinosaurs evolved from different groups ofsame-sized reptiles during the Triassic era, from 248 to 206million years ago. Scientists used to think that dinosaursended up as huge plant-eaters, while mammals became tinyrodent-like creatures which were free to evolve (into us)only after the dinosaurs died off, when an asteroid hit theEarth 65 million years ago. But now they have to revise thatpicture.

In another science texbook reversal, Jonathan Leake writesin the Sunday (U.K.) Times that Neanderthals were not theunintelligent, ape-like creatures we have been taught theywere. Instead, they were deeply emotional beings withhigh-pitched voices who may have communicated with each insong?kind of like a living opera. Two new studies of the voice boxes of Neanderthals show thattheir voices were "womanly" and "melodic," rather than theroars and grunts we might expect. Archeologist StephenMithen says they probably communicated with each other in "part language and part song."

No matter what era we live in, it's always wise to use ourintuition.Subscribers: Youcan still listen to this wonderful interview, as well as toa special interview, up this weekend, with Nick Pope aboutthe U.K.'s newly opened "X-Files." If you got ournewsletter, you learned all about it! To get our weeklynewsletter, put your e-mail address in "Free Newsletter" onour homepage. We will NOT give it away or sell it?we?ll useit ONLY to send you a beautiful newsletter once a week, andyou can cancel at any time.

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