I, Science News-3 February 2020

This week in your weekly I, Science News RoundUp we continue coverage of the mystery virus in China as it continues to spread; dozens of koalas have been found dead on a plantation; and humans and Neanderthals may have interbred much earlier on than we thought.

Update on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

There’s been a lot of activity surrounding 2019-nCoV over the past week, including: the first cases of the coronavirus confirmed in the UK; the first death outside of China from the virus in the Philippines; Wuhan has completed construction of a new hospital in just 10 days; the US and Australia have closed their borders to Chinese arrivals; the death toll of 2019-nCoV has now surpassed that of the SARS virus; and the WHO has declared the outbreak an international health emergency.

Despite the negative news though, international teams are also accelerating efforts to create a vaccine for the virus.

Koalas found dead on logging plantation

An investigation is under way after dozens of koalas were found dead or injured at a timber plantation in Victoria, Australia, with around 80 more being removed to be cared for.

Many blue gum trees were recently harvested from the area, leaving just a few isolated stands of this important koala habitat. It appears that the koalas had died from starvation, or had been killed by bulldozers.

This comes shortly after tens of thousands of koalas were killed during the bushfires that wreaked havoc in Australia.

Neanderthal DNA found in African populations for the first time

New evidence has found that human and Neanderthals may have a closer history than once thought, and could have interbred up to 200,000 years ago.

Up until now, it was believed that interbreeding between the species only occurred after a major migration of humans out of Africa about 60,000 years ago, which resulted in only non-African populations carried Neanderthal genes.

This theory has shown to be false, with those of African ancestry having an average of 0.3% Neanderthal DNA, whilst those with European and Asian ancestry have around 1%.

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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