Top 10 science and nature news stories 2012

02 January 2013

The sexual habits of penguins, false widow spiders marching north, the smallest mini mammoth and possibly the first dinosaur. This varied bunch were among the top 10 science and nature news stories from 2012.

1. Penguin sex habits study rediscovered at Museum, June

The oldest dinosaur, Nyasasaurus parringtoni, may have looked like this early dinosaur, Eoraptor

Nyasasaurus parringtoni may have looked like this early dinosaur, Eoraptor, from Argentina. © De Agostini UK Ltd / Natural History Museum, London

Who'd have thought the sex habits of penguins would be so popular! It was the number one favourite in 2012 by far. The research was too graphic to be published 100 years ago when it was originally written.

2. Noble false widow spider marches north in the UK, February

False widow spiders often cause a stir in the UK and this introduced species was found to be moving northwards. Read about the arachnid that is giving some people a fright.

3. Fossils could be first dinosaur to roam planet, December

The 245-million-year-old Nyasasaurus parringtoni is possibly the earliest dinosaur ever. It pushes back dinosaur origins at least 10 million years. Read about the research.

4. Could 2012 be the year we find extraterrestrial life? January

A story of extraterrestrial life was a popular start to the year. The article covered what is necessary for life and whether finding evidence of life elsewhere was likely in 2012.

Skull of a Neanderthal, Homo neanderthalensis

Skull of a Neanderthal, Homo neanderthalensis

5. Denisovan DNA suggests a dark complexion and interbreeding, August

Museum human origins expert Chris Stringer commented on some fascinating research that decocded the genome of our newest human relations, the Denisovans.

6. Largest group of fossil humans are Neanderthals, June

The Museum’s Chris Stringer put the species Homo heidelbergensis back at the heart of human evolution when he identified that the world’s largest known sample of fossil humans are actually Neanderthals.

7. World's smallest mini mammoth, May

In this article, Museum scientists identified an extinct dwarf mammoth, Mammuthus creticus, from fossils unearthed in 1904. 

8. Piltdown Man tests could solve hoax, December

Fossil skulls of crocodylians Dakosaurus maximus (A) and Plesiosuchus manselii (B).

Fossil skulls of crocodylians Dakosaurus maximus (A) and Plesiosuchus manselii (B). © Young et al. (2012)/Phil Hurst Natural History Museum

On the 100-year anniversary of the Piltdown Man 'discovery' announcement, Chris Stringer and a team are using new tests to try to reveal the Piltdown hoaxer.

9. Mighty Martian meteorite lands at Museum, February 

This article is about the rare Tissint Martian meteorite that landed in Morocco in 2011. The Museum has a 1.1kg piece and because it's likely to be less contaminated than others, research on it should reveal much more about Mars.

10. Ancient crocodiles ate like killer whales, September

Last on the list is a story about the feeding habits of crocodylians that lived 150 million years ago. Research shows that they were remarkably similar to those of killer whales.

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