Dyani Lewis is a freelance science journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been published in Science, Nature Medicine, ABC Health & Wellbeing, The Conversation, Australasian Science Magazine and elsewhere. She is the science and technology producer and host for Up Close, the University of Melbourne’s audio podcast, and is also a regular co-host on Triple R’s Einstein-a-Go-Go science radio show. Dyani has a PhD in plant genetics and a Masters in Journalism/Professional Writing. She occasionally tweets @dyanilewis.
Role models in a time of pandemic
COVID-19 has brought with it a swathe of decisions and directions about if and when we can be clo...
This article first appeared in Cosmos Magazine on 4 June 2020, and it has just been announced as the winner of the Fi...
Strategies behind the great vaccine race
Some developers are choosing to play the long game.
The race is on for a vaccine that will bring the COVID-19 pandemic to heel. Dozens of contenders from around the worl...
COVID-19: the open data pandemic?
Scientists are sharing like never before.
As the world grapples with how to forecast and forestall the impact of COVID-19, researchers have stepped up, produci...
Diverse genomes shed new light on our history
Global gene sequencing effort tells of our evolutionary past.
Genomic sequencing of nearly 1000 people – from minority communities often overlooked by geneticists – has provided a...
Indonesian rocks show ubiquity of ancient art
Pocket-sized rock art found in cave a first for Southeast Asia.
Two pocket-sized stone artworks found in an ancient pile of Indonesian cave rubbish have put the out-dated notion tha...
Tiny bird-like dinosaur smallest ever found
Fossil has been trapped in amber since the age of the dinosaurs.
The discovery of a tiny, toothy-beaked skull of a creature that lived about 99 million years ago has given scientists...
Skulls and skills varied in archaic Homo erectus
Ethiopian finds suggest larger males and technological variety.
In the harsh desert badlands of the Afar triangle in north-eastern Ethiopia, the earth is slowly giving up its secret...
Society structure impacts innovation
Study finds fewer interactions, not more, fuel cultural evolution.
Over time, evolution has endowed humans with bigger, better brains, but a study of Agta hunter-gatherers in the Phili...
Distant human relative mixed with our cousins
Who were these superarchaic humans?
A map of human prehistory is starting to look more like a tangled web than a family tree. First, we heard that our ow...
West African gene shared with ancient man
Genome analysis suggests ‘ghost’ hominin interbred.
Human prehistory is littered with tales of ancient trysts between the ancestors of modern-day people and populations ...
Tools reveal travels of the Neanderthals
Siberian cave yields trove of blades linked to eastern Europe.
Stone blades found in a Siberian cave once occupied by Neanderthals bear a striking resemblance to tools made by the ...
Children’s graves reveal genetic diversity
Ancient genomes point to unique population of hunter-gatherers.
Remains from an ancient gravesite in Cameroon have opened a window into the world of the people who lived in western ...
Java Man not so old after all
First human species out of Africa reached Asia later than thought.
The oldest human remains in Southeast Asia - Java man - aren’t as old as we thought they were.
Java Man’s last stand
Most recent Homo erectus lived more than 100,000 years ago.
The disputed age of the youngest known Homo erectus remains on the Indonesian island of Java has been revised, effect...
The world’s oldest hunting scene
Earliest evidence of storytelling pushed back over 20,000 years.
A prehistoric painting depicting what looks to be a hunting scene pushes back the earliest evidence of human storytel...
Did bad luck kill the Neanderthals?
We need to consider demography, not just external factors: study.
The last Neanderthals were snuffed out around 40,000 years ago. But what led to their demise – and whether our own an...
Ancient enamel sheds light on extinct giant ape
Now we have some information to go with this face.
Scientists have extracted protein fragments from the enamel of a 1.9 million-year-old tooth – the oldest specimen yet...
Sacred Egyptian ibises were wild birds
Ancient DNA study suggests they were captured, not bred.
By Dyani Lewis
An analysis of ancient DNA extracted from the mummified remains of sacred ibises suggests ancient Egy...
Likely human homeland identified
Genetic analysis pinpoints ancient African wetlands.
A vast inland oasis in present-day northern Botswana was once home to the founder population of all modern humans, ac...
How mammals inherited the Earth
Scientists map out first million years of life after the dinosaurs
Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid roughly the size of Malta slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
The afterglow of archaic human pairings
Archaic traces remain in Melanesian genomes.
People living on the islands of Melanesia have inherited large slabs of DNA from Neanderthals and Denisovans, accordi...
Bunny bone bonanza shows Neanderthal link
The clues lie in missing paws from an ancient rock shelter.
A bonanza of bunny bones found in a rock shelter in the south of France provides the first evidence that Neanderthals...
Early Cretaceous predator discovered
First carcharodontosaur found in Southeast Asia.
Palaeontologists digging through red sandstone and clay in northern Thailand have unearthed a new species of carnivor...
Evolution: There was life, but not as we know it
Ancient ecosystems were unlike those of today.
A decent chunk of human evolution took place in ecosystems that bear little resemblance to the ones we know today, ac...
What Denisovans looked like
Scientists paint a picture using genetic data alone.
Figuring out what our extinct relatives looked like usually requires fossils – preferably as many as you can get your...
Genomes reveal South Asia’s prehistory
Migrations spread farming and languages across Eurasia.
A massive study of ancient and modern genomes stretching from Europe to Central and South Asia and spanning the last ...
Why are fossils more often male?
Genetic sexing reveals some interesting anomalies.
When you dig up an ancient bison leg, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the odds of it being a bull versus cow leg ...
A long history of changing the planet
Unique archaeological study takes a new look at land use.
Long before people started documenting their own existence, their way of life was already taking a toll on the planet...
Ape-like face of early human ancestor
Skull from Ethiopia raises questions about our evolution.
The ape-like face of one of our earliest known ancestors has been revealed for the first time, thanks to the discover...
Lifting the lid on primate brains
Rare find provides important evolutionary clues.
A fossilised primate skull the size of a chicken egg has yielded insights into how primate brains – including our own...
Humans pushed cave bears towards extinction
Numbers were declining before the onset of the ice age.
If it weren’t for humans, things might have turned out differently for the European cave bear.
Before their extincti...
European pigs shook off their ancestry
Modern breeds show virtually no signs of arrival from Near East.
When ancient Near Eastern farmers migrated westward into Europe about 8500 years ago, they brought their pigs with th...
Living the high life in the stone age
People ventured the Ethiopian highlands over 30,000 years ago.
A rock shelter located in the hostile environment of southern Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains has pushed back high-altitude...
A Millennium Falcon from the Cambrian
Marine predator found in the famous Burgess Shale.
A prehistoric marine predator that lived half a billion years ago has been named after the Millennium Falcon starship...
What makes this dragon fierce
Komodo’s genome reveals the secrets of a renowned hunter.
The world’s largest lizard – the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) – is no lazybones. Adults grow up to three metre...
Ancient ancestors cared about their kids
Mothers breastfed toddlers when food was scarce.
Artist’s impression of Australopithecus africanus.
Credit: Jose Garcia and Renaud Joannes-Boyau
When times were t...
The origins of the Americans
New archaeological and genetic evidence is fleshing out the story.
Exactly when and how the first people populated the final continental frontiers of North and South America has been a...
Ancient DNA sheds light on early cattle
Genomic analysis reveals a complex history.
Cows are seemingly simple creatures. Their history is anything but.
An analysis of ancient genomes from domestic cat...
Europe’s oldest known modern human
Skull from a Greek cave is at least 210,000 years old.
Two skulls chiselled from a slab of Greek rock have deepened our understanding of early humans living on the European...
Three-rooted molars: A rare dental trait lives on
Three-rooted molars could have come from Denisovans.
A rare dental trait that is more common in Asian and Native American populations - three-rooted molars - could have i...
World could support many more trees, research shows
Nearly a billion hectares, in fact, which could capture a lot of carbon. Dyani Lewis reports.
The world has room for nearly a billion hectares of extra trees, new research shows. That would be enough to capture ...
Ancient DNA sheds some light on mystery
How Philistine culture came to the ancient near east.
Migrants from Southern Europe were the likely source of distinctive architecture and pottery associated with the anci...
Some prehistoric crocs were vegetarians
The shape of their teeth tells a complex story.
Today’s crocodiles have some of the most gruesome table manners: drowning and then swallowing their prey whole or lea...
Early humans shared Europe with giant bird
Fossilised remains suggest it was 10 times heavier than an emu.
A massive thigh bone found in a Crimean cave belongs to an extinct flightless bird more than 10 times the weight of a...
Neanderthal groups more closely related
Ancient DNA analysis offers clues to prehistoric movements.
DNA coaxed from 120,000-year-old Neanderthal fossils suggests that early Neanderthals from Western Europe and later N...
Monkey tool design changed over millennia
Gradual changes in the design of stone tools used by capuchins.
The satellites humans fling into space and the massive accelerators that smash together subatomic particles are a far...
Organisms grouped together to access food
Early complex life didn’t rely on luck to get a feed.
A lifeform that lived half a billion years ago was one of the first to benefit from communal living, modelling reveal...
Gender inequality arose 8000 years ago
Neolithic graves in Spain reveal increasing male dominance.
At a time when human societies were abandoning their wanderlust in favour of agricultural settlements, the first inkl...
For those about to rock
The earliest Homo tools ever found.
Humans are expert tool-makers, and as far back as 2.6 million years ago our stone age relatives were getting there to...
Denisovans on the Tibetan Plateau
Hominins colonise high altitudes way before humans.
A new piece to the puzzling tale of the Denisovan hominins has emerged in the form of a jawbone found in a cave on th...
Denisovan DNA found in human genomes
The archaic hominins weren’t homogenous.
Scientists sifting through the genomes of people scattered across the islands of south-east Asia have found echoes of...
New fossil human relative found
Homo luzonensis lived more than 50,000 years ago.
A handful of teeth and limestone-encrusted hand, foot and leg bones dug out of a cave in the Philippines have been gi...
Two millennia pile-on at burial mound
Ancient grave site found in kindergarten.
A prehistoric burial mound in southwest France was used and re-used by locals for more than two millennia, according ...
Why Neanderthals turned to cannibalism
Butchered corpses coincide with rapid climate change.
A rapid period of warming more than 120,000 years ago drove Neanderthals in the south of France to eat six of their o...
Australia was settled 60,000 years earlier?
Evidence suggests humans were present 120,000 years ago.
Opinions among archaeologists are divided over an 11-year investigation of an Australian site containing what could b...
Qingjiang fossil site rivals Burgess Shale
30,000 soft-bodied fossils have been excavated.
A snapshot of life on a muddy sea bed 518 million years ago has been revealed at what is being described as a “stunni...
Humans have an inbuilt compass
Can people sense the magnetic pull of the poles?
The Earth’s magnetic field is faint, yet creatures from birds and bees to lobsters and bacteria have been shown to de...
A year in the life of a giant sloth
A fossillised tooth reveals the secrets of a single animal.
A massive fossilised tooth from central America has opened a window into life for a giant ground sloth that lived 27,...
Ape-like or human?
Disagreement erupts over Neanderthal posture.
Recent spinal reconstructions have focussed debate on Neanderthal posture and, by implication, whether standing fully...
Ancient humans, fearless squirrel hunters
Sophisticated tools assisted survival.
Ancient humans hunted and killed fleet-footed tree-dwelling mammals – including monkeys and giant squirrels – far ear...
Are these Denisovan teeth?
Children of mysterious prehistoric human relatives grew slowly.
Bone by bone, tooth by tooth, the ancient remains of prehistoric human relatives from northern China are giving up th...
A tale of two turtles
A mystery virus has devastated snapping turtles.
It was a warm February evening in 2015 and Sydney’s Taronga Zoo had emptied of visitors for the day. But behind close...
Neanderthal genes influence head shape
The effects of long-distant interspecies breeding finds expression in modern skulls.
Researchers have gleaned insights into what makes human brains bulbous from our closest evolutionary relative – the N...
Australia’s fearsome marsupial lion
A huge jaw, sharp teeth, retractable claws.
New fossil finds have enabled the first reconstruction of a complete skeleton of the extinct ‘marsupial lion’, Thylac...
Humans and Neanderthals were frequent lovers
Neanderthal DNA wasn’t the result of a single encounter.
Once upon a time, prehistoric humans and our ancient Neanderthal cousins met and procreated. Except, that ‘once upon ...
Ancient African extinctions
Climate, not hominin activity, knocked out the big mammals.
A long-held view that many of Africa’s large-bodied mammals – including relatives of today’s elephants, hippos and gi...
Neanderthal head injury not common
As common in modern humans as evolutionary cousins.
A fossil record littered with broken bones and fractured skulls has given Neanderthals a reputation for having led li...
Dead monkeys do tell tales
DNA analysis sheds light on ancient primate island-hopping.
A study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences reveals that the species Xenothri...
Neanderthals show lead contamination
Teeth analysis provides unique insight into life 250,000 years ago.
In the northern spring, 250,000 years ago, a Neanderthal baby was born in the southeast of modern-day France. At nine...
Out-of-Africa wasn’t much of a tough gig
Early human migration into the Arabian Peninsula.
Stone tools and animal fossils from Saudi Arabia place early humans on the Arabian Peninsula over 300,000 years ago, ...
Claims for early settlement debunked
No evidence that humans co-existed with megafauna.
Recent splashy headlines claiming that humans arrived on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar as early as 10,000 yea...
Neanderthal used precision grips
Hands used for delicate and precise purposes, not power.
Analysis of Neanderthal hands revealed they used them for delicate and precise purposes, not power gripping.
Claim for early humans in Madagascar disputed
Humans reached island earlier than thought.
The butchered remains of extinct elephant birds could push back the date of human habitation of Madagascar by 6000 ye...
MDMA research meets Australian antipathy
Caution in medical community is slowing the progress.
In Australia attempts to establish a trial of MDMA have proven difficult. Sandy McFarlane, a PTSD researcher at the U...
Ketamine cure ‘unlike any other treatment’
Evidence that it may be effective treatment for depression.
Unlike LSD or MDMA, the hallucinogen ketamine – aka the party drug Special K – is already a recognised pharmaceutical...
Six of nature’s weirdest sex lives
Some animals have evolved impressive adaptations.
Here is the list of the most peculiar sex lives of animals. From barnacles to marsupials, we explore six of the weird...
Oxytocin linked to water intake
The “hug hormone” likely tells the body when it’s had enough to drink.
Circuits in the brain finely tune the amount of water you consume to maintain the delicate balance of water and salts...
Neanderthal extinction a fizzle, not a bloodbath
End of Neanderthals doesn’t need human advantage to explain.
The triumph of modern humans over our now-extinct Palaeolithic cousins is often viewed as a classic tale of survival ...
Brain’s autopilot is daydream believer
The part of the brain active when we’re doing nothing turns out to be critical.
Pull on your pants, button your shirt, tie your shoelaces. Unless you’re a toddler, you can probably do these things ...
Our Neanderthal legacy
Schizophrenia, cholesterol, eating disorders and a nice tan.
The hallmarks of an ancient tryst between our early human ancestors and their now extinct Neanderthal cousins are dot...
Kidney disease linked to air pollution
Even low levels of particulate matter correlate with kidney damage.
Next time you go for a jog with traffic roaring past, spare a thought for your kidneys. A US-based study has found th...
A cure for peanut allergy?
Study has sent peanut allergy into remission for years after treatment.
Peanut butter sandwiches at childcare are a thing of the past thanks to an alarming surge in peanut allergies over re...
Plant molecules stop worker bees from ascending throne
Help to determine whether a female bee ends up as a queen or a worker.
A bee who has just finished making some bee bread, which contains plant microRNA that will affect the development of ...
A body-wide map of gene switches active in different cells
The atlas of micro-RNAs will help researchers understand how different cell types develop.
A microRNA molecule.
Credit: Molekuul / Getty
Every cell in the body operates off the same genetic instruction manua...
Adult brain’s fear centre can grow new cells
Could lead to treatments for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A new cradle of brain cell formation has been discovered in the adult amygdala, a region that gives memories their em...
Next gen of weapons against antibiotic-resistant superbugs
A look at the next generation of ‘evolution-proof’ weapons being developed.
At his North Adelaide practice, Peter-John Wormald has the unenviable job of unblocking the noses of people with chro...
Free software tool aids doctors diagnosing rare genetic disorders
A tool that sorts the wheat from the chaff in genetic variation could bring relief to patients lo...
A new online tool offers GPs help in diagnosing genetic illness.Heath Korvola / gettyEveryone is born with a few hund...
A deep dive into the genomes of fungi
Fungi that gave us penicillin may provide medical miracles.
Penicillium chrysogenum fungus culture in a Petri dish.
Credit: Geoff Tompkinson/Getty Images
A treasure trove of me...
Fruit, not friends, the key to ape intelligence
Complex social structures assumed to drive the evolution.
Diet is a key driver of primate intelligence, research suggests.
Credit: Heinrich van der Berg/Getty Images
Why do h...
Virus grants wasps longer life
A newly discovered virus makes a wasp live longer.
Many species of parasitoid wasps form symbiotic relationships with viruses.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A newly discov...
Rain Man gene identified
One of the mysteries behind a neurological disorder.
For people with agenesis of the corpus callous, the brain lacks the fibres that connect the left and right hemisphere...
Neanderthals’ DNA makes its presence felt
A gene’s ancestry affects appearance and health.
Snippets of DNA inherited from Neanderthals could be influencing the way we look and our susceptibility to disease, a...
Cocaine-addicted brains stockpile iron
Finding could lead to treatments to help addicts kick the habit.
Credit: barisonal/getty images
Cocaine addiction leads to a build-up of the dietary micronutrient iron in the brain,...
Four new frog species found in India
The Indian amphibians are small enough to fit on your thumbnail.
Four species of diminutive amphibians, described in PeerJ have been discovered in the Western Ghats mountain range in...
Extreme fire weather forecast for Australia and the Mediterranean
Satellites are helping ecologists better identify the causes of extreme wildfire events, reports ...
Australia must already cope with devastating bushfires. Climate modelling shows more fire-conducive weather is on the...
How acid warps your thoughts and feelings
The potent hallucinogen grabs hold of serotonin receptors in the brain.
It's been eight decades since Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first cooked up the psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethyl...
Killer whale menopause evolved from conflict
A family female conflict led to the evolution of the reproductive strategy.
Mother-daughter conflict drives orca menopause, new research shows.
Credit: Emma Foster
Menopause is an evolutionary...
Better feed converts cattle into cash cows
Better cattle feed is a win-win for farmers and the environment.
Fran Cowley, looking for a ‘win-win’ with cow nutrition.
Credit: University of New England
What do cows eat? If you’...
Bugs as drugs – medicine’s next frontier
More on prebiotics, probiotics and poo transplants.
Lactobacillus is a common addition to probiotic concoctions. But they're just one genus of multitudes being examined ...
Can gut bacteria meddle with the brain?
Gut microbes’ influence appears to extend as far as the brain.
Links between the microbiota and psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety have, for the most part, only...
Microbe tenants help your immune system
A gut microbiota imbalance can give rise to diseases and more.
Have a propensity for hayfever? The bugs in your gut might have something to do with that.
Credit: Colin Hawkins / Ge...
How bugs in your gut can make you fat
Tinkering with gut microbes causes more than a tummy ache.
While there's no doubt calorific intake does affect weight gain or loss, we shouldn't underestimate the power of our ...
Tails gave early land animals a leg up
How early tetrapods might have moved from the sea to the land.
The muscular tails that propelled prehistoric fish through water may have been essential for their move onto land, a ...
Is brain training a sham?
Can brain training make you smarter?
A group of people do brain exercises in their old people's home in Germany. But there are doubts that training can ye...
Is immunotherapy a cancer game changer?
The immune system is being recruited in war against cancer.
Ron Walker has never been one to shy from a challenge. But at 72, the former lord mayor of Melbourne was thrown a cur...
A primer on early human evolution
Does human palaeontology perplex? Dyani Lewis explains what we know about human evolution.
The story of human origins is a messy one. Each bone fragment that’s unearthed or ancient genome that’s decoded adds ...
Jawbone and teeth reveal hobbit’s ancestors
Species of early human is older than thought.
A jawbone and six teeth push back the origins of the “hobbit” – a tiny species of early human – by more than half a m...
Antibiotics may play havoc with your memory
Study adds to list of surprising effects of changing gut ecosytem.
Gut microbes appear to have an unexpected influence over our behaviour. But just how they communicate with the brain ...
Shark snouts contain conductive jelly
Ability to sense weak electrical fields.
The pores on the snout of this lemon shark lead to electric field-sensing organs called ampullae of Lorenzini. The je...
Zika virus causes birth defects in mice
The virus’ devastating effects on developing foetuses.
Zika virus, marked with red, infects a mouse placenta. The nuclei of the placental cells are marked blue.
Chubby waistline? Blame your big brain
There are trade-offs in a range of areas.
Humans aren’t just more intelligent than our great ape relatives. We are also fatter and our big brains could be to b...
How plants form memories
A protein that nudges plants into flowering could be a prion.
Animals aren’t the only organisms to form memories – plants also record experiences of disease, drought and weather c...
Poo transplants to treat range of diseases
Emerging science of the human microbiome.
We face some pretty grim treatment options for the sake of our health. We swallow foul-tasting pills, vaccinate ourse...
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