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Volume 521 Issue 7552, 21 May 2015

Stone tools from Lomekwi 3 site on the western shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. When Louis Leakey and colleagues found stone tools associated with early human fossils (now accepted to be 1.8 million years old) at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania more than 50 years ago, it was assumed that tool-making was unique to our genus. Since then the antiquity of tool-making has gone ever deeper and less exclusively associated with Homo. For a while, the earliest-known sharp-edged stone tools, at around 2.6 million years old, have been from Ethiopia. Cut marks found on animal bones from Ethiopia dated to around 3.3 million years ago were controversially associated with tool use among non-human hominins. This earlier beginning to the archaeological record is now affirmed by the discovery reported by Sonia Harmand et al. of the Lomekwi 3 tools, dated to 3.3 million years old, about half a million years older than the current earliest known (2.8 million years old) Homo fossils, reported a few weeks ago. The new finds differ from the Oldowan tools found at Olduvai and elsewhere, and may constitute a pre-Homo tool culture, which the authors suggest calling the ïLomekwianï. (Photo: MPK-WTAP)


  • Editorial |

    Universities should release reports to show what they are doing to tackle misconduct — and funders should help them to do so effectively.

  • Editorial |

    Making lawsuits more risky for patent trolls is just one way to stop abuse of the system.

  • Editorial |

    Brain researchers and social scientists are well placed to find out what makes humans murder.

World View

  • World View |

    Precision medicine cannot advance without full disclosure of how commercial genome sequencing and interpretation software works, says Mauno Vihinen.

    • Mauno Vihinen

Research Highlights

Social Selection

  • Social Selection |

    Genomics paper with an unusually high number of authors sets researchers buzzing on social media.

    • Chris Woolston

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    WHO outlines plans for a crisis fund in wake of Ebola; rules to curb polar pollution agreed; and newly discovered rodent is named after James Bond.


News Feature


  • Comment |

    The research community and the public require a fast, flexible response to the synthesis of morphine by engineered yeasts, urge Kenneth Oye, Tania Bubela and J. Chappell H. Lawson.

    • Kenneth A. Oye
    • J. Chappell H. Lawson
    • Tania Bubela

Books & Arts




News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The finding of 3.3-million-year-old stone flints, cores, hammers and anvils in Kenya suggests that the first stone tools were made by human ancestors that pre-dated the earliest known members of the genus Homo. See Article p.310

    • Erella Hovers


  • News & Views |

    Experiments on a trapped calcium ion have again exposed the strange nature of quantum phenomena, and could pave the way for sensitive techniques to explore the boundary between the quantum and classical worlds. See Letter p.336

    • Tracy Northup
  • News & Views |

    Organelles called mitochondria are asymmetrically apportioned to the daughters of dividing stem cells according to mitochondrial age. This finding sheds light on the mechanisms underlying asymmetric stem-cell division.

    • Anu Suomalainen
  • News & Views |

    A family of alloys has been discovered that undergoes unexpected changes of shape when magnetized. This strange behaviour might help in unravelling the mystery of a phenomenon called magnetic hysteresis. See Letter p.340

    • Richard D. James
  • News & Views |

    Pluripotent cells can produce all cell types in the body. It emerges that this state of potential is endowed by cues, including inhibition of Wnt signalling, that maintain a balance between diverse cellular outcomes. See Article p.316

    • Kyle M. Loh
    • Bing Lim


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    An intricate recursive RNA splicing mechanism that removes especially long introns (non-coding sequences) from genes has been found to be evolutionarily conserved and more prevalent than previously thought. See Letters p.371 & p.376

    • Heidi Cook-Andersen
    • Miles F. Wilkinson

Review Article

  • Review Article |

    Although classical crystallography is insufficient to determine disordered structure in crystals, correlated disorder does nevertheless contain clear crystallographic signatures that map to the type of disorder, which we are learning to decipher.

    • David A. Keen
    • Andrew L. Goodwin


  • Article |

    Tool making has been considered to be an attribute of the genus Homo; this paper reports 3.3-million-year-old stone tools and the early timing of these tools provides evidence that the making and use of stone tools by hominins occurred before the evolution of our own genus.

    • Sonia Harmand
    • Jason E. Lewis
    • Hélène Roche


  • Article |

    A previously unknown type of stem cell that can engraft in specific regions of the mouse epiblast is described; these region-selective pluripotent stem cells display notable intra- and inter-specific chimaera competency and will help to further our understanding of mammalian development.

    • Jun Wu
    • Daiji Okamura
    • Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
  • Article |

    Here the X-ray crystal structures of the Drosophila dopamine transporter bound to dopamine, D-amphetamine, methamphetamine and cocaine are solved; these structures show how a neurotransmitter, small molecule stimulants and cocaine bind to a biogenic amine transporter, and are examples of how the ligand binding site of a neurotransmitter transporter can remodel itself to accommodate structurally unrelated small molecules that are different in shape, size and polarity or charge.

    • Kevin H. Wang
    • Aravind Penmatsa
    • Eric Gouaux


  • Letter |

    Observations of declining ultraviolet emission from a type Ia supernova within four days of the explosion are as expected if material ejected by the supernova collided with a companion star, supporting the single degenerate channel model of supernova progenitors.

    • Yi Cao
    • S. R. Kulkarni
    • Neil Gehrels
  • Letter |

    The explosion of a type Ia supernova could be triggered either by accretion from a companion—which should be indicated by brightening caused by interaction of supernova ejecta with the companion—or by a merger with a white dwarf or other small star; here observations by the Kepler mission of three type Ia supernovae reveal no such brightening, leading to the conclusion that they were triggered by a merger.

    • Rob P. Olling
    • Richard Mushotzky
    • Alexei V. Filippenko
  • Letter |

    Typical ferromagnets elongate and contract anisotropically when placed in a magnetic field but conserve the overall volume, an effect known as Joule magnetostriction; here, a new effect is observed in Fe–Ga alloys—large non-volume-conserving or non-Joulian magnetostriction—which has not previously been observed in any magnet.

    • Harsh Deep Chopra
    • Manfred Wuttig
  • Letter |

    Quantifying activity of cis-regulatory sequences controlling gene expression shows that selection on expression noise has a greater impact on sequence variation than selection on mean expression level.

    • Brian P. H. Metzger
    • David C. Yuan
    • Patricia J. Wittkopp
  • Letter |

    This study shows that, despite malignant transformation, autoimmune checkpoints are still functional in B-cell leukaemia, with targeted activation of these checkpoints effectively killing patient-derived B-cell leukaemia in a transplant model; the results represent a novel strategy to overcome drug resistance in leukaemia patients.

    • Zhengshan Chen
    • Seyedmehdi Shojaee
    • Markus Müschen
  • Letter |

    Ebola-virus-targeting short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles are adapted to the current outbreak strain of the virus, and the siRNA cocktail is shown to protect nonhuman primates fully when administered 3 days after challenge with the current West African Ebola virus isolate; upon viral sequence data availability, the drug can be adapted to the new virus and produced in as little as 8 weeks.

    • Emily P. Thi
    • Chad E. Mire
    • Thomas W. Geisbert
  • Letter |

    An analysis of mouse skin reveals that super-enhancers are critical to identity, lineage commitment and plasticity of adult stem cells; dynamic super-enhancer remodelling in new niches is dependent on the levels of pioneer transcription factor SOX9, which is identified as a key regulator of super-enhancer chromatin for hair follicle stem cells.

    • Rene C. Adam
    • Hanseul Yang
    • Elaine Fuchs
  • Letter |

    Highly conserved recursive splice sites are identified in vertebrates, particularly within long genes encoding proteins that are involved in neuronal development; analysis of the splicing mechanism reveals that such recursive splicing sites can be used to dictate different mRNA isoforms.

    • Christopher R. Sibley
    • Warren Emmett
    • Jernej Ule
  • Letter |

    In flies, some introns contain internal splice sites that cause ‘recursive splicing’, a multi-step removal of a single intron; this study demonstrates that the scope of this regulatory mechanism is much more extensive in flies than had been appreciated, and provides details about the recursive splicing process.

    • Michael O. Duff
    • Sara Olson
    • Brenton R. Graveley



  • Feature |

    Enforced mingling and straight-up instruction can help scientists in a foreign country.

    • Paul Smaglik



Brief Communications Arising


  • Outlook |

    • Michelle Grayson
  • Outlook |

    Bees do far more than just make honey. Globally, the 25,000 or so bee species play a crucial part in crop production and in promoting biodiversity.

    • Julie Gould
  • Outlook |

    Of all insects, bees — especially honeybees (Apis mellifera) — are the most lauded by humans. They have been praised by poets and writers, including Virgil and Shakespeare, and their colonies are seen as a metaphor for human societies. This affinity is no surprise: humans and bees have a long and interwoven history.

    • Sarah DeWeerdt
  • Outlook |

    Some see the European Union's ban on neonicotinoid pesticides as a victory for pollinators, but the data suggest that limiting these compounds may do little to stave off honeybee losses.

    • Michael Eisenstein
  • Outlook |

    By analysing bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of bees, researchers hope to learn about the role of microbes in insect health.

    • Alla Katsnelson
  • Outlook |

    The many levels of bee behaviour offer insights on everything from population dynamics to molecular changes.

    • Lauren Gravitz
  • Outlook |

    Solitary bees receive scant attention, but research shows that they are vital pollinators of crops and wild habitats.

    • Lucas Laursen
  • Outlook |

    Charles Michener has been studying bees for more than 80 years, and, although he has seen many changes in the field, his interest in these insects has not diminished. Now aged 96, he contributes to bee research as a Watkins distinguished professor emeritus at Kansas University in Lawrence.

    • Julie Gould

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |


    The world of bees is fascinating and varied. The common honeybee is the most well-known and well-studied species, but there are thousands of wild bee species that enliven our landscapes and help to pollinate crops and wildflowers. The widely reported threats to honeybees, which cause their colonies to collapse, also jeopardize the lives of these lesser-known and under-appreciated bee species.

Nature Briefing

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