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Crocodile Mummy Genes Confirm an Ancient Egyptian Hypothesis

'Two thousand years later, we use DNA and show that they were absolutely right.'

Wildlife researcher Evon Hekkala, Ph.D., from the American Museum of Natural History and, found herself in Egypt with a crocodile mummy in her hand. That’s when she discovered that there were two species of crocodiles that inhabit the Nile River instead of only one, as scientists previously assumed.

While modern researchers were surprised to learn this, Hekkala, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Fordham, believes that ancient Egyptians living thousands of years ago were able to tell these crocs apart. They kept them around, like some kind of scaly cat species, and mummified them as a symbol of Sobek, or Suchos — the father of the moon in Egyptian cosmology.

“I love that the cosmology of different cultures sometimes can lead us to hypotheses that we never would have realized,” Hekkala told Inverse on Wednesday, where she presented her findings at the Inverse Lunar Eclipse Party and Science Fair at Caveat in New York City.

Hekkala's booth at the Inverse Science Fair. Via @shazthephotog.

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“So [the Egyptians] had a hypothesis that this was a separate species 2,000 years ago and they identified these as separate species of crocodiles that they kept in temples. Two thousand years later, we use DNA and show that they were absolutely right,” she says. Hekkala first published her findings in the journal Molecular Ecology in 2011.

This newly discovered species was named Crocodylus suchus after the god Sobek, who was also the god of fertility. In ancient Egypt, royalty and commoners alike would be buried with mummified Crocodylus suchus because it was believed to grant them fertility in the next life.

“Everybody would have crocodile mummies because they were thought to grant strength in crossing the rivers into afterlife and fertility because they wanted to make sure they were fruitful even in the afterlife,” said Hekkala.

Sobek was so damn fertile that he got together with Hathor, the queen of the Milky Way, to give birth to Khonsu, the god of the moon. In essence, a croc had sex with a queen to make the moon — if only science were that easy.


The Incredible Science Behind This Self-Warming, Self-Cooling Bed

Eight Sleep’s new bed will make tossing and turning a thing of the past.

Filed Under Data

Sleep tracking can unquestionably help you establish better habits which allow for a more restful night’s sleep. By keeping track of the nights that you toss and turn, you can identify potential explanations for your sub-optimal slumber. Maybe it’s the time of week that’s got you anxious. Maybe it was the cheeseburger you had for lunch. Paying attention is just the start, though.

Ultima Thule Isn't Snowman-Shaped, "Wonderfully Puzzling" Discovery Reveals

"It was greeted by the sheer joy of scientific discovery."

Since NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by Ultima Thule on New Year’s Eve to the sweet soundtrack of Queen’s Brian May, we’ve learned a lot more about the distant object that dwells beyond the orbit of Neptune. In January, NASA photos revealed it was shaped like a snowman, formed from two space rocks jammed together. But as newer images of the object, which is roughly 4 billion miles from the sun, have trickled in over the past few weeks, project scientists have realized that it’s actually flat.

Mars One Is a "Money Grab" Where Everyone Loses

If you’re looking for an escape, this definitely isn’t it. 

The space tourism startup Mars One has been called many things over the years, some more flattering than others. Though it’s had the opportunity to fold many times, and in spite of claims it’s scamming its own customers, the project with the stated goal of sending people to Mars has come up with bewildering new techniques to keep its charade afloat.

Brain Scans Reveal Why "Night Owls" Have It Rough in a 9-to-5 Society: Study

The results explain why we need to "create more flexibility in our society."

The 9-to-5 workday originated with American labor unions in the 1800s, and today, the eight-hour workday is the norm. But however normalized the schedule, it is directly opposed to something more powerful: biology.

In a new study, scientists report that people whose internal body clocks tell them to go to bed late, but are then forced to wake up early, have a lower resting brain connectivity in the regions of the brain linked to consciousness.

Why You Should Consider Your Partner's Genetics Before Getting Married

On the basis of genes. 

By Richard Mattson, The Conversation
on
Filed Under Genetics, Health & Sex

How important is it to consider a romantic partner’s genetic profile before getting married?

It is logical to think that genetic factors may underlie many traits already used by matching sites - like personality and empathy — which many assume could promote initial chemistry and long-term potential in specific couples. So it is perhaps not surprising that there are now websites that combine genetic testing and matchmaking.