The Best of 2018 The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018  

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January 4, 2018 79.3k views 40 items

Scientific breakthroughs happen across the globe each year as the world's top researchers make innovative discoveries that alter life on earth and change our perception of reality. The greatest scientific discoveries are an inspiring testament to the profound capabilities of the human mind. Each year, scientists make incredible discoveries.

In 2017, scientists learned how to pull water out of thin air and edit a human embryo. The latest breakthroughs from 2018 are just as impressive. If you haven't already learned about these recent scientific advances, now is the time. 

This list of 2018 scientific discoveries features informative works that span a wide range of disciplines. Some discoveries brought about a more rich understanding of our past. The last wild horses may not truly have wild ancestors and a lost Native American tribe gave us a more complex look at our earliest ancestors. Other discoveries may mean huge leaps for medical science. From blood tests to detect cancer to the potential to grow human organs for donations, these breakthroughs will give you hope for the future even in bleak times.  

The latest in science news is inspirational for a new generation of thinkers who will continue to push the boundaries of human capability. What were the biggest discoveries of 2018? Read on to find out. 

Australian Scientists Identified The World's Oldest Known Animal


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Since 1947, a fossil only known as Dickinsonia has gone unidentified. In September 2018, Australian scientists revealed they had finally identified the animal in the geological record. Scientists called the discovery "the Holy Grail of paleontology."

By examining the fat molecules found on the fossil, researchers were able to verify that the creature lived 558 million years ago, which makes it the "earliest known member of the animal kingdom." The fat molecules place the animal's existence 20 million years prior to the Cambrian Explosion event, which is when most animal origins are pinpointed on the fossil record. 

The fossil was initially discovered in 1947 by Australian scientists in a remote area near the White Sea in Russia. Scientists were unable to determine the date of the fossil for decades because of the weatherization caused by heat and pressure. Once scientists were able to extract the cholesterol from the specimen, they were able to pinpoint when it existed. 

Archaeologists Found The Oldest Known Human Drawing


In September 2018, researchers reported on what may be the earliest known drawing created by Homo sapiens. Archaeologists discovered a stone flake with nine red lines on it in a cave in South Africa, which they believe is roughly 73,000 years old - that's 30,000 years older than what was previously thought to be the oldest human-made drawings. Archaeologists believe this drawing could help us learn more about how humans used symbols, which ultimately led to language and civilization itself. 

Researchers found the drawing in Blombos Cave, 200 miles east of Cape Town. Scientists also uncovered the teeth, spear points, seashell beads, engravings, and tools made of bone in the cavern. The scientists aren't exactly sure what the purpose of the line drawing was, but they feel the lines were made deliberately. 

A 228 Million-Year-Old Fossil Confirmed Turtles Lived Without Shells In The Past


 

In August 2018, scientists found a nearly complete fossil of a massive turtle that confirmed turtles didn't always have shells. The fossil, which was unearthed in the Guizhou providence of China, is bigger than a double bed, and scientists dated the material back 228 million years. The structure of the turtle's back show it existed without shells. Researchers named it Eorhynchochelys sinensis, which means "Dawn turtle with a beak from China."

Why is this important? Scientists have been eager to discover how turtles' shells evolved, as they help turtles live underwater longer, store important minerals like potassium and magnesium, and protects them from outside forces. This fossil shows a bit of the transition from non-shell to shelled turtles. 

"We're seeing it in this animal - with the ribs beginning to expand," Dr. Nicolas Fraser, keeper of natural sciences at the National Museum of Scotland explained.

Palaeogeneticists Uncovered The Remains Of An Ancient Hybrid Human


Palaeogeneticists Uncovered Th... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  Tim Evanson/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

In August 2018, Paleogeneticists discovered that a woman who died 90,000 years ago was parented by two different species of human. According to a genome analysis of a bone found in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Russia, the woman was half Neanderthal, half Denisovan. Scientists had always suspected Denisovans and Neanderthals procreated together, but there was no evidence of a first-generation offspring. 

Deducing this was an arduous process. Paleogeneticists Viviane Slon and Svante Pääblo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, led an investigation spanning several years. When they first found the bone fragment, it was clear the mother was a Neanderthal, but the father's identity was still shrouded in mystery. Researchers sequenced the specimen's genome and compared it to DNA from a Neanderthal, a Denisovan, and a modern-day human from Africa. Through deduction, scientists were able to confirm she is in fact a first-generation cross-species hybrid human.