Scientists have found what they say is a new family of legless amphibians in Northeast India – animals they say may have diverged from similar vertebrates in Africa when the land masses separated tens of millions of years ago.
The find, the scientists say, might foreshadow other discoveries in Northeast India and might help show the area played a more important evolutionary role than previously thought.
The creatures are part of an order of limbless, soil-dwelling amphibians called caecilians – not to be confused with snakes, which are reptiles. Caecilians were previously known to consist of nine families in Asia, Africa and South America.
But different bone structures in the head distinguish this apparent 10th family, and DNA testing links the creatures not to other caecilians in India, but to caecilians that are exclusively from Africa, the scientists report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
The new family has been dubbed Chikilidae by the scientists from India, Belgium and the United Kingdom, including lead author Rachunliu Kamei, who was pursuing her doctorate at University of Delhi. The team found them during what it believes is the first caecilian survey in Northeast India, digging at 238 sites from 2006 to 2010.
“It’s an amazing thing to find a new family, especially vertebrates, in this day in age,” Global Wildlife Conservation president Don Church, who was not part of the team but knows Kamei and the team’s other scientists, told CNN on Thursday. “Birds, reptiles and amphibians really were thought to have been well worked out at the family level.”
Editor's note: Syrian forces are intensifying their bombardment of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, a stronghold of the opposition. For those trapped in the area, there is the ever-present danger that the next shell will hit wherever they are trying to find shelter, or a sniper's bullet will kill them.
CNN's Arwa Damon, who was in Homs last week, saw the risks that opposition activists were taking minute-by-minute, when she went to their communications center. CNN's Ivan Watson also was able to get an inside look at a makeshift, rebel-run media operation helping to get the news and pictures out of Syria. Below are edited accounts of what they've seen and been told about how Syrians are trying to get their message out:
The weapons are different here. They come in the form of protest banners, videos and anti-government demonstrations. And they are images that are broadcast and streamed live online to the outside world.
Young men are among the activists that have kept the Syrian uprising alive by using technology in the face of a government crackdown that's left thousands dead.
The Syrian regime says they are facing a barrage of attacks from armed terrorists. They are fighting back, but these revolutionaries insist they don't need guns.
"I don't need Kalashnikov. I need just this [holds up camera] and laptop and media," Shaheb Sumac tells Watson.
They arm themselves with these pieces of technology and a whole lot of bravery. They show CNN footage they've shot secretly.
And then they distribute them across Syria and throughout the world. This amateur footage has served as a lifeline into life in Syria as it has become an important source of information for news organizations, including CNN, which are barred from freely working inside the country.
At first glance, the media operation appears like a grungy Middle Eastern university dorm room. But in their eyes, these men are media warriors.
"We are fighting a war against the regime's media channels," Alaa Edien Hamdoun, the group's leader, tells Watson. Even though we're working for free with few resources ... we are winning against them ... because we are servants of our revolution who are demanding freedom."
According to a recent study, men think about sex an average of about 19 times a day. Thinking about it is one thing, but getting caught thinking about it is another. Inspired by yesterday’s video of gawking royalty, today’s Gotta Watch features our top videos of people who should have kept their eyes to themselves.
Was the royal bosom ogled? CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on men caught up to their eyeballs in cleavage.
CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on a campaign to save the job of a man caught on a live newscast eyeing a lingerie model.
Holiday windows gone wild! Window undressing leaves shoppers gawking, as CNN's Jeanne Moos finds out.
[Updated at 10:35 a.m. ET] Two American troops were killed in Afghanistan on Thursday near a demonstration where people were protesting the burning of Qurans by NATO troops.
The troops were killed by a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform, a U.S. official said, asking not to be named discussing casualties.
The troops are among at least nine people who have been killed near or amid demonstrations that have erupted in Afghanistan since the burning of the Islamic religious material by NATO troops at the beginning of the week. It is not clear if the troops were killed in revenge for the burning of Qurans, but the attack occurred at a base outside of which the demonstration was taking place, a local official said.
The protest and shootings came as the Taliban called on Muslims to attack NATO military bases and convoys and kill its soldiers following the admission that NATO troops had incinerated Islamic religious material at Bagram Airfield.
Afghan officials investigating the Quran burning urged Afghans to respond wisely and avoid protests "that pave the ground for the enemies of peace," they said in a statement Thursday.
[Initial post, 8:09 a.m. ET] President Barack Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Qurans by NATO troops, calling the act an inadvertent error, Karzai's office and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday.
"We will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, including holding accountable those responsible," Obama said in the letter, according to Karzai's office.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the airfield Tuesday, furious over reports of the burning.
Some Qurans and other Islamic religious materials gathered for disposal from a detention facility at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan were improperly burned, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force said Tuesday.
"This was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials," Gen. John Allen said. "It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened."
[Updated at 10:12 a.m. ET] Seven U.S. Marines have been killed in the midair collision of two U.S. military helicopters in southern Arizona, officials said Thursday.
The crash occurred during routine training operations late Wednesday at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Maj. Carl B. Redding, Jr. of the Marine Corps said in a statement.
The collision involved an AH-1W "Super Cobra" attack helicopter and a UH-1Y "Huey" utility chopper, which the military has long used for a variety of tasks. They were part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Authorities were investigating the collision, which occurred in a remote area of a training range complex.FULL STORY
The race to the Republican presidential nomination continues on February 28 with the Arizona and Michigan primaries. CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.
Today's programming highlights...
10:30 am ET - Romney in Arizona - GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney begins his day in Arizona, where he'll address supporters in Phoenix. He'll then travel to Michigan to speak before a Tea Party group at 7:00 pm ET.
International leaders met Thursday to discuss terror and militant threats in Somalia and find ways to address leadership and famine woes that have dogged the nation for decades.
Representatives from 40 countries, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon attended the London conference on stabilizing and rebuilding Somalia after decades of war.
The session aims to galvanize the international community to develop a more comprehensive approach to tackling these ills, British officials said.
"We are realistic - Somalia's problems cannot be solved in a day, but its people deserve a better future, and our own security requires their country to become more stable," UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.FULL STORY
Britain and France demanded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cease attacks against the besieged opposition stronghold of Homs to allow three journalists to receive medical care even as reports emerged Thursday of renewed shelling in the flashpoint city.
The demands come on the eve of a meeting where world leaders will look to mount pressure against al-Assad to end a nearly year-long brutal crackdown on Syrians calling for his ouster.
Syria's ambassadors in London and Paris were summoned to the countries' respective foreign ministries, where they were told Syria was expected to make arrangements to return the bodies of two journalists killed Wednesday as well as provide medical treatment for three injured in the same attack.
Syria's Ministry of Information has no knowledge of the journalists killed and wounded, saying officials in Homs province were looking into the reports, according to a ministry statement released through the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).FULL STORY
Swedish Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to a baby girl early Thursday, the Royal Court announced.
The baby girl is now second in line to the throne of Sweden, as the first grandchild of the king and queen, the court said on its website. Her mother is first.
The father, Prince Daniel - the former personal trainer of the crown princess - was present at the Karolinska hospital in Stockholm during the birth, the court said.
The child's name will be announced Friday or Saturday, her father said.FULL STORY
A series of explosions and shootings killed 29 people and injured dozens in Baghdad and other areas Thursday morning, Iraqi police said.
Police believe the wave of attacks, most of them within a two-hour time frame, were a coordinated effort by militants.
No militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks.FULL STORY
An explosion at a bus stand killed 12 people and injured more than 30 others Thursday in northwest Pakistan, police said
More than 10 vehicles were damaged in the attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police said.
The assailants used a remote control to explode a car parked at the bus stand, according to Siraj Khan, a senior government official in Peshawar.FULL STORY
CNN examines statements made by Republican presidential candidates during Wednesday night's CNN/Republican Party of Arizona debate in Mesa, Arizona.
Newt Gingrich criticized the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for characterizing Iran as a "rational actor" in international affairs and defending the possibility of preventing an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites
The statement: "The fact is this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn't believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I'm inclined to believe dictators ... If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons, and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons." FULL POST