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5 most incredible discoveries of the week

10:29 AM, Dec 7, 2013   |    comments
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The discovery of freshwater in an unusual spot and an intriguing study about parental fears highlight this week's discoveries:

1. New water source: Under the sea? Under trillions of tons of water might not be the most obvious place to look for ... more water, but that's where scientists have found vast reserves of freshwater that could sustain future generations as aquifers run dry.

2. Parents may pass memories to their kids: It may be possible to learn your parents' fears-without ever experiencing the relevant threat. Researchers taught mice to fear a cherry blossom smell, then looked at the creatures' sperm. A portion of DNA tied to the scent was particularly active, and two generations of descendants were found to be "highly sensitive" to the smell.

3. Crocodiles, alligators trick prey with sticks: For the first time, scientists have documented examples of reptiles using tools. Specifically, researchers found that some species of the order Crocodylia (which includes crocs and alligators) use sticks to trick their prey.

4. Hubble finds water on 5 distant planets: It's seen as more of a confirmation of theory than a startling discovery, but scientists have found water in the atmosphere of five huge planets outside our solar system. A potential sign of life? Not quite.

5. 'Pit of bones' yields oldest human DNA: Technological breakthroughs have allowed scientists to sequence human DNA from an astonishing 400,000 years ago-but analysis of an ancient leg bone has raised more questions than answers. For one thing, the early human whose remains were unearthed in Spain had a much closer genetic link to an earlier species than to later Neanderthals, a surprise.

For more incredible discoveries, visit Newser, a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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