Hobbits and other early humans not ‘destructive agents’ of extinction, scientists find

When it comes to causing extinctions, early humans were likely not the jerks that we are today, a new study finds.

Early humans relatives have lived on islands since the early Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). But widespread extinction on islands can largely be traced back to the past 11,700 years during the Holocene epoch, when modern humans began wreaking havoc there — overhunting, altering habitats and introducing invasive species, the researchers found. 

“While humans are directly or indirectly responsible for many hundreds of losses on islands in the past several hundred years, that trail of

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Donkeys and horses dig wells that help other animals find water

Water drives the rhythms of desert life, but animals aren’t always helpless against the whims of weather.

In the American southwest, wild donkeys and horses often dig into the dusty sediment to reach cool, crystal clear groundwater to quench their thirst. New research shows this equid ingenuity has far reaching benefits for the ecosystem.

Equid wells can act as desert oases, providing a major source of water during dry times that benefits a whole host of desert animals and keystone trees, researchers report in the April 30 Science.

Introduced to North America in the past five hundred years or

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Fantastic yeasts and where to find them: The science behind sourdough starters

This is an Inside Science story.

Sourdough bread has nurtured humans for thousands of years — perhaps even more so during the bread-making hype of the COVID-19 pandemic — and bakers have perfected the craft of making it over generations. Now, scientists are beginning to understand the identities and activities of the microbes in sourdough that are key to making a delicious loaf.

“People are making sourdough all over the world — it’s the most ancient form of bread-making and an ancient form of fermentation,” said Elizabeth Landis, a microbiologist at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. But she added, “We

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For the first time, scientists find X-rays coming from Uranus

For the first time, scientists have discovered X-rays emitting from the enigmatic planet Uranus.

The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on Wednesday examined two visuals of the planet taken by the Chandra Observatory in 2002 and 2017. The first observation revealed a clear detection of X-rays, and the second revealed a possible flare of X-rays on the ice giant, a planet mainly composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.

The culprit? “Mainly the sun,” NASA said in a on its website.

But, the agency said, “there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source

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Scientists find deep-sea bacteria that are invisible to the human immune system

Bacteria collected from more than a mile below the surface of the Pacific Ocean may have just blown one of immunology’s longest-held assumptions clean out of the water.

The bacteria are so alien to humans that our immune cells do not even register that they exist, making them completely invisible to our immune systems.

This totally contradicts one of the classic tenets of immunology — that the human immune system evolved to be able to sense every single microbe so it could catch the infectious ones.

“The idea was that the immune system is a generalist, it doesn’t care

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