Burnt seeds show people used tobacco 12,000 years ago

Tosin Thompson

Nature | October 13, 2021

Scientists at the Wishbone site, excavating evidence for human tobacco use.
Excavations at the site in Utah, where charred tobacco seeds were found among the contents of a 12,300-year-old hearth.Credit: D. Duke et al./Nat. Hum. Behav.

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that hunter-gatherers in North America were using tobacco around 12,300 years ago — 9,000 years earlier than was previously documented.

Tobacco use spread worldwide after contact between European explorers and Indigenous people in North America in the fifteenth century. But researchers debate precisely how and when tobacco plants (Nicotiana spp.) were first domesticated.

Now, Daron Duke and his colleagues at the Far Western Anthropological Research Group in Davis, California, have discovered the oldest direct evidence of tobacco use at a hunter-gatherer camp in Utah’s West Desert. They published the findings on 11 October in Nature Human Behaviour1.

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Ancient Siberian cave hosted Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans—possibly at the same time

Elizabeth Pennisi

In Siberia, researchers lay out a grid in Denisova Cave to systematically sample soil layers for DNA. RICHARD G. ROBERTS




A decade ago, anthropologists shocked the world when they discovered a fossil pinkie bone from a then-unknown group of extinct humans in Siberia’s Denisova Cave. The group was named “Denisovans” in its honor. Now, an extensive analysis of DNA in the cave’s soils reveals it also hosted modern humans—who arrived early enough that they may have once lived there alongside Denisovans and Neanderthals.

The new study “gives [researchers] unprecedented insight into the past,” says Mikkel Winther Pedersen, a molecular paleoecologist at the University of Copenhagen who was not involved with the work. “It literally shows what [before] they have only been able hypothesize.”

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Scientists have eliminated HIV in mice for the first time. Is a cure for humans coming?

A Journal of People report

Scientists have successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of infected mice for the first time, bringing them one-step closer to curing the virus in humans. A research report says this advancement of science.

The research report – “Sequential LASER ART and CRISPR Treatments Eliminate HIV-1 in a Subset of Infected Humanized Mice” – has been published in Nature Communications (volume 10, Article number: 2753 (2019)) on July 2, 2019.Read More »

One third of protected areas highly degraded by humans, study finds

by Olivia Rosane

EcoWatch| May 18, 2018

One third of protected areas highly degraded by humans, study finds

White-banded swallows in Yasuni National Park, one of the places that has largely escaped human pressures. | Geoff Gallice/Flickr (CC)

A study published in Science Friday presents what authors call a sobering “reality check” on global efforts to protect biodiversity—one third of all conservation areas set aside as wildlife sanctuaries or national parks are “highly degraded” by human activities.Read More »