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Solving History with Science

No one knows what happened to Amelia Earhart when she disappeared 73 years ago flying around the equator — the theories range from her crashing into the Pacific to being executed by the Japanese for being a spy. But now, some bones found on the uninhabited Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro suggest that she and her navigator Fred Noonan crashed there, died as castaways, and were eaten by crabs, says the Guardian's Chris McGreal. Researchers from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery have found what looks like a phalanx from a finger and two other bones, along with other artifacts like a mirror from a woman's compact and evidence of small fires with bird and fish bones. The alleged finger bones will be tested for DNA — they may turn out to be turtle bones, however, McGreal says, as turtles have similar bones in their flippers. A member of Earhart's family has provided DNA for comparison.

Science has already solved another historical riddle. The severed head of King Henri IV of France has been identified from a mass of remains in Paris's Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis, says Katherine Harmon at Scientific American's Observations blog. Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, but his remains were mutilated during the French Revolution and the head separated. The researchers couldn't get enough mDNA material from the remains to run a genetic test, Harmon says, but instead took a multidisciplinary approach and used a combination of radiocarbon dating, computed tomography, and raman spectroscopy to identify the head's owner. The team's paper appears in the British Medical Journal.

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.