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Dario Lopez-Mills / AP

Rare species can be difficult to detect, but scientists are looking to environmental DNA (traces of cells from skin, feces, and hair) to pin them down, according to The Scientist.

What they found: There are billions of cells that organisms leave behind in their environment, and they act as a marker of which species have traveled through various areas. So far, scientists studying eDNA have discovered the only cave-dwelling salamander to exist in Europe and Yangtze finless porpoise in China's Yangtze River. Bighead and silver carp in Lake Michigan, and alien and Asian carp in the Illinois and Mississippi rivers were also detected early thanks to eDNA.

Why it matters: The eDNA is helping scientists discover rare species "that are some of the most elusive animals on Earth," per The Scientist. "eDNA represents a revolution over traditional monitoring methods," Kathryn Stewart, a postdoc at the University of Amsterdam who led the study, wrote in an email to The Scientist. It is "perfectly suited for studying this cryptic, elusive, and rare species."

Go deeper

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden's Russia challenge

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Biden administration has already proposed a five-year extension of the last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, announced an urgent investigation into a massive Russia-linked cyberattack, and demanded the release of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexey Navalny.

Why it matters: Those three steps in Biden's first week underscore the challenge he faces from Vladimir Putin — an authoritarian intent on weakening the U.S. and its alliances, with whom he’ll nonetheless have to engage on critical issues.

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