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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

We were too busy to notice, but apparently, PLoS ONE reached a new milestone this week – the 2000th article! Wow! That’s a lot!

This week we have a new Journal Club, already getting lively so you should all picth in and add your comments to the discussion. It is on the article on human evolution: Identifying Selected Regions from Heterozygosity and Divergence Using a Light-Coverage Genomic Dataset from Two Human Populations and the commentary can be found here.

And here are some titles from this week’s crop that got my attention – the first one listed being the first Taxonomy article ever published in PLoS:

A Supplementary Description of Cypridina mariae and Rediagnosis of the Genus Cylindroleberis (Ostracoda: Myodocopa: Cylindroleberididae):

The ostracod family Cylindroleberididae is based on the genus Cylindroleberis Brady, 1868, and has a complicated nomenclatural history. The type species of Cylindroleberis is Cypridina mariae Baird, 1850. Baird described only the carapace, which had been considered lost. Thus, there was no reference point for the concept C. mariae or the genus Cylindroleberis. Baird’s material has now been found in the Natural History Museum, London, U.K., and is illustrated here. To clarify the taxonomic status of C. mariae and Cylindroleberis, specimens were obtained from near the type locality, and a supplementary description is presented. This includes description of appendages, particularly the first antenna and mandible, which contain important diagnostic characters. This supplementary description provides important information about C. mariae, allowing a revision of the genus Cylindroleberis, and establishing a framework for future biological research on this ostracod group.

Does Sex Trade with Violence among Genotypes in Drosophila melanogaster?:

The evolutionary forces shaping the ability to win competitive interactions, such as aggressive encounters, are still poorly understood. Given a fitness advantage for competitive success, variance in aggressive and sexual display traits should be depleted, but a great deal of variation in these traits is consistently found. While life history tradeoffs have been commonly cited as a mechanism for the maintenance of variation, the variability of competing strategies of conspecifics may mean there is no single optimum strategy. We measured the genetically determined outcomes of aggressive interactions, and the resulting effects on mating success, in a panel of diverse inbred lines representing both natural variation and artificially selected genotypes. Males of one genotype which consistently lost territorial encounters with other genotypes were nonetheless successful against males that were artificially selected for supernormal aggression and dominated all other lines. Intransitive patterns of territorial success could maintain variation in aggressive strategies if there is a preference for territorial males. Territorial success was not always associated with male mating success however and females preferred ‘winners’ among some male genotypes, and ‘losers’ among other male genotypes. This suggests that studying behaviour from the perspective of population means may provide limited evolutionary and genetic insight. Overall patterns of competitive success among males and mating transactions between the sexes are consistent with mechanisms proposed for the maintenance of genetic variation due to nonlinear outcomes of competitive interactions.

Seasonal Activity Budget of Adult Baltic Ringed Seals:

Although ringed seals are important components in oceanic and fresh water ecosystems at high latitudes, little is known about how they exploit these harsh environments. Seasonal activity and diving behaviour of 19 adult Baltic ringed seals were studied by satellite telemetry. We elaborated an activity budget for ten months of the year, extending over the period from moult to the breeding season. Seals from three main regions showed explicit site fidelity and the distributions of animals tagged from different areas did not overlap, suggesting separate stocks. Both the mean duration and the mean depth of dives peaked in June and July. Seals spent 70% (females) to 85% (males) of their time diving in June and July which decreased to 50% in late autumn. Less than one percent of dives exceeded 10 min in females, while 10% of male dives lasted longer than 10 min in June to September. Less than one percent of dives lasted for more than 25 min. Both females and males were most active during day time and hauled out predominantly during the night. Activity patterns during the summer are suggested to be correlated to energy accumulation and prey availability. The information on seasonal activity budget is crucial for developing population energetic models where interactions between ringed seals and other trophic levels can be evaluated.

Optimal Foraging Predicts the Ecology but Not the Evolution of Host Specialization in Bacteriophages:

We explore the ability of optimal foraging theory to explain the observation among marine bacteriophages that host range appears to be negatively correlated with host abundance in the local marine environment. We modified Charnov’s classic diet composition model to describe the ecological dynamics of the related generalist and specialist bacteriophages φX174 and G4, and confirmed that specialist phages are ecologically favored only at high host densities. Our modified model accurately predicted the ecological dynamics of phage populations in laboratory microcosms, but had only limited success predicting evolutionary dynamics. We monitored evolution of attachment rate, the phenotype that governs diet breadth, in phage populations adapting to both low and high host density microcosms. Although generalist φX174 populations evolved even broader diets at low host density, they did not show a tendency to evolve the predicted specialist foraging strategy at high host density. Similarly, specialist G4 populations were unable to evolve the predicted generalist foraging strategy at low host density. These results demonstrate that optimal foraging models developed to explain the behaviorally determined diets of predators may have only limited success predicting the genetically determined diets of bacteriophage, and that optimal foraging probably plays a smaller role than genetic constraints in the evolution of host specialization in bacteriophages.

Seasonal Migration Determined by a Trade-Off between Predator Avoidance and Growth:

Migration is a common phenomenon in many organisms, terrestrial as well as aquatic, and considerable effort has been spent to understand the evolution of migratory behaviour and its consequences for population and community dynamics. In aquatic systems, studies on migration have mainly been focused on commercially important fish species, such as salmon and trout. However, seasonal mass-migrations may occur also among other freshwater fish, e.g. in cyprinids that leave lakes and migrate into streams and wetlands in the fall and return back to the lake in spring. In a conceptual model, we hypothesized that this is an adaptive behaviour in response to seasonal changes in predation (P) and growth (G) and that migrating fish change habitat so as to minimise the ratio between predation mortality and growth rate (P/G). Estimates from bioenergetic modelling showed that seasonal changes in the ratio between predator consumption rate and prey growth rate followed the predictions from the conceptual model and also gave more precise predictions for the timing of the habitat change. By quantifying the migration of more than 1800 individually marked fish, we showed that actual migration patterns followed predictions with a remarkable accuracy, suggesting that migration patterns have evolved in response to seasonally fluctuating trade-offs between predator avoidance and foraging gains. Thus, the conceptual model provides a mechanistic understanding to mass-migration in prey fish. Further, we also show that the dominant prey fish is actually absent from the lake during a major part of the year, which should have strong implications for the dynamics of the lake ecosystem through direct and indirect food-web interactions.

Cyclic and Sleep-Like Spontaneous Alternations of Brain State Under Urethane Anaesthesia:

Although the induction of behavioural unconsciousness during sleep and general anaesthesia has been shown to involve overlapping brain mechanisms, sleep involves cyclic fluctuations between different brain states known as active (paradoxical or rapid eye movement: REM) and quiet (slow-wave or non-REM: nREM) stages whereas commonly used general anaesthetics induce a unitary slow-wave brain state. Long-duration, multi-site forebrain field recordings were performed in urethane-anaesthetized rats. A spontaneous and rhythmic alternation of brain state between activated and deactivated electroencephalographic (EEG) patterns was observed. Individual states and their transitions resembled the REM/nREM cycle of natural sleep in their EEG components, evolution, and time frame (~11 minute period). Other physiological variables such as muscular tone, respiration rate, and cardiac frequency also covaried with forebrain state in a manner identical to sleep. The brain mechanisms of state alternations under urethane also closely overlapped those of natural sleep in their sensitivity to cholinergic pharmacological agents and dependence upon activity in the basal forebrain nuclei that are the major source of forebrain acetylcholine. Lastly, stimulation of brainstem regions thought to pace state alternations in sleep transiently disrupted state alternations under urethane. Our results suggest that urethane promotes a condition of behavioural unconsciousness that closely mimics the full spectrum of natural sleep. The use of urethane anaesthesia as a model system will facilitate mechanistic studies into sleep-like brain states and their alternations. In addition, it could also be exploited as a tool for the discovery of new molecular targets that are designed to promote sleep without compromising state alternations.

Unique Environmental Effects on Physical Activity Participation: A Twin Study:

The health benefits of regular physical activity are well established. However, the relative contribution of heritable and environmental factors to physical activity participation remains controversial. Using a cut-point of 60 minutes of total activity per week, data from the GenomEUtwin project revealed consistent genetic influence on physical activity participation in 37,051 twin pairs from seven countries. We hypothesized that the heritability of physical activity participation would be attenuated using the CDC/ACSM recommended minimum threshold of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. Data were obtained from 1,389 twin pairs from the community-based University of Washington Twin Registry. Twin similarity in physical activity participation using both cut-points was analyzed using tetrachoric correlations and structural equation modeling in all same-sex pairs. Correlations were higher in monozygotic (rMZ = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.33-0.54) than dizygotic pairs (rDZ = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.12-0.47) using the 60 minute cut-point. However, differences were attenuated using the 150 minute standard (rMZ = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.20-0.40; rDZ = 0.25, 95% CI = 0.07-0.42). Using the lower cut-point, the best fitting model of twin resemblance only included additive genetics and unique environment, with a heritability of 45%. In contrast, using the higher threshold, the best fitting model included the common and unique environment, with the unique environment contributing 72% of the variance. Unique environment factors provide the strongest influence on physical activity participation at levels recommended for health benefits.