There are 16 new articles in PLoS ONE today (as well as 13 last night and 5 on Friday night). As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:
Darwin’s Manufactory Hypothesis Is Confirmed and Predicts the Extinction Risk of Extant Birds:
In the Origin of Species Darwin hypothesized that the “manufactory” of species operates at different rates in different lineages and that the richness of taxonomic units is autocorrelated across levels of the taxonomic hierarchy. We confirm the manufactory hypothesis using a database of all the world’s extant avian subspecies, species and genera. The hypothesis is confirmed both in correlations across all genera and in paired comparisons controlling for phylogeny. We also find that the modern risk of extinction, as measured by “Red List” classifications, differs across the different categories of genera identified by Darwin. Specifically, species in “manufactory” genera are less likely to be threatened, endangered or recently extinct than are “weak manufactory” genera. Therefore, although Darwin used his hypothesis to investigate past evolutionary processes, we find that the hypothesis also foreshadows future changes to the evolutionary tree.
The h-index has already been used by major citation databases to evaluate the academic performance of individual scientists. Although effective and simple, the h-index suffers from some drawbacks that limit its use in accurately and fairly comparing the scientific output of different researchers. These drawbacks include information loss and low resolution: the former refers to the fact that in addition to h2 citations for papers in the h-core, excess citations are completely ignored, whereas the latter means that it is common for a group of researchers to have an identical h-index. To solve these problems, I here propose the e-index, where e2 represents the ignored excess citations, in addition to the h2 citations for h-core papers. Citation information can be completely depicted by using the h-index together with the e-index, which are independent of each other. Some other h-type indices, such as a and R, are h-dependent, have information redundancy with h, and therefore, when used together with h, mask the real differences in excess citations of different researchers. Although simple, the e-index is a necessary h-index complement, especially for evaluating highly cited scientists or for precisely comparing the scientific output of a group of scientists having an identical h-index.
Understanding the current status of predatory fish communities, and the effects fishing has on them, is vitally important information for management. However, data are often insufficient at region-wide scales to assess the effects of extraction in coral reef ecosystems of developing nations. Here, I overcome this difficulty by using a publicly accessible, fisheries-independent database to provide a broad scale, comprehensive analysis of human impacts on predatory reef fish communities across the greater Caribbean region. Specifically, this study analyzed presence and diversity of predatory reef fishes over a gradient of human population density. Across the region, as human population density increases, presence of large-bodied fishes declines, and fish communities become dominated by a few smaller-bodied species. Complete disappearance of several large-bodied fishes indicates ecological and local extinctions have occurred in some densely populated areas. These findings fill a fundamentally important gap in our knowledge of the ecosystem effects of artisanal fisheries in developing nations, and provide support for multiple approaches to data collection where they are commonly unavailable.
Physiological studies of perfectly still observers have shown interesting correlations between increasing effortfulness of observed actions and increases in heart and respiration rates. Not much is known about the cortical response induced by observing effortful actions. The aim of this study was to investigate the time course and neural correlates of perception of implied motion, by presenting 260 pictures of human actions differing in degrees of dynamism and muscular exertion. ERPs were recorded from 128 sites in young male and female adults engaged in a secondary perceptual task. Our results indicate that even when the stimulus shows no explicit motion, observation of static photographs of human actions with implied motion produces a clear increase in cortical activation, manifest in a long-lasting positivity (LP) between 350-600 ms that is much greater to dynamic than less dynamic actions, especially in men. A swLORETA linear inverse solution computed on the dynamic-minus-static difference wave in the time window 380-430 ms showed that a series of regions was activated, including the right V5/MT, left EBA, left STS (BA38), left premotor (BA6) and motor (BA4) areas, cingulate and IF cortex. Overall, the data suggest that corresponding mirror neurons respond more strongly to implied dynamic than to less dynamic actions. The sex difference might be partially cultural and reflect a preference of young adult males for highly dynamic actions depicting intense muscular activity, or a sporty context.
Invasive species are a serious problem in ecosystems, but are difficult to eradicate once established. Predictive methods can be key in determining which areas are of concern regarding invasion by such species to prevent establishment . We assessed the geographic potential of four Eurasian cyprinid fishes (common carp, tench, grass carp, black carp) as invaders in North America via ecological niche modeling (ENM). These “carp” represent four stages of invasion of the continent (a long-established invader with a wide distribution, a long-established invader with a limited distribution, a spreading invader whose distribution is expanding, and a newly introduced potential invader that is not yet established), and as such illustrate the progressive reduction of distributional disequilibrium over the history of species’ invasions. We used ENM to estimate the potential distributional area for each species in North America using models based on native range distribution data. Environmental data layers for native and introduced ranges were imported from state, national, and international climate and environmental databases. Models were evaluated using independent validation data on native and invaded areas. We calculated omission error for the independent validation data for each species: all native range tests were highly successful (all omission values <7%); invaded-range predictions were predictive for common and grass carp (omission values 8.8 and 19.8%, respectively). Model omission was high for introduced tench populations (54.7%), but the model correctly identified some areas where the species has been successful; distributional predictions for black carp show that large portions of eastern North America are at risk. ENMs predicted potential ranges of carp species accurately even in regions where the species have not been present until recently. ENM can forecast species' potential geographic ranges with reasonable precision and within the short screening time required by proposed U.S. invasive species legislation.
In many cooperatively breeding vertebrates, subordinates assist a dominant pair to raise the dominants’ offspring. Previously, it has been suggested that subordinates may help in payment for continued residency on the territory (the ‘pay-to-stay hypothesis’), but payment might also be reciprocated or might allow subordinates access to reproductive opportunities. We measured dominant and subordinate female alloparental brood care and reproductive success in four separate experiments and show that unrelated female dominant and subordinate cichlid fish care for each other’s broods (alloparental brood care), but that there is no evidence for reciprocal ‘altruism’ (no correlation between alloparental care received and given). Instead, subordinate females appear to pay with alloparental care for own direct reproduction. Our results suggest subordinate females pay with alloparental care to ensure access to the breeding substrate and thereby increase their opportunities to lay their own clutches. Subordinates’ eggs are laid, on average, five days after the dominant female has produced her first brood. We suggest that immediate reproductive benefits need to be considered in tests of the pay-to-stay hypothesis.
Insurance companies use medical information to classify the mortality risk of applicants. Adding genetic tests to this assessment is currently being debated. This debate would be more meaningful, if results of present-day risk prediction were known. Therefore, we compared the predicted with the observed mortality of men who applied for life insurance, and determined the prognostic value of the risk assessment. Long-term follow-up was available for 62,334 male applicants whose mortality risk was predicted with medical evaluation and they were assigned to five groups with increasing risk from 1 to 5. We calculated all cause standardized mortality ratios relative to the Dutch population and compared groups with Cox’s regression. We compared the discriminative ability of risk assessments as indicated by a concordance index (c). In 844,815 person years we observed 3,433 deaths. The standardized mortality relative to the Dutch male population was 0.76 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.73 to 0.78). The standardized mortality ratios ranged from 0.54 in risk group 1 to 2.37 in group 5. A large number of risk factors and diseases were significantly associated with increased mortality. The algorithm of prediction was significantly, but only slightly better than summation of the number of disorders and risk factors (c-index, 0.64 versus 0.60, P<0.001). Men applying for insurance clearly had better survival relative to the general population. Readily available medical evaluation enabled accurate prediction of the mortality risk of large groups, but the deceased men could not have been identified with the applied prediction method.