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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 14 new articles in PLoS ONE today. 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, Mendeley, 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:

Speciation in the Deep Sea: Multi-Locus Analysis of Divergence and Gene Flow between Two Hybridizing Species of Hydrothermal Vent Mussels:

Reconstructing the history of divergence and gene flow between closely-related organisms has long been a difficult task of evolutionary genetics. Recently, new approaches based on the coalescence theory have been developed to test the existence of gene flow during the process of divergence. The deep sea is a motivating place to apply these new approaches. Differentiation by adaptation can be driven by the heterogeneity of the hydrothermal environment while populations should not have been strongly perturbed by climatic oscillations, the main cause of geographic isolation at the surface. Samples of DNA sequences were obtained for seven nuclear loci and a mitochondrial locus in order to conduct a multi-locus analysis of divergence and gene flow between two closely related and hybridizing species of hydrothermal vent mussels, Bathymodiolus azoricus and B. puteoserpentis. The analysis revealed that (i) the two species have started to diverge approximately 0.760 million years ago, (ii) the B. azoricus population size was 2 to 5 time greater than the B. puteoserpentis and the ancestral population and (iii) gene flow between the two species occurred over the complete species range and was mainly asymmetric, at least for the chromosomal regions studied. A long history of gene flow has been detected between the two Bathymodiolus species. However, it proved very difficult to conclusively distinguish secondary introgression from ongoing parapatric differentiation. As powerful as coalescence approaches could be, we are left by the fact that natural populations often deviates from standard assumptions of the underlying model. A more direct observation of the history of recombination at one of the seven loci studied suggests an initial period of allopatric differentiation during which recombination was blocked between lineages. Even in the deep sea, geographic isolation may well be a crucial promoter of speciation.

Thermal Tolerance of the Coffee Berry Borer Hypothenemus hampei: Predictions of Climate Change Impact on a Tropical Insect Pest:

Coffee is predicted to be severely affected by climate change. We determined the thermal tolerance of the coffee berry borer , Hypothenemus hampei, the most devastating pest of coffee worldwide, and make inferences on the possible effects of climate change using climatic data from Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. For this, the effect of eight temperature regimes (15, 20, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33 and 35°C) on the bionomics of H. hampei was studied. Successful egg to adult development occurred between 20-30°C. Using linear regression and a modified Logan model, the lower and upper thresholds for development were estimated at 14.9 and 32°C, respectively. In Kenya and Colombia, the number of pest generations per year was considerably and positively correlated with the warming tolerance. Analysing 32 years of climatic data from Jimma (Ethiopia) revealed that before 1984 it was too cold for H. hampei to complete even one generation per year, but thereafter, because of rising temperatures in the area, 1-2 generations per year/coffee season could be completed. Calculated data on warming tolerance and thermal safety margins of H. hampei for the three East African locations showed considerably high variability compared to the Colombian site. The model indicates that for every 1°C rise in thermal optimum (Topt.), the maximum intrinsic rate of increase (rmax) will increase by an average of 8.5%. The effects of climate change on the further range of H. hampei distribution and possible adaption strategies are discussed. Abstracts in Spanish and French are provided as supplementary material Abstract S1 and Abstract S2.

Colony Collapse Disorder: A Descriptive Study:

Over the last two winters, there have been large-scale, unexplained losses of managed honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies in the United States. In the absence of a known cause, this syndrome was named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) because the main trait was a rapid loss of adult worker bees. We initiated a descriptive epizootiological study in order to better characterize CCD and compare risk factor exposure between populations afflicted by and not afflicted by CCD. Of 61 quantified variables (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single measure emerged as a most-likely cause of CCD. Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with a greater number of pathogens than control populations, suggesting either an increased exposure to pathogens or a reduced resistance of bees toward pathogens. Levels of the synthetic acaricide coumaphos (used by beekeepers to control the parasitic mite Varroa destructor) were higher in control colonies than CCD-affected colonies. This is the first comprehensive survey of CCD-affected bee populations that suggests CCD involves an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors. We present evidence that this condition is contagious or the result of exposure to a common risk factor. Potentially important areas for future hypothesis-driven research, including the possible legacy effect of mite parasitism and the role of honey bee resistance to pesticides, are highlighted.

Pigmentation and Vitamin D Metabolism in Caucasians: Low Vitamin D Serum Levels in Fair Skin Types in the UK:

Vitamin D may play a protective role in many diseases. Public health messages are advocating sun avoidance to reduce skin cancer risk but the potential deleterious effects of these recommendations for vitamin D metabolism have been poorly investigated. We investigated the association between 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D), skin type and ultraviolet exposure in 1414 Caucasian females in the UK. Mean age of the cohort was 47 years (18-79) and mean 25(OH)D levels were 77 nmol/L (6-289). 25(OH)D levels were strongly associated with season of sampling with higher levels in the spring and summer months (p<0.0001). Light skin types (skin type 1 and 2) have lower levels of 25(OH)D (mean 71 nmol/L) compared to darker skin types (skin type 3 and 4) (mean 82 nmol/L) after adjusting for multiple confounders (p<0.0001). The trend for increasing risk of low vitamin D with fairer skin types was highly significant despite adjustment for all confounders (p = 0.001). Contrary to previous studies across different ethnic backgrounds, this study within Caucasian UK females shows that fair skin types have lower levels of 25(OH)D compared to darker skin types with potential detrimental health effects. Public health campaigns advocating sun avoidance in fair skinned individuals may need to be revised in view of their risk of vitamin D deficiency.