A Blog Around The Clock

New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 16 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:

Human’s Cognitive Ability to Assess Facial Cues from Photographs: A Study of Sexual Selection in the Bolivian Amazon:

Evolutionary theory suggests that natural selection favors the evolution of cognitive abilities which allow humans to use facial cues to assess traits of others. The use of facial and somatic cues by humans has been studied mainly in western industrialized countries, leaving unanswered whether results are valid across cultures. Our objectives were to test (i) if previous finding about raters’ ability to get accurate information about an individual by looking at his facial photograph held in low-income non western rural societies and (ii) whether women and men differ in this ability. To answer the questions we did a study during July-August 2007 among the Tsimane’, a native Amazonian society of foragers-farmers in Bolivia. We asked 40 females and 40 males 16-25 years of age to rate four traits in 93 facial photographs of other Tsimane’ males. The four traits were based on sexual selection theory, and included health, dominance, knowledge, and sociability. The rating scale for each trait ranged from one (least) to four (most). The average rating for each trait was calculated for each individual in the photograph and regressed against objective measures of the trait from the person in the photograph. We found that (i) female Tsimane’ raters were able to assess facial cues related to health, dominance, and knowledge and (ii) male Tsimane’ raters were able to assess facial cues related to dominance, knowledge, and sociability. Our results support the existence of a human ability to identify objective traits from facial cues, as suggested by evolutionary theory.

First Direct Evidence of Chalcolithic Footwear from the Near Eastern Highlands:

In 2008, a well preserved and complete shoe was recovered at the base of a Chalcolithic pit in the cave of Areni-1, Armenia. Here, we discuss the chronology of this find, its archaeological context and its relevance to the study of the evolution of footwear. Two leather samples and one grass sample from the shoe were dated at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU). A third leather sample was dated at the University of California-Irvine Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility (UCIAMS). The R_Combine function for the three leather samples provides a date range of 3627-3377 Cal BC (95.4% confidence interval) and the calibrated range for the straw is contemporaneous (3627-3377 Cal BC). The shoe was stuffed with loose, unfastened grass (Poaceae) without clear orientation which was more than likely used to maintain the shape of the shoe and/or prepare it for storage. The shoe is 24.5 cm long (European size 37), 7.6 to 10 cm wide, and was made from a single piece of leather that wrapped around the foot. It was worn and shaped to the wearer’s right foot, particularly around the heel and hallux where the highest pressure is exerted in normal gait. The Chalcolithic shoe provides solid evidence for the use of footwear among Old World populations at least since the Chalcolithic. Other 4th millennium discoveries of shoes (Italian and Swiss Alps), and sandals (Southern Israel) indicate that more than one type of footwear existed during the 4th millennium BC, and that we should expect to discover more regional variations in the manufacturing and style of shoes where preservation conditions permit.

Reticulate Evolutionary History of a Complex Group of Grasses: Phylogeny of Elymus StStHH Allotetraploids Based on Three Nuclear Genes:

Elymus (Poaceae) is a large genus of polyploid species in the wheat tribe Triticeae. It is polyphyletic, exhibiting many distinct allopolyploid genome combinations, and its history might be further complicated by introgression and lineage sorting. We focus on a subset of Elymus species with a tetraploid genome complement derived from Pseudoroegneria (genome St) and Hordeum (H). We confirm the species’ allopolyploidy, identify possible genome donors, and pinpoint instances of apparent introgression or incomplete lineage sorting. We sequenced portions of three unlinked nuclear genes–phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, β-amylase, and granule-bound starch synthase I–from 27 individuals, representing 14 Eurasian and North American StStHH Elymus species. Elymus sequences were combined with existing data from monogenomic representatives of the tribe, and gene trees were estimated separately for each data set using maximum likelihood. Trees were examined for evidence of allopolyploidy and additional reticulate patterns. All trees confirm the StStHH genome configuration of the Elymus species. They suggest that the StStHH group originated in North America, and do not support separate North American and European origins. Our results point to North American Pseudoroegneria and Hordeum species as potential genome donors to Elymus. Diploid P. spicata is a prospective St-genome donor, though conflict among trees involving P. spicata and the Eurasian P. strigosa suggests either introgression of GBSSI sequences from P. strigosa into North American Elymus and Pseudoroegneria, or incomplete lineage sorting of ancestral GBSSI polymorphism. Diploid H. californicum and/or allotetraploid H. jubatum are possible H-genome donors; direct involvement of an allotetraploid Hordeum species would simultaneously introduce two distinct H genomes to Elymus, consistent with some of the relationships among H-genome sequences in Hordeum and Elymus. Comparisons among molecular phylogenetic trees confirm allopolyploidy, identify potential genome donors, and highlight cases of apparent introgression or incomplete lineage sorting. The complicated history of this group emphasizes an inherent problem with interpreting conflicts among bifurcating trees–identifying introgression and determining its direction depend on which tree is chosen as a starting point of comparison. In spite of difficulties with interpretation, differences among gene trees allow us to identify reticulate species and develop hypotheses about underlying evolutionary processes.

Disambiguating Multi-Modal Scene Representations Using Perceptual Grouping Constraints:

In its early stages, the visual system suffers from a lot of ambiguity and noise that severely limits the performance of early vision algorithms. This article presents feedback mechanisms between early visual processes, such as perceptual grouping, stereopsis and depth reconstruction, that allow the system to reduce this ambiguity and improve early representation of visual information. In the first part, the article proposes a local perceptual grouping algorithm that — in addition to commonly used geometric information — makes use of a novel multi-modal measure between local edge/line features. The grouping information is then used to: 1) disambiguate stereopsis by enforcing that stereo matches preserve groups; and 2) correct the reconstruction error due to the image pixel sampling using a linear interpolation over the groups. The integration of mutual feedback between early vision processes is shown to reduce considerably ambiguity and noise without the need for global constraints.


  1. #1 Shasta
    June 10, 2010

    Your post is featured on the Scienceblogs Facebook status update today. The shoe finding is very interesting! Thank you for posting it.