There are 11 new articles in PLoS ONE this week. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. Here are my own picks for the week - you go and look for your own favourites:
Timing of flowering is a reproductive trait that has significant impact on fitness in plants. In contrast to recent advances in understanding the molecular basis of floral transition, few empirical studies have addressed questions concerning population processes of flowering time diversification within species. We analyzed chloroplast DNA genealogical structure of flowering time variation in central Eurasian wild wheat Aegilops tauschii Coss. using 200 accessions that represent the entire species range. Flowering time measured as days from germination to flowering varied from 144.0 to 190.0 days (average 161.3 days) among accessions in a common garden/greenhouse experiment. Subsequent genealogical and statistical analyses showed that (1) there exist significant longitudinal and latitudinal clines in flowering time at the species level, (2) the early-flowering phenotype evolved in two intraspecific lineages, (3) in Asia, winter temperature was an environmental factor that affected the longitudinal clinal pattern of flowering time variation, and (4) in Transcaucasus-Middle East, some latitudinal factors affected the geographic pattern of flowering time variation. On the basis of palaeoclimatic, biogeographic, and genetic evidence, the northern part of current species' range [which was within the temperate desert vegetation (TDV) zone at the Last Glacial Maximum] is hypothesized to have harbored species refugia. Postglacial southward dispersal from the TDV zone seems to have been driven by lineages that evolved short-flowering-time phenotypes through different genetic mechanisms in Transcaucasus-Middle East and Asia.
Insect body color polyphenisms enhance survival by producing crypsis in diverse backgrounds. While color polyphenisms are often indirectly induced by temperature, rearing density, or diet, insects can benefit from immediate crypsis if they evolve polyphenisms directly induced by exposure to the background color, hence immediately deriving protection from predation. Here, we examine such a directly induced color polyphenism in caterpillars of the geometrid peppered moth (Biston betularia). This larval color polyphenism is unrelated to the genetic polymorphism for melanic phenotypes in adult moths. B. betularia caterpillars are generalist feeders and develop body colors that closely match the brown or green twigs of their host plant. We expand on previous studies examining the proximal cues that stimulate color development. Under controlled rearing conditions, we manipulated diets and background reflectance, using both natural and artificial twigs, and show that visual experience has a much stronger effect than does diet in promoting precise color matching. Their induced body color was not a simple response to reflectance or light intensity but instead specifically matched the wavelength of light to which they were exposed. We also show that the potential to change color is retained until the final (sixth) larval instar. Given their broad host range, this directly induced color polyphenism likely provides the caterpillars with strong protection from bird predation.
The presence of measles virus (MV) RNA in bowel tissue from children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances was reported in 1998. Subsequent investigations found no associations between MV exposure and ASD but did not test for the presence of MV RNA in bowel or focus on children with ASD and GI disturbances. Failure to replicate the original study design may contribute to continued public concern with respect to the safety of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The objective of this case-control study was to determine whether children with GI disturbances and autism are more likely than children with GI disturbances alone to have MV RNA and/or inflammation in bowel tissues and if autism and/or GI episode onset relate temporally to receipt of MMR. The sample was an age-matched group of US children undergoing clinically-indicated ileocolonoscopy. Ileal and cecal tissues from 25 children with autism and GI disturbances and 13 children with GI disturbances alone (controls) were evaluated by real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR for presence of MV RNA in three laboratories blinded to diagnosis, including one wherein the original findings suggesting a link between MV and ASD were reported. The temporal order of onset of GI episodes and autism relative to timing of MMR administration was examined. We found no differences between case and control groups in the presence of MV RNA in ileum and cecum. Results were consistent across the three laboratory sites. GI symptom and autism onset were unrelated to MMR timing. Eighty-eight percent of ASD cases had behavioral regression. This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.