New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 22 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, 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:

Ants Sow the Seeds of Global Diversification in Flowering Plants:

The extraordinary diversification of angiosperm plants in the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods has produced an estimated 250,000-300,000 living angiosperm species and has fundamentally altered terrestrial ecosystems. Interactions with animals as pollinators or seed dispersers have long been suspected as drivers of angiosperm diversification, yet empirical examples remain sparse or inconclusive. Seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory) may drive diversification as it can reduce extinction by providing selective advantages to plants and can increase speciation by enhancing geographical isolation by extremely limited dispersal distances. Using the most comprehensive sister-group comparison to date, we tested the hypothesis that myrmecochory leads to higher diversification rates in angiosperm plants. As predicted, diversification rates were substantially higher in ant-dispersed plants than in their non-myrmecochorous relatives. Data from 101 angiosperm lineages in 241 genera from all continents except Antarctica revealed that ant-dispersed lineages contained on average more than twice as many species as did their non-myrmecochorous sister groups. Contrasts in species diversity between sister groups demonstrated that diversification rates did not depend on seed dispersal mode in the sister group and were higher in myrmecochorous lineages in most biogeographic regions. Myrmecochory, which has evolved independently at least 100 times in angiosperms and is estimated to be present in at least 77 families and 11 000 species, is a key evolutionary innovation and a globally important driver of plant diversity. Myrmecochory provides the best example to date for a consistent effect of any mutualism on large-scale diversification.

Nest Making and Oxytocin Comparably Promote Wound Healing in Isolation Reared Rats:

Environmental enrichment (EE) fosters attachment behavior through its effect on brain oxytocin levels in the hippocampus and other brain regions, which in turn modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA). Social isolation and other stressors negatively impact physical healing through their effect on the HPA. Therefore, we reasoned that: 1) provision of a rat EE (nest building with Nestlets®) would improve wound healing in rats undergoing stress due to isolation rearing and 2) that oxytocin would have a similar beneficial effect on wound healing. In the first two experiments, we provided isolation reared rats with either EE or oxytocin and compared their wound healing to group reared rats and isolation reared rats that did not receive Nestlets or oxytocin. In the third experiment, we examined the effect of Nestlets on open field locomotion and immediate early gene (IEG) expression. We found that isolation reared rats treated with Nestlets a) healed significantly better than without Nestlets, 2) healed at a similar rate to rats treated with oxytocin, 3) had decreased hyperactivity in the open field test, and 4) had normalized IEG expression in brain hippocampus. This study shows that when an EE strategy or oxytocin is given to isolation reared rats, the peripheral stress response, as measured by burn injury healing, is decreased. The findings indicate an association between the effect of nest making on wound healing and administration of the pro-bonding hormone oxytocin. Further elucidation of this animal model should lead to improved understanding of how EE strategies can ameliorate poor wound healing and other symptoms that result from isolation stress.

The Effect of Adult Aggression on Habitat Selection by Settlers of Two Coral-Dwelling Damselfishes:

Coral-reef fishes experience a major challenge when facing settlement in a multi-threat environment, within which, using settlement cues, they need to select a suitable site. Studies in laboratories and artificial setups have shown that the presence of conspecific adults often serves as a positive settlement cue, whose value is explained by the increased survival of juveniles in an already proven fit environment. However, settlement in already inhabited corals may expose the recruits to adult aggression. Daily observations and manipulation experiments were used in the present study, which was conducted in the natural reef. We revealed differential strategies of settlers, which do not necessarily join conspecific adults. Dascyllus aruanus prefer to settle near (not with) their aggressive adults, and to join them only after gaining in size; whereas Dascyllus marginatus settlers in densely populated reefs settle independently of their adult distribution. Our results present different solutions to the challenges faced by fish recruits while selecting their microhabitat, and emphasize the complexity of habitat selection by the naïve settlers. Although laboratory experiments are important to the understanding of fish habitat selection, further studies in natural habitats are essential in order to elucidate the actual patterns of settlement and habitat selection, which are crucial for the survival of coral-reef fish populations.

On the Origin of Indonesian Cattle:

Two bovine species contribute to the Indonesian livestock, zebu (Bos indicus) and banteng (Bos javanicus), respectively. Although male hybrid offspring of these species is not fertile, Indonesian cattle breeds are supposed to be of mixed species origin. However, this has not been documented and is so far only supported by preliminary molecular analysis. Analysis of mitochondrial, Y-chromosomal and microsatellite DNA showed a banteng introgression of 10-16% in Indonesian zebu breeds. East-Javanese Madura and Galekan cattle have higher levels of autosomal banteng introgression (20-30%) and combine a zebu paternal lineage with a predominant (Madura) or even complete (Galekan) maternal banteng origin. Two Madura bulls carried taurine Y-chromosomal haplotypes, presumably of French Limousin origin. In contrast, we did not find evidence for zebu introgression in five populations of the Bali cattle, a domestic form of the banteng. Because of their unique species composition Indonesian cattle represent a valuable genetic resource, which potentially may also be exploited in other tropical regions.

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There are 35 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…
My apologies for the lack of posts.  Life and work are conspiring this week to make blogging difficult.  In the meantime, here's what's new in ants on the internet: Roberto Keller explains the clypeus. PLoS One reports that ant-dispersed plant lineages diversify more rapidly than ant-free…

Frankly, none of them today look that interesting. I did my post today on one a month or so old.

Question? When I make a comment on a paper is it OK to add a link to my blog post? Specifically, I made a comment a few days ago about another paper that was relevant to the one I was commenting on, I'd found it while researching my post, and I wanted to add a link to the post but I didn't know if that was acceptable?

Of course, anybody really interested could chase back to my blog through my profile, but I'd prefer to make it easy.

The nest making and oxytocin study is likely a good starting point for looking at the placebo effect.

That a non-pharmacological treatment (nest making) improves healing rate and outcome makes it a placebo. Not a surprise to me, I think it is mediated through the final common pathway of more nitric oxide (the oxytocin results too).