There are 39 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:
Species Distribution Models (SDMs) aim on the characterization of a species' ecological niche and project it into geographic space. The result is a map of the species' potential distribution, which is, for instance, helpful to predict the capability of alien invasive species. With regard to alien invasive species, recently several authors observed a mismatch between potential distributions of native and invasive ranges derived from SDMs and, as an explanation, ecological niche shift during biological invasion has been suggested. We studied the physiologically well known Slider turtle from North America which today is widely distributed over the globe and address the issue of ecological niche shift versus choice of ecological predictors used for model building, i.e., by deriving SDMs using multiple sets of climatic predictor. In one SDM, predictors were used aiming to mirror the physiological limits of the Slider turtle. It was compared to numerous other models based on various sets of ecological predictors or predictors aiming at comprehensiveness. The SDM focusing on the study species' physiological limits depicts the target species' worldwide potential distribution better than any of the other approaches. These results suggest that a natural history-driven understanding is crucial in developing statistical models of ecological niches (as SDMs) while "comprehensive" or "standard" sets of ecological predictors may be of limited use.
Understanding the behavior of birds in agricultural habitats can be the first step in evaluating the conservation implications of birds' use of landscapes shaped by modern agriculture. The existence and magnitude of risk from agricultural practices and the quality of resources agricultural lands provide will be determined largely by how birds use these habitats. Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis) are a species of conservation concern. During spring migration large numbers of Buff-breasted Sandpipers stopover in row crop fields in the Rainwater Basin region of Nebraska. We used behavioral observations as a first step in evaluating how Buff-breasted Sandpipers use crop fields during migratory stopover. We measured behavior during migratory stopover using scan and focal individual sampling to determine how birds were using crop fields. Foraging was the most frequent behavior observed, but the intensity of foraging changed over the course of the day with a distinct mid-day low point. Relative to other migrating shorebirds, Buff-breasted Sandpipers spent a significant proportion of their time in social interactions including courtship displays. Our results show that the primary use of upland agricultural fields by migrating Buff-breasted Sandpipers is foraging while wetlands are used for maintenance and resting. The importance of foraging in row crop fields suggests that both the quality of food resources available in fields and the possible risks from dietary exposure to agricultural chemicals will be important to consider when developing conservation plans for Buff-breasted Sandpipers migrating through the Great Plains.
Knowledge of historical changes in species range distribution provides context for investigating adaptive potential and dispersal ability. This is valuable for predicting the potential impact of environmental change on species of interest. Butterflies are one of the most important taxa for studying such impacts, and Heteronympha merope has the potential to provide a particularly valuable model, in part due to the existence of historical data on morphological traits and glycolytic enzyme variation. This study investigates the population genetic structure and phylogeography of H. merope, comparing the relative resolution achieved through partial DNA sequences of two mitochondrial loci, COI and ND5. These data are used to define the relationship between subspecies, showing that the subspecies are reciprocally monophyletic. On this basis, the Western Australian subspecies H. m. duboulayi is genetically distinct from the two eastern subspecies. Throughout the eastern part of the range, levels of migration and the timing of key population splits of potential relevance to climatic adaptation are estimated and indicate Late Pleistocene divergence both of the Tasmanian subspecies and of an isolated northern population from the eastern mainland subspecies H. m. merope. This information is then used to revisit historical data and provides support for the importance of clinal variation in wing characters, as well as evidence for selective pressure acting on allozyme loci phosphoglucose isomerase and phosphoglucomutase in H. merope. The study has thus confirmed the value of H. merope as a model organism for measuring responses to environmental change, offering the opportunity to focus on isolated populations, as well as a latitudinal gradient, and to use historical changes to test the accuracy of predictions for the future.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) of cervids is a prion disease distinguished by high levels of transmissibility, wherein bodily fluids and excretions are thought to play an important role. Using cervid bioassay and established CWD detection methods, we have previously identified infectious prions in saliva and blood but not urine or feces of CWD+ donors. More recently, we identified very low concentrations of CWD prions in urine of deer by cervid PrP transgenic (Tg[CerPrP]) mouse bioassay and serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA). This finding led us to examine further our initial cervid bioassay experiments using sPMCA. We sought to investigate whether conventional test-negative deer, previously exposed orally to urine and feces from CWD+ sources, may be harboring low level CWD infection not evident in the 19 month observation period. We further attempted to determine the peripheral PrPCWD distribution in these animals. Various neural and lymphoid tissues from conventional test-negative deer were reanalyzed for CWD prions by sPMCA and cervid transgenic mouse bioassay in parallel with appropriate tissue-matched positive and negative controls. PrPCWD was detected in the tissues of orally exposed deer by both sPMCA and Tg[CerPrP] mouse bioassay; each assay revealed very low levels of CWD prions previously undetectable by western blot, ELISA, or IHC. Serial PMCA analysis of individual tissues identified that obex alone was positive in 4 of 5 urine/feces exposed deer. PrPCWD was amplified from both lymphoid and neural tissues of positive control deer but not from identical tissues of negative control deer. Detection of subclinical infection in deer orally exposed to urine and feces (1) suggests that a prolonged subclinical state can exist, necessitating observation periods in excess of two years to detect CWD infection, and (2) illustrates the sensitive and specific application of sPMCA in the diagnosis of low-level prion infection. Based on these results, it is possible that low doses of prions, e.g. following oral exposure to urine and saliva of CWD-infected deer, bypass significant amplification in the LRS, perhaps utilizing a neural conduit between the alimentary tract and CNS, as has been demonstrated in some other prion diseases.
The vomeronasal system (VNS) mediates pheromonal communication in mammals. From the vomeronasal organ, two populations of sensory neurons, expressing either GÎ±i2 or GÎ±o proteins, send projections that end in glomeruli distributed either at the rostral or caudal half of the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), respectively. Neurons at the AOB contact glomeruli of a single subpopulation. The dichotomic segregation of AOB glomeruli has been described in opossums, rodents and rabbits, while Primates and Laurasiatheres present the GÎ±i2-pathway only, or none at all (such as apes, some bats and aquatic species). We studied the AOB of the Madagascan lesser tenrec Echinops telfairi (Afrotheria: Afrosoricida) and found that GÎ±i2 and GÎ±o proteins are expressed in rostral and caudal glomeruli, respectively. However, the segregation of vomeronasal glomeruli at the AOB is not exclusive, as both pathways contained some glomeruli transposed into the adjoining subdomain. Moreover, some glomeruli seem to contain intermingled afferences from both pathways. Both the transposition and heterogeneity of vomeronasal afferences are features, to our knowledge, never reported before. The organization of AOB glomeruli suggests that synaptic integration might occur at the glomerular layer. Whether intrinsic AOB neurons may make synaptic contact with axon terminals of both subpopulations is an interesting possibility that would expand our understanding about the integration of vomeronasal pathways.
Sarcopenia is a major public health problem in industrialized nations, placing an increasing burden on public healthcare systems because the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength that characterizes this affection increases the dependence and the risk of injury caused by sudden falls in elderly people. Albeit exercise and caloric restriction improve sarcopenia-associated decline of the muscular performances, a more suitable and focused pharmacological treatment is still lacking. In order to evaluate such a possible treatment, we investigated the effects of EGb 761, a Ginkgo biloba extract used in chronic age-dependent neurological disorders, on the function of the soleus muscle in aged rats. EGb 761 induced a gain in muscular mass that was associated with an improvement of the muscular performances as assessed by biochemical and electrophysiological tests. DNA microarray analysis shows that these modifications are accompanied by the transcriptional reprogramming of genes related to myogenesis through the TGFÎ² signaling pathway and to energy production via fatty acids and glucose oxidation. EGb 761 restored a more juvenile gene expression pattern by regenerating the aged muscle and reversing the age-related metabolic shift from lipids to glucose utilization. Thus, EGb 761 may represent a novel treatment for sarcopenia both more manageable and less cumbersome than exercise and caloric restriction.