There are 9 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:
Numbers in the Blind’s ‘Eye’:
Although lacking visual experience with numerosities, recent evidence shows that the blind perform similarly to sighted persons on numerical comparison or parity judgement tasks. In particular, on tasks presented in the auditory modality, the blind surprisingly show the same effect that appears in sighted persons, demonstrating that numbers are represented through a spatial code, i.e. the Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC) effect. But, if this is the case, how is this numerical spatial representation processed in the brain of the blind? Here we report that, although blind and sighted people have similarly organized numerical representations, the attentional shifts generated by numbers have different electrophysiological correlates (sensorial N100 in the sighted and cognitive P300 in the blind). These results highlight possible differences in the use of spatial representations acquired through modalities other than vision in the blind population.
Adaptive radiation in Mediterranean plants is poorly understood. The white-flowered Cistus lineage consists of 12 species primarily distributed in Mediterranean habitats and is herein subject to analysis. We conducted a “total evidence” analysis combining nuclear (ncpGS, ITS) and plastid (trnL-trnF, trnK-matK, trnS-trnG, rbcL) DNA sequences and using MP and BI to test the hypothesis of radiation as suggested by previous phylogenetic results. One of the five well-supported lineages of the Cistus-Halimium complex, the white-flowered Cistus lineage, comprises the higher number of species (12) and is monophyletic. Molecular dating estimates a Mid Pleistocene (1.04±0.25 Ma) diversification of the white-flowered lineage into two groups (C. clusii and C. salviifolius lineages), which display asymmetric characteristics: number of species (2 vs. 10), leaf morphologies (linear vs. linear to ovate), floral characteristics (small, three-sepalled vs. small to large, three- or five-sepalled flowers) and ecological attributes (low-land vs. low-land to mountain environments). A positive phenotype-environment correlation has been detected by historical reconstructions of morphological traits (leaf shape, leaf labdanum content and leaf pubescence). Ecological evidence indicates that modifications of leaf shape and size, coupled with differences in labdanum secretion and pubescence density, appear to be related to success of new species in different Mediterranean habitats. The observation that radiation in the Cistus salviifolius lineage has been accompanied by the emergence of divergent leaf traits (such as shape, pubescence and labdanum secretion) in different environments suggets that radiation in the group has been adaptive. Here we argued that the diverse ecological conditions of Mediterranean habitats played a key role in directing the evolution of alternative leaf strategies in this plant group. Key innovation of morphological characteristics is supported by our dated phylogeny, in which a Mediterranean climate establishment (2.8 Ma) predated the adaptive radiation of the white-flowered Cistus.