New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 32 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:
Dynamic Locomotor Capabilities Revealed by Early Dinosaur Trackmakers from Southern Africa:

A new investigation of the sedimentology and ichnology of the Early Jurassic Moyeni tracksite in Lesotho, southern Africa has yielded new insights into the behavior and locomotor dynamics of early dinosaurs. The tracksite is an ancient point bar preserving a heterogeneous substrate of varied consistency and inclination that includes a ripple-marked riverbed, a bar slope, and a stable algal-matted bar top surface. Several basal ornithischian dinosaurs and a single theropod dinosaur crossed its surface within days or perhaps weeks of one another, but responded to substrate heterogeneity differently. Whereas the theropod trackmaker accommodated sloping and slippery surfaces by gripping the substrate with its pedal claws, the basal ornithischian trackmakers adjusted to the terrain by changing between quadrupedal and bipedal stance, wide and narrow gauge limb support (abduction range = 31°), and plantigrade and digitigrade foot posture. The locomotor adjustments coincide with changes in substrate consistency along the trackway and appear to reflect ‘real time’ responses to a complex terrain. It is proposed that these responses foreshadow important locomotor transformations characterizing the later evolution of the two main dinosaur lineages. Ornithischians, which shifted from bipedal to quadrupedal posture at least three times in their evolutionary history, are shown to have been capable of adopting both postures early in their evolutionary history. The substrate-gripping behavior demonstrated by the early theropod, in turn, is consistent with the hypothesized function of pedal claws in bird ancestors.

High Resolution MEMS Accelerometers to Estimate VO2 and Compare Running Mechanics between Highly Trained Inter-Collegiate and Untrained Runners:

The purposes of this study were to determine the validity and reliability of high resolution accelerometers (HRA) relative to VO2 and speed, and compare putative differences in HRA signal between trained (T) and untrained (UT) runners during treadmill locomotion. Runners performed 2 incremental VO2max trials while wearing HRA. RMS of high frequency signal from three axes (VT, ML, AP) and the Euclidean resultant (RES) were compared to VO2 to determine validity and reliability. Additionally, axial rms relative to speed, and ratio of axial accelerations to RES were compared between T and UT to determine if differences in running mechanics could be identified between the two groups. Regression of RES was strongly related to VO2, but T was different than UT (r = 0.96 vs 0.92; p<.001) for walking and running. During walking, only the ratio of ML and AP to RES were different between groups. For running, nearly all acceleration parameters were lower for T than UT, the exception being ratio of VT to RES, which was higher in T than UT. All of these differences during running were despite higher VO2, O2 cost, and lower RER in T vs UT, which resulted in no significant difference in energy expenditure between groups. These results indicate that HRA can accurately and reliably estimate VO2 during treadmill locomotion, but differences exist between T and UT that should be considered when estimating energy expenditure. Differences in running mechanics between T and UT were identified, yet the importance of these differences remains to be determined.

Coral Fluorescent Proteins as Antioxidants:

A wide array of fluorescent proteins (FP) is present in anthozoans, although their biochemical characteristics and function in host tissue remain to be determined. Upregulation of FP’s frequently occurs in injured or compromised coral tissue, suggesting a potential role of coral FPs in host stress responses. The presence of FPs was determined and quantified for a subsample of seven healthy Caribbean coral species using spectral emission analysis of tissue extracts. FP concentration was correlated with the in vivo antioxidant potential of the tissue extracts by quantifying the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) scavenging rates. FPs of the seven species varied in both type and abundance and demonstrated a positive correlation between H2O2 scavenging rate and FP concentration. To validate this data, the H2O2 scavenging rates of four pure scleractinian FPs, cyan (CFP), green (GFP), red (RFP) and chromoprotein (CP), and their mutant counterparts (without chromophores), were investigated. In vitro, each FP scavenged H2O2 with the most efficient being CP followed by equivalent activity of CFP and RFP. Scavenging was significantly higher in all mutant counterparts. Both naturally occurring and pure coral FPs have significant H2O2 scavenging activity. The higher scavenging rate of RFP and the CP in vitro is consistent with observed increases of these specific FPs in areas of compromised coral tissue. However, the greater scavenging ability of the mutant counterparts suggests additional roles of scleractinian FPs, potentially pertaining to their color. This study documents H2O2 scavenging of scleractinian FPs, a novel biochemical characteristic, both in vivo across multiple species and in vitro with purified proteins. These data support a role for FPs in coral stress and immune responses and highlights the multi-functionality of these conspicuous proteins.

Resilience of Coral-Associated Bacterial Communities Exposed to Fish Farm Effluent:

The coral holobiont includes the coral animal, algal symbionts, and associated microbial community. These microbes help maintain the holobiont homeostasis; thus, sustaining robust mutualistic microbial communities is a fundamental part of long-term coral reef survival. Coastal pollution is one major threat to reefs, and intensive fish farming is a rapidly growing source of this pollution. We investigated the susceptibility and resilience of the bacterial communities associated with a common reef-building coral, Porites cylindrica, to coastal pollution by performing a clonally replicated transplantation experiment in Bolinao, Philippines adjacent to intensive fish farming. Ten fragments from each of four colonies (total of 40 fragments) were followed for 22 days across five sites: a well-flushed reference site (the original fragment source); two sites with low exposure to milkfish (Chanos chanos) aquaculture effluent; and two sites with high exposure. Elevated levels of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), chlorophyll a, total heterotrophic and autotrophic bacteria abundance, virus like particle (VLP) abundances, and culturable Vibrio abundance characterized the high effluent sites. Based on 16S rRNA clone libraries and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis, we observed rapid, dramatic changes in the coral-associated bacterial communities within five days of high effluent exposure. The community composition on fragments at these high effluent sites shifted towards known human and coral pathogens (i.e. Arcobacter, Fusobacterium, and Desulfovibrio) without the host corals showing signs of disease. The communities shifted back towards their original composition by day 22 without reduction in effluent levels. This study reveals fish farms as a likely source of pathogens with the potential to proliferate on corals and an unexpected short-term resilience of coral-associated bacterial communities to eutrophication pressure. These data highlight a need for improved aquaculture practices that can achieve both sustainable industry goals and long-term coral reef survival.

Adenotonsillectomy and Neurocognitive Deficits in Children with Sleep Disordered Breathing:

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) is a common childhood disorder that encompasses a range of sleep-related upper airway obstruction. Children with SDB demonstrate significant neurocognitive deficits. Adenotonsillectomy is the first line of treatment for SDB and whilst this improves respiratory disturbance, it remains to be established whether neurocognitive gains also result. A total of 44 healthy snoring children aged 3-12 years awaiting adenotonsillectomy (SDB group), and 48 age and gender matched non-snoring controls from the general community, completed the study. All children underwent polysomnography and neurocognitive assessment at baseline and after a 6-month follow-up (after surgery in the snoring group). Our primary aim was to determine whether neurocognitive deficits in snoring children were significantly improved following adenotonsillectomy. Wide ranging neurocognitive deficits were found at baseline in SDB children compared to controls, most notably a 10 point IQ difference (P<.001) and similar deficits in language and executive function. Whilst adenotonsillectomy improved respiratory parameters and snoring frequency at 6 months post surgery, neurocognitive performance did not improve relative to controls. Adenotonsillectomy successfully treated the respiratory effects of SDB in children. However, neurocognitive deficits did not improve 6-months post-operatively.

Phylogenetic Analysis of Seven WRKY Genes across the Palm Subtribe Attaleinae (Areceaceae) Identifies Syagrus as Sister Group of the Coconut:

The Cocoseae is one of 13 tribes of Arecaceae subfam. Arecoideae, and contains a number of palms with significant economic importance, including the monotypic and pantropical Cocos nucifera L., the coconut, the origins of which have been one of the “abominable mysteries” of palm systematics for decades. Previous studies with predominantly plastid genes weakly supported American ancestry for the coconut but ambiguous sister relationships. In this paper, we use multiple single copy nuclear loci to address the phylogeny of the Cocoseae subtribe Attaleinae, and resolve the closest extant relative of the coconut. We present the results of combined analysis of DNA sequences of seven WRKY transcription factor loci across 72 samples of Arecaceae tribe Cocoseae subtribe Attaleinae, representing all genera classified within the subtribe, and three outgroup taxa with maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian approaches, producing highly congruent and well-resolved trees that robustly identify the genus Syagrus as sister to Cocos and resolve novel and well-supported relationships among the other genera of the Attaleinae. We also address incongruence among the gene trees with gene tree reconciliation analysis, and assign estimated ages to the nodes of our tree. This study represents the as yet most extensive phylogenetic analyses of Cocoseae subtribe Attaleinae. We present a well-resolved and supported phylogeny of the subtribe that robustly indicates a sister relationship between Cocos and Syagrus. This is not only of biogeographic interest, but will also open fruitful avenues of inquiry regarding evolution of functional genes useful for crop improvement. Establishment of two major clades of American Attaleinae occurred in the Oligocene (ca. 37 MYBP) in Eastern Brazil. The divergence of Cocos from Syagrus is estimated at 35 MYBP. The biogeographic and morphological congruence that we see for clades resolved in the Attaleinae suggests that WRKY loci are informative markers for investigating the phylogenetic relationships of the palm family.

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