New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 16 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:

Sibling Competition and Conspicuousness of Nestling Gapes in Altricial Birds: A Comparative Study:

Nestlings of altricial birds capture parents’ attention through conspicuous visual displays, including exposure of their gape coloration which informs parents about their level of need, competitive ability or health; information that parents use for deciding food allocation among their offspring. Thus, because nestlings compete with nest mates for parental care, nestling conspicuousness is expected to increase with level of sibling competition along bird phylogeny. We test this prediction by jointly using information of brood reduction, clutch size and duration of nestling period as proxies for intensity of sibling competition, and visual models that assess detectability of nestlings by adult birds. As predicted, we found a positive association between nestling conspicuousness and intensity of brood reduction, while clutch size and duration of nestling period did not enter in the best models. Level of brood reduction was positively related with the achromatic component of nestling conspicuousness and body mass was negatively related with the chromatic component. These associations are in agreement with the hypothesis that sibling competition for parental attention has driven the evolution of visual nestling conspicuousness in a context of parent-offspring communication in altricial birds.

Concomitant Duplications of Opioid Peptide and Receptor Genes before the Origin of Jawed Vertebrates:

The opioid system is involved in reward and pain mechanisms and consists in mammals of four receptors and several peptides. The peptides are derived from four prepropeptide genes, PENK, PDYN, PNOC and POMC, encoding enkephalins, dynorphins, orphanin/nociceptin and beta-endorphin, respectively. Previously we have described how two rounds of genome doubling (2R) before the origin of jawed vertebrates formed the receptor family. Opioid peptide gene family members were investigated using a combination of sequence-based phylogeny and chromosomal locations of the peptide genes in various vertebrates. Several adjacent gene families were investigated similarly. The results show that the ancestral peptide gene gave rise to two additional copies in the genome doublings. The fourth member was generated by a local gene duplication, as the genes encoding POMC and PNOC are located on the same chromosome in the chicken genome and all three teleost genomes that we have studied. A translocation has disrupted this synteny in mammals. The PDYN gene seems to have been lost in chicken, but not in zebra finch. Duplicates of some peptide genes have arisen in the teleost fishes. Within the prepropeptide precursors, peptides have been lost or gained in different lineages. The ancestral peptide and receptor genes were located on the same chromosome and were thus duplicated concomitantly. However, subsequently genetic linkage has been lost. In conclusion, the system of opioid peptides and receptors was largely formed by the genome doublings that took place early in vertebrate evolution.

Spectral Signature Generalization and Expansion Can Improve the Accuracy of Satellite Image Classification:

Conventional supervised classification of satellite images uses a single multi-band image and coincident ground observations to construct spectral signatures of land cover classes. We compared this approach with three alternatives that derive signatures from multiple images and time periods: (1) signature generalization: spectral signatures are derived from multiple images within one season, but perhaps from different years; (2) signature expansion: spectral signatures are created with data from images acquired during different seasons of the same year; and (3) combinations of expansion and generalization. Using data for northern Laos, we assessed the quality of these different signatures to (a) classify the images used to derive the signature, and (b) for use in temporal signature extension, i.e., applying a signature obtained from data of one or several years to images from other years. When applying signatures to the images they were derived from, signature expansion improved accuracy relative to the conventional method, and variability in accuracy declined markedly. In contrast, signature generalization did not improve classification. When applying signatures to images of other years (temporal extension), the conventional method, using a signature derived from a single image, resulted in very low classification accuracy. Signature expansion also performed poorly but multi-year signature generalization performed much better and this appears to be a promising approach in the temporal extension of spectral signatures for satellite image classification.

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