New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 23 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:
The Microcephalin Ancestral Allele in a Neanderthal Individual:

The high frequency (around 0.70 worlwide) and the relatively young age (between 14,000 and 62,000 years) of a derived group of haplotypes, haplogroup D, at the microcephalin (MCPH1) locus led to the proposal that haplogroup D originated in a human lineage that separated from modern humans >1 million years ago, evolved under strong positive selection, and passed into the human gene pool by an episode of admixture circa 37,000 years ago. The geographic distribution of haplogroup D, with marked differences between Africa and Eurasia, suggested that the archaic human form admixing with anatomically modern humans might have been Neanderthal. Here we report the first PCR amplification and high- throughput sequencing of nuclear DNA at the microcephalin (MCPH1) locus from Neanderthal individual from Mezzena Rockshelter (Monti Lessini, Italy). We show that a well-preserved Neanderthal fossil dated at approximately 50,000 years B.P., was homozygous for the ancestral, non-D, allele. The high yield of Neanderthal mtDNA sequences of the studied specimen, the pattern of nucleotide misincorporation among sequences consistent with post-mortem DNA damage and an accurate control of the MCPH1 alleles in all personnel that manipulated the sample, make it extremely unlikely that this result might reflect modern DNA contamination. The MCPH1 genotype of the Monti Lessini (MLS) Neanderthal does not prove that there was no interbreeding between anatomically archaic and modern humans in Europe, but certainly shows that speculations on a possible Neanderthal origin of what is now the most common MCPH1 haplogroup are not supported by empirical evidence from ancient DNA.

Coral Larvae Move toward Reef Sounds:

Free-swimming larvae of tropical corals go through a critical life-phase when they return from the open ocean to select a suitable settlement substrate. During the planktonic phase of their life cycle, the behaviours of small coral larvae (<1 mm) that influence settlement success are difficult to observe in situ and are therefore largely unknown. Here, we show that coral larvae respond to acoustic cues that may facilitate detection of habitat from large distances and from upcurrent of preferred settlement locations. Using in situ choice chambers, we found that settling coral larvae were attracted to reef sounds, produced mainly by fish and crustaceans, which we broadcast underwater using loudspeakers. Our discovery that coral larvae can detect and respond to sound is the first description of an auditory response in the invertebrate phylum Cnidaria, which includes jellyfish, anemones, and hydroids as well as corals. If, like settlement-stage reef fish and crustaceans, coral larvae use reef noise as a cue for orientation, the alleviation of noise pollution in the marine environment may gain further urgency.

Are Women Who Work in Bars, Guesthouses and Similar Facilities a Suitable Study Population for Vaginal Microbicide Trials in Africa?:

A feasibility study was conducted to investigate whether an occupational at-risk cohort of women in Mwanza, Tanzania are a suitable study population for future phase III vaginal microbicide trials. 1573 women aged 16-54 y working in traditional and modern bars, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses or as local food-handlers were enrolled at community-based reproductive health clinics, provided specimens for HIV/STI and pregnancy testing, and asked to attend three-monthly clinical follow-up visits for 12-months. HIV positive and negative women were eligible to enter the feasibility study and to receive free reproductive health services at any time. HIV prevalence at baseline was 26.5% (417/1573). HIV incidence among 1156 sero-negative women attending at baseline was 2.9/100PYs. Among 1020 HIV sero-negative, non-pregnant women, HIV incidence was 2.0/100PYs, HSV-2 incidence 12.7/100PYs and pregnancy rate 17.8/100PYs. Retention at three-months was 76.3% (778/1020). Among 771 HIV sero-negative, non-pregnant women attending at three-months, subsequent follow-up at 6, 9 and 12-months was 83.7%, 79.6%, and 72.1% respectively. Older women, those who had not moved home or changed their place of work in the last year, and women working in traditional bars or as local food handlers had the highest re-attendance. Women working in food outlets and recreational facilities in Tanzania and other parts of Africa may be a suitable study population for microbicide and other HIV prevention trials. Effective locally-appropriate strategies to address high pregnancy rates and early losses to follow-up are essential to minimise risk to clinical trials in these settings.

Associations between Feeling and Judging the Emotions of Happiness and Fear: Findings from a Large-Scale Field Experiment:

How do we recognize emotions from other people? One possibility is that our own emotional experiences guide us in the online recognition of emotion in others. A distinct but related possibility is that emotion experience helps us to learn how to recognize emotions in childhood. We explored these ideas in a large sample of people (N = 4,608) ranging from 5 to over 50 years old. Participants were asked to rate the intensity of emotional experience in their own lives, as well as to perform a task of facial emotion recognition. Those who reported more intense experience of fear and happiness were significantly more accurate (closer to prototypical) in recognizing facial expressions of fear and happiness, respectively, and intense experience of fear was associated also with more accurate recognition of surprised and happy facial expressions. The associations held across all age groups. These results suggest that the intensity of one’s own emotional experience of fear and happiness correlates with the ability to recognize these emotions in others, and demonstrate such an association as early as age 5.

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