- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published 10 days ago
The biology of the blue whale has long fascinated physiologists because of the animal’s extreme size. Despite high energetic demands from a large body, low mass-specific metabolic rates are likely powered by low heart rates. Diving bradycardia should slow blood oxygen depletion and enhance dive time available for foraging at depth. However, blue whales exhibit a high-cost feeding mechanism, lunge feeding, whereby large volumes of prey-laden water are intermittently engulfed and filtered during dives. This paradox of such a large, slowly beating heart and the high cost of lunge feeding represents a unique test of our understanding of cardiac function, hemodynamics, and physiological limits to body size. Here, we used an electrocardiogram (ECG)-depth recorder tag to measure blue whale heart rates during foraging dives as deep as 184 m and as long as 16.5 min. Heart rates during dives were typically 4 to 8 beats min-1 (bpm) and as low as 2 bpm, while after-dive surface heart rates were 25 to 37 bpm, near the estimated maximum heart rate possible. Despite extreme bradycardia, we recorded a 2.5-fold increase above diving heart rate minima during the powered ascent phase of feeding lunges followed by a gradual decrease of heart rate during the prolonged glide as engulfed water is filtered. These heart rate dynamics explain the unique hemodynamic design in rorqual whales consisting of a large-diameter, highly compliant, elastic aortic arch that allows the aorta to accommodate blood ejected by the heart and maintain blood flow during the long and variable pauses between heartbeats.
Maladaptive reward memories (MRMs) are involved in the development and maintenance of acquired overconsumption disorders, such as harmful alcohol and drug use. The process of memory reconsolidation - where stored memories become briefly labile upon retrieval - may offer a means to disrupt MRMs and prevent relapse. However, reliable means for pharmacologically weakening MRMs in humans remain elusive. Here we demonstrate that the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist ketamine is able to disrupt MRMs in hazardous drinkers when administered immediately after their retrieval. MRM retrieval + ketamine (RET + KET) effectively reduced the reinforcing effects of alcohol and long-term drinking levels, compared to ketamine or retrieval alone. Blood concentrations of ketamine and its metabolites during the critical ‘reconsolidation window’ predicted beneficial changes only following MRM reactivation. Pharmacological reconsolidation interference may provide a means to rapidly rewrite maladaptive memory and should be further pursued in alcohol and drug use disorders.
Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of American Twitter users in late 2017
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published 10 days ago
There is widespread concern that Russia and other countries have launched social-media campaigns designed to increase political divisions in the United States. Though a growing number of studies analyze the strategy of such campaigns, it is not yet known how these efforts shaped the political attitudes and behaviors of Americans. We study this question using longitudinal data that describe the attitudes and online behaviors of 1,239 Republican and Democratic Twitter users from late 2017 merged with nonpublic data about the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) from Twitter. Using Bayesian regression tree models, we find no evidence that interaction with IRA accounts substantially impacted 6 distinctive measures of political attitudes and behaviors over a 1-mo period. We also find that interaction with IRA accounts were most common among respondents with strong ideological homophily within their Twitter network, high interest in politics, and high frequency of Twitter usage. Together, these findings suggest that Russian trolls might have failed to sow discord because they mostly interacted with those who were already highly polarized. We conclude by discussing several important limitations of our study-especially our inability to determine whether IRA accounts influenced the 2016 presidential election-as well as its implications for future research on social media influence campaigns, political polarization, and computational social science.
The replacement of Neanderthals by Anatomically Modern Humans has typically been attributed to environmental pressure or a superiority of modern humans with respect to competition for resources. Here we present two independent models that suggest that no such heatedly debated factors might be needed to account for the demise of Neanderthals. Starting from the observation that Neanderthal populations already were small before the arrival of modern humans, the models implement three factors that conservation biology identifies as critical for a small population’s persistence, namely inbreeding, Allee effects and stochasticity. Our results indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals might have resided in the smallness of their population(s) alone: even if they had been identical to modern humans in their cognitive, social and cultural traits, and even in the absence of inter-specific competition, Neanderthals faced a considerable risk of extinction. Furthermore, we suggest that if modern humans contributed to the demise of Neanderthals, that contribution might have had nothing to do with resource competition, but rather with how the incoming populations geographically restructured the resident populations, in a way that reinforced Allee effects, and the effects of inbreeding and stochasticity.
During August 9-October 31, 2019, 96 patients were classified as having e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH); other patients are being investigated for case classification and exposures. Among 58 patients interviewed, 53 (91%) reported obtaining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products from informal sources such as friends, family members, or in-person or online dealers. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS), the MDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) analyzed 46 THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from 12 EVALI patients for various potential toxicants, including vitamin E acetate, which has recently been detected in some THC-containing products and in samples of lung fluid from EVALI patients (1-4). To explore whether vitamin E acetate is a recently added component in THC-containing products, MDH tested ten products seized by law enforcement in 2018, before the EVALI outbreak, and 20 products seized in 2019, during the outbreak. Twenty-four products obtained from 11 EVALI patients from 2019 contained vitamin E acetate. Among the seized products tested by MDH, none seized in 2018 contained vitamin E acetate, although all tested THC-containing products seized in 2019 tested positive for vitamin E acetate. These chemical analyses of products obtained from EVALI patients and of products intended for the illicit market both before and during the outbreak support a potential role for vitamin E acetate in the EVALI outbreak; however, the number of products tested was small, and further research is needed to establish a causal link between exposure to inhaled vitamin E acetate and EVALI. Collaboration between public health jurisdictions and law enforcement to characterize THC-containing products circulating before the recognition of the EVALI outbreak and during the outbreak might provide valuable information about a dynamic market. These Minnesota findings highlight concerns about e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC acquired from informal sources. Because local supply chains and policy environments vary, CDC continues to recommend not using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC or any e-cigarette, or vaping, products obtained from informal sources. E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or pregnant women.* Until the relationship between inhaled vitamin E acetate and lung health is better characterized, vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
Dengue has enormous health impacts globally. A novel approach to decrease dengue incidence involves the introduction of Wolbachia endosymbionts that block dengue virus transmission into populations of the primary vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti. The wMel Wolbachia strain has previously been trialed in open releases of Ae. aegypti; however, the wAlbB strain has been shown to maintain higher density than wMel at high larval rearing temperatures. Releases of Ae. aegypti mosquitoes carrying wAlbB were carried out in 6 diverse sites in greater Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with high endemic dengue transmission. The strain was successfully established and maintained at very high population frequency at some sites or persisted with additional releases following fluctuations at other sites. Based on passive case monitoring, reduced human dengue incidence was observed in the release sites when compared to control sites. The wAlbB strain of Wolbachia provides a promising option as a tool for dengue control, particularly in very hot climates.
The great auk was once abundant and distributed across the North Atlantic. It is now extinct, having been heavily exploited for its eggs, meat, and feathers. We investigated the impact of human hunting on its demise by integrating genetic data, GPS-based ocean current data, and analyses of population viability. We sequenced complete mitochondrial genomes of 41 individuals from across the species' geographic range and reconstructed population structure and population dynamics throughout the Holocene. Taken together, our data do not provide any evidence that great auks were at risk of extinction prior to the onset of intensive human hunting in the early 16th century. In addition, our population viability analyses reveal that even if the great auk had not been under threat by environmental change, human hunting alone could have been sufficient to cause its extinction. Our results emphasise the vulnerability of even abundant and widespread species to intense and localised exploitation.
Tooth replacement rate is an important contributor to feeding ecology for polyphyodont animals. Dinosaurs exhibit a wide range of tooth replacement rates, mirroring their diverse craniofacial specializations, but little is known about broad-scale allometric or evolutionary patterns within the group. In the current broad but sparse dinosaurian sample, only three non-avian theropod tooth replacement rates have been estimated. We estimated tooth formation and replacement rates in three additional non-avian theropod dinosaurs, the derived latest Cretaceous abelisaurid Majungasaurus and the more generalized Late Jurassic Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus. We created the largest dental histological and CT dataset for any theropod dinosaur, sectioning and scanning over a dozen toothed elements of Majungasaurus and several additional elements from the other two genera. Using this large sample, we created models of tooth formation time that allow for theropod replacement rates to be estimated non-destructively. In contrast to previous results for theropods, we found high tooth replacement rates in all three genera, with Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus rates of ~100 days and 56 days for Majungasaurus. The latter rate is on par with those of derived herbivorous dinosaurs including some neosauropods, hadrosaurids, and ceratopsians. This elevated rate may be a response to high rates of tooth wear in Majungasaurus. Within Dinosauria, there is no relationship between body mass and tooth replacement rate and no trends in replacement rate over time. Rather, tooth replacement rate is clade-specific, with elevated rates in abelisaurids and diplodocoids and lower rates in coelurosaurs.
In recent years, increasing evidence has accumulated supporting the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Previous studies showed that EVOO supplementation improves Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-like amyloidotic phenotype of transgenic mice. However, while much attention has been focused on EVOO-mediated modulation of Aβ processing, its direct influence on tau metabolism in vivo and synaptic function is still poorly characterized. In this study, we investigated the effect of chronic supplementation of EVOO on the phenotype of a relevant mouse model of tauopathy, human transgenic tau mice (hTau). Starting at 6 months of age, hTau mice were fed chow diet supplemented with EVOO or vehicle for additional 6 months, and then the effect on their phenotype was assessed. At the end of the treatment, compared with control mice receiving EVOO displayed improved memory and cognition which was associated with increased basal synaptic activity and short-term plasticity. This effect was accompanied by an upregulation of complexin 1, a key presynaptic protein. Moreover, EVOO treatment resulted in a significant reduction of tau oligomers and phosphorylated tau at specific epitopes. Our findings demonstrate that EVOO directly improves synaptic activity, short-term plasticity, and memory while decreasing tau neuropathology in the hTau mice. These results strengthen the healthy benefits of EVOO and further support the therapeutic potential of this natural product not only for AD but also for primary tauopathies.
All stellar-mass black holes have hitherto been identified by X-rays emitted from gas that is accreting onto the black hole from a companion star. These systems are all binaries with a black-hole mass that is less than 30 times that of the Sun1-4. Theory predicts, however, that X-ray-emitting systems form a minority of the total population of star-black-hole binaries5,6. When the black hole is not accreting gas, it can be found through radial-velocity measurements of the motion of the companion star. Here we report radial-velocity measurements taken over two years of the Galactic B-type star, LB-1. We find that the motion of the B star and an accompanying Hα emission line require the presence of a dark companion with a mass of [Formula: see text] solar masses, which can only be a black hole. The long orbital period of 78.9 days shows that this is a wide binary system. Gravitational-wave experiments have detected black holes of similar mass, but the formation of such massive ones in a high-metallicity environment would be extremely challenging within current stellar evolution theories.