SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

363

A number of studies indicate that tropical arthropods should be particularly vulnerable to climate warming. If these predictions are realized, climate warming may have a more profound impact on the functioning and diversity of tropical forests than currently anticipated. Although arthropods comprise over two-thirds of terrestrial species, information on their abundance and extinction rates in tropical habitats is severely limited. Here we analyze data on arthropod and insectivore abundances taken between 1976 and 2012 at two midelevation habitats in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest. During this time, mean maximum temperatures have risen by 2.0 °C. Using the same study area and methods employed by Lister in the 1970s, we discovered that the dry weight biomass of arthropods captured in sweep samples had declined 4 to 8 times, and 30 to 60 times in sticky traps. Analysis of long-term data on canopy arthropods and walking sticks taken as part of the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research program revealed sustained declines in abundance over two decades, as well as negative regressions of abundance on mean maximum temperatures. We also document parallel decreases in Luquillo’s insectivorous lizards, frogs, and birds. While El Niño/Southern Oscillation influences the abundance of forest arthropods, climate warming is the major driver of reductions in arthropod abundance, indirectly precipitating a bottom-up trophic cascade and consequent collapse of the forest food web.

154

Polymorphic phenotypes of mammalian coat coloration have been important to the study of genetics and evolution, but less is known about the inheritance and fitness consequences of individual variation in complex coat pattern traits such as spots and stripes. Giraffe coat markings are highly complex and variable and it has been hypothesized that variation in coat patterns most likely affects fitness by camouflaging neonates against visually hunting predators. We quantified complex coat pattern traits of wild Masai giraffes using image analysis software, determined the similarity of spot pattern traits between mother and offspring, and assessed whether variation in spot pattern traits was related to fitness as measured by juvenile survival. The methods we described could comprise a framework for objective quantification of complex mammal coat pattern traits based on photographic coat pattern data. We demonstrated that some characteristics of giraffe coat spot shape were likely to be heritable, as measured by mother-offspring regression. We found significant variation in juvenile survival among phenotypic groups of neonates defined by multivariate clustering based on spot trait measurement variables. We also found significant variation in neonatal survival associated with spot size and shape covariates. Larger spots (smaller number of spots) and irregularly shaped or rounder spots (smaller aspect ratio) were correlated with increased survival. These findings will inform investigations into developmental and genetic architecture of complex mammal coat patterns and their adaptive value.

143

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and yields of its main ingredient, barley, decline sharply in periods of extreme drought and heat. Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in range of future climate scenarios by five Earth System Models, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed. We couple a process-based crop model (decision support system for agrotechnology transfer) and a global economic model (Global Trade Analysis Project model) to evaluate the effects of concurrent drought and heat extremes projected under a range of future climate scenarios. We find that these extreme events may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide. Average yield losses range from 3% to 17% depending on the severity of the conditions. Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer and ultimately result in dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption (for example, -32% in Argentina) and increases in beer prices (for example, +193% in Ireland). Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer.

133

This study aimed to perform a systematic literature review of the clinical trial evidence on electrical stimulation for the treatment of neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) after spinal cord injury (SCI).

124

Sauropod dinosaurs were the largest terrestrial vertebrates; yet despite a robust global fossil record, the paucity of cranial remains complicates attempts to understand their paleobiology. An assemblage of small diplodocid sauropods from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Montana, USA, has produced the smallest diplodocid skull yet discovered. The ~24 cm long skull is referred to cf. Diplodocus based on the presence of several cranial and vertebral characters. This specimen enhances known features of early diplodocid ontogeny including a short snout with narrow-crowned teeth limited to the anterior portion of the jaws and more spatulate teeth posteriorly. The combination of size plus basal and derived character expression seen here further emphasizes caution when naming new taxa displaying the same, as these may be indicative of immaturity. This young diplodocid reveals that cranial modifications occurred throughout growth, providing evidence for ontogenetic dietary partitioning and recapitulation of ancestral morphologies.

100

Obesity is a heterogeneous phenotype that is crudely measured by body mass index (BMI). There is a need for a more precise yet portable method of phenotyping and categorizing risk in large numbers of people with obesity to advance clinical care and drug development. Here, we used non-targeted metabolomics and whole-genome sequencing to identify metabolic and genetic signatures of obesity. We find that obesity results in profound perturbation of the metabolome; nearly a third of the assayed metabolites associated with changes in BMI. A metabolome signature identifies the healthy obese and lean individuals with abnormal metabolomes-these groups differ in health outcomes and underlying genetic risk. Specifically, an abnormal metabolome associated with a 2- to 5-fold increase in cardiovascular events when comparing individuals who were matched for BMI but had opposing metabolome signatures. Because metabolome profiling identifies clinically meaningful heterogeneity in obesity, this approach could help select patients for clinical trials.

97

Depression, the most prevalent mental illness, is underdiagnosed and undertreated, highlighting the need to extend the scope of current screening methods. Here, we use language from Facebook posts of consenting individuals to predict depression recorded in electronic medical records. We accessed the history of Facebook statuses posted by 683 patients visiting a large urban academic emergency department, 114 of whom had a diagnosis of depression in their medical records. Using only the language preceding their first documentation of a diagnosis of depression, we could identify depressed patients with fair accuracy [area under the curve (AUC) = 0.69], approximately matching the accuracy of screening surveys benchmarked against medical records. Restricting Facebook data to only the 6 months immediately preceding the first documented diagnosis of depression yielded a higher prediction accuracy (AUC = 0.72) for those users who had sufficient Facebook data. Significant prediction of future depression status was possible as far as 3 months before its first documentation. We found that language predictors of depression include emotional (sadness), interpersonal (loneliness, hostility), and cognitive (preoccupation with the self, rumination) processes. Unobtrusive depression assessment through social media of consenting individuals may become feasible as a scalable complement to existing screening and monitoring procedures.

87

Socioecological theory predicts that male parenting among mammals should be rare due to the large payoffs of prioritizing mating effort over parenting. Although these predictions are generally met, in some promiscuous primate species males overcome this by identifying their offspring, and providing benefits such as protection and resource access. Mountain gorillas, which often organize into multi-male groups, are an intriguing exception. Males frequently affiliate with infants despite not discriminating their own from other males' offspring, raising questions about the function of this behavior. Here we demonstrate that, independent of multiple controls for rank, age, and siring opportunities, male gorillas who affiliated more with all infants, not only their own, sired more offspring than males who affiliated less with young. Predictive margins indicate males in the top affiliation tertile can expect to sire approximately five times more infants than males in the bottom tertile, across the course of their reproductive careers. These findings establish a link between males' fitness and their associations with infants in the absence of kin discrimination or high paternity certainty, and suggest a strategy by which selection could generate more involved male parenting among non-monogamous species.

83

Unisexual reproduction is widespread among lower vertebrates, but not in mammals. Deletion of the H19 imprinted region in immature oocytes produced bimaternal mice with defective growth; however, bipaternal reproduction has not been previously achieved in mammals. We found that cultured parthenogenetic and androgenetic haploid embryonic stem cells (haESCs) display DNA hypomethylation resembling that of primordial germ cells. Through MII oocyte injection or sperm coinjection with hypomethylated haploid ESCs carrying specific imprinted region deletions, we obtained live bimaternal and bipaternal mice. Deletion of 3 imprinted regions in parthenogenetic haploid ESCs restored normal growth of fertile bimaternal mice, whereas deletion of 7 imprinted regions in androgenetic haploid ESCs enabled production of live bipaternal mice that died shortly after birth. Phenotypic analyses of organ and body size of these mice support the genetic conflict theory of genomic imprinting. Taken together, our results highlight the factors necessary for crossing same-sex reproduction barriers in mammals.

71

The giant tyrannosaurids were the apex predators of western North America and Asia during the close of the Cretaceous Period. Although many tyrannosaurid species are known from numerous skeletons representing multiple growth stages, the early evolution of Tyrannosauridae remains poorly known, with the well-known species temporally restricted to the middle Campanian-latest Maastrichtian (∼77-66 Ma). The recent discovery of a new tyrannosaurid, Lythronax argestes, from the Wahweap Formation of Utah provided new data on early Campanian (∼80 Ma) tyrannosaurids. Nevertheless, the early evolution of Tyrannosauridae is still largely unsampled. We report a new tyrannosaurid represented by an associated skeleton from the lower Campanian Allison Member of the Menefee Formation of New Mexico. Despite fragmentation of much of the axial and appendicular skeleton prior to discovery, the frontals, a metacarpal, and two pedal phalanges are well-preserved. The frontals exhibit an unambiguous autapomorphy and a second potential autapomorphy that distinguish this specimen from all other tyrannosaurids. Therefore, the specimen is made the holotype of the new genus and species Dynamoterror dynastes. A phylogenetic analysis places Dynamoterror dynastes in the tyrannosaurid subclade Tyrannosaurinae. Laser-scanning the frontals and creation of a composite 3-D digital model allows the frontal region of the skull roof of Dynamoterror to be reconstructed.