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

Concept: Adaptation


We investigated the evolution and epidemiology of a novel livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain, which colonizes and infects urban-dwelling Danes even without a Danish animal reservoir. Genetic evidence suggests both poultry and human adaptation, with poultry meat implicated as a probable source.

Concepts: Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Meat, Livestock, Adaptation, Charles Darwin, Poultry


Genetic polymorphism is suggested to be associated with human physical performance. The angiotensin I-converting enzyme insertion/deletion (ACE I/D) polymorphism and the α-actinin-3 gene (ACTN3) R577X polymorphism have been most widely studied for such association analysis. However, the findings are frequently heterogeneous. We aim to summarize the associations of ACE I/D and ACTN3 R577X with sport performance by means of meta-analysis.

Concepts: Genetics, Allele, Chromosome, The Association, Polymorphism, Adaptation, Genetic polymorphism, Julian Huxley


Ever since Darwin, the role of natural selection in shaping the morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations of animals and plants across generations has been central to understanding life and its diversity. New discoveries have shown with increasing precision how genetic, molecular, and biochemical processes produce and express those organismal features during an individual’s lifetime. When it comes to microorganisms, however, understanding the role of natural selection in producing adaptive solutions has historically been, and sometimes continues to be, contentious. This tension is curious because microbes enable one to observe the power of adaptation by natural selection with exceptional rigor and clarity, as exemplified by the burgeoning field of experimental microbial evolution. I trace the development of this field, describe an experiment with Escherichia coli that has been running for almost 30 years, and highlight other experiments in which natural selection has led to interesting dynamics and adaptive changes in microbial populations.

Concepts: Genetics, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Adaptation, Charles Darwin


Pedestrians regularly engage with their mobile phone whilst walking. The current study investigated how mobile phone use affects where people look (visual search behaviour) and how they negotiate a floor based hazard placed along the walking path. Whilst wearing a mobile eye tracker and motion analysis sensors, participants walked up to and negotiated a surface height change whilst writing a text, reading a text, talking on the phone, or without a phone. Differences in gait and visual search behaviour were found when using a mobile phone compared to when not using a phone. Using a phone resulted in looking less frequently and for less time at the surface height change, which led to adaptations in gait by negotiating it in a manner consistent with adopting an increasingly cautious stepping strategy. When using a mobile phone, writing a text whilst walking resulted in the greatest adaptions in gait and visual search behaviour compared to reading a text and talking on a mobile phone. Findings indicate that mobile phone users were able to adapt their visual search behaviour and gait to incorporate mobile phone use in a safe manner when negotiating floor based obstacles.

Concepts: Mobile phone, Walking, Adaptation, Locomotion, Automobile, Pedestrian, Walkability, Sustainable transport


The collapse of some pre-historical and historical cultures, including Chinese dynasties were presumably linked to widespread droughts, on the basis of synchronicities of societal crises and proxy-based climate events. Here, we present a comparison of ancient inscriptions in Dayu Cave from Qinling Mountains, central China, which described accurate times and detailed impacts of seven drought events during the period of 1520-1920 CE, with high-resolution speleothem records from the same cave. The comparable results provide unique and robust tests on relationships among speleothem δ(18)O changes, drought events, and societal unrest. With direct historical evidences, our results suggest that droughts and even modest events interrupting otherwise wet intervals can cause serious social crises. Modeling results of speleothem δ(18)O series suggest that future precipitation in central China may be below the average of the past 500 years. As Qinling Mountain is the main recharge area of two large water transfer projects and habitats of many endangered species, it is imperative to explore an adaptive strategy for the decline in precipitation and/or drought events.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, China, Endangered species, Meteorology, Giant Panda, Adaptation, Drought


Habit formation is a behavioral adaptation that automates routine actions. Habitual behavior correlates with broad reconfigurations of dorsolateral striatal (DLS) circuit properties that increase gain and shift pathway timing. The mechanism(s) for these circuit adaptations are unknown and could be responsible for habitual behavior. Here we find that a single class of interneuron, fast-spiking interneurons (FSIs), modulates all of these habit-predictive properties. Consistent with a role in habits, FSIs are more excitable in habitual mice compared to goal-directed and acute chemogenetic inhibition of FSIs in DLS prevents the expression of habitual lever pressing. In vivo recordings further reveal a previously unappreciated selective modulation of SPNs based on their firing patterns; FSIs inhibit most SPNs but paradoxically promote the activity of a subset displaying high fractions of gamma-frequency spiking. These results establish a microcircuit mechanism for habits and provide a new example of how interneurons mediate experience-dependent behavior.

Concepts: Natural selection, Inhibitor, Modulation, Behavior, Human behavior, Adaptation


Venom systems have evolved on multiple occasions across the animal kingdom, and they can act as key adaptations to protect animals from predators [1]. Consequently, venomous animals serve as models for a rich source of mimicry types, as non-venomous species benefit from reductions in predation risk by mimicking the coloration, body shape, and/or movement of toxic counterparts [2-5]. The frequent evolution of such deceitful imitations provides notable examples of phenotypic convergence and are often invoked as classic exemplars of evolution by natural selection. Here, we investigate the evolution of fangs, venom, and mimetic relationships in reef fishes from the tribe Nemophini (fangblennies). Comparative morphological analyses reveal that enlarged canine teeth (fangs) originated at the base of the Nemophini radiation and have enabled a micropredatory feeding strategy in non-venomous Plagiotremus spp. Subsequently, the evolution of deep anterior grooves and their coupling to venom secretory tissue provide Meiacanthus spp. with toxic venom that they effectively employ for defense. We find that fangblenny venom contains a number of toxic components that have been independently recruited into other animal venoms, some of which cause toxicity via interactions with opioid receptors, and result in a multifunctional biochemical phenotype that exerts potent hypotensive effects. The evolution of fangblenny venom has seemingly led to phenotypic convergence via the formation of a diverse array of mimetic relationships that provide protective (Batesian mimicry) and predatory (aggressive mimicry) benefits to other fishes [2, 6]. Our results further our understanding of how novel morphological and biochemical adaptations stimulate ecological interactions in the natural world.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Predation, Mimicry, Toxin, Adaptation, Venom, Batesian mimicry


Only seven types of mammals are known to be venomous, including slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.). Despite the evolutionary significance of this unique adaptation amongst Nycticebus, the structure and function of slow loris venom is only just beginning to be understood. Here we review what is known about the chemical structure of slow loris venom. Research on a handful of captive samples from three of eight slow loris species reveals that the protein within slow loris venom resembles the disulphide-bridged heterodimeric structure of Fel-d1, more commonly known as cat allergen. In a comparison of N. pygmaeus and N. coucang, 212 and 68 compounds were found, respectively. Venom is activated by combining the oil from the brachial arm gland with saliva, and can cause death in small mammals and anaphylactic shock and death in humans. We examine four hypotheses for the function of slow loris venom. The least evidence is found for the hypothesis that loris venom evolved to kill prey. Although the venom’s primary function in nature seems to be as a defense against parasites and conspecifics, it may also serve to thwart olfactory-orientated predators. Combined with numerous other serpentine features of slow lorises, including extra vertebra in the spine leading to snake-like movement, serpentine aggressive vocalisations, a long dark dorsal stripe and the venom itself, we propose that venom may have evolved to mimic cobras (Naja sp.). During the Miocene when both slow lorises and cobras migrated throughout Southeast Asia, the evolution of venom may have been an adaptive strategy against predators used by slow lorises as a form of Mullerian mimicry with spectacled cobras.

Concepts: Evolution, Mimicry, Loris, Lorises and galagos, Slow loris, Pygmy Slow Loris, Adaptation, Sunda Loris


Establishing genotype-phenotype relationship is the key to understand the molecular mechanism of phenotypic adaptation. This initial step may be untangled by analyzing appropriate ancestral molecules, but it is a daunting task to recapitulate the evolution of non-additive (epistatic) interactions of amino acids and function of a protein separately. To adapt to the ultraviolet (UV)-free retinal environment, the short wavelength-sensitive (SWS1) visual pigment in human (human S1) switched from detecting UV to absorbing blue light during the last 90 million years. Mutagenesis experiments of the UV-sensitive pigment in the Boreoeutherian ancestor show that the blue-sensitivity was achieved by seven mutations. The experimental and quantum chemical analyses show that 4,008 of all 5,040 possible evolutionary trajectories are terminated prematurely by containing a dehydrated nonfunctional pigment. Phylogenetic analysis further suggests that human ancestors achieved the blue-sensitivity gradually and almost exclusively by epistasis. When the final stage of spectral tuning of human S1 was underway 45-30 million years ago, the middle and long wavelength-sensitive (MWS/LWS) pigments appeared and so-called trichromatic color vision was established by interprotein epistasis. The adaptive evolution of human S1 differs dramatically from orthologous pigments with a major mutational effect used in achieving blue-sensitivity in a fish and several mammalian species and in regaining UV vision in birds. These observations imply that the mechanisms of epistatic interactions must be understood by studying various orthologues in different species that have adapted to various ecological and physiological environments.

Concepts: Mutation, Natural selection, Evolution, Species, Color, Adaptation, Charles Darwin, Epistasis


Loneliness stems from a mismatch between the social relationships one has and those one desires. Loneliness often has severe consequences for individuals and society. Recently, an online adaptation of the friendship enrichment program (FEP) was developed and tested to gain insight in its contribution to the alleviation of loneliness. Three loneliness coping strategies are introduced during the program: network development, adapting relationship standards, and reducing the importance of the discrepancy between actual and desired relationships. Data were collected among 239 participants aged 50-86. Loneliness was measured four times using a multi-item scale, and on various days with a single, direct question. Loneliness assessed with the scale declined during and after the program. Scores on loneliness assessed for a specific day, however, are more ambiguous. Despite the immediate positive effect of conducting assignments, we did not observe a decline in the single loneliness item score over the course of the program. The online FEP seems to reduce loneliness in general, but these effects are not visible on today’s loneliness. Nevertheless, the online intervention to reduce loneliness is a valuable new contribution to the collection of loneliness interventions.

Concepts: Relationship, Effect, Psychometrics, Question, Interpersonal relationship, Intervention, Decline, Adaptation