Concept: Central America
The explosive pandemic of Zika virus infection occurring throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean (see map) and potentially threatening the United States is the most recent of four unexpected arrivals of important arthropod-borne viral diseases in the Western Hemisphere over the past 20 years. It follows dengue, which entered this hemisphere stealthily over decades and then more aggressively in the 1990s; West Nile virus, which emerged in 1999; and chikungunya, which emerged in 2013. Are the successive migrations of these viruses unrelated, or do they reflect important new patterns of disease emergence? Furthermore, are there secondary health consequences . . .
Whilst being hailed as the remedy to the world’s ills, cities will need to adapt in the 21(st) century. In particular, the role of public transport is likely to increase significantly, and new methods and technics to better plan transit systems are in dire need. This paper examines one fundamental aspect of transit: network centrality. By applying the notion of betweenness centrality to 28 worldwide metro systems, the main goal of this paper is to study the emergence of global trends in the evolution of centrality with network size and examine several individual systems in more detail. Betweenness was notably found to consistently become more evenly distributed with size (i.e. no “winner takes all”) unlike other complex network properties. Two distinct regimes were also observed that are representative of their structure. Moreover, the share of betweenness was found to decrease in a power law with size (with exponent 1 for the average node), but the share of most central nodes decreases much slower than least central nodes (0.87 vs. 2.48). Finally the betweenness of individual stations in several systems were examined, which can be useful to locate stations where passengers can be redistributed to relieve pressure from overcrowded stations. Overall, this study offers significant insights that can help planners in their task to design the systems of tomorrow, and similar undertakings can easily be imagined to other urban infrastructure systems (e.g., electricity grid, water/wastewater system, etc.) to develop more sustainable cities.
The increasing burdens of obesity and diabetes are two of the most prominent threats to the health of populations of developed and developing countries alike. The Central America Diabetes Initiative (CAMDI) is the first study to examine the prevalence of diabetes in Central America.
Zika virus has been sweeping through South and Central America, with more than a million suspected cases during the past few months, along with a substantial increase in reporting of infants born with microcephaly.(1),(2) Thus far, the two outbreaks have largely been epidemiologically associated in time and geography. However, Mlakar and colleagues(3) now report in the Journal molecular genetic and electron-microscopic data from a case that helps to strengthen the biologic association. This group cared for a pregnant European woman in whom a syndrome compatible with Zika virus infection developed at 13 weeks of gestation while she was working . . .
Despite broad agreement that the Americas were initially populated via Beringia, the land bridge that connected far northeast Asia with northwestern North America during the Pleistocene epoch, when and how the peopling of the Americas occurred remains unresolved. Analyses of human remains from Late Pleistocene Alaska are important to resolving the timing and dispersal of these populations. The remains of two infants were recovered at Upward Sun River (USR), and have been dated to around 11.5 thousand years ago (ka). Here, by sequencing the USR1 genome to an average coverage of approximately 17 times, we show that USR1 is most closely related to Native Americans, but falls basal to all previously sequenced contemporary and ancient Native Americans. As such, USR1 represents a distinct Ancient Beringian population. Using demographic modelling, we infer that the Ancient Beringian population and ancestors of other Native Americans descended from a single founding population that initially split from East Asians around 36 ± 1.5 ka, with gene flow persisting until around 25 ± 1.1 ka. Gene flow from ancient north Eurasians into all Native Americans took place 25-20 ka, with Ancient Beringians branching off around 22-18.1 ka. Our findings support a long-term genetic structure in ancestral Native Americans, consistent with the Beringian ‘standstill model’. We show that the basal northern and southern Native American branches, to which all other Native Americans belong, diverged around 17.5-14.6 ka, and that this probably occurred south of the North American ice sheets. We also show that after 11.5 ka, some of the northern Native American populations received gene flow from a Siberian population most closely related to Koryaks, but not Palaeo-Eskimos, Inuits or Kets, and that Native American gene flow into Inuits was through northern and not southern Native American groups. Our findings further suggest that the far-northern North American presence of northern Native Americans is from a back migration that replaced or absorbed the initial founding population of Ancient Beringians.
A new fossil showing affinities with extant Laemanctus offers the first clear evidence for a casquehead lizard (Corytophanidae) from the Eocene of North America. Along with Geiseltaliellus from roughly coeval rocks in central Europe, the new find further documents the tropical fauna present during greenhouse conditions in the northern mid-latitudes approximately 50 million years ago (Ma). Modern Corytophanidae is a neotropical clade of iguanian lizards ranging from southern Mexico to northern South America.
The Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, is one of the most valuable fisheries commodities in the Central American region, directly employing 50,000 people and generating >US$450 million per year . This industry is particularly important to small island states such as The Bahamas, which exports more lobster than any other country in the region . Several factors contribute to this disproportionally high productivity, principally the extensive shallow-water banks covered in seagrass meadows , where fishermen deploy artificial shelters for the lobsters to supplement scarce reef habitat . The surrounding seabed communities are dominated by lucinid bivalve mollusks that live among the seagrass root system [4, 5]. These clams host chemoautotrophic bacterial symbionts in their gills that synthesize organic matter using reduced sulfur compounds, providing nutrition to their hosts . Recent studies have highlighted the important role of the lucinid clam symbiosis in maintaining the health and productivity of seagrass ecosystems [7, 8], but their biomass also represents a potentially abundant, but as yet unquantified, food source to benthic predators . Here we undertake the first analysis of Caribbean spiny lobster diet using a stable isotope approach (carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur) and show that a significant portion of their food (∼20% on average) is obtained from chemosynthetic primary production in the form of lucinid clams. This nutritional pathway was previously unrecognized in the spiny lobster’s diet, and these results are the first empirical evidence that chemosynthetic primary production contributes to the productivity of commercial fisheries stocks.
As the world’s population grows to a projected 11.2 billion by 2100, the number of people living in low-lying areas exposed to coastal hazards is projected to increase. Critical infrastructure and valuable assets continue to be placed in vulnerable areas, and in recent years, millions of people have been displaced by natural hazards. Impacts from coastal hazards depend on the number of people, value of assets, and presence of critical resources in harm’s way. Risks related to natural hazards are determined by a complex interaction between physical hazards, the vulnerability of a society or social-ecological system and its exposure to such hazards. Moreover, these risks are amplified by challenging socioeconomic dynamics, including poorly planned urban development, income inequality, and poverty. This study employs a combination of machine learning clustering techniques (Self Organizing Maps and K-Means) and a spatial index, to assess coastal risks in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on a comparative scale. The proposed method meets multiple objectives, including the identification of hotspots and key drivers of coastal risk, and the ability to process large-volume multidimensional and multivariate datasets, effectively reducing sixteen variables related to coastal hazards, geographic exposure, and socioeconomic vulnerability, into a single index. Our results demonstrate that in LAC, more than 500,000 people live in areas where coastal hazards, exposure (of people, assets and ecosystems) and poverty converge, creating the ideal conditions for a perfect storm. Hotspot locations of coastal risk, identified by the proposed Comparative Coastal Risk Index (CCRI), contain more than 300,00 people and include: El Oro, Ecuador; Sinaloa, Mexico; Usulutan, El Salvador; and Chiapas, Mexico. Our results provide important insights into potential adaptation alternatives that could reduce the impacts of future hazards. Effective adaptation options must not only focus on developing coastal defenses, but also on improving practices and policies related to urban development, agricultural land use, and conservation, as well as ameliorating socioeconomic conditions.
The spread of plaza-pyramid complexes across southern Mesoamerica during the early Middle Preclassic period (1000 to 700 BCE) provides critical information regarding the origins of lowland Maya civilization and the role of the Gulf Coast Olmec. Recent excavations at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala, documented the growth of a formal ceremonial space into a plaza-pyramid complex that predated comparable buildings at other lowland Maya sites and major occupations at the Olmec center of La Venta. The development of lowland Maya civilization did not result from one-directional influence from La Venta, but from interregional interactions, involving groups in the southwestern Maya lowlands, Chiapas, the Pacific Coast, and the southern Gulf Coast.
Mesoamerican jaguars (Panthera onca) have been extirpated from over 77% of their historic range, inhabiting fragmented landscapes at potentially reduced population sizes. Maintaining and restoring genetic diversity and connectivity across human-altered landscapes has become a major conservation priority; nonetheless large-scale genetic monitoring of natural populations is rare. This is the first regional conservation genetic study of jaguars to primarily use fecal samples collected in the wild across five Mesoamerican countries: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. We genotyped 445 jaguar fecal samples and examined patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity among 115 individual jaguars using data from 12 microsatellite loci. Overall, moderate levels of genetic variation were detected (NA = 4.50 ± 1.05, AR = 3.43 ± 0.22, HE = 0.59 ± 0.04), with Mexico having the lowest genetic diversity, followed by Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica. Population-based gene flow measures (FST = 0.09 to 0.15, Dest = 0.09 to 0.21), principal component analysis, and Bayesian clustering applied in a hierarchical framework revealed significant genetic structure in Mesoamerican jaguars, roughly grouping individuals into four genetic clusters with varying levels of admixture. Gene flow was highest among Selva Maya jaguars (northern Guatemala and central Belize), whereas genetic differentiation among all other sampling sites was moderate. Genetic subdivision was most pronounced between Selva Maya and Honduran jaguars, suggesting limited jaguar movement between these close geographic regions and ultimately refuting the hypothesis of contemporary panmixia. To maintain a critical linkage for jaguars dispersing through the Mesoamerican landscape and ensure long-term viability of this near threatened species, we recommend continued management and maintenance of jaguar corridors. The baseline genetic data provided by this study underscores the importance of understanding levels of genetic diversity and connectivity to making informed management and conservation decisions with the goal to maintain functional connectivity across the region.