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

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 . . .

Concepts: United States, North America, South America, Americas, Latin America, Caribbean, Central America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


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.

Concepts: City, Complex system, Central America, Social network, Centrality, Public transport, Train station, The Remedy


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.

Concepts: Mexico, North America, Americas, Latin America, Caribbean, Central America, Nicaragua


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 . . .

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Genetics, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Virus, Central America


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.

Concepts: United States, Native Americans in the United States, North America, Americas, Latin America, Central America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Models of migration to the New World


This study uses a multiisotope (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and strontium) approach to examine early animal management in the Maya region. An analysis of faunal specimens across almost 2,000 years (1000 BC to AD 950) at the site of Ceibal, Guatemala, reveals the earliest evidence for live-traded dogs and possible captive-reared taxa in the Americas. These animals may have been procured for ceremonial functions based on their location in the monumental site core, suggesting that animal management and trade began in the Maya area to promote special events, activities that were critical in the development of state society. Isotopic evidence for animal captivity at Ceibal reveals that animal management played a greater role in Maya communities than previously believed.

Concepts: Animal, Maya peoples, Spanish language, Oxide, Mexico, Central America, Mesoamerica, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


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.

Concepts: United States, Europe, Squamata, Mexico, North America, South America, Americas, Central America


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.

Concepts: Poverty, United States, Hazard, Caribbean, Central America, Nicaragua, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, El Salvador


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 [1]. This industry is particularly important to small island states such as The Bahamas, which exports more lobster than any other country in the region [1]. Several factors contribute to this disproportionally high productivity, principally the extensive shallow-water banks covered in seagrass meadows [2], where fishermen deploy artificial shelters for the lobsters to supplement scarce reef habitat [3]. 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 [6]. 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 [9]. 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.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Mollusca, Central America, Spiny lobster, Achelata, Fishery, Panulirus


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.

Concepts: Maya civilization, Guatemala, Maya peoples, Mexico, Central America, Mesoamerican chronology, Tabasco, Olmec