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Concept: Continent


The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy is becoming apparent in Africa and Asia. We evaluated strategies of peanut consumption and avoidance to determine which strategy is most effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy in infants at high risk for the allergy.

Concepts: Soviet Union, Eastern world, Islam, African Union, Human Development Index, Strategy game, Continent, Africa


Australian dinosaurs have played a rare but controversial role in the debate surrounding the effect of Gondwanan break-up on Cretaceous dinosaur distribution. Major spatiotemporal gaps in the Gondwanan Cretaceous fossil record, coupled with taxon incompleteness, have hindered research on this effect, especially in Australia. Here we report on two new sauropod specimens from the early Late Cretaceous of Queensland, Australia, that have important implications for Cretaceous dinosaur palaeobiogeography. Savannasaurus elliottorum gen. et sp. nov. comprises one of the most complete Cretaceous sauropod skeletons ever found in Australia, whereas a new specimen of Diamantinasaurus matildae includes the first ever cranial remains of an Australian sauropod. The results of a new phylogenetic analysis, in which both Savannasaurus and Diamantinasaurus are recovered within Titanosauria, were used as the basis for a quantitative palaeobiogeographical analysis of macronarian sauropods. Titanosaurs achieved a worldwide distribution by at least 125 million years ago, suggesting that mid-Cretaceous Australian sauropods represent remnants of clades which were widespread during the Early Cretaceous. These lineages would have entered Australasia via dispersal from South America, presumably across Antarctica. High latitude sauropod dispersal might have been facilitated by Albian-Turonian warming that lifted a palaeoclimatic dispersal barrier between Antarctica and South America.

Concepts: Continent, Antarctica, Macronaria, Pacific Ocean, Sauropoda, Cretaceous, Titanosaur, Dinosaur


The fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda is a prime noctuid pest of maize on the American continents where it has remained confined despite occasional interceptions by European quarantine services in recent years. The pest has currently become a new invasive species in West and Central Africa where outbreaks were recorded for the first time in early 2016. The presence of at least two distinct haplotypes within samples collected on maize in Nigeria and São Tomé suggests multiple introductions into the African continent. Implications of this new threat to the maize crop in tropical Africa are briefly discussed.

Concepts: Central Africa, Europe, East Africa, North America, Army worm, Spodoptera, Continent, Africa


The Pleistocene global dispersal of modern humans required the transit of arid and semiarid regions where the distribution of potable water provided a primary constraint on dispersal pathways. Here, we provide a spatially explicit continental-scale assessment of the opportunities for Pleistocene human occupation of Australia, the driest inhabited continent on Earth. We establish the location and connectedness of persistent water in the landscape using the Australian Water Observations from Space dataset combined with the distribution of small permanent water bodies (springs, gnammas, native wells, waterholes, and rockholes). Results demonstrate a high degree of directed landscape connectivity during wet periods and a high density of permanent water points widely but unevenly distributed across the continental interior. A connected network representing the least-cost distance between water bodies and graded according to terrain cost shows that 84% of archaeological sites >30,000 y old are within 20 km of modern permanent water. We further show that multiple, well-watered routes into the semiarid and arid continental interior were available throughout the period of early human occupation. Depletion of high-ranked resources over time in these paleohydrological corridors potentially drove a wave of dispersal farther along well-watered routes to patches with higher foraging returns.

Concepts: Africa, Transport, Continent, Neanderthal, Human evolution, Pleistocene, Water, Human


Tropical forests are undergoing land use change in many regions of the world, including the African continent. Human populations living close to forest margins fragmented and disturbed by deforestation may be particularly exposed to zoonotic infections because of the higher likelihood for humans to be in contact with disease reservoirs. Quantitative analysis of the nexus between deforestation and the emergence of Ebola virus disease (EVD), however, is still missing. Here we use land cover change data in conjunction with EVD outbreak records to investigate the association between recent (2004-2014) outbreaks in West and Central Africa, and patterns of land use change in the region. We show how in these EVD outbreaks the index cases in humans (i.e. spillover from wildlife reservoirs) occurred mostly in hotspots of forest fragmentation.

Concepts: Malaise, Prehistory, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Continent, Central Africa, Madagascar, Human, Africa


Cold-water conditions have excluded durophagous (skeleton-breaking) predators from the Antarctic seafloor for millions of years. Rapidly warming seas off the western Antarctic Peninsula could now facilitate their return to the continental shelf, with profound consequences for the endemic fauna. Among the likely first arrivals are king crabs (Lithodidae), which were discovered recently on the adjacent continental slope. During the austral summer of 2010‒2011, we used underwater imagery to survey a slope-dwelling population of the lithodid Paralomis birsteini off Marguerite Bay, western Antarctic Peninsula for environmental or trophic impediments to shoreward expansion. The population density averaged ∼4.5 individuals × 1,000 m(-2) within a depth range of 1,100‒1,500 m (overall observed depth range 841-2,266 m). Images of juveniles, discarded molts, and precopulatory behavior, as well as gravid females in a trapping study, suggested a reproductively viable population on the slope. At the time of the survey, there was no thermal barrier to prevent the lithodids from expanding upward and emerging on the outer shelf (400- to 550-m depth); however, near-surface temperatures remained too cold for them to survive in inner-shelf and coastal environments (<200 m). Ambient salinity, composition of the substrate, and the depth distribution of potential predators likewise indicated no barriers to expansion of lithodids onto the outer shelf. Primary food resources for lithodids-echinoderms and mollusks-were abundant on the upper slope (550-800 m) and outer shelf. As sea temperatures continue to rise, lithodids will likely play an increasingly important role in the trophic structure of subtidal communities closer to shore.

Concepts: Population, King crab, Continent, Fisheries, Demography, Coastal geography, Population density, Antarctica


The geographic and temporal origins of dogs remain controversial. We generated genetic sequences from 59 ancient dogs and a complete (28x) genome of a late Neolithic dog (dated to ~4800 calendar years before the present) from Ireland. Our analyses revealed a deep split separating modern East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs. Surprisingly, the date of this divergence (~14,000 to 6400 years ago) occurs commensurate with, or several millennia after, the first appearance of dogs in Europe and East Asia. Additional analyses of ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA revealed a sharp discontinuity in haplotype frequencies in Europe. Combined, these results suggest that dogs may have been domesticated independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia from distinct wolf populations. East Eurasian dogs were then possibly transported to Europe with people, where they partially replaced European Paleolithic dogs.

Concepts: Genetics, Russia, Continent, Eurasia, Central Asia, Neolithic, Europe, Asia


Totten Glacier in East Antarctica has the potential to raise global sea level by at least 3.5 m, but its sensitivity to climate change has not been well understood. The glacier is coupled to the ocean by the Totten Ice Shelf, which has exhibited variable speed, thickness, and grounding line position in recent years. To understand the drivers of this interannual variability, we compare ice velocity to oceanic wind stress and find a consistent pattern of ice-shelf acceleration 19 months after upwelling anomalies occur at the continental shelf break nearby. The sensitivity to climate forcing we observe is a response to wind-driven redistribution of oceanic heat and is independent of large-scale warming of the atmosphere or ocean. Our results establish a link between the stability of Totten Glacier and upwelling near the East Antarctic coast, where surface winds are projected to intensify over the next century as a result of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Concepts: Water, Atlantic Ocean, Weather, Atmosphere, Continent, Climate, Ocean, Antarctica


Agriculture resulted in extensive population growths and human activities. However, whether major human expansions started after Neolithic Time still remained controversial. With the benefit of 1000 Genome Project, we were able to analyze a total of 910 samples from 11 populations in Africa, Europe and Americas. From these random samples, we identified the expansion lineages and reconstructed the historical demographic variations. In all the three continents, we found that most major lineage expansions (11 out of 15 star lineages in Africa, all autochthonous lineages in Europe and America) coalesced before the first appearance of agriculture. Furthermore, major population expansions were estimated after Last Glacial Maximum but before Neolithic Time, also corresponding to the result of major lineage expansions. Considering results in current and previous study, global mtDNA evidence showed that rising temperature after Last Glacial Maximum offered amiable environments and might be the most important factor for prehistorical human expansions.

Concepts: Prehistory, Continent, Europe, South America, Human, World population, Africa, Pleistocene


The population history of Aboriginal Australians remains largely uncharacterized. Here we generate high-coverage genomes for 83 Aboriginal Australians (speakers of Pama-Nyungan languages) and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. We find that Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25-40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ~10-32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama-Nyungan languages. We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51-72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. Finally, we report evidence of selection in Aboriginal Australians potentially associated with living in the desert.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Constitution of Australia, Continent, Oceania, Indigenous Australians, Australia, Indigenous Australian languages