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Concept: Multidimensional scaling


Despite recent advances spearheaded by molecular approaches and novel technologies, species description and DNA sequence information are significantly lagging for fungi compared to many other groups of organisms. Large scale sequencing of vouchered herbarium material can aid in closing this gap. Here, we describe an effort to obtain broad ITS sequence coverage of the approximately 6000 macrofungal-species-rich herbarium of the Museum of Natural History in Venice, Italy. Our goals were to investigate issues related to large sequencing projects, develop heuristic methods for assessing the overall performance of such a project, and evaluate the prospects of such efforts to reduce the current gap in fungal biodiversity knowledge. The effort generated 1107 sequences submitted to GenBank, including 416 previously unrepresented taxa and 398 sequences exhibiting a best BLAST match to an unidentified environmental sequence. Specimen age and taxon affected sequencing success, and subsequent work on failed specimens showed that an ITS1 mini-barcode greatly increased sequencing success without greatly reducing the discriminating power of the barcode. Similarity comparisons and nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordinations based on pairwise distance matrices proved to be useful heuristic tools for validating the overall accuracy of specimen identifications, flagging potential misidentifications, and identifying taxa in need of additional species-level revision. Comparison of within- and among-species nucleotide variation showed a strong increase in species discriminating power at 1-2% dissimilarity, and identified potential barcoding issues (same sequence for different species and vice-versa). All sequences are linked to a vouchered specimen, and results from this study have already prompted revisions of species-sequence assignments in several taxa.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Species, Fungus, Sequence, DNA barcoding, Multidimensional scaling, Taxon


The e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes (E-cigs) consist of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine, and chemical additives for flavoring. There are currently over 7,700 e-liquid flavors available, and while some have been tested for toxicity in the laboratory, most have not. Here, we developed a 3-phase, 384-well, plate-based, high-throughput screening (HTS) assay to rapidly triage and validate the toxicity of multiple e-liquids. Our data demonstrated that the PG/VG vehicle adversely affected cell viability and that a large number of e-liquids were more toxic than PG/VG. We also performed gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis on all tested e-liquids. Subsequent nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) analysis revealed that e-liquids are an extremely heterogeneous group. Furthermore, these data indicated that (i) the more chemicals contained in an e-liquid, the more toxic it was likely to be and (ii) the presence of vanillin was associated with higher toxicity values. Further analysis of common constituents by electron ionization revealed that the concentration of cinnamaldehyde and vanillin, but not triacetin, correlated with toxicity. We have also developed a publicly available searchable website ( Given the large numbers of available e-liquids, this website will serve as a resource to facilitate dissemination of this information. Our data suggest that an HTS approach to evaluate the toxicity of multiple e-liquids is feasible. Such an approach may serve as a roadmap to enable bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better regulate e-liquid composition.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Tobacco, Cigarette, Nicotine, Electronic cigarette, Propylene glycol, Glycerol, Multidimensional scaling


The original Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel was developed by the Specialty Coffee Assn. of America over 20 y ago, and needed an innovative revision. This study used a novel application of traditional sensory and statistical methods in order to reorganize the new coffee Sensory Lexicon developed by World Coffee Research and Kansas State Univ. into scientifically valid clusters and levels to prepare a new, updated flavor wheel. Seventy-two experts participated in a modified online rapid free sorting activity (no tasting) to sort flavor attributes of the lexicon. The data from all participants were compiled and agglomeration hierarchical clustering was used to determine the clusters and levels of the flavor attributes, while multidimensional scaling was used to determine the positioning of the clusters around the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel. This resulted in a new flavor wheel for the coffee industry.

Concepts: Statistics, Mathematics, United States, Multivariate statistics, Taste, Multidimensional scaling, Kansas, Sorting


The amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is a globally emerging pathogen that has caused widespread amphibian population declines, extirpations, and extinctions. However, Bd does not occur in all apparently suitable amphibian populations, even within regions where it is widespread, and it is often unclear why Bd occurs in some habitats but not others. In this study, we rigorously surveyed the amphibian and invertebrate biodiversity of 29 ponds in Missouri, screened resident amphibian larvae (Rana (Lithobates) sp.) for Bd infection, and characterized the aquatic physiochemical environment of each pond (temperature pH, conductivity, nitrogen, phosphorus, and chlorophyll-a). Our goal was to generate hypotheses toward answering the question, “Why does Bd not occur in all apparently suitable habitats?” Bd occurred in assayed amphibians in 11 of the 29 ponds in our study area (38% of ponds). We found no significant relationship between any single biotic or abiotic variable and presence of Bd. However, multivariate analyses (nonmetric multidimensional scaling and permutational tests of dispersion) revealed that ponds in which Bd occurred were a restricted subset of all ponds in terms of amphibian community structure, macroinvertebrate community structure, and pond physiochemistry. In other words, Bd ponds from 6 different conservation areas were more similar to each other than would be expected based on chance. The results of a structural equation model suggest that patterns in the occurrence of Bd among ponds are primarily attributable to variation in macroinvertebrate community structure. When combined with recent results showing that Bd can infect invertebrates as well as amphibians, we suggest that additional research should focus on the role played by non-amphibian biota in determining the presence, prevalence, and pathogenicity of Bd in amphibian populations.

Concepts: Species, Fungus, Invertebrate, Multidimensional scaling, Chytridiomycota, Chytridiomycosis, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Decline in amphibian populations


Recent updating of the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of central nervous system (CNS) tumors in 2016 demonstrates the first organized effort to restructure brain tumor classification by incorporating histomorphologic features with recurrent molecular alterations. Revised CNS tumor diagnostic criteria also attempt to reduce interobserver variability of histological interpretation and provide more accurate stratification related to clinical outcome. As an example, diffuse gliomas (WHO grades II-IV) are now molecularly stratified based upon isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 or 2 (IDH) mutational status, with gliomas of WHO grades II and III being substratified according to 1p/19q codeletion status. For now, grading of diffuse gliomas is still dependent upon histological parameters. Independent of WHO classification criteria, multidimensional scaling analysis of molecular signatures for diffuse gliomas from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) has identified distinct molecular subgroups, and allows for their visualization in 2-dimensional (2D) space. Using the web-based platform Oncoscape as a tool, we applied multidimensional scaling-derived molecular groups to the 2D visualization of the 2016 WHO classification of diffuse gliomas. Here we show that molecular multidimensional scaling of TCGA data provides 2D clustering that represents the 2016 WHO classification of diffuse gliomas. Additionally, we used this platform to successfully identify and define novel copy-number alteration-based molecular subtypes, which are independent of WHO grading, as well as predictive of clinical outcome. The prognostic utility of these molecular subtypes was further validated using an independent data set of the German Glioma Network prospective glioblastoma patient cohort.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Cancer, Brain, Glioma, Brain tumor, World Health Organization, Multidimensional scaling


We propose a new strategy to identify and visualize bacterial consortia by conducting replicated culturing of environmental samples coupled with high-throughput sequencing and multidimensional scaling analysis, followed by identification of bacteria-bacteria correlations and interactions. We conducted a proof of concept assay with pine-tree resin-based media in ten replicates, which allowed detecting and visualizing dynamical bacterial associations in the form of statistically significant and yet biologically relevant bacterial consortia.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Mathematics, Biotechnology, Multidimensional scaling


Psychological research on wisdom has flourished in the last 30 years, much of it investigating laypeople’s implicit theories of wisdom. In three studies, we took an exemplar and prototype approach to implicit wisdom theories by asking participants to nominate one or more cultural-historical figures of wisdom. Study 1 revealed that individuals draw from a wide range of wisdom exemplars, with substantial agreement on the most iconic figures. In Study 2, multidimensional scaling analysis of exemplars revealed practical, philosophical, and benevolent prototypes; follow-up analyses indicated that prototypes differed in familiarity, likability, and perceived wisdom. Study 3 showed that individuals nominated exemplars from the practical prototype more frequently than from the philosophical and benevolent prototypes and that prototype nomination depended in part on nominator characteristics. These studies suggest that exemplar- and prototype-based implicit wisdom theories are consistent with explicit psychological theories of wisdom.

Concepts: Psychology, Greek loanwords, Mind, Philosophy of science, Existentialism, Candidate, Multidimensional scaling, William James


Rates of participation in organ donation programs are known to be powerfully influenced by the relevant default policy in effect (“opt-in” vs. “opt-out”). Three studies provide evidence that this difference in participation may occur in part because the requirement to opt-in or opt-out results in large differences in the meaning that individuals attach to participation. American participants in Study 1 rated participation as a significantly more substantial action when agreement was purportedly obtained under opt-in rather than opt-out conditions, and nonagreement as a greater abrogation of responsibility when that decision was made under opt-out rather than under opt-in conditions. Study 2 replicated these findings with respondents who live in Germany, which employs an opt-in donation policy, and in Austria, which has an opt-out policy. Study 3 required American participants to rate various actions that differ in the effort and self-sacrifice they demand. As predicted, the placement of organ donation on the resulting multidimensional scaling dimension differed significantly depending on whether it purportedly was made in an opt-in country (where it was considered roughly akin to giving away half of one’s wealth to charity upon one’s death) or an opt-out country (where it fell between letting others get ahead of one in line and volunteering some time to help the poor). We discuss the relationship between this change of meaning account and two other mechanisms-behavioral inertia and implicit norms-that we believe underlie the default effect in decision making and other effects of policies designed to influence decision-makers.

Concepts: Decision making, Participation, Dimension, Decision theory, Meaning of life, Organ donation, Giving, Multidimensional scaling


Categorisations are a means of investigating cognitive maps. The present study, for the first time, investigates adolescents' spontaneous categorisation of 34 animal species. Furthermore, explicit evaluations of 16 selected animals in terms of their perceived utility and likeability were analysed. 105 British adolescents, 54% female, mean age 14.5 (SD = 1.6) participated in the study. Results of multidimensional scaling (MDS) techniques indicate 3-dimensional data representation regardless of gender or age. Property fittings show that affect and perceived utility of animals explain two of the MDS dimensions, and hence partly explain adolescents' categorisation. Additionally, hierarchical cluster analyses show a differentiation between farm animals, birds, pet animals, and wild animals possibly explaining MDS dimension 3. The results suggest that utility perceptions predominantly underlie adolescents' categorisations and become even more dominant in older adolescents, which potentially has an influence on attitudes to animals with implications for animal welfare, conservation, and education.

Concepts: Cluster analysis, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Understanding, Plant, Dimension, Concept, Multidimensional scaling


There is growing evidence from both behavioral and neurophysiological approaches that primates are able to rapidly discriminate visually between snakes and innocuous stimuli. Recent behavioral evidence suggests that primates are also able to discriminate the level of threat posed by snakes, by responding more intensely to a snake model poised to strike than to snake models in coiled or sinusoidal postures (Etting and Isbell 2014). In the present study, we examine the potential for an underlying neurological basis for this ability. Previous research indicated that the pulvinar is highly sensitive to snake images. We thus recorded pulvinar neurons in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) while they viewed photos of snakes in striking and non-striking postures in a delayed non-matching to sample (DNMS) task. Of 821 neurons recorded, 78 visually responsive neurons were tested with the all snake images. We found that pulvinar neurons in the medial and dorsolateral pulvinar responded more strongly to snakes in threat displays poised to strike than snakes in non-threat-displaying postures with no significant difference in response latencies. A multidimensional scaling analysis of the 78 visually responsive neurons indicated that threat-displaying and non-threat-displaying snakes were separated into two different clusters in the first epoch of 50 ms after stimulus onset, suggesting bottom-up visual information processing. These results indicate that pulvinar neurons in primates discriminate between poised to strike from those in non-threat-displaying postures. This neuronal ability likely facilitates behavioral discrimination and has clear adaptive value. Our results are thus consistent with the Snake Detection Theory, which posits that snakes were instrumental in the evolution of primate visual systems.

Concepts: Retina, Macaque, Primate, Japanese Macaque, Old World monkey, Snake, Multidimensional scaling, Vomeronasal organ