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Concept: Romania


We describe a new taxon of medium-sized (wing span ca. 3 m) azhdarchid pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Transylvanian Basin (Sebeş Formation) of Romania. This specimen is the most complete European azhdarchid yet reported, comprising a partially articulated series of vertebrae and associated forelimb bones. The new taxon is most similar to the Central Asian Azhdarcho lancicollis Nessov but possesses a suite of autapomorphies in its vertebrae that include the relative proportions of cervicals three and four and the presence of elongated prezygapophyseal pedicles. The new taxon is interesting in that it lived contemporaneously with gigantic forms, comparable in size to the famous Romanian Hatzegopteryx thambema. The presence of two distinct azhdarchid size classes in a continental depositional environment further strengthens suggestions that these pterosaurs were strongly linked to terrestrial floodplain and wooded environments. To support this discussion, we outline the geological context and taphonomy of our new specimen and place it in context with other known records for this widespread and important Late Cretaceous pterosaurian lineage.

Concepts: Cretaceous, Pterosaur, Azhdarchidae, Romania, Romanian language, Late Cretaceous, Quetzalcoatlus, Hatzegopteryx


The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe, and especially its sudden withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE, has generated much speculation and an array of controversial theories. None of them, however, considered multifaceted environmental drivers and the coupled analysis of historical reports and natural archives. Here we investigate annually resolved, absolutely dated and spatially explicit paleoclimatic evidence between 1230 and 1250 CE. Documentary sources and tree-ring chronologies reveal warm and dry summers from 1238-1241, followed by cold and wet conditions in early-1242. Marshy terrain across the Hungarian plain most likely reduced pastureland and decreased mobility, as well as the military effectiveness of the Mongol cavalry, while despoliation and depopulation ostensibly contributed to widespread famine. These circumstances arguably contributed to the determination of the Mongols to abandon Hungary and return to Russia. While overcoming deterministic and reductionist arguments, our ‘environmental hypothesis’ demonstrates the importance of minor climatic fluctuations on major historical events.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, History, Military, Hungary, Mongol Empire, Romania, Mongols, Genghis Khan


Newly obtained ages, based on electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provide a minimum age that lies between 397 and 525 ka for the hominin mandible BH-1 from Mala Balanica cave, Serbia. This confirms it as the easternmost hominin specimen in Europe dated to the Middle Pleistocene. Inferences drawn from the morphology of the mandible BH-1 place it outside currently observed variation of European Homo heidelbergensis. The lack of derived Neandertal traits in BH-1 and its contemporary specimens in Southeast Europe, such as Kocabaş, Vasogliano and Ceprano, coupled with Middle Pleistocene synapomorphies, suggests different evolutionary forces acting in the east of the continent where isolation did not play such an important role during glaciations.

Concepts: Human, Evolution, Europe, Serbia, Balkans, Human evolution, Bulgaria, Romania


The Romani, the largest European minority group with approximately 11 million people [1], constitute a mosaic of languages, religions, and lifestyles while sharing a distinct social heritage. Linguistic [2] and genetic [3-8] studies have located the Romani origins in the Indian subcontinent. However, a genome-wide perspective on Romani origins and population substructure, as well as a detailed reconstruction of their demographic history, has yet to be provided. Our analyses based on genome-wide data from 13 Romani groups collected across Europe suggest that the Romani diaspora constitutes a single initial founder population that originated in north/northwestern India ∼1.5 thousand years ago (kya). Our results further indicate that after a rapid migration with moderate gene flow from the Near or Middle East, the European spread of the Romani people was via the Balkans starting ∼0.9 kya. The strong population substructure and high levels of homozygosity we found in the European Romani are in line with genetic isolation as well as differential gene flow in time and space with non-Romani Europeans. Overall, our genome-wide study sheds new light on the origins and demographic history of European Romani.

Concepts: Europe, Serbia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Romani language, Roma


The Croatian part of the Danube River extends over 188 km and comprises 58 % of the country’s overall area used for commercial freshwater fishing. To date, the heavy metal contamination of fish in the Croatian part of the Danube has not been studied. The main purpose of this study was to determine heavy metal levels in muscle tissue of sampled fish species and to analyze the measured values according to feeding habits of particular groups. Lead ranged from 0.015 μg(-1) dry weight in planktivorous to 0.039 μg(-1) dry weight in herbivorous fish, cadmium from 0.013 μg(-1) dry weight in herbivorous to 0.018 μg(-1) dry weight in piscivorous fish, mercury from 0.191 μg(-1) dry weight in omnivorous to 0.441 μg(-1) dry weight in planktivorous fish and arsenic from 0.018 μg(-1) dry weight in planktivorous to 0.039 μg(-1) dry weight in omnivorous fish. Among the analyzed metals in muscle tissue of sampled fish, only mercury exceeded the maximal level (0.5 mg kg(-1)) permitted according to the national and EU regulations determining maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs, indicating a hazard for consumers of fish from the Danube River.

Concepts: River, Toxicology, Lead, Serbia, Heavy metal music, Heavy metal, Romania, Danube


SUMMARY Species introduced into new areas often show a reduction in parasite and genetic diversity associated to the limited number of founding individuals. In this study, we compared microsatellite and parasite diversity in both native (lower Danube) and introduced populations of 4 Ponto-Caspian gobies, including those (1) introduced from within the same river system (middle Danube; Neogobius kessleri and N. melanostomus), and (2) introduced from a different river system (River Vistula; N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus). Microsatellite data confirmed the lower Danube as a source population for gobies introduced into the middle Danube. Both native and introduced (same river system) populations of N. kessleri and N. melanostomus had comparable parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity, possibly due to multiple and/or continual migration/introduction of new individuals and the acquisition of local parasites. Reduced parasite species richness and microsatellite diversity were observed in introduced (different river system) populations in the Vistula. A low number of colonists found for N. fluviatilis and N. gymnotrachelus in the Vistula potentially resulted in reduced introduction of parasite species. Insufficient adaptation of the introduced host to local parasite fauna, together with introduction into an historically different drainage system, may also have contributed to the reduced parasite fauna.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Symbiosis, River, Rhine, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta


The Eighth Central European Conference “Chemistry towards Biology” was held in Brno, Czech Republic, on August 28-September 1, 2016 to bring together experts in biology, chemistry and design of bioactive compounds; promote the exchange of scientific results, methods and ideas; and encourage cooperation between researchers from all over the world. The topics of the conference covered “Chemistry towards Biology”, meaning that the event welcomed chemists working on biology-related problems, biologists using chemical methods, and students and other researchers of the respective areas that fall within the common scope of chemistry and biology. The authors of this manuscript are plenary speakers and other participants of the symposium and members of their research teams. The following summary highlights the major points/topics of the meeting.

Concepts: Europe, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Romania


A FRAX(®) model for Romania calibrated to the total Romanian population was released June 1, 2011. This article describes the data used to develop the Romanian FRAX model and illustrates its features compared to models for other countries. Age- and sex-stratified hip fracture incidence rates and mortality rates for 2010 were extracted from nationwide databases from the age of 40 years. For other major fractures, Romanian incidence rates were imputed, using Swedish ratios for hip to other major osteoporotic fracture (humerus, forearm, and clinically symptomatic vertebral fractures). Fracture incidence rates increased with increasing age: for hip fracture, incidence rates were higher among younger men than women but with a female preponderance from the age of 65 years. The 10-year probability of hip or major fracture was increased in patients with a clinical risk factor (CRF), lower BMI, female gender, higher age, and decreased BMD T score. Of the CRFs, a parental hip fracture accounted for the greatest increase in 10-year fracture probability. The Romanian FRAX tool is the first country-specific fracture prediction model. It is based on the original FRAX methodology, which has been externally validated in several independent cohorts. Despite some limitations, the strengths make the Romanian FRAX tool a good candidate for implementation into clinical practice.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Epidemiology, Bone fracture, Romania, Transylvania, Romanian language, Romanians, History of Romania


The spread of farming out of the Balkans and into the rest of Europe followed two distinct routes: an initial expansion represented by the Impressa and Cardial traditions, which followed the Northern Mediterranean coastline; and another expansion represented by the LBK tradition, which followed the Danube River into Central Europe. While genomic data now exist from samples representing the second migration, such data have yet to be successfully generated from the initial Mediterranean migration. To address this, we generated the complete genome of a 7,400 year-old Cardial individual (CB13) from Cova Bonica in Vallirana (Barcelona), as well as partial nuclear data from five others excavated from different sites in Spain and Portugal. CB13 clusters with all previously sequenced early European farmers and modern-day Sardinians. Furthermore, our analyses suggest that both Cardial and LBK peoples derived from a common ancient population located in or around the Balkan Peninsula. The Iberian Cardial genome also carries a discernible hunter-gatherer genetic signature that likely was not acquired by admixture with local Iberian foragers. Our results indicate that retrieving ancient genomes from similarly warm Mediterranean environments such as the Near East is technically feasible.

Concepts: Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Belgrade


Few studies have systematically investigated differences in performance, morphology and parasitic load of invaders at different stages of an invasion. This study analyzed phenotype-environment correlations in a fish invasion from initial absence until establishment in the headwater reach of the second largest European river, the Danube. Here, the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) formed 73% of the fish abundance and 58% of the fish biomass in rip-rap bank habitats after establishment. The time from invasion until establishment was only about two years, indicating rapid expansion. Founder populations from the invasion front were different from longer established round goby populations in demography, morphology, feeding behaviour, sex ratio and parasitic load, indicating that plasticity in these traits determines invasion success. Competitive ability was mostly dependent on growth/size-related traits rather than on fecundity. As revealed by stable isotope analyses, specimens at the invasion front had a higher trophic position in the food web and seem to benefit from lower food competition. Somatic performance seems to be more important than investment in reproduction during the early stages of the invasion process and upstream-directed range expansion is not caused by out-migrating weak or juvenile individuals that were forced to leave high density areas due to high competition. This mechanism might be true for downstream introductions via drift. Greater abundance and densities of acanthocephalan endoparasites were observed at the invasion front, which contradicts the expectation that invasion success is determined by lower parasitic pressure in newly invaded areas. Overall, the pronounced changes in fish and invertebrate communities with a dominance of alien species suggest invasional meltdown and a shift of the upper Danube River towards a novel ecosystem with species that have greater resistance to goby predation. This seems to contribute to overcoming biological resistance and improve rapidity of dispersal.

Concepts: Population, Ecology, Symbiosis, River, Romania, Danube, Danube Delta, Round goby