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Concept: Western Europe


Investigations at Happisburgh, UK, have revealed the oldest known hominin footprint surface outside Africa at between ca. 1 million and 0.78 million years ago. The site has long been recognised for the preservation of sediments containing Early Pleistocene fauna and flora, but since 2005 has also yielded humanly made flint artefacts, extending the record of human occupation of northern Europe by at least 350,000 years. The sediments consist of sands, gravels and laminated silts laid down by a large river within the upper reaches of its estuary. In May 2013 extensive areas of the laminated sediments were exposed on the foreshore. On the surface of one of the laminated silt horizons a series of hollows was revealed in an area of ca. 12 m(2). The surface was recorded using multi-image photogrammetry which showed that the hollows are distinctly elongated and the majority fall within the range of juvenile to adult hominin foot sizes. In many cases the arch and front/back of the foot can be identified and in one case the impression of toes can be seen. Using foot length to stature ratios, the hominins are estimated to have been between ca. 0.93 and 1.73 m in height, suggestive of a group of mixed ages. The orientation of the prints indicates movement in a southerly direction on mud-flats along the river edge. Early Pleistocene human fossils are extremely rare in Europe, with no evidence from the UK. The only known species in western Europe of a similar age is Homo antecessor, whose fossil remains have been found at Atapuerca, Spain. The foot sizes and estimated stature of the hominins from Happisburgh fall within the range derived from the fossil evidence of Homo antecessor.

Concepts: Netherlands, Northern Europe, Europe, Foot, Western Europe, Human evolution, United Kingdom, Human


BACKGROUND: Pterosaurs have been known from the Cretaceous sediments of the Isle of Wight (southern England, United Kingdom) since 1870. We describe the three-dimensional pelvic girdle and associated vertebrae of a small near-adult pterodactyloid from the Atherfield Clay Formation (lower Aptian, Lower Cretaceous). Despite acknowledged variation in the pterosaur pelvis, previous studies have not adequately sampled or incorporated pelvic characters into phylogenetic analyses. METHODOLOGYPRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The new specimen represents the new taxon Vectidraco daisymorrisae gen. et sp. nov., diagnosed by the presence of a concavity posterodorsal to the acetabulum and the form of its postacetabular process on the ilium. Several characters suggest that Vectidraco belongs to Azhdarchoidea. We constructed a pelvis-only phylogenetic analysis to test whether the pterosaur pelvis carries a useful phylogenetic signal. Resolution in recovered trees was poor, but they approximately matched trees recovered from analyses of total evidence. We also added Vectidraco and our pelvic characters to an existing total-evidence matrix for pterosaurs. Both analyses recovered Vectidraco within Azhdarchoidea. CONCLUSIONSSIGNIFICANCE: The Lower Cretaceous strata of western Europe have yielded members of several pterosaur lineages, but Aptian pterosaurs from western Europe are rare. With a pelvis length of 40 mm, the new animal would have had a total length of c. 350 mm, and a wingspan of c. 750 mm. Barremian and Aptian pterodactyloids from western Europe show that small-bodied azhdarchoids lived alongside ornithocheirids and istiodactylids. This assemblage is similar in terms of which lineages are represented to the coeval beds of Liaoning, China; however, the number of species and specimens present at Liaoning is much higher. While the general phylogenetic composition of western European and Chinese communities appear to have been approximately similar, the differences may be due to different palaeoenvironmental and depositional settings. The western Europe pterodactyloid record may therefore be artificially low in diversity due to preservational factors.

Concepts: Acetabulum, Western Europe, Ilium, Europe, Pterodactyloidea, Cretaceous, Pelvis, Pterosaur


Upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is one of the most common, high risk emergency disorders in the western world. Almost nothing has been reported on longer term prognosis following upper GI bleeding. The aim of this study was to establish mortality up to three years following hospital admission with upper GI bleeding and its relationship with aetiology, co-morbidities and socio-demographic factors.

Concepts: Central Europe, Western Europe, Surgery, Western culture, Gastrointestinal bleeding, Western world, Gastroenterology, Upper gastrointestinal bleeding


To ascertain patterns of parental smoking in the vicinity of children in Eastern and Western Europe and their relation to Tobacco Control Scale (TCS) scores.

Concepts: France, Greece, European Union, Finland, Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Europe


The human settlement of Europe during Pleistocene times was sporadic and several stages have been recognized, both from paleaoanthropological and archaeological records. If the first phase of hominin occupation (as early as 1.4 Ma) seems mainly restricted to the southern part of the continent, the second phase, characterized by specific lithic tools (handaxes), is linked to Acheulean settlements and to the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis, the ancestor of Neanderthals. This phase reached northwestern Europe and is documented in numerous sites in Germany, Great Britain and northern France, generally after 600 ka. At la Noira (Brinay, Central France), the Middle Pleistocene alluvial formation of the Cher River covers an archaeological level associated with a slope deposit (diamicton). The lithic assemblage from this level includes Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), flakes and cores, associated with numerous millstone slabs. The lithic series is classified as Acheulean on the basis of both technological and typological analyses. Cryoturbation features indicate that the slope deposits and associated archaeological level were strongly frozen and disturbed after hominin occupation and before fluvial deposition. Eight sediment samples were dated by the electron spin resonance (ESR) method and the weighted average age obtained for the fluvial sands overlying the slope deposits is 665±55 ka. This age is older than previous chronological data placing the first European Acheulean assemblages north of 45(th) parallel north at around 500 ka and modifies our current vision of the initial peopling of northern Europe. Acheulean settlements are older than previously assumed and the oldest evidences are not only located in southern Europe. La Noira is the oldest evidence of Acheulean presence in north-western Europe and attests to the possibility of pioneering phases of Acheulean settlement which would have taken place on a Mode 1-type substratum as early as 700 ka. The lithic assemblage from la Noira thus provides behavioral and technological data on early Acheulean occupation in Europe and contributes to our understanding of the diffusion of this tradition.

Concepts: France, Northern Europe, United Kingdom, Acheulean, Europe, Archaeology, Great Britain, Western Europe


The incidence of food allergy has increased dramatically in the last few decades in westernized developed countries. We propose that the Western lifestyle and diet promote innate danger signals and immune responses through production of “alarmins.” Alarmins are endogenous molecules secreted from cells undergoing nonprogrammed cell death that signal tissue and cell damage. High molecular group S (HMGB1) is a major alarmin that binds to the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE). Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are also present in foods. We propose the “false alarm” hypothesis, in which AGEs that are present in or formed from the food in our diet are predisposing to food allergy. The Western diet is high in AGEs, which are derived from cooked meat, oils, and cheese. AGEs are also formed in the presence of a high concentration of sugars. We propose that a diet high in AGEs and AGE-forming sugars results in misinterpretation of a threat from dietary allergens, promoting the development of food allergy. AGEs and other alarmins inadvertently prime innate signaling through multiple mechanisms, resulting in the development of allergic phenotypes. Current hypotheses and models of food allergy do not adequately explain the dramatic increase in food allergy in Western countries. Dietary AGEs and AGE-forming sugars might be the missing link, a hypothesis supported by a number of convincing epidemiologic and experimental observations, as discussed in this article.

Concepts: Western world, Protein, Western Europe, Immune system, Nutrition, Asthma, Food, Allergy


Modern European genetic structure demonstrates strong correlations with geography, while genetic analysis of prehistoric humans has indicated at least two major waves of immigration from outside the continent during periods of cultural change. However, population-level genome data that could shed light on the demographic processes occurring during the intervening periods have been absent. Therefore, we generated genomic data from 41 individuals dating mostly to the late 5th/early 6th century AD from present-day Bavaria in southern Germany, including 11 whole genomes (mean depth 5.56×). In addition we developed a capture array to sequence neutral regions spanning a total of 5 Mb and 486 functional polymorphic sites to high depth (mean 72×) in all individuals. Our data indicate that while men generally had ancestry that closely resembles modern northern and central Europeans, women exhibit a very high genetic heterogeneity; this includes signals of genetic ancestry ranging from western Europe to East Asia. Particularly striking are women with artificial skull deformations; the analysis of their collective genetic ancestry suggests an origin in southeastern Europe. In addition, functional variants indicate that they also differed in visible characteristics. This example of female-biased migration indicates that complex demographic processes during the Early Medieval period may have contributed in an unexpected way to shape the modern European genetic landscape. Examination of the panel of functional loci also revealed that many alleles associated with recent positive selection were already at modern-like frequencies in European populations ∼1,500 years ago.

Concepts: Asia, Middle Ages, Genetics, Spain, Genome, Western Europe, Gene, Europe


There is growing empirical evidence that anthropogenic climate change will substantially affect the electric sector. Impacts will stem both from the supply side-through the mitigation of greenhouse gases-and from the demand side-through adaptive responses to a changing environment. Here we provide evidence of a polarization of both peak load and overall electricity consumption under future warming for the world’s third-largest electricity market-the 35 countries of Europe. We statistically estimate country-level dose-response functions between daily peak/total electricity load and ambient temperature for the period 2006-2012. After removing the impact of nontemperature confounders and normalizing the residual load data for each country, we estimate a common dose-response function, which we use to compute national electricity loads for temperatures that lie outside each country’s currently observed temperature range. To this end, we impose end-of-century climate on today’s European economies following three different greenhouse-gas concentration trajectories, ranging from ambitious climate-change mitigation-in line with the Paris agreement-to unabated climate change. We find significant increases in average daily peak load and overall electricity consumption in southern and western Europe (∼3 to ∼7% for Portugal and Spain) and significant decreases in northern Europe (∼-6 to ∼-2% for Sweden and Norway). While the projected effect on European total consumption is nearly zero, the significant polarization and seasonal shifts in peak demand and consumption have important ramifications for the location of costly peak-generating capacity, transmission infrastructure, and the design of energy-efficiency policy and storage capacity.

Concepts: United Kingdom, European Union, Sweden, Western Europe, Norway, Europe, Global warming, Climate change


Major trauma (MT) has traditionally been viewed as a disease of young men caused by high-energy transfer mechanisms of injury, which has been reflected in the configuration of MT services. With ageing populations in Western societies, it is anticipated that the elderly will comprise an increasing proportion of the MT workload. The aim of this study was to describe changes in the demographics of MT in a developed Western health system over the last 20 years.

Concepts: Western culture, Gerontology, Demography, Old age, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Sociology, Death


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was discovered in the early 1980s when the virus had already established a pandemic. For at least three decades the epidemic in the Western World has been dominated by subtype B infections, as part of a sub-epidemic that traveled from Africa through Haiti to United States. However, the pattern of the subsequent spread still remains poorly understood. Here we analyze a large dataset of globally representative HIV-1 subtype B strains to map their spread around the world over the last 50years and describe significant spread patterns. We show that subtype B travelled from North America to Western Europe in different occasions, while Central/Eastern Europe remained isolated for the most part of the early epidemic. Looking with more detail in European countries we see that the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland exchanged viral isolates with non-European countries than with European ones. The observed pattern is likely to mirror geopolitical landmarks in the post-World War II era, namely the rise and the fall of the Iron Curtain and the European colonialism. In conclusion, HIV-1 spread through specific migration routes which are consistent with geopolitical factors that affected human activities during the last 50years, such as migration, tourism and trade. Our findings support the argument that epidemic control policies should be global and incorporate political and socioeconomic factors.

Concepts: Iron Curtain, Central Europe, World War II, Western world, Eastern Europe, Cold War, Western Europe, Europe