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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


The aim of this article is to investigate the association between corruption and antibiotic use at sub-national level. We explore the correlation between, on the one hand, two measures of corruption (prevalence of corruption in the health sector and prevalence of bribes in the society) at regional level from the European Quality of Government Index; and, on the other, the consumption of antibiotics in those European regions from a 2009 Special Euro Barometer. In a multivariate regression model, we control for potential confounders: purchasing power of standardized regional gross domestic product, inhabitants per medical doctor and age-standardized all-cause mortality rates. We find that there is a strong positive association between both measures of corruption (i.e. in the health sector, and in the society at large) and antibiotics use; and that this association is robust to the introduction of the control variables. These results support previous findings in the literature linking corruption to higher antibiotic use at cross-national level. We show that corruption does seem to account for some of the remarkable between-region variation in antibiotic consumption in Europe.

Concepts: European Union, Antibiotic, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, United Kingdom, Regression analysis, Medicine


8000 years ago, prior to Neolithic agriculture, Europe was mostly a wooded continent. Since then, its forest cover has been progressively fragmented, so that today it covers less than half of Europe’s land area, in many cases having been cleared to make way for fields and pasture-land. Establishing the origin of Europe’s current, more open land-cover mosaic requires a long-term perspective, for which pollen analysis offers a key tool. In this study we utilise and compare three numerical approaches to transforming pollen data into past forest cover, drawing on >1000 14C-dated site records. All reconstructions highlight the different histories of the mixed temperate and the northern boreal forests, with the former declining progressively since ~6000 years ago, linked to forest clearance for agriculture in later prehistory (especially in northwest Europe) and early historic times (e.g. in north central Europe). In contrast, extensive human impact on the needle-leaf forests of northern Europe only becomes detectable in the last two millennia and has left a larger area of forest in place. Forest loss has been a dominant feature of Europe’s landscape ecology in the second half of the current interglacial, with consequences for carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

Concepts: Landscape, Central Europe, Ecology, Europe, Germany, Forest, Western Europe, Ecosystem


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


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


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


Physical functioning (PF) is an essential domain of older persons' health and quality of life. Health behaviors are the main modifiable determinants of PF. Cross-sectionally, alcohol consumption appears to be linked to better PF, but longitudinal evidence is mixed and very little is known about alcohol consumption and longitudinal PF trajectories.

Concepts: Romania, Western Europe, Gross domestic product, Islam, Europe, Central Europe, Life, Eastern 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


Concern has recently emerged regarding the safety of natural health products (NHPs)-therapies that are increasingly recommended by various health providers, including conventional physicians. Recognizing that most individuals in the Western world now consume vitamins and many take herbal agents, this study endeavored to determine levels of toxic element contamination within a range of NHPs.

Concepts: Christendom, Soviet Union, Central Europe, Western Europe, Medicine, Western culture, Western world