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Open Reading Frame brings together a selection of recent publication highlights from elsewhere in  the open access ecosystem. This week we take a look at the past few weeks in biology.


Cryptic lichen, hidden fungi?

Five new species of previously unidentified lichen-forming fungi have been uncovered from what was previously thought to be a single species. The various Rhizoplaca species, a lichen found on calciferous rocks, were identified by DNA barcoding of a single  specimen in the genus that had previously only been characterised by looking at its morphological features – highlighting how new genetic techniques could help uncover a hidden world of fungal diversity.
Leavitt et al. MycoKeys


Why the long face? Different facial features battle it out for survival
Face width in human males is known to be associated with increased levels of testosterone and aggression, but how this evolutionary feature translates into survival success in wartime is not well known. By studying the faces and fates of Finnish soldiers from documents collated on the Winter war of 1939-1940, John Loehr and Robert O’Hara find that although a wide face might not help your chances of survival in battle, it might just increase your lifetime reproductive success – but at the expense of military career progression.
Loehr & O’Hara. Biology Letters


 “Today, just about any scientist can walk out their laboratory doors, point to a living thing and say, ‘I will sequence you!’”

An opinion piece from David Roy Smith asks whether it might  be time to write the obituary for the traditional genome paper, and wonders whether such publications might evolve into something sufficiently new, such that reports of their death could be somewhat exaggerated.
Smith DR. Frontiers in Genetics


Plasma nano-suit helps bugs survive in a vacuum
John Mayow famously investigated the unfortunate effects that the removal of  air had on the lives of mice, in his ‘“bell-jar”’ experiments in the 17th Century. Over 300 years later and a team of Japanese researchers have now shown that exposing fruit fly larvae to an ionized cloud of particles – or plasma —creates a thin polymer nano-suit around the bugs that provides a strong tolerance to these  otherwise deadly vacuum conditions.
Takaku et al. PNAS


A European genetic union: Continent-wide common ancestry over the last millennia
Analysis of data from the genomes of more than 2000 people from all over Europe finds that any two individuals are likely to have shared a  common ancestor from just 1000 years ago, with some regional populations leaving echoes of history in their genetic ancestry. Populations in southeastern Europe, for example,  share large numbers of ancestors that date back to the expansion of the Slavic and  Hun people around 1,500 years ago.
Ralph & Coop. PLoS Biology


Stimulation to calculation: Boosting the brain with a blast of noise  
If your ability to do mental arithmetic doesn’t add-up to much, a new technique to stimulate the brain with high-frequency electrical noise might just help. Participants who underwent five days of transcranial random noise stimulation – an undetectable and non-invasive technique – were able to perform calculations faster than those volunteers that underwent an identical sham procedure. Although the cause of this cognitive enhancement is not well understood, the technique appears to provide long-lasting effects, with these same volunteers retaining their mental mettle a full six months after testing.
Snowball et al. Current Biology


A wake-up call for plant timekeeping
Although children may sometimes blow the white seed-heads of dandelions away in an attempt to tell the time, plants do in fact have their own internal cellular timepieces, regulated by genetic feedback that tells night from day. However, new research on the aptly-named REVEILLE8 protein overturns current models by suggesting that this regulation more closely resembles a highly connected network, rather than the coupled morning and evening feedback loops that were previously thought to operate.
Hsu et al. eLife


Written by Simon Harold, Senior Executive Editor for the BMC Series.


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