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.
Wild zebra finches provide useful early warning systems for their nesting partners when incubating eggs. Birds in monogamous relationships leave the safety of their nests far earlier when potential predators approach compared to single parents. This is because their partners act as long-range sentinels to warn them of imminent danger.
Mainwaring & Griffith. PeerJ
When Pterosaurs pterrorised the skies in Cretaceous England
A fossil deposit in the east of England known as the Cambridge Greensand contains one of the richest assemblages of fossilised flying reptiles – Pterosaurs – in the world, with around 2000 identified species. Now, the most comprehensive review of these fossils, which exist mostly as the remains of their snout-bones, updates some of the disputed relationships in their taxonomic tree and finds that species diversity might have been greater than previously thought.
Rodrigues & Kellner. ZooKeys
Giant viruses such as the Mimiviruses are some of the largest and most complex viruses known. These amoeba-infecting agents can reach sizes comparable with some small bacteria, with genomes to match. A new study now unravels some of the mechanisms underlying how these structures assemble themselves, and finds that the internal membrane of each virus is created in a multistage process that enables lethally efficient replication of new viruses.
Mutsafi et al. PLoS Pathogens
The recessive nature of juvenile Parkinson’s disease is Really Interesting
Mutations in a gene called PARK2 cause around half of all cases of juvenile Parkinson’s disease – an early onset variant of the degenerative disorder that affects people under 20 years of age. Loss of function of the enzyme encoded by this gene causes changes to cells involved in dopamine secretion, although the exact relationship with pathogenesis of the disease is not clear. By determining the molecular structures of these enzymes, researchers from Cancer Research UK and the University of Western Ontario find that mutations in key parts of the enzyme called Really Interesting New Gene (RING) domains cause crucial changes to the shape of the enzyme that affect their function.
Spratt et al. Nature Communications
The Hawaiian bobtail squid has some rather special little friends. Bioluminescent bacteria called Vibrio fischeri live within light-emitting organs on the upper-side of the squid’s body and, in exchange for some delicious sugars, provide much-needed camouflage from predators by carefully matching light levels to the surrounding environment. However, in order to find their lighthouse homes, they must first navigate their way toward a juvenile squid. Using a combination of genetic analyses and transcriptional profiling, Brennan and colleagues identify key genes that enable these helpful bacteria to swim, and sense, their way there.
Brennan et al. MicrobiologyOpen
Sympathetic sweating: passive exercise by watching sport
Watching videos of other people exercising vigorously increases muscle sympathetic nerve activity, heart rate, respiration, and skin blood flow, even when you’ve got your feet up. Research participants in Australia were subjected to an immersive experience of watching pre-recorded runners complete endurance exercises whilst also having their vital signs monitored, where they displayed surprisingly high physical responses, even though only passively involved.
Brown et al. Frontiers in Neuroscience
Written by Simon Harold, Senior Executive Editor for the BMC Series.