Weekly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-up

Here are some of the latest PLoS ONE articles to catch the attention of the media and the blogosphere.

The powerful Habsburg dynasty ruled Spain and its empire from 1516 to 1700 but King Charles II died in 1700 without any children from his two marriages, the male line died out and the French Bourbon dynasty came to power in Spain. Gonzalo Alvarez and a team of Spanish researchers published an article in which they show, providing genetic evidence, that the high frequency of inbreeding (mating between closely related individuals) within the Spanish Habsburgs was a major cause for the extinction of the male line by calculating the inbreeding coefficient of Charles II and 3,000 of his relatives and ancestors, across 16 generations.

Coverage of the study was extensive, with articles in the Independent, the Times Online, Reuters and the Financial Times and, internationally, in El Paìs, Le Monde and Corriere della Sera. In the blogosphere, John Hawks wrote about the study and Gene Expression and Not Exactly Rocket Science helped to make the paper the featured story on the ScienceBlogs homepage.

The Neanderthals inhabited a vast geographical area extending from Europe to western Asia and the Middle East 30,000 to 100,000 years ago but there has been debate as to whether they formed a single, homogeneous group or were divided into several sub-groups. Previous studies, based on morphological skeletal evidence have offered some support for the existence of three different sub-groups of Neanderthals and in a new article published in PLoS ONE, Virginia Fabre and colleagues at the Université de la Méditerranée, France, confirm the presence of three separate sub-groups and also speculate that a fourth sub-group may have existed.

According to the authors, the variability among the Neanderthal population is interpreted to be an indirect consequence of the particular climatic conditions on their territorial extension during the entire middle Pleistocene time period. The researchers hope their methodology will be applied to questions concerning Neanderthal cultural diversity. This study was covered by Live Science, La Repubblica, USA Today’s Science Fair blog, Gene Expression and John Hawks’s Blog.

Last week’s article Wild Chimpanzees Exchange Meat for Sex on a Long-Term Basis received some blog coverage. Eric Michael Johnson of The Primate Diaries wrote an excellent analysis. This article was also mentioned on Laelaps, Nobel Intent and Sandwalk.

Finally, Reuters has covered another PLoS ONE paper published on April 15, this one entitled, A Novel Method for Detection of Phosphorylation in Single Cells by Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) using Composite Organic-Inorganic Nanoparticles (COINs). In the study, Catherine Shachaf at Stanford University and her team report a new imaging technique, which makes use of specially designed, dye-containing nanoparticles to track changes in cancer cells.

From the Other PLoS Journals

In a recent PLoS Medicine article, Joachim Scholz and colleagues report a new standardized tool to be used in the assessment of chronic pain, which can differentiate between subtypes of pain and may therefore help to customize treatment. The study was highlighted by BBC News, CBS News and La Stampa.

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