In this week’s PLoS ONE media digest: mapping change in large networks, speed gene in racehorses, Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, smelling cancer in urine, and much more.
Martin Rosvall of Umeå University in Sweden and Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington devised a new mathematical technique using citations of publications as data to map changes in scientific disciplines, discovering, for example, that neuroscience only came into its own as an independent discipline over the last decade or so. They describe (with wonderful visualisations) their work in the article Mapping Change in Large Networks which was covered, among others, by io9, The Scientist blog and RedOrbit.
Thoroughbred racehorses, all tracing their pedigrees back to only three stallions and 20+ mares a few centuries ago, are highly inbred animals. Yet, some horses become stars on the racetrack, while others tend to finish last. Some individuals win sprints while others do best at longer distances. Now, a group from the University College Dublin identified variants of the MSTN gene encoding myostatin that correlate with preferred racing distances for individual racehorses. It is not a surprise that their article A Sequence Polymorphism in MSTN Predicts Sprinting Ability and Racing Stamina in Thoroughbred Horses was covered by a large number of horse and racing magazines, as well as by BusinessWeek and Irish Times.
Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park is a hotspot of biodiversity. Yet, it also lies on top of large oil reserves. A large multinational group conducted the first comprehensive synthesis of biodiversity data in the Park and discovered that this area is a species richness center for amphibian, bird, mammal, and plant distributions. Their article Global Conservation Significance of Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park was covered by the New York Times’s Dot Earth blog, , Endless Forms, Great Beyond and Mongabay.com among others.
Having lung cancer affects the chemical composition of urine. In the article Urinary Volatile Compounds as Biomarkers for Lung Cancer: A Proof of Principle Study Using Odor Signatures in Mouse Models of Lung Cancer, a multinational group of researchers discovered that laboratory mice can detect, using the sense of smell, these chemical changes. Thus, a bioassay using mice may be a novel diagnostic test for detection of lung cancer. This study was covered in numerous media outlets, including BusinessWeek and Times of India.
The article Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats? which demonstrates surprising resistance to the effects of alcohol consumption in bats was covered by the blog Dormivigilia. The study Favorable Climate Change Response Explains Non-Native Species’ Success in Thoreau’s Woods was blogged by the Voltage Gate.