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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE [A Blog Around The Clock]

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Posted by admin | Posted in צמחי מרפא ורפואה משלימה | Posted on 29-04-2010

There are 31 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

A Dominance Hierarchy of Auditory Spatial Cues in Barn Owls:

Barn owls integrate spatial information across frequency channels to localize sounds in space. We presented barn owls with synchronous sounds that contained different bands of frequencies (3-5 kHz and 7-9 kHz) from different locations in space. When the owls were confronted with the conflicting localization cues from two synchronous sounds of equal level, their orienting responses were dominated by one of the sounds: they oriented toward the location of the low frequency sound when the sources were separated in azimuth; in contrast, they oriented toward the location of the high frequency sound when the sources were separated in elevation. We identified neural correlates of this behavioral effect in the optic tectum (OT, superior colliculus in mammals), which contains a map of auditory space and is involved in generating orienting movements to sounds. We found that low frequency cues dominate the representation of sound azimuth in the OT space map, whereas high frequency cues dominate the representation of sound elevation. We argue that the dominance hierarchy of localization cues reflects several factors: 1) the relative amplitude of the sound providing the cue, 2) the resolution with which the auditory system measures the value of a cue, and 3) the spatial ambiguity in interpreting the cue. These same factors may contribute to the relative weighting of sound localization cues in other species, including humans.

Human Direct Actions May Alter Animal Welfare, a Study on Horses (Equus caballus):

Back pain is the cause of bad welfare in humans and animals. Although vertebral problems are regularly reported on riding horses, these problems are not always identified nor noticed enough to prevent these horses to be used for work. Nineteen horses from two riding centres were submitted to chiropractic examinations performed by an experienced chiropractor and both horses' and riders' postures were observed during a riding lesson. The results show that 74% of horses were severely affected by vertebral problems, while only 26% were mildly or not affected. The degree of vertebral problems identified at rest was statistically correlated with horses' attitudes at work (neck height and curve), and horses' attitudes at work were clearly correlated with riders' positions. Clear differences appeared between schools concerning both riders' and horses' postures, and the analysis of the teachers' speech content and duration highlighted differences in the attention devoted to the riders' position. These findings are to our knowledge the first to underline the impact of riding on horses' back problems and the importance of teaching proper balance to beginner riders in order to increase animals' welfare.

A Currency for Offsetting Energy Development Impacts: Horse-Trading Sage-Grouse on the Open Market:

Biodiversity offsets provide a mechanism to compensate for unavoidable damages from new energy development as the U.S. increases its domestic production. Proponents argue that offsets provide a partial solution for funding conservation while opponents contend the practice is flawed because offsets are negotiated without the science necessary to backup resulting decisions. Missing in negotiations is a biologically-based currency for estimating sufficiency of offsets and a framework for applying proceeds to maximize conservation benefits. Here we quantify a common currency for offsets for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by estimating number of impacted birds at 4 levels of development commonly permitted. Impacts were indiscernible at 1-12 wells per 32.2 km2. Above this threshold lek losses were 2-5 times greater inside than outside of development and bird abundance at remaining leks declined by −32 to −77%. Findings reiterated the importance of time-lags as evidenced by greater impacts 4 years after initial development. Clustering well locations enabled a few small leks to remain active inside of developments. Documented impacts relative to development intensity can be used to forecast biological trade-offs of newly proposed or ongoing developments, and when drilling is approved, anticipated bird declines form the biological currency for negotiating offsets. Monetary costs for offsets will be determined by true conservation cost to mitigate risks such as sagebrush tillage to other populations of equal or greater number. If this information is blended with landscape level conservation planning, the mitigation hierarchy can be improved by steering planned developments away from conservation priorities, ensuring compensatory mitigation projects deliver a higher return for conservation that equate to an equal number of birds in the highest priority areas, provide on-site mitigation recommendations, and provide a biologically based cost for mitigating unavoidable impacts.

Characterisation of Nitric Oxide Synthase in Three Cnidarian-Dinoflagellate Symbioses:

Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is an enzyme catalysing the conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline and nitric oxide (NO), the latter being an essential messenger molecule for a range of biological processes. Whilst its role in higher vertebrates is well understood little is known about the role of this enzyme in early metazoan groups. For instance, NOS-mediated signalling has been associated with Cnidaria-algal symbioses, however controversy remains about the contribution of enzyme activities by the individual partners of these mutualistic relationships. Using a modified citrulline assay we successfully measured NOS activity in three cnidarian-algal symbioses: the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida, the hard coral Acropora millepora, and the soft coral Lobophytum pauciflorum, so demonstrating a wide distribution of this enzyme in the phylum Cnidaria. Further biochemical (citrulline assay) and histochemical (NADPH-diaphorase) investigations of NOS in the host tissue of L. pauciflorum revealed the cytosolic and calcium dependent nature of this enzyme and its in situ localisation within the coral's gastrodermal tissue, the innermost layer of the body wall bearing the symbiotic algae. Interestingly, enzyme activity could not be detected in symbionts freshly isolated from the cnidarians, or in cultured algal symbionts. These results suggest that NOS-mediated NO release may be host-derived, a finding that has the potential to further refine our understanding of signalling events in cnidarian-algal symbioses.

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