In PLOS Biology this week you can read research articles about dinosaurs, DNA repair, TNFα and neural crest cell migration. We also have an essay on invasive species management and a perspective asking why genital evolution research shows a male bias.
Most of the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. However one exceptionally successful lineage is still around today – the birds. Roger Benson, David Evans and colleagues have put forward a possible explanation for their success. The adaptive radiation hypothesis predicts that organisms will diversify into a multitude of new forms, to fill available niches and maintain their evolutionary potential. By estimating the body mass of 426 dinosaur species, Benson and colleagues showed that rapid changes in body size, including dramatic reduction, took place soon after the bird lineage appeared, and that this high potential for diversification has been sustained ever since, allowing them to survive where other dinosaurs failed. Read more about adaptive radiation in the accompanying primer.
Tim Blackburn and colleagues, in their essay this week, call for a more unified approach to classifying alien species. They present a classification system which allows each species to be assigned an impact level – from Minimal to Massive. Currently the management of alien species does not usually take into account the variation of impacts between species and ecosystems, and even cases where there are net benefits to their presence. Limited resources can be better allocated if a more integrated approach is taken.
The neural crest is an important population of migratory cells which in the developing vertebrate give rise to a diverse range of cell types such as bone and smooth muscle. Adam Tuttle, Thomas Schilling and colleagues found, using a zebrafish model, a role for the endosomal protein Rabconnectin-3a in Wnt signalling during neural crest migration, suggesting a role for endosomes in this process.
Damage to DNA can result in mutations leading to cell death or cancer. Therefore the cell’s mechanisms for repairing DNA are vital. In a new research article this week, Fabio Pessina & Noel Lowndes show the importance of the RSF1 chromatin remodeling protein in facilitating repairs. This protein coordinates the process, so that damaged DNA becomes more accessible to other repair proteins. People with mutations that affect these proteins can have an increased risk of cancer and shortened life span.
A perspective this week by Malin Ah-King, Andrew Barron & Marie Herbertstein asks why the focus of research into the evolution of animal genitalia shows such a strong male bias. They argue that our understanding of genital evolution is hampered by an outdated single-sex bias. Read more in a blog post by PLOS Biology editor Roli Roberts.
Overexpression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) is implicated in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore anti-TNFα therapies are used in their treatment. However side effects can include the onset of skin diseases psoriasis and lichen planus. Sergio Candel, Victoriano Mulero & colleagues used a zebrafish model to explain the mechanism by which TNFα depletion causes skin inflammation. Some of the players in this feedback loop could potentially be useful in treatment of these skin disorders.