PLOS Biology has something for everyone this month with a wide range of biological research hitting the press. February saw studies on customising plant microbiomes, gesturing primates, sensing health, reproducing animal studies, and conserving our world.
Our first February paper asks whether one can tailor microbial root communities to help a plant’s productivity. The authors presented a scheme that could predict which bacterial species helped plants respond to phosphate starvation. This first step may help future researchers define bespoke plant “probiotics” that would have predictable desirable effects on the host plants.
Decoding bonobo gestures suggests that if a bonobo and a chimpanzee met face to face, they would probably understand each other’s gestures. Video analysis of bonobo signals and the level of ‘response satisfaction’ shown by the gesturer has helped to define the meaning of each gesture, and shows that chimpanzee and bonobo gestures share a surprising overlap in meaning. Check out the paper, and The Great Ape Dictionary and gesture videos. So far this paper has been covered in New Scientist, Science, and Daily Mail.
Wearable fitness trackers have once again shown their value in biomedical research. Using data from a large cohort of healthy volunteers researchers have shown that activity data could be used to identify individuals at increased risk of having enlarged hearts, and could predict various markers of risk for cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Reproducibility in pre-clinical research is a hot topic and key issue in biomedical science. This paper suggests that, contrary to current practices that enforce rigidly uniform conditions in single labs, studies based in multiple labs and with diverse study samples can significantly improve the reproducibility of experimental results. The researchers argue that highly standardised laboratory conditions run the risk of getting results that only apply under very specific conditions.
Finally, February saw the launch of a new PLOS Biology Collection: Conservation Stories from the Front Lines. This collection captures the long-neglected human side of science by entering the tragedy, comedy, and (mis)adventures that shape research. The stories come from scientists working to manage and preserve biodiversity, and offer a new way to engage diverse audiences in today’s pressing scientific issues.
Join us next month for more research hot off the press!