This April edition includes: the differences between urban mice and their rural relatives in New York, a personal perspective on modelling the climate system, unexpected diversity in the colour vision of Amazonian uakaris, tracking the movements of mosquitoes around sleeping humans, and a potential method using recombinant polysaccharides for pneumococcal vaccine production.
Urbanization is a key driver of global environmental change. For the first time, the impact of urbanization on the genetic variation of the white-footed deer mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) in New York has been explored using population genomic modelling. To investigate whether city living is responsible for the genetic differences between urban and rural mice, Harris et al compared data obtained from DNA fragments from across genomes in 23 populations to computational models. The findings, published in Biology Letters, show that two distinct landscape processes had an effect on the evolutionary history of the mice. These include the separation of Long Island from the mainland portion of the city at the end of the last ice age, and more recently the urban development of New York. These findings have implications for understanding how other animals respond to human driven changes to the environment.
Modelling the climate system
It is difficult to reliably estimate the effects of anthropogenic (man-made) carbon emissions on regional climate change. Climate models represent our best attempt to simulate our changing climate. However, climate models continue to exhibit pervasive errors when compared with observations, and it is difficult to remove these errors. An invited perspective in Proceedings A puts forward a number of proposals to solve this problem, including retraining schemes for post PhD talent with physics and mathematics backgrounds to encourage recruitment into the climate modelling field. Their skills would aid the development of next-generation climate models. The author also emphasize the importance of collaboration and calls for a European programme to meet this challenge.
The perks of being a redhead
Colour vision has been important in primate and human evolution. Most research has focused on adaptations of colour vision to environmental conditions but there has been relatively little work on mammals. A study published in Proceedings B explores, for the first time, colour vision in Amazonian uakaris and shows that they have greater variation in colour vision than any other primate documented. In addition, there is the potential for up to 21 distinct types of colour vision in females in the same population. Bald uakaris have a red head that may function to attract potential mates which suggests that sexual selection may be a contributing factor to colour vision variation. The next step will involve carrying out behavioural studies to further understand the selective forces acting on colour vision.
Tracking nocturnal mosquitoes
Mosquitoes that transmit infections live in human homes but knowledge of their behaviour into how they find and attack humans is limited. The authors of this paper published in Interface have developed a novel sensing system to record activity of mosquitoes attacking humans at night, and have applied this in the laboratory and in rural Tanzania. This method could help with the development of more effective tools that could help prevent the transmission of malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important human pathogen that is responsible for an estimated 14 million cases of pneumonia worldwide annually, and over 1 million deaths, the majority of them children. There are 95 serotypes of Streptococcus pneuomoniae recognized in a scheme that is based on the cell surface located capsular polysaccharide. The capsule of Streptococcus pneumoniae is a powerful immunogen and so forms the basis of the majority of vaccines against this pathogen. Researchers have used a common laboratory bacterial strain to reproduce the capsule polysaccharide of the serotypes most frequently associated with pneumococcal disease. This work, published in Open Biology, provides a platform for the production of an unlimited source of glycans for pneumococcal vaccines at a low cost and will greatly improve accessibility of the vaccine in developing countries.