It’s coming to the end of another year and so we’re taking a look back over just some of the publications that have featured in Royal Society Open Science this year. From the structural makeup of fruit peel, to the ancestral history of Madagascan dogs, to modelling how exactly water droplets adhere to leaves; the papers published this year have spanned the breadth of scientific expertise. At just over a year old, this journal continues to present a broad selection of cutting edge research.


             A fascinating and very exciting study was that of Lister et al. who discovered a potentially novel way to control the spread of cancerous cells. Periostin is a protein that promotes cell motility and is thought to play a major role in the metastasis of many cancers. The authors of this paper found that by silencing its production at the transcriptional and epigenetic level they were able to inhibit cell motility and thus create an environment less conducive to the spread of cancerous cells.



Credit: Juan Emilio, via Wikimedia Commons

             Moving from molecular biology to animal behaviour, thus far sexual selection studies in birds have tended to primarily focus on the behaviour and physical attributes of males. However, this interesting study, found that in domestic canaries (Serinus canaria) females respond to males, telling them what they do and do not like. Therefore, females influence male attributes in a much more direct manner than previously supposed.


             Did you know that there are glow-in-the-dark sharks? Well there are, and up until now scientists didn’t know why they glowed. A study published in July supported the idea that these bioluminescent markings aid intraspecific communication. In addition, they proposed that the high level of speciation within the lantern shark genus (Etmopterus) has been aided by the possession of these markings; easy identification of individuals enhancing the speed of speciation.



Credit: CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

             It has been found that fruit peel is more than just an aesthetic casing for the fleshy reward within. The peel acts almost as an airbag for the seeds and flesh protecting them from their fall from the tree or plant from which they drop. Researchers examined the peel of pomelos (Citrus maximus), a tropical citrus fruit. It’s structure is similar to a sponge filled with water. Exposing fresh peel, and peel that had been freeze-dried, to the force representative of impact with the ground, they found that reduced water content (in the freeze-dried peel) greatly reduced the shock absorbing capability of the peel.


             Sticking with structure but on a larger scale this time. In recent times the digital reconstruction of the musculature of dinosaurs has given much insight into their behaviour. Researchers added an extra layer of knowledge in the form of the muscle strain capabilities of the jaw muscles of theropod dinosaurs in a study published earlier this month. They found that the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus rex had musculature which enabled a wide gape allowing it to open its mouth wide to attack and bite its prey. Conversely, Erlikosaurus andrewsi, a herbivorous species has a narrower gape similar to the jaw movement capabilities of extant vertebrate herbivores.


             Photographs shared online have been used by researchers to model human mobility patterns. This is a classic example of how freely available data can be used by governments and planning bodies to develop infrastructure that truly serves the demands of the public. They found that their results reflected official figures of movements between major global cities thus highlighting the potential of this model on a global scale.


High Altitude Balloon

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, via Wikimedia Commons

             High altitude tethered balloons have gained a significant amount of attention in recent years due to their potential applications in various areas including communication, surveillance and meteorological observations. However, the issue as to refuelling them while in the atmosphere has now arisen. Using the tether itself as a pipeline to the balloon is one of the currently suggested methods and a paper published this summer discusses the issues surrounding pumping conditions including the phase state of the fuel components, the radius of the pipe itself, and the varying pressure considerations.


             Finally, a constant urge to shirk conformity and stand out from the crowd is found within many people. Unfortunate news for such individuals comes from a study that has shown that such attempts can obtain exactly the opposite results than those originally aimed for. Smaldino and Epstein found that by trying to avoid conformity people in fact end up all looking the same as they follow the same route in their attempt to achieve distinctiveness.


              These are only a small selection of the numerous publications produced so far this year. If you would like to share your favourites with us we would love to hear from you. Tweet or share your views on our Facebook page.

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