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Fire, Ice and Another Week of PLoS ONE News Headlines

Continuing the trend for a prominent PLoS press presence (my favourite new tongue-twister), PLoS ONE enjoyed yet another week of great news coverage last week, with four papers generating a large number of news articles and blog posts. It’s been another week of contrasts, from Antarctic fish to Arctic fires, and from memory in moths to cocktail chatter; and this is just a small selection of the 42 papers published last Wednesday. The only surprise was that not many journalists, apart from the Times of India, picked up the paper by Dale et al. in which the researchers used the Wiimote to measure participants’ arm movements in learning tasks.

Hamish Campbell and colleagues at the University of Birmingham studied a species of Antarctic fish, Notothenia coriiceps, that effectively goes into hibernation during those long, Antarctic winters. This is unusual, as fish aren’t normally able to suppress their metabolic rate independently of water temperature whereas Campbell and his fellow researchers found that the metabolic rates of these Antarctic fish were lowered in winter despite the fact that the water temperature didn’t decrease very much. The study was published in an article entitled Hibernation in an Antarctic Fish: On Ice for Winter and led to the following news articles and posts (and not a single mention of Captain Birdseye among them!):

BBC News – Antarctic fish's winter 'sleep'
The Daily Telegraph – Fish that hibernates in freezing Antarctic water
National Geographic – Antarctic Fish "Hibernate" in Winter
The Daily Mirror – Scientists find hibernating fish in Antarctic
Wired News – Researchers Find a Hibernating Fish
Reuters – Scientists find hibernating fish in Antarctic

On the top of the world, meanwhile, was the study of fires in the tundra of the Arctic by Philip Higuera at Montana State University. The paper, Frequent Fires in Ancient Shrub Tundra: Implications of Paleorecords for Arctic Environmental Change, evoked some very Frostian imagery and captured the attention of the following news publications and blogs:

New Scientist – Global warming may raise tundra wildfire risk
Science Daily – Warming Climate May Cause Arctic Tundra To Burn
Bloomberg – Arctic Tundra May Burn as Global Warming Increases Shrub Cover
Journal Watch Online – Baked Alaska

From under the sea and over the land to up in the skies, Douglas Blackiston and colleagues at Georgetown University examined whether moths and butterflies can remember their experiences as a caterpillar. They found that caterpillars that received an electric shock in association with a specific odour still showed aversion to the same odour as adults. The paper, Retention of Memory through Metamorphosis: Can a Moth Remember What It Learned As a Caterpillar? was covered in the following articles and blog posts, among others:

New Scientist – Butterflies remember caterpillar experiences
National Geographic – Moths Remember Lessons Learned While Caterpillars
Science – Shocked Moth Remembers Past Life as Caterpillar!

Philadelphia Inquirer – Could it be the butterfly that never forgets?
People’s Daily Online, China – Do butterflies remember being caterpillars?
ABC Science Online – Moths remember life as caterpillar
Science Daily – Can Moths Or Butterflies Remember What They Learned As Caterpillars?
Not Exactly Rocket Science – Moths remember what they learn as caterpillars
Wired News – Butterflies Remember What They Learned as Caterpillars
World Science – Butterflies may keep memories of caterpillar youth

Finally, if you have ever wondered how it is you are able to hear and understand the person to whom you are talking at a busy, noisy party, look no further than Holger Schulze’s paper, Auditory Cortical Contrast Enhancing by Global Winner-Take-All Inhibitory Interactions. Schulze and colleagues looked at this phenomenon, known as the cocktail-party-problem, which we are able to overcome thanks to the ability of the human auditory system to decompose the acoustic world into discrete objects of perception; these insights may well help to improve the experience of wearers of hearing aids at cocktail parties. The Daily Telegraph (Brain trick opens possibilities for smart hearing aids) and Reuters (Pitch is key to cocktail party conversation: study) each wrote an article about the study too.

As always, all of these articles – and everything else we publish – are freely available to read in full and can be rated, annotated and discussed on the PLoS ONE website.

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