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Birds, bees, Beethoven–and other PLOS research making June headlines!

New research from PLOS ONE shows that flowers near managed hives may be one of the sources of virus transmission from infected honey bees to wild bumblebees. 

Lead author Samantha Alger summarizes:  “The study supports a widely accepted yet largely untested hypothesis: viruses are spilling over from managed honey bees into wild bumble bee species and this is likely occurring through the shared use of flowers,” noting that careful monitoring and treatment of diseased honeybee colonies could help mitigate the damage from these viruses to wild bees. Read more about this work on the Economist, the Independent, and IFLScience.

A recent study from PLOS Biology uses a new device that noninvasively measures blood flow and oxygenation in the brain and blubber of harbor seals to better understand the biology behind mammalian diving. The device showed that harbor seals routinely reduced blood flow to their blubber, thereby slowing oxygen consumption, around 15 seconds before diving into water. This indicates the seals have conscious control over their dive reflex (previously thought to be a purely automatic response). 

Dive deeper into these findings at the New Scientist and the Daily Mail. 

Another recent paper from PLOS Biology describes how birds of a feather flock together–even when it’s more energetically costly to fly as a group. The authors compared the flight characteristics of solo and paired pigeons making a 7km flight, and found that paired individuals had improved homing accuracy (which reduced the flight distance and time); the cost of this accuracy was an increase in speed and wingbeat frequency compared to solo fliers. The fact that pigeons are willing to pay this energetic premium underscores the importance of flocking together.

Lead author Lucy Taylor adds: “The results of this study were completely unexpected. Energy is the currency of life so it’s astonishing that the birds are prepared to pay a substantial energetic cost to fly together.”

 Read more at the New York Daily News and New Atlas, or check out a video at

Finally, a new study from PLOS ONE mathematically characterizes Beethoven’s string quartets for the first time, applying statistical and data science techniques to reveal recurring patterns in the great composer’s music. 

Read more at Forbes, Cosmos Magazine, and The Week–and have a listen to the string quartets inspiring this work, too.  


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