Thursday, October 7, 2010

Biodiversity on Broadway - Enigmatic Diversity of the Societies of Ants (Formicidae) on the Streets of New York City

'Each year, a larger proportion of the Earth's surface is urbanized, and a larger proportion of the people on Earth lives in those urban areas. The everyday nature, however, that humans encounter in cities remains poorly understood. Here, we consider perhaps the most urban green habitat, street medians. We sampled ants from forty-four medians along three boulevards in New York City and examined how median properties affect the abundance and species richness of native and introduced ants found on them. Ant species richness varied among streets and increased with area but was independent of the other median attributes measured. Ant assemblages were highly nested, with three numerically dominant species present at all medians and additional species present at a subset of medians. The most common ant species were the introduced Pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum) and the native Thief ant (Solenopsis molesta) and Cornfield ant (Lasius neoniger). The common introduced species on the medians responded differently to natural and disturbed elements of medians. Tetramorium caespitum was most abundant in small medians, with the greatest edge/area ratio, particularly if those medians had few trees, whereas Nylanderia flavipes was most abundant in the largest medians, particularly if they had more trees. Many of the species encountered in Manhattan were similar to those found in other large North American cities, such that a relatively small subset of ant species probably represent most of the encounters humans have with ants in North America'.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dr Harald Labischinski tribute

We are very sorry to hear that Harald Labischinski, Faculty Member for Pharmacology @ Faculty of 1000, former CEO of MerLion Pharmaceuticals and member of the ICAAC Program Committee, has sadly died. Dr Labischinski was a great asset to anti-infective research throughout his distinguished career and was strongly involved in the development of a number of significant anti-infective programs. Beyond his retirement, he continued to follow his passion for drug research and provided invaluable help and support to several companies in drug discovery and development, as well as being a committed and passionate teacher at the Free University of Berlin. His contribution to the field will be greatly missed.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Do Recognize Themselves in the Mirror: Implications for the Evolution of Self-Recognition

 Rajala AZ, Reininger KR, Lancaster KM, Populin LC (2010) Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Do Recognize Themselves in the Mirror: Implications for the Evolution of Self-Recognition. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12865. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012865
Self-recognition in front of a mirror is used as an indicator of self-awareness. Along with humans, some chimpanzees and orangutans have been shown to be self-aware using the mark test. Monkeys are conspicuously absent from this list because they fail the mark test and show persistent signs of social responses to mirrors despite prolonged exposure, which has been interpreted as evidence of a cognitive divide between hominoids and other species. In stark contrast with those reports, the rhesus monkeys in this study, who had been prepared for electrophysiological recordings with a head implant, showed consistent self-directed behaviors in front of the mirror and showed social responses that subsided quickly during the first experimental session. The self-directed behaviors, which were performed in front of the mirror and did not take place in its absence, included extensive observation of the implant and genital areas that cannot be observed directly without a mirror. We hypothesize that the head implant, a most salient mark, prompted the monkeys to overcome gaze aversion inhibition or lack of interest in order to look and examine themselves in front of the mirror. The results of this study demonstrate that rhesus monkeys do recognize themselves in the mirror and, therefore, have some form of self-awareness. Accordingly, instead of a cognitive divide, they support the notion of an evolutionary continuity of mental functions.