Current Biology
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Sep 12, 2022

Volume 32Issue 17p3659-3870, R897-R934
On the cover: Murres are among the most densely nesting species on Earth. In this issue, Patterson et al. (pages 3800–3807) demonstrate a strong “density-dependent” cost to living at such high densities, with individuals at the largest colonies forced to forage farther than those at small colonies. This overhead photo shows thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia) nesting on sea cliffs at a colony on Coats Island, Nunavut, Canada. Photograph © Douglas Noblet; used with permission....
On the cover: Murres are among the most densely nesting species on Earth. In this issue, Patterson et al. (pages 3800–3807) demonstrate a strong “density-dependent” cost to living at such high densities, with individuals at the largest colonies forced to forage farther than those at small colonies. This overhead photo shows thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia) nesting on sea cliffs at a colony on Coats Island, Nunavut, Canada. Photograph © Douglas Noblet; used with permission.



  • Tales from the urban jungle

    • Michael Gross
    Cities are a hostile environment for some species but offer opportunities for others. As urbanisation continues to spread, it is important to understand how species are affected by, cope with and adapt to city life. Community science projects are making valuable contributions to this understanding.

Q & A

Quick guide

  • Soybean

    • Chao Fang,
    • Fanjiang Kong
    Chao Fang and Fanjiang Kong introduce the polyploid staple crop, soybean – a major source of dietary protein and oil and model species for root nodulation and plant-developmental studies.


    Featured Article
  • Transposable elements

    • Alexander Hayward,
    • Clément Gilbert
    Transposable elements are a near ubiquitous feature of eukaryotic genomes, and they are among the most abundant coding sequences in nature. In this Primer, Hayward and Gilbert discuss key aspects of transposable element biology and highlight major outstanding research questions.



  • Plant development: Elementary changes determine leaf shape complexity

    • Mary E. Byrne
    Leaves come in a wide variety of shapes, from simple to lobed to dissected. A new study suggests this variation is determined by a preferred evolutionary genetic pathway that modifies shape by regulating regional growth in the developing leaf.
  • Intracellular transport: KIF1C produces force along with a few slips

    • William O. Hancock
    A new study investigates the transport and force-generating properties of KIF1C, a member of the kinesin-3 motor family, finding that KIF1C is better able to sustain loads than its sibling KIF1A and that patient-derived mutants are particularly defective in their ability to generate force.
  • Evolution: Hidden homologies may underpin the diversity of arthropods

    • Peter K. Dearden
    Arthropods are remarkable for the diversity of their exoskeletons. A new study shows that these structures, from crustacean carapaces to insect wings, may be homologous and derived from hidden developmental structures preserved through arthropod evolution.
  • Evolution: A can of (flat)worms

    • Deborah Charlesworth
    A recent paper suggests that the flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea has an autosome that is ‘primed’ to evolve into a sex chromosome. However, this chromosome could be a balanced-lethal system and may illuminate these puzzling systems.
  • Maternity: Oxytocin circuits during birth and lactation

    • Eduard Maier,
    • Michael Brecht
    Maternity transforms body, brain and behavior. A new study analyzing the activity of oxytocin neurons across birth and lactation revealed strengthening of suckling responses in mice. Although this did not involve major rewiring of inputs to oxytocin neurons, inhibition from the stria terminalis was found to pattern the suckling responses.
  • Bacterial immunity: Mobile genetic elements are hotspots for defence systems

    • Anne Chevallereau,
    • Edze R. Westra
    A new study reports that phage-inducible chromosomal islands (PICIs) are hotspots of defence systems against phages, other PICIs and plasmids. This discovery highlights how competition between mobile genetic elements shapes bacterial defence gene repertoires and helps to better understand how defence systems are exchanged among bacteria.
  • Extinction: The downsizing of morphospace

    • T. Jonathan Davies
    Birds with unusual traits are at elevated risk of extinction. Future avian assemblages are therefore likely to be less morphologically varied than they are today, reducing the diversity of ecosystems services they can support, and their capacity for adaptive change.
  • Memory: Dolphins remember incidental events

    • Jonathon D. Crystal
    A fundamental problem in the evolution of cognition is the search for complex memory systems given the longstanding belief that complex cognition is unique to humans. Along these lines, new research suggests that bottlenose dolphins can answer unexpected questions after encoding information that was seemingly unimportant when it was encountered.
  • Stem cells: Mitochondrial biogenesis links growth and EGFR signaling

    • Louis Gervais,
    • Allison J. Bardin
    Epidermal growth factor receptor signaling is central to cell proliferation, growth, and survival and is often deregulated in cancers. A new study links downstream effectors of this receptor to stem cell growth via mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolic reprogramming.


  • Excitatory and inhibitory neural dynamics jointly tune motion detection

    • Aneysis D. Gonzalez-Suarez,
    • Jacob A. Zavatone-Veth,
    • Juyue Chen,
    • Catherine A. Matulis,
    • Bara A. Badwan,
    • Damon A. Clark
    Motion detection is thought to rely critically on the timing of signals in upstream neurons. Gonzalez-Suarez et al. manipulate the response timing of individual cell types in the Drosophila’s early visual system to reveal how upstream response timing drives downstream sensitivity to stimulus velocity.
  • Predictive maps in rats and humans for spatial navigation

    • William de Cothi,
    • Nils Nyberg,
    • Eva-Maria Griesbauer,
    • Carole Ghanamé,
    • Fiona Zisch,
    • Julie M. Lefort,
    • Lydia Fletcher,
    • Coco Newton,
    • Sophie Renaudineau,
    • Daniel Bendor,
    • Roddy Grieves,
    • Éléonore Duvelle,
    • Caswell Barry,
    • Hugo J. Spiers
    Open Access
    de Cothi et al. use a novel open-field modular maze to test the spatial navigation abilities of humans and rats, comparing them to simulated reinforcement learning agents. They find that humans and rats are remarkably similar in their choice of trajectories, with both species displaying most similarity to agents utilizing a successor representation.
  • Transient food insecurity during the juvenile-adolescent period affects adult weight, cognitive flexibility, and dopamine neurobiology

    • Wan Chen Lin,
    • Christine Liu,
    • Polina Kosillo,
    • Lung-Hao Tai,
    • Ezequiel Galarce,
    • Helen S. Bateup,
    • Stephan Lammel,
    • Linda Wilbrecht
    Open Access
    Developmental food insecurity impacts adult brain, behavior, and weight. Lin et al. compare mice raised with ad libitum food access to mice that experienced 20 days of irregular access to food. In adulthood, males showed differences in cognitive flexibility and changes in dopamine neuron synapses. Females showed no cognitive effects but altered weight gain.
  • EGFR signaling activates intestinal stem cells by promoting mitochondrial biogenesis and β-oxidation

    • Chenge Zhang,
    • Yinhua Jin,
    • Marco Marchetti,
    • Mitchell R. Lewis,
    • Omar T. Hammouda,
    • Bruce A. Edgar
    Zhang et al. show that through its downstream transcriptional effectors Cic, Pnt, and Est21C, EGFR signaling upregulates mtTFB2 and β-oxidation, OXPHOS, and TCA cycle genes. These transcriptomic effects drive mitochondrial biogenesis and increase mitochondria activity to facilitate intestinal stem cell growth and proliferation.
  • Blind cavefish retain functional connectivity in the tectum despite loss of retinal input

    • Evan Lloyd,
    • Brittnee McDole,
    • Martin Privat,
    • James B. Jaggard,
    • Erik R. Duboué,
    • German Sumbre,
    • Alex C. Keene
    Open Access
    Lloyd et al. apply functional brain imaging in multiple populations of cavefish to define changes in visual processing that accompanies the evolution of eye loss.
  • Mosquito cryptochromes expressed in Drosophila confer species-specific behavioral light responses

    • David D. Au,
    • Alexander J. Foden,
    • Soo Jee Park,
    • Thanh H. Nguyen,
    • Jenny C. Liu,
    • Mary D. Tran,
    • Olga G. Jaime,
    • Zhaoxia Yu,
    • Todd C. Holmes
    Open Access
    Au et al. show that transgenic expression of diurnal and nocturnal mosquito species’ CRY in Drosophila transduces light-evoked behavior and neurophysiological effects matching their functions in mosquitoes. Nocturnal mosquito CRY1 shows significantly greater behavioral and electrophysiological light responses than diurnal mosquito CRY1.
  • A unicellular walker controlled by a microtubule-based finite-state machine

    • Ben T. Larson,
    • Jack Garbus,
    • Jordan B. Pollack,
    • Wallace F. Marshall
    Open Access
    Larson et al. analyze the motility of the unicellular organism Euplotes eurystomus, which uses leg-like appendages called cirri to walk across surfaces. Walking involves an unusual gait with elements of variability and stereotypy in patterns of cirral activity. Gait coordination is mediated by an internal system of bundled microtubules.
  • Complex representation of taste quality by second-order gustatory neurons in Drosophila

    • Nathaniel J. Snell,
    • John D. Fisher,
    • Griffin G. Hartmann,
    • Bence Zolyomi,
    • Mustafa Talay,
    • Gilad Barnea
    Snell et al. adapt a transsynaptic labeling strategy to image calcium responses of second-order gustatory projection neurons in Drosophila. Sweet and bitter activate overlapping populations of projection neurons. Projection neurons respond to both bitter onset and offset, and some regions respond to both sweet onset and bitter offset.
  • The cellular basis for synergy between RCO and KNOX1 homeobox genes in leaf shape diversity

    • Yi Wang,
    • Sören Strauss,
    • Shanda Liu,
    • Bjorn Pieper,
    • Rena Lymbouridou,
    • Adam Runions,
    • Miltos Tsiantis
    Open Access
    Wang et al. use a genetic screen and live imaging to show that synergy of RCO and KNOX1 homeobox genes creates a preferred developmental path for leaflet formation in crucifer plants. The cellular basis for this synergy is a combination of prolonged growth, repressed growth, and anisotropic growth of different cells in the leaf bud.


  • A causal role for the human subthalamic nucleus in non-selective cortico-motor inhibition

    • Jan R. Wessel,
    • Darcy A. Diesburg,
    • Nathan H. Chalkley,
    • Jeremy D.W. Greenlee
    Wessel et al. causally link the human subthalamic nucleus (STN) to non-selective motor inhibition. Combining transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep-brain stimulation (DBS), they show that the broad effects of rapid action stopping on cortico-spinal excitability (which are present OFF-DBS and in healthy controls) are absent when STN is disrupted via DBS.
  • The Daphnia carapace and other novel structures evolved via the cryptic persistence of serial homologs

    • Heather S. Bruce,
    • Nipam H. Patel
    Bruce and Patel show that the carapace of crustaceans like Daphnia is homologous to the crustacean tergal plate and insect wing and evolved from an ancient, cryptic head lobe. This ancient head lobe persists in other arthropods in a subtle or cryptic form. Cryptic persistence may thus be a general solution for the origin of novel structures.
  • Foraging range scales with colony size in high-latitude seabirds

    • Allison Patterson,
    • H. Grant Gilchrist,
    • Sigurd Benjaminsen,
    • Mark Bolton,
    • Anne Sophie Bonnet-Lebrun,
    • Gail K. Davoren,
    • Sébastien Descamps,
    • Kjell Einar Erikstad,
    • Morten Frederiksen,
    • Anthony J. Gaston,
    • Julia Gulka,
    • Jonas Hentati-Sundberg,
    • Nicholas Per Huffeldt,
    • Kasper Lambert Johansen,
    • Aili Lage Labansen,
    • Jannie Fries Linnebjerg,
    • Oliver P. Love,
    • Mark L. Mallory,
    • Flemming Ravn Merkel,
    • William A. Montevecchi,
    • Anders Mosbech,
    • Olof Olsson,
    • Ellie Owen,
    • Norman Ratcliffe,
    • Paul M. Regular,
    • Tone Kristin Reiertsen,
    • Yan Ropert-Coudert,
    • Hallvard Strøm,
    • Thorkell Lindberg Thórarinsson,
    • Kyle H. Elliott
    Seabird colony size can vary over several orders of magnitude. Colony size likely plays an important role in determining individual behavior. Using tracking data from murres, the world’s most densely breeding seabirds, Patterson et al. show how the distribution of foraging-trip distances scales to colony size, consistent with Ashmole’s halo theory.
  • Early evolution of wing scales prior to the rise of moths and butterflies

    • Jiajia Wang,
    • Weiting Zhang,
    • Michael S. Engel,
    • Xianyong Sheng,
    • Chungkun Shih,
    • Dong Ren
    Lepidochlamidae of Trichoptera and Tarachoptera in the mid-Cretaceous (99 Ma) have small and angustifoliate scales. Based on phylogenetic and morphometric analyses, Wang et al. suggest that scales are the ancestral state in Endymenoptera, followed by a major loss in Eutrichoptera and developed in moths and butterflies respectively.
  • Possible long-proboscid insect pollinators from the Early Permian of Russia

    • Alexander V. Khramov,
    • Sergey V. Naugolnykh,
    • Piotr Węgierek
    Mutualism between plants and pollinating insects plays crucial role in terrestrial ecosystems, but its evolutionary origins remain obscure. Khramov et al. report the Early Permian insects with elongate siphonate mouthparts and their possible host plants, suggesting that advanced pollination systems may have evolved earlier than previously thought.
  • Recording and manipulation of the maternal oxytocin neural activities in mice

    • Hiroko Yukinaga,
    • Mitsue Hagihara,
    • Kazuko Tsujimoto,
    • Hsiao-Ling Chiang,
    • Shigeki Kato,
    • Kazuto Kobayashi,
    • Kazunari Miyamichi
    Yukinaga et al. establish chronic Ca2+ imaging of genetically defined OT neurons in parturient and lactating mother mice. The pulsatile activities of OT neurons are dynamically modulated by state and lactation experience. Based on an input map, they show that BST inhibitory neurons can modulate the pulsatile activities of OT neurons in mother mice.
  • The homogenization of avian morphological and phylogenetic diversity under the global extinction crisis

    • Emma C. Hughes,
    • David P. Edwards,
    • Gavin H. Thomas
    Open Access
    The global extinction crisis will lead to widespread losses of morphological diversity. Hughes et al. show that predicted species extinctions drive far greater declines of ecological strategies than predicted, with important ramifications for humans as ecosystem services are lost. In contrast, phylogenetic diversity declines as expected.
  • Apical dominance control by TAR-YUC-mediated auxin biosynthesis is a deep homology of land plants

    • Mattias Thelander,
    • Katarina Landberg,
    • Arthur Muller,
    • Gladys Cloarec,
    • Nik Cunniffe,
    • Stéphanie Huguet,
    • Ludivine Soubigou-Taconnat,
    • Véronique Brunaud,
    • Yoan Coudert
    Thelander et al. identify genetic regulators of apical dominance in the leafy shoot of a moss. They propose that similar branching modes, which evolved by convergence in bryophytes and vascular plants, are underpinned by a conserved molecular mechanism driving auxin biosynthesis in meristematic regions.
  • Non-linear multimodal integration in a distributed premotor network controls proprioceptive reflex gain in the insect leg

    • Corinna Gebehart,
    • Scott L. Hooper,
    • Ansgar Büschges
    Gebehart et al. report a mechanism in the insect leg motor system that alters reflex gain of one proprioceptive modality (movement) in the presence of another (load). Presynaptic afferent inhibition leads to non-linear signal integration in the distributed premotor network, strengthening opposing pathways, thereby reducing movement reflex gain.
  • Sponges sneeze mucus to shed particulate waste from their seawater inlet pores

    • Niklas A. Kornder,
    • Yuki Esser,
    • Daniel Stoupin,
    • Sally P. Leys,
    • Benjamin Mueller,
    • Mark J.A. Vermeij,
    • Jef Huisman,
    • Jasper M. de Goeij
    Open Access
    Kornder et al. show that the Caribbean tube sponge Aplysina archeri moves particle-trapping mucus against the direction of its internal water flow and sneezes it into the surrounding water. The material released by this sponge is enriched in organic carbon and nitrogen and scavenged upon by associated reef fauna.
  • Force generation of KIF1C is impaired by pathogenic mutations

    • Nida Siddiqui,
    • Daniel Roth,
    • Algirdas Toleikis,
    • Alexander J. Zwetsloot,
    • Robert A. Cross,
    • Anne Straube
    Open Access
    Siddiqui et al. characterize single-molecule force generation by kinesin-3 KIF1C and report the intermediate properties between the strong kinesin-1 and backslip-prone kinesin-3 KIF1A. Two KIF1C mutations causing hereditary spastic paraplegia permit fast and processive single-molecule motility but are severely impaired under load.