Current Biology
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Feb 05, 2018

Volume 28Issue 3p333-488, R89-R134
Open Archive
On the cover: Mentawai shamans of Siberut Island (Indonesia) perform turut bilou, a traditional dance accompanied by singing and stomping that enacts an encounter among gibbons. In this issue, Mehr et al. (pages 356–368) show form-function associations in human music. Songs used for dancing, healing illness, and calming infants exhibit domain-specific sets of perceptible features. People in 60 countries listened to brief excerpts of field recordings from 86 societies, including an excerpt of a Mentawai turut bilou performance. Ratings of perceived functions accurately reflected the songs’ actual functions and were nearly identical across groups of listeners. Photograph © Rob Henry; used with permission....
On the cover: Mentawai shamans of Siberut Island (Indonesia) perform turut bilou, a traditional dance accompanied by singing and stomping that enacts an encounter among gibbons. In this issue, Mehr et al. (pages 356–368) show form-function associations in human music. Songs used for dancing, healing illness, and calming infants exhibit domain-specific sets of perceptible features. People in 60 countries listened to brief excerpts of field recordings from 86 societies, including an excerpt of a Mentawai turut bilou performance. Ratings of perceived functions accurately reflected the songs’ actual functions and were nearly identical across groups of listeners. Photograph © Rob Henry; used with permission.



  • Eyes on our planet

    • Michael Gross
    Combining several satellite-based tracking technologies with big data methods and machine learning, fisheries experts can now efficiently monitor the entirety of the oceans and ensure that legal limits and protected areas are respected. Observing our planet from space is also fruitful in other areas of conservation, ecology and climate research.

Book review

  • An inordinate fondness for protists

    • Wallace F. Marshall
    Close your eyes and throw a dart at a random eukaryote — chances are you’ll hit a protist. Cats and birds may dominate the airwaves and internet, but, in terms of sheer biodiversity, the protists — defined as the single-celled eukaryotes — are infinitely more varied in terms of form and function. Figure 1 gives just a few examples of the myriad geometrical structures seen among the protists. I would venture to say that nothing else in the natural world can compete in terms of diverse and interesting morphology.

Q & A

  • Cathie Martin

    • Cathie Martin
    Interview with Cathie Martin, who studies plant science and nutritional enhancement of food at the John Innes Centre.

Quick guide


  • Inherent limits of light-level geolocation may lead to over-interpretation

    • Simeon Lisovski,
    • Heiko Schmaljohann,
    • Eli S. Bridge,
    • Silke Bauer,
    • Andrew Farnsworth,
    • Sidney A. Gauthreaux Jr.,
    • Steffen Hahn,
    • Michael T. Hallworth,
    • Chris M. Hewson,
    • Jeffrey F. Kelly,
    • Felix Liechti,
    • Peter P. Marra,
    • Eldar Rakhimberdiev,
    • Jeremy D. Ross,
    • Nathaniel E. Seavy,
    • Michael D. Sumner,
    • Caz M. Taylor,
    • David W. Winkler,
    • Simon J. Wotherspoon,
    • Michael B. Wunder
    Lisovski et al. respond to a Current Biology paper by Streby et al. on small migratory bird moving long distances to avoid a tornado hitting their breeding grounds and show that the reported locations during this evacuation movement cannot be disentangled from the inherent error of the used tracking technique.
  • Response to Lisovski et al.

    • Henry M. Streby,
    • Gunnar R. Kramer,
    • Sean M. Peterson,
    • Justin A. Lehman,
    • David A. Buehler,
    • David E. Andersen
    Streby et al. describe the flawed premise and methods of Lisovski et al. (2018) and provide additional evidence in support of the original conclusion of Streby et al. (2015) that Golden-winged Warblers moved from their breeding sites ahead of a massive storm system, movements that cannot be explained by demonstrably absent environmental shading.



  • Multi-level Crowding and the Paradox of Object Recognition in Clutter

    • Mauro Manassi,
    • David Whitney
    Crowding is the primary limit on conscious object recognition but, as Manassi and Whitney review, there is a seeming paradox: crowding happens at multiple stages of visual analysis, limiting perceptual access to individual objects, but crowded information is maintained intact at each level and influences subsequent visual processing.


  • Modulation of Host Learning in Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes

    • Clément Vinauger,
    • Chloé Lahondère,
    • Gabriella H. Wolff,
    • Lauren T. Locke,
    • Jessica E. Liaw,
    • Jay Z. Parrish,
    • Omar S. Akbari,
    • Michael H. Dickinson,
    • Jeffrey A. Riffell
    Mosquitoes show an ability to avoid defensive hosts, but the mechanisms mediating these shifts in host preferences are unclear. Vinauger et al. show that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes rapidly learn host odors and that learning is dependent on the dopamine-1 receptor. Understanding the mechanisms of learning may provide new tools for mosquito control.
  • Bacteria Use Collective Behavior to Generate Diverse Combat Strategies

    • Despoina A.I. Mavridou,
    • Diego Gonzalez,
    • Wook Kim,
    • Stuart A. West,
    • Kevin R. Foster
    Mavridou, Gonzalez, et al. show that the laboratory workhorse Escherichia coli is capable of surprisingly diverse and complex behavior during combat with other strains. This includes detecting incoming attacks and alerting clonemates to generate massive counter-attacks that eliminate competitors.
  • Form and Function in Human Song

    • Samuel A. Mehr,
    • Manvir Singh,
    • Hunter York,
    • Luke Glowacki,
    • Max M. Krasnow
    Mehr and Singh et al. show form-function associations in vocal music detectable by listeners worldwide. People in 60 countries heard songs from 86 societies. They inferred the functions of dance, lullaby, and healing from song forms alone. Ratings were nearly identical across listener cohorts and were guided by the contextual and musical features of the songs.
  • TOM70 Sustains Cell Bioenergetics by Promoting IP3R3-Mediated ER to Mitochondria Ca2+ Transfer

    • Riccardo Filadi,
    • Nuno Santos Leal,
    • Bernadette Schreiner,
    • Alice Rossi,
    • Giacomo Dentoni,
    • Catarina Moreira Pinho,
    • Birgitta Wiehager,
    • Domenico Cieri,
    • Tito Calì,
    • Paola Pizzo,
    • Maria Ankarcrona
    Filadi et al. show that TOM70, a component of the mitochondrial translocase of the outer membrane, has an IP3R3-dependent but translocase-independent function that sustains cell bioenergetics. TOM70 clusters at ER-mitochondria contacts, recruits IP3R3, and promotes inter-organelle Ca2+ transfer, bioenergetics, and cell proliferation.
  • Repression of Cell Differentiation by a cis-Acting lincRNA in Fission Yeast

    • Sylvain Fauquenoy,
    • Valerie Migeot,
    • Olivier Finet,
    • Carlo Yague-Sanz,
    • Olga Khorosjutina,
    • Karl Ekwall,
    • Damien Hermand
    Fauquenoy et al. report the first example of a yeast long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) that regulates the expression of the neighboring ste11 gene through scaffolding of a repressive complex. This constitutes an RNA-based mechanism of repression of cell differentiation.
  • Pupil Size Coupling to Cortical States Protects the Stability of Deep Sleep via Parasympathetic Modulation

    • Özge Yüzgeç,
    • Mario Prsa,
    • Robert Zimmermann,
    • Daniel Huber
    Using infrared back-illumination pupillometry in head-fixed sleeping mice, Yüzgeç et al. show that pupil diameter is tightly coupled to cortical states during sleep. Pharmacological and light-stimulation experiments reveal that the pupillary constrictions are parasympathetically driven and might have a protective function to stabilize deep sleep.


  • Phase Entrainment of Brain Oscillations Causally Modulates Neural Responses to Intelligible Speech

    • Benedikt Zoefel,
    • Alan Archer-Boyd,
    • Matthew H. Davis
    Using simultaneous tACS-fMRI recordings, Zoefel et al. show that the alignment of neural oscillations to stimulus rhythm causally modulates neural responses to speech. The effect is specific for intelligible speech, supporting the notion that neural entrainment is a mechanism tailored to optimize speech processing.
  • Hunter-Gatherer Olfaction Is Special

    • Asifa Majid,
    • Nicole Kruspe
    People struggle to name odors, but this limitation is not universal. Majid and Kruspe investigate whether superior olfactory performance is due to subsistence, ecology, or language family. By comparing closely related communities in the Malay Peninsula, they find that only hunter-gatherers are proficient odor namers, suggesting that subsistence is crucial.
  • Prefrontal Control of Visual Distraction

    • Joshua D. Cosman,
    • Kaleb A. Lowe,
    • Wolf Zinke,
    • Geoffrey F. Woodman,
    • Jeffrey D. Schall
    Cosman et al. simultaneously record neurons in FEF and ERPs over extrastriate cortex in monkeys performing a distraction task, showing that behavioral control over distraction results from suppressed processing of distractor items. Suppression in FEF precedes that in extrastriate cortex, suggesting a prefrontal source of distraction control.
  • TIR Domain Proteins Are an Ancient Family of NAD+-Consuming Enzymes

    • Kow Essuman,
    • Daniel W. Summers,
    • Yo Sasaki,
    • Xianrong Mao,
    • Aldrin Kay Yuen Yim,
    • Aaron DiAntonio,
    • Jeffrey Milbrandt
    Essuman et al. demonstrate that the TIR domains from many prokaryotic proteins possess intrinsic NAD+ cleavage activity. Their findings suggest that the primordial function of the TIR domain is to cleave NAD+, and that this large class of proteins is a central and previously unappreciated regulator of metabolism.
  • Single-Parent Expression Is a General Mechanism Driving Extensive Complementation of Non-syntenic Genes in Maize Hybrids

    • Jutta A. Baldauf,
    • Caroline Marcon,
    • Andrew Lithio,
    • Lucia Vedder,
    • Lena Altrogge,
    • Hans-Peter Piepho,
    • Heiko Schoof,
    • Dan Nettleton,
    • Frank Hochholdinger
    Baldauf et al. examine the plasticity of the transcriptomic landscape of a diverse panel of maize inbred lines and their F1 hybrids during primary root development. They demonstrate that extreme expression complementation driven by non-syntenic genes is a general mechanism that extensively shapes the transcriptomic plasticity of hybrids.
  • A New Cretaceous Insect with a Unique Cephalo-thoracic Scissor Device

    • Ming Bai,
    • Rolf Georg Beutel,
    • Weiwei Zhang,
    • Shuo Wang,
    • Marie Hörnig,
    • Carsten Gröhn,
    • Evgeny Yan,
    • Xingke Yang,
    • Benjamin Wipfler
    Bai et al. describe †Caputoraptor elegans, an unusual insect embedded in ∼100-Ma-old Burmese amber. It is the only known insect with a scissor-like device formed by wing-like ridges on the posterior head and corresponding edges on the first thoracic segment. The authors assume that females used this mechanism to hold on to males during copulation.
  • A Transient Rise in Free Mg2+ Ions Released from ATP-Mg Hydrolysis Contributes to Mitotic Chromosome Condensation

    • Kazuhiro Maeshima,
    • Tomoki Matsuda,
    • Yutaka Shindo,
    • Hiromi Imamura,
    • Sachiko Tamura,
    • Ryosuke Imai,
    • Syoji Kawakami,
    • Ryosuke Nagashima,
    • Tomoyoshi Soga,
    • Hiroyuki Noji,
    • Kotaro Oka,
    • Takeharu Nagai
    How the negatively charged long genomic DNA is organized into mitotic chromosome remains unclear. Using a newly developed Mg2+ indicator, Maeshima et al. demonstrate a transient rise in free Mg2+ released from ATP-Mg during mitosis and suggest that the rise contributes to mitotic chromosome condensation by charge neutralization.
  • Visual Features in the Perception of Liquids

    • Jan Jaap R. van Assen,
    • Pascal Barla,
    • Roland W. Fleming
    van Assen et al. use the visual perception of flowing liquids to uncover the computations underlying the brain’s sensory inferences about materials. By comparing observers’ viscosity ratings with perceived shape features, they show how the brain exploits 3D shape and motion cues to infer viscosity across contexts despite dramatic image changes.
  • Maternal Inheritance of a Single Somatic Animal Cell Displayed by the Bacteriocyte in the Whitefly Bemisia tabaci

    • Junbo Luan,
    • Xuepeng Sun,
    • Zhangjun Fei,
    • Angela E. Douglas
    Luan et al. find that a cell bearing symbiotic bacteria is transferred to each sexual egg of whiteflies and retained through embryo development, leading to the maternal inheritance of a somatic cell with divergent genotype from other cells in the insect body. This mode of inheritance violates the germline/soma separation in animal development.
  • KIN7 Kinase Regulates the Vacuolar TPK1 K+ Channel during Stomatal Closure

    • Jean Charles Isner,
    • Afroza Begum,
    • Thomas Nuehse,
    • Alistair M. Hetherington,
    • Frans J.M. Maathuis
    Stomatal closure critically depends on K+ release from the guard cell vacuole. Isner et al. show that the TPK1 vacuolar K+ channel is important for ABA- and CO2-mediated stomatal closure and that channel activation involves TPK1 phosphorylation by the KIN7 receptor-like protein kinase, which co-expresses in the tonoplast and plasma membrane.
  • Genetic Regulation of the 2D to 3D Growth Transition in the Moss Physcomitrella patens

    • Laura A. Moody,
    • Steven Kelly,
    • Ester Rabbinowitsch,
    • Jane A. Langdale
    Moody et al. use forward genetics, somatic hybridization, and genome sequencing to identify NO GAMETOPHORES 1 (PpNOG1), a gene that regulates the two-dimensional (2D) to three-dimensional (3D) growth transition in the moss Physcomitrella patens. PpNOG1 promotes the formation of apical initials that are required for the establishment of 3D growth.
  • Generative Cell Specification Requires Transcription Factors Evolutionarily Conserved in Land Plants

    • Shohei Yamaoka,
    • Ryuichi Nishihama,
    • Yoshihiro Yoshitake,
    • Sakiko Ishida,
    • Keisuke Inoue,
    • Misaki Saito,
    • Keitaro Okahashi,
    • Haonan Bao,
    • Hiroyuki Nishida,
    • Katsushi Yamaguchi,
    • Shuji Shigenobu,
    • Kimitsune Ishizaki,
    • Katsuyuki T. Yamato,
    • Takayuki Kohchi
    Land plants differentiate germ cells in the haploid gametophyte. Yamaoka et al. identify subfamily VIIIa bHLHs as core regulators for reproductive development in land plants: two members are required for generative cell specification in Arabidopsis thaliana, and a single member controls gametangial development in Marchantia polymorpha.