Current Biology
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Nov 05, 2018

Volume 28Issue 21p3355-3522, R1221-R1282
Open Archive
On the cover: Myotis daubentonii, like many species of bats and birds, hunt close to the water surface. Flying close to a surface may save energy through ground effect, which is an aerodynamic interaction between the wing and the surface. In this issue, Johansson et al. (pages 3502–3507) show, through direct measurements of the energy added to the air by the bats, that when flying close to a surface, animals may save twice as much energy as expected from theory. The large savings challenge our understanding about how animals may benefit from ground effect and may affect our understanding of the evolution of flight. Photograph © Jens Rydell; used with permission....
On the cover: Myotis daubentonii, like many species of bats and birds, hunt close to the water surface. Flying close to a surface may save energy through ground effect, which is an aerodynamic interaction between the wing and the surface. In this issue, Johansson et al. (pages 3502–3507) show, through direct measurements of the energy added to the air by the bats, that when flying close to a surface, animals may save twice as much energy as expected from theory. The large savings challenge our understanding about how animals may benefit from ground effect and may affect our understanding of the evolution of flight. Photograph © Jens Rydell; used with permission.



  • Counting carbon costs

    • Michael Gross
    Ahead of the 24th annual global summit on climate change, science provides ever more detailed and reliable scenarios of the catastrophic damage that the ongoing man-made climate change is going to cause in the years to come. However, people with power to do something about it still don’t take much notice, and denialists even win elections.

Book reviews

  • Profound rumblings from the bowels of the lobster

    • John C. Tuthill
    In his essay ‘Consider the Lobster’, David Foster Wallace summed up the tepid state of human–lobster relations: “for practical purposes, everyone knows what a lobster is. As usual, though, there’s much more to know than most of us care about — it’s all a matter of what your interests are.”
  • Life’s chemical weapons

    • Edmund D. Brodie III
    Intellectual curiosity rises to a whole new level when the subject becomes personal. Many of us have direct experience with some kind of venom (e.g., the stings of ants and wasps, the bites of spiders, and the chemicals injected by ectoparasites such as ticks and chiggers while feeding), and this familiarity makes venoms all the more compelling as a subject. A smaller number of unfortunate victims have first-hand knowledge of the exceptionally powerful venoms of various snakes, jellyfish, and marine snails.


Q & A

Quick guide

  • Sex reversal

    • Ceri Weber,
    • Blanche Capel
    Weber and Capel discuss various aspects of sex reversal, including how it happens, why it happens in some species but not others, and whether it is adaptive.



  • Orangutan populations are certainly not increasing in the wild

    • Erik Meijaard,
    • Julie Sherman,
    • Marc Ancrenaz,
    • Serge A. Wich,
    • Truly Santika,
    • Maria Voigt
    Meijaard et al. critique a 2018 report by the Indonesian government stating that orangutan populations have increased by >10%. The report contradicts recent scientific publications indicating sharp declines in all orangutan species. Collaboration between scientists and government in development and implementation of monitoring methods is advised.



  • Towards a Unified Model of SMC Complex Function

    • Markus Hassler,
    • Indra A. Shaltiel,
    • Christian H. Haering
    SMC proteins organize the structure of chromatin fibers and play an important function in gene expression and chromosome segregation, among other processes. Hassler et al., in this review, attempt to construct a model explaining the mechanism of action of these proteins.


  • Gradients in Primary Production Predict Trophic Strategies of Mixotrophic Corals across Spatial Scales

    • Michael D. Fox,
    • Gareth J. Williams,
    • Maggie D. Johnson,
    • Veronica Z. Radice,
    • Brian J. Zgliczynski,
    • Emily L.A. Kelly,
    • Forest L. Rohwer,
    • Stuart A. Sandin,
    • Jennifer E. Smith
    How mixotrophic corals balance autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition in relation to food availability is unknown. Fox et al. demonstrate that satellite estimates of nearshore primary production predict the trophic ecology of reef-building corals at regional and global scales. In more productive regions, some corals are consistently more heterotrophic.
  • Topographic Cortico-cerebellar Networks Revealed by Visual Attention and Working Memory

    • James A. Brissenden,
    • Sean M. Tobyne,
    • David E. Osher,
    • Emily J. Levin,
    • Mark A. Halko,
    • David C. Somers
    Brissenden et al. demonstrate precise cerebellar contributions to visual cognitive processing and establish the existence of two cortico-cerebellar subnetworks that support different aspects of visuospatial cognition. This topographic specificity suggests that fine-grained cortico-cerebellar loops play a prominent role in cognitive processing.
  • The Roles of Introgression and Climate Change in the Rise to Dominance of Acropora Corals

    • Yafei Mao,
    • Evan P. Economo,
    • Noriyuki Satoh
    Mao et al. show that a major introgression event as well as recurrent gene flow across Acropora coral species and Acropora lineages profited from climate-driven mass extinctions in the Plio-Pleistocene, indicating that introgression and ecological opportunity (from climate-driven mass extinction) play important roles in the adaptive radiation of Acropora.
  • An Optimal Oscillatory Phase for Pattern Reactivation during Memory Retrieval

    • Casper Kerrén,
    • Juan Linde-Domingo,
    • Simon Hanslmayr,
    • Maria Wimber
    Kerrén et al. show that memory reinstatement, as detected by a time-resolved pattern classifier, fluctuates at a low frequency and is modulated by theta phase. The results provide strong evidence for theta phase encoding-retrieval models in the human brain and thus bridge an important gap between computational, rodent, and human work.
  • The Diverged Trypanosome MICOS Complex as a Hub for Mitochondrial Cristae Shaping and Protein Import

    • Iosif Kaurov,
    • Marie Vancová,
    • Bernd Schimanski,
    • Lawrence Rudy Cadena,
    • Jiří Heller,
    • Tomáš Bílý,
    • David Potěšil,
    • Claudia Eichenberger,
    • Hannah Bruce,
    • Silke Oeljeklaus,
    • Bettina Warscheid,
    • Zbyněk Zdráhal,
    • André Schneider,
    • Julius Lukeš,
    • Hassan Hashimi
    The mitochondrial contact site and cristae organizing system (MICOS) is a conserved feature of mitochondria. Kaurov et al. identify and characterize MICOS proteins outside of opisthokonts in the kinetoplastid parasite Trypanosoma brucei. TbMICOS plays a conserved role in mitochondrial cristae shaping and harbors several unique features as well.
  • Self-Assembly of the RZZ Complex into Filaments Drives Kinetochore Expansion in the Absence of Microtubule Attachment

    • Cláudia Pereira,
    • Rita M. Reis,
    • José B. Gama,
    • Ricardo Celestino,
    • Dhanya K. Cheerambathur,
    • Ana X. Carvalho,
    • Reto Gassmann
    Unattached kinetochores are known to expand their outermost layer to accelerate spindle assembly. Pereira, Reis, et al. present evidence suggesting that self-assembly of the Rod-Zw10-Zwilch complex into filaments, driven by the Rod subunit that is structurally related to membrane coat proteins, underlies the adaptive change in kinetochore size.


  • Distinct Roles of RZZ and Bub1-KNL1 in Mitotic Checkpoint Signaling and Kinetochore Expansion

    • Jose-Antonio Rodriguez-Rodriguez,
    • Clare Lewis,
    • Kara L. McKinley,
    • Vitali Sikirzhytski,
    • Jennifer Corona,
    • John Maciejowski,
    • Alexey Khodjakov,
    • Iain M. Cheeseman,
    • Prasad V. Jallepalli
    Rodriguez-Rodriguez et al. identify distinct roles for Bub1, KNL1, and RZZ in SAC signaling and fibrous corona formation. They also show that BUB1-disrupted clones re-express Bub1 and regain SAC function via nonsense-associated alternative splicing, an often-overlooked transcriptional response that can limit penetrance in genome editing experiments
  • A New Multiple Object Awareness Paradigm Shows that Imperfect Knowledge of Object Location Is Still Knowledge

    • Chia-Chien Wu,
    • Jeremy M. Wolfe
    Multiple object awareness (MOA) is a version of a multiple object tracking task. Wu and Wolfe show that MOA capacity is much larger than classic object tracking because it includes partial knowledge of location (“the cow is somewhere over there”). Partial knowledge that degrades over time is still useful knowledge and can guide search for a target.
  • Laminar Organization of Working Memory Signals in Human Visual Cortex

    • Samuel J.D. Lawrence,
    • Tim van Mourik,
    • Peter Kok,
    • Peter J. Koopmans,
    • David G. Norris,
    • Floris P. de Lange
    Using high-field MRI, Lawrence et al. show that holding a visual item in working memory leads to top-down activation of the primary visual cortex. This activity is strongest in the agranular layers. These results provide new insights into how bottom-up and top-down signals are deployed in visual cortex.
  • Interspecific Gene Flow Shaped the Evolution of the Genus Canis

    • Shyam Gopalakrishnan,
    • Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding,
    • Jazmín Ramos-Madrigal,
    • Jonas Niemann,
    • Jose A. Samaniego Castruita,
    • Filipe G. Vieira,
    • Christian Carøe,
    • Marc de Manuel Montero,
    • Lukas Kuderna,
    • Aitor Serres,
    • Víctor Manuel González-Basallote,
    • Yan-Hu Liu,
    • Guo-Dong Wang,
    • Tomas Marques-Bonet,
    • Siavash Mirarab,
    • Carlos Fernandes,
    • Philippe Gaubert,
    • Klaus-Peter Koepfli,
    • Jane Budd,
    • Eli Knispel Rueness,
    • Claudio Sillero,
    • Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen,
    • Bent Petersen,
    • Thomas Sicheritz-Ponten,
    • Lutz Bachmann,
    • Øystein Wiig,
    • Anders J. Hansen,
    • M. Thomas P. Gilbert
    Gopalakrishnan et al. present evidence of pervasive gene flow among species of the genus Canis. In addition to previously known admixture events, they find evidence of gene flow from a “ghost” canid, related to the dhole, into the ancestor of the gray wolf and coyote. Further, they suggest that the African golden wolf is a species of hybrid origin.
  • Correlated Evolution of Two Copulatory Organs via a Single cis-Regulatory Nucleotide Change

    • Olga Nagy,
    • Isabelle Nuez,
    • Rosina Savisaar,
    • Alexandre E. Peluffo,
    • Amir Yassin,
    • Michael Lang,
    • David L. Stern,
    • Daniel R. Matute,
    • Jean R. David,
    • Virginie Courtier-Orgogozo
    Nagy et al. identify between Drosophila species one nucleotide substitution that lies in a gene-regulatory region and that contributes to evolutionary change of two distinct copulatory organs.
  • Genetic Interactions between the Aurora Kinases Reveal New Requirements for AURKB and AURKC during Oocyte Meiosis

    • Alexandra L. Nguyen,
    • David Drutovic,
    • Berta N. Vazquez,
    • Warif El Yakoubi,
    • Amanda S. Gentilello,
    • Marcos Malumbres,
    • Petr Solc,
    • Karen Schindler
    Nguyen et al. describe oocyte-specific functions for the three Aurora protein kinases during meiosis. The authors show, for the first time, negative inter-kinase regulation between the family members to control the localized activity of one another and that these interactions are critical for spindle integrity and gamete euploidy.
  • Aristaless Controls Butterfly Wing Color Variation Used in Mimicry and Mate Choice

    • Erica L. Westerman,
    • Nicholas W. VanKuren,
    • Darli Massardo,
    • Ayşe Tenger-Trolander,
    • Wei Zhang,
    • Ryan I. Hill,
    • Michael Perry,
    • Erick Bayala,
    • Kenneth Barr,
    • Nicola Chamberlain,
    • Tracy E. Douglas,
    • Nathan Buerkle,
    • Stephanie E. Palmer,
    • Marcus R. Kronforst
    Westerman, VanKuren et al. show that butterfly wing color maps to a putative cis-regulatory element adjacent to two aristaless genes. The genes are differentially expressed between white and yellow wings and CRISPR knockout of aristaless1 causes white wings to develop yellow. Both colors have been shared among species via hybridization.
  • Stimulus-Driven Cortical Hyperexcitability in Individuals with Charles Bonnet Hallucinations

    • David R. Painter,
    • Michael F. Dwyer,
    • Marc R. Kamke,
    • Jason B. Mattingley
    Visual hallucinations often result from age-related degeneration of the retina. Painter et al. show that these hallucinations are associated with stimulus-driven hyperexcitability within early visual cortex, providing the first evidence for an influential but untested hypothesis.
  • Effective Glucose Uptake by Human Astrocytes Requires Its Sequestration in the Endoplasmic Reticulum by Glucose-6-Phosphatase-β

    • Margit S. Müller,
    • Maxime Fouyssac,
    • Colin W. Taylor
    Müller et al. use targeted glucose sensors to show that glucose-6-phosphate uptake by the endoplasmic reticulum of human astrocytes and its dephosphorylation in the ER by glucose-6-phosphatase-β deliver glucose to the ER lumen and sustain cellular glucose uptake. The ER lumen may provide an intracellular protected highway for glucose transport.
  • Purging of Strongly Deleterious Mutations Explains Long-Term Persistence and Absence of Inbreeding Depression in Island Foxes

    • Jacqueline A. Robinson,
    • Caitlin Brown,
    • Bernard Y. Kim,
    • Kirk E. Lohmueller,
    • Robert K. Wayne
    Robinson et al. analyze genomic, morphological, and simulated data to understand why island foxes do not suffer from inbreeding depression and rapidly rebounded from recent bottlenecks, despite having low genomic diversity and an elevated number of deleterious alleles. They suggest purging of recessive deleterious alleles as a possible mechanism.
  • High Cell Diversity and Complex Peptidergic Signaling Underlie Placozoan Behavior

    • Frédérique Varoqueaux,
    • Elizabeth A. Williams,
    • Susie Grandemange,
    • Luca Truscello,
    • Kai Kamm,
    • Bernd Schierwater,
    • Gáspár Jékely,
    • Dirk Fasshauer
    Placozoans are simple flat animals that lack a nervous system and muscles. Varoqueaux et al. find that the behavior of the placozoan Trichoplax is influenced by complex chemical signaling. Neuropeptides, secreted molecules produced by neurons in other animals, induce striking changes in the behavior of these neuron-less animals.
  • Flight in Ground Effect Dramatically Reduces Aerodynamic Costs in Bats

    • L. Christoffer Johansson,
    • Lasse Jakobsen,
    • Anders Hedenström
    Animals flying close to a surface may save energy, but measurements have been lacking. Johansson et al. find that energy savings for Daubenton’s bats during flapping flight in ground effect are twice the model predictions. The bats may also vary the wing stroke to modulate savings, challenging our understanding of how animals use ground effect.
  • Silent Learning

    • Janine I. Rossato,
    • Andrea Moreno,
    • Lisa Genzel,
    • Miwako Yamasaki,
    • Tomonori Takeuchi,
    • Santiago Canals,
    • Richard G.M. Morris
    It is widely believed that induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) and associated cell-firing is required for new memory formation. Rossato et al. show that memory formation can still occur provided LTP induction is intact even though cell-firing has been prevented using modest GABAergic activation. We refer to this as “silent learning.”
  • A Piranha-like Pycnodontiform Fish from the Late Jurassic

    • Martina Kölbl-Ebert,
    • Martin Ebert,
    • David R. Bellwood,
    • Christian Schulbert
    Kölbl-Ebert et al. describe a new pycnodontiform fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, from the Jurassic. It has specialized morphological features for cutting flesh, including piranha-like teeth. As a marine fish contemporary with dinosaurs, it is the oldest known flesh-eating ray-finned fish, exhibiting remarkable convergent evolution with piranhas.