Goats, the boffins of the farmyard

Figure 2

Goats are well known for their high adaptability and ability to survive in inhospitable and food scarce  environments. It turns out that this behavioural flexibility has played a key role in the evolution of complex cognition in goats, which are much more intelligent than had previously been thought. Goats are able to quickly learn to solve complex tasks – at least when the reward is food related! – and even remember how to solve these tasks up to ten months later.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University London tested the intelligence of 12 goats living at Buttercup Sanctuary for Goats using a food box cognitive challenge (essentially a box containing food which the goats were trained to open …

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Developments in Daphnia

Daphnia magna at various stages of development.

Recent headlines reporting contaminated floodwaters invading British towns and villages may have left you wondering what’s really lurking in these waters. If the floodwater is contaminated, as has been suggested, with bacteria such as E. coli, campylobacteria (a common cause of food poisoning) and norovirus in Surrey and the Somerset levels, what other microscopic entities could be being transported around the country by the extraordinarily high water levels?

One microscopic organism which is almost certainly present in the floodwater, but less of a threat to our health, is the water flea – the subject of a new paper published in EvoDevo this week. Water fleas are in fact not fleas at all, bearing little resemblance to their distant arthropod …

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Keep the neurons firing after Brain Awareness Week


This year, Brain Awareness Week took place from March 10th-16th. Led by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, it aimed to involve the research community in disseminating the benefits and advancement of brain research around the world.

To celebrate, Springer and BioMed Central launched ‘#Neurostars’ – the top cited, shared and downloaded articles of 2013 in our neuroscience portfolio. Springer also sponsored the 2014 Art of Neuroscience, a yearly competition and seminar to stimulate dialogue between neuroscientists and artists, to explore the human (artistic) experience. One of the speakers at the seminar, Peter Meijer, told us about a tool he developed, an image-to-sound conversion system aka “The vOICe”, which enables blind people to ‘see through sound’. Rodrigo Quian …

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Do low-income countries hold the key to health innovation?

light bulb

Join our twitter chat on reverse innovation – Friday at 5pm (UK time)

Can ‘developed’ countries learn from the lessons of ‘developing’ countries? How can we move away from the fatuous ideas associated with being labelled a ‘developed’ or ‘developing’ country? These are just a few of the questions that Globalization and Health hopes to address through its series, ‘Reverse innovation in global health systems: learning from low-income countries’.

In August 2013, Globalization and Health attracted widespread attention by launching a dedicated open-access series that would challenge conventional thinking about health systems by drawing on lessons from around the world. The first six published papers spanned multiple dimensions of the subject, bringing the dialogue on reverse …

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The unintended effects of statins

Hand with pills

This is a guest post from the authors of a paper on statins published on Saturday in BMC Medicine. Statins have hit the headlines a lot over the last few weeks. Here, the authors take us through the findings of their review and analysis into the unintended effects of these drugs.

Statins are widely used in clinical practice and their efficacy for secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is well founded, but their expanding use in primary prevention in low-risk individuals has to be balanced against the risk of potential unintended effects. This assumes particular importance since the new draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends lowering the 10-year risk threshold for considering …

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Announcing the winners of the 2013 Ming K Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience


Congratulations to the winners of the annual Ming K Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience for 2013. The winning papers (below), have been chosen for their innovation, high-quality execution and lasting contribution to the biosciences. The winners are chosen by a committee of internationally renowned Cell & Bioscience Editors, chaired by Dr Chris Lau.


Monoubiquitination of EEA1 regulates endosome fusion and trafficking

Harish N Ramanathan, Guofeng Zhang, Yihong Ye

Cell & Bioscience 2013, 3:24 (23 May 2013)

Dr TC Wu, a judge on the selection panel for the award, has commented on the importance of this research:

“Early endosomal autoantigen 1 (EEA1) is an essential component of the endosomal fusion machinery. The current study demonstrates that EEA1 is subject to …

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Discovery notes – brief research findings, published fast


Most researchers will tell you that, at some point, they have had a bad experience with peer review, which at its worst is a slow, oblique process which “reflects all the civility of being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum.

Since launching in 2006, Biology Direct has always tried to remove causes of frustration with traditional peer-review models, with progressive policies such as including named reviewer reports as part of published articles, and allowing authors to avoid multiple iterations of review by handing back responsibility for the decision on whether to publish, in light of reviewers’ comments (there’s more on this here).

One of the specific questions that Biology Direct Editors identified was how to publish specific discoveries …

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The world’s largest sequenced genome is just the start

World's Biggest Genome? An infographic

Today the genome of the loblolly pine was published in Genome Biology – the largest yet sequenced. This paper is mostly important because the authors made real improvements to the process that scientists use to sequence large and complex genomes like that of the loblolly pine. Because let’s face it, they’re not likely to hold the record for long. Genome sequencing technologies are moving fast and there are hundreds of sequencing initiatives going on.

So, a little defining of terms. Sequencing is when you work out the exact code of DNA bases A,C,G and T that make up a genome. But you can estimate the number of bases in a genome without knowing what they are, so we have lots of …

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The agony of choice: conservation biology and choosing what to save

Image credit: Wikimedia

You’re a conservationist with a list of threatened species and a limited budget. What are you going to save? Pandas or polar bears? Corals or condors? Leopards or leatherbacks? You have little time to deliberate, and you need a rational basis for your decision.

Performing phylogenetic triage

How to advise those in the unenviable position of making these decisions was the focus of a meeting on ‘Phylogeny, extinction risks and conservation’ last week at the Royal Society, where the central issue was how to exercise this kind of “phylogenetic triage” in the face of inevitable biodiversity loss.

We need some way to choose which species will …

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How 1.3 million women are transforming our understanding of lifestyle factors that affect our health

Doctor talking to patient

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”
Robert F. Kennedy

We’re often told in one way or another that the actions we take can make a difference – voting in elections, turning the light switch off to save energy. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll have had your doubts about just how true that really is. Will I really affect pollution levels and climate change if I don’t own a car? Will my vote in the election really make any difference?

It’s doubts like these that make me grateful for evidence that shows just how much collective power individuals can have. Evidence like the Million Women Study, which has again been in …

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