This article was written by Eileen Clancy and appeared in the PLOS EveryONE Blog on January 4, 2018.
[Above image: Flying bumblebee. Mikkel Houmøller, wikimedia]
As we ring in the New Year, we thought it would be fun to look back on the PLOS ONE articles that were the biggest hits in the news in 2017. With 3,383 articles covered in the media over the past year we couldn’t look at them all but we are sharing some of the papers that made the biggest splash.
In January, Louis-Jean Boë et al. shared their study in language evolution showing evidence that baboons can make vowel-like sounds similar to those made by humans. With coverage in The Guardian, Scientific American, the LA Times, and 24 other media outlets this research started the year off with a bang at PLOS ONE.
February continued to wow us with beautiful visualizations of the functional head joint in the deep sea dragonfish that saw coverage in the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine, and Gizmodo, among others.
(Almost) No Rest for the Weary
In March we learned that two free-roaming African elephants sleep for an average of just 2 hours per day, which is the shortest daily sleep time recorded for mammals! This collaboration from researchers in South Africa, Botswana, and California, fascinated journalists at Science News, Wired, and the Washington Post.
On Track for Discovery
Newsweek and the BBC were among the media outlets reporting in April on a new species, Prorotodactylus mesaxonichnus, which may have given rise to crocodiles and dinosaurs, identified within a group of tracks in the Iberian Peninsula, Spain.
On the Origins of (Human) Species
In May, Jochen Fuss et al. published their contribution to the conversation regarding the location of some of our oldest ancestors, showing evidence that the last common ancestor of humans and great apes may have lived in Europe. It’s not surprising that this hot topic was heavily reported in the media including coverage in the Washington Post, Smithsonian magazine, and the Telegraph, among others.
Learning From the Mistakes of Others
Elk everywhere got some good news in June when the CBC, New York Times, and Smithsonian magazine, reported on PLOS ONE findings from the University of Alberta that female elk learn to avoid hunters showing adaptive behaviors as they age such as reduced movement rates and increased use of secure areas.
A Leg Up for Stairs Climbers
July was all about giving a leg up to stairs climbers as Wired, Smithsonian magazine, and Gizmodo, all reported on PLOS ONE research into the development of energy-recycling assistive stairs to help reduce the amount of work required to go up and down.
Feast Your Eyes on This Discovery!
Things took a darker turn in August as an investigation of an Upper Palaeolithic engraved human bone revealed evidence of ritualistic cannibalism for the first time in this era. Yikes! The BBC, New York Times, and Nature, were all fascinated with this macabre discovery, and who can blame them? We were too!
Coming Out of Our Shell
New species abounded this year at PLOS ONE and one of the media’s favorites was a hermit crabspecies, Diogenes heteropsammicola – a fascinating example of walking symbiosis. The little crabs that live in the south of Japan grow alongside the “walking” coral they use as their home, and were iresistable to Gizmodo, CBC, and Popular Science.
Where’s the Buzz?
The media was abuzz (pun intended) in October with disturbing news about disappearing flying insects, which have shown a greater than 75% decline over the last 27 years in protected areas of Germany. It was tough to miss this story reported in the Guardian, Washington Post, BBC, and 22 others. This paper was also #6 on the AltMetric Top 100 of 2017!
History Slips Into the Sea
The bad news didn’t stop in November as PLOS ONE authors used open data to predict dire consequences for archaeological sites in the face of climate change. News outlets including Forbes, National Geographic, and the Washington Post reported the sobering prediction that a sea-level rise of just 1 meter could result in the loss of over 13,000 historical sites in the southeastern United States alone.
Take Me to the River
December brought us to the water with media outlets reporting on another new species. This time, we were captivated by the fossilized skull of a new river dolphin species, Urkudelphis chawpipacha, found in Ecuador.
We hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane and look forward to more exciting and news-worthy open science in 2018.
Happy New Year!
Boë L-J, Berthommier F, Legou T, Captier G, Kemp C, Sawallis TR, et al. (2017) Evidence of a Vocalic Proto-System in the Baboon (Papio papio) Suggests Pre-Hominin Speech Precursors. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0169321. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169321
Schnell NK, Johnson GD (2017) Evolution of a Functional Head Joint in Deep-Sea Fishes (Stomiidae). PLoS ONE 12(2): e0170224. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170224
Gravett N, Bhagwandin A, Sutcliffe R, Landen K, Chase MJ, Lyamin OI, et al. (2017) Inactivity/sleep in two wild free-roaming African elephant matriarchs – Does large body size make elephants the shortest mammalian sleepers? PLoS ONE 12(3): e0171903. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171903
Mujal E, Fortuny J, Bolet A, Oms O, López JÁ (2017) An archosauromorph dominated ichnoassemblage in fluvial settings from the late Early Triassic of the Catalan Pyrenees (NE Iberian Peninsula). PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174693. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174693
Fuss J, Spassov N, Begun DR, Böhme M (2017) Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177127. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177127
Thurfjell H, Ciuti S, Boyce MS (2017) Learning from the mistakes of others: How female elk (Cervus elaphus) adjust behaviour with age to avoid hunters. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0178082. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178082
Song YS, Ha S, Hsu H, Ting LH, Liu CK (2017) Stair negotiation made easier using novel interactive energy-recycling assistive stairs. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0179637. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179637
Bello SM, Wallduck R, Parfitt SA, Stringer CB (2017) An Upper Palaeolithic engraved human bone associated with ritualistic cannibalism. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0182127. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182127
Igawa M, Kato M (2017) A new species of hermit crab, Diogenes heteropsammicola (Crustacea, Decapoda, Anomura, Diogenidae), replaces a mutualistic sipunculan in a walking coral symbiosis. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0184311. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184311
Hallmann CA, Sorg M, Jongejans E, Siepel H, Hofland N, Schwan H, et al. (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185809. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809
Anderson DG, Bissett TG, Yerka SJ, Wells JJ, Kansa EC, Kansa SW, et al. (2017) Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction: An example from the southeastern United States using DINAA (Digital Index of North American Archaeology). PLoS ONE 12(11): e0188142. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188142
Tanaka Y, Abella J, Aguirre-Fernández G, Gregori M, Fordyce RE (2017) A new tropical Oligocene dolphin from Montañita/Olón, Santa Elena, Ecuador. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0188380. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188380