SciBites: Week of November 18th

SciBites: Week of November 18th

Environmental DNA in seawater may help monitor deep-water fish populations

Fish that live in remote polar and deep-water habitats are threatened by climate change and increased fishing efforts. However, monitoring these fish populations through traditional techniques such as bottom trawling can be invasive and unreliable. To investigate a potential noninvasive alternative, researchers from the University of Copenhagen evaluated a population-monitoring technique that relies on sequencing environmental DNA (eDNA) in seawater samples. They found that eDNA data collected from seawater in Greenland corresponded closely to trawl catch data obtained at the same site. While further testing is needed, the authors state that their study demonstrates how eDNA might be used in noninvasive monitoring, for both commercial fishing and to assess the impact of climate change on the biodiversity of remote ecosystems.


Early hominin genus Paranthropus may have had a softer diet than expected

Previous isotopic evidence suggested that the early hominin genus Paranthropus may have consumed a diet of relatively abrasive plants. However, recent analysis of wear patterns on fossil teeth from these East African hominins suggests that their diets were actually softer than previously thought. Meanwhile, scratch patterns found on the teeth of Homo ergaster species suggest that they ate more abrasive foods than expected, which could indicate that early Homo species also underwent a dietary shift to abrasive plants as they evolved. These findings provide valuable insights into the evolution and composition of the diets of Paranthropus and Homo species over time.


New mouse model may aid Zika virus pathology and treatment

Previous studies have shown that young mice with specific immune system defects can be infected with the Zika virus, but mice with functioning immune systems had not yet been successfully infected. Researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation have now developed a new mouse model to improve understanding of the virus and help find new treatments. They found that certain one-day-old mice with functioning immune systems could be infected with the virus, and are hoping this mouse model will help scientists studying the long-term effects of Zika virus infection.

Image Credit: Peter Rask Møller


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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