12 days of… EVOLUTION!! Day #11! @okaytobesmart #science

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The 12 days of #OpenScience thanks to PLoS ONE!

PLoS blogs is featuring the “12 days of Open Science“. Enjoy this creative take on the 12 days of Christmas with insights from articles featured in PLoS ONE!

It’s starting to get colder in San Francisco, and the year-end holidays are soon to be upon us. This has made all of us on the PLOS ONE team excited to spend some time with our loved ones and general merriment. So for a little festive fun, here are 12 PLOS ONE articles that scientifically remind us of the verses in the classic holiday tune “12 Days of Christmas.”

1. Partridge in a Pear Tree

partridge 2

It’s not all pear trees for these partridges. In “Transcriptomic Characterization of Innate and Acquired Immune Responses in Red-Legged Partridges (Alectoris rufa): A Resource for Immunoecology and Robustness Selection,” the authors explored the possible role of red-legged partridge immunity when wild populations restocked with partridges raised in captivity are exposed to disease and stress.

2. Turtle Doves

Turtle Doves

If you’ve ever wondered where the European turtle dove migrates throughout the year, the authors of “Migration Routes and Staging Areas of Trans-Saharan Turtle Doves Appraised from Light-Level Geolocators” studied wild turtle doves’ routes and winter resting spots for a year using lightweight GPS.

3. French Hens

french hens

There is the possibility that we may pick up our parents’ idiosyncrasies, but the authors of “Parents and Early Life Environment Affect Behavioral Development of Laying Hen Chickens,” wanted to see if the same could be true for chickens. The researchers studied whether parents and environment could affect anxiety and severe feather pecking in their young.

4. Calling Birds

calling birds

Scientists observed how New Caledonian crows interacted in order to potentially as a team in “New Caledonian Crows Rapidly Solve a Collaborative Problem without Cooperative Cognition.” They found that wild-caught New Caledonian crows would pass a stone from one to the other and then drop the stone into a hole that collapsed a baited platform. This showed that they could instinctively solve complicated tasks together, but the researchers did not discover any evidence that their problem-solving skills were based on comprehension of cooperation.

5. Golden Rings

golden rings

Every two years, top athletes from around the world compete in the Olympic Games in search of the gold medal. In “The Road to Gold: Training and Peaking Characteristics in the Year Prior to a Gold Medal Endurance Performance,” scientists researched whether these athletes taper their workouts before their competitions and how this affects their performance. The researchers found that gold medalists did not taper their workouts prior to competitions, as is suggested as the best practice.

6. Geese a-Laying

geese a-laying

More and more wild Greylag geese may be a-laying their heads in more northern areas in a possible reaction to climate change, according to “Latitudinal-Related Variation in Wintering Population Trends of Greylag Geese (Anser Anser) along the Atlantic Flyway: A Response to Climate Change?

7. Swans a-Swimming

swans a-swimming

The authors of “Molecular Detection of Hematozoa Infections in Tundra Swans Relative to Migration Patterns and Ecological Conditions at Breeding Grounds,” looked into how blood parasites can spread between wild tundra swans and whether where they swim when migrating has any effect. The infection of blood parasites was considerably different in the populations of tundra swans in Alaska with the highest prevalence in swans whose breeding grounds were warmer and less windy, according to the researchers.

8. Maids a-Milking

maids a-milking

Can you detect biomarkers in cow’s milk with an ordinary smartphone? In “Calling Biomarkers in Milk Using a Protein Microarray on Your Smartphone” the authors explore the possibility of doing this with the potential application of on-site food safety, health monitoring, and environmental tests.

9. Ladies Dancing

ladies dancing

In “Psychophysiological Responses to Salsa Dance,” researchers studied whether dance provides enough exertion to promote fitness and overall health benefits in the same way that traditional forms of exercise can provide. From their experiments, the authors found that salsa dance likely does provide enough energy expenditure to deliver overall health and fitness benefits, but also that people find it fun, which may mean that people will continue to practice dance.

10. Lords a-Leaping

lords a-leaping

Our bodies anticipate the impact back onto the ground after we jump, but the authors of “Motor Control of Landing from a Jump in Simulated Hypergravity” wanted to see how bodies would react when gravity was increased. Through their experiments, the authors found that while the preparation for jumping is modified in hypergravity, the remainder of the jump remains the same.

11. Pipers Piping

pipers piping

Researchers studied ant nest beetle piping to see whether the sounds they may help them in their predation of ants in “The Pied Piper: A Parasitic Beetle’s Melodies Modulate Ant Behaviours.” The experiments performed by the authors suggest that the beetles mimic the queen ant and use this skill to trick the workers into being treated like the queen. Visit SoundCloud to listen to these parasitic beetles’ melodies.

12. Drummers Drumming

drummers drumming

Tapping to the beat of your own drum, may be an un-related rhythmic skill than remembering rhythms, according to the authors of Evidence for Multiple Rhythmic Skills. The researchers explored how rhythmic skills relate to each other and what implications that could have for processing language.

What to get NIH director Francis Collins for Christmas #tistheseason

NIH director Francis Collins wants only one thing for Christmas this year (well, maybe alsoan increase in NIH budget, but I guess he checked that one off the list already)… your thoughts! Specifically, your thoughts on how to make his blog better:

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From my “house” at NIH to yours, I’d like to wish each of you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthful New Year. Throughout the past year, I hope that you’ve enjoyed the entries in this blog, sharing just a few of the many breakthroughs in biomedical research and introducing you to some of the young scientists who fill me with such hope for the future. As we prepare to turn the NIH Director’s Blog calendar to 2016, I look forward to bringing you even more exciting discoveries that show the power of science to build a healthier tomorrow.

But I need your help! In this season of giving, I’d like to ask each of you for a little something: your thoughts on how to make what I think is a good blog even better. So, please click on the “gift” below to take part in a brief, anonymous survey that should take no more than a couple of minutes. Thanks so much for your time!

Fill out the Director’s blog readership survey here!!

FDA finally lifts ban on blood donations by gay men

‘Tis the season to give? The FDA announced yesterday that they are finally lifting the ban on blood donations by gay men. There are still several restrictions however. From NPR:

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The FDA announced Monday that it was replacing a lifetime prohibition with a new policy that will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year.

“Relying on sound scientific evidence, we’ve taken great care to ensure the revised policy continues to protect our blood supply,” said Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

In 1983, the FDA banned gay and bisexual men from ever being eligible to donate blood to protect people receiving blood transfusions from the possibility of getting infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

But gay-rights advocates and many medical groups have been urging the FDA to lift the ban for years. They argue the policy is discriminatory because it singles out gay and bisexual men and that it is unnecessary because blood donors can be screened for HIV.

Others, however, have urged the FDA to keep the ban, saying that infected people can slip through the screening process. Blood tests remain negative for about nine days after a person has been infected with HIV.

After weighing the arguments, Marks announced the FDA is finalizing a policy change it proposed last year. The new policy brings the U.S. in line with other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Britain, Marks says. Research in Australia indicates the policy would not jeopardize the safety of the blood supply.

But this has not satisfied many advocates.

“It perpetuates the stigma that HIV is a gay disease,” says Kelsey Louie, who heads Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an advocacy group.

Gay or bisexual men in monogamous relationships may be at much lower risk as donors than, say, promiscuous heterosexuals, Louie said.

But others are praising the new policy as a reasonable compromise.

“The gay community and many people view blood donation as a civil right. And I don’t think it is,” says Dr. Kenrad Nelson, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who advised the FDA about the policy.

Nelson points out he can’t donate blood for a year after he returns from countries where he might have gotten infected with malaria.

The FDA says it will monitor the new policy to see whether the restrictions could eventually be relaxed more.

@SpaceX successfully lands rocket!! #AMAZING