April was a truly diverse month at PLOS Biology. This month we are talking about gravity-defying fungi, representation of endangered species in the media, gender gaps and information gaps in scientific research and why you’re not hungry immediately after exercise.
The beautiful fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus has vertically growing fruiting bodies, and researchers have found that the fungi have re-modelled a gene from bacteria to allow them to know which way is “up”. The OCTIN gene allows them to make large gravity-sensing crystals, and appears to have been acquired through the rare phenomenon of horizontal gene transfer, from bacteria.
The most charismatic animals are widespread in the media; however, the constant presence of “virtual populations” of animals in the media may deceive us about their survival in the wild. The authors argue that the resulting public misperception that these animals are prolific hinders support for their conservation and could affect their long term survival. This provocative study has been covered in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Newsweek.
New research has found that the gender gap in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) workforce remains substantial and is likely to persist for generations. By modeling the data from citation databases researchers found that 87 of the 115 disciplines examined had significantly fewer than 45% women authors. The good news is that almost all of the gender-biased disciplines are moving toward parity, but unfortunately some are predicted to take decades or even centuries to reach it. The results of this study have been covered in The Atlantic, The BBC, Times Higher Education, and Forbes.
Independent assessments of animal evidence are key to ensuring that patients are not exposed to undue risk when volunteering in drug trials, however, researchers have found that a large majority of animal studies used to justify human trials lack rigour. Analysis of investigator brochures showed that less than 20% referenced animal studies that had been through a peer-reviewed publication process, and less than 20% referenced techniques designed to reduce experimental bias.
Our final April study explores the mechanism behind why you’re not hungry immediately after exercise. Short-term appetite suppression is common after a vigorous workout, but researchers have now pinpointed the cause of reduced appetite to the hypothalamus region of the brain. Hypothalamic cells were found to react to the increase in core temperature caused by exercise, and trigger an appetite-suppressing response.
See you next month for more of PLOS Biology in the media!
Featured image credit: Tu Anh Nguyen