Editors' Choice

Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 924
  1. Animal Behavior

    Just called to say “I love you”

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Ring-tailed lemurs call to their closest companions to reinforce their bond


    Grooming among social species is thought to build and maintain social bonds. Vocal communication can similarly bond groups and has been thought to increase the number of individuals that can bond, because it is easier to call than to cleanse. Kulahci et al. looked at patterns of grooming and contact calling in ring-tailed lemurs and found just the opposite, however. Specifically, the animals that responded to each other's specific contact calls were those with the tightest bond, as measured by the amount of time spent grooming. Thus, their calls and responses seem to act as “grooming at a distance,” by reinforcing the tighter bonds between just a few animals, rather than expanding the number of animals that are able to bond.

    Anim. Behav. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.09.016 (2015).

  2. Environment

    Pesticides in wild plants

    1. Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

    Are honey bees harmed by agricultural neonicotinoid pesticide use? Field studies attempting to address this question have often found neonicotinoid contamination in control colonies. Botias et al. now show, from a field study conducted in Sussex, UK, that neonicotinoid concentrations in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers growing at the margins of treated oilseed rape fields were higher overall than in pollen from the treated plants. Most neonicotinoids brought back to hives came from these contaminated wildflowers. Such wild plant contamination may be one reason for the contaminated controls in previous studies. Other invertebrates will also be affected by chronic exposure to neonicotinoids from wild plants and soils near treated fields.

    Environ. Sci. Technol. 10.1021/acs.est.5b03459 (2015).

  3. Psychology

    Mixed reviews boost competence perception

    1. Gilbert Chin

    Writers of letters of reference often refrain from mentioning an applicant's negative traits, but this can backfire because describing a person only with positive adjectives relating to his competence can induce the prospective employer to draw negative inferences about his warmth: the so-called innuendo effect. Kervyn et al. extend this research to show that adding a mixed evaluation of a candidate's warmth or good nature boosts the perception of her competence in comparison to a uniformly positive characterization of her warmth: the compensation effect.

    J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 62, 17 (2016).

  4. Spintronics

    Make way for liquid spintronics

    1. Jelena Stajic

    In addition to charge, electrons have another degree of freedom: spin, a type of quantum-mechanical angular momentum. In the same way that conventional electronics requires a power source, spin-based electronics (“spintronics”) needs a source of spin current. To achieve this, researchers typically use magnets. Takahashi et al. now show that all you need is a flowing liquid metal in which mechanical motion is coupled with spin. For this demonstration, they used mercury flowing through a cylindrical quartz pipe. The vorticity of the liquid flow acted as a source of spin current, which was detected as electrical voltage. The discovery may enable fluid spintronic devices.

    Nat. Phys. 10.1038/nphys3526 (2015).

  5. Antibiotic Resistance

    Unique wastewater antibiotic resistome

    1. Caroline Ash

    Genes that confer antibiotic resistance to microbiota present in wastewater treatment plants, like this treatment lagoon, are specific to that community, suggesting there is little risk that they could be transferred to the human gut microbiome


    Antibiotic resistance is currently high on the list of alarms. Wastewater treatment plants essentially use microbiological bioremediation to clean up water. As such, they are an obvious potential source of mobile antibiotic resistance genes from human pathogens. Munck et al. have been investigating the risks wastewater plants pose for antibiotic resistance. They identified resistance genes in samples from 7 different years by screening with 15 antibiotics. Deep metagenomic sequencing revealed a stably maintained core set of novel genes that conferred resistance to all the antibiotics tested. This “resistome” was specific to this microbiological community, indicating that there is in fact little scope for transfer into the human gut microbiota. Although this is a reason to be cheerful, it is sobering to note that the unique wastewater genescape persists because of high levels of ambient antibiotics.

    Nat. Commun. 10.1038/ncomms9452 (2015)

  6. Heart Development

    Coronary artery smooth muscle origin

    1. Beverly A. Purnell

    Cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, heart failure, and heart valve problems, are a major cause of death worldwide. Defining mechanisms of normal heart development may reveal ways to manipulate cells and guide treatment. Volz et al. now identify pericytes as the progenitors to the smooth muscle of coronary arteries, the vessels supplying blood to ventricular heart muscle. Coronary artery smooth muscle cells (caSMCs) are found deep in the myocardium; however, they originate from the mesothelial covering of the heart, or epicardium. Clonal analysis and lineage tracing studies reveal that in embryos, Notch-responsive pericytes lining the coronary vascular plexus and located near arteries develop into caSMCs. Such progenitor cells are also present in the adult heart, suggesting possible relevance to heart regeneration therapies.

    eLife 10.7554/eLife.10036 (2015).

  7. Solar Physics

    Searching for the Sun's magnetic poles

    1. Keith T. Smith

    Earth's magnetic axis and rotational axis don't line up, leading to magnetic north and south poles located some distance from the “true” rotational poles. In contrast, successful models of the Sun's magnetic field have assumed that the two axes are aligned, although it is difficult to see the Sun's poles from Earth. Yabar et al. analyzed 5 years of data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, and after removing interfering active regions (around sunspots), they discovered a periodic magnetic signal that matches the Sun's rotation. They interpret this as a magnetic axis offset from the rotation axis, as seen in some other stars, and suggest that it may explain some aspects of Earth's space weather.

    Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 453, L69 (2015).