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Article Released Wed-23rd-January-2008 20:15 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Evolution: Bird on the wing

Summaries of newsworthy papers include The Mississippi’s carbon footprint, Repeat Offenders – are scientists publishing more duplicate papers?, The power of Jupiter’s jets, DARPA at 50, Growth of Hawaiian volcanoes, Towards realizing the benefits of spin and Insight into a tropical ecosystem


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.451 NO.7177 DATED 24 JANUARY 2008

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Evolution: Bird on the wing

Hydrology: The Mississippi’s carbon footprint

Commentary: Repeat Offenders – are scientists publishing more duplicate papers?

Planets: The power of Jupiter’s jets

Essay and News Feature: DARPA at 50

Geology: Growth of Hawaiian volcanoes

Quantum information: Towards realizing the benefits of spin

Ecology: Insight into a tropical ecosystem

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Evolution: Bird on the wing

DOI: 10.1038/nature06517

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 23 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 24 January, but at a later date. ***

Whether the first bird to fly took off from the ground or glided off a cliff-edge is unimportant—what matters is the angle at which it flapped its wings. According to research in Nature this week, the key to understanding the origin of flight is the narrow angle of the wing-stroke.

Researchers have previously focused on whether early birds took to the wing from the ground by flapping or by falling out of trees and gliding. Studies of wing movement have taken into account what the bird is doing — which led many researchers to believe that there is a wide range of wing movement.

Kenneth Dial and colleagues observed just the wing-stroke of quail-like ground birds called chukars (Alectoris chukar), and find that the angle that their wings make with the ground occurs within a narrow range of less than 20 degrees. Hatchlings flap their stunted, unflighted wings at the same angle as do their parents. The researchers conclude that initiating flight was simply a matter of learning to flap at a particular angle.


Kenneth Dial (University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA)
Tel: +1 406 243 6875; E-mail:

[2] Hydrology: The Mississippi’s carbon footprint (pp 449-452; N&V)

Land use changes and agricultural practices have had a drastic impact on the net chemistry and hydrology of the Mississippi River, suggests a paper in Nature this week. The findings reveal that higher biocarbonate discharge from agricultural land is not driven by higher rainfall, and that anthropogenic forcing has outweighed climatic forcing over half a century.

The Mississippi is North America’s largest river system. There has been a significant increase in the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon flowing into the ocean from the Mississippi River in the past 50 years, but the cause for this remains uncertain.

Peter A. Raymond and colleagues combine a high-temporal-resolution, 100-year data set from the Mississippi River with watershed and precipitation data. They find that the observed increase in flux of bicarbonate is driven by agricultural practices and has not been balanced by an increase in precipitation. They suggest that practices such as liming (soil treatment to neutralize acidity), fertilizer use, irrigation, changes in crop type and rotation all contribute to this increased flux.

Land use change and management have therefore had more impact on the river system than changes in climate in this large region over the past 50 years. Large-scale changes to crop production to meet proposed ethanol production may also continue to affect cropland water and carbon export.


Peter A. Raymond (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 203 432 0817; E-mail:

Emilio Mayorga (Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ, USA)

Tel: +1 732 932 6555; E-mail: N&V author

Commentary: Repeat Offenders – are scientists publishing more duplicate papers? (pp 397-399)

Unethical duplication of publications is a frequently ignored problem. Although there can be valid reasons for articles sharing unusual levels of similarity, for the most part, publishing the same work twice distorts the scientific literature, wasting resources and journal pages. No one benefits except for the authors of the duplicates, who may succeed in inflating their own publication record. In academia, the pressure to publish is high but the chance of being caught for copying your own work, or the work of others, is low.

A commentary in this week's Nature hopes to change that by improving the chances of detecting unethical publications. Mounir Errami and Harold Garner investigate the three major sins of academic publishing: duplication, co-submission and plagiarism. Instead of relying on serendipity to detect redundant articles, they report the results of an automated search of the biomedical literature. Their large-scale trawl of seven million of the biomedical abstracts indexed by the MedLine database uncovers a potentially worrying trend: the number of duplicate papers published each year appears to be on the increase.

The 70,000 MedLine abstracts identified by the automated software as being suspected duplicates have been deposited in a public database that anyone can view and search online ( Every record in the Déjà vu database will eventually be manually checked by a team at the Southwestern Medical Center before being confirmed as a duplicate, or classified as a legitimate update or errata. Errami and Garner are also starting to contact individuals and journals affected by suspected duplicate papers. One case of suspected duplication has already resulted in a journal initiating an investigation.

The authors suggest that greater use of automated text-matching tools by journals and database managers would help to detect duplications at the review stage and to clean up the literature. Without stronger deterrents, they say, unscrupulous scientists will keep on publishing duplicate papers.


Mounir Errami, (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas)

Tel: +1 214 648 5992; E-mail:

Harold ‘Skip’ Garner (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas)

Tel: +1 214 648 1661; E-mail:

[3] Planets: The power of Jupiter’s jets (pp 437-440; N&V)

Just weeks into a campaign to study Jupiter with the Hubble Space Telescope last year (coordinated with a fly-by of the New Horizons spacecraft), an intense disturbance occurred in the planet’s strongest jet. In Nature this week, Agustín Sánchez-Lavega and colleagues describe what happened and shed light on the power source for the jets dominating the atmospheres of Jupiter and its neighbour, Saturn.

This type of event is rare — the last ones were seen in 1990 and 1975. The onset of the disturbance was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and the development of two plumes was followed in unprecedented detail. Towering 30 kilometres above the clouds, the plumes can be seen clearly in images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The nature of the power source for the jets that dominate the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn is a controversial matter, complicated by the interplay of local and planet-wide meteorological factors. Observations are consistent with a wind extending deep into the planet’s atmosphere and well below the level reached by solar radiation.


Agustín Sánchez-Lavega (Universidad del País Vasco, Bilbao, Spain)
Tel: +34 94 601 4255; E-mail:

Kunio Sayanagi (University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA)

Tel: +1 502 852 1369; E-mail: N&V author

Essay and News Feature: DARPA at 50 (pp 403-404; 390-393)

This week’s Nature explores the past, present and future of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, considered by many a paragon of government innovation. In 1958 US president Dwight D. Eisenhower set up DARPA in response to the launch of Sputnik, and it soon became the go-to place for government leaders looking for technological solutions. Over the past 50 years the agency has altered warfare and civilian life, with spinouts such as the Internet, unmanned aircraft, GPS systems and much more.

Former director Charles Herzfeld recounts what made DARPA such a success in an Essay. In an accompanying News Feature, writer Sharon Weinberger reports on expert views on whether DARPA is still relevant today, and how other agencies are hoping to ape its famously nimble approach in areas such as energy and homeland security.


Charles Herzfeld (Ex-Director of DARPA, currently based at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Arlington, VA, USA)


Additional media contact:

Stephanie Tennyson (Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Arlington, VA, USA)


[4] Geology: Growth of Hawaiian volcanoes (pp 453-456)

The surface morphology of Hawaiian volcanoes may be controlled by the topography of the oceanic crust beneath, which becomes heavily deformed under the load of the volcano. A report in this week’s Nature reveals that volcanoes such as Mauna Loa may be large enough to rupture the oceanic crust completely, causing the deformation that is displayed at the surface.

Volcanic chains such as the Hawaiian Islands are thought to be caused by the slow movement of a tectonic plate over a fixed ‘hotspot’ — a hot plume of material that rises from deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The Hawaiian hotspot is perhaps the best known volcanic hotspot, and has created some of the largest volcanoes on the planet. Despite the apparent simplicity of this process — simple emission of magma onto the oceanic crust — the volcanoes display quite complex topography, which is not fully understood. This topography includes rift zones and giant fault scarps as well as landslides, which can cause damaging tsunamis.

Jean-Luc Got and colleagues investigated the seismology of the volcanoes and combined this with mechanical modelling to show that the sheer weight of these large Hawaiian volcanoes pressing down on the oceanic crust can be enough to rupture it. This intense deformation, combined with the subsidence and weakness of the oceanic crust, controls the surface morphology of the volcanoes, especially the existence of their giant flank instabilities. The authors comment that further studies are needed to determine whether similar processes occur on other active volcanoes found in an ‘intraplate’ setting.


Jean-Luc Got (Université de Savoie, Le Bourget-du-Lac, France)
Tel : +33 479 758 741; E-mail:

[5] Quantum information: Towards realizing the benefits of spin (pp 441-444)

Governments aren’t the only ones to capitalize on spin. Spin is at the heart of new concepts in quantum information processing, and a paper in this week’s Nature exploits it in a successful step towards realizing solid-state quantum networks.

The spin of an electron can be used to make a quantum bit (‘qubit’), but Brian Gerardot and colleagues do this by using what’s known as a ‘valence-hole’ spin — essentially a missing electron — instead. They optically stimulated a quantum dot so as to contain this hole spin and found that the spin and found that the spin lasted significantly longer than that of electrons trapped in such semiconductor quantum dots.

Achieving this increase in spin ‘relaxation time’ is potentially exciting because it is long enough for useful quantum operations. The technique the team used to achieve this, which they refer to as ‘spin pumping’, could also be used in other systems, such as silicon nanowires, carbon nanotubes and graphene.


Brian Gerardot (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Tel: +44 131 451 4174; E-mail:

[6] Ecology: Insight into a tropical ecosystem (pp 457-459)

Why do tropical tree ants form colonies in a non-random pattern over a large area, even though their habitat is strikingly uniform? A paper in this week’s Nature shows that it is all down to biological dynamics, with the ants being a key component of a larger ecosystem network contributing to pest control.

John Vandermeer and colleagues studied clusters of the ant Azteca instabilis living in shade trees uniformly placed throughout a large, homogeneous coffee plantation in southern Mexico. They found that the ant colonies were non-randomly located, and that dense clusters were kept in check by a parasitic fly — one of the ant’s natural enemies.

Spatial patterning of species in natural biological spaces is known to influence ecological properties such as stability and biodiversity. The team suggests that the unexpected distribution of ant colonies could also be related to the biological control of important coffee pests such as the coffee berry borer Hypthenemus hampei and the coffee rust Hemileia vastatrix.


John Vandermeer (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA)
Tel: +1 734 764 1446; E-mail:


[7] Catalytic C–H functionalization by metal carbenoid and nitrenoid insertion (pp 417-424)

[8] Host genome surveillance for retrotransposons by transposon-derived proteins (pp 431-436; N&V)

[9] Emergent reduction of electronic state dimensionality in dense ordered Li-Be alloys (pp 445-448)

[10] Dscam and Sidekick proteins direct lamina-specific synaptic connections in vertebrate retina (pp 465-469)

[11] Neurite arborization and mosaic spacing in the mouse retina require DSCAM (pp 470-474)

[12] Coordinated regulation of Arabidopsis thaliana development by light and gibberellins (pp 475-479)

[13] A molecular framework for light and gibberellin control of cell elongation (pp 480-484)

[14] Distinct roles of the FliI ATPase and proton motive force in bacterial flagellar protein export (pp 485-488)

[15] Energy source of flagellar type III secretion (pp 489-492)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 23 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 24 January, but at a later date. ***

[16] Cell cycle control of centromeric repeat transcription and heterochromatin assembly

DOI: 10.1038/nature06561


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Kingston: 3
Melbourne: 3
Murrumbateman: 3

Wyoming: 3

Brotas: 3

Beijing: 12


Bourget-du-Lac: 4

Lyon: 4


Freiburg: 12

Heidelberg: 15

Munich: 5


Okazaki: 11

Osaka: 14


Cebu City: 3


Bilbao: 3

Madrid: 12, 13

Seva: 3

Valencia: 13


Lausanne: 13


Edinburgh: 5

Oxford: 3



Tucson: 3


Berkeley: 3

Los Angeles: 12

Pasadena: 3

Pomona: 3

Santa Barbara: 5


New Haven: 2, 12


Coral Gables: 3


Hawaii National Park: 4


Elsah: 3


Baton Rouge: 2


Bar Harbor: 11


Bethesda: 8, 16

Greenbelt: 3


Boston: 11

Cambridge: 3, 9, 10


Ann Arbor: 6


Missoula: 1

New York

Buffalo: 7

Ithaca: 9


Toledo: 6


Salt Lake City: 15


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Katherine Anderson, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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Keywords associated to this article: Evolution, Hydrology, Duplicate Papers, Planets, DARPA, Geology, Quantum information, Ecology
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