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Article Released Thu-19th-November-2009 11:54 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Calculating oceanic carbon

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Re-thinking obesity, 150 years on from On the Origin of Species, The global reach of Darwin and Underestimating interglacial temperatures


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.462 NO.7271 DATED 19 NOVEMBER 2009

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Climate science: Calculating oceanic carbon

Biology: Re-thinking obesity

Opinion: 150 years on from On the Origin of Species

Opinion: The global reach of Darwin

Antarctica: Underestimating interglacial temperatures

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

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Climate science: Calculating oceanic carbon (pp 346-349)

A reconstruction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean over the entire industrial period is presented in this week’s Nature.

The ocean is a major ‘sink’ for anthropogenic carbon dioxide, absorbing an estimated 20–35% of the gas as it is released from fossil fuels. Although much progress has been made in recent years in understanding and quantifying this sink, doubts remain as to the distribution of anthropogenic carbon in the ocean, its rate of uptake over the industrial era, and the roles of oceanic and terrestrial biospheres in capturing it.

Samar Khatiwala and colleagues present an observationally based reconstruction of the anthropogenic carbon in the ocean over the industrial era. They map where it is most concentrated and track the accumulations over time. The findings indicate that uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the oceans has increased sharply since the 1950s, with a small decline in the rate of increase in the last few decades. The Southern Ocean is the biggest sink, with over 40% of total uptake. The results also suggest that the terrestrial biosphere was a source of carbon dioxide until the 1940s, subsequently turning into a sink.

Samar Khatiwala (Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 845 365 8454; E-mail:

[2] Biology: Re-thinking obesity (pp 307-314)

Genetics has a key role in a small but significant subset of patients with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes, a Review in this week’s Nature concludes. Teasing apart the genetics of people with these conditions is helping researchers identify new therapeutic targets, design new drugs and understand the pathophysiology of these complex disorders.

Metabolic diseases, generally thought to be caused by an interaction between heritable factors and environmental influences, pose a growing threat to world-wide public health. Focussing on obesity and type 2 diabetes, Stephen O’Rahilly explores the extent to which human molecular genetics has illuminated our understanding of their underlying mechanisms.

Gone are the days, he argues, when these disorders were viewed solely as a product of our ‘food-on-tap’ environment. The time may be coming when obesity is viewed not so much as a metabolic disease, but as a neurobehavioural disorder, albeit one highly susceptible to the environment.

Stephen O’Rahilly (University of Cambridge, UK)
Tel: +44 1223 336 855; E-mail:

Opinion: 150 years on from On the Origin of Species (pp 278-283; 266-274)

As the International Year of Biodiversity approaches and nations prepare reports on a pact that aimed to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, Nature investigates the magnitude and impact of the continued dramatic depletion of the world’s species.

In the Opinion section, Will Turner and colleagues argue that natural ecosystems must be made a bulwark against climate change, not a casualty of it. They say that the world’s future depends on “integrating biodiversity conservation into climate-change planning” because natural ecosystems can save lives and sustain livelihoods.

Robert Smith and colleagues propose that to save biodiversity, local agencies need to set the conservation agenda, not distant academics and non-governmental organizations. “Conservation plans are more legitimate and politically acceptable when set locally” because they can be better coordinated with planning on land use, agriculture and water usage, they argue.

And palaeontologist Douglas Erwin calls on his fellow custodians of “the only record of ecosystems undamaged by human activities” to move beyond cataloguing fossils to creating models of the root causes of biodiversity.

In the News Feature section, one piece takes an on-the-ground look at the Atlantic coastal forest in Brazil — a rare success story in biodiversity preservation. Because of efforts to save its flagship species, the golden lion tamarin, the forest is no longer receding at the rates it once was. A second News Feature profiles Gretchen Daily, a tireless advocate of the ‘ecosystem services’ approach to conservation, which states that ecosystems should be protected because they provide significant services to human society that can be valued in financial terms. And in a third, Nature looks at the story behind species ‘barcodes’ — the mitochondrial gene sequences that are used to catalogue species — and a new hypothesis that mitochondria might be powerful drivers of speciation.

This issue is the third in Nature’s Darwin Year coverage, all of which can be found at

Will Turner (Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA)
Tel: +1 703 341 2738; E-mail: Email:

Robert Smith (University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Tel: +44 1227 823 455; E-mail:

Douglas Erwin (Santa Fe Institute, NM, USA)
Please note this author is currently travelling and is best contacted by e-mail.

Opinion: The global reach of Darwin (pp 284-289)

Also in this issue is the last piece in our four-part series on the global reach of Darwin’s ideas: Jürgen Buchenau recounts how Latin Americans switched from seeing evolution as a reason to ‘whiten’ their societies, to a reason for taking pride in their mixed lineage. But, he argues, socialism and the advent of the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression pushed Latin American thinkers to discard the idea of gradual evolutionary progress and instead embrace social revolution.

Meanwhile the Books & Arts section looks at some evolution-inspired choreography, the bonds between naturalists who collected specimens during exploratory sea voyages and perhaps the earliest drawings of speciation. This issue is the third in Nature’s Darwin Year coverage, all of which can be found at

Jürgen Buchenau (University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC, USA)
Tel: +1 704 687 4635; E-mail:

[3] Antarctica: Underestimating interglacial temperatures (pp 342-345; N&V)

Antarctic temperatures during past interglacials may have been higher than previously thought, according to a new ice core analysis. The results suggest temperatures may have exceeded present-day values by more than 6 degrees Celsius.

Current techniques for reconstructing past climates — using isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen from ice cores as proxies for temperature — have allowed reconstructions of temperature over the last 800,000 years. These reconstructions rely on the assumption that the relationship between the isotopic ratios and temperature are stable in space and time, but a paper in Nature this week challenges this, by revealing that the relationship is not linear for some sites.

Louise Sime and colleagues analysed three 340,000-year-old ice cores from East Antarctica, and combined the oxygen and hydrogen isotope data with isotope-enabled general circulation models. They discover that during warm periods, the ratios are less sensitive to temperature, meaning previous estimates of interglacial temperatures are probably about 3 degrees too cold. In warm climates, the Antarctic temperature may therefore rise rapidly, suggesting high sensitivity to greenhouse gases near present-day levels.

Louise Sime (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK)
Tel: +44 1223 221662; E-mail:

David Noone (University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 303 735 6073; E-mail:


[4] Light and shadow from distant worlds (pp 301-306)

[5] Coexistence of Fermi Arcs and Fermi Pockets in High Temperature Cuprate Superconductors (pp 335-338)

[6] Ultraflat Graphene (pp 339-341)

[7] Frequency of gamma oscillations routes flow of information in the hippocampus (pp 353-357)

[8] Systems-level dynamic analyses of fate change in murine embryonic stem cells (pp 358-362)

[9] Signal peptides are allosteric activators of the protein translocase (pp 363-367)

[10] Dynamic Activation of an Allosteric Regulatory Protein (pp 368-372)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 18 November 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 19 November, but at a later date. ***

[11] In vitro reconstitution of an abscisic acid signaling pathway
DOI: 10.1038/nature08599

[12] Coordinating DNA replication via priming loop and differential synthesis rate
DOI: 10.1038/nature08611

[13] Transport mechanism of a bacterial homologue of glutamate transporters
DOI: 10.1038/nature08616


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.

Beijing: 5

Crete: 9


Nijmegen: 7

Trondheim: 7

Thuwal: 11

Valencia: 11

Bristol: 3
Cambridge: 2, 3
Manchester: 8
Milton Keynes: 3
Southampton: 3


Irvine: 1
Riverside: 11
San Francisco: 7

Urbana: 12

Greenbelt: 4

Boston: 11
Cambridge: 4, 7, 8

New Jersey
Piscataway: 9, 10, 12
Princeton: 8

New York
New York: 1, 6, 8, 13
Palisades: 1


From North America and Canada
Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail:

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

From the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Jen Middleton, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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