The social brain hypothesis posits that social complexity is the primary driver of primate cognitive complexity, and that social pressures ultimately led to the evolution of the large human brain. Although this idea has been supported by studies indicating positive relationships between relative brain and/or neocortex size and group size, reported effects of different social and mating systems are highly conflicting.

Lignin, one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, derives from the plant phenolic metabolism. It appeared upon terrestrialization and is thought critical for plant colonization of land. Early diverging land plants do not form lignin, but already have elements of its biosynthetic machinery. Here we delete in a moss the P450 oxygenase that defines the entry point in angiosperm lignin metabolism, and find that its pre-lignin pathway is essential for development.

Zika is an emerging virus whose rapid spread is of great public health concern. Knowledge about transmission remains incomplete, especially concerning potential transmission in geographic areas in which it has not yet been introduced. To identify unknown vectors of Zika, we developed a data-driven model linking vector species and the Zika virus via vector-virus trait combinations that confer a propensity toward associations in an ecological network connecting flaviviruses and their mosquito vectors.

Malaria parasites degrade substantial quantities of hemoglobin to release heme within a specialized digestive vacuole. Most of this heme is sequestered in an inert crystal. However, the concentration of bioavailable, labile heme in the parasite’s cytosol was unknown. We developed a biosensor to provide the first quantitative insights into labile heme concentrations in malaria parasites. We find that ∼1.6 µM labile cytosolic heme is maintained, including during a period coincident with intense hemoglobin degradation.

Some 14,000 km from Japan, a 33-member team is researching a wide range of issues on global warming at Showa Station, Japan’s Antarctic research center.

The system of the bacterium Escherichia coli and its virus, bacteriophage lambda, is paradigmatic for gene regulation in cell-fate development, yet insight about its mechanisms and complexities are limited due to insufficient resolution of study. Here we develop a 4-colour fluorescence reporter system at the single-virus level, combined with computational models to unravel both the interactions between phages and how individual phages determine cellular fates.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) deliver higher levels of blue light to the retina than do conventional domestic light sources. Chronic exposure to high-intensity light (2,000–10,000 lux) has previously been found to result in light-induced retinal injury, but chronic exposure to relatively low-intensity (750 lux) light has not been previously assessed with LEDs in a rodent model. Researchers examined LED-induced retinal neuronal cell damage in the Sprague-Dawley rat using functional, histological, and biochemical measurements.

Previous studies indicate that the design of streets and sidewalks can influence physical activity among residents. Park features also influence park use and park-based physical activity. Although individuals can walk on streets and sidewalks, walking loops in parks offer a setting to walk in nature and to avoid interruptions from traffic. Here the researchers describe the use of walking loops in parks and compare the number of park users and their physical activity in urban neighborhood parks with and without walking loops.

This brief, which builds on discussions at the Adaptation Futures 2016 conference, argues that in order to transform adaptation knowledge into successful action, we need research on adaptation as well as for it. Adaptation research is in high demand, as the need to adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change is increasingly evident.

A major Australian government report published 25 years ago called for urgent investment in research on the impacts of climate change on human health. Since that report's release, less than 0.1% of Australian health funding has been allocated to this area. As the world continues on a high emissions pathway, the health impacts from climate change are increasing in size and complexity. While Australia has established leadership roles in climate science and health research, it must now link these two strengths.