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Volume 511 Issue 7507, 3 July 2014

The discovery of numerous feathered dinosaurs and early birds has set the iconic ‘Urvogel’ (or ‘first bird’) Archaeopteryx in a broader context. But this venerable taxon still has the capacity to surprise. A newly discovered specimen from the Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria - only the eleventh since 1861 - shows a generous covering of feathers all over the body. Of particular note is a hindlimb covering resembling feathered ‘trousers’. Analysis of feather distribution on the limbs and tail strongly suggests that pennaceous feathers - the type we are familiar with on birds today — evolved for reasons other than flight, perhaps for display. Cover photo: Helmut Tischlinger.


  • Editorial |

    The human rights of academics in Egypt are being eroded by the military regime that has taken control of the country. The Arab Spring is on hold.

  • Editorial |

    Two retractions highlight long-standing issues of trust and sloppiness that must be addressed.

  • Editorial |

    As the centenary of its outbreak approaches, Nature looks back on the First World War.

World View

  • World View |

    Insufficient funding, more bureaucracy and an inefficient government funding system are sapping the life from Russian research, says Alexey Yablokov.

    • Alexey Yablokov

Research Highlights

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    The week in science: Retracted GM study republished; Mars landing gear passes first test; and UK public votes for antibiotics research in Longitude Prize.


  • News |

    US funding agency disagreed with university’s assessment of potential threats.

    • Declan Butler
    • Brendan Maher
  • News |

    Research-agency staff protest over slashed spending and concerns about country’s future research capability.

    • Leigh Dayton
  • News |

    Legal challenge to transgenic crops has created a rift in the country’s scientific community.

    • Laura Vargas-Parada
  • News |

    Industry and academia invest in treating diseases by delivering electrical charges to nerves.

    • Sara Reardon


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    A decade ago, voters in California changed the biomedical research landscape by directly funding embryonic stem-cell research. Now the organization they created needs a hit to survive.

    • Erika Check Hayden
  • News Feature |

    The discovery of thousands of star systems wildly different from our own has demolished ideas about how planets form. Astronomers are searching for a whole new theory.

    • Ann Finkbeiner


Books & Arts


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A comparison of the development of adapted limbs in mammals uncovers multiple avenues to digit loss and highlights that early patterning events are not untouchable by evolutionary tinkering. See Articles p.41 & p.46

    • Bau-lin Huang
    • Susan Mackem
  • News & Views |

    Tight pairs of supermassive black holes are expected to emit gravitational waves that could give astronomers a new way to explore the cosmos. One relatively tight pair has been discovered within a rare triple system. See Letter p.57

    • Greg Taylor
  • News & Views |

    Two crystal structures of the LptD–LptE protein complex reveal how the cell-wall component lipopolysaccharide is delivered and inserted into the external leaflet of the bacterial outer membrane. See Article p.52 & Letter p.108

    • Russell E. Bishop
  • News & Views |

    Global warming is projected to force climatic variables in some places beyond the range of historical experience, perhaps permanently. A reassessment shows that this could begin sooner or much later than recently estimated.

    • Scott B. Power
  • News & Views |

    A study that defines the interactions between three immunity-regulating molecules — type 1 interferon, interleukin-1 and prostaglandin E2 — will help to explain the variable outcomes of tuberculosis infections. See Letter p.99

    • Samuel M. Behar
    • Christopher M. Sassetti



  • Article |

    A study of limb development in multiple mammals reveals that evolutionary digit loss has occured in many different ways—at different stages and by different mechanisms, such as regulation of Shh in initial digit specification events or by removal of digits through cell death.

    • Kimberly L. Cooper
    • Karen E. Sears
    • Clifford J. Tabin
  • Article |

    The basic five-digit limb of tetrapods has been altered many times during evolution, usually by the progressive loss of digits — this study tracks the molecular underpinnings of this change, showing that in comparison to mouse, the polarized gene expression in the bovine limb bud is progressively lost due to evolutionary alteration of the cis-regulatory sequences that control Ptch1 expression in response to SHH signalling in the digit-forming handplate.

    • Javier Lopez-Rios
    • Amandine Duchesne
    • Rolf Zeller
  • Article |

    Lipopolysaccharide, an essential component of the outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria, is inserted by LptD–LptE, a protein complex with a unique ‘barrel and plug’ architecture; the structure, molecular dynamics simulations and functional assays of the LptD–LptE complex of Salmonella typhimurium suggest that lipopolysaccharide may pass through the barrel and is then inserted into the outer leaflet of the outer membrane through a lateral opening between two β-strands of LptD.

    • Haohao Dong
    • Quanju Xiang
    • Changjiang Dong


  • Letter |

    Quantum oscillation measurements in the underdoped copper oxide YBa2Cu3O6 + x reveal a nodal electronic structure from charge order, which helps to characterize the normal state out of which superconductivity emerges in the underdoped regime.

    • Suchitra E. Sebastian
    • N. Harrison
    • G. G. Lonzarich
  • Letter |

    Multiple-quantum-well semiconductors can provide one of the largest known nonlinear material responses, which is, however, geometrically limited to light beams polarized perpendicular to the semiconductor layers; by coupling a plasmonic metasurface to the semiconductor heterostructure, this limitation can be lifted, opening a new path towards ultrathin planarized components with large nonlinear response.

    • Jongwon Lee
    • Mykhailo Tymchenko
    • Mikhail A. Belkin
  • Letter |

    A simply prepared quantum bit that is a hybrid of spin and charge enables full control on the Bloch sphere with π-rotation times of less than 100 picoseconds in two orthogonal directions; the speed arises from the charge-like characteristics, and the spin-like features result in increased quantum coherence.

    • Dohun Kim
    • Zhan Shi
    • Mark A. Eriksson
  • Letter |

    Analysis of radiocarbon and uranium-series dates and clumped isotope temperature estimates from water column profiles of fossil deep-sea corals in the North Atlantic shows that the release of heat from warm waters in the deep North Atlantic Ocean probably triggered the Bølling–Allerød warming and reinvigoration of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation 14,700 years ago.

    • Nivedita Thiagarajan
    • Adam V. Subhas
    • Jess F. Adkins
  • Letter |

    Two species may be fully reproductively isolated at the point they meet, but be connected by continuous gene flow by a longer route around the back of a geographical barrier; such a ring species complex exists for the greenish warbler, and genomics shows that there have been several historical breaks in gene flow along the continuum, as well as some introgression between the end forms.

    • Miguel Alcaide
    • Elizabeth S. C. Scordato
    • Darren E. Irwin
  • Letter |

    The ubiquitin ligase RLIM is known to activate the long non-coding RNA Xist, which is crucial for X-chromosome inactivation in female mice; however, unlike imprinted X-chromosome inactivation that requires RLIM for Xist expression, evidence is now provided that during random X-chromosome inactivation Xist expression is regulated by an RLIM-independent pathway in vivo.

    • JongDae Shin
    • Mary C. Wallingford
    • Ingolf Bach
  • Letter |

    A new mechanism by which acute myeloid leukaemia patients become resistant to Ara-C and a newer treatment, ribavirin, is uncovered; these drugs can be glucuronidated and thereby inactivated by members of the UDP glucuronosyltransferase family of enzymes activated through GLI1 signalling.

    • Hiba Ahmad Zahreddine
    • Biljana Culjkovic-Kraljacic
    • Katherine L. B. Borden
  • Letter |

    Lipopolysaccharide, an essential component of the Gram-negative bacteria outer membrane, is inserted by LptD–LptE, a protein complex with a unique ‘barrel and plug’ architecture; the structure of the LptD–LptE complex of Shigella flexneri determined here shows LptD forming a 26-stranded β-barrel with LptE located inside the barrel of LptD, the first two β-strands are distorted by two proline residues, creating a potential portal in the barrel wall that might allow lateral diffusion of lipopolysaccharide into the outer membrane.

    • Shuai Qiao
    • Qingshan Luo
    • Yihua Huang



  • Feature |

    Scientific advisers for films and television help to bring credibility to the screen — and take some tangible and intangible benefits back to the lab.

    • Paul Smaglik

Career Brief


  • Futures |

    Journey's end.

    • S. R. Algernon

Brief Communications Arising

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