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Volume 513 Issue 7519, 25 September 2014

According to the theory of island biogeography, the number of species (richness) is determined by how an island's area and isolation govern rates of colonization, extinction and speciation. There is a long history of human introduction of anole lizards to Caribbean islands, hitching a ride on on crops such as pineapple and recently on ornamental plants for hotel gardens. Matt Helmus et al. take advantage of this spread of exotic species to conduct a large-scale direct test of the theory of island biogeography. Their results confirm some theoretical predictions — geographic area remains a good positive predictor of species richness, for instance. But in a world dominated by humans, geographic isolation as a negative predictor of richness has been replaced by economic isolation. For example, shipping traffic among islands is unrelated to geographic isolation and is instead linked to trade policy — illustrated by the fact that the US embargo has reduced the number of exotic anoles established on Cuba. Cover: Cuban green anole (Anolis porcatus) established in the Dominican Republic (photo: Miguel Landestoy T)


  • Editorial |

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has starkly exposed major gaps in plans to tackle emerging infectious diseases. Lessons must be learned.


  • Editorial |

    German research organizations need to help their workers to defend animal research.

  • Editorial |

    As the Scottish referendum showed, scientists’ views can influence political debate.

World View

  • World View |

    Scientists must ensure that the ambitious plan of Turkey’s president does not move forward without a thorough impact assessment, says Derin Orhon.

    • Derin Orhon

Research Highlights

Social Selection

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    The week in science: NASA mission reaches Mars, Arctic sea-ice hits annual minimum, and extreme drought fuels California fires.



News Feature


Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Peter Ratcliff uses dendrochronology — tree-ring dating — to pin down the age and suggest the provenance of stringed instruments. As he prepares to speak at the Woodmusick instrument identification conference in Cremona, Italy, on 30 September, he talks about the science of spotting fakes, and the 14 Stradivarius instruments made from the same spruce tree.

    • Jascha Hoffman


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A detailed survey of the Fraser River in Canada challenges preconceptions about how river water flows. The results call for a re-evaluation of how waterways carve through bedrock to form canyons. See Letter p.534

    • Nicole M. Gasparini
  • News & Views |

    Proteins are synthesized in cells by the ribosome apparatus. A report of 16 yeast ribosome structures, each bound by a different inhibitor, broadens our understanding of how drugs affect ribosome activity. See Article p.517

    • Nelson B. Olivier
  • News & Views |

    The first definitive signs of water have been seen in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized exoplanet, paving the way towards the search for water on smaller Earth-like planets. See Letter p.526

    • Eliza M. R. Kempton
  • News & Views |

    The development of stem-cell-based models of two diseases that cause dwarfism reveals that statins — drugs that are used to treat high levels of blood cholesterol — may also promote cartilage formation and bone growth. See Article p.507

    • Bjorn R. Olsen
  • News & Views |

    Calcium is an essential component of the catalyst that forms oxygen from water during photosynthesis. It seems that part of calcium's job is to enable the release of oxygen from this catalyst.

    • Davide Lionetti
    • Theodor Agapie
  • News & Views |

    The development of tobacco plants that are genetically engineered to produce a more efficient form of Rubisco, an enzyme involved in photosynthesis, marks a step towards increasing crop yields. See Letter p.547

    • G. Dean Price
    • Susan M. Howitt
  • News & Views |

    The development of CellNet — network-biology software that determines how cell types generated in vitro relate to their naturally occurring counterparts — could improve our ability to produce desirable cells in culture.

    • Franz-Josef Müller
    • Jeanne F. Loring


  • Article |

    Asian monsoons were strongly active 40 million years ago and were enhanced by high atmospheric CO2 content. They were significantly weakened when CO2 levels decreased 34 million years ago and then reinitiated several million years later.

    • A. Licht
    • M. van Cappelle
    • J.-J. Jaeger
  • Article |

    This study reprograms fibroblasts from thanatophoric dysplasia type I (TD1) and achondroplasia (ACH) patients into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), finding that chondrogenic differentiation results in the formation of degraded cartilage; statin treatment led to significant recovery of bone growth in a mouse model of ACH.

    • Akihiro Yamashita
    • Miho Morioka
    • Noriyuki Tsumaki
  • Article |

    Mutations that dysregulate Notch1 and Ras/PI3K signalling are common in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia; here, treatment with a PI3K inhibitor is shown to induce drug resistance that is associated with downregulation of activated Notch1 signalling, suggesting that inhibition of both Notch1 and PI3K could promote drug resistance.

    • Monique Dail
    • Jason Wong
    • Kevin Shannon
  • Article |

    Whereas previous structural investigation of ribosome inhibitors has been done using the prokaryotic ribosome, this work presents X-ray crystal structures of the yeast ribosome in complex with 16 inhibitors including eukaryotic-specific inhibitors; the inhibitors all bind the mRNA or tRNA binding sites, larger molecules appear to target specifically the first elongation cycle.

    • Nicolas Garreau de Loubresse
    • Irina Prokhorova
    • Marat Yusupov


  • Letter |

    Simulations tracing the mixing of chemical elements as star-forming clouds assemble and collapse show that turbulent mixing during cloud assembly naturally produces a scatter of stellar abundance much smaller than that in the gas, explaining why stars in the same cluster appear to be nearly identical in their chemical abundances.

    • Yi Feng
    • Mark R. Krumholz
  • Letter |

    Space telescope observations of the transmission spectrum of the extrasolar planet HAT-P-11b, which is about the same size as Neptune, reveal water vapour absorption at a wavelength of 1.4 micrometres and indicate that the planetary atmosphere is predominantly clear down to an altitude corresponding to about 1 millibar.

    • Jonathan Fraine
    • Drake Deming
    • Kamen Todorov
  • Letter |

    A survey along the Fraser Canyon in Canada reveals complex flow dynamics involving velocity inversions and upwelling, which suggests ways to improve flow and bedrock incision modelling.

    • Jeremy G. Venditti
    • Colin D. Rennie
    • Michael Church
  • Letter |

    A contemporary test of the theory of island biogeography, in which species richness is determined by an island’s area and isolation, shows that geographic area is still a good positive predictor of species richness, but that geographic isolation as a negative predictor has been replaced by economic isolation.

    • Matthew R. Helmus
    • D. Luke Mahler
    • Jonathan B. Losos
  • Letter |

    The plant enzyme Rubisco is the main enzyme converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into biological compounds, however, this enzymatic process is inefficient in vascular plants; this study demonstrates that tobacco plants can be engineered to fix carbon with a faster cyanobacterial Rubisco, thus potentially improving plant photosynthesis.

    • Myat T. Lin
    • Alessandro Occhialini
    • Maureen R. Hanson
  • Letter |

    The human fungal pathogen Mucor circinelloides develops spontaneous resistance to an antifungal drug both through mutation and through a newly identified epigenetic RNA-mediated pathway; RNA interference is spontaneously triggered to silence the fkbA gene, giving rise to drug-resistant epimutants that revert to being drug-sensitive once again when grown in the absence of drug.

    • Silvia Calo
    • Cecelia Shertz-Wall
    • Joseph Heitman
  • Letter |

    The alarmin interleukin-33 is constitutively expressed at barrier sites and released in response to tissue damage; here, the IL-33 receptor ST2 is shown to be preferentially expressed on colonic regulatory T cells, where it promotes regulatory T-cell function and adaptation to the inflammatory tissue environment.

    • Chris Schiering
    • Thomas Krausgruber
    • Fiona Powrie
  • Letter |

    Crystal structure of the RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9 bound to a guide RNA and a target DNA duplex reveals how base-specific recognition of a short motif known as PAM in the DNA target results in localized strand separation in the DNA immediately upstream of the PAM, allowing the target DNA strand to hybridize to the guide RNA.

    • Carolin Anders
    • Ole Niewoehner
    • Martin Jinek



Career Brief

  • Career Brief |

    Report confirms broad gender pay disparity in United States.

  • Career Brief |

    Institutions globally aim to support interdisciplinarity.

  • Career Brief |

    Foundation provides a roadmap back to the bench.


Brief Communications Arising

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