Wildlife trade bans may do more harm than good

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Chilly receptor, Very short RNAs make unexpected appearance, Tropical cyclones mix things up, Neuronal duo implicated in diet-restricted ageing, Water vapour in planetary birthplace, Arithmetic is child’s play, Putting a spin on logic gates and How animal ‘personalities’ came to be


This press release is copyright Nature.
VOL.447 NO.7144 DATED 31 MAY 2007

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Physiology: Chilly receptor

Molecular biology: Very short RNAs make unexpected appearance

Ocean science: Tropical cyclones mix things up

Ageing: Neuronal duo implicated in diet-restricted ageing

Extrasolar planets: Water vapour in planetary birthplace

Cognitive neuroscience: Arithmetic is child’s play

Commentary: Wildlife trade bans may do more harm than good

Electronics: Putting a spin on logic gates

And finally… How animal ‘personalities’ came to be

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

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Physiology: Chilly receptor (AOP)

DOI: 10.1038/nature05910

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 30 May 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 31 May, but at a later date.***

Researchers have finally pinpointed the receptor responsible for detecting cold. It’s the menthol receptor TRPM8, say David Julius and colleagues in a paper online in this week’s Nature.

Mice lacking the gene have problems sensing cold — they can’t discriminate between warm and cold surfaces until the temperature drops to extremes. In addition, cultured sensory neurons and intact sensory nerve fibres taken from the animals display diminished responses to cold.

The identity of the transduction molecules underlying cold sensation has long been a mystery in sensory physiology. For a long time, TRPM8 has been recognized as an excellent candidate but the evidence has been circumstantial. The new study uses a combination of electrophysiological recordings, calcium imaging and behavioural studies to finally nail the culprit.


David Julius (University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 415 476 0431; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Molecular biology: Very short RNAs make unexpected appearance (AOP)

DOI: 10.1038/nature05903

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 30 May 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 31 May, but at a later date.***

Very short RNAs, such as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs), previously found only in multicellular organisms, have been discovered in a unicellular alga. The discovery, reported online in Nature this week, forces a rethink about the evolutionary history of these molecules.

siRNAs and miRNAs have been found in a variety of multicellular organisms including fungi, plants, protozoans and metazoans, where they have been implicated in the control of growth and development. They are also a useful tool in the laboratory, where they can be used to silence gene expression (RNA interference).

David C. Baulcombe and colleagues now show that the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii also contains very short RNAs that direct cleavage of their target RNA — just like their higher-plant counterparts.

The authors suggest that miRNAs were probably present in primitive eukaryotic cells and that they evolved before multicellularity. This contrasts with the previous theory that suggested that miRNAs evolved together with multicellularity in separate plant and animal lineages.


David C. Baulcombe (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK)
Tel: +44 1603 450 181; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Ocean science: Tropical cyclones mix things up (pp 577-580)

The ocean mixing caused by tropical cyclones may be responsible for a significant proportion of the heat transport in the world's oceans, a Nature paper suggests. The findings put tropical storms at the heart of the debate of how the ocean will behave in a world ever more affected by global warming.

Tropical cyclones are known to mix the upper layers of the ocean — a process that 'pumps' heat downwards and thereby cools the ocean surface — on local scales, and it has been proposed that they may play an important role in ocean mixing at the global scale. Ryan L. Sriver and Matthew Huber have tested this idea by calculating how much cyclones cool the ocean surface and using their results to estimate the amount of mixing they induce.

They find that tropical cyclones are responsible for significant cooling and vertical mixing of the surface ocean in tropical regions. The heat that is 'pumped' downwards by this process must then be balanced by heat transport towards the poles.

Their results also show that the amount of mixing induced by tropical cyclones is related to sea surface temperature, suggesting that future changes in tropical sea surface temperatures may have significant effects on ocean circulation and ocean heat transport, because both these processes are affected by ocean mixing. Climate change models could benefit from taking these effects into account.


Matthew Huber (Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA)
Tel: +1 465 494 0652; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Ageing: Neuronal duo implicated in diet-restricted ageing (pp 545-549; N&V)

A particular pair of neurons may play a key role in the lengthy lives of underfed worms, a Nature paper reveals. The study is one of the first to suggest an endocrine mechanism behind the phenomenon of diet-restricted ageing.

Cutting down calories activates a gene called skn-1 that is found in a particular pair of neurons in the head of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, report Nicholas A. Bishop and Leonard Guarente in this week's Nature. In turn, this signals peripheral tissues to increase metabolic activity and the worms live longer than normally fed counterparts.

It's well known that dietary restriction extends lifespan and retards age-related disease in many species, and profoundly alters endocrine function in mammals. A recent Nature paper (advance online publication 2 May 2007, doi:10.1038/nature05837) highlighted a different gene, pha-4, involved in the response to nutrient signals. The new findings show that increased lifespan in a diet-restricted worm also depends on signalling from central neuronal cells to non-neuronal body tissues, and suggests that a pair of key neurons mediate the effect in an endocrine manner.


Leonard Guarente (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 253 6965; E-mail: [email protected]

Adam Antebi (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 713 798 6661; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Extrasolar planets: Water vapour in planetary birthplace (pp 562-564; N&V)

Water vapour and hydrogen gas have been 'spotted' near a young star, a paper in this week's Nature reveals.

Planetary systems are formed in disks of dust and gas around young stars. Joshua A. Eisner managed to separate the gas and dust components within one astronomical unit (that is, one Sun–Earth distance) of the young star MWC480 to reveal water and hydrogen. The water vapour was probably formed by the sublimation of icy bodies migrating into the region, he says.


Joshua Eisner (University of California, Berkeley, USA)
Tel: +1 510 642 6111; E-mail: [email protected]

Roy van Boekel (Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany) N&V author
Tel: +49 6221 528 405; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Cognitive neuroscience: Arithmetic is child’s play (pp 589-591)

Children are able to solve mathematical problems involving large numbers even before they have been taught arithmetic, according to a report in Nature this week. The study suggests that children do not need to master the logic of the symbolic number system in order to perform approximate addition and subtraction.

Camilla Gilmore and colleagues presented five-year-old children with a series of problems — in the form of hypothetical scenarios — that involved the approximate addition and subtraction of large numbers. Even though the children had not yet been taught about symbolic arithmetic, and were yet to master the processes of addition and subtraction, they performed well above chance on the tests and without resorting to guessing. The authors found that this was true both in a quiet ‘laboratory’ setting and in the classroom, although performance was lower overall in the more distracting classroom environment.

These results reveal the numerical competences that come naturally to children, who can thus solve untaught arithmetic problems by drawing on their approximate, non-symbolic number knowledge. The authors propose that arithmetic instruction might be enriched, and children’s engagement with formal mathematics enhanced, by building on this ability.


Camilla Gilmore (University of Nottingham, UK)

Please contact the author through:

Tim Utton (Media and Public Relations, University of Nottingham, UK)

Tel: +44 115 846 8092; E-mail: [email protected]

Elizabeth Spelke (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA) Co-author

Tel: +1 617 495 3876; E-mail: [email protected]

Commentary: Wildlife trade bans may do more harm than good

Banning the commercial trade of an endangered wild species can perversely increase trading, argue a group of conservation scientists in this week’s Nature. Writing in the run-up to next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference, Philippe Rivalan and colleagues provide evidence that when CITES plans to reclassify, or uplist, a species to halt trade it can lead to an increase in legal trade and, once the ban is in place, drive business underground. The group suggests instead that more proactive, swift and flexible species management is in the interests of both traders and conservationists.

“Uplisting is associated with a spike in trade volumes,” say Rivalan and colleagues. A ban generally takes effect 240 to 420 days after submission of a proposal, leaving a year for traders to acquire specimens or clear stocks. The new analysis shows that legal volumes of imports can increase during this transition period, although further field work is needed to assess how such spikes might affect individual species. Concerns were first raised in 1985 that uplisting could make species more commercially valuable; until now there had been no wide-ranging analysis to support this idea. “At the very least, our findings suggest that CITES authorities will need to use extra vigilance in controlling permits during transition periods and in adhering to quotas,” comment Rivalan and his co-authors.


Philippe Rivalan (Université Paris-Sud & CNRS, Orsay, France)
Tel: +33 1 69 15 56 91; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Electronics: Putting a spin on logic gates (pp 573-576)

Researchers have devised an intriguing approach to designing logic circuits, based on electron spin in semiconductors. Although yet to be made, the devices promise scalability and greater computational capability per gate than systems based on conventional silicon transistor devices.

The basic element of the proposed ‘spintronic’ circuit, reported by Hanan Dery and colleagues in this week’s Nature, is a logic gate based on five magnetic contacts sitting on top of a semiconductor layer. Four of these can be set to have a certain magnetic orientation, corresponding to '1' and '0'. This influences the spin orientation of electrons in the semiconductor layer below, which in turn determines the output from the fifth contact. The result — a gate that can perform fast logic operations.

The authors claim that the new approach should lend itself to complex architectures while requiring low power consumption.


Hanan Dery (University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 822 6446; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] And finally… How animal ‘personalities’ came to be (pp 581-584; N&V)

The evolution of animal ‘personalities’ — consistent sets of behaviour shown in a variety of contexts — has been hard to explain, but a paper in this week’s Nature may have the answer.

More than sixty animal species, from ants to primates, have been shown to have ‘personality’ — individuals consistently differ in their behaviour in a range of situations including aggressive interactions and parental care. But with evolution theoretically favouring convergence towards a single personality, these individual differences have been puzzling.

Franz J. Weissing and colleagues explain the evolution of personality in terms of life-history trade-offs. Some animals that have much to lose and invest heavily in their future evolve to avoid risks in all kinds of situations, such as confrontations with predators. But non-investing individuals are more likely to be bold and aggressive. It is these trade-offs between current and future reproduction that condition the response of individuals to risky situations, and it is this that may underlie animal ‘personalities’ and their maintenance in populations.


Franz J. Weissing (University of Groningen, Kerklaan, The Netherlands)

The author is travelling and it might be easier to contact:

Max Wolf (University of Groningen, Kerklaan, The Netherlands) Co-author

Tel: +1 505 946 2754; E-mail: [email protected]

Alison M. Bell (University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 217 265 5469; E-mail: [email protected]


[9] Quantum oscillations and the Fermi surface in an underdoped high-Tc superconductor (pp 565-568; N&V)

[10] Visualizing pair formation on the atomic scale in the high-Tc superconductor Bi2Sr2CaCu2O81d (pp 569-572)

[11] Incipient speciation by divergent adaptation and antagonistic epistasis in yeast (pp 585-588)

[12] Universal physical responses to stretch in the living cell (pp 592-595)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 30 May 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 31 May, but at a later date.***

[13] Gene-specific control of inflammation by TLR-induced chromatin modifications

DOI: 10.1038/nature05836


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.


Mississauga: 11

Sherbrooke: 9

Toronto: 9

Vancouver: 9


Chongqing: 12


Toulouse: 9


Tokyo: 10


Kerklaan: 8


Barcelona: 12


Stockholm: 8


Norwich: 2

Nottingham: 6



Berkeley: 5

La Jolla: 7

San Francisco: 1


New Haven: 1, 13


West Lafayette: 3


Baltimore: 12


Boston: 12

Cambridge: 4, 6


Reno: 12

New Jersey

Princeton: 10

New Mexico

Santa Fe: 8


Milwaukee: 1


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected]

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Helen Jamison, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail [email protected]

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Published: 30 May 2007

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