Genomes: Is it a bird, is it a mammal…?

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Climate: Atmospheric aerosol and sea temperature, The planets: Mysteries surrounding the ‘butterscotch’ planet’s equator and Predicting fish diversity patterns in river networks


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.453 NO.7192 DATED 08 May 2008

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Genomes: Is it a bird, is it a mammal…?

Climate: Atmospheric aerosol and sea temperature

The planets: Mysteries surrounding the ‘butterscotch’ planet’s equator

And finally… Predicting fish diversity patterns in river networks

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

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Genomes: Is it a bird, is it a mammal…? (pp 175-183)

The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a truly unique animal, and its fascinating genome is published in Nature this week. Platypuses are monotremes with almost no close relatives alive on earth. Scientists just had to take a look at that genome, and now an international collaboration of researchers report its sequencing and analysis.

Famously considered a hoax when sent from Australia to European researchers in the nineteenth century, the platypus is an amalgam of reptilian, mammalian and unique characteristics that provide clues to the function and evolution of all mammalian genomes. Sequencing of the platypus genome has helped to uncover the following: the origins of genomic imprinting in vertebrates; platypus venom proteins were co-opted independently from the same gene families that provided reptile venom; milk protein genes are conserved; and immune gene family expansions are directly related to platypus biology. As well as providing an invaluable resource for comparative genomics, the sequence will be important for monotreme conservation.


Wesley Warren (Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA)
Tel: +1 314 286 1899; E-mail: [email protected]

Jennifer Marshall Graves (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Tel: +61 261 252 492; E-mail: [email protected]

Ewan Birney (The European Bioinformatics Institute, Cambridge, UK)
E-mail: [email protected]

Please note this author is best contacted through the following press contact:

Louisa Wright (The European Bioinformatics Institute, Cambridge, UK)
Tel: +44 1223 494665; E-mail: [email protected]

Chris Ponting (MRC Functional Genetics Unit, University of Oxford, UK)
E-mail: [email protected]

Please note this author is best contacted through the MRC press office:

Medical Research Council, London, UK
Tel: +44 20 7637 6011; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Climate: Atmospheric aerosol and sea temperature (pp 212-215)

A difference in sea surface temperature across the equatorial Atlantic may help create conditions conducive to droughts in the Amazon, like that experienced in 2005. The particular set of conditions — warming of the tropical north Atlantic relative to the south —can be linked to the effect of atmospheric aerosols on climate and may become more common in the future, according to research published in Nature this week.

In 2005 there was a pronounced drought in the Amazon rainforest, which appears to have been associated with a period of unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean. Peter Cox and colleagues show that this event can be better understood with reference to the gradient in sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Atlantic, of which the northern temperature anomalies are just a factor. By incorporating the effects of atmospheric aerosols into their model, the authors are able to reproduce the observed variations in this temperature gradient over the past century — and by projecting these trends into the future, they predict that the sea-surface conditions conducive to droughts like that experienced in 2005 will become much more common.


Peter Cox (University of Exeter, UK)
Tel: +44 1392 269220; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] & [4] The planets: Mysteries surrounding the ‘butterscotch’ planet’s equator (pp 196-199; 200-202; N&V)

Saturn, the second largest planet in the Solar System, is easily spotted because of the brightness of the rings around its equator. Two companion papers in this week’s Nature report on features of its atmosphere, one using data collected by the Cassini mission and the other from over two decades of ground-based observations.

The equatorial stratospheres of Earth and Jupiter oscillate more or less periodically on timescales of about two and four years, respectively. By analysing infrared observations from the Cassini probe, Thierry Fouchet and colleagues discovered that Saturn has an equatorial oscillation like Earth's and Jupiter's, as well as a mid-latitude subsidence that may be associated with the equatorial motion. Glenn Orton and co-workers’ ground-based observations of Saturn's stratospheric emission reveal a similar oscillation.

The period of the oscillation is approximately 15 terrestrial years, which is roughly half of Saturn's year, suggesting the influence of seasonal forcing —rather like the Earth's semi-annual oscillation.


Glenn Orton (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA) Author paper [3]
Tel: +1 818 354 2460; E-mail: [email protected]

Thierry Fouchet (Observatoire de Paris, Meudon, France) Author paper [4]
Tel: +33 1 45 07 71 11; E-mail: [email protected]

Timothy Dowling (University of Louisville, KY, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 502 852 3927; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] And finally… Predicting fish diversity patterns in river networks (pp 220-222)

River networks act as ecological corridors, and a paper in this week’s Nature exploits this key feature to show that they can be used to characterize patterns of fish diversity.

Rachata Muneepeerakul and colleagues use the Mississippi–Missouri river basin system as a model for large-scale spatial features of fish biodiversity. They draw on estimates of average dispersal behaviour and habitat capacities, calculated from average runoff production. It is the river’s dendritic structure that contributes to the richness of local species, the species range and the between-community diversity.

The authors claim that their type of model could be applied in a range of ecosystems to link global climate change, for example, to biodiversity patterns.


Rachata Muneepeerakul (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 609 258 1436; E-mail: [email protected]


[6] Dynamic binding orientations direct activity of HIV reverse transcriptase (pp 184-189)

[7] Quantum oscillations in a molecular magnet (pp 203-206; N&V)

[8] Colossal cages in zeolitic imidazolate frameworks as selective carbon dioxide reservoirs (pp 207-211)

[9] Scale effects and human impact on the elevational species richness gradients (pp 216-219)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 07 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 them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 08 May, but at a later date. ***

[10] Midzone activation of aurora B in anaphase produces an intracellular phosphorylation gradient
DOI: 10.1038/nature06923

[11] Cytokinin and auxin interaction in root stem-cell specification during early embryogenesis
DOI: 10.1038/nature06943

[12] Multi-genetic events collaboratively contribute to Pten-null leukaemia stem-cell formation
DOI: 10.1038/nature06933

[13] Domain organization of human chromosomes revealed by mapping of nuclear lamina interactions
DOI: 10.1038/nature06947

[14] Global control of cell-cycle transcription by coupled CDK and network oscillators
DOI: 10.1038/nature06955

[15] Drosophila endogenous small RNAs bind to Argonaute 2 in somatic cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature06938

[16] An endogenous small interfering RNA pathway in Drosophila
DOI: 10.1038/nature07007

[17] The Drosophila hairpin RNA pathway generates endogenous short interfering RNAs
DOI: 10.1038/nature07015


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.

Adelaide : 1
Canberra: 1
Clayton : 1
Melbourne : 1
Newcastle : 1
Parkville : 1
Sydney: 1

Sao Paulo: 2

Toronto: 3

Copenhagen: 9

Grenoble: 7
Meudon : 4
Nouzilly : 1

Berlin: 1
Bielefeld: 7
Münster: 1

Beer-Sheva: 7
Rehovot: 1

Padua: 5

Chiba: 15
Kobe: 1
Saitama: 15
Tokushima: 15
Tokyo: 15

Amsterdam: 13
Delft: 13
Rotterdam: 13

Christchurch: 1

Madrid: 9
Oviedo: 1
Zaragoza: 9

Lausanne: 5

Cambridge: 1
Edinburgh: 3
Exeter: 2
Hinxton: 1
Oxford: 1, 3
Wallingford: 2


Tempe: 8
Tucson: 3

Berkeley: 3
Los Angeles: 3, 8, 12, 16
Pasadena: 3

Boulder: 3
Denver: 12

Gainesville: 3
Tallahassee: 7

Hilo: 3
Honolulu: 3
Kamuela: 3

Ames: 1

Baton Rouge: 1

Orono: 3

Baltimore: 4
College Park: 5
Frederick: 6
Greenbelt: 3, 4

Boston: 11, 16
Cambridge: 1, 3, 6, 12, 16, 17

St Louis: 1

New Jersey
Princeton: 5

New York
Cold Spring Harbor: 1, 16
Ithaca: 3
New York: 1, 10, 17

North Carolina
Durham: 14

Eugene: 1

Philadelphia: 10
University Park: 1

Charlottesville: 10
Hampton: 3

Seattle: 1

West Virginia:
Morgantown: 1


From North America and Canada
Katherine Anderson, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail: [email protected]

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

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

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

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Published: 08 May 2008

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