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Top 10 Stories of 2016

  • Maize from Tehuacán bears markers of isolated population

    A genetic analysis of ancient corn cobs suggests that modern-day maize evolved from small, isolated plant populations that were subsequently cross-bred.


    "The earliest maize from San Marcos Tehuacán is a partial domesticate with genomic evidence of inbreeding," by Miguel Vallebueno-Estrada, et al.

  • African elephant declines and ivory trade

    Most of the African elephant ivory seized by law enforcement since 2002 likely came from animals that had died within 3 years, a study finds.


    "Radiocarbon dating of seized ivory confirms rapid decline in African elephant populations and provides insight into illegal trade," by Thure E. Cerling, et al.

  • How chilling leaches flavor from tomatoes

    A study examines the genetic basis of chilling-associated flavor loss in tomatoes.


    “Chilling-induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA methylation,” by Bo Zhang, et al.

  • How birds survive diving into water

    A study suggests that neck length, neck muscles, and diving speed together help diving birds survive water impacts.


    “How seabirds plunge-dive without injuries,” by Brian Chang, et al.

  • Frog population recovery in the Sierra Nevada

    The endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) has increased in abundance in Yosemite National Park, California, according to a study.


    "Large-scale recovery of an endangered amphibian despite ongoing exposure to multiple stressors," by Roland A. Knapp, et al.

  • How LSD affects the human brain

    A neuroimaging study of the hallucinatory and consciousness-altering properties of LSD could guide the use of psychedelic drugs for modeling and treating psychiatric diseases.


    "Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging," by Robin L. Carhart-Harris, et al.

  • Geography of early maritime adaptations

    At an archaeological cave site on Okinawa Island, Japan, researchers found an assemblage of maritime-related artifacts and food residue that dated to 35,000-30,000 years ago, findings suggesting that the distribution of early maritime adaptations covered a wider geographic area than previously recognized and that extended north from the Indonesian Archipelago and eastern New Guinea to midlatitude locations along the western Pacific coast.


    "Advanced maritime adaptation in the western Pacific coastal region extends back to 35,000–30,000 years before present," by Masaki Fujita, et al.

  • Soot-free fire

    Analysis of the combustion properties and dynamics of swirling fires, or fire whirls, initiated on a water surface, found that a fire whirl unexpectedly evolved into a “blue whirl,” a small and stable fire state that supports a blue flame that burns nearly soot-free, findings that may have applications in efforts related to reduced-emission combustion and oil-spill remediation.


    "From fire whirls to blue whirls and combustion with reduced pollution," by Huahua Xiao, Michael J. Gollner, and Elaine S. Oran

  • European malaria DNA from antique slides

    Researchers report DNA sequences of extinct European malaria strains using DNA retrieved from antique microscopy slides.


    "Mitochondrial DNA from the eradicated European Plasmodium vivax and P. falciparum from 70-year-old slides from the Ebro Delta in Spain," by Pere Gelabert, et al.

  • Tyrannosaur discovery illuminates dinosaur evolution

    A primitive cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex may help explain how second-tier predators from the Early Cretaceous evolved into the behemoths that ruled the Age of Dinosaurs.


    “New tyrannosaur from the mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan clarifies evolution of giant body sizes and advanced senses in tyrant dinosaurs,” by Stephen L. Brusatte, Alexander Averianov, Hans-Dieter Sues, Amy Muir, and Ian B. Butler

*By clicking on this link, you will leave the PNAS Web site. The material contained in the link is provided for informational purposes. Any material, conclusions, or opinions presented in the link are not officially endorsed by PNAS or the National Academy of Sciences.


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