Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, et al.
A power law called the species-area relationship describes the finding that the number of species is proportional to the size of the area in which they are found, raised to an exponent (usually, a number between 0.2 and 0.3). In their Perspective, May and Stumpf discuss new results from a survey of five tropical forest census areas containing a total of a million trees. They explain how this large data set can be used to fine-tune the existing power law so that it provides a better prediction of species diversity in small census samples.
The effects of commercial logging on tree diversity in tropical rainforest are largely unknown. In this study, selectively logged tropical rainforest in Indonesian Borneo is shown to contain high tree species richness, despite severe structural damage. Plots logged 8 years before sampling contained fewer species of trees greater than 20 centimeters in diameter than did similar-sized unlogged plots. However, in samples of the same numbers of trees (requiring a 50 percent larger area), logged forest contained as many tree species as unlogged forest. These findings warrant reassessment of the conservation potential of large tracts of commercially logged tropical rainforest.
Scientists are a step closer to unraveling a medical mystery that killed 105 people in Malaysia last year and destroyed the country's pig industry. The Nipah virus, which caused the disease, most likely originated in a native fruit bat species, Malaysian researchers reported here at a meeting last week. They say the findings will help Malaysian health authorities prevent future outbreaks of the Nipah virus. Others see the case as an argument for expanding research into infections that can leap the boundary between animals and humans.
A paramyxovirus virus termed Nipah virus has been identified as the etiologic agent of an outbreak of severe encephalitis in people with close contact exposure to pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. The outbreak was first noted in late September 1998 and by mid-June 1999, more than 265 encephalitis cases, including 105 deaths, had been reported in Malaysia, and 11 cases of encephalitis or respiratory illness with one death had been reported in Singapore. Electron microscopic, serologic, and genetic studies indicate that this virus belongs to the family Paramyxoviridae and is most closely related to the recently discovered Hendra virus. We suggest that these two viruses are representative of a new genus within the family Paramyxoviridae. Like Hendra virus, Nipah virus is unusual among the paramyxoviruses in its ability to infect and cause potentially fatal disease in a number of host species, including humans.
Fully mapped tree census plots of large area, 25 to 52 hectares, have now been completed at six different sites in tropical forests, including dry deciduous to wet evergreen forest on two continents. One of the main goals of these plots has been to evaluate spatial patterns in tropical tree populations. Here the degree of aggregation in the distribution of 1768 tree species is examined based on the average density of conspecific trees in circular neighborhoods around each tree. When all individuals larger than 1 centimeter in stem diameter were included, nearly every species was more aggregated than a random distribution. Considering only larger trees (>/= 10 centimeters in diameter), the pattern persisted, with most species being more aggregated than random. Rare species were more aggregated than common species. All six forests were very similar in all the particulars of these results.
North American strains of Aedes albopictus, an Asian mosquito recently introduced into the Western Hemisphere, exhibit photoperiodic sensitivity and cold-hardiness characteristics similar to strains originating from temperate zone Asia. Trade statistics for used tire imports, the most likely mode of introduction, also indicate a north Asian origin. Aedes albopictus, an important vector of dengue and a potential vector of many other arboviral diseases, may therefore have the capability of infesting much of temperate North America.
The particular agricultural adaptation we have been considering is the ultimate determinant of the presence of malaria parasites in the intracellular environment of the human red blood cell. This change in the cellular environment is deleterious for normal individuals, but individuals with the sickle-cell gene are capable of changing their red-cell environment so that intense parasitism never develops. Normal individuals suffer higher mortality rates and lower fertility rates in a malarious environment than individuals with the sickle-cell trait do, so the latter contribute proportionately more people to succeeding generations.
Two members of a troop of wild Macaca irus in Malaysia have been tentatively identified as hybrids of M. irus and M. nemestrina. Mechanisms prohibiting such hybridization in the natural habitat may have broken down under heavy predation pressure which finally resulted in the local extermination of M. nemestrinia.
The mosquito Anopheles balabacensis balabacensis has been identified as a natural vector of at least two species of simian malaria in the monsoon forests of the northern Malay States. This mosquito is also a serious vector of human malaria from Viet Nam to northern Malaya. This is the first report of a mosquito which transmits both human and simian malaria in nature.
A quotidian-type parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi, has been found as a natural infection in man. The infection was acquired by a white male during a short visit to peninsular Malaysia. This occurrence constitutes the first proof that simian malaria is a true zoonosis.
Anopheles leucosphyrus, an important vector of human malaria in Sarawak, Borneo, was shown to be infected with Plasmodium inui in Malaya by the inoculation of sporozoites into an uninfected rhesus monkey. The mosquito was caught while biting a man, thus demonstrating that it would be possible for a monkey infection to be transmitted to man in nature.
Anopheles hackeri, a mosquito commonly found breeding in nipa palm leaf bases along the Malayan coast, was demonstrated to be infected with Plasmodium knowlesi by the inoculation of sporozoites into an uninfected rhesus monkey. This was the first demonstration of a natural vector of any monkey malaria.
On March 29, 1934, while working at the office of Dr W. Birtwistle, director of fisheries for the Straits Settleents and Federated Malay States, at Singapore, the captain of a coasting vessel came in for information. He had with him the picture and dimensions of a very large fish which he had seen at Labuan a few days before. No one there knew the fish, but I recognized it at once as a fine typical example of Rhineodon typus, the whale shark. The specimen was 25 feet long. [First paragraph: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/81/2097/253]
The Physics Interviewing Project assists graduate physics departments in evaluating foreign applicants. Supported by some 20 universities, two interviewers, both working scientists, travel abroad and interview students individually for about 1 hour each. Prospective teaching assistants are rated on physics knowledge, problem-solving ability, and English language proficiency. Ratings on all interviewees are sent to all supporting schools and other schools as requested. The Project aids able students from countries that have no physics Ph.D. programs (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand) to obtain assistantships and Ph.D.'s abroad, assists in the technological development of those countries, and helps U.S. schools in selecting the most promising foreign candidates. A similar program should be beneficial in other sciences.
Insufficient use has been made of ecological data concerning potential hosts in studies to determine the life cycles of zoonotic parasites and pathogens. Factors such as the geographical distribution of hosts, the altitudes at which they live, their affinities for specific habitats, their vertical distribution within the habitat, and the periodicity of their activities have bearing on the hosts' predisposition to involvement in disease cycles. Diets and feeding habits may determine the likelihood of acquiring infection. Reproductive characteristics determine whether a species is suitable as a reservoir or as an amplifying host. Behavioral factors, such as selection of a particular kind of nest site, may also predispose the involvement of the host with parasites and pathogens. Behavior patterns may determine the maximum population densities of hosts. Estimates of population sizes, of relative abundances of species, and of the involvement of species in disease cycles may be strongly influenced by the collecting and sampling methods that are used and also by the behavioral response of the mammals toward collecting devices, such as traps.