Halloween Highlights: Crushing Jaws!

Happy Halloween to those goblins and ghouls amongst you! Before you go trick-or-treating tonight, let’s wrap up our month-long series on creepy critters and things that go bump in the night with one final critter and its modern-day cousin.

The unassuming reptile pictured above is the tuatara. The tuatara are found only in New Zealand, and are often called “living fossils” because of their physiological similarities to their ancient ancestors.

In research published today in PLOS ONE, researchers led by Dr. Oliver Rauhut discovered the fossil remains of an ancient relative of the tuatara, Oenosaurus muelheimensis. The species is named in honor of the Franconian Alb, the wine-growing region in Germany where the fossil was discovered, and the German village of Mühlheim.

Pictured to above is the Oenosaurus’ lower jaw, which in life featured a set of ever-growing tooth plates and multitudinous “pencil-like” teeth. Researchers posit that the arrangement and morphology of the lower jaw suggests that it moved in a crushing motion.

We recently invited Dr. Oliver Rauhut, the corresponding author of the paper, to share the group’s thoughts on their new findings. He writes:

The incentive for our research was the find of a new specimen of a rhynchocephalian from the Late Jurassic of Germany, which we name Oenosaurus muelheimensis. Rhynchocephalians are an ancient group of reptiles, today only represented by the Tuatara that lives on small islands off the coast of New Zealand and is regarded as a classic example of a living fossil. The new fossil has an extremely unusual dentition, and at first we were all at a loss as to what kind of animal this was, with ideas ranging from a chimeran fish to a rhynchosaur -[a] pig-like reptile that lived in the Triassic (which, incidently, is also reflected in the name…). After identifying the animal as a rhynchocephalian, we had a closer look at the dentition, which is unique amongst tetrapods in presenting large, continuously growing tooth plates. Such an extreme adaptation in a Jurassic rhynchocephalien contradicts the traditional idea that these animals were conservative and evolutionary inferior to lizards. Thus, we challenge the current opinion that the decline of rhynchocephalians during the later Mesozoic was mainly caused by selection pressure by radiating lizards and early mammals; instead climate change in the wake of continental break-up at that time might have been responsible.

This concludes our month-long celebration of some the spooktacular science you can find on PLOS ONE. If you are interested in learning about other creepy critters that we have covered in past years, please visit these links.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!



Rauhut OWM, Heyng AM, López-Arbarello A, Hecker A (2012) A New Rhynchocephalian from the Late Jurassic of Germany with a Dentition That Is Unique amongst Tetrapods. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46839. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046839


The first image is provided courtesy of Helmut Tischlinger and can be found accompanying the institution’s press release.

The second image is Figure 2F in the manusript.

Create. Attract. Deposit.

The Scholar Electronic Repository of the New Bulgarian University was presented among the winning institutions on the Open Repositories 2012 7th International Conference of the Open Repositories event.


The first institutional open-access repository – the Scholar Electronic Repository of the New Bulgarian University (SER of NBU), has been launched in 2005. The project was endorsed by the Library and realized with the financial support from HESP Program of OPEN SOCIETY Institute, Budapest, Hungary.


Basic objective of the University is to stimulate creativity and spur of research within academic community and postgraduate students. 


A transformation in maintaining policy has raised deposit activity. Better level of training, assistance, and appraisal are achieved by adopting inovative methods and techniques – interactive tutoring, Web 2.0 tools, 3G networking and real time interaction.

Why Green OA Needs To Come Before Gold OA: A Reply to Jan Velterop

Jan Velterop wrote:

(1) Stevan trades off expected speed of achieving OA against quality of the resulting OA. It’s his right to do that. I just point out that that’s what it is. That’s my right. He calls it ‘deprecating green OA’; I prefer to call it ‘comparing outcome’.

(2) My ‘jumping with a closed parachute’ is not in any way a criticism of green OA or advocating green OA. It is a criticism of presenting green OA (in which the publication of articles being paid for by subscriptions) as the only way until all scholarly literature is available as green OA, and only then consider alternatives to the subscription system. I consider that deeply unrealistic, utterly unfeasible and not viable, and I favour developing gold OA as a replacement of the subscription system alongside green OA, gradually replacing the subscription system.

(3) The agreement reached at the BOAI to pursue both strategies (later called green and gold) proved short-lived. This has been most unfortunate, in my view. Stevan has introduced the idea that gold and green are rivalrous. They aren’t. They both contribute to growing OA. They both come with a transition price. In one case the price is lower quality of the resulting OA; in the other it is money.

Green vs. Gold is not a question of rivalry, it’s a question of priority.

The reason Green has to come first is very simple: (i) Gold OA journal publishing is vastly over-priced today and (ii) the money to pay for it (even once it has been downsized to a fair, affordable price) is still locked into institutional journal subscriptions.

Besides providing 100% OA, Green OA (which is now only 25% when unmandated, but can be increased to 100% when mandated) provides the way both to release the subscription money to pay for Gold OA and to force journals to downsize to a fair, affordable, sustainable price for Gold OA (namely, the price of managing peer review alone, as a per-review (sic) service: no more print edition; no more online edition; all access-provision and archiving offloaded onto the worldwide network of Green OA institutional repositories):

Institutions can only cancel subscriptions when the subscribed content is available as Green OA. Until then they can only double-pay (whether for hybrid subscription/Gold journals or for subscription journals plus Gold journals).

And publishers will not unbundle and cut costs to the minimum (peer review service alone, nothing else) until cancellations force them to do so.

And (before you say it): If a new Gold OA journal enters the market today with a truly rock-bottom price, for the peer-review service alone, the money to pay for it is still over and above what is being paid for subscriptions today, because the subscriptions cannot be cancelled until most journals (or at least the most important ones) likewise downsize to the bare essentials.

And most journals are not downsizing to the bare essentials.

And institutions and funders cannot make journals downsize.

All institutions and funders can do is pay them even more than what they are paying them already (which is exactly what the publisher lobby has managed to persuade the UK and the Finch Committee to do).

I do not call that a “parachute” toward a “soft landing”: I call it good publisher PR, to preserve their bottom-lines. And for most institutions and funders, it not only costs more money, but it is even more unaffordable and unsustainable than the serials status-quo today (which is reputedly in crisis).

The promise from hybrid Gold publishers to cut subscription costs in proportion to growth in Gold uptake revenues, even if kept, is unaffordable, because it involves first paying more, in advance; and all it does is lock in the current status quo insofar as total publisher revenue is concerned, in exchange for OA that researchers can already provide for themselves via Green, since publication and its costs are already being fully paid for — via subscriptions.

Nor is “price competition” the corrective: Authors don’t pick journals for their price but for their quality standards, which means their peer-review standards. It would be nothing short of grotesque to imagine that it should be otherwise (think about it!).

The corrective is global Green OA mandates: That — and not “price competition” between Gold OA journals — will see to it that the huge, unnecessary overlay of commercially co-bundled products and services that scholarly journal publishing inherited from the Gutenberg (and Robert-Maxwell) era is phased out and scaled down, at long last, to the only thing that scholars and scientists really still want and need in the online era, which is a reliable peer review service, provided by a hierarchy of journals, in different fields, each with its own established track record for quality — hence selectivity — at the various quality levels required by the field.

So what’s at issue is not a trade-off of “speed” vs. “quality” (whether peer review quality, or re-use/text-mining rights) at all, but a trade-off of speed vs. the status quo.

And yes, that’s speed, in the first instance, toward 100% free online access (Gratis OA) — of which, let us remind ourselves, we currently have only about 25% via Green and maybe another 12% via Gold — because that is what is within immediate reach (although we have kept failing to grasp it for over a decade).

The rest of the “quality” — Gold OA and Libre OA — will come once we have 100% Green OA, and publishers are forced (by Green-OA enabled subscription cancelations, making subscriptions no loner sustainable) to downsize and convert to Gold.

But not if we keep playing the snail’s-pace game of double-paying pre-emptively for Gold while research access and impact keeping being lost, year upon year — all in order to cushion the landing for the only ones that are comfortable with the status quo (and in no hurry!): toll-access publishers.

And please let’s stop solemnly invoking the BOAI as a justification for continuing this no-sum, no-win game of no-OA unless you double-pay.

Publication costs are being paid, in full (and fulsomely) today. What’s missing is not more revenue for publishers, but OA.

And Green OA mandates will provide it.

The rest will take care of itself, as a natural process of adaptation, by the publishing trade, to the new reality of global Green OA.

Stevan Harnad

Food Science & Nutrition Publishes its First Articles on Early View

Food Science & Nutrition CoverWe are delighted to announce that Food Science & Nutrition has published its first articles on Early View.  Food Science & Nutrition opened for submissions in May 2012 and we have received a high number of submissions related to all aspects of human food and nutrition, as well as interdisciplinary research that spans these two fields.  The first articles are now live on Wiley Online Library. Read all our open access articles here!  Food Science & Nutrition is an open acces, fully peer-reviewed journal providing rapid dissemination of research in all areas of food science and nutrition.

We hope that next time your are preparing a manuscript you will consider submitting to the journal. Among the first papers available online are:

purple_lock_open Supplementing long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in canned wild Pacific pink salmon with Alaska salmon oil by Trina J. Lapis, Alexandra C. M. Oliveira, Charles A. Crapo, Brian Himelbloom, Peter J. Bechtel and Kristy A. Long
Abstract: Establishing n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid contents in canned wild Alaska pink salmon products is challenging due to ample natural variation found in lipid content of pink salmon muscle. Supplementing canned wild Alaska pink salmon with salmon oil reduces variability in product composition, and this facilitates accurate disclosure of the n-3 fatty acid content per serving size in the product package.

purple_lock_open Effects of agriculture production systems on nitrate and nitrite accumulation on baby-leaf salads by Alfredo Aires, Rosa Carvalho, Eduardo A. S. Rosa and Maria J. Saavedra
Abstract: We studied the effect of agricultural practices on toxic compounds accumulation. Nitrates and nitrites were detected at lower levels, within the EC regulations. Benefits of ready-to-eat vegetables consumption are discussed.

If you would like to know when new articles and issues appear online sign up for eToC alerts on the Food Science & Nutrition website >

UCT Open Access Week Resources Now Available

Open access has been showed by numerous studies to increase citation to scholars’ work of all kinds. The online environment also means that new forms of impact can be measured and in new ways. Alternative metrics (ALTmetrics) provide a new approach to analysing impact beyond that of tradition citations, considering other indicators such as downloads and references in social media. The internet has shrunk the world and allows scholars to connect and collaborate across the globe in real time.  

In this digital world, opening up access to not just journal articles but all outputs and information has incredible power to transform academia and society as a whole.  Academics  at UCT had the opportunity last week to engage with these issues and more through several events being run by the OpenUCT Initiative. 

All the presentations have been made available for viewing and download:

1. Demystifying Open Access
2. Exploring ‘Impact’: An introduction to new tools and approaches for alternative scholarship metrics
3. Finding Open Stuff
4. Creative Commons Practical Workshop
5. Academics’ online presence: assessing and shaping your online visibility

Latest Article Alert from Environmental Health

The latest articles from Environmental Health, published between 15-Oct-2012 and 29-Oct-2012

For articles which have only just been published, you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript.
A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.

Association between bisphenol a exposure and body mass index in Chinese school children: a

Halloween Highlights: Carnivorous Plants

Plants may not generally be associated with the spooky sentiments of Halloween, but put the right Hitchcock soundtrack with the video below and it could have come straight out of a Hollywood horror film.

Carnivorous plants have inspired many creative minds over time, perhaps most memorably in the cult classic, Little Shop of Horrors which featured a fictitious new hybrid that thrived only on human blood. The real plants may not be so scary to us but for insects, they’re certainly something to be wary of.

The video above  shows the particularly dramatic “active” trapping mechanism employed by one carnivorous species the Drosera glanduligera, a sundew that feeds on insects. Even the abstract of the study Catapulting Tentacles in a Sticky Carnivorous Plant conjures cryptic images:

Prey animals walking near the edge of the sundew trigger a touch-sensitive snap-tentacle, which swiftly catapults them onto adjacent sticky glue-tentacles; the insects are then slowly drawn within the concave trap leaf by sticky tentacles.

“Passive” trapping mechanisms used by other carnivorous plants can be equally creepy when documented close up (and paired with the right soundtrack). Take a look at Video S1 and S3, below, of a paper published in 2007 investigating the digestive fluid of the Nepenthes rafflesian, a pitcher plant that relies on its unique shape and a pool of  highly viscoelastic fluid to trap insects for digestion. The first video shows how easily a fly can escape a pool of water, while the second video shows the distinct advantage the digestive fluid gives the plant. Both demonstrate the classic horror film qualities science can evoke!



Citation: Poppinga S, Hartmeyer SRH, Seidel R, Masselter T, Hartmeyer I, et al. (2012) Catapulting Tentacles in a Sticky Carnivorous Plant. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45735. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045735

Citation: Gaume L, Forterre Y (2007) A Viscoelastic Deadly Fluid in Carnivorous Pitcher Plants. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1185. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001185

Latest Article Alert from BMC Public Health

The latest articles from BMC Public Health, published between 21-Oct-2012 and 28-Oct-2012

For articles which have only just been published, you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript.
A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.

Study protocol
Mixed methods evaluation of targeted case finding for cardiovascular disease prevention