This week's Science hosts a special section of news and research on social cognition, exploring how living in groups has affected our evolution. Evolutionary anthropologists at the Max Planck have performed a wide study looking at the social cognitive skills of humans and their two closest relatives, chimpanzees and orangutans. Several papers examine why humans have evolved to support such large brains: in one, British scientists theorize that it was the computational requirements imposed on primate brains during pairbonding that was a critical factor. Along with larger size comes augmented function; Harvard psychologists look at the seemingly unique human experience of being able to simulate future events.
In news, researchers reported this week that an imported virus, found through a metagenomic survey, may be associated with the colony collapse disorder that wreaked havoc on bee populations early this year in the US. Most of the affected colonies tested positive for a pathogen called Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV), which they believe came from Australia.
deCODE genetics' Kari Stefansson has performed a whole-genome association study in Iceland and Sweden and found that exfoliation glaucoma was associated with SNPs on the LOXL1 gene, a member of the lysyl oxidase family of proteins. Genetic risk for getting the disease is more than 100 times greater for individuals with two particular SNPs in exon 1 of the gene.
University of Minnesota researchers, among a consortium, have sequenced the genome of Fusarium graminearum, a fungal plant pathogen of wheat and barley. They have found more than 10,000 SNPs, which suggests that variability and pathogenicity are related.