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Weekly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up

In the latest PLoS ONE media round-up: the orientation of Greek temples, a DNA study reveals the dark side of the sushi menu, why bird flu hasn’t yet caused a pandemic, and much more.

Whether ancient Greek temples were built to face the sunrise in the east is a much debated topic. In a new study published on Thursday, Alun Salt of the University of Leicester statistically analyses the alignment of 41 ancient Greek temples in Sicily and reports that a significant proportion of these temples (40 out of 41) are aligned towards the east to face eastward. This is a much higher proportion than a recent survey of 84 temples, of which 42 have a clearly identifiable east or west orientation. Of these 42, 38 face east and 4 west—a less emphatic result than the Sicilian results but which still supports the hypothesis that Greek temples face east.

Salt suggests differences in context as a potential source for the differences between the two sets of temples: while temples in Greece were often built on sacred sites, in Sicily, there was no historical precedent to influence the building of the temples and so contemporary cosmology was more likely to have shaped the construction. The study has been covered by the Times, and Dieniekes’ Anthropology Blog and you can read Salt’s reasons for choosing to submit to PLoS ONE on his blog.

Given frequent warnings of the potential extinction of bluefin tuna, many diners are careful to dodge this delicacy when eating out. However, a new study by Jacob Lowenstein and colleagues suggests that restaurants don’t always accurately label bluefin tuna on sushi menus. The researchers used DNA barcoding to identify fish labelled “tuna” in 30 restaurants in New York City and found that almost half of the restaurants failed to accurately label the type of tuna on the menu and only 14 of the samples used were listed on the menu by a specific name, such as bluefin or bigeye tuna. Wired Science, LiveScience, Uncommon Ground, Thriving Oceans and the Barcode Blog all discussed the study.

In a recent PLoS ONE paper, Wendy Barclay and colleagues report that before H5N1 (bird flu) viruses could be transmitted readily between humans, there would have to be at least two simultaneous genetic mutations, which, according to the authors, are unlikely to occur at the same time. The Press Association and Wissenschaft both featured the study.

And finally, here are some of the other PLoS ONE studies that made the headlines and the blogosphere this week:

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