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Extra, Extra! PLOS ONE in the News in 2018

To celebrate the New Year we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the fascinating and diverse PLOS ONE articles that made headlines around the world in 2018. Let’s dive in!

Ancient Peoples, New Insights

We’ll start our look back at 2018 by looking waaaaay back, all the way to 13,000 years ago. The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Independent were among the news outlets fascinated with the discovery of late Pleistocene human footprints on Calvert Island, British Columbia, made by Duncan McLaren and colleagues from the University of Victoria, Canada. The remarkable work suggests that people were inhabiting Canada’s Pacific coast at the end of the last ice age.

PLOS ONE: Ancient human North American footprints

Ötzi the Iceman had another 15 minutes of fame this year when Ursula Wierer and colleagues published a study piquing the interest of Nature, New Scientist, and Gizmodo. Despite all the coverage, Ötzi himself didn’t appreciate our description of his flintknapping skills on Twitter. Sorry Ötzi, we meant no offence!PLOS ONE Otzi the Iceman tools

Animal Communication

From sea to sky, PLOS ONE covered it all this year but there were a few papers about how animals communicate that seemed to really capture interest.

Starting with the sea, the New York Times reported on Susan Blackwell and colleagues’ fascinating work recording sounds made by the elusive narwhale. A study from Koki Tsujii and colleagues investigating the singing behavior in humpback whales in response to shipping noise made a splash with New Scientist, The Times, and CNN.

PLOS ONE humpback whale song and shipping noise
Image source: Humpback whale with her calf. National Marine Sanctuaries, Wikimedia. Originally posted to Flickr. (CC-BY 2.0)

Up on land, the New York TimesGizmodo, New Scientist, and others, couldn’t be happier about research from Mathilde Stomp and colleagues showing that horses snort when they’re happy!

PLOS ONE happy horse snort
Image source: stux, pixaby. (CC0)

Meanwhile, coverage in the Smithsonian, Forbes, and The Telegraph had us and macaws everywhere blushing from the attention. The research from Aline Bertin and colleagues showed that macaws ruffle feathers and blush cheeks in response to human interaction. PLOS ONE macaw blushing

Crowded (Green)House

We all feel crowded from time to time and may even complain to our friends, but did you know that plants can “talk” to their neighbors too? A group led by Velemir Ninkovic at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that plants communicate crowded conditions to their neighbors via their roots. Gizmodo, Newsweek, the Guardian, and others were talking about these “chatty” plants when the research published in May of this year. PLOS ONE plant communication

New Species and New Distributions

The world can’t seem to get enough of that lovable, (practically) indestructible water bear, the tardigrade. In February, enthusiasts were delighted to hear that a new species of tardigrade, Macrobiotus shonaicus, had been discovered in a very unlikely place – a parking lot in Japan! National Geographic, Cosmos, and Scientific American, were just a few of the news outlets that were delighted to welcome this tiny new species.

PLOS ONE new tardigrade species

We love hearing about new species, but this year we had several papers reporting on new distributions of known species as well. It’s not all good news, especially for arachnophobes in Canada who found out from the CBC, Global News, and Gizmodo, that the Northern black widow spider may be becoming even more northern as the species distribution changes.

PLOS ONE black widow distribution

Species may also be on the move in the oceans, according to a study by James Morley and colleagues. In response to greenhouse gases and changing ocean temperatures, the distribution for a large number of marine species (686 to be exact!) on the North Atlantic Continental shelf is predicted to shift in the 21st century. The alarming projection was reported by Science, the Independent, and NPR, to name a few.

Jurassic Perks

What can we say, we can’t resist a good pun! It takes a lot to manage the air conditioning for a big body, and a study from Jason Bourke and colleagues showed that one of the perks of convoluted nasal passages for ankylosaurs was efficient heat exchange. The fascinating findings were highlighted by the Washington Post, PBS Nova, and the Smithsonian magazine. 
PLOS ONE ankylosaur nasal passages

Joining in the paleo fun was a report in December of a new skeleton of the extinct marsupial ‘lion’ Thylacoleo carnifex. Cosmos,  and Discover, were among the news outlets reporting on the findings which were summed up by New Scientist as showing that Australia’s largest mammalian carnivore was “a meat-ripping, tree-climbing terror”. Yikes! That certainly paints a picture!PLOS ONE extinct marsupial lion

The Future is Now!

In November of this year, we published work that in the not-so-distant past may have seemed like pure science fiction. Collaborators from Stanford, Harvard, and Brown, tested a computer-brain interface that allowed three tetraplegic study participants to operate tablets just by thinking about it. This new hope for those suffering from paralysis was reported by Forbes, Cosmos, and Reuters, among others.

PLOS ONE computer brain interface

These articles are just a tiny peek at the breadth of topics we publish everyday here at PLOS ONE and we hope you found them as interesting as we did. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our authors, we can’t wait to see what you submit in 2019! Happy New Year!


McLaren D, Fedje D, Dyck A, Mackie Q, Gauvreau A, Cohen J (2018) Terminal Pleistocene epoch human footprints from the Pacific coast of Canada. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0193522.

Wierer U, Arrighi S, Bertola S, Kaufmann G, Baumgarten B, Pedrotti A, et al. (2018) The Iceman’s lithic toolkit: Raw material, technology, typology and use. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198292.

Blackwell SB, Tervo OM, Conrad AS, Sinding MHS, Hansen RG, Ditlevsen S, et al. (2018) Spatial and temporal patterns of sound production in East Greenland narwhals. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198295.

Tsujii K, Akamatsu T, Okamoto R, Mori K, Mitani Y, Umeda N (2018) Change in singing behavior of humpback whales caused by shipping noise. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0204112.

Stomp M, Leroux M, Cellier M, Henry S, Lemasson A, Hausberger M (2018) An unexpected acoustic indicator of positive emotions in horses. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0197898.

Bertin A, Beraud A, Lansade L, Blache M-C, Diot A, Mulot B, et al. (2018) Facial display and blushing: Means of visual communication in blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara Ararauna)? PLoS ONE 13(8): e0201762.

Elhakeem A, Markovic D, Broberg A, Anten NPR, Ninkovic V (2018) Aboveground mechanical stimuli affect belowground plant-plant communication. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0195646.

Stec D, Arakawa K, Michalczyk Ł (2018) An integrative description of Macrobiotus shonaicus sp. nov. (Tardigrada: Macrobiotidae) from Japan with notes on its phylogenetic position within the hufelandi group. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192210.

Wang Y, Casajus N, Buddle C, Berteaux D, Larrivée M (2018) Predicting the distribution of poorly-documented species, Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) and Black purse-web spider (Sphodros niger), using museum specimens and citizen science data. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0201094.

Morley JW, Selden RL, Latour RJ, Frölicher TL, Seagraves RJ, Pinsky ML (2018) Projecting shifts in thermal habitat for 686 species on the North American continental shelf. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0196127.

Bourke JM, Porter WR, Witmer LM (2018) Convoluted nasal passages function as efficient heat exchangers in ankylosaurs (Dinosauria: Ornithischia: Thyreophora). PLoS ONE 13(12): e0207381.

Wells RT, Camens AB (2018) New skeletal material sheds light on the palaeobiology of the Pleistocene marsupial carnivore, Thylacoleo carnifex. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208020.

Nuyujukian P, Albites Sanabria J, Saab J, Pandarinath C, Jarosiewicz B, Blabe CH, et al. (2018) Cortical control of a tablet computer by people with paralysis. PLoS ONE 13(11): e0204566.

Ivarsson M, Skogby H, Phichaikamjornwut B, Bengtson S, Siljeström S, Ounchanum P, et al. (2018) Intricate tunnels in garnets from soils and river sediments in Thailand – Possible endolithic microborings. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0200351.


Featured Image : Humpback whale with her calf. National Marine Sanctuaries, Wikimedia. Originally posted to Flickr. (CC-BY 2.0)]

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