My first paper highlight (and first post on this new blog) is a recent study on bat phylogenomics published on Science this week.
Journal reference: Misof et al. (2014) Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution, Science 346, 763 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1257570)
What's about? Misof and colleagues inferred the phylogeny of insects from 1478 protein-coding genes by sequencing 2.5 gigabases (Gb) of cDNA from over a hundred insect species, including all extant insect orders. Their results strongly suggest an origin of insects in the Early Ordovician (around 479 million years ago), and probably more interesting the evolution of insect flight to the Early Devonian (~406 Ma), after the establishment of complex terrestrial ecosystems.
Another interesting results was about the radiation of parasitic lice:
We estimated that the radiation of parasitic lice occurred ~53 Ma (CI 67 to 46 Ma), which implies that they diversified well after the emergence of their avian and mammalian hosts in the Late Cretaceous–Early Eocene and contradicts the hypothesis that parasitic lice originated on feathered theropod dinosaurs ~130 Ma.
Why is it important? This study represents the largest phylogeny for insects to date. It clearly represents a major step towards a better understanding of the tree of life. Insects are the most speciose group of animals and this study will clearly provide a critical phylogenetic backbone for future studies about adaptation, morphology and genomics.
Curiousity. In a recent post, Naturejobs listed some of the main features a paper should have to publish big (yes, like Nature and Science). Besides good science (but I guess that was quite obvious), a big stress was put on the importance of the paper title:
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good title and abstract, says Dean. These short blocks of text — often the final consideration when constructing a paper — will receive far more views than the paper itself. They should be used as a hook, to pull readers (and editors) in. This means not using superfluous, specialised jargon, especially in the headline and abstract.
The word "resolves" in the paper by Misof and colleagues clearly fulfilled the requirements of a powerful and effective title...and Science it was indeed!