Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Topography


Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here we reveal maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants (n = 701) were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments. These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples. Statistical classifiers distinguished emotion-specific activation maps accurately, confirming independence of topographies across emotions. We propose that emotions are represented in the somatosensory system as culturally universal categorical somatotopic maps. Perception of these emotion-triggered bodily changes may play a key role in generating consciously felt emotions.

Concepts: Statistics, Sense, Mind, Consciousness, Probability theory, Qualia, Topography, Body


In this communication we introduce marmap, a package designed for downloading, plotting and manipulating bathymetric and topographic data in R. marmap can query the ETOPO1 bathymetry and topography database hosted by the NOAA, use simple latitude-longitude-depth data in ascii format, and take advantage of the advanced plotting tools available in R to build publication-quality bathymetric maps. Functions to query data (bathymetry, sampling information…) are available interactively by clicking on marmap maps. Bathymetric and topographic data can also be used to calculate projected surface areas within specified depth/altitude intervals, and constrain the calculation of realistic shortest path distances. Such information can be used in molecular ecology, for example, to evaluate genetic isolation by distance in a spatially-explicit framework.

Concepts: Map, Topography, Contour line, Geomorphology, Cartography, Terrain, Bathymetry, Bathymetric chart


Two experimental longline surveys were carried out in the Santa Maria di Leuca (SML) cold-water coral province (Mediterranean Sea) during May-June and September-October 2010 to investigate the effect of corals on fish assemblages. Two types of “megahabitat” characterized by the virtual absence of fishing were explored. One was characterized by complex topography including mesohabitats with carbonate mounds and corals. The other type of megahabitat, although characterized by complex topographic features, lacks carbonate mounds and corals. The fishing vessel was equipped with a 3,000 m monofilament longline with 500 hooks and snoods of 2.5 m in length. A total of 9 hauls, using about 4,500 hooks, were carried out both in the coral megahabitat and in the non-coral megahabitat during each survey. The fish Leucoraja fullonica and Pteroplatytrygon violacea represent new records for the SML coral province. The coral by-catch was only obtained in the coral megahabitat in about 55% of the stations investigated in both surveys. The total catches and the abundance indices of several species were comparable between the two habitat typologies. The species contributing most to the dissimilarity between the two megahabitat fish assemblages were Pagellus bogaraveo, Galeus melastomus, Etmopterus spinax and Helicolenus dactylopterus for density and P. bogaraveo, Conger conger, Polyprion americanus and G. melastomus for biomass. P. bogaraveo was exclusively collected in the coral megahabitat, whereas C. conger, H. dactylopterus and P. americanus were found with greater abundance in the coral than in the non-coral megahabitat. Differences in the sizes between the two megahabitats were detected in E. spinax, G. melastomus, C. conger and H. dactylopterus. Although these differences most probably related to the presence-absence of corals, both megahabitats investigated play the role of attraction-refuge for deep-sea fish fauna, confirming the important role of the whole SML coral province as a refuge area from fishing.

Concepts: Species, Fish, Animal, Coral reef, Ocean, Topography, Deep sea fish, Ship


Titanium is one of the most widely used materials for orthopedic implants, yet it has exhibited significant complications in the short and long term, largely resulting from poor cell-material interactions. Among these many modes of failure, bacterial infection at the site of implantation has become a greater concern with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Nanostructured surfaces have been found to prevent bacterial colonization on many surfaces, including nanotextured titanium. In many cases, specific nanoscale roughness values and resulting surface energies have been considered to be “bactericidal”; here, we explore the use of ion beam evaporation as a novel technique to create nanoscale topographical features that can reduce bacterial density. Specifically, we investigated the relationship between the roughness and titanium nanofeature shapes and sizes, in which smaller, more regularly spaced nanofeatures (specifically 40-50 nm tall peaks spaced ~0.25 μm apart) were found to have more effect than surfaces with high roughness values alone.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Infection, Antibiotic resistance, Microorganism, Penicillin, Topography


Previous archaeological mapping work on the successive medieval capitals of the Khmer Empire located at Angkor, in northwest Cambodia (∼9th to 15th centuries in the Common Era, C.E.), has identified it as the largest settlement complex of the preindustrial world, and yet crucial areas have remained unmapped, in particular the ceremonial centers and their surroundings, where dense forest obscures the traces of the civilization that typically remain in evidence in surface topography. Here we describe the use of airborne laser scanning (lidar) technology to create high-precision digital elevation models of the ground surface beneath the vegetation cover. We identify an entire, previously undocumented, formally planned urban landscape into which the major temples such as Angkor Wat were integrated. Beyond these newly identified urban landscapes, the lidar data reveal anthropogenic changes to the landscape on a vast scale and lend further weight to an emerging consensus that infrastructural complexity, unsustainable modes of subsistence, and climate variation were crucial factors in the decline of the classical Khmer civilization.

Concepts: Climate change, Topography, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Khmer Empire, Suryavarman II, Bayon


Human locomotion through natural environments requires precise coordination between the biomechanics of the bipedal gait cycle and the eye movements that gather the information needed to guide foot placement. However, little is known about how the visual and locomotor systems work together to support movement through the world. We developed a system to simultaneously record gaze and full-body kinematics during locomotion over different outdoor terrains. We found that not only do walkers tune their gaze behavior to the specific information needed to traverse paths of varying complexity but that they do so while maintaining a constant temporal look-ahead window across all terrains. This strategy allows walkers to use gaze to tailor their energetically optimal preferred gait cycle to the upcoming path in order to balance between the drive to move efficiently and the need to place the feet in stable locations. Eye movements and locomotion are intimately linked in a way that reflects the integration of energetic costs, environmental uncertainty, and momentary informational demands of the locomotor task. Thus, the relationship between gaze and gait reveals the structure of the sensorimotor decisions that support successful performance in the face of the varying demands of the natural world. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Natural environment, Nature, Running, Walking, Topography, Locomotion, Animal locomotion, Gait analysis


Elevational gradients of biodiversity have been widely investigated, and yet a clear interpretation of the biotic and abiotic factors that determine how species richness varies with elevation is still elusive. In mountainous landscapes, habitats at different elevations are characterized by different areal extent and connectivity properties, key drivers of biodiversity, as predicted by metacommunity theory. However, most previous studies directly correlated species richness to elevational gradients of potential drivers, thus neglecting the interplay between such gradients and the environmental matrix. Here, we investigate the role of geomorphology in shaping patterns of species richness. We develop a spatially explicit zero-sum metacommunity model where species have an elevation-dependent fitness and otherwise neutral traits. Results show that ecological dynamics over complex terrains lead to the null expectation of a hump-shaped elevational gradient of species richness, a pattern widely observed empirically. Local species richness is found to be related to the landscape elevational connectivity, as quantified by a newly proposed metric that applies tools of complex network theory to measure the closeness of a site to others with similar habitat. Our theoretical results suggest clear geomorphic controls on elevational gradients of species richness and support the use of the landscape elevational connectivity as a null model for the analysis of the distribution of biodiversity.

Concepts: Scientific method, Ecology, Gradient, Elevation, Topography, Complex network, Landscape, Geomorphology


The pace of scientific discovery is being transformed by the availability of ‘big data’ and open access, open source software tools. These innovations open up new avenues for how scientists communicate and share data and ideas with each other and with the general public. Here, we describe our efforts to bring to life our studies of the Earth system, both at present day and through deep geological time. The GPlates Portal ( is a gateway to a series of virtual globes based on the Cesium Javascript library. The portal allows fast interactive visualization of global geophysical and geological data sets, draped over digital terrain models. The globes use WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics and are cross-platform and cross-browser compatible with complete camera control. The globes include a visualization of a high-resolution global digital elevation model and the vertical gradient of the global gravity field, highlighting small-scale seafloor fabric such as abyssal hills, fracture zones and seamounts in unprecedented detail. The portal also features globes portraying seafloor geology and a global data set of marine magnetic anomaly identifications. The portal is specifically designed to visualize models of the Earth through geological time. These space-time globes include tectonic reconstructions of the Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields, and several models of long-wavelength surface dynamic topography through time, including the interactive plotting of vertical motion histories at selected locations. The globes put the on-the-fly visualization of massive data sets at the fingertips of end-users to stimulate teaching and learning and novel avenues of inquiry.

Concepts: Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Geology, Topography, Open source, Geomorphology, Geodesy, Digital elevation model


The periglacial realm is a major part of the cryosphere, covering a quarter of Earth’s land surface. Cryogenic land surface processes (LSPs) control landscape development, ecosystem functioning and climate through biogeochemical feedbacks, but their response to contemporary climate change is unclear. Here, by statistically modelling the current and future distributions of four major LSPs unique to periglacial regions at fine scale, we show fundamental changes in the periglacial climate realm are inevitable with future climate change. Even with the most optimistic CO2 emissions scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 2.6) we predict a 72% reduction in the current periglacial climate realm by 2050 in our climatically sensitive northern Europe study area. These impacts are projected to be especially severe in high-latitude continental interiors. We further predict that by the end of the twenty-first century active periglacial LSPs will exist only at high elevations. These results forecast a future tipping point in the operation of cold-region LSP, and predict fundamental landscape-level modifications in ground conditions and related atmospheric feedbacks.Cryogenic land surface processes characterise the periglacial realm and control landscape development and ecosystem functioning. Here, via statistical modelling, the authors predict a 72% reduction of the periglacial realm in Northern Europe by 2050, and almost complete disappearance by 2100.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Future, Climate, United Kingdom, Climate change, Forecasting, Topography, Global warming


Thermokarst is a land surface lowered and disrupted by melting ground ice. Thermokarst is a major driver of landscape change in the Arctic, but has been considered to be a minor process in Antarctica. Here, we use ground-based and airborne LiDAR coupled with timelapse imaging and meteorological data to show that 1) thermokarst formation has accelerated in Garwood Valley, Antarctica; 2) the rate of thermokarst erosion is presently ~ 10 times the average Holocene rate; and 3) the increased rate of thermokarst formation is driven most strongly by increasing insolation and sediment/albedo feedbacks. This suggests that sediment enhancement of insolation-driven melting may act similarly to expected increases in Antarctic air temperature (presently occurring along the Antarctic Peninsula), and may serve as a leading indicator of imminent landscape change in Antarctica that will generate thermokarst landforms similar to those in Arctic periglacial terrains.

Concepts: Topography, Antarctica, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, McMurdo Sound, Valley, Landform, Terrain