Articles to 2017-06-18

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


Over the last decade or so there is a growing consensus about the importance and indeed essentiality of the gut microbiome. So how come, ask Ross and Hammer et al., that some animals, vertebrates even, seem to do perfectly fine without?


From the title Tacail et al. seemed just the highly relevant kind of study I’m most eagerly on the lookout for. The abstract already took away a lot of the anticipation. A signal that drops off after less than a year, i.e. one that only enables us to detect infants breast-fed for only a few months or not at all, is of little use in archaeology.

But it was when delving into the detail that things got seriously weird. From Tacail et al.’s results it seems that not going to be weaned for at least 20 months or more makes infants lay down tooth enamel of a different isotopic composition in their first five months of life. Now here’s one to put overblown claims about the temporal order of cause and effect firmly in their place. And again no editor and no reviewer took the blindest bit of notice. If this isn’t one for the banner headlines of tabloids, then what is? Where are all those institutes for paranormal studies when a real stunner turns up?

Of course there might be a far more prosaic explanation. Breast-feeding for two year or more is not exactly the norm in today’s society and parents strongly deviating in one area might conceivably do so in others too. But why ruin a great story? After all, it’s not every scientist who gets their story into PNAS, is it?

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