Recent taxonomic and molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that Gymnosphaera should be recognized as an independent taxonomic unit at the genus level under the family Cyatheaceae. In this study, the complete chloroplast genomes of the eight species of Cyatheaceae were sequenced, and their phylogenetic relationships were reconstructed using the maximum likelihood, Bayesian inference, maximum parsimony, and neighbor-joining methods, and the characteristics of their simple sequence repeats (SSRs) were compared and analyzed for the first time. The results showed that when Cyatheaceae was divided into three genera,the number, relative abundance, relative density, and GC content of all SSRs and of SSRs of certain unit lengths in the chloroplast genomes of the eight species of Cyatheaceae were genus specific in the whole chloroplast genomes and in their different regions (large single-copy, small single-copy, inverted repeat, intergenic spacer, intron, rRNA gene, and coding sequence regions). The SSRs overall and the single-nucleotide SSRs had significant differences in number, relative abundance, relative density, and GC content between the chloroplast genomes, their intergenic regions, and large single-copy regions. When Cyatheaceae was divided into two genera, only the difference in GC content was significant. Therefore, our results support the restoration of the hierarchical status of Gymnosphaera. This study provides an important basis for the identification of the phylogenetic relationship of Cyatheaceae plants.
Lacking of systematic evaluations in soil quality and microbial community recovery after different amendments addition limits optimization of amendments combination in coal mine-soils. We performed a short-term incubation experiment over 12 weeks to assess the effects of three amendments (biochar: C; nitrogen fertilizer at three levels: N-N1~N3; microbial agent at two levels: M-M1~M2) based on C/N ratio (regulated by biochar and N level: 35:1, 25:1, 12.5:1) on soil quality and microbial community in the Qilian Mountains, China. Over the incubation period, soil pH and MBC/MBN were significantly lower than unamended treatment in N addition and C+M+N treatments, respectively. Soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (AN), available phosphorus (AP), available potassium (AK), microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN) contents had a significant increase in all amended treatments (P<0.001). Higher AP, AK, MBC, MBN and lower MBC/MBN were observed in N2-treated soil(corresponding to C/N ratio of 25:1). Meanwhile, N2-treated soil significantly increased species richness and diversity of soil bacterial community (P<0.05). Principal coordinate analysis further showed that soil bacterial community compositions were significantly separated by N level. C-M-N treatments (especially at N2 and N1 levels) significantly increased the relative abundance (>1%) of the bacterial phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and decreased the relative abundance of fungal phyla Chytridiomycota (P<0.05). Redundancy analysis illustrated the importance of soil nutrients in explaining variability in bacteria community composition (74.73%) than fungal (35.0%). Our results indicated that N and M addition based on biochar can improve soil quality by neutralizing soil pH and increasing soil nutrient contents, and the appropriate C/N ratio (25:1: biochar+N2-treated soil) can better promote mass, richness and diversity of soil bacterial community. Our study provided a new insight for achieving restoration of damaged habitats by changing microbial structure, diversity and mass by regulating C/N ratio of amendments
Aim The unique aquatic Pontocaspian (PC) biota of the Black Sea Basin (BSB) is in decline. Lack of detailed knowledge on the status and trends of species, populations and communities hampers a thorough risk assessment and precludes effective conservation. This paper aims to review PC biodiversity trends using endemic molluscs as a model group. We aim to assess changes in PC habitats, community structure and species distribution over the past century and to identify direct anthropogenic threats. Location Black Sea Basin (Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia). Methods Presence/absence data of target mollusc species was assembled from literature, reports and personal observations. PC biodiversity trends in the NW BSB coastal regions were established by comparing 20th and 21st century occurrences. Direct drivers of habitat and biodiversity change were identified and documented. Results A very strong decline of PC species and communities during the past century is driven by a) damming of rivers, b) habitat modifications negatively affecting salinity gradients, c) pollution and eutrophication, d) invasive alien species and e) climate change. Four out of 10 studied regions, namely, the Danube Delta – Razim Lake system, Dniester Liman, Dnieper-South Bug Estuary and Taganrog Bay-Don Delta contain the entire spectrum of ecological conditions to support PC communities and still host threatened endemic PC mollusc species. Distribution data is incomplete, but the scale of deterioration of PC species and communities is evident from the assembled data, as are major direct threats. Main conclusions PC biodiversity in the BSB is profoundly affected by human activities. Standardised observation and collection data as well as precise definition of PC biota and habitats are necessary for targeted conservation actions. This study will help to set the research and policy agenda required to improve data collection to accommodate effective conservation of the unique PC biota.
Seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) play vital roles for optimizing reproductive success in diverse animals. Underlining their significance, SFP production and transfer are highly plastic, e.g., depending on the presence of rivals or mating status of partners. However, surprisingly little is known about replenishing SFPs after mating. It is especially relevant in multiple mating species, as they would continuously produce and use SPFs throughout their reproductive life. Here we examined the expression pattern of SFP genes after mating in the great pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Our results show that only two of the six SFP genes investigated here were up-regulated after mating, indicating that L. stagnalis replenishes seminal fluid in a protein-specific manner. In addition, we suggest that SFP replenishment is plastic depending on the mating history of female-acting snails. Our results shed light on unexplored aspects of SFP replenishment, thereby expanding the understanding of reproductive strategies in animals.
The studies of climatic-niche shifts over evolutionary time accompanied by key morphological innovations have attracted the interest of many researchers recently. We analyzed the realized niche dynamics across clades within Scutiger boulengeri using ecological niche models (ENMs), ordination method (environment principal component analysis; PCA-env), and correspondingly key morphological innovations combined phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) and phylogenetic generalized least squares (PGLS) regression methods throughout their distributions in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) margins of China in Asia. Our analyses reveal that there is obvious niche divergence caused by niche expansion across S. boulengeri clades, especially in E. A, E. B and partial of E. C clades. Moreover, niche expansion is more popular than niche unfilling into novel environmental conditions. Annual mean temperature and Annual precipitation are the most important contributors in E. A and E. B clades, while Precipitation of driest month is most likely to be the leading limited factor in these two regions according to jackknife test of variable importance. In addition, we identified several key ecological and morphological traits that tend to be associated with niche expansion in S. boulengeri clades correspondingly. Specifically, we found that Elevation, Isothermality, Mean diurnal range and Max temperature of warmest month are significantly negative predictors of snout–vent length (SVL) under phylogenetic models, while the S. boulengeri toads from warmer and more arid environments tend to be larger. There seems to a trade-off strategy by trait covary of locomotor performance combined with enlarged SVL, which provide us a potential pattern of how a colonizing toad might seed a novel habit to begin the process of speciation and finally adaptive radiation. It is worth noting that we should not overlook that the Tibet continuously growing and moving northward over millions of years has laid the foundation for early divergence of clades within S. boulengeri.
Human activity is increasingly and persistently disturbing nature and wild animals. Affected wildlife adopts multiple strategies to deal with different human influences. To explore the effect of human activity on habitat utilization of Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana), habitat utilization patterns of three neighboring marmot populations in habitats affected differently by human activities were recorded and compared. We found that: (1) Distance between reproductive burrows (a represent of reproductive pairs) becomes shorter under the influence of human activities, and more burrows were dug as temporary shelters, resulting in a shorter distance between those shelters as well as shorter distance flee to those shelters, and consequently, shorter flight initiation distance when threatened. More burrows that are closer in the disturbed habitats improve the ability to escape from threats. (2) Reproductive burrow site selection of the species is determined by the availability of mounds in the habitat, and breeding pairs selectively build reproductive (also the hibernation) burrows on mounds, potentially to improve surveillance when basking and the drainage of burrows. Human activities generally drive breeding pairs away from the road to dig their reproductive burrows likely to reduce disturbance from vehicles. However, even heavy human activity exerts no pressure on the distance of reproductive burrows from the road or the mound volume of the high disturbance population, potentially because mounds are the best burrowing site to reproduce and hibernate in the habitat. Marmots deal with disturbance by digging more burrows in the habitat to flee more effectively and building reproductive burrows on mounds to gain better vigilance and drainage efficiency.
Attacks on humans by Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is an extreme form of Human-elephant conflict. It is a serious issue in southern lowland Nepal where elephants kill more humans than any other wildlife. Detailed understanding of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal is still lacking which affected in devising appropriate strategies and actions for human elephant conflict mitigation. This study documented spatio-temporal pattern of elephant attacks on humans, factors associated with the attacks and human/elephant behaviour contributing to deaths of victims when attacked. We compiled all the documented incidences of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal for last 20 years across Terai and Siwalik region of Nepal. We also visited and interviewed 412 victim families (274 fatalities and 138 injuries) on elephant attacks. Majority of the victims were males (87.86%) and had low level of education. One fourth of the elephant attacks occurred while chasing the elephants. Solitary bulls or group of sub-adult males were involved in most of the attack. We found higher number of attacks outside the protected area. People who were drunk and chasing elephants using fire-crackers were more vulnerable to the fatalities. In contrast, chasing elephants using fire was negatively associated to the fatalities. Elephant attacks were concentrated in proximity of forests primarily affecting the socio-economically marginalized communities. Integrated settlement, safe housing for marginalized community and community grain house in the settlement should be promoted to reduce the confrontation between elephants and humans. Conservation of elephant should be carried out in entire landscape, extending beyond the boundary of protected areas to reduce threats of elephant extinction.
The Small East African (SEA) goat (Capra hircus) breeds are widely distributed in different agro-ecological zones of Tanzania. We report the genetic diversity, maternal origin, and phylogenetic relationship among the 12 Tanzanian indigenous goats populations, namely Fipa (n = 44), Songwe (n = 34), Tanga (n = 33), Pwani (n = 40), Newala (n = 49), Lindi (n = 46), Gogo (n = 73), Pare (n = 67), Maasai (n = 72), Sukuma (n = 67), and Ujiji (n = 67), based on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop. High haplotype (Hd = 0.9619-0.9945) and nucleotide (π = 0.0120-0.0162) diversities were revealed from a total of 389 haplotypes. The majority of the haplotypes (h = 334) drawn from all the goat populations belonged to Haplogroup A which was consistent with the global scenario on the genetic pattern of maternal origin of all goat breeds in the world. Haplogroup G comprised of 45 haplotypes drawn from all populations except the Ujiji goat population while Haplogroup B with 10 haplotypes was dominated by Ujiji goats (41%). Tanzanian goats shared four haplotypes with the Kenyan goats and two with goats from South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. There was no sharing of haplotypes observed between individuals from Tanzanian goat populations with individuals from North or West Africa. The indigenous goats in Tanzania have high genetic diversity defined by 389 haplotypes and multiple maternal origins of haplogroup A, B and G. There is a lot of intermixing and high genetic variation within populations which represent an abundant resource for selective breeding in the different agro-ecological regions of the country.
Birds are known to act as potential vectors for the exogenous dispersal of bryophyte diaspores. Given the totipotency of vegetative tissue of many bryophytes, birds could also contribute to endozoochorous bryophyte dispersal. Research has shown that fecal samples of the upland goose (Chloephaga picta) and white-bellied seedsnipe (Attagis malouinus) contain bryophyte fragments. Although few fragments from bird feces have been known to regenerate, the evidence for the viability of diaspores following passage through the bird intestinal tract remains ambiguous. We evaluated the role of endozoochory in these same herbivorous and sympatric bird species in sub-Antarctic Chile. We hypothesized that fragments of bryophyte gametophytes retrieved from their feces are viable and capable of regenerating new plant tissue. Eleven feces disc samples containing undetermined moss fragments from C. picta (N=6) and A. malouinus (N=5) and six moss fragment samples from wild collected mosses (Conostomum tetragonum, Syntrichia robusta, and Polytrichum strictum) were grown ex situ in peat soil and in vitro using a agar-Gamborg medium. After 91 days, 20% of fragments from A. malouinus feces, 50% of fragments from C. picta feces, and 67% of propagules from wild mosses produced new growth. The fact that moss diaspores remained viable and can regenerate under experimental conditions following the passage through the intestinal tracts of these robust fliers and altitudinal and latitudinal migrants, suggests that sub-Antarctic birds may play a critical role in bryophyte dispersal. This relationship may have important implications in the way bryophytes disperse and colonize habitats facing climate change. Keywords: birds, bryophyte dispersal, endozoochory, mosses, sub-Antarctic
The extended female post-reproductive lifespan found in humans and some toothed whales remains an evolutionary puzzle. Theory predicts demographic patterns resulting in increased female relatedness with age (kinship dynamics) can select for a prolonged post-reproductive lifespan due to the combined costs of inter-generational reproductive conflict and benefits of late-life helping. Here we test this prediction using >40 years of longitudinal demographic data from the sympatric yet genetically distinct killer whale ecotypes: resident and Bigg’s killer whales. The female relatedness with age is predicted to increase in both ecotypes, but with a less steep increase in Bigg’s due to their different social structure. Here, we show that there is a significant post-reproductive lifespan in both ecotypes with >30% of adult female years being lived as post-reproductive, supporting the general prediction that an increase in local relatedness with age predisposes the evolution of a post-reproductive lifespan. Differences in the magnitude of kinship dynamics however, did not influence the timing or duration of the post-reproductive lifespan with females in both ecotypes terminating reproduction before their mid-40s followed by an expected post-reproductive period of ~20 years. Our results highlight the important role of kinship dynamics in the evolution of a long post-reproductive lifespan in long-lived mammals, while further implying that the timing of menopause may be a robust trait that is persistent despite substantial variation in demographic patterns among population.
While several researchers have suggested that evolution should be explored from the initial years of schooling, little information is available on effective resources to enhance elementary school students’ level of understanding of evolution by natural selection (LUENS). For the present study, we designed, implemented and evaluated an educational activity planned for fourth graders to explore concepts and conceptual fields that were historically important for the discovery of natural selection. Observation field notes and students’ productions were used to analyse how the students explored the proposed activity. Additionally, an evaluation framework consisting of a test, the evaluation criteria and the scoring process was applied in two fourth-grade classes to estimate elementary school students’ LUENS before and after engaging in the activity. Our results suggest that our activity allowed students to effectively link all of the key concepts in the classroom and produced a significant increase in their LUENS. These results indicate that our activity had a positive impact on students’ understanding of natural selection. They also reveal that additional activities and minor fine-tuning of the present activity are required to further support students’ learning about the concept of differential reproduction. We also observed a low level of teleological predictions for both pre- and post-tests.
The biodiversity in montane ecosystems is high but is threatened by rapid environmental change. Urbanization and other anthropogenic activities in the mountains surrounding cities can affect changes in land use and habitat heterogeneity. Moreover, patterns of habitat heterogeneity are closely related to elevation and have a major effect on montane biodiversity. The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of habitat heterogeneity on the vertical distribution pattern of bird diversity by characterizing the structure of the bird community, biodiversity, and landscape factors at different altitudes. Continuous monitoring of the breeding birds at Mount Tai from 2016 to 2019 revealed that forest reduced the diversity and abundance of birds and favored montane birds. Habitat composition varied at different altitudes. In the high-mountain belt and the middle-mountain belt, the habitat was primarily composed of forest. In contrast, artificial habitat was more common in the low-mountain belt. Bird abundance, species richness, and the Shannon-Wiener index decreased as the altitude increased, and the structure of the bird community significantly differed in the different belts. Some rare species tended to only occupy specific belts. Road density, number of habitat patches, patch density, and the percentage of forest significantly affected bird diversity. The effect of patch density was higher compared with other landscape factors. The “habitat amount hypothesis” was more suitable for explaining the elevational distribution pattern of bird diversity at Mount Tai. Sufficient habitat and more patches in the low-mountain belt supported higher bird diversity. The middle-mountain belt and high-mountain belt showed contrasting patterns. Our results highlight the effects of ongoing urbanization and human activities on montane biodiversity and emphasize the need for artificial habitats in the mountains surrounding cities to be managed.
The spatial-temporal patterns of fish assemblages in lotic systems can provide useful information in developing effective conservation measures. This study aimed to explore the spatiotemporal changes in fish assemblage and their association with environmental factors in mountain streams of Ren River, southwest China. Filed investigations were conducted at 18 sites during rainy and dry season in 2017. A total of 21 species, belonged to 3 orders, 8 families and 19 genera, were collected. Analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) showed fish assemblages structure varied significantly at the spatial scale, but not at the temporal scale. In low order sites, fish assemblages were mainly dominated by cold water and rheophilic species (e.g. Rhynchocypris oxycephalus, Scaphesthes macrolepis, Metahomaloptera omeiensis and Gnathopogon herzensteini), while those in high order sites were predominated by warm water and eurytopicity or stagnophilic species (e.g. Squalidus argentatus, Hemiculter leucisculus and Zacco platypus). Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) showed fish assemblages were structured by a combination of large-scale landscape factors (e.g. altitude and C-link) and small-scale habitat features (e.g. channel width, water temperature and depth). Among these factors, landscape factors had the greatest influence on fish assemblage, while local habitat measures played less important roles or just acted in certain season.
Global change alters ecological communities with consequences for ecosystem processes. Such processes and functions are a central aspect of ecological research and vital to understanding and mitigating the consequences of global change, but also those of other drivers of change in organism communities. In this context, the concept of energy flux through trophic networks integrates food-web theory and biodiversity-ecosystem functioning theory and connects biodiversity to multitrophic ecosystem functioning. As such, the energy flux approach is a strikingly effective tool to answer central questions in ecology and global-change research. This might seem straight forward, given that the theoretical background and software to efficiently calculate energy flux are readily available. However, the implementation of such calculations is not always straight forward, especially for those who are new to the topic and not familiar with concepts central to this line of research, such as food-web theory or metabolic theory. To facilitate wider use of energy flux in ecological research, we thus provide a guide to adopting energy-flux calculations for people new to the method, struggling with its implementation, or simply looking for background reading, important resources, and standard solutions to the problems everyone faces when starting to quantify energy fluxes for their community data. First, we introduce energy flux and its use in community and ecosystem ecology. Then, we provide a comprehensive explanation of the single steps towards calculating energy flux for community data. Finally, we discuss remaining challenges and exciting research frontiers for future energy-flux research.
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is caused by differences in selection pressures and life-history tradeoffs faced by males and females. Proximate causes of SSD may involve sex-specific mortality, energy acqui-sition, and energy expenditure for maintenance, reproductive tissues, and reproductive behavior. Using a quantitative, individual-based, eco-genetic model parameterized for North Sea plaice, we explore the importance of these mechanisms for female-biased SSD, under which males are smaller and reach sexual maturity earlier than females (common among fish, but also arising in arthropods and mammals). We consider two mechanisms potentially serving as ultimate causes: (1) male investments into male repro-ductive behavior might detract energy resources that would otherwise be available for somatic growth, and (2) diminishing returns on male reproductive investments might lead to reduced energy acquisition. In general, both of these can bring about smaller male body sizes. We report the following findings. First, higher investments into male reproductive behavior alone cannot explain the North Sea plaice SSD. This is because such higher reproductive investments require increased energy acquisition, which would cause a delay in maturation, leading to male-biased SSD contrary to observations. When account-ing for the observed differential (lower) male mortality, maturation is postponed even further, leading to even larger males. Second, diminishing returns on male reproductive investments alone can qualitative-ly account for the North Sea plaice SSD, even though the quantitative match is imperfect. Third, both mechanisms can be reconciled with, and thus provide a mechanistic basis for, the previously advanced Ghiselin-Reiss hypothesis, according to which smaller males will evolve if their reproductive success is dominated by scramble competition for fertilizing females, as males would consequently invest more into reproduction than growth, potentially implying lower survival rates relaxing male-male competition. Fourth, a good quantitative fit is achieved by combining both mechanisms while accounting for costs males incur during spawning.
The populations of the endemic gelada outside protected areas are less studied and population estimates are not available. As a result, a study was conducted to investigate population structure and distribution of geladas in Kotu forest and associated grasslands, in Northern Ethiopia. The study area was stratified into five habitats namely; grassland, wooded grassland, plantation forest, natural forest and bushland based on dominant vegetation type. Each habitat type was further divided into blocks and total counting technique was employed to count the individuals of geladas. The total mean number of gelada in the Kotu forest was 229 ± 6.11. The mean ratio of male to female was 1:1.178. Age composition of geladas comprised: 113 (49.34%) adults, 77 (33.62%) sub adults and 39 (17.03%) juveniles. The mean group size of gelada was 18± 2.0, out of which 2.5± 0.5 (13.89%) was all- male unit (AMU) and 15.5± 1.5 (86.11%) was one male unit (OMU) social system. The average band size was 45.0± 2.53. The highest number of geladas was recorded from grassland habitat 68 (29.87%) and the lowest from plantation forest habitat 34 (14.74%). Even though, the sex ratio was female biased, the proportion of juveniles to other age classes was very low, indicating negative consequences for the future viability of the gelada populations in the area. Geladas were widely distributed over open grassland habitat. For sustainable conservation of the geladas in the area there is a need for integrated management of the area with special attention on the conservation of the grassland habitat.
In many farming landscapes, aquatic features such as wetlands, creeks and dams provide water needed for stock and irrigation, while also acting as habitat for a range of plants and animals. Indeed, some species threatened by land use change may otherwise be considerably rarer – or even extinct – in the absence of these habitats. Therefore, a critical issue for the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes is the extent to which the management of aquatic systems can help promote the integration of agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. We completed a snapshot cross-sectional study in southern New South Wales (south-eastern Australia) to quantify the efficacy of simple management practices – partial revegetation and stock reduction via fencing – for improving vegetation structure, water quality, and macroinvertebrate assemblages. We found that even short-term livestock exclusion resulted in increased vegetation cover. Relative to dams that were unfenced, those that had been partially or completely fenced for many years were characterized by reduced turbidity and nutrient levels and contained fewer thermotolerant (faecal) coliforms. They also supported increased richness and abundance of macroinvertebrates. In contrast, control (unfenced) dams tended to have high abundance of a few macroinvertebrate taxa. Notably, differences remained between the macroinvertebrate assemblages of fenced dams and nearby ‘natural’ waterbodies. Our results show how management interventions can improve water quality in farm dams and provide a valuable reference and baseline for longer term studies of farm dam improvement.
Cheating in microbial communities is often regarded as a precursor to a “tragedy of the commons”, ultimately leading to over-exploitation by a few species, and destabilisation of the community. However, this view does not explain the ubiquity of cheaters in nature. Indeed, existing evidence suggests that cheaters are not only evolutionarily and ecologically inevitable, but also play important roles in communities, like promoting cooperative behaviour. We developed a chemostat model with two microbial species and a single, complex nutrient substrate. One of the organisms, an enzyme producer, degrades the substrate, releasing an essential and limiting resource that it can use both to grow and produce more enzymes, but at a cost. The second organism, a cheater, does not produce the enzyme but benefits from the diffused resource produced by the other species, allowing it to benefit from the public good, without contributing to it. We investigated evolutionarily stable states of coexistence between the two organisms and described how enzyme production rates and resource diffusion influence organism abundances. We found that, in the long-term evolutionary scale, monocultures of the producer drive themselves extinct because selection always favours mutant invaders that invest less in enzyme production. However, the presence of a cheater buffers this runaway selection process, preventing extinction of the producer and allowing coexistence. Resource diffusion rate controls cheater growth, preventing it from outcompeting the producer. These results show that competition from cheaters can force producers to maintain adequate enzyme production to sustain both itself and the cheater. This is known in evolutionary game theory as a “snowdrift game” – a metaphor describing a snow shoveler and a cheater following in their clean tracks. We move further to show that cheating can stabilise communities and possibly be a precursor to cooperation, rather than extinction.