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 mitochondrial genome is now widely used in the study of the phylogenetics and molecular evolution due to its maternal inheritance, fast evolutionary rate and highly conserved gene content. To explore the phylogenetic relationships of the tribe Aeromachini within the subfamily Hesperiinae at the mitochondrial genomics level, we sequenced and annotated the complete mitogenomes of 3 skippers: Amipittia virgata, Halpe nephele and Onryza maga. All of these mitogenomes are double-stranded and have circular molecules with a total length of 15,333 bp, 15,291 bp and 15,381 bp, respectively. The mitogenomes all contain 13 protein-coding genes (PCGs), 22 transfer RNAs (tRNAs), 2 ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) and a non-coding AT-rich region, and are consistent with other lepidopterans in gene order and type. In addition, we reconstruted the phylogenetic trees of Hesperiinae using maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian inference (BI) methods based on mitogenomic data. Results show that the 3 Aeromachini species in this study robustly constitute a monophyletic group in the subfamily Hesperiinae, with the relationships Coeliadinae + (Euschemoninae + ((Pyrginae + (Eudaminae + Tagiadinae)) + (Heteropterinae + (Barcinae + Hesperiinae)))). Moreover, our study supports the view that Apostictopterus fuliginosus and Barca bicolor should be placed out of the subfamily Hesperiinae.
1. Trait differences among plant species can favor species coexistence. The role that such differences play in the assembly of diverse plant communities maintained by frequent fires remains unresolved. This lack of resolution results in part from the possibility that species with similar traits may coexist because none has a significant fitness advantage and in part from the difficulty of experimental manipulation of highly diverse assemblages dominated by perennial species. 2. We examined a 65-year chronosequence of losses of herbaceous species following fire suppression (and subsequent encroachment by Pinus elliottii) in three wet longleaf pine savannas. We used cluster analysis, similarity profile permutation tests and k-R cluster analysis to identify statistically significant functional groups. We then used randomization tests to determine if the absence of functional groups near pines was greater (or less) than expected by chance. We also tested whether tolerant and sensitive species were less (or more) likely to co-occur by chance in areas in savannas away from pines in accordance with predictions of modern coexistence theory. 3. Functional group richness near pines was lower than expected from random species extirpations. Wetland perennials with thick rhizomes and high leaf water content, spring-flowering wetland forbs (including Drosera tracyi), orchids, Polygala spp., and club mosses were more likely to be absent near pines than expected by chance. C3 grasses and sedges with seed banks and tall, fall-flowering C4 grasses were less likely to be absent near pines than expected by chance. Species sensitive to pine encroachment were more likely to co-occur with other such species away from pines at two of the three sites. 4. Results suggest that herb species diversity in frequently-burned wet savannas is maintained in part by a weak fitness (e.g., competitive) hierarchy among herbs, and not as a result of trait differences among co-occurring species.
Northern range margin populations of the European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) have rapidly declined during recent decades. Extensive agricultural land use has fragmented the landscape, leading to habitat disruption and loss, as well as eutrophication of ponds. In Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) and Southern Sweden, this decline resulted in decreased gene flow from surrounding populations, low genetic diversity, and a putative reduction in adaptive potential, leaving populations vulnerable to future environmental and climatic changes. Previous studies using mitochondrial control region and nuclear transcriptome-wide SNP data detected introgressive hybridization in multiple northern B. bombina populations after presumed illegal release of toads from Austria. Here, we determine the impact of this introgression by comparing the body conditions (as a proxy for fitness) of introgressed and non-introgressed populations, and the genetic consequences in two candidate genes for putative local adaptation (the MHC II gene as part of the adaptive immune system and the stress response gene HSP70 kDa). We detected regional differences in body condition. We observed significantly elevated levels of within individual MHC allele counts in introgressed Swedish populations, associated with a tendency towards higher body weight, relative to regional non-introgressed populations. These differences were not observed among introgressed and non-introgressed German populations. Genetic diversity in both MHC and HSP was generally lower in northern than southern populations. Our study sheds light on the potential benefits of translocations of more distantly related conspecifics as a means to increase adaptive genetic variability and fitness of struggling range margin populations without distortion of local adaptation.
Phytoplasmas (Mollicutes, Acholeplasmataceae), vector-borne obligate bacterial plant-parasites, infect nearly 1,000 plant species and unknown numbers of insects, mainly leafhoppers (Hemiptera, Deltocephalinae), which play a key role in transmission and epidemiology. Although the plant-phytoplasma-insect association has been evolving for >300 million years, nearly all known phytoplasmas have been discovered as a result of the damage inflicted by phytoplasma diseases on crops. Few efforts have been made to study phytoplasmas occurring in non-economically important plants in natural habitats. In this study, a sub-sample of leafhopper specimens preserved in a large museum biorepository was analyzed to unveil potential new associations. PCR screening for phytoplasmas performed on 227 phloem-feeding leafhoppers collected worldwide from natural habitats revealed the presence of 6 different previously unknown phytoplasma strains. This indicates that museum collections of herbivorous insects represent a rich and largely untapped resource for discovery of new plant pathogens, that natural areas worldwide harbor a diverse but largely undiscovered diversity of phytoplasmas and potential insect vectors, and that independent epidemiological cycles occur in such habitats, posing a potential threat of disease spillover into agricultural systems. Larger-scale future investigations will contribute to a better understanding of phytoplasma genetic diversity, insect host range, and insect-borne phytoplasma transmission and provide an early warning for the emergence of new phytoplasma diseases across global agroecosystems.
Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes are the closest extant relative of modern humans, and are often used as a model organism to help understand prehistoric human behavior and ecology. Originally presumed herbivorous, chimpanzees have been observed hunting 24 species of birds, ungulates, rodents, monkeys, and other primates, using an array of techniques from tools to group cooperation. Using the literature on chimpanzee hunting behavior and diet from 13 studies, we aimed to determine the prey preferences of chimpanzees. We extracted data on prey-specific variables such as targeted species, their body weight, and their abundance within the prey community, and hunter-specific variables such as hunting method, and chimpanzee group size and sex ratio. We used these in a generalized linear model to determine what factors drive chimpanzee prey preference. We calculated a Jacobs’ Index value for each prey species killed at two sites in Uganda and two sites in Tanzania. Chimpanzees prefer prey with a body weight of 7.6 ± 0.4 kg or less, which corresponds to animals such as juvenile bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus and guereza colobus monkeys Colobus guereza. Sex ratio in chimpanzee groups appears to drive chimpanzee prey preference, where chimpanzees increasingly prefer prey when in male-dominated groups. Prey preference information from chimpanzee research can assist conservation management programs by identifying key prey species to manage, as well as contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of human hunting behavior.
We sought to generate a preliminary demographic framework for Psammochloa villosa to support of future studies of this ecologically important desert grass species, its conservation, and sustainable utilization. Psammochloa villosa occurs in the Inner Mongolian Plateau where it is frequently the dominant species and is involved in sand stabilization and wind breaking. Here, we characterized the genetic diversity and structure of 210 individuals from 43 natural populations of P. villosa using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. We obtained 1728 well-defined amplified bands from eight pairs of primers, of which 1654 bands (95.72%) were polymorphic.All these values indicate that there is abundant genetic diversity, but limited gene flow in P. villosa. However, an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that genetic variation mainly exists within 43 populations of the species (64.16%), and we found that the most genetically similar populations were often not geographically adjacent. Thus, this suggests that the mechanisms of gene flow are surprisingly complex in the species and may occur over long distances. In addition, we predicted the distribution dynamics of P. villosa based on the spatial distribution modeling and found that its range has contracted continuously since the last inter-glacial period. We speculate that dry, cold climates have been critical in determining the geographic distribution of P. villosa during the Quaternary period. Our study provides new insights into the population genetics and evolutionary history of P. villosa in the Inner Mongolian Plateau, which can be used to design in-situ conservation actions and to prioritize sustainable utilization of germplasm resources.
Amblypygids are an arachnid order possessing a unique pair of spined pedipalps: appendages that perform in prey capture, courtship and contest. Pedipalp length, hypothesised to be under sexual selection, varies markedly across amblypygid species, and pedipalp spination, thought to reflect selection for function in prey capture, also differs interspecifically. Differences in pedipalp shape between species may indicate that the relative strength of selection for prey capture and sexual selection vary across the group. However, interspecific differences in pedipalp shape have not been quantified, due to difficulties in identifying homologous features. For the first time, we quantify trends in amblypygid pedipalp shape complexity. We use elliptical Fourier analysis to quantify 2D complexity in pedipalp outlines across eleven species and six genera. We find that complexity significantly decreases as pedipalp length increases. This appears to be driven by relative spine length, suggesting that a trade-off exists between pedipalp length and spination. Furthermore, significant female-biased sexual dimorphism in shape complexity is present in the tibial segment of the amblypygid pedipalp. Our results provide novel insights into the drivers of amblypygid pedipalp evolution, and suggest that a functional trade-off between performance in prey capture and other functions under sexual selection exist in this enigmatic structure.
1. Metadata plays an essential role in the long term preservation, reuse, and interoperability of data. Nevertheless, creating useful metadata can be sufficiently difficult and weakly-enough incentivised that many datasets may be accompanied by little or no metadata. One key challenge is, therefore, how to make metadata creation easier and more valuable. We present a solution that involves creating domain specific metadata schemes that are as complex as necessary and as simple as possible. These goals are achieved by co-development between a metadata expert and the researchers (i.e. the data creators). The final product is a bespoke metadata scheme into which researchers can enter information (and validate it) via the simplest of interfaces: a web browser application and a spreadsheet. 2.We provide the R package [‘dmdScheme‘](https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=dmdScheme) [@Krug2019] for creating a template domain specific scheme. We describe how to create a domain specific scheme from this template, including the iterative co-development process, and the simple methods for using the scheme, and simple methods for quality assessment, improvement, and validation. 3.The process of developing a metadata scheme following the outlined approach was successful, resulting in a metadata scheme which is used for the data generated in our research group. The validation quickly identifies forgotten metadata, as well as inconsistent metadata, therefore improving the quality of the metadata. Multiple output formats are available, including XML. 4. Making the provision of metadata easier while also ensuring high quality must be a priority for data curation initiatives. We show how both objectives are achieved by very close collaboration between metadata experts and researchers to create domain specific schemes. A near-future priority is to provide methods to interface domain specific schemes with general metadata schemes, such as the Ecological Metadata Language, to increase interoperability.
1. Accurate biodiversity and population monitoring is a requirement for effective conservation decision-making. Survey method bias is therefore a concern, particularly when research programs face logistical and cost limitations. 2. We employed point counts (PCs) and autonomous recording units (ARUs) to survey avian biodiversity across elevational gradients in comparable temperate mountain habitats at opposite ends of the Americas (9 mountains in British Columbia (BC), Canada and 10 in southern Chile). We compared detected species richness against multi-year species inventories and examined differences in detection probability by family. By incorporating time costs, we assessed the performance and efficiency of single vs. combined methods. 3. ARUs were predicted to capture ~92% of species present in BC but only ~58% in Chile, despite Chilean mountain communities being less diverse. Community, rather than landscape composition, appears to be the driver of this dramatic difference. Chilean communities contain less-vocal species, which ARUs missed. Further, 6/14 families in BC were better detected by ARUs while 11/11 families in Chile were better detected by PCs. Where survey conditions differentially impacted methods, PC detection varied over the morning and with canopy cover in BC and ARU detection probability mostly varied seasonally in Chile. Within a single year of monitoring, neither method alone was predicted to capture the full avian community, with the exception of ARUs in the alpine and subalpine of BC. PCs contributed little to detected diversity in BC, but including this method resulted in negligible increases in total time costs. Combining PCs with ARUs in Chile significantly increased species detections, again, for little cost. 4. Combined methods were among the most efficient and accurate approaches to capturing diversity. We recommend conducting observer point counts, where possible, when ARUs are deployed and retrieved, in order to capture additional diversity and flag methodology biases with minimal additional effort.
The wild tomato species Solanum chilense is divided in geographically and genetically distinct populations that show signs of defense gene selection and differential phenotypes when challenged with several phytopathogens, including the oomycete causal agent of late blight Phytophthora infestans. To better understand the phenotypic diversity of this disease resistance in S. chilense and to assess the effect of plant genotype vs. pathogen isolate, respectively, we evaluated infection frequency in a systematic approach and with large sample sizes. We studied 85 genetically distinct individuals representing nine geographically separated populations of S. chilense. This showed that differences in quantitative resistance properties can be observed between but also within populations at the level of individual plants. Data also did not reveal clear indications for complete immunity in any of the genotypes. We further evaluated the resistance of a subset of the plants against P. infestans isolates with diverse virulence properties. This confirmed that the relative differences in resistance phenotypes between individuals were mainly determined by the plant genotype under consideration with modest effects of pathogen isolate used in the study. Thus, our report suggest that quantitative resistance against P. infestans in natural populations of a wild tomato species S. chilense is likely not the result of specific adaptations of hosts to the pathogen but of basal defence responses that depend on the host genotype and are pathogen isolate-unspecific.
1. Almost all organisms grow in size during their lifetime and switch diets, trophic positions, and interacting partners as they grow. Such ontogenetic development introduces life-history stages and flows of biomass between the stages through growth and reproduction. However, current research on complex food webs rarely considers life-history stages. The few previously proposed methods do not take full advantage of the existing food web structural models that can produce realistic food web topologies. 2. We extended the niche model by Williams & Martinez (2000) to generate food webs that included trophic species with a life-history stage structure. Our method aggregated trophic species based on niche overlap to form a life-history structured population; therefore, it largely preserved the topological structure of food webs generated by the niche model. We applied the theory of allometric predator-prey body mass ratio and parameterized an allometric bioenergetic model augmented with biomass flow between stages via growth and reproduction to study the effects of a stage structure on the stability of food webs. 3. When life-history stages were linked via growth and reproduction, fewer food webs persisted while persisting food webs tended to retain more trophic species. Topological differences between persisting linked and unlinked food webs were small to modest. Temporal variability of biomass dynamics and slopes of biomass spectra were lower in the linked food webs than the unlinked ones, suggesting that a life-history stage structure enhanced stability of complex food webs. 4. Our results suggest a positive relationship between the complexity and stability of complex food webs. A life-history stage structure in food webs may play important roles in dynamics of and diversity in food webs.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated hibernating bat populations across eastern and central North America for over a decade. Disease severity is driven by the interaction between bat characteristics, the cold-loving fungal agent, and the hibernation environment. While we further improve hibernation energetics models, we have yet to examine how spatial heterogeneity in host traits is linked to survival in this disease system. Here we develop predictive spatial models of body mass for the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and reassess previous definitions of the duration of hibernation of this species. Using data from published literature, public databases, local experts, and our own fieldwork, we fit a series of generalized linear models with hypothesized abiotic drivers to create distribution-wide predictions of pre-hibernation body fat and hibernation duration. Our results provide improved estimations of hibernation duration and identify a scaling relationship between body mass and body fat; this relationship allows for the first continuous estimates of pre-hibernation body mass and fat across the species’ distribution. We used these results to inform a hibernation energetic model to create spatially-varying fat use estimates for M. lucifugus. These results predict that WNS mortality of newly and soon-to-be infected M. lucifugus populations in western North America may be comparable to the substantial die-off observed in eastern and central populations.
In ecological communities, interactions between consumers and resources lead to the emergence of ecological networks and a fundamental problem to solve is to understand which factors shape network structure. Empirical and theoretical studies on ecological networks suggest predator body size is a key factor structuring patterns of interaction. Because larger predators consume a wider resource range, including the prey consumed by smaller predators, we hypothesized that variation in body size favors the rise of nestedness. In contrast, if resource consumption requires specific adaptations, predators are expected to consume distinct sets of resources, thus favouring modularity. We investigate these predictions by characterising the trophic network of a species-rich Amazonian snake community (62 species). Our results revealed an intricate network pattern resulting from larger species feeding on higher diversity of prey, promoting nestedness, and specific lifestyles feeding on distinct resources, promoting modularity. Species removal simulations indicated that the nested structure is favored mainly by the presence of five species of the family Boidae, which because of their body size and generalist lifestyles connect modules in the network. Our study highlights the particular ways traits affect the structure of interactions among consumers and resources at the community level.
In semi-arid environments, aperiodic rainfall pulses determine cycles of plant production and resource availability for higher trophic levels, creating strong bottom-up regulation. The influence of climatic factors on population vital rates often shapes the dynamics of small mammal populations in such resource-restricted environments. Using a 21-year biannual capture–recapture dataset (1993 to 2014), we examined the impacts of climatic factors on the population dynamics of the brush mouse (Peromyscus boylii) in semi-arid oak woodland of coastal-central California. We applied Pradel’s temporal symmetry model to estimate capture probability (p), apparent survival (φ), recruitment (f), and realized population growth rate (λ) of the brush mouse, and examined the effects of temperature, rainfall, and El Niño on these demographic parameters. The population was stable during the study period with a monthly realized population growth rate of 0.993 ± SE 0.032, but growth varied over time from 0.680 ± 0.054 to 1.450 ± 0.083. Monthly survival estimates averaged 0.817 ± 0.005 and monthly recruitment estimates averaged 0.175 ± 0.038. Survival probability and realized population growth were positively correlated with rainfall and negatively correlated with temperature. In contrast, recruitment was negatively correlated with rainfall and positively correlated with temperature. Brush mice maintained their population through multiple coping strategies, investing in high recruitment during warmer and drier periods and allocating more energy towards survival during cooler and wetter conditions. Although climatic change in coastal-central California will favor recruitment over survival, varying strategies may serve as a mechanism by which brush mice maintain resilience in the face of climate change. Our results indicate that rainfall and temperature are both important drivers of brush mouse population dynamics and will play a significant role in predicting the future viability of brush mice under a changing climate.
Research hypotheses have been a cornerstone of science since before Galileo. Many have argued that inclusion of multiple hypotheses (1) encourage discovery of mechanisms, and (2) reduce bias – both features that should increase transferability and reproducibility. However, we are entering a new era of big data and highly predictive models where some argue the hypothesis is outmoded. Indeed, using a detailed literature analysis, we found prevalence of hypotheses in eco-evo research is very low (6.7-26%) and static from 1990-2015, a pattern mirrored in an extensive literature search (N=302,558 articles). Our literature review also indicates that neither grant success or citation rates were related to the inclusion of hypotheses, which may provide disincentive for hypothesis formulation. Here we confront common justifications for avoiding hypotheses and present new arguments based on benefits to the individual. Although hypotheses are not always necessary, we expect their continued and increased use will help our fields move toward greater understanding, reproducibility, prediction, and effective conservation of nature.