The photonic structures of butterfly wings are among the most anatomically diverse of all those in nature, giving rise to an unrivalled display of structural colours. These have recently become the focus of research by workers in a variety of disciplines, stimulated by their potential applications to technology (‘biomimetics’). This interest, together with the discovery of unpublished electron micrographs taken by the late Dr John Huxley (Natural History Museum, London), prompted this review of butterfly photonics in general. The current work provides a synopsis of the literature to date, covering the diversity and evolution of these optical structures and incorporating Huxley's work, which represents an important biomimetic and evolutionary database on its own. This review deals with butterfly photonic devices according to the parts of the butterfly scales on which they occur. In this way, the information is ripe for evolutionary study.
photonic; interference; structural colour; butterfly; diversity; evolution
It is well-known that Charles Darwin sketched abstract trees of relationship in his 1837 notebook, and depicted a tree in the Origin of Species (1859). Here I attempt to place Darwin's trees in historical context. By the mid-Eighteenth century the Great Chain of Being was increasingly seen to be an inadequate description of order in nature, and by about 1780 it had been largely abandoned without a satisfactory alternative having been agreed upon. In 1750 Donati described aquatic and terrestrial organisms as forming a network, and a few years later Buffon depicted a network of genealogical relationships among breeds of dogs. In 1764 Bonnet asked whether the Chain might actually branch at certain points, and in 1766 Pallas proposed that the gradations among organisms resemble a tree with a compound trunk, perhaps not unlike the tree of animal life later depicted by Eichwald. Other trees were presented by Augier in 1801 and by Lamarck in 1809 and 1815, the latter two assuming a transmutation of species over time. Elaborate networks of affinities among plants and among animals were depicted in the late Eighteenth and very early Nineteenth centuries. In the two decades immediately prior to 1837, so-called affinities and/or analogies among organisms were represented by diverse geometric figures. Series of plant and animal fossils in successive geological strata were represented as trees in a popular textbook from 1840, while in 1858 Bronn presented a system of animals, as evidenced by the fossil record, in a form of a tree. Darwin's 1859 tree and its subsequent elaborations by Haeckel came to be accepted in many but not all areas of biological sciences, while network diagrams were used in others. Beginning in the early 1960s trees were inferred from protein and nucleic acid sequences, but networks were re-introduced in the mid-1990s to represent lateral genetic transfer, increasingly regarded as a fundamental mode of evolution at least for bacteria and archaea. In historical context, then, the Network of Life preceded the Tree of Life and might again supersede it.
This article was reviewed by Eric Bapteste, Patrick Forterre and Dan Graur.
When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species 150 years ago he consciously avoided discussing the origin of life. However, analysis of some other texts written by Darwin, and of the correspondence he exchanged with friends and colleagues demonstrates that he took for granted the possibility of a natural emergence of the first life forms. As shown by notes from the pages he excised from his private notebooks, as early as 1837 Darwin was convinced that “the intimate relation of Life with laws of chemical combination, & the universality of latter render spontaneous generation not improbable”. Like many of his contemporaries, Darwin rejected the idea that putrefaction of preexisting organic compounds could lead to the appearance of organisms. Although he favored the possibility that life could appear by natural processes from simple inorganic compounds, his reluctance to discuss the issue resulted from his recognition that at the time it was possible to undertake the experimental study of the emergence of life.
Darwin; Warm little pond; Origin of life; Spontaneous generation
Charles Darwin believed that all traits of organisms have been honed to near perfection by natural selection. The empirical basis underlying Darwin’s conclusions consisted of numerous observations made by him and other naturalists on the exquisite adaptations of animals and plants to their natural habitats and on the impressive results of artificial selection. Darwin fully appreciated the importance of heredity but was unaware of the nature and, in fact, the very existence of genomes. A century and a half after the publication of the “Origin”, we have the opportunity to draw conclusions from the comparisons of hundreds of genome sequences from all walks of life. These comparisons suggest that the dominant mode of genome evolution is quite different from that of the phenotypic evolution. The genomes of vertebrates, those purported paragons of biological perfection, turned out to be veritable junkyards of selfish genetic elements where only a small fraction of the genetic material is dedicated to encoding biologically relevant information. In sharp contrast, genomes of microbes and viruses are incomparably more compact, with most of the genetic material assigned to distinct biological functions. However, even in these genomes, the specific genome organization (gene order) is poorly conserved. The results of comparative genomics lead to the conclusion that the genome architecture is not a straightforward result of continuous adaptation but rather is determined by the balance between the selection pressure, that is itself dependent on the effective population size and mutation rate, the level of recombination, and the activity of selfish elements. Although genes and, in many cases, multigene regions of genomes possess elaborate architectures that ensure regulation of expression, these arrangements are evolutionarily volatile and typically change substantially even on short evolutionary scales when gene sequences diverge minimally. Thus, the observed genome archtiectures are, mostly, products of neutral processes or epiphenomena of more general selective processes, such as selection for genome streamlining in successful lineages with large populations. Selection for specific gene arrangements (elements of genome architecture) seems only to modulate the results of these processes.
Inclusive fitness maximization is a basic building block for biological contributions to any theory of the evolution of society. There is a view in mathematical population genetics that nothing is caused to be maximized in the process of natural selection, but this is explained as arising from a misunderstanding about the meaning of fitness maximization. Current theoretical work on inclusive fitness is discussed, with emphasis on the author's ‘formal Darwinism project’. Generally, favourable conclusions are drawn about the validity of assuming fitness maximization, but the need for continuing work is emphasized, along with the possibility that substantive exceptions may be uncovered. The formal Darwinism project aims more ambitiously to represent in a formal mathematical framework the central point of Darwin's Origin of Species, that the mechanical processes of inheritance and reproduction can give rise to the appearance of design, and it is a fitting ambition in Darwin's bicentenary year to capture his most profound discovery in the lingua franca of science.
formal Darwinism; fitness optimization; Price equation; uncertainty; dynamic insufficiency
One of the classic examples of adaptive radiation under natural selection is the evolution of 15 closely related species of Darwin's finches (Passeriformes), whose primary diversity lies in the size and shape of their beaks. Since Charles Darwin and other members of the Beagle expedition collected these birds on the Galápagos Islands in 1835 and introduced them to science, they have been the subjects of intense research. Many biology textbooks use Darwin's finches to illustrate a variety of topics of evolutionary theory, such as speciation, natural selection and niche partitioning. Today, as this Theme Issue illustrates, Darwin's finches continue to be a very valuable source of biological discovery. Certain advantages of studying this group allow further breakthroughs in our understanding of changes in recent island biodiversity, mechanisms of speciation and hybridization, evolution of cognitive behaviours, principles of beak/jaw biomechanics as well as the underlying developmental genetic mechanisms in generating morphological diversity. Our objective was to bring together some of the key workers in the field of ecology and evolutionary biology who study Darwin's finches or whose studies were inspired by research on Darwin's finches. Insights provided by papers collected in this Theme Issue will be of interest to a wide audience.
Darwin's finches; evolution; speciation; adaptive radiation
In 2009, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin and the 150th jubilee of his masterpiece, the Origin of Species. Darwin developed the first coherent and compelling narrative of biological evolution and thus founded evolutionary biology—and modern biology in general, remembering the famous dictum of Dobzhansky. It is, however, counter-productive, and ultimately, a disservice to Darwin’s legacy, to define modern evolutionary biology as neo-Darwinism. The current picture of evolution, informed, in particular, by results of comparative genomics and systems biology, is by far more complex than that presented in the Origin of Species, so that Darwinian principles, including natural selection, are incorporated into the evolving new synthesis as important but certainly not all-embracing tenets. This expansion of evolutionary biology does not denigrate Darwin in the least but rather emphasizes the fertility of his ideas.
Darwin’s anniversary; Darwinism; modern synthesis; genome evolution; systems biology; horizontal gene transfer; Tree of Life
Nature is full of struggle, as predicted by the theory of evolution through natural selection, yet there are also paramount examples where individuals help each other. These instances of helping have been difficult to reconcile with Darwin's theory because it is not always obvious how individuals are working for their own direct benefit. Consequently, initial publications that offered solutions to subsets of the observed cases of helping, such as kin selection or reciprocity, are among the most influential and most cited papers in evolution/behavioural ecology. During the last few years, a wave of new studies and concepts has considerably advanced our understanding of the conditions under which individuals are selected to help others. On the empirical side, advances are due to stronger incorporation of the natural history of each study species and an emphasis on proximate questions regarding decision-making processes. In parallel, theorists have provided more realistic models together with an increased exploration of the importance of life history and ecology in understanding cooperation. The ideas presented by the authors of this volume represent, in many ways, the revolutionary new approach to studying behaviour which is currently underway.
cooperation; game theory; helping; deception; cheating; cognition
Speciation corresponds to the progressive establishment of reproductive barriers between groups of individuals derived from an ancestral stock. Since Darwin did not believe that reproductive barriers could be selected for, he proposed that most events of speciation would occur through a process of separation and divergence, and this point of view is still shared by most evolutionary biologists today.
I do, however, contend that, if so much speciation occurs, the most likely explanation is that there must be conditions where reproductive barriers can be directly selected for. In other words, situations where it is advantageous for individuals to reproduce preferentially within a small group and reduce their breeding with the rest of the ancestral population. This leads me to propose a model whereby new species arise not by populations splitting into separate branches, but by small inbreeding groups "budding" from an ancestral stock. This would be driven by several advantages of inbreeding, and mainly by advantageous recessive phenotypes, which could only be retained in the context of inbreeding. Reproductive barriers would thus not arise as secondary consequences of divergent evolution in populations isolated from one another, but under the direct selective pressure of ancestral stocks. Many documented cases of speciation in natural populations appear to fit the model proposed, with more speciation occurring in populations with high inbreeding coefficients, and many recessive characters identified as central to the phenomenon of speciation, with these recessive mutations expected to be surrounded by patterns of limited genomic diversity.
Whilst adaptive evolution would correspond to gains of function that would, most of the time, be dominant, this type of speciation by budding would thus be driven by mutations resulting in the advantageous loss of certain functions since recessive mutations very often correspond to the inactivation of a gene. A very important further advantage of inbreeding is that it reduces the accumulation of recessive mutations in genomes. A consequence of the model proposed is that the existence of species would correspond to a metastable equilibrium between inbreeding and outbreeding, with excessive inbreeding promoting speciation, and excessive outbreeding resulting in irreversible accumulation of recessive mutations that could ultimately only lead to extinction.
Eugene V. Koonin, Patrick Nosil (nominated by Dr Jerzy Jurka), Pierre Pontarotti
speciation; inbreeding; saeptation; mutation load; extinction; evolution
For principled and substantially philosophical reasons, based largely on his reform of natural history by inverting the Paleyan notion of overarching and purposeful beneficence in the construction of organisms, Darwin built his theory of selection at the single causal level of individual bodies engaged in unconscious (and metaphorical) struggle for their own reproductive success. But the central logic of the theory allows selection to work effectively on entities at several levels of a genealogical hierarchy, provided that they embody a set of requisite features for defining evolutionary individuality. Genes, cell lineages, demes, species, and clades-as well as Darwin's favoured organisms-embody these requisite features in enough cases to form important levels of selection in the history of life. R. A. Fisher explicitly recognized the unassailable logic of species selection, but denied that thsi real process could be important in evolution because, compared with the production of new organisms within a species, the origin of new species is so rare, and the number of species within most clades so low. I review this and other classical arguments against higher-level selection, and conclude (in the first part of this paper) that they are invalid in practice for interdemic selection, and false in principle for species selection. Punctuated equilibrium defines the individuality of species and refutes Fisher's classical argument based on cycle time. In the second part of the paper, I argue that we have failed to appreciate the range and power of selection at levels above and below the organismic because we falsely extrapolate the defining properties of organisms to these other levels (which are characterized by quite different distinctive features), and then regard the other levels as impotent because their effective individuals differ so much from organisms. We would better appreciate the power and generality of hierarchical models of selection if we grasped two key principles: first, that levels can interact in all modes (positively, negatively, and orthogonally), and not only in the negative style (with a higher level suppressing an opposing force of selection from the lower level) that, for heuristic and operational reasons, has received almost exclusive attention in the existing literature; and second, that each hierarchical level differs from all others in substantial and interesting ways, both in the style and frequency of patterns in change and causal modes.
In The Origin of Species, Darwin proposed his ‘principle of divergence of character’ (a process now termed ‘character displacement’) to explain how new species arise and why they differ from one other phenotypically. Darwin maintained that the origin of species, and the evolution of differences between them, is ultimately caused by divergent selection acting to minimize competitive interactions between initially similar individuals, populations, and species. Here, we examine the empirical support for the various claims that constitute Darwin’s principle, specifically that: (1) competition promotes divergent trait evolution; (2) the strength of competitively mediated divergent selection increases with increasing phenotypic similarity between competitors; (3) divergence can occur within species; and (4) competitively mediated divergence can trigger speciation. We also explore aspects that Darwin failed to consider. In particular, we describe how: (1) divergence can arise from selection acting to lessen reproductive interactions; (2) divergence is fueled by the intersection of character displacement and sexual selection; and (3) phenotypic plasticity may play a key role in promoting character displacement. Generally, character displacement is well supported empirically, and it remains a vital explanation for how new species arise and diversify.
Competition; Darwin’s divergence of character; hybridization; phenotypic plasticity; sexual selection; speciation
All living beings on Earth, from bacteria to humans, are connected through descent from common ancestors and represent the summation of their corresponding, ca. 3500 million year long evolutionary history. However, the evolution of phenotypic features is not predictable, and biologists no longer use terms such as "primitive" or "perfect organisms". Despite these insights, the Bible-based concept of the so-called "ladder of life" or Scala Naturae, i.e., the idea that all living beings can be viewed as representing various degrees of "perfection", with humans at the very top of this biological hierarchy, was popular among naturalists until ca. 1850 (Charles Bonnet, Jean Lamarck and others). Charles Darwin is usually credited with the establishment of a branched evolutionary "Tree of Life". This insight of 1859 was based on his now firmly corroborated proposals of common ancestry and natural selection. In this article I argue that Darwin was still influenced by "ladder thinking", a theological view that prevailed throughout the 19th century and is also part of Ernst Haeckel's famous Oak tree (of Life) of 1866, which is, like Darwin's scheme, static. In 1910, Constantin Mereschkowsky proposed an alternative, "anti-selectionist" concept of biological evolution, which became known as the symbiogenesis-theory. According to the symbiogenesis-scenario, eukaryotic cells evolved on a static Earth from archaic prokaryotes via the fusion and subsequent cooperation of certain microbes. In 1929, Alfred Wegener published his theory of continental drift, which was later corroborated, modified and extended. The resulting theory of plate tectonics is now the principal organizing concept of geology. Over millions of years, plate tectonics and hence the "dynamic Earth" has caused destructive volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. At the same time, it created mountain ranges, deep oceans, novel freshwater habitats, and deserts. As a result, these geologic processes destroyed numerous populations of organisms, and produced the environmental conditions for new species of animals, plants and microbes to adapt and evolve. In this article I propose a tree-like "symbiogenesis, natural selection, and dynamic Earth (synade)-model" of macroevolution that is based on these novel facts and data.
This article was reviewed by Mark Ragan, W. Ford Doolittle, and Staffan Müller-Wille.
The scientific contribution of Darwin, still agonized in many religious circles, has now been recognized and celebrated by scientists from various disciplines. However, in recent years, several evolutionists have criticized Darwin as outdated, arguing that “Darwinism,” assimilated to the “tree of life,” cannot explain microbial evolution, or else was not operating in early life evolution. These critics either confuse “Darwinism” and old versions of “neo-Darwinism” or misunderstand the role of gene transfers in evolution. The core of Darwin explanation of evolution (variation/selection) remains necessary and sufficient to decipher the history of life. The enormous diversity of mechanisms underlying variations has been successfully interpreted by evolutionists in this framework and has considerably enriched the corpus of evolutionary biology without the necessity to kill the father. However, it remains for evolutionists to acknowledge interactions between cells and viruses (unknown for Darwin) as a major driving force in life evolution.
evolutionary synthesis; variation; natural selection; lateral gene transfer; Darwinian threshold; viruses
Darwin's theory about the evolution of species has been the object of considerable dispute. In this review, we have described seven key principles in Darwin's book The Origin of Species and tried to present how genomics challenge each of these concepts and improve our knowledge about evolution. Darwin believed that species evolution consists on a positive directional selection ensuring the “survival of the fittest.” The most developed state of the species is characterized by increasing complexity. Darwin proposed the theory of “descent with modification” according to which all species evolve from a single common ancestor through a gradual process of small modification of their vertical inheritance. Finally, the process of evolution can be depicted in the form of a tree. However, microbial genomics showed that evolution is better described as the “biological changes over time.” The mode of change is not unidirectional and does not necessarily favors advantageous mutations to increase fitness it is rather subject to random selection as a result of catastrophic stochastic processes. Complexity is not necessarily the completion of development: several complex organisms have gone extinct and many microbes including bacteria with intracellular lifestyle have streamlined highly effective genomes. Genomes evolve through large events of gene deletions, duplications, insertions, and genomes rearrangements rather than a gradual adaptative process. Genomes are dynamic and chimeric entities with gene repertoires that result from vertical and horizontal acquisitions as well as de novo gene creation. The chimeric character of microbial genomes excludes the possibility of finding a single common ancestor for all the genes recorded currently. Genomes are collections of genes with different evolutionary histories that cannot be represented by a single tree of life (TOL). A forest, a network or a rhizome of life may be more accurate to represent evolutionary relationships among species.
catastrophes; Darwin; gene creation; giant viruses; micorbial genomics; rhizome of life; sequence exchange
Darwin devoted much of his working life to the study of plant reproductive systems. He recognized that many of the intricacies of floral morphology had been shaped by natural selection in favour of outcrossing, and he clearly established the deleterious effects of self-fertilization on progeny. Although Darwin hypothesized the adaptive significance of self-fertilization under conditions of low mate availability, he held that a strategy of pure selfing would be strongly disadvantageous in the long term. Here, I briefly review these contributions to our understanding of plant reproduction. I then suggest that investigating two very different sexual systems, one in plants and the other in animals, would throw further light on the long-term implications of a commitment to reproduction exclusively by selfing.
sexual systems; cleistogamy; androdioecy
Professional working at computer notebooks is associated with high requirements on the body posture in the seated position. By the high continuous static muscle stress resulting from this position at notebooks, professionals frequently working at notebooks for long hours are exposed to an increased risk of musculoskeletal complaints. Especially in subjects with back pain, new notebooks should be evaluated with a focus on rehabilitative issues.
In a field study a new notebook design with adjustable screen was analyzed and compared to standard notebook position.
There are highly significant differences in the visual axis of individuals who are seated in the novel notebook position in comparison to the standard position. Also, differences are present between further alternative notebook positions. Testing of gender and glasses did not reveal influences.
This study demonstrates that notebooks with adjustable screen may be used to improve the posture. Future studies may focus on patients with musculoskeletal diseases.
The processes governing the evolution of sexual dimorphism provided a foundation for sexual selection theory. Two alternative processes, originally proposed by Darwin and Wallace, differ primarily in the timing of events creating the dimorphism. In the process advocated by Darwin, a novel ornament arises in a single sex, with no temporal separation in the origin and sex-limitation of the novel trait. By contrast, Wallace proposed a process where novel ornaments appear simultaneously in both sexes, but are then converted into sex-limited expression by natural selection acting against showy coloration in one sex. Here, we investigate these alternative modes of sexual dimorphism evolution in a phylogenetic framework and demonstrate that both processes contribute to dimorphic wing patterns in the butterfly genera Bicyclus and Junonia. In some lineages, eyespots and bands arise in a single sex, whereas in other lineages they appear in both sexes but are then lost in one of the sexes. In addition, lineages displaying sexual dimorphism were more likely to become sexually monomorphic than they were to remain dimorphic. This derived monomorphism was either owing to a loss of the ornament (‘drab monomorphism’) or owing to a gain of the same ornament by the opposite sex (‘mutual ornamentation’). Our results demonstrate the necessity of a plurality in theories explaining the evolution of sexual dimorphism within and across taxa. The origins and evolutionary fate of sexual dimorphism are probably influenced by underlying genetic architecture responsible for sex-limited expression and the degree of intralocus sexual conflict. Future comparative and developmental work on sexual dimorphism within and among taxa will provide a better understanding of the biases and constraints governing the evolution of animal sexual dimorphism.
Bicyclus; Junonia; phylogeny; Nymphalidae; stochastic character mapping
Part diary, part scientific record, biological field notebooks often contain details necessary to understanding the location and environmental conditions existent during collecting events. Despite their clear value for (and recent use in) global change studies, the text-mining outputs from field notebooks have been idiosyncratic to specific research projects, and impossible to discover or re-use. Best practices and workflows for digitization, transcription, extraction, and integration with other sources are nascent or non-existent. In this paper, we demonstrate a workflow to generate structured outputs while also maintaining links to the original texts. The first step in this workflow was to place already digitized and transcribed field notebooks from the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History founder, Junius Henderson, on Wikisource, an open text transcription platform. Next, we created Wikisource templates to document places, dates, and taxa to facilitate annotation and wiki-linking. We then requested help from the public, through social media tools, to take advantage of volunteer efforts and energy. After three notebooks were fully annotated, content was converted into XML and annotations were extracted and cross-walked into Darwin Core compliant record sets. Finally, these recordsets were vetted, to provide valid taxon names, via a process we call “taxonomic referencing.” The result is identification and mobilization of 1,068 observations from three of Henderson’s thirteen notebooks and a publishable Darwin Core record set for use in other analyses. Although challenges remain, this work demonstrates a feasible approach to unlock observations from field notebooks that enhances their discovery and interoperability without losing the narrative context from which those observations are drawn.
“Compose your notes as if you were writing a letter to someone a century in the future.”
Perrine and Patton (2011)
Field notes; notebooks; crowd sourcing; digitization; biodiversity; transcription; text-mining; Darwin Core; Junius Henderson; annotation; taxonomic referencing; natural history; Wikisource; Colorado; species occurrence records
Estimates of hybrid fitness have been used as either a platform for testing the potential role of natural hybridization in the evolution of species and species complexes or, alternatively, as a rationale for dismissing hybridization events as being of any evolutionary significance. From the time of Darwin's publication of The Origin, through the neo-Darwinian synthesis, to the present day, the observation of variability in hybrid fitness has remained a challenge for some models of speciation. Yet, Darwin and others have reported the elevated fitness of hybrid genotypes under certain environmental conditions. In modern scientific terminology, this observation reflects the fact that hybrid genotypes can demonstrate genotype × environment interactions. In the current review, we illustrate the development of one plant species complex, namely the Louisiana Irises, into a ‘model system' for investigating hybrid fitness and the role of genetic exchange in adaptive evolution and diversification. In particular, we will argue that a multitude of approaches, involving both experimental and natural environments, and incorporating both manipulative analyses and surveys of natural populations, are necessary to adequately test for the evolutionary significance of introgressive hybridization. An appreciation of the variability of hybrid fitness leads to the conclusion that certain genetic signatures reflect adaptive evolution. Furthermore, tests of the frequency of allopatric versus sympatric/parapatric divergence (that is, divergence with ongoing gene flow) support hybrid genotypes as a mechanism of evolutionary diversification in numerous species complexes.
natural hybridization; habitat selection; hybrid fitness
Domestic pigeons are spectacularly diverse and exhibit variation in more traits than any other bird species . In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin repeatedly calls attention to the striking variation among domestic pigeon breeds – generated by thousands of years of artificial selection on a single species by human breeders – as a model for the process of natural divergence among wild populations and species . Darwin proposed a morphology-based classification of domestic pigeon breeds , but the relationships among major groups of breeds and their geographic origins remain poorly understood [4, 5]. We used a large, geographically diverse sample of 361 individuals from 70 domestic pigeon breeds and two free-living populations to determine genetic relationships within this species. We found unexpected relationships among phenotypically divergent breeds that imply convergent evolution of derived traits in several breed groups. Our findings also illuminate the geographic origins of breed groups in India and the Middle East, and suggest that racing breeds have made substantial contributions to feral pigeon populations.
Charles Darwin studied floral biology for over 40 years and wrote three major books on plant reproduction. These works have provided the conceptual foundation for understanding floral adaptations that promote cross-fertilization and the mechanisms responsible for evolutionary transitions in reproductive systems. Many of Darwin's insights, gained from careful observations and experiments on diverse angiosperm species, remain remarkably durable today and have stimulated much current research on floral function and the evolution of mating systems. Here I review Darwin's seminal contributions to reproductive biology and provide an overview of the current status of research on several of the main topics to which he devoted considerable effort, including the consequences to fitness of cross- versus self-fertilization, the evolution and function of stylar polymorphisms, the adaptive significance of heteranthery, the origins of dioecy and related gender polymorphisms, and the transition from animal pollination to wind pollination. Post-Darwinian perspectives on floral function now recognize the importance of pollen dispersal and male outcrossed siring success in shaping floral adaptation. This has helped to link work on pollination biology and mating systems, two subfields of reproductive biology that remained largely isolated during much of the twentieth century despite Darwin's efforts towards integration.
adaptation; Charles Darwin; flowers; pollination; mating
Since Darwin, the nature of the relationship between evolution and domestication has been debated. Evolution offers different mechanisms of selection that lead to adaptation and may end in the origin of new species as defined by the biological species concept. Domestication has given rise to numerous breeds in almost every domesticated species, including chickens. At the same time, so-called artificial selection seems to exclude mechanisms of sexual selection by the animals themselves. We want to forward the question to the animal itself: With whom do you reproduce successfully? This study focused on the sexual behavior of the domestic chicken Gallus gallus f.dom., particularly the White Crested Polish breed. Experiments on mate choice and the observation of fertilization and hatching rates of mixed-breeding groups revealed breed-specific preferences. In breeding groups containing White Crested Polish and a comparative breed, more purebred chicks hatched than hybrids (number of eggs collected: 1059). Mating was possible in equal shares, but in relation to the number of eggs collected, purebred offspring (62.75%±7.10%, M±SE) hatched to a greater extend compared to hybrid offspring (28.75%±15.32%, M±SE). These data demonstrate that the mechanism of sexual selection is still present in domestic chicken breeds, which includes the alteration of gene frequencies typical for domestication and evolutionary speciation. Due to selection and mate choice we state that breeding in principle can generate new species. Therefore, we see domestication as an evolutionary process that integrates human interests of animal breeding with innate mate choice by the animal.
Celebrating 300 years since the birth of Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), a meeting was held in June 2007 to review recent progress made in understanding the origins and evolutionary radiation of the animals. The year 2008 celebrates the 250th anniversary of the publication of the 10th edition of Linnaeus' Systema Naturae, generally considered to be the starting point of zoological nomenclature. With subsequent advances in comparative taxonomic and systematic studies, Darwin's discovery of evolution by natural selection, the birth of phylogenetic systematics, and the wider interest in biodiversity, it is salutary to consider that many of the major advances in our understanding of animal evolution have been made in recent years. Phylogenetic systematics, drawing from evidence provided by genotype, phenotype and an understanding of the link between them through comparative embryological and evolutionary developmental studies, has provided a wide consensus of the major branching patterns of the tree of life. More importantly, the integrated approaches discussed in the 16 contributions to this volume highlight the identity and nature of problematic taxa, the missing data, errors in existing analytical procedures and the promise of a wealth of additional characters from genomes that need to be accumulated and assessed in providing a definitive Systema Naturae.
Linnaeus; animal evolution; evo–devo; phylogenetics
Legacy data from natural history collections contain invaluable and irreplaceable information about biodiversity in the recent past, providing a baseline for detecting change and forecasting the future of biodiversity on a human-dominated planet. However, these data are often not available in formats that facilitate use and synthesis. New approaches are needed to enhance the rates of digitization and data quality improvement. Notes from Nature provides one such novel approach by asking citizen scientists to help with transcription tasks. The initial web-based prototype of Notes from Nature is soon widely available and was developed collaboratively by biodiversity scientists, natural history collections staff, and experts in citizen science project development, programming and visualization. This project brings together digital images representing different types of biodiversity records including ledgers , herbarium sheets and pinned insects from multiple projects and natural history collections. Experts in developing web-based citizen science applications then designed and built a platform for transcribing textual data and metadata from these images. The end product is a fully open source web transcription tool built using the latest web technologies. The platform keeps volunteers engaged by initially explaining the scientific importance of the work via a short orientation, and then providing transcription “missions” of well defined scope, along with dynamic feedback, interactivity and rewards. Transcribed records, along with record-level and process metadata, are provided back to the institutions. While the tool is being developed with new users in mind, it can serve a broad range of needs from novice to trained museum specialist. Notes from Nature has the potential to speed the rate of biodiversity data being made available to a broad community of users.
Natural History Museums; Biodiversity; Open Source; Museum Collections; Citizen Science; Digitization; Transcription
Background and Aims
Pollinator-mediated selection and evolution of floral traits have long fascinated evolutionary ecologists. No other plant family shows as wide a range of pollinator-linked floral forms as Orchidaceae. In spite of the large size of this model family and a long history of orchid pollination biology, the identity and specificity of most orchid pollinators remains inadequately studied, especially in the tropics where the family has undergone extensive diversification. Angraecum (Vandeae, Epidendroideae), a large genus of tropical Old World orchids renowned for their floral morphology specialized for hawkmoth pollination, has been a model system since the time of Darwin.
The pollination biology of A. cadetii, an endemic species of the islands of Mauritius and Reunion (Mascarene Islands, Indian Ocean) displaying atypical flowers for the genus (white and medium-size, but short-spurred) was investigated. Natural pollinators were observed by means of hard-disk camcorders. Pollinator-linked floral traits, namely spur length, nectar volume and concentration and scent production were also investigated. Pollinator efficiency (pollen removal and deposition) and reproductive success (fruit set) were quantified in natural field conditions weekly during the 2003, 2004 and 2005 flowering seasons (January to March).
Angraecum cadetii is self-compatible but requires a pollinator to achieve fruit set. Only one pollinator species was observed, an undescribed species of raspy cricket (Gryllacrididae, Orthoptera). These crickets, which are nocturnal foragers, reached flowers by climbing up leaves of the orchid or jumping across from neighbouring plants and probed the most ‘fresh-looking’ flowers on each plant. Visits to flowers were relatively long (if compared with the behaviour of birds or hawkmoths), averaging 16·5 s with a maximum of 41·0 s. At the study site of La Plaine des Palmistes (Pandanus forest), 46·5 % of flowers had pollen removed and 27·5 % had pollinia deposited on stigmas. The proportion of flowers that set fruit ranged from 11·9 % to 43·4 %, depending of the sites sampled across the island.
Although orthopterans are well known for herbivory, this represents the first clearly supported case of orthopteran-mediated pollination in flowering plants.
Angraecum; Mascarene Archipelago; oceanic islands; Orchidaceae; Orthoptera; plant–pollinator interactions; pollinator shifts