Theories on the development and evolution of teeth have long been biased by the fallacy that chondrichthyans reflect the ancestral condition for jawed vertebrates. However, correctly resolving the nature of the primitive vertebrate dentition is challenged by a dearth of evidence on dental development in primitive osteichthyans. Jaw elements from the Silurian–Devonian stem-osteichthyans Lophosteus and Andreolepis have been described to bear a dentition arranged in longitudinal rows and vertical files, reminiscent of a pattern of successional development. We tested this inference, using synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) to reveal the pattern of skeletal development preserved in the sclerochronology of the mineralized tissues. The tooth-like tubercles represent focal elaborations of dentine within otherwise continuous sheets of the dermal skeleton, present in at least three stacked generations. Thus, the tubercles are not discrete modular teeth and their arrangement into rows and files is a feature of the dermal ornamentation that does not reflect a polarity of development or linear succession. These fossil remains have no bearing on the nature of the dentition in osteichthyans and, indeed, our results raise questions concerning the homologies of these bones and the phylogenetic classification of Andreolepis and Lophosteus.
Osteichthyes; Andreolepis; Lophosteus; tooth; development; evolution
Soaring birds that undertake long-distance migration should develop strategies to minimize the energetic costs of endurance flight. This is relevant because condition upon completion of migration has direct consequences for fecundity, fitness and thus, demography. Therefore, strong evolutionary pressures are expected for energy minimization tactics linked to weather and topography. Importantly, the minute-by-minute mechanisms birds use to subsidize migration in variable weather are largely unknown, in large part because of the technological limitations in studying detailed long-distance bird flight. Here, we show golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) migratory response to changing meteorological conditions as monitored by high-resolution telemetry. In contrast to expectations, responses to meteorological variability were stereotyped across the 10 individuals studied. Eagles reacted to increased wind speed by using more orographic lift and less thermal lift. Concomitantly, as use of thermals decreased, variation in flight speed and altitude also decreased. These results demonstrate how soaring migrant birds can minimize energetic expenditures, they show the context for avian decisions and choices of specific instantaneous flight mechanisms and they have important implications for design of bird-friendly wind energy.
movement ecology; flight behaviour; migration; flight response; high-resolution GPS–GSM telemetry
The behaviour of fossil organisms can typically be inferred only indirectly, but rare fossil finds can provide surprising insights. Here, we report from the Eocene Messel Pit Fossil Site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt, Germany numerous pairs of the fossil carettochelyid turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta that represent for the first time among fossil vertebrates couples that perished during copulation. Females of this taxon can be distinguished from males by their relatively shorter tails and development of plastral kinesis. The preservation of mating pairs has important taphonomic implications for the Messel Pit Fossil Site, as it is unlikely that the turtles would mate in poisonous surface waters. Instead, the turtles initiated copulation in habitable surface waters, but perished when their skin absorbed poisons while sinking into toxic layers. The mating pairs from Messel are therefore more consistent with a stratified, volcanic maar lake with inhabitable surface waters and a deadly abyss.
Testudines; Carettochelyidae; Carettochelys insculpta; taphonomy; ethology
Agricultural intensification is a leading cause of global biodiversity loss, especially for threatened and near-threatened species. One widely implemented response is ‘wildlife-friendly farming’, involving the close integration of conservation and extensive farming practices within agricultural landscapes. However, the putative benefits from this controversial policy are currently either unknown or thought unlikely to extend to rare and declining species. Here, we show that new, evidence-based approaches to habitat creation on intensively managed farmland in England can achieve large increases in plant, bee and bird species. In particular, we found that habitat enhancement methods designed to provide the requirements of sensitive target biota consistently increased the richness and abundance of both rare and common species, with 10-fold to greater than 100-fold more rare species per sample area than generalized conventional conservation measures. Furthermore, targeting landscapes of high species richness amplified beneficial effects on the least mobile taxa: plants and bees. Our results provide the first unequivocal support for a national wildlife-friendly farming policy and suggest that this approach should be implemented much more extensively to address global biodiversity loss. However, to be effective, these conservation measures must be evidence-based, and developed using sound knowledge of the ecological requirements of key species.
agri-environment schemes; habitat restoration; eco-agriculture; ecosystem services
Humans, and many non-human animals, produce and respond to harsh, unpredictable, nonlinear sounds when alarmed, possibly because these are produced when acoustic production systems (vocal cords and syrinxes) are overblown in stressful, dangerous situations. Humans can simulate nonlinearities in music and soundtracks through the use of technological manipulations. Recent work found that film soundtracks from different genres differentially contain such sounds. We designed two experiments to determine specifically how simulated nonlinearities in soundtracks influence perceptions of arousal and valence. Subjects were presented with emotionally neutral musical exemplars that had neither noise nor abrupt frequency transitions, or versions of these musical exemplars that had noise or abrupt frequency upshifts or downshifts experimentally added. In a second experiment, these acoustic exemplars were paired with benign videos. Judgements of both arousal and valence were altered by the addition of these simulated nonlinearities in the first, music-only, experiment. In the second, multi-modal, experiment, valence (but not arousal) decreased with the addition of noise or frequency downshifts. Thus, the presence of a video image suppressed the ability of simulated nonlinearities to modify arousal. This is the first study examining how nonlinear simulations in music affect emotional judgements. These results demonstrate that the perception of potentially fearful or arousing sounds is influenced by the perceptual context and that the addition of a visual modality can antagonistically suppress the response to an acoustic stimulus.
nonlinearities; arousal; valence; noise; frequency modulation; fear
One pervasive morphological feature of tetrapods is the pipe-like, often marrow-filled, structure of the limb or long bones. This ‘hollow’ form maximizes flexural strength and stiffness with the minimum amount of bony material, and is exemplified by truly hollow (air-filled), or pneumatic, humeri in many modern birds. High-resolution microCT scans of the wings of two male club-winged manakins (Machaeropterus deliciosus) uncovered a notable exception to the hollow-tube rule in terrestrial vertebrates; males exhibited solidified ulnae more than three times the volume of birds of comparable body size, with significantly higher tissue mineral densities. The humeri exhibited similar (but less extreme) modifications. Each of the observed osteological modifications increases the overall mass of the bone, running counter to pervasive weight-reducing optimizations for flight in birds. The club-winged manakin is named for a pair of unique wing feathers found in adult males; these enlarged feathers attach directly to the ulna and resonate to produce a distinctive sound used in courtship displays. Given that the observed modifications probably assist in sound production, the club-winged manakin represents a case in which sexual selection by female choice has generated an ecologically ‘costly’ forelimb morphology, unique in being specialized for sound production at a presumed cost in flight efficiency.
sexual selection; female choice; sonation; vertebrate forelimb; Machaeropterus deliciosus; long bone
One common physiological phenomenon that is involved both in infectious and in malignant processes is the reduction in appetite: disease anorexia. An increase in plasma levels of leptin with inflammation is thought to be involved in this process. However, from an evolutionary perspective, in certain cases, it would be more adaptive for an internal parasite to stimulate the appetite of the host instead of causing its suppression. We tested whether a parasitic infection with the larvae of the helminth parasite Taenia taeniaformis affects the levels of appetite-regulating proteins, such as leptin, ghrelin and neuropeptide-Y (NPY) in wild yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis). We found that infected mice had lower plasma levels of leptin and increased levels of NPY than the uninfected subjects. Ghrelin levels were not associated with the occurrence of the parasites; however, these levels strongly correlated with the levels of NPY. This study suggests a possible manipulation by parasitic larvae of appetite regulation in infected subjects.
disease anorexia; parasite; appetite; appetite-regulating peptides; yellow-necked mouse
It is argued that animal signals may have evolved so as to manipulate the response of receivers in a way that increases the fitness of the signallers. In deceptive communication, receivers incur costs by responding to false signals. Recently, we reported that pupae of the soil-inhabiting Japanese rhinoceros beetle Trypoxylus dichotoma produce vibratory signals to deter burrowing larvae, thereby protecting themselves. In the present study, monitoring of vibrations associated with larval movement revealed that T. dichotoma larvae remained motionless for ca 10 min when pupal vibratory signals were played back transiently (freeze response). Furthermore, pupal signals of T. dichotoma elicited a freeze response in three other scarabaeid species, whose pupae do not produce vibratory signals. This indicates that the freeze response to certain types of vibration evolved before the divergence of these species and has been evolutionarily conserved, presumably because of the fitness advantage in avoiding predators. Pupae of T. dichotoma have probably exploited pre-existing anti-predator responses of conspecific larvae to protect themselves by emitting deceptive vibratory signals.
sensory trap; receiver bias; conflict; altruism; scarab beetle; deceptive communication
Although cuttlefish are capable of showing diverse camouflage body patterns against a variety of background substrates, whether they show background preference when given a choice of substrates is not well known. In this study, we characterized the background choice of post-embryonic cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis) and examined the effects of rearing visual environments on their background preferences. Different rearing backgrounds (enriched, uniformly grey and checkerboard) were used to raise cuttlefish from eggs or hatchlings, and four sets of two-background-choice experiments (differences in contrast, shape, size and side) were conducted at day 1 and weeks 4, 8 and 12 post-hatch. Cuttlefish reared in the enriched environment preferred high-contrast backgrounds at all post-embryonic stages. In comparison, those reared in the impoverished environments (uniformly grey and checkerboard) had either reversed or delayed high-contrast background preference. In addition, cuttlefish raised on the uniformly grey background, exposed to a checkerboard briefly (0.5 or 3 h) at week 4 and tested at week 8 showed increased high-contrast background preference. Interestingly, cuttlefish in the enriched group preferred an object size similar to their body size at day 1 and week 4, but changed this preference to smaller objects at week 12. These results suggest that high-contrast backgrounds may be more adaptive for juvenile cuttlefish, and visually enriched environments are important for the development of these background preference behaviours.
enriched environment; impoverished environment; background contrast; behavioural plasticity
Invasive species are known to affect native species in a variety of ways, but the effect of acoustic invaders has not been examined previously. We simulated an invasion of the acoustic niche by exposing calling native male white-banded tree frogs (Hypsiboas albomarginatus) to recorded invasive American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) calls. In response, tree frogs immediately shifted calls to significantly higher frequencies. In the post-stimulus period, they continued to use higher frequencies while also decreasing signal duration. Acoustic signals are the primary basis of mate selection in many anurans, suggesting that such changes could negatively affect the reproductive success of native species. The effects of bullfrog vocalizations on acoustic communities are expected to be especially severe due to their broad frequency band, which masks the calls of multiple species simultaneously.
invasive species; bioacoustics; noise pollution; Anura; Amphibia; Brazil
Plants under attack by pathogens and pests can mount a range of inducible defences, encompassing both chemical and structural changes. Although few reports exist, it appears that plants responding to pathogen or herbivore attack, or chemical defence elicitors, may produce progeny that are better able to defend themselves against attack, compared with progeny from unthreatened or untreated plants. To date, all research on transgenerational effects of biotic stress has been conducted on dicotyledenous plants. We examined the possibility that resistance induced by application of chemical defence elicitors to the monocot plant barley, could be passed on to the progeny. Plants were treated with acibenzolar-S-methyl (ASM) or saccharin, and grain harvested at maturity. Germination was unaffected in seed collected from plants treated with saccharin, while germination was reduced significantly in seed collected from ASM-treated plants. The subsequent growth of the seedlings was not significantly different in any of the treatments. However, plants from parents treated with both ASM or saccharin exhibited significantly enhanced resistance to infection by Rhynchosporium commune, despite not being treated with elicitor themselves. These data hint at the possibility of producing disease-resistant plants by exposing parent plants to chemical elicitors.
Hordeum vulgare L.; Rhynchosporium commune; induced resistance; priming; transgenerational effects
One condition for the evolution of altruism is genetic relatedness between altruist and beneficiary, often achieved through active kin recognition. Here, we investigate the power of a passive process resulting from genetic drift during population growth in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. We put labelled and unlabelled cells of the same clone in the centre of a plate, and allowed them to proliferate outward. Zones formed by genetic drift owing to the small population of actively growing cells at the colony edge. We also found that single cells could form zones of high relatedness. Relatedness increased at a significantly higher rate when food was in short supply. This study shows that relatedness can be significantly elevated before the social stage without a small founding population size or recognition mechanism.
social evolution; genetic drift; social microbes; Dictyostelium
Large carnivores perform keystone ecological functions through direct predation, or indirectly, through food subsidies to scavengers or trophic cascades driven by their influence on the distributions of their prey. Pumas (Puma concolor) are an elusive, cryptic species difficult to study and little is known about their inter-trophic-level interactions in natural communities. Using new GPS technology, we discovered that pumas in Patagonia provided 232 ± 31 kg of edible meat/month/100 km2 to near-threatened Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) and other members of a diverse scavenger community. This is up to 3.1 times the contributions by wolves (Canis lupus) to communities in Yellowstone National Park, USA, and highlights the keystone role large, solitary felids play in natural systems. These findings are more pertinent than ever, for managers increasingly advocate controlling pumas and other large felids to bolster prey populations and mitigate concerns over human and livestock safety, without a full understanding of the potential ecological consequences of their actions.
Andean condor; inter-trophic food provisioning; keystone species; Patagonia; Puma concolor
Plant productivity is predicted to increase in boreal forests owing to climate change, but this may depend on whether N inputs from biological N-fixation also increases. We evaluated how alteration of climatic factors affects N input from a widespread boreal N-fixer, i.e. cyanobacteria associated with the feather moss Pleurozium schreberi. In each of 10 forest stands in northern Sweden, we established climate-change plots, including a control (ambient climate) plot and three plots experiencing a +2°C temperature increase, an approximately threefold reduction in precipitation frequency, and either 0.07, 0.29 or 1.16 times normal summer precipitation. We monitored N-fixation in these plots five times between 2007 and 2009, and three times in 2010 after climate treatments ended to assess their recovery. Warmer temperatures combined with less frequent precipitation reduced feather moss moisture content and N-fixation rates regardless of total precipitation. After climate treatments ended, recovery of N-fixation rates occurred on the scale of weeks to months, suggesting resilience of N-fixation to changes in climatic conditions. These results suggest that modelling of biological N-inputs in boreal forests should emphasize precipitation frequency and evaporative water loss in conjunction with elevated temperature rather than absolute changes in mean precipitation.
bryophytes; cyanobacteria; climate change; climate warming; nitrogen fixation; precipitation
Signals in intraspecific communication should be inherently honest; otherwise the system is prone to collapse. Theory predicts, however, that honest signalling systems are susceptible to invasion by cheats, the extent of which is largely mediated by fear of reprisal. Cuttlefish facultatively change their shape and colour, an ability that evolved to avoid predators and capture prey. Here, we show that this ability is tactically employed by male mourning cuttlefish (Sepia plangon) to mislead conspecifics during courtship in a specific social context amenable to cheating 39 per cent of the time, while it was never employed in other social contexts. Males deceive rival males by displaying male courtship patterns to receptive females on one side of the body, and simultaneously displaying female patterns to a single rival male on the other, thus preventing the rival from disrupting courtship. The use of tactical deception in such a complex communication network indicates that sociality has played a key role in the cognitive evolution of cephalopods.
cuttlefish; courtship; game theory; cognition; evolution
Communication depends on accurate reception of signals by receivers, and selection acts on signals to transmit efficiently through the environment. Although learnt signals, such as birdsong, vary in their transmission properties through different habitats, few studies have addressed the role of cultural selection in driving acoustic adaptation. Here, we present a test of the hypothesis that song-learning birds choose to copy songs that are less degraded by transmission through the environment, using swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) as our study species. We found that all subjects discriminated between undegraded and naturally degraded song models, and learnt only from undegraded song models, demonstrating a role for cultural selection in acoustic adaptation of learnt signals.
acoustic adaptation; song-learning; communication; signals; cultural selection
Climate change is driving adaptive shifts within species, but research on plants has been focused on phenology. Leaf morphology has demonstrated links with climate and varies within species along climate gradients. We predicted that, given within-species variation along a climate gradient, a morphological shift should have occurred over time due to climate change. We tested this prediction, taking advantage of latitudinal and altitudinal variations within the Adelaide Geosyncline region, South Australia, historical herbarium specimens (n = 255) and field sampling (n = 274). Leaf width in the study taxon, Dodonaea viscosa subsp. angustissima, was negatively correlated with latitude regionally, and leaf area was negatively correlated with altitude locally. Analysis of herbarium specimens revealed a 2 mm decrease in leaf width (total range 1–9 mm) over 127 years across the region. The results are consistent with a morphological response to contemporary climate change. We conclude that leaf width is linked to maximum temperature regionally (latitude gradient) and leaf area to minimum temperature locally (altitude gradient). These data indicate a morphological shift consistent with a direct response to climate change and could inform provenance selection for restoration with further investigation of the genetic basis and adaptive significance of observed variation.
Climate change; leaf morphology; adaptive shifts; latitude gradient; altitude gradient; Dodonaea viscosa
Monitor lizards are emblematic reptiles that are widely distributed in the Old World. Although relatively well studied in vertebrate research, their biogeographic history is still controversial. We constructed a molecular dataset for 54 anguimorph species, including representatives of all families with detailed sampling of the Varanidae (38 species). Our results are consistent with an Asian origin of the Varanidae followed by a dispersal to Africa 41 (49–33) Ma, possibly via an Iranian route. Another major event was the dispersal of monitors to Australia in the Late Eocene–Oligocene 32 (39–26) Ma. This divergence estimate adds to the suggestion that Australia was colonized by several squamate lineages prior to the collision of the Australian plate with the Asian plate starting 25 Ma.
biogeography; squamates; Varanus; Cenozoic
Spatial contagion occurs when the perceived suitability of neighbouring habitat patches is not independent. As a result, organisms may colonize less-preferred patches near preferred patches and avoid preferred patches near non-preferred patches. Spatial contagion may thus alter colonization dynamics as well as the type and frequency of post-colonization interactions. Studies have only recently documented the phenomenon of spatial contagion and begun to examine its consequences for local recruitment. Here, we test for spatial contagion in the colonization of arboreal egg clutches of red-eyed treefrogs by a frogfly and examine the consequences of contagion for fly recruitment. In laboratory choice experiments, flies oviposit almost exclusively on clutches containing dead frog eggs. In nature, however, flies often colonize intact clutches without dead eggs. Consistent with predictions of contagion-induced oviposition, we found that flies more frequently colonize intact clutches near damaged clutches and rarely colonize intact clutches near other intact clutches. Moreover, contagion appears to benefit flies. Flies survived equally well and suffered less parasitism on clutches lacking dead eggs. This study demonstrates how reward contagion can influence colonization dynamics and suggests that colonization patterns caused by contagion may have important population- and community-level consequences.
reward contagion; associational susceptibility; Megaselia; Agalychnis
The environmental conditions under which signals are perceived can affect receiver responses. Many songbird populations produce a song chorus at dawn, when, in cold habitats, they would experience thermal challenge. We recorded temperature and the song activity of Lincoln's sparrows (Melospiza lincolnii) on a high-elevation meadow, and determined that song behaviour is concentrated around the coldest time of the day, at dawn. We hypothesized that this is because male song in the cold is more attractive to females than song in the warm. To test this, we exposed laboratory-housed Lincoln's sparrow females to songs at 1°C and 16°C, which they naturally experience in the wild. Females spent 40 per cent more time close to the speaker during playback at 1°C than at 16°C. When tested at 16°C 1–2 days later, females biased their movement towards the speaker playing songs previously heard at 1°C over 16°C. Thus, female Lincoln's sparrows remembered and affiliated with songs they heard under thermal challenge, indicating that the thermal environment can affect the attractiveness of a sexual signal.
dawn chorus; temperature; Melospiza lincolnii; mate choice; songbird
Parenting is one of the main influences on children's early development, and yet its underlying genetic mechanisms have only recently begun to be explored, with many studies neglecting to control for possible child effects. This study focuses on maternal behaviour and on an allele at the RS3 promoter region of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A) gene, previously associated with autism and with higher amygdala activation in a face-matching task. Mothers were observed during a free-play session with each of their 3.5-year-old twins. Multilevel regression analyses revealed that mothers who are carriers of the AVPR1A RS3 allele tend to show less structuring and support throughout the interaction independent of the child's sex and RS3 genotype. This finding advances our understanding of the genetic influences on human maternal behaviour.
arginine vasopressin receptor 1A; maternal behaviour; control; warmth; structuring
Inbreeding depression (i.e. negative fitness effects of inbreeding) is central in evolutionary biology, affecting numerous aspects of population dynamics and demography, such as the evolution of mating systems, dispersal behaviour and the genetics of quantitative traits. Inbreeding depression is commonly observed in animals and plants. Here, we demonstrate that, in addition to genetic processes, epigenetic processes may play an important role in causing inbreeding effects. We compared epigenetic markers of outbred and inbred offspring of the perennial plant Scabiosa columbaria and found that inbreeding increases DNA methylation. Moreover, we found that inbreeding depression disappears when epigenetic variation is modified by treatment with a demethylation agent, linking inbreeding depression firmly to epigenetic variation. Our results suggest an as yet unknown mechanism for inbreeding effects and demonstrate the importance of evaluating the role of epigenetic processes in inbreeding depression.
DNA methylation; epigenetics; inbreeding depression; Scabiosa columbaria; 5-azacytidine
Biotic homogenization (BH) is a process whereby some species (losers) are systematically replaced by others (winners). While this process has been related to the effects of anthropogenic activities, whether and how BH is occurring across regions and the role of native species as a driver of BH has hardly been investigated. Here, we examine the trend in the community specialization index (CSI) for 234 native species of breeding birds at 10 111 sites in six European countries from 1990 to 2008. Unlike many BH studies, CSI uses abundance information to estimate the balance between generalist and specialist species in local assemblages. We show that bird communities are more and more composed of native generalist species across regions, revealing a strong, ongoing BH process. Our result suggests a rapid and non-random change in community composition at a continental scale is occurring, most likely driven by anthropogenic activities.
habitat specialization; community specialization index; breeding bird survey; macroecology
Reciprocal selection pressures in host–parasite systems drive coevolutionary arms races that lead to advanced adaptations in both opponents. In the interactions between social parasites and their hosts, aggression is one of the major behavioural traits under selection. In a field manipulation, we aimed to disentangle the impact of slavemaking ants and nest density on aggression of Temnothorax longispinosus ants. An early slavemaker mating flight provided us with the unique opportunity to study the influence of host aggression and demography on founding decisions and success. We discovered that parasite queens avoided colony foundation in parasitized areas and were able to capture more brood from less aggressive host colonies. Host colony aggression remained consistent over the two-month experiment, but did not respond to our manipulation. However, as one-fifth of all host colonies were successfully invaded by parasite queens, slavemaker nest foundation acts as a strong selection event selecting for high aggression in host colonies.
parasite; personality; dispersal; aggression; fitness
Although most primates live in groups, experiments on reciprocity usually test individuals in dyads. This could hide the processes emerging in richer social settings, reducing the ecological validity of the results. We run an experiment on reciprocal food transfers testing capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) in triads, so that subjects could choose to allow access to their food to either of their two partners. We tested the hypothesis that partner choice was related to a comparison of long-term social bonds with the two partners, more than to a comparison of recent food transfer events from the two partners. The results confirmed this hypothesis, thus supporting the notion that reciprocal partner preferences are based on long-term accounts of benefits that have been exchanged.
cooperation; reciprocity; partner choice; social bonds; capuchin monkeys