Parasitic plants can adversely influence the growth of their hosts by removing resources and by affecting photosynthesis. Such negative effects depend on resource availability. However, at varied resource levels, to what extent the negative effects on growth are attributed to the effects on photosynthesis has not been well elucidated. Here, we examined the influence of nitrogen supply on the growth and photosynthesis responses of the host plant Mikania micrantha to infection by the holoparasite Cuscuta campestris by focusing on the interaction of nitrogen and infection. Mikania micrantha plants fertilized at 0.2, 1 and 5 mM nitrate were grown with and without C. campestris infection. We observed that the infection significantly reduced M. micrantha growth at each nitrate fertilization and more severely at low than at high nitrate. Such alleviation at high nitrate was largely attributed to a stronger influence of infection on root biomass at low than at high nitrate fertilization. However, although C. campestris altered allometry and inhibited host photosynthesis, the magnitude of the effects was independent of nitrate fertilizations. The infection reduced light saturation point, net photosynthesis at saturating irradiances, apparent quantum yield, CO2 saturated rate of photosynthesis, carboxylation efficiency, the maximum carboxylation rate of Rubisco, and maximum light-saturated rate of electron transport, and increased light compensation point in host leaves similarly across nitrate levels, corresponding to a similar magnitude of negative effects of the parasite on host leaf soluble protein and Rubisco concentrations, photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency and stomatal conductance across nitrate concentrations. Thus, the more severe inhibition in host growth at low than at high nitrate supplies cannot be attributed to a greater parasite-induced reduction in host photosynthesis, but the result of a higher proportion of host resources transferred to the parasite at low than at high nitrate levels.
Individual plants produce repeated structures such as leaves, flowers or fruits, which, although belonging to the same genotype, are not phenotypically identical. Such subindividual variation reflects the potential of individual genotypes to vary with micro-environmental conditions. Furthermore, variation in organ traits imposes costs to foraging animals such as time, energy and increased predation risk. Therefore, animals that interact with plants may respond to this variation and affect plant fitness. Thus, phenotypic variation within an individual plant could be, in part, an adaptive trait. Here we investigated this idea and we found that subindividual variation of fruit size of Crataegus monogyna, in different populations throughout the latitudinal gradient in Europe, was explained at some extent by the selective pressures exerted by seed-dispersing birds. These findings support the hypothesis that within-individual variation in plants is an adaptive trait selected by interacting animals which may have important implications for plant evolution.
Previous studies of the consequences for breeding birds of climate change have explored how their populations may respond to increasing temperatures. However, few have considered the likely outcome of predicted extreme conditions and the relative vulnerability of populations in different habitats. Here, we compare phenology and breeding success in great tits and blue tits over a 10 year period, including the extremely harsh conditions during spring 2012, at three sites in eastern England – mixed deciduous woodland, riparian and urban habitat. Production, measured as brood biomass, was significantly lower in 2012 compared with the previous 9 years, with the decrease in productivity relatively greatest in woodland habitat. Production was related to hatch delay, i.e. birds not initiating incubation immediately after clutch completion, which was more common in 2012 than in previous years. The best predictor of hatch delay was daytime temperature (not nighttime minimum temperature) and rainfall, which convincingly reflected low growth and activity of caterpillar prey. We found that birds breeding in riparian and urban habitats were less vulnerable to the extremes of weather than those breeding in mixed deciduous woodland.
Despite theoretical understanding and empirical detection of local adaptation in natural environments, our knowledge of such divergence in fragmented habitats remains limited, especially in the context of microgeographic spatial scales and contemporary time scales. I used a combination of reciprocal transplant and common garden exposure experiments to evaluate potential microgeographic divergence in a pool-breeding amphibian occupying a landscape fragmented by roads. As indicated by reduced rates of survival and increased rates of malformation, I found evidence for maladaptation in road adjacent populations. This response is in direct counterpoint to recently described local adaption by a cohabiting species of amphibian. These results suggest that while divergence might commonly follow habitat modification, the direction of its outcome cannot be generalized even in identical habitats. Further, maladaptive responses can be associated with a more generalized depression effect that transcends the local environment. Alongside recent reports, these results suggest that maladaptive responses may be an emerging consequence of human-induced environmental change. Thus future studies should carefully consider the population unit as a key level for inference.
Microgeographic differentiation; Adaptation and maladaptation; Contemporary evolution; Road salt; Conservation; Roads and runoff
Environmental factors affecting trophic conditions act as stressors on nestling altricial birds. Access of parental birds to a sufficient supply of food in a limited period of the nestling stage differ in time and space, depending on nesting habitat, prey density and weather conditions. Heterophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (H/L) is considered as a reliable indicator of prolonged stress reaction in birds. In this study we examine if variation in H/L shows consistent spatio-temporal patterns in nestlings of two parids, blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus and great tit Parus major. We found that blue tit nestlings had on average higher H/L than great tit nestlings, which corresponds with the ecological sensitivity of these species. In both species H/L was higher in a poor parkland habitat than in a high quality forest habitat. In nestling blue tits, higher H/L values occurred in years characterized by more extreme weather conditions and worse caterpillar availability. Such consistent patterns of variation in the H/L ratio of nestling blue tits and great tits suggest that, when age-dependent effects are controlled, the ratio can be used as an indicator of physiological stress that is generated by food-related stressors differing in space and time. In particular, elevated H/L ratios are indicative of human-induced changes in the structure of breeding habitats.
Phenotypic plasticity is a key mechanism associated with the spread of exotic plants and previous studies have found that invasive species are generally more plastic than co-occurring species. Comparatively, the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in plant invasion has received less attention, and in particular, the genetic basis of plasticity is largely unexamined. Native from North America, Acer negundo L. is aggressively impacting the riparian forests of southern and eastern Europe thanks to higher plasticity relative to co-occurring native species. We therefore tested here whether invasive populations have evolved increased plasticity since introduction. The performance of 1152 seedlings from 8 native and 8 invasive populations was compared in response to nutrient availability. Irrespective of nutrients, invasive populations had higher growth and greater allocation to above-ground biomass relative to their native conspecifics. More importantly, invasive genotypes did not show increased plasticity in any of the 20 traits examined. This result suggests that the high magnitude of plasticity to nutrient variation of invasive seedlings might be pre-adapted in the native range. Invasiveness of A. negundo could be explained by higher mean values of traits due to genetic differentiation rather than by evolution of increased plasticity.
The examination of telomere dynamics is a recent technique in ecology for assessing physiological state and age-related traits from individuals of unknown age. Telomeres shorten with age in most species and are expected to reflect physiological state, reproductive investment, and chronological age. Loss of telomere length is used as an indicator of biological aging, as this detrimental deterioration is associated with lowered survival. Lifespan dimorphism and more rapid senescence in the larger, shorter-lived sex are predicted in species with sexual size dimorphism, however, little is known about the effects of behavioral dimorphism on senescence and life history traits in species with sexual monomorphism. Here we compare telomere dynamics of thick-billed murres (Urialomvia), a species with male-biased parental care, in two ways: 1) cross-sectionally in birds of known-age (0-28 years) from one colony and 2) longitudinally in birds from four colonies. Telomere dynamics are compared using three measures: the telomere restriction fragment (TRF), a lower window of TRF (TOE), and qPCR. All showed age-related shortening of telomeres, but the TRF measure also indicated that adult female murres have shorter telomere length than adult males, consistent with sex-specific patterns of ageing. Adult males had longer telomeres than adult females on all colonies examined, but chick telomere length did not differ by sex. Additionally, inter-annual telomere changes may be related to environmental conditions; birds from a potentially low quality colony lost telomeres, while those at more hospitable colonies maintained telomere length. We conclude that sex-specific patterns of telomere loss exist in the sexually monomorphic thick-billed murre but are likely to occur between fledging and recruitment. Longer telomeres in males may be related to their homogamous sex chromosomes (ZZ) or to selection for longer life in the care-giving sex. Environmental conditions appeared to be the primary drivers of annual changes in adult birds.
Food shortage and other challenges associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) experienced early in life may have long-term impacts on life history traits, but these potential impacts remain virtually unexplored. By monitoring 2556 blue-footed boobies from 11 cohorts, we showed that birds facing warm water ENSO conditions (and probably low food availability) in the natal year were underweight at fledging, recruited earlier and bred less frequently, but showed no deficit in longevity or breeding success over the first 10 years. Life history impacts of ENSO were substantial when experienced in the prenatal year, the natal year, or the second year of life, and absent when experienced in the third year of life, implying that harsh conditions have greater effects when experienced earlier in life. Sexual differences in impacts depended on the age when warm water conditions were experienced: pre-natal and natal experience, respectively, induced early recruitment and influenced the relationship between age and laying date only in females, whereas second year experience reduced total breeding success only of males. Most surprising were positive transgenerational impacts in females: daughters of females that experienced ENSO conditions in their natal year showed improved breeding success. Developmental plasticity of boobies thus enables them to largely neutralize potential long-term impacts of harsh climatic conditions experienced early in life.
The Critically Endangered Fijian crested iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis, occurs at extreme density at only one location, with estimates of >10,000 iguanas living on the 70 hectare island of Yadua Taba in Fiji. We conducted a mark and recapture study over two wet seasons, investigating the spatial ecology and intraspecific interactions of the strictly arboreal Fijian crested iguana. This species exhibits moderate male-biased sexual size dimorphism, which has been linked in other lizard species to territoriality, aggression and larger male home ranges. We found that male Fijian crested iguanas exhibit high injury levels, indicative of frequent aggressive interactions. We did not find support for larger home range size in adult males relative to adult females, however male and female residents were larger than roaming individuals. Males with established home ranges also had larger femoral pores relative to body size than roaming males. Home range areas were small in comparison to those of other iguana species, and we speculate that the extreme population density impacts considerably on the spatial ecology of this population. There was extensive home range overlap within and between sexes. Intersexual overlap was greater than intrasexual overlap for both sexes, and continuing male-female pairings were observed among residents. Our results suggest that the extreme population density necessitates extensive home range overlap even though the underlying predictors of territoriality, such as male biased sexual size dimorphism and high aggression levels, remain. Our findings should be factored in to conservation management efforts for this species, particularly in captive breeding and translocation programs.
When species competing for the same resources coexist, some segregation in the way they utilize those resources is expected. However, little is known about how closely related sympatric breeding species segregate outside the breeding season. We investigated the annual segregation of three closely related seabirds (razorbill Alcatorda, common guillemot Uriaaalge and Brünnich’s guillemot U. lomvia) breeding at the same colony in Southwest Greenland. By combining GPS and geolocation (GLS) tracking with dive depth and stable isotope analyses, we compared spatial and dietary resource partitioning. During the breeding season, we found the three species to segregate in diet and/or dive depth, but less in foraging area. During both the post-breeding and pre-breeding periods, the three species had an increased overlap in diet, but were dispersed over a larger spatial scale. Dive depths were similar across the annual cycle, suggesting morphological adaptations fixed by evolution. Prey choice, on the other hand, seemed much more flexible and therefore more likely to be affected by the immediate presence of potential competitors.
The ontogeny of continent-wide navigation mechanisms of the individual organism, despite being crucial for the understanding of animal movement and migration, is still poorly understood. Several previous studies, mainly conducted on passerines, indicate that inexperienced, juvenile birds may not generally correct for displacement during fall migration. Waterbirds such as the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos, Linnaeus 1758) are more flexible in their migration behavior than most migratory songbirds, but previous experiments with waterbirds have not yet allowed clear conclusions about their navigation abilities. Here we tested whether immature mallard ducks correct for latitudinal displacement during fall migration within Europe. During two consecutive fall migration periods, we caught immature females on a stopover site in southeast Sweden, and translocated a group of them ca. 1,000 km to southern Germany. We followed the movements of the ducks via satellite GPS-tracking and observed their migration decisions during the fall and consecutive spring migration. The control animals released in Ottenby behaved as expected from banding recoveries: they continued migration during the winter and in spring returned to the population’s breeding grounds in the Baltics and Northwest Russia. Contrary to the control animals, the translocated mallards did not continue migration and stayed at Lake Constance. In spring, three types of movement tactics could be observed: 61.5% of the ducks (16 of 26) stayed around Lake Constance, 27% (7 of 26) migrated in a northerly direction towards Sweden and 11.5% of the individuals (3 of 26) headed east for ca. 1,000 km and then north. We suggest that young female mallards flexibly adjust their migration tactics and develop a navigational map that allows them to return to their natal breeding area.
The gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) system in the hypothalamus is often considered the final point in integration of environmental cues as they pertain to the reproductive axis. However, cues such as stress and food availability are detectable in the plasma (as glucocorticoid and metabolic fuel fluctuations). Vertebrate gonads express glucocorticoid receptor, therefore we hypothesized that the gonads can detect and respond directly to cues of stress. We provide evidence here that, in addition to regulation by the brain, the gonads of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) respond directly to fluctuations in corticosterone and metabolic fuels by modulating sex steroid secretion. Using a 4-h gonad culture, we show that physiologically-relevant concentrations of corticosterone and metabolic stress (via use of the glucose utilization inhibitor 2-deoxy-D-glucose and the fatty acid oxidation inhibitor ethyl 2-mercaptoacetate (2DG/MA)) can directly decrease testosterone and estradiol secretion from luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone (LH/FSH)-stimulated testes and ovaries. This effect is regulated seasonally. Prior to the breeding season, testes and ovaries respond to corticosterone and 2DG/MA by significantly decreasing gonadal steroid release. Within the breeding season, the testes do not respond to these cues of stress, while the ovaries respond only to corticosterone. This seasonal difference in response may be due in part to the influence of these cues of stress on gonadal neuropeptide expression: corticosterone upregulates GnIH expression in the testes while metabolic stress upregulates GnIH in the ovaries. Thus the gonads can directly respond to fluctuations in corticosterone and metabolic fuels during a time of critical importance to the onset of breeding.
Stress; Gonadotropin inhibitory hormone (GnIH); Corticosterone; Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH); Testes; Estradiol; Testosterone; Avian; Supplementary cues; Photoperiod; Ovary
Human pressures have put many top predator populations at risk of extinction. Recent years have seen alarming declines in sharks worldwide, while their resilience remains poorly understood. Studying the ecology of small populations of marine predators is a priority to better understand their ability to withstand anthropogenic and environmental stressors. In the present study, we monitored a naturally small island population of 40 adult sicklefin lemon sharks in Moorea, French Polynesia over 5 years. We reconstructed the genetic relationships among individuals and determined the population’s mating system. The genetic network illustrates that all individuals, except one, are interconnected at least through one first order genetic relationship. While this species developed a clear inbreeding avoidance strategy involving dispersal and migration, the small population size, low number of breeders, and the fragmented environment characterizing these tropical islands, limits its complete effectiveness.
Thorectes lusitanicus, a typically coprophagous species is also actively attracted to oak acorns, consuming, burying them, and conferring ecophysiological and reproductive advantages to both the beetle and the tree. In this study, we explored the possible relation between diet shift and the health status of T. lusitanicus using a generalist entomopathogenic fungus (Metarhizium anisopliae) as a natural pathogen. To measure the health condition and immune response of beetles, we analysed the protein content in the haemolymph, prophenoloxidase (proPO) content, phenoloxidase (PO) activity and mortality of beetles with diets based on either acorns or cow dung. Protein content, proPO levels and PO levels in the haemolymph of T. lusitanicus were found to be dependent on the type of diet. Furthermore, the beetles fed with acorns developed a more effective proPO-PO system than the beetles fed with cow dung. Furthermore, a significant decrease in mortality was observed when infected individuals were submitted to an acorn-based diet. In addition to enhancing an understanding of the relevance of dietary change to the evolutionary biology of dung beetles, these results provide a more general understanding of the ecophysiological implications of differential dietary selection in the context of fitness.
Incubation conditions for eggs influence offspring quality and reproductive success. One way in which parents regulate brooding conditions is by balancing the thermal requirements of embryos with time spent away from the nest for self-maintenance. Age related changes in embryo thermal tolerance would thus be expected to shape parental incubation behavior. We use data from unmanipulated Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) nests to examine the temporal dynamics of incubation, testing the prediction that increased heat flux from eggs as embryos age influences female incubation behavior and/or physiology to minimize temperature fluctuations. We found that the rate of heat loss from eggs increased with embryo age. Females responded to increased egg cooling rates by altering incubation rhythms (more frequent, shorter on- and off- bouts), but not brood patch temperature. Consequently, as embryos aged, females were able to increase mean egg temperature and decrease variation in temperature. Our findings highlight the need to view full incubation as more than a static rhythm; rather, it is a temporally dynamic and finely adjustable parental behavior. Furthermore, from a methodological perspective, intra- and inter-specific comparisons of incubation rhythms and average egg temperatures should control for the stage of incubation.
Indirect Genetic Effects (IGEs), also known as associative effects, are the heritable effects that an individual has on the phenotype of its social partners. Selection for IGEs has been proposed as a method to reduce harmful behaviours, in particular aggression, in livestock and aquaculture. The mechanisms behind IGEs, however, have rarely been studied. The objective was therefore to assess aggression in pigs which were divergently selected for IGEs on growth (IGEg). In a one generation selection experiment, we studied 480 offspring of pigs (Sus scrofa) that were selected for relatively high or low IGEg and housed in homogeneous IGEg groups in either barren or enriched environments. Skin lesion scores, a proxy measure of aggression, and aggressive behaviours were recorded. The two distinct IGEg groups did not differ in number of skin lesions, or in amount of reciprocal fighting, both under stable social conditions and in confrontation with unfamiliar pigs in a 24 h regrouping test. Pigs selected for a positive effect on the growth of their group members, however, performed less non-reciprocal biting and showed considerably less aggression at reunion with familiar group members after they had been separated during a 24 h regrouping test. The enriched environment was associated with more skin lesions but less non-reciprocal biting under stable social conditions. Changes in aggression between pigs selected for IGEg were not influenced by G×E interactions with regard to the level of environmental enrichment. It is likely that selection on IGEg targets a behavioural strategy, rather than a single behavioural trait such as aggressiveness.
Parasitoid wasps are convenient subjects for testing sex allocation theory. However, their intricate life histories are often insufficiently captured in simple analytical models. In the polyembryonic wasp Copidosoma koehleri, a clone of genetically identical offspring develops from each egg. Male clones contain fewer individuals than female clones. Some female larvae develop into soldiers that kill within-host competitors, while males do not form soldiers. These features complicate the prediction of Copidosoma’s sex allocation. We developed an individual-based simulation model, where numerous random starting strategies compete and recombine until a single stable sex allocation evolves. Life-history parameter values (e.g., fecundity, clone-sizes, larval survival) are estimated from experimental data. The model predicts a male-biased sex allocation, which becomes more extreme as the probability of superparasitism (hosts parasitized more than once) increases. To test this prediction, we reared adult parasitoids at either low or high density, mated them, and presented them with unlimited hosts. As predicted, wasps produced more sons than daughters in all treatments. Males reared at high density (a potential cue for superparasitism) produced a higher male bias in their offspring than low-density males. Unexpectedly, female density did not affect offspring sex ratios. We discuss possible mechanisms for paternal control over offspring sex.
Identification of Area-restricted search (ARS) behaviour is used to better understand foraging movements and strategies of marine predators. Track-based descriptive analyses are commonly used to detect ARS behaviour, but they may be biased by factors such as foraging trip duration or non-foraging behaviours (i.e. resting on the water). Using first-passage time analysis we tested if (I) daylight resting at the sea surface positions falsely increase the detection of ARS behaviour and (II) short foraging trips are less likely to include ARS behaviour in Masked Boobies Sula dactylatra. We further analysed whether ARS behaviour may be used as a proxy to identify important feeding areas. Depth-acceleration and GPS-loggers were simultaneously deployed on chick-rearing adults to obtain (1) location data every 4 minutes and (2) detailed foraging activity such as diving rates, time spent sitting on the water surface and in flight. In 82% of 50 foraging trips, birds adopted ARS behaviour. In 19.3% of 57 detected ARS zones, birds spent more than 70% of total ARS duration resting on the water, suggesting that these ARS zones were falsely detected. Based on generalized linear mixed models, the probability of detecting false ARS zones was 80%. False ARS zones mostly occurred during short trips in close proximity to the colony, with low or no diving activity. This demonstrates the need to account for resting on the water surface positions in marine animals when determining ARS behaviour based on foraging locations. Dive rates were positively correlated with trip duration and the probability of ARS behaviour increased with increasing number of dives, suggesting that the adoption of ARS behaviour in Masked Boobies is linked to enhanced foraging activity. We conclude that ARS behaviour may be used as a proxy to identify important feeding areas in this species.
Group decisions on the timing of mutually exclusive activities pose a dilemma: monopolized decision-making by a single leader compromises the optimal timing of activities by the others, while independent decision-making by all group members undermines group coherence. Theory suggests that initiation of foraging should be determined by physiological demand in social foragers, thereby resolving the dilemma of group coordination. However, empirical support is scant, perhaps because intrinsic qualities predisposing individuals to leadership (social status, experience or personality), or their interactions with satiation level, have seldom been simultaneously considered. Here, we examine which females initiated foraging in eider (Somateria mollissima) brood-rearing coalitions, characterized by female dominance hierarchies and potentially large individual differences in energy requirements due to strenuous breeding effort. Several physiological and social factors, except for female breeding experience and boldness towards predators, explained foraging initiation. Initiators spent a larger proportion of time submerged during foraging bouts, had poorer body condition and smaller structural size, but they were also aggressive and occupied central positions. Initiation probability also declined with female group size as expected given random assignment of initiators. However, the relative importance of physiological predictors of leadership propensity (active foraging time, body condition, structural size) exceeded those of social predictors (aggressiveness, spatial position) by an order of magnitude. These results confirm recent theoretical work suggesting that ‘leading according to need’ is an evolutionary viable strategy regardless of group heterogeneity or underlying dominance structure.
Divergent selection and local adaptation are responsible for many phenotypic differences between populations, potentially leading to speciation through the evolution of reproductive barriers. Here we evaluated the morphometric divergence among west European populations of Reed Bunting in order to determine the extent of local adaptation relative to two important selection pressures often associated with speciation in birds: migration and diet. We show that, as expected by theory, migratory E. s. schoeniclus had longer and more pointed wings and a slightly smaller body mass than the resident subspecies, with the exception of E. s. lusitanica, which despite having rounder wings was the smallest of all subspecies. Tail length, however, did not vary according to the expectation (shorter tails in migrants) probably because it is strongly correlated with wing length and might take longer to evolve. E. s. witherbyi, which feed on insects hiding inside reed stems during the winter, had a very thick, stubby bill. In contrast, northern populations, which feed on seeds, had thinner bills. Despite being much smaller, the southern E. s. lusitanica had a significantly thicker, longer bill than migratory E. s. schoeniclus, whereas birds from the UK population had significantly shorter, thinner bills. Geometric morphometric analyses revealed that the southern subspecies have a more convex culmen than E. s. schoeniclus, and E. s. lusitanica differs from the nominate subspecies in bill shape to a greater extent than in linear bill measurements, especially in males. Birds with a more convex culmen are thought to exert a greater strength at the bill tip, which is in agreement with their feeding technique. Overall, the three subspecies occurring in Western Europe differ in a variety of traits following the patterns predicted from their migratory and foraging behaviours, strongly suggesting that these birds have became locally adapted through natural selection.
Opisthorchis felineus or Siberian liver fluke is a trematode parasite (Opisthorchiidae) that infects the hepato-biliary system of humans and other mammals. Despite its public health significance, this wide-spread Eurasian species is one of the most poorly studied human liver flukes and nothing is known about its population genetic structure and demographic history. In this paper, we attempt to fill this gap for the first time and to explore the genetic diversity in O. felineus populations from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, European part of Russia), Northern Asia (Siberia) and Central Asia (Northern Kazakhstan). Analysis of marker DNA fragments from O. felineus mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and 3 (cox1, cox3) and nuclear rDNA internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) sequences revealed that genetic diversity is very low across the large geographic range of this species. Microevolutionary processes in populations of trematodes may well be influenced by their peculiar biology. Nevertheless, we suggest that lack of population genetics structure observed in O. felineus can be primarily explained by the Pleistocene glacial events and subsequent sudden population growth from a very limited group of founders. Rapid range expansion of O. felineus through Asian and European territories after severe bottleneck points to a high dispersal potential of this trematode species.
Food limitation is expected to reduce an individual’s body condition (body mass scaled to body size) and cause a trade-off between growth and other fitness-related traits, such as immunity. We tested the condition-dependence of growth and disease resistance in male and female Gryllus texensis field crickets by manipulating diet quality via nutrient content for their entire life and then subjecting individuals to a host resistance test using the live bacterium Serratia marcescens. As predicted, crickets on a high-quality diet eclosed more quickly, and at a larger body size and mass. Crickets on a high-quality diet were not in better condition at the time of eclosion, but they were in better condition 7–11 days after eclosion, with females also being in better condition than males. Despite being in better condition, however, females provided with a high-quality diet had significantly poorer disease resistance than females on a low-quality diet and in poor condition. Similarly, males on low- and high-quality diets did not differ in their disease resistance, despite differing in their body condition. A sex difference in disease resistance under diet-restriction suggests that females might allocate resources toward immunity during development if they expect harsh environmental conditions as an adult or it might suggest that females allocate resources toward other life history activities (i.e. reproduction) when food availability increases. We do not know what immune effectors were altered under diet-restriction to increase disease resistance, but our findings suggest that increased immune function might provide an explanation for the sexually-dimorphic increase in longevity generally observed in diet-restricted animals.
Despite sharing much of their genomes, males and females are often highly dimorphic, reflecting at least in part the resolution of sexual conflict in response to sexually antagonistic selection. Sexual dimorphism arises owing to sex differences in gene expression, and steroid hormones are often invoked as a proximate cause of sexual dimorphism. Experimental elevation of androgens can modify behavior, physiology, and gene expression, but knowledge of the role of hormones remains incomplete, including how the sexes differ in gene expression in response to hormones. We addressed these questions in a bird species with a long history of behavioral endocrinological and ecological study, the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), using a custom microarray. Focusing on two brain regions involved in sexually dimorphic behavior and regulation of hormone secretion, we identified 651 genes that differed in expression by sex in medial amygdala and 611 in hypothalamus. Additionally, we treated individuals of each sex with testosterone implants and identified many genes that may be related to previously identified phenotypic effects of testosterone treatment. Some of these genes relate to previously identified effects of testosterone-treatment and suggest that the multiple effects of testosterone may be mediated by modifying the expression of a small number of genes. Notably, testosterone-treatment tended to alter expression of different genes in each sex: only 4 of the 527 genes identified as significant in one sex or the other were significantly differentially expressed in both sexes. Hormonally regulated gene expression is a key mechanism underlying sexual dimorphism, and our study identifies specific genes that may mediate some of these processes.
If males and females affect reproduction differentially, understanding and predicting sexual reproduction requires specification of response surfaces, that is, two-dimensional functions that relate reproduction to the (numeric) densities of both sexes. Aiming at rigorous measurement of female per capita fertilization response surfaces, we conducted a multifactorial experiment and reanalyzed an extensive data set. In our experiment, we varied the density of male and female Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Colorado potato beetles) by placing different numbers of the two sexes on enclosed Solanum tuberosum (potato plants) to determine the proportion of females fertilized after 3 or 22 hours. In the reanalysis, we investigated how the short-term fertilization probability of three Drosophila strains (melanogaster ebony, m. sepia, and simulans) depended on adult sex ratio (proportion of males) and total density. The fertilization probability of female Leptinotarsa decemlineata increased logistically with male density, but not with female density. These effects were robust to trial duration. The fertilization probability of female Drosophila increased logistically with both sex ratio and total density. Treatment effects interacted in m. sepia, and simulans. These findings highlight the importance of well-designed, multifactorial experiments and strengthen previous experimental evidence for the relevance of sex-specific densities to understanding and prediction of female fertilization probability.
The flower bug Orius sauteri is an important polyphagous predator that is widely used for the biological control of mites and aphids. However, the optimal conditions for mass rearing of this insect are still unclear, thus limiting its application.
In this study, we investigated the optimal ingredients of an artificial diet for raising O. sauteri using a microencapsulation technique. The ingredients included egg yolk (vitellus), whole-pupa homogenate of the Tussah silk moth (Antheraea paphia), honey, sucrose, rapeseed (Brassica napus) pollen and sinkaline. We tested 25 combinations of the above ingredients using an orthogonal experimental design. Using statistical analysis, we confirmed the main effect factors amongst the components, and selected five optimal combinations based on different biological and physiological characters.
The results showed that, although different artificial diet formats significantly influenced the development and reproductive ability of O. sauteri, the complete development of O. sauteri to sexual maturity could only be achieved by optimizing the artificial diet according to specific biological characters. In general, pupae of A. paphia had more influence on O sauteri development than did artificial components. The results of a follow-up test of locomotory and respiratory capacity indicated that respiratory quotient, metabolic rate and average creeping speed were all influenced by different diets. Furthermore, the field evaluations of mating preference, predatory consumption and population dispersion also demonstrated the benefits that could be provided by optimal artificial diets.
A microencapsulated artificial diet overcame many of the difficulties highlighted by previous studies on the mass rearing of O. sauteri. Optimization of the microencapsulated artificial diet directly increased the biological and physiological characters investigated. Successive physiological tests and field investigations were used to evaluate the outcome of different artificial diet combinations on the quality of the reared O. sauteri.