A mother carries her young in many altricial mammals, such as cats, lions, rats and mice. During maternal carrying, the transported young assume a compact posture. We have recently shown that, in both humans and mice, the carried infants immediately calmed down and showed reductions in heart rate, distress vocalizations, and voluntary movement. The loss of the calming response in mouse pups hindered maternal retrieval efficacy. These findings suggested that the infant calming response functioned to reduce the maternal burden of carrying and was therefore conserved in a variety of mammalian species. However, it remains unclear how and when each component of this calming response develops and whether it is a filial-specific behavior.
We dissected various components of the carrying-induced responses in mouse pups, collectively called the “Transport Response” herein. We showed that during the second postnatal week, pups exhibited characteristic compact posture with limb ventroflexion. The body trunk remained paradoxically pliable, suggesting complex neural regulation throughout the body. Pups also showed an increased pain tolerance to a tail pinch during the Transport Response. Analyses of the developmental courses of distinct components of the Transport Response revealed the independent regulation of each component: in the first postnatal week, the cessation of ultrasonic vocalizations was exhibited prominently; in the second postnatal week, immobilization reached its peak; and toward the third postnatal week, the postural component became fully matured. At the end of the third postnatal week, when the pups are able to transport by themselves, the pups no longer exhibited the Transport Response.
This study has revealed the mouse Transport Response as a complex set of behavioral and physiological components, each of which has a specific postnatal time window but is orchestrated in a well-matched manner with the maturation of ambulatory ability in the pups. These findings collectively indicate that the Transport Response is a filial-specific, innate behavioral reaction and is distinct from a simple reflex or defensive freezing response. The Transport Response could be a novel index of primitive filial attachment behaviors, acting to smooth mother-infant interaction.
Mouse pup; Transport response; Calming response; Filial behavior; Maternal carrying; Mother-infant relationship; Parental behavior
Warning calls are a widespread anti-predator adaptation, which can signal unprofitability to predators or alert other potential targets of the predator. Although it is tacitly assumed that the recipients of warning calls experience a reduction in predation risk, this crucial assumption remains untested. Here I tested this hypothesis with a field experiment in the group-living Siberian jay, Perisoreus infaustus. I exposed male or female breeding adults that were foraging together with a non-breeder (related or unrelated) to a model of their main predator (goshawk Accipiter gentilis) in autumn. I then recorded the warning call response of breeders as well as the reaction time of non-breeders, and followed the subsequent survival of non-breeders until spring.
In most experiments (73%), non-breeders were warned by the more experienced breeders. Warning calls almost halved the reaction time of non-breeders during the experiment and influenced the survival of call recipients: non-breeders that were warned had a higher subsequent survival (19 out of 23) than non-breeders that were not warned (2 out of 5). However, neither kinship, group size, the age of the non-breeder, or the habitat structure of the territory had an influence on the survival subsequent to the experiments.
Since earlier studies showed that breeders are consistent in their warning call investment across different contexts, breeders that did warn non-breeders in the experiment were likely to have done so in subsequent, natural attacks. Consequently non-breeders living with breeders that called had a better chance of surviving predator attacks. Thus, these results suggest that warning calls have the potential to boost the survival of signal recipients, confirming a pivotal, yet hitherto untested assumption of the effect of warning calls.
Alarm calls; Vocal communication; Anti-predator signal; Survival
The Vespertilionidae is the largest family of bats, characterized by high occurrence of morphologically convergent groups, which impedes the study of their evolutionary history. The situation is even more complicated in the tropics, where certain regions remain under-sampled.
Two hundred and thirteen vespertilionid bats from Senegal (West Africa) were studied with the use of non-differentially stained karyotypes and multi-locus sequence data analysed with maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. These bats were identified as 10 different taxa, five of which were distinctive from their nominate species (Pipistrellus hesperidus, Nycticeinops schlieffenii, Scotoecus hirundo, Neoromicia nana and N. somalica), based on both karyotypes and molecular data. These five cryptic taxa are unrelated, suggesting that these West African populations have long been isolated from other African regions. Additionally, we phylogenetically analysed 166 vespertilionid taxa from localities worldwide using GenBank data (some 80% of the genera of the family) and 14 representatives of closely related groups, together with our Senegalese specimens. The systematic position of several taxa differed from previous studies and the tribes Pipistrellini and Vespertilionini were redefined. The African Pipistrellus rueppellii was basal to the Pipistrellus/Nyctalus clade and the Oriental species Glischropus tylopus was basal to the East Asian pipistrelles within the tribe Pipistrellini. The African genus Neoromicia was confirmed to be diphyletic. Based on GenBank data, Eptesicus was polyphyletic, with the Asian E. nasutus and E. dimissus both supported as phylogenetically distinct from the Eptesicus clade. The subfamily Scotophilinae was confirmed as one of the basal branches of Vespertilionidae.
New taxa and new systematic arrangements show that there is still much to resolve in the vespertilionids and that West Africa is a biogeographic hotspot with more diversity to be discovered.
Vespertilionidae; Systematics; Phylogenetics; DNA; Karyotypes; Western Africa
The nemertean pilidium is a long-lived feeding larva unique to the life cycle of a single monophyletic group, the Pilidiophora, which is characterized by this innovation. That the pilidium feeds on small planktonic unicells seems clear; how it does so is unknown and not readily inferred, because it shares little morphological similarity with other planktotrophic larvae.
Using high-speed video of trapped lab-reared pilidia of Micrura alaskensis, we documented a multi-stage feeding mechanism. First, the external ciliation of the pilidium creates a swimming and feeding current which carries suspended prey past the primary ciliated band spanning the posterior margins of the larval body. Next, the larva detects prey that pass within reach, then conducts rapid and coordinated deformations of the larval body to re-direct passing cells and surrounding water into a vestibular space between the lappets, isolated from external currents but not quite inside the larva. Once a prey cell is thus captured, internal ciliary bands arranged within this vestibule prevent prey escape. Finally, captured cells are transported by currents within a buccal funnel toward the stomach entrance. Remarkably, we observed that the prey of choice – various cultured cryptomonads – attempt to escape their fate.
The feeding mechanism deployed by the pilidium larva coordinates local control of cilia-driven water transport with sensorimotor behavior, in a manner clearly distinct from any other well-studied larval feeding mechanisms. We hypothesize that the pilidium’s feeding strategy may be adapted to counter escape responses such as those deployed by cryptomonads, and speculate that similar needs may underlie convergences among disparate planktotrophic larval forms.
Nemertea; Pilidiophora; Planktotrophy; Larval ecology; Ciliary particle capture
Invertebrate communities are central to many environmental monitoring programs. In freshwater ecosystems, aquatic macroinvertebrates are collected, identified and then used to infer ecosystem condition. Yet the key step of species identification is often not taken, as it requires a high level of taxonomic expertise, which is lacking in most organizations, or species cannot be identified as they are morphologically cryptic or represent little known groups. Identifying species using DNA sequences can overcome many of these issues; with the power of next generation sequencing (NGS), using DNA sequences for routine monitoring becomes feasible.
In this study, we test if NGS can be used to identify species from field-collected samples in an important bioindicator group, the Chironomidae. We show that Cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and Cytochrome B (CytB) sequences provide accurate DNA barcodes for chironomid species. We then develop a NGS analysis pipeline to identifying species using megablast searches of high quality sequences generated using 454 pyrosequencing against comprehensive reference libraries of Sanger-sequenced voucher specimens. We find that 454 generated COI sequences successfully identified up to 96% of species in samples, but this increased up to 99% when combined with CytB sequences. Accurate identification depends on having at least five sequences for a species; below this level species not expected in samples were detected. Incorrect incorporation of some multiplex identifiers (MID’s) used to tag samples was a likely cause, and most errors could be detected when using MID tags on forward and reverse primers. We also found a strong quantitative relationship between the number of 454 sequences and individuals showing that it may be possible to estimate the abundance of species from 454 pyrosequencing data.
Next generation sequencing using two genes was successful for identifying chironomid species. However, when detecting species from 454 pyrosequencing data sets it was critical to include known individuals for quality control and to establish thresholds for detecting species. The NGS approach developed here can lead to routine species-level diagnostic monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.
Invertebrates; Barcoding; Bioassessment; 454 pyrosequencing; Chironomidae
In mammals, internal Na+ homeostasis is maintained through Na+ reabsorption via a variety of Na+ transport proteins with mutually compensating functions, which are expressed in different segments of the nephrons. In zebrafish, Na+ homeostasis is achieved mainly through the skin/gill ionocytes, namely Na+/H+ exchanger (NHE3b)-expressing H+-ATPase rich (HR) cells and Na+-Cl- cotransporter (NCC)-expressing NCC cells, which are functionally homologous to mammalian proximal and distal convoluted tubular cells, respectively. The present study aimed to investigate whether or not the functions of HR and NCC ionocytes are differentially regulated to compensate for disruptions of internal Na+ homeostasis and if the cell differentiation of the ionocytes is involved in this regulation pathway.
Translational knockdown of ncc caused an increase in HR cell number and a resulting augmentation of Na+ uptake in zebrafish larvae, while NHE3b loss-of-function caused an increase in NCC cell number with a concomitant recovery of Na+ absorption. Environmental acid stress suppressed nhe3b expression in HR cells and decreased Na+ content, which was followed by up-regulation of NCC cells accompanied by recovery of Na+ content. Moreover, knockdown of ncc resulted in a significant decrease of Na+ content in acid-acclimated zebrafish.
These results provide evidence that HR and NCC cells exhibit functional redundancy in Na+ absorption, similar to the regulatory mechanisms in mammalian kidney, and suggest this functional redundancy is a critical strategy used by zebrafish to survive in a harsh environment that disturbs body fluid Na+ homeostasis.
Na+-Cl- cotranspoter; Na+/H+ exchanger; Ionocyte; Acid acclimation
In biomedical research, a huge variety of different techniques is currently available for the structural examination of small specimens, including conventional light microscopy (LM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), microscopic X-ray computed tomography (microCT), and many others. Since every imaging method is physically limited by certain parameters, a correlative use of complementary methods often yields a significant broader range of information. Here we demonstrate the advantages of the correlative use of microCT, light microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy for the analysis of small biological samples.
We used a small juvenile bivalve mollusc (Mytilus galloprovincialis, approximately 0.8 mm length) to demonstrate the workflow of a correlative examination by microCT, LM serial section analysis, and TEM-re-sectioning. Initially these three datasets were analyzed separately, and subsequently they were fused in one 3D scene. This workflow is very straightforward. The specimen was processed as usual for transmission electron microscopy including post-fixation in osmium tetroxide and embedding in epoxy resin. Subsequently it was imaged with microCT. Post-fixation in osmium tetroxide yielded sufficient X-ray contrast for microCT imaging, since the X-ray absorption of epoxy resin is low. Thereafter, the same specimen was serially sectioned for LM investigation. The serial section images were aligned and specific organ systems were reconstructed based on manual segmentation and surface rendering. According to the region of interest (ROI), specific LM sections were detached from the slides, re-mounted on resin blocks and re-sectioned (ultrathin) for TEM. For analysis, image data from the three different modalities was co-registered into a single 3D scene using the software AMIRA®. We were able to register both the LM section series volume and TEM slices neatly to the microCT dataset, with small geometric deviations occurring only in the peripheral areas of the specimen. Based on co-registered datasets the excretory organs, which were chosen as ROI for this study, could be investigated regarding both their ultrastructure as well as their position in the organism and their spatial relationship to adjacent tissues. We found structures typical for mollusc excretory systems, including ultrafiltration sites at the pericardial wall, and ducts leading from the pericardium towards the kidneys, which exhibit a typical basal infolding system.
The presented approach allows a comprehensive analysis and presentation of small objects regarding both the overall organization as well as cellular and subcellular details. Although our protocol involves a variety of different equipment and procedures, we maintain that it offers savings in both effort and cost. Co-registration of datasets from different imaging modalities can be accomplished with high-end desktop computers and offers new opportunities for understanding and communicating structural relationships within organisms and tissues. In general, the correlative use of different microscopic imaging techniques will continue to become more widespread in morphological and structural research in zoology. Classical TEM serial section investigations are extremely time consuming, and modern methods for 3D analysis of ultrastructure such as SBF-SEM and FIB-SEM are limited to very small volumes for examination. Thus the re-sectioning of LM sections is suitable for speeding up TEM examination substantially, while microCT could become a key-method for complementing ultrastructural examinations.
Allelic incompatibility between individuals of the same species should select for mate choice based on the genetic make-up of both partners at loci that influence offspring fitness. As a consequence, mate choice may be an important driver of allelic diversity. A complementary sex determination (CSD) system is responsible for intraspecific allelic incompatibility in many species of ants, bees, and wasps. CSD may thus favour disassortative mating and in this, resembles the MHC of the vertebrate immune system, or the self-incompatibility (SI) system of higher plants.
Here we show that in the monogamous parasitic wasp Bracon brevicornis (Wesmael), females are able to reject partners with incompatible alleles. Forcing females to accept initially rejected partners resulted in sex ratio distortion and partial infertility of offspring.
CSD-disassortative mating occurred independent of kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in our experiment. The fitness consequences of mate choice are directly observable, not influenced by environmental effects, and more severe than in comparable systems (SI or MHC), on individuals as well as at the population level. Our results thus demonstrate the strong potential of female mate choice for maintaining high offspring fitness in this species.
Genetic compatibility; Mate choice; Allele recognition; Diploid males; Extinction vortex; Complementary sex determination; Disassortative mating; MHC
Intra-specific variation in melanocyte pigmentation, common in the animal kingdom, has caught the eye of naturalists and biologists for centuries. In vertebrates, dark, eumelanin pigmentation is often genetically determined and associated with various behavioral and physiological traits, suggesting that the genes involved in melanism have far reaching pleiotropic effects. The mechanisms linking these traits remain poorly understood, and the potential involvement of developmental processes occurring in the brain early in life has not been investigated. We examined the ontogeny of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a state involved in brain development, in a wild population of barn owls (Tyto alba) exhibiting inter-individual variation in melanism and covarying traits. In addition to sleep, we measured melanistic feather spots and the expression of a gene in the feather follicles implicated in melanism (PCSK2).
As in mammals, REM sleep declined with age across a period of brain development in owlets. In addition, inter-individual variation in REM sleep around this developmental trajectory was predicted by variation in PCSK2 expression in the feather follicles, with individuals expressing higher levels exhibiting a more precocial pattern characterized by less REM sleep. Finally, PCSK2 expression was positively correlated with feather spotting.
We demonstrate that the pace of brain development, as reflected in age-related changes in REM sleep, covaries with the peripheral activation of the melanocortin system. Given its role in brain development, variation in nestling REM sleep may lead to variation in adult brain organization, and thereby contribute to the behavioral and physiological differences observed between adults expressing different degrees of melanism.
REM sleep; Melanocortin; Melanism; Pleiotropy; Ontogeny; Development; Avian
The primate visual system has a uniquely high proportion of ipsilateral retinal projections, retinal ganglial cells that do not cross the midline in the optic chiasm. The general assumption is that this developed due to the selective advantage of accurate depth perception through stereopsis. Here, the hypothesis that the need for accurate eye-forelimb coordination substantially influenced the evolution of the primate visual system is presented. Evolutionary processes may change the direction of retinal ganglial cells. Crossing, or non-crossing, in the optic chiasm determines which hemisphere receives visual feedback in reaching tasks. Each hemisphere receives little tactile and proprioceptive information about the ipsilateral hand. The eye-forelimb hypothesis proposes that abundant ipsilateral retinal projections developed in the primate brain to synthesize, in a single hemisphere, visual, tactile, proprioceptive, and motor information about a given hand, and that this improved eye-hand coordination and optimized the size of the brain. If accurate eye-hand coordination was a major factor in the evolution of stereopsis, stereopsis is likely to be highly developed for activity in the area where the hands most often operate.
The primate visual system is ideally suited for tasks within arm’s length and in the inferior visual field, where most manual activity takes place. Altering of ocular dominance in reaching tasks, reduced cross-modal cuing effects when arms are crossed, response of neurons in the primary motor cortex to viewed actions of a hand, multimodal neuron response to tactile as well as visual events, and extensive use of multimodal sensory information in reaching maneuvers support the premise that benefits of accurate limb control influenced the evolution of the primate visual system. The eye-forelimb hypothesis implies that evolutionary change toward hemidecussation in the optic chiasm provided parsimonious neural pathways in animals developing frontal vision and visually guided forelimbs, and also suggests a new perspective on vision convergence in prey and predatory animals.
Evolution; Dexterity; Ipsilateral retinal projection; Multisensory cues; Binocular vision; Optokinetic response; Primate; Predators; Prey
Despite ongoing interest in the neurophysiology of visual systems in scorpions, aspects of their neuroanatomy have received little attention. Lately sets of neuroanatomical characters have contributed important arguments to the discussion of arthropod ground patterns and phylogeny. In various attempts to reconstruct phylogeny (from morphological, morphological + molecular, or molecular data) scorpions were placed either as basalmost Arachnida, or within Arachnida with changing sister-group relationships, or grouped with the extinct Eurypterida and Xiphosura inside the Merostomata. Thus, the position of scorpions is a key to understanding chelicerate evolution. To shed more light on this, the present study for the first time combines various techniques (Cobalt fills, DiI / DiO labelling, osmium-ethyl gallate procedure, and AMIRA 3D-reconstruction) to explore central projections and visual neuropils of median and lateral eyes in Euscorpius italicus (Herbst, 1800) and E. hadzii Di Caporiacco, 1950.
Scorpion median eye retinula cells are linked to a first and a second visual neuropil, while some fibres additionally connect the median eyes with the arcuate body. The lateral eye retinula cells are linked to a first and a second visual neuropil as well, with the second neuropil being partly shared by projections from both eyes.
Comparing these results to previous studies on the visual systems of scorpions and other chelicerates, we found striking similarities to the innervation pattern in Limulus polyphemus for both median and lateral eyes. This supports from a visual system point of view at least a phylogenetically basal position of Scorpiones in Arachnida, or even a close relationship to Xiphosura. In addition, we propose a ground pattern for the central projections of chelicerate median eyes.
Chelicerata; Scorpiones; Visual system; Central projections; Phylogeny
Terrestrial top-predators are expected to regulate and stabilise food webs through their consumptive and non-consumptive effects on sympatric mesopredators and prey. The lethal control of top-predators has therefore been predicted to inhibit top-predator function, generate the release of mesopredators and indirectly harm native fauna through trophic cascade effects. Understanding the outcomes of lethal control on interactions within terrestrial predator guilds is important for zoologists, conservation biologists and wildlife managers. However, few studies have the capacity to test these predictions experimentally, and no such studies have previously been conducted on the eclectic suite of native and exotic, mammalian and reptilian taxa we simultaneously assess. We conducted a series of landscape-scale, multi-year, manipulative experiments at nine sites spanning five ecosystem types across the Australian continental rangelands to investigate the responses of mesopredators (red foxes, feral cats and goannas) to contemporary poison-baiting programs intended to control top-predators (dingoes) for livestock protection.
Short-term behavioural releases of mesopredators were not apparent, and in almost all cases, the three mesopredators we assessed were in similar or greater abundance in unbaited areas relative to baited areas, with mesopredator abundance trends typically either uncorrelated or positively correlated with top-predator abundance trends over time. The exotic mammals and native reptile we assessed responded similarly (poorly) to top-predator population manipulation. This is because poison baits were taken by multiple target and non-target predators and top-predator populations quickly recovered to pre-control levels, thus reducing the overall impact of baiting on top-predators and averting a trophic cascade.
These results are in accord with other predator manipulation experiments conducted worldwide, and suggest that Australian populations of native prey fauna at lower trophic levels are unlikely to be negatively affected by contemporary dingo control practices through the release of mesopredators. We conclude that contemporary lethal control practices used on some top-predator populations do not produce the conditions required to generate positive responses from mesopredators. Functional relationships between sympatric terrestrial predators may not be altered by exposure to spatially and temporally sporadic application of non-selective lethal control.
Canis lupus dingo; Dingo; European red fox; Felis catus; Feral cat; Mesopredator release; Monitor lizard; Poison baiting; Predator control; Trophic cascade; Varanus spp.; Vulpes vulpes
Landing flight in birds is demanding on visual control of velocity, distance to target, and slope of descent. Birds flying in flocks must also keep a common course of landing in order to avoid collisions. Whereas the wind direction may provide a cue for landing, the nature of the landing direction indicator under windless conditions has been unknown. We recorded and analysed landing directions of 3,338 flocks in 14 species of water birds in eight countries.
We show that the preferred landing direction, independently of the direction from which the birds have arrived, is along the north-south axis. We analysed the effect of the time of the year, time of the day (and thus sun position), weather (sunny versus overcast), light breeze, locality, latitude, and magnetic declination in 2,431 flocks of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and found no systematic effect of these factors upon the preferred direction of landing. We found that magnetic North was a better predictor for landing direction than geographic North.
In absence of any other common denominator determining the landing direction, the alignment with the magnetic field lines seems to be the most plausible if not the only explanation for the directional landing preference under windless and overcast conditions and we suggest that the magnetic field thus provides a landing direction indicator.
Bird flight; Water birds; Magnetoreception; Magnetic orientation; Sun compass; Flight control
Ecological constraints related to foraging are expected to affect the evolution of morphological traits relevant to food capture, manipulation and transport. Females of central-place foraging Hymenoptera vary in their food load manipulation ability. Bees and social wasps modulate the amount of food taken per foraging trip (in terms of e.g. number of pollen grains or parts of prey), while solitary wasps carry exclusively entire prey items. We hypothesized that the foraging constraints acting on females of the latter species, imposed by the upper limit to the load size they are able to transport in flight, should promote the evolution of a greater load-lifting capacity and manoeuvrability, specifically in terms of greater flight muscle to body mass ratio and lower wing loading.
Our comparative study of 28 species confirms that, accounting for shared ancestry, female flight muscle ratio was significantly higher and wing loading lower in species taking entire prey compared to those that are able to modulate load size. Body mass had no effect on flight muscle ratio, though it strongly and negatively co-varied with wing loading. Across species, flight muscle ratio and wing loading were negatively correlated, suggesting coevolution of these traits.
Natural selection has led to the coevolution of resource load manipulation ability and morphological traits affecting flying ability with additional loads in females of central-place foraging Hymenoptera. Release from load-carrying constraints related to foraging, which took place with the evolution of food load manipulation ability, has selected against the maintenance of a powerful flight apparatus. This could be the case since investment in flight muscles may have to be traded against other life-history traits, such as reproductive investment.
Bees; Flight Muscle Ratio; Foraging; Wasps; Wing Loading
Gastropods are among the most diverse animal clades, and have successfully colonized special habitats such as the marine sand interstitial. Specialized meiofaunal snails and slugs are tiny and worm-shaped. They combine regressive features – argued to be due to progenetic tendencies – with convergent adaptations. Microscopic size and concerted convergences make morphological examination non-trivial and hamper phylogenetic reconstructions. The enigmatic turbellarian-like Rhodopemorpha are a small group that has puzzled systematists for over a century. A preliminary molecular framework places the group far closer to the root of Heterobranchia – one of the major gastropod groups – than previously suggested. The poorly known meiofaunal Helminthope psammobionta Salvini-Plawen, 1991 from Bermuda is the most worm-shaped free-living gastropod and shows apparently aberrant aspects of anatomy. Its study may give important clues to understand the evolution of rhodopemorphs among basal heterobranchs versus their previously thought origin among ‘higher’ euthyneuran taxa.
We describe the 3D-microanatomy of H. psammobionta using three-dimensional digital reconstruction based on serial semithin histological sections. The new dataset expands upon the original description and corrects several aspects. Helminthope shows a set of typical adaptations and regressive characters present in other mesopsammic slugs (called ‘meiofaunal syndrome’ herein). The taxonomically important presence of five separate visceral loop ganglia is confirmed, but considerable further detail of the complex nervous system are corrected and revealed. The digestive and reproductive systems are simple and modified to the thread-like morphology of the animal; the anus is far posterior. There is no heart; the kidney resembles a protonephridium. Data on all organ systems are compiled and compared to Rhodope.
Helminthope is related to Rhodope sharing unique apomorphies. We argue that the peculiar kidney, configuration of the visceral loop and simplicity or lack of other organs in Rhodopemorpha are results of progenesis. The posterior shift of the anus in Helminthope is interpreted as a peramorphy, i.e. hypertrophy of body length early in ontogeny. Our review of morphological and molecular evidence is consistent with an origin of Rhodopemorpha slugs among shelled ‘lower Heterobranchia’. Previously thought shared ‘diagnostic’ features such as five visceral ganglia are either plesiomorphic or convergent, while euthyneury and a double-rooted cerebral nerve likely evolved independently in Rhodopemorpha and Euthyneura.
Meiofauna; Paedomorphosis; Progenesis; 3d Reconstruction; Euthyneura; Opisthobranch; Pulmonate; Morphology; Phylogeny; Histology
One of the most interesting riddles within crustaceans is the origin of Cladocera (water fleas). Cladocerans are morphologically diverse and in terms of size and body segmentation differ considerably from other branchiopod taxa (Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata, Spinicaudata and Cyclestherida). In 1876, the famous zoologist Carl Claus proposed with regard to their origin that cladocerans might have evolved from a precociously maturing larva of a clam shrimp-like ancestor which was able to reproduce at this early stage of development. In order to shed light on this shift in organogenesis and to identify (potential) changes in the chronology of development (heterochrony), we investigated the external and internal development of the ctenopod Penilia avirostris and compared it to development in representatives of Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata, Spinicaudata and Cyclestherida. The development of the nervous system was investigated using immunohistochemical labeling and confocal microscopy. External morphological development was followed using a scanning electron microscope and confocal microscopy to detect the autofluorescence of the external cuticle.
In Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata and Spinicaudata development is indirect and a free-swimming nauplius hatches from resting eggs. In contrast, development in Cyclestherida and Cladocera, in which non-swimming embryo-like larvae hatch from subitaneous eggs (without a resting phase) is defined herein as pseudo-direct and differs considerably from that of the other groups. Both external and internal development in Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata and Spinicaudata is directed from anterior to posterior, whereas in Cyclestherida and Cladocera differentiation is more synchronous.
In this study, developmental sequences from representatives of all branchiopod taxa are compared and analyzed using a Parsimov event-pairing approach. The analysis reveals clear evolutionary transformations towards Cladocera and the node of Cladoceromorpha which correspond to distinct heterochronous signals and indicate that the evolution of Cladocera was a stepwise process. A switch from a strategy of indirect development to one of pseudo-direct development was followed by a shift in a number of morphological events to an earlier point in ontogenesis and simultaneously by a reduction in the number of pre-metamorphosis molts. A compression of the larval phase as well as a shortening of the juvenile phase finally leads to a precocious maturation and is considered as a gradual progenetic process.
Developmental Sequences; Heterochrony; Nervous System Development; Parsimov Event-pairing; Progenesis of Cladocera
The PCR-based analysis of homologous genes has become one of the most powerful approaches for species detection and identification, particularly with the recent availability of Next Generation Sequencing platforms (NGS) making it possible to identify species composition from a broad range of environmental samples. Identifying species from these samples relies on the ability to match sequences with reference barcodes for taxonomic identification. Unfortunately, most studies of environmental samples have targeted ribosomal markers, despite the fact that the mitochondrial Cytochrome c Oxidase subunit I gene (COI) is by far the most widely available sequence region in public reference libraries. This is largely because the available versatile (“universal”) COI primers target the 658 barcoding region, whose size is considered too large for many NGS applications. Moreover, traditional barcoding primers are known to be poorly conserved across some taxonomic groups.
We first design a new PCR primer within the highly variable mitochondrial COI region, the “mlCOIintF” primer. We then show that this newly designed forward primer combined with the “jgHCO2198” reverse primer to target a 313 bp fragment performs well across metazoan diversity, with higher success rates than versatile primer sets traditionally used for DNA barcoding (i.e. LCO1490/HCO2198). Finally, we demonstrate how the shorter COI fragment coupled with an efficient bioinformatics pipeline can be used to characterize species diversity from environmental samples by pyrosequencing. We examine the gut contents of three species of planktivorous and benthivorous coral reef fish (family: Apogonidae and Holocentridae). After the removal of dubious COI sequences, we obtained a total of 334 prey Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) belonging to 14 phyla from 16 fish guts. Of these, 52.5% matched a reference barcode (>98% sequence similarity) and an additional 32% could be assigned to a higher taxonomic level using Bayesian assignment.
The molecular analysis of gut contents targeting the 313 COI fragment using the newly designed mlCOIintF primer in combination with the jgHCO2198 primer offers enormous promise for metazoan metabarcoding studies. We believe that this primer set will be a valuable asset for a range of applications from large-scale biodiversity assessments to food web studies.
Second generation sequencing; DNA barcoding; Mini-barcode; Mitochondrial marker; Trophic interactions; Food web
In contrast to mammalian erythrocytes, which have lost their nucleus and mitochondria during maturation, the erythrocytes of almost all other vertebrate species are nucleated throughout their lifespan. Little research has been done however to test for the presence and functionality of mitochondria in these cells, especially for birds. Here, we investigated those two points in erythrocytes of one common avian model: the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).
Transmission electron microscopy showed the presence of mitochondria in erythrocytes of this small passerine bird, especially after removal of haemoglobin interferences. High-resolution respirometry revealed increased or decreased rates of oxygen consumption by erythrocytes in response to the addition of respiratory chain substrates or inhibitors, respectively. Fluorometric assays confirmed the production of mitochondrial superoxide by avian erythrocytes. Interestingly, measurements of plasmatic oxidative markers indicated lower oxidative stress in blood of the zebra finch compared to a size-matched mammalian model, the mouse.
Altogether, those findings demonstrate that avian erythrocytes possess functional mitochondria in terms of respiratory activities and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Interestingly, since blood oxidative stress was lower for our avian model compared to a size-matched mammalian, our results also challenge the idea that mitochondrial ROS production could have been one actor leading to this loss during the course of evolution. Opportunities to assess mitochondrial functioning in avian erythrocytes open new perspectives in the use of birds as models for longitudinal studies of ageing via lifelong blood sampling of the same subjects.
Red blood cell; Ageing; Mitochondria; ROS; Oxidative stress; Electron transport chain
Parasitic, commensalistic, and mutualistic guests in social insect colonies often circumvent their hosts’ nestmate recognition system to be accepted. These tolerance strategies include chemical mimicry and chemical insignificance. While tolerance strategies have been studied intensively in social parasites, little is known about these mechanisms in non-parasitic interactions.
Here, we describe a strategy used in a parabiotic association, i.e. two mutualistic ant species that regularly share a common nest although they have overlapping food niches. One of them, Crematogaster modiglianii, produces an array of cuticular compounds which represent a substance class undescribed in nature so far. They occur in high abundances, which suggests an important function in the ant’s association with its partner Camponotus rufifemur.
We elucidated the structure of one of the main compounds from cuticular extracts using gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, chemical derivatizations and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The compound consists of two fused six-membered rings with two alkyl groups, one of which carries a keto functionality. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the identification of this substance class in nature. We suggest naming the compound crematoenone.
In behavioural assays, crematoenones reduced interspecific aggression. Camponotus showed less aggression to allospecific cuticular hydrocarbons when combined with crematoenones. Thus, they function as appeasement substances. However, although the crematoenone composition was highly colony-specific, interspecific recognition was mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons, and not by crematoenones.
Crematenones enable Crematogaster to evade Camponotus aggression, and thus reduce potential costs from competition with Camponotus. Hence, they seem to be a key factor in the parabiosis, and help Crematogaster to gain a net benefit from the association and thus maintain a mutualistic association over evolutionary time.
To our knowledge, putative appeasement substances have been reported only once so far, and never between non-parasitic species. Since most organisms associated with social insects need to overcome their nestmate recognition system, we hypothesize that appeasement substances might play an important role in the evolution and maintenance of other mutualistic associations as well, by allowing organisms to reduce costs from antagonistic behaviour of other species.
Appeasement substance; Cuticular hydrocarbons; Formicidae; Interspecific aggression; Nestmate recognition cues; Parabiotic association; Alkyloctahydronaphthalene
Nemertea is one of the least studied lophotrochozoan phyla concerning neurogenesis. The sparse data available do not unambiguously allow for answering questions with respect to the neural groundplan of the phylum or the fate of larval neural structures during metamorphosis. In order to contribute to this issue, we studied neurotransmitter distribution during development of the pilidiophoran Lineus albocinctus Verrill, 1900.
Two serotonin-like immunoreactive (lir) neurons are present in the anterior part of the apical plate. They send numerous processes into the four lobes of the pilidium larva, where they form a complex subepithelial nerve net. All four larval lobes are underlain by a marginal neurite bundle, which is associated with numerous serotonin-lir monociliated perikarya. A serotonin-lir oral nerve ring encircles the stomach sphincter and is associated with few serotonin-lir conical cells. Two suboral neurites descend from the oral nerve ring and merge with the marginal neurite bundle. The oral nerve ring and the suboral neurites contain the mollusk-specific VD1/RPD2 α-neuropeptide. The lateral lobes of the larva have three and the anterior and the posterior lobes two VD1/RPD2-lir marginal neurite bundles. The lobar FMRFamide-lir plexus of Lineus albocinctus is much more complex than previously described for any pilidium larva. It includes a circumesophageal neurite that descends along each side of the larval esophagus and together with the inner marginal neurite bundle gives rise to the lobar plexus of the lateral lobes. An outer FMRFamide-lir marginal neurite bundle with numerous associated FMRFamide-lir marginal sensory cells surrounds all four lobes. FMRFamide-lir structures are absent in the larval apical region. The oral nerve ring and the two suboral serotonin-lir neurites are incorporated into the juvenile nervous system.
Our study confirms the presence of serotonin-lir components in the apical region of the pilidium larva of Lineus albocinctus and thus contradicts an earlier study on the same species. We show that the nervous system of pilidium larvae, especially the FMRFamide-lir components, is much more complex than previously assumed. The presence of the VD1/RPD2-α-neuropeptide indicates that this compound may have been part of the lophotrochozoan neural groundplan.
Evolution; Neurogenesis; Development; Pilidium; Lophotrochozoa; Confocal microscopy; Ribbon worm
Risk assessment occurs over different temporal and spatial scales and is selected for when individuals show an adaptive response to a threat. Here, we test if birds respond to the threat of brood parasitism using the acoustical cues of brood parasites in the absence of visual stimuli. We broadcast the playback of song of three brood parasites (Chalcites cuckoo species) and a sympatric non-parasite (striated thornbill, Acanthiza lineata) in the territories of superb fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) during the peak breeding period and opportunistic breeding period. The three cuckoo species differ in brood parasite prevalence and the probability of detection by the host, which we used to rank the risk of parasitism (high risk, moderate risk, low risk).
Host birds showed the strongest response to the threat of cuckoo parasitism in accordance with the risk of parasitism. Resident wrens had many alarm calls and close and rapid approach to the playback speaker that was broadcasting song of the high risk brood parasite (Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, C. basalis) across the year (peak and opportunistic breeding period), some response to the moderate risk brood parasite (shining bronze-cuckoo, C. lucidus) during the peak breeding period, and the weakest response to the low risk brood parasite (little bronze-cuckoo, C. minutillus). Playback of the familiar control stimulus in wren territories evoked the least response.
Host response to the threat of cuckoo parasitism was assessed using vocal cues of the cuckoo and was predicted by the risk of future parasitism.
Cuckoo recognition; Cuckoo threat; Risk perception; Experience; Song discrimination; Deterrent behaviour
Ancient DNA has revolutionized conservation genetic studies as it allows monitoring of the genetic variability of species through time and predicting the impact of ecosystems’ threats on future population dynamics and viability. Meanwhile, the consequences of anthropogenic activities and climate change to island faunas, particularly seabirds, remain largely unknown. In this study, we examined temporal changes in the genetic diversity of a threatened seabird, the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis).
We analysed the mitochondrial DNA control region of ancient bone samples from the late-Holocene retrieved from the Canary archipelago (NE Atlantic) together with modern DNA sequences representative of the entire breeding range of the species. Our results show high levels of ancient genetic diversity in the Canaries comparable to that of the extant population. The temporal haplotype network further revealed rare but recurrent long-distance dispersal between ocean basins. The Bayesian demographic analyses reveal both regional and local population size expansion events, and this is in spite of the demographic decline experienced by the species over the last millennia.
Our findings suggest that population connectivity of the species has acted as a buffer of genetic losses and illustrate the use of ancient DNA to uncover such cryptic genetic events.
Ancient DNA; Population size; Calonectris
Females have often been shown to exhibit preferences for certain male traits. However, little is known about behavioural rules females use when searching for mates in their natural habitat. We investigated mate sampling tactics and related costs in the territorial strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) possessing a lek-like mating system, where both sequential and simultaneous sampling might occur. We continuously monitored the sampling pattern and behaviour of females during the complete period between two successive matings.
We found no evidence that females compared males by visiting them. Instead females mated with the closest calling male irrespective of his acoustic and physical traits, and territory size. Playback experiments in the natural home ranges of receptive females revealed that tested females preferred the nearest speaker and did not discriminate between low and high call rates or dominant frequencies.
Our results suggest that females of O. pumilio prefer the closest calling male in the studied population. We hypothesize that the sampling tactic in this population is affected by 1) a strongly female biased sex ratio and 2) a low variance in traits of available males due to strong male-male competition, preventing low quality males from defending a territory and mating.
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is a widespread phenomenon in animals including mammals. It has been demonstrated that across species, the direction and magnitude of sexual dimorphism in body size often corresponds to social systems. Moreover, many animal lineages conform to “Rensch’s rule”, which states that male-biased SSD increases with body size. We tested whether considerable differences in sociality and large variation in body size were connected with the evolution of SSD in the structural body size of ground squirrels, an otherwise ecologically relatively homogenous group of terrestrial rodents.
We found the general trend of male-biased SSD in ground squirrels, however, male size increases nearly perfectly isometrically with female size among species and sociality does not explain departures from this relationship. Species with different sociality grades significantly differ in body size, with the most social species tending to be the largest.
We suggest that lack of conformity with Rensch´s rule in ground squirrels may be attributed to their low variation in SSD, and briefly discuss three potential causes of small magnitude of SSD in the structural size in rodents: low selection on SSD in structural dimensions, ontogenetic and genetic constraints and the existence of ecological/selection factors preventing the evolution of extensive SSD.
Allometry; Constraints; Cynomys; Marmota; Phylogenetic comparative study; Social system; Spermophilus
In long-distance migrants, a considerably higher proportion of time and energy is allocated to stopovers rather than to flights. Stopover duration and departure decisions affect consequently subsequent flight stages and overall speed of migration. In Arctic nocturnal songbird migrants the trade-off between a relatively long migration distance and short nights available for travelling may impose a significant time pressure on migrants. Therefore, we hypothesize that Alaskan northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) use a time-minimizing migration strategy to reach their African wintering area 15,000 km away.
We estimated the factors influencing the birds’ daily departure probability from an Arctic stopover before crossing the Bering Strait by using a Cormack-Jolly-Seber model. To identify in which direction and when migration was resumed departing birds were radio-tracked. Here we show that Alaskan northern wheatears did not behave as strict time minimizers, because their departure fuel load was unrelated to fuel deposition rate. All birds departed with more fuel load than necessary for the sea crossing. Departure probability increased with stopover duration, evening fuel load and decreasing temperature. Birds took-off towards southwest and hence, followed in general the constant magnetic and geographic course but not the alternative great circle route. Nocturnal departure times were concentrated immediately after sunset.
Although birds did not behave like time-minimizers in respect of the optimal migration strategies their surplus of fuel load clearly contradicted an energy saving strategy in terms of the minimization of overall energy cost of transport. The observed low variation in nocturnal take-off time in relation to local night length compared to similar studies in the temperate zone revealed that migrants have an innate ability to respond to changes in the external cue of night length. Likely, birds maximized their potential nightly flight range by taking off early in the night which in turn maximizes their overall migration speed. Hence, nocturnal departure time may be a crucial parameter shaping the speed of migration indicating the significance of its integration in future migration models.
Arctic; Capture-recapture; Cormack-Jolly-Seber model; Departure probability; Departure time; Migration speed; Northern wheatear; Optimization; Songbird; Stopover ecology