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1.  Alternative delivery of male accessory gland products 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:32.
To increase fertilization success, males transfer accessory gland products (Acps). Several species have evolved unconventional Acps transfer modes, meaning that Acps are transferred separately from the sperm. By surveying the sperm-free Acps transfer cases, we show that these animals have evolved a common strategy to deliver Acps: they all inject Acps directly through the partner’s body wall into the hemolymph. Our review of this mode of Acps transfer reveals another striking similarity: they all transfer sperm in packages or via the skin, which may leave little room for Acps transfer via the conventional route in seminal fluid. We synthesise the knowledge about the function, and the effects in the recipients, of the Acps found in the widely diverse taxa (including earthworms, sea slugs, terrestrial snails, scorpions and salamanders) that inject these substances. Despite the clearly independent evolution of the injection devices, these animals have evolved a common alternative strategy to get their partners to accept and/or use their sperm. Most importantly, the evolution of the injection devices for the delivery of Acps highlights how the latter are pivotal for male reproductive success and, hence, strongly influence sexual selection.
PMCID: PMC3984499  PMID: 24708537
Injection; Mating strategy; Sperm transfer; Spermatophore; Sexual selection
2.  Homing trajectories and initial orientation in a Neotropical territorial frog, Allobates femoralis (Dendrobatidae) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:29.
The ability to relocate home or breeding sites after experimental removal has been observed in several amphibians and the sensory basis of this behavior has been studied in some temperate-region species. However, the actual return trajectories have rarely been quantified in these studies and it remains unknown how different cues guide the homing behavior. Dendrobatidae (dart-poison frogs) exhibit some of the most complex spatial behaviors among amphibians, such as territoriality and tadpole transport. Recent data showed that Allobates femoralis, a frog with paternal tadpole transport, successfully returns to the home territories after experimental translocations of up to 400 m. In the present study, we used harmonic direction finding to obtain homing trajectories. Additionally, we quantified the initial orientation of individuals, translocated 10 m to 105 m, in an arena assay.
Tracking experiments revealed that homing trajectories are characterized by long periods of immobility (up to several days) and short periods (several hours) of rapid movement, closely fitting a straight line towards the home territory. In the arena assay, the frogs showed significant homeward orientation for translocation distances of 35 m to 70 m but not for longer and shorter distances.
Our results describe a very accurate homing behavior in male A. femoralis. The straightness of trajectories and initial homeward orientation suggest integration of learned landmarks providing a map position for translocated individuals. Future research should focus on the role of learning in homing behavior and the exact nature of cues being used.
PMCID: PMC3974440  PMID: 24666825
Homing; Orientation; Telemetry; Dendrobatidae; Allobates femoralis
3.  Head morphology of Tricholepidion gertschi indicates monophyletic Zygentoma 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:16.
The relic silverfish Tricholepidion gertschi is the sole extant representative of the family Lepidotrichidae. Its phylogenetic position is of special interest, since it may provide crucial insights into the early phenotypic evolution of the dicondylian insects. However, the phylogenetic position of T. gertschi is unclear. Originally, it was classified among silverfish (Zygentoma), but various alternative relationships within Zygentoma as well as a sistergroup relationship to all remaining Zygentoma + Pterygota are discussed, the latter implying a paraphyly of Zygentoma with respect to Pterygota. Since characters of the head anatomy play a major role in this discussion, we here present the so far most detailed description of the head of T. gertschi based on anatomical studies by synchrotron micro-computer tomography and scanning electron microscopy. A strong focus is put on the documentation of mouthparts and the anatomy of the endoskeleton as well as the muscle equipment. In contrast to former studies we could confirm the presence of a Musculus hypopharyngomandibularis (0md4). The ligamentous connection between the mandibles composed of Musculus tentoriomandibularis inferior (0md6) is also in contact with the anterior tentorium. Phylogenetic analysis of cephalic data results in monophyletic Zygentoma including T. gertschi. Zygentoma are supported by the presence of a set of labial muscles originating at the postocciput, presence of an additional intralabral muscle, and four labial palpomeres. Character systems like the genitalic system, the mating behaviour, the segmentation of the tarsi, the overall body form, and the presence of ocelli which were proposed in other studies as potentially useful for phylogenetic reconstruction are evaluated.
PMCID: PMC3975249  PMID: 24625269
Lepidotrichidae; Muscle equipment; MicroCT; Anatomy; Synchrotron
4.  Insect immunity: oral exposure to a bacterial pathogen elicits free radical response and protects from a recurring infection 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:23.
Previous exposure to a pathogen can help organisms cope with recurring infection. This is widely recognised in vertebrates, but increasing occasions are also being reported in invertebrates where this phenomenon is referred to as immune priming. However, the mechanisms that allow acquired pathogen resistance in insects remain largely unknown.
We studied the priming of bacterial resistance in the larvae of the tiger moth, Parasemia plantaginis using two gram-negative bacteria, a pathogenic Serratia marcescens and a non-pathogenic control, Escherichia coli. A sublethal oral dose of S. marcescens provided the larvae with effective protection against an otherwise lethal septic infection with the same pathogen five days later. At the same time, we assessed three anti-bacterial defence mechanisms from the larvae that had been primarily exposed to the bacteria via contaminated host plant. Results showed that S. marcescens had induced a higher amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the larval haemolymph, possibly protecting the host from the recurring infection.
Our study supports the growing evidence of immune priming in insects. It shows that activation of the protective mechanism requires a specific induction, rather than a sheer exposure to any gram-negative bacteria. The findings indicate that systemic pathogen recognition happens via the gut, and suggest that persistent loitering of immune elicitors or anti-microbial molecules are a possible mechanism for the observed prophylaxis. The self-harming effects of ROS molecules are well known, which indicates a potential cost of increased resistance. Together these findings could have important implications on the ecological and epidemiological processes affecting insect and pathogen populations.
PMCID: PMC3975449  PMID: 24602309
Bacterial resistance; Gram-negative; Immune priming; Immunological loitering; Insect immunity; Reactive oxygen species; Parasemia plantaginis; Serratia marcescens
5.  Embryonic oxygen enhances learning ability in hatchling lizards 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:21.
Producing smart offspring is an important fitness trait; individuals with enhanced cognitive ability should be more adept at responding to complex environmental demands. Cognitive ability can be influenced by conditions experienced during embryonic development. Although oxygen is necessary for embryonic development, availability can be limited within the nest environment because of substrate type, hydric conditions, and temperature. We do not yet understand, however, whether oxygen availability during embryonic development influences offspring fitness, especially cognitive ability. To address this question we incubated Mongolian Racerunner lizard (Eremias argus) eggs under hypoxic (12% O2), normoxic (21% O2), and hyperoxic conditions (30% O2).
Hypoxia not only slowed hatching time, but also resulted in constrained cognitive ability relative to hatchlings experiencing normoxic or hyperoxic incubation conditions. Oxygen did not influence hatching success, body size or sprint speed of hatchlings.
Oxygen availability during embryonic development has important influences on incubation duration and cognitive ability of hatchling lizards. This study provides the first evidence that oxygen availability during embryonic development can modify cognitive ability of oviparous reptiles.
PMCID: PMC3973888  PMID: 24589451
Embryonic development; Oxygen concentration; Cognitive ability; Mongolian Racerunner lizard; Eremias argus
6.  Evidence of cryptic and pseudocryptic speciation in the Paracalanus parvus species complex (Crustacea, Copepoda, Calanoida) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:19.
Many marine planktonic crustaceans such as copepods have been considered as widespread organisms. However, the growing evidence for cryptic and pseudo-cryptic speciation has emphasized the need of re-evaluating the status of copepod species complexes in molecular and morphological studies to get a clearer picture about pelagic marine species as evolutionary units and their distributions. This study analyses the molecular diversity of the ecologically important Paracalanus parvus species complex. Its seven currently recognized species are abundant and also often dominant in marine coastal regions worldwide from temperate to tropical oceans.
COI and Cytochrome b sequences of 160 specimens of the Paracalanus parvus complex from all oceans were obtained. Furthermore, 42 COI sequences from GenBank were added for the genetic analyses. Thirteen distinct molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) and two single sequences were revealed with cladistic analyses (Maximum Likelihood, Bayesian Inference), of which seven were identical with results from species delimitation methods (barcode gaps, ABDG, GMYC, Rosenberg’s P(AB)). In total, 10 to 12 putative species were detected and could be placed in three categories: (1) temperate geographically isolated, (2) warm-temperate to tropical wider spread and (3) circumglobal warm-water species.
The present study provides evidence of cryptic or pseudocryptic speciation in the Paracalanus parvus complex. One major insight is that the species Paracalanus parvus s.s. is not panmictic, but may be restricted in its distribution to the northeastern Atlantic.
PMCID: PMC3948017  PMID: 24581044
Copepoda; Paracalanus parvus; Cryptic species; Pseudocryptic species; Phylogeography
7.  A genetic tool to manipulate litter size 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:18.
Experimental litter size manipulations are often not problem free. Typically conducted shortly after birth or oviposition, they do not account for the energy already invested into the production of the offspring. Such effects make it difficult to interpret the results from experimental litter size manipulations and therefore to study optimality of litter or clutch size, a long debated topic in evolutionary biology.
We propose the use of a mating design based on a selfish genetic element, the t haplotype, to reduce litter size in an eutherian mammal, the house mouse. Most t haplotypes are recessive lethal and therefore lead to the death of all homozygous embryos. Litter sizes can be reduced by up to 50% by pairing a +/t female with a +/t male instead of a +/+ male.
This method allows litter size manipulation before birth without the use of invasive techniques, therefore providing an excellent tool for studying optimal litter size and ultimately helping to understand life history strategies.
PMCID: PMC3941797  PMID: 24564853
Litter size manipulation; House mouse; t haplotype; Optimal litter size
8.  Experiments in no-impact control of dingoes: comment on Allen et al. 2013 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:17.
There has been much recent debate in Australia over whether lethal control of dingoes incurs environmental costs, particularly by allowing increase of populations of mesopredators such as red foxes and feral cats. Allen et al. (2013) claim to show in their recent study that suppression of dingo activity by poison baiting does not lead to mesopredator release, because mesopredators are also suppressed by poisoning. We show that this claim is not supported by the data and analysis reported in Allen et al.’s paper.
PMCID: PMC3937246  PMID: 24558973
Mesopredator release; Trophic cascade; Red fox; Feral cat; Canis dingo
9.  Identification of sequestered chloroplasts in photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic sacoglossan sea slugs (Mollusca, Gastropoda) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:15.
Sacoglossan sea slugs are well known for their unique ability among metazoans to incorporate functional chloroplasts (kleptoplasty) in digestive glandular cells, enabling the slugs to use these as energy source when starved for weeks and months. However, members assigned to the shelled Oxynoacea and Limapontioidea (often with dorsal processes) are in general not able to keep the incorporated chloroplasts functional. Since obviously no algal genes are present within three (out of six known) species with chloroplast retention of several months, other factors enabling functional kleptoplasty have to be considered. Certainly, the origin of the chloroplasts is important, however, food source of most of the about 300 described species is not known so far. Therefore, a deduction of specific algal food source as a factor to perform functional kleptoplasty was still missing.
We investigated the food sources of 26 sacoglossan species, freshly collected from the field, by applying the chloroplast marker genes tufA and rbcL and compared our results with literature data of species known for their retention capability. For the majority of the investigated species, especially for the genus Thuridilla, we were able to identify food sources for the first time. Furthermore, published data based on feeding observations were confirmed and enlarged by the molecular methods. We also found that certain chloroplasts are most likely essential for establishing functional kleptoplasty.
Applying DNA-Barcoding appeared to be very efficient and allowed a detailed insight into sacoglossan food sources. We favor rbcL for future analyses, but tufA might be used additionally in ambiguous cases. We narrowed down the algal species that seem to be essential for long-term-functional photosynthesis: Halimeda, Caulerpa, Penicillus, Avrainvillea, Acetabularia and Vaucheria. None of these were found in Thuridilla, the only plakobranchoidean genus without long-term retention forms. The chloroplast type, however, does not solely determine functional kleptoplasty; members of no-retention genera, such as Cylindrobulla or Volvatella, feed on the same algae as e.g., the long-term-retention forms Plakobranchus ocellatus or Elysia crispata, respectively. Evolutionary benefits of functional kleptoplasty are still questionable, since a polyphagous life style would render slugs more independent of specific food sources and their abundance.
PMCID: PMC3941943  PMID: 24555467
DNA-barcoding; Food analyses; Kleptoplasty; rbcL; Sacoglossa; tufA
10.  Modeling the origins of mammalian sociality: moderate evidence for matrilineal signatures in mouse lemur vocalizations 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:14.
Maternal kin selection is a driving force in the evolution of mammalian social complexity and it requires that kin are distinctive from nonkin. The transition from the ancestral state of asociality to the derived state of complex social groups is thought to have occurred via solitary foraging, in which individuals forage alone, but, unlike the asocial ancestors, maintain dispersed social networks via scent-marks and vocalizations. We hypothesize that matrilineal signatures in vocalizations were an important part of these networks. We used the solitary foraging gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) as a model for ancestral solitary foragers and tested for matrilineal signatures in their calls, thus investigating whether such signatures are already present in solitary foragers and could have facilitated the kin selection thought to have driven the evolution of increased social complexity in mammals. Because agonism can be very costly, selection for matrilineal signatures in agonistic calls should help reduce agonism between unfamiliar matrilineal kin. We conducted this study on a well-studied population of wild mouse lemurs at Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar. We determined pairwise relatedness using seven microsatellite loci, matrilineal relatedness by sequencing the mitrochondrial D-loop, and sleeping group associations using radio-telemetry. We recorded agonistic calls during controlled social encounters and conducted a multi-parametric acoustic analysis to determine the spectral and temporal structure of the agonistic calls. We measured 10 calls for each of 16 females from six different matrilineal kin groups.
Calls were assigned to their matriline at a rate significantly higher than chance (pDFA: correct = 47.1%, chance = 26.7%, p = 0.03). There was a statistical trend for a negative correlation between acoustic distance and relatedness (Mantel Test: g = -1.61, Z = 4.61, r = -0.13, p = 0.058).
Mouse lemur agonistic calls are moderately distinctive by matriline. Because sleeping groups consisted of close maternal kin, both genetics and social learning may have generated these acoustic signatures. As mouse lemurs are models for solitary foragers, we recommend further studies testing whether the lemurs use these calls to recognize kin. This would enable further modeling of how kin recognition in ancestral species could have shaped the evolution of complex sociality.
PMCID: PMC3936920  PMID: 24555438
Acoustic signature; Maternal kin; Solitary forager; Ancestral primate; Microsatellite
11.  Diversity, environmental requirements, and biogeography of bivalve wood-borers (Teredinidae) in European coastal waters 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:13.
Bivalve teredinids inflict great destruction to wooden maritime structures. Yet no comprehensive study was ever carried out on these organisms in European coastal waters. Thus, the aims of this study were to: investigate the diversity of teredinids in European coastal waters; map their past and recent distributions to detect range expansion or contraction; determine salinity-temperature (S-T) requirements of species; flag, for future monitoring, the species that pose the greatest hazard for wooden structures.
A total of nine teredinid species were found established in European coastal waters. Seven were considered cryptogenic, of unknown origin, and two were considered alien species. Teredo navalis and Nototeredo norvagica were the species with the widest distribution in European waters. Recently, T. navalis has been reported occurring further east in the Baltic Sea but it was not found at a number of sites on the Atlantic coast of southern Europe. The Atlantic lineage of Lyrodus pedicellatus was the dominant teredinid in the southern Atlantic coast of Europe. In the Mediterranean six teredinid species occurred in sympatry, whereas only three of these occurred in the Black Sea. The species that pose the greatest hazard to wooden maritime structures in European coastal areas are T. navalis and the two lineages of L. pedicellatus.
Combined data from field surveys and from the literature made it possible to determine the diversity of established teredinid species and their past and recent distribution in Europe. The environmental requirements of species, determined using climatic envelopes, produced valuable information that assisted on the explanation of species distribution. In addition, the observed trends of species range extension or contraction in Teredo navalis and in the two lineages of Lyrodus pedicellatus seem to emphasise the importance of temperature and salinity as determinants of the distribution of teredinids, whereas their life history strategy seems to play an important role on competition.
Teredo navalis and pedicellatus-like Lyrodus species should be monitored due to their destructive capability. The two alien species may expand further their distribution range in Europe, becoming invasive, and should also be monitored.
PMCID: PMC3925441  PMID: 24520913
Teredinids; Shipworms; Sea surface temperature; Sea surface salinity; Life history; European coastal waters
12.  Parental care, loss of paternity and circulating levels of testosterone and corticosterone in a socially monogamous song bird 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:11.
In biparental birds testosterone levels of males are typically high during the mating phase and decrease during the parental phase. Testosterone implants may enhance mating behaviors, increase the likelihood of males to engage in extra-pair mating behavior and may reduce paternal care. Thus, sex steroids such as testosterone influence reproductive behaviors. Little is known, however, as to whether the more subtle differences in physiological concentrations of testosterone that occur between individuals are related to differences in paternal care, extra-pair behavior, and genetic paternity between those males. Here, we investigate these relationships in the male black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), a socially monogamous songbird with a low breeding synchrony. We used nestling provisioning as a proxy for parental care behavior and genetic paternity loss as a proxy for the efficiency of mate-guarding.
There was no relationship between nestling provisioning and paternity loss of males. Baseline and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH)-induced levels of testosterone, but not baseline corticosterone, were significantly higher during the mating than during the provisioning phase. Males fed more often when temperatures decreased and fed less when they sang more, but we found no correlation between parental behavior and baseline or GnRH-induced testosterone, and baseline corticosterone – both measured during either the mating or the parental phase. However, males that experienced loss of paternity had lower levels of testosterone during the provisioning phase than males that did not lose paternity. Further, males that lost paternity also expressed higher baseline levels of corticosterone.
Physiological differences in testosterone or baseline corticosterone were not related to differences in parental care, suggesting that the variation of testosterone within a physiological range may not relate to the degree of paternal care in this species. However, the profile of both hormones may indicate quality traits that influence the likelihood of the respective male to lose paternity.
PMCID: PMC3932846  PMID: 24517241
Steroid hormones; Black redstart; Aves; Mate-guarding; Extra-pair paternity
13.  The early development of the onychopod cladoceran Bythotrephes longimanus (Crustacea, Branchiopoda) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:10.
Within arthropods, several crustacean groups are unique in their early development due to their stereotyped cell division patterns and cell lineages. However, it is still unclear whether these cell division patterns are homologous between the various crustacean groups and whether they could indicate the ground pattern of Tetraconata (Crustacea and Hexapoda). In this study we describe the early development of the raptorial water flea Bythotrephes longimanus as a representative of the Cladocera within branchiopods.
In B. longimanus the early cell lineage and the cell division pattern are stereotyped up to the fifth cell division cycle. As a morphological marker a nurse cell remnant (ncr) identifies the cell lineage of the smallest and division delayed blastomere up to the 16-cell stage. This marker might be indicative of the germ line. By combining histology, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and 4D microscopy, we reconstruct the early cell lineage and cell division pattern and follow transient formations of cell morphological structures in their temporal and spatial behavior up to gastrulation.
Correspondences to the early cleavage pattern of other Cladocera suggest that the described pattern can be assumed to be ancestral for either the entire Cladocera or for the majority of the Cladocera comprising Anomopoda, Ctenopoda and Onychopoda. The comparison to the cell division patterns of other crustacean groups such as Malacostraca, Ostracoda, and Copepoda reveals similarities that allow for a discussion of a common pattern for the crustacean groups and a ground pattern for the Tetraconata.
PMCID: PMC3930293  PMID: 24507018
Cell lineage; Cladocera; Crustacea; Development; Cleavage pattern
14.  The first endemic West African vertebrate family – a new anuran family highlighting the uniqueness of the Upper Guinean biodiversity hotspot 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:8.
Higher-level systematics in amphibians is relatively stable. However, recent phylogenetic studies of African torrent-frogs have uncovered high divergence in these phenotypically and ecologically similar frogs, in particular between West African torrent-frogs versus Central (Petropedetes) and East African (Arthroleptides and Ericabatrachus) lineages. Because of the considerable molecular divergence, and external morphology of the single West African torrent-frog species a new genus was erected (Odontobatrachus). In this study we aim to clarify the systematic position of West African torrent-frogs (Odontobatrachus). We determine the relationships of torrent-frogs using a multi-locus, nuclear and mitochondrial, dataset and include genera of all African and Asian ranoid families. Using micro-tomographic scanning we examine osteology and external morphological features of West African torrent-frogs to compare them with other ranoids.
Our analyses reveal Petropedetidae (Arthroleptides, Ericabatrachus, Petropedetes) as the sister taxon of the Pyxicephalidae. The phylogenetic position of Odontobatrachus is clearly outside Petropedetidae, and not closely related to any other ranoid family. According to our time-tree estimation Odontobatrachus has been separated from other frog lineages since the Cretaceous (90.1 Ma; confidence interval: 84.2-97.1 Ma). Along with this molecular evidence, osteological and external diagnostic characters recognize West African torrent-frogs as distinct from other ranoids and provide strong support for the necessity of the recognition of a new family of frogs. This is the only endemic vertebrate family occurring in the Upper Guinea biodiversity hotspot.
Based on molecular and morphological distinctiveness, the West African torrent-frog Odontobatrachus natator is allocated to a newly described anuran family. The discovery of an endemic vertebrate family in West Africa highlights the Upper Guinean forests as an outstanding, but highly endangered biodiversity hotspot.
PMCID: PMC3925359  PMID: 24485269
Amphibia; Anura; Ranoidae; Natatanura; Odontobatrachidae fam. nov.; Petropedetidae; Biodiversity hotspot; Higher level systematics; Molecular phylogeny; Osteology; West Africa
15.  A new sensory organ in “primitive” molluscs (Polyplacophora: Lepidopleurida), and its context in the nervous system of chitons 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:7.
Chitons (Polyplacophora) are molluscs considered to have a simple nervous system without cephalisation. The position of the class within Mollusca is the topic of extensive debate and neuroanatomical characters can provide new sources of phylogenetic data as well as insights into the fundamental biology of the organisms. We report a new discrete anterior sensory structure in chitons, occurring throughout Lepidopleurida, the order of living chitons that retains plesiomorphic characteristics.
The novel “Schwabe organ” is clearly visible on living animals as a pair of streaks of brown or purplish pigment on the roof of the pallial cavity, lateral to or partly covered by the mouth lappets. We describe the histology and ultrastructure of the anterior nervous system, including the Schwabe organ, in two lepidopleuran chitons using light and electron microscopy. The oesophageal nerve ring is greatly enlarged and displays ganglionic structure, with the neuropil surrounded by neural somata. The Schwabe organ is innervated by the lateral nerve cord, and dense bundles of nerve fibres running through the Schwabe organ epithelium are frequently surrounded by the pigment granules which characterise the organ. Basal cells projecting to the epithelial surface and cells bearing a large number of ciliary structures may be indicative of sensory function. The Schwabe organ is present in all genera within Lepidopleurida (and absent throughout Chitonida) and represents a novel anatomical synapomorphy of the clade.
The Schwabe organ is a pigmented sensory organ, found on the ventral surface of deep-sea and shallow water chitons; although its anatomy is well understood, its function remains unknown. The anterior commissure of the chiton oesophagial nerve ring can be considered a brain. Our thorough review of the chiton central nervous system, and particularly the sensory organs of the pallial cavity, provides a context to interpret neuroanatomical homology and assess this new sense organ.
PMCID: PMC3916795  PMID: 24447393
Chiton; Sensory biology; Osphradium; cns; Mollusca; Schwabe organ; Nervous system
16.  Segmentation of the millipede trunk as suggested by a homeotic mutant with six extra pairs of gonopods 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:6.
The mismatch between dorsal and ventral trunk features along the millipede trunk was long a subject of controversy, largely resting on alternative interpretations of segmentation. Most models of arthropod segmentation presuppose a strict sequential antero-posterior specification of trunk segments, whereas alternative models involve the early delineation of a limited number of ‘primary segments’ followed by their sequential stereotypic subdivision into 2n definitive segments. The ‘primary segments’ should be intended as units identified by molecular markers, rather than as overt morphological entities. Two predictions were suggested to test the plausibility of multiple-duplication models of segmentation: first, a specific pattern of evolvability of segment number in those arthropod clades in which segment number is not fixed (e.g., epimorphic centipedes and millipedes); second, the occurrence of discrete multisegmental patterns due to early, initially contiguous positional markers.
We describe a unique case of a homeotic millipede with 6 extra pairs of ectopic gonopods replacing walking legs on rings 8 (leg-pairs 10-11), 15 (leg-pairs 24-25) and 16 (leg-pairs 26-27); we discuss the segmental distribution of these appendages in the framework of alternative models of segmentation and present an interpretation of the origin of the distribution of the additional gonopods.
The anterior set of contiguous gonopods (those normally occurring on ring 7 plus the first set of ectopic ones on ring 8) is reiterated by the posterior set (on rings 15-16) after exactly 16 leg positions along the AP body axis. This suggests that a body section including 16 leg pairs could be a module deriving from 4 cycles of regular binary splitting of an embryonic ‘primary segment’.
A very likely early determination of the sites of the future metamorphosis of walking legs into gonopods and a segmentation process according to the multiplicative model may provide a detailed explanation for the distribution of the extra gonopods in the homeotic specimen. The hypothesized steps of segmentation are similar in both a normal and the studied homeotic specimen. The difference between them would consist in the size of the embryonic trunk region endowed with a positional marker whose presence will later determine the replacement of walking legs by gonopods.
PMCID: PMC3903558  PMID: 24438178
Segmentation models; Ectopic gonopods; Transcription factor; Positional marker; Segmentation genes
17.  A meal or a male: the ‘whispers’ of black widow males do not trigger a predatory response in females 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:4.
Female spiders are fine-tuned to detect and quickly respond to prey vibrations, presenting a challenge to courting males who must attract a female’s attention but not be mistaken for prey. This is likely particularly important at the onset of courtship when a male enters a female’s web. In web-dwelling spiders, little is known about how males solve this conundrum, or about their courtship signals. Here we used laser Doppler vibrometry to study the vibrations produced by males and prey (house flies and crickets) on tangle webs of the western black widow Latrodectus hesperus and on sheet webs of the hobo spider Tegenaria agrestis. We recorded the vibrations at the location typically occupied by a hunting female spider. We compared the vibrations produced by males and prey in terms of their waveform, dominant frequency, frequency bandwidth, amplitude and duration. We also played back recorded male and prey vibrations through the webs of female L. hesperus to determine the vibratory parameters that trigger a predatory response in females.
We found overlap in waveform between male and prey vibrations in both L. hesperus and T. agrestis. In both species, male vibrations were continuous, of long duration (on average 6.35 s for T. agrestis and 9.31 s for L. hesperus), and lacked complex temporal patterning such as repeated motifs or syllables. Prey vibrations were shorter (1.38 - 2.59 s), sporadic and often percussive. Based on the parameters measured, courtship signals of male L. hesperus differed more markedly from prey cues than did those of T. agrestis. Courtship vibrations of L. hesperus males differed from prey vibrations in terms of dominant frequency, amplitude and duration. Vibrations of T. agrestis males differed from prey in terms of duration only. During a playback experiment, L. hesperus females did not respond aggressively to low-amplitude vibrations irrespective of whether the playback recording was from a prey or a male.
Unlike courtship signals of other spider species, the courtship signals of L. hesperus and T. agrestis males do not have complex temporal patterning. The low-amplitude ‘whispers’ of L. hesperus males at the onset of courtship are less likely to trigger a predatory response in females than the high-amplitude vibrations of struggling prey.
PMCID: PMC3909478  PMID: 24433544
Sexual cannibalism; Sexual signalling; Latrodectus hesperus; Black widow spider; Tegenaria agrestis; Hobo spider; Vibration; Spider web
18.  Chloroplast incorporation and long-term photosynthetic performance through the life cycle in laboratory cultures of Elysia timida (Sacoglossa, Heterobranchia) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:5.
The Mediterranean sacoglossan Elysia timida is one of the few sea slug species with the ability to sequester chloroplasts from its food algae and to subsequently store them in a functional state in the digestive gland cells for more than a month, during which time the plastids retain high photosynthetic activity (= long-term retention). Adult E. timida have been described to feed on the unicellular alga Acetabularia acetabulum in their natural environment. The suitability of E. timida as a laboratory model culture system including its food source was studied.
In contrast to the literature reporting that juvenile E. timida feed on Cladophora dalmatica first, and later on switch to the adult diet A. acetabulum, the juveniles in this study fed directly on A. acetabulum (young, non-calcified stalks); they did not feed on the various Cladophora spp. (collected from the sea or laboratory culture) offered. This could possibly hint to cryptic speciation with no clear morphological differences, but incipient ecological differentiation. Transmission electron microscopy of chloroplasts from A. acetabulum after initial intake by juvenile E. timida showed different states of degradation — in conglomerations or singularly — and fragments of phagosome membranes, but differed from kleptoplast images of C. dalmatica in juvenile E. timida from the literature. Based on the finding that the whole life cycle of E. timida can be completed with A. acetabulum as the sole food source, a laboratory culture system was established. An experiment with PAM-fluorometry showed that cultured E. timida are also able to store chloroplasts in long-term retention from Acetabularia peniculus, which stems from the Indo-Pacific and is not abundant in the natural environment of E. timida. Variations between three experiment groups indicated potential influences of temperature on photosynthetic capacities.
E. timida is a viable laboratory model system to study photosynthesis in incorporated chloroplasts (kleptoplasts). Capacities of chloroplast incorporation in E. timida were investigated in a closed laboratory culture system with two different chloroplast donors and over extended time periods about threefold longer than previously reported.
PMCID: PMC3898781  PMID: 24428892
Endosymbiosis; Chloroplasts; Kleptoplasty; Photosynthetic sea slug; Solar powered sea slug; Sacoglossa; Elysia; Model organism
19.  Medaka villin 1-like protein (VILL) is associated with the formation of microvilli induced by decreasing salinities in the absorptive ionocytes 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:2.
Villin 1 is an actin-regulatory protein involved in the formation of microvilli of mammalian enterocytes. The microvilli, finger-like protrusions, are more abundant on the apical surfaces of gill ionocytes in various freshwater (FW) teleosts than in seawater (SW) fishes. However, the plasticity in the mechanisms of microvillus formation in the gill ionocytes are poorly understood, and the actin-regulatory proteins involved in the formation of microvilli have not been identified in fishes. The present study used the euryhaline medaka (Oryzias dancena) as a model to explore the role of a homolog of villin 1 in the actin-organization of cellular morphologies induced by decreasing salinities.
By ultrastructural observation, there are numerous actin filaments organized on the apical cortex of ion-absorptive ionocytes in the FW-acclimated medaka. From gills of the euryhaline medaka, we have identified the VILL sequence. The phylogenetic tree and functional domains suggest that VILL is the homolog of villin 1 in fishes. Immunofluorescence using a specific antibody revealed that VILL was specifically localized to the apical region of gill ionocytes along with microvilli in the FW medaka, but not in SW fish. The expression levels of Odvill mRNA and VILL protein were higher in the gills of the FW individuals than in the SW group and were induced when fish were transferred from SW to FW. A morpholino oligonucleotide for VILL knockdown eliminated the apical protrusions of ionocytes and pavement cells in the trunk epithelia of embryos.
From a novel aspect of cytoskeletal functions, our findings highlighted the important role of VILL protein in the ionoregulation of aquatic vertebrates in response to different osmotic challenges. This study is the first to show that the expression of VILL is associated with the formation of microvilli in the absorptive ionocytes of a euryhaline fish. Loss-of-function experiments showed that the distribution of VILL may represent the molecular link between the cytoskeletal organization and cellular morphology of the absorptive ionocytes during hypoosmotic adaptation in aquatic vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3896669  PMID: 24410933
Microvilli; Ionocyte; Villin 1-like protein; Medaka; Gill
20.  Development and organization of the larval nervous system in Phoronopsis harmeri: new insights into phoronid phylogeny 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:3.
The organization and development of the nervous system has traditionally been used as an important character for establishing the relationships among large groups of animals. According to this criterion, phoronids were initially regarded as deuterostomian but have more recently been regarded as protostomian. The resolving of this conflict requires detailed information from poorly investigated members of phoronids, such as Phoronopsis harmeri.
The serotonin-like immunoreactive part of the P. harmeri nervous system changes during larval development. These changes mostly concern the nervous system of the hood and correlate with the appearance of the median and two marginal neurite bundles, the frontal organ, and the sensory field. The apical organ has bilateral symmetry. The tentacular neurite bundle passes under the tentacles, contains several types of perikarya, and gives rise to intertentacular bundles, which branch in the tentacle base and penetrate into adjacent tentacles by two lateroabfrontal bundles. There are two groups of dorsolateral perikarya, which exhibit serotonin-like immunoreactivity, contact the tentacular neurite bundle, and are located near the youngest tentacles. Larvae have a minor nerve ring, which originates from the posterior marginal neurite bundle of the hood, passes above the tentacle base, and gives rise to the mediofrontal neurite bundle in each tentacle. Paired laterofrontal neurite bundles of tentacles form a continuous nerve tract that conducts to the postoral ciliated band.
The organization of the nervous system differs among the planktotrophic larvae of phoronid species. These differences may correlate with differences in phoronid biology. Data concerning the innervation of tentacles in different phoronid larvae are conflicting and require careful reinvestigation. The overall organization of the nervous system in phoronid larvae has more in common with the deuterostomian than with the protostomian nervous system. Phoronid larvae demonstrate some “deuterostome-like” features, which are, in fact, have to be ancestral bilaterian characters. Our new results and previous data indicate that phoronids have retained some plesiomorphic features, which were inherited from the last common ancestor of all Bilateria. It follows that phoronids should be extracted from the Trochozoan (=Spiralia) clade and placed at the base of the Lophotrochozoan stem.
PMCID: PMC3924620  PMID: 24418063
Phylogeny; Evolution; Lophophorata; Deuterostomia; Protostomia; Larval development; Nervous system; The last common bilaterian ancestor
21.  Regulation of red fluorescent light emission in a cryptic marine fish 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:1.
Animal colouration is a trade-off between being seen by intended, intra- or inter-specific receivers while not being seen by the unintended. Many fishes solve this problem by adaptive colouration. Here, we investigate whether this also holds for fluorescent pigments. In those aquatic environments in which the ambient light is dominated by bluish light, red fluorescence can generate high-contrast signals. The marine, cryptic fish Tripterygion delaisi inhabits such environments and has a bright red-fluorescent iris that can be rapidly up- and down-regulated. Here, we described the physiological and cellular mechanism of this phenomenon using a neurostimulation treatment with KCl and histology.
KCl-treatment revealed that eye fluorescence regulation is achieved through dispersal and aggregation of black-pigmented melanosomes within melanophores. Histology showed that globular, fluorescent iridophores on the anterior side of the iris are grouped and each group is encased by finger-like extensions of a single posterior melanophore. Together they form a so-called chromatophore unit. By dispersal and aggregation of melanosomes into and out of the peripheral membranous extensions of the melanophore, the fluorescent iridophores are covered or revealed on the anterior (outside) of the iris.
T. delaisi possesses a well-developed mechanism to control the fluorescent emission from its eyes, which may be advantageous given its cryptic lifestyle. This is the first time chromatophore units are found to control fluorescent emission in marine teleost fishes. We expect other fluorescent fish species to use similar mechanisms in the iris or elsewhere in the body. In contrast to a previously described mechanism based on dendritic fluorescent chromatophores, chromatophore units control fluorescent emission through the cooperation between two chromatophore types: an emitting and an occluding type. The discovery of a second mechanism for fluorescence modulation strengthens our view that fluorescence is a relevant and adaptive component of fish colouration.
PMCID: PMC3898096  PMID: 24401080
Pigmentation; Fluorescence; Tripterygiidae; Triplefin blenny; Camouflage; Signalling; Marine fishes
22.  Atlantic cod actively avoid CO2 and predator odour, even after long-term CO2 exposure 
Frontiers in Zoology  2013;10:81.
The rising atmospheric CO2 level is continuously driving the dissolution of more CO2 into the oceans, and some emission scenarios project that the surface waters may reach 1000 μatm by the end of the century. It is not known if fish can detect moderately elevated CO2 levels, and if they avoid areas with high CO2. If so, avoidance behaviour to water with high CO2 could affect movement patterns and migrations of fish in the future. It is also being increasingly recognized that fish behaviour can be altered by exposure to CO2. Therefore this study investigated how long-term exposure to elevated pCO2 affects predator avoidance and CO2 avoidance in juvenile Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). The fish were exposed to control water or CO2-enriched water (1000 μatm) for six weeks before being subjected to tests of behaviour.
Despite long term exposure to elevated pCO2 the cod still strongly avoided the smell of a predator. These data are surprising because several coral reef fish have demonstrated reversal of olfactory responses after CO2 exposure, turning avoidance of predator cues into preference for predator cues. Fish from both treatment groups also demonstrated strong avoidance of CO2 when presented with the choice of control or CO2-acidified water, indicating that habituation to the CO2 sensory stimuli is negligible.
As Atlantic cod maintained normal behavioural responses to olfactory cues, they may be tolerant to CO2-induced behavioural changes. The results also suggest that despite the long-term exposure to CO2-acidified water, the fish still preferred the control water over CO2-acidified water. Therefore, in the future, fish may alter their movements and migrations in search of waters with a lower CO2 content.
PMCID: PMC3880174  PMID: 24373523
Carbon dioxide; Preference; Teleost; Ocean acidification; Oxygen minimum zone; CO2 maximum zone; Olfaction; Gadus morhua; GABA; Habituation
23.  Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field 
Frontiers in Zoology  2013;10:80.
Several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts. Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation. With this in mind we searched for signs of magnetic alignment in dogs. We measured the direction of the body axis in 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582 observations) over a two-year period. After complete sampling, we sorted the data according to the geomagnetic conditions prevailing during the respective sampling periods. Relative declination and intensity changes of the MF during the respective dog walks were calculated from daily magnetograms. Directional preferences of dogs under different MF conditions were analyzed and tested by means of circular statistics.
Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm MF conditions. This directional behavior was abolished under unstable MF. The best predictor of the behavioral switch was the rate of change in declination, i.e., polar orientation of the MF.
It is for the first time that (a) magnetic sensitivity was proved in dogs, (b) a measurable, predictable behavioral reaction upon natural MF fluctuations could be unambiguously proven in a mammal, and (c) high sensitivity to small changes in polarity, rather than in intensity, of MF was identified as biologically meaningful. Our findings open new horizons in magnetoreception research. Since the MF is calm in only about 20% of the daylight period, our findings might provide an explanation why many magnetoreception experiments were hardly replicable and why directional values of records in diverse observations are frequently compromised by scatter.
PMCID: PMC3882779  PMID: 24370002
Magnetoreception; Magnetosensitivity; Magnetic field; Magnetic storm; Magnetic alignment; Dog; Canid; Mammal
24.  Melatonin reduces migratory restlessness in Sylvia warblers during autumnal migration 
Frontiers in Zoology  2013;10:79.
A remarkable aspect of bird migration is its nocturnality, particularly common in Passeriformes. The switch in activity from purely diurnal to also nocturnal is evident even in caged birds that during migratory periods develop an intense nocturnal restlessness, termed Zugunruhe. The mechanisms that control this major change in activity are mostly unknown. Previous work with Sylvia warblers suggested an involvement of melatonin, a hormone associated with day-night cycles in most vertebrates. In a recent study we found no effects of melatonin administration on Zugunruhe during spring migration. However, previous studies indicated that the response to melatonin manipulation could differ between spring and autumn migration, which are in fact separate life history stages. Here we tested whether a non-invasive treatment with melatonin can alter Zugunruhe in wild garden warblers S. borin and blackcaps S. atricapilla subject to temporary captivity at an autumnal stopover site. Food availability in the cage (yes/no) was added as a second factor because previous work showed that it enhanced Zugunruhe.
The melatonin treatment significantly decreased the amount of Zugunruhe, while the availability of food only tended to increase the amount of Zugunruhe. Fuel deposits also had a strong effect on the amount of nocturnal activity: lean birds with a fat score of 1 showed significantly less Zugunruhe than fatter birds. The change in body mass during the time spent in the recording cage depended on food availability, but not on any of the other factors.
This study shows that the migratory programme of two Sylvia warblers can be manipulated by administration of exogenous melatonin and confirms that this hormone is involved in the control of migratory behaviour. To our knowledge, this is one of the first demonstrations that the autumn migratory programme can be altered by hormonal manipulation in migrating birds. The comparison with a similar study carried out with the same modalities during spring migration suggests that there are seasonal differences in the sensitivity of the migratory programme to hormonal factors. In birds breeding in the northern hemisphere, the importance of a timely arrival to the breeding sites could explain why the control of the migratory programme is more rigid in spring.
PMCID: PMC3879198  PMID: 24369961
Bird migration; Melatonin; Migratory restlessness; Zugunruhe; Nocturnal migration; Blackcap; Garden warbler; Songbird; Passeriformes; Avian
25.  Medaka fish exhibits longevity gender gap, a natural drop in estrogen and telomere shortening during aging: a unique model for studying sex-dependent longevity 
Frontiers in Zoology  2013;10:78.
Females having a longer telomere and lifespan than males have been documented in many animals. Such linkage however has never been reported in fish. Progressive shortening of telomere length is an important aging mechanism. Mounting in vitro evidence has shown that telomere shortening beyond a critical length triggered replicative senescence or cell death. Estrogen has been postulated as a key factor contributing to maintenance of telomere and sex-dependent longevity in animals. This postulation remains unproven due to the lack of a suitable animal system for testing. Here, we introduce a teleost model, the Japanese medaka Oryzias latipes, which shows promise for research into the molecular mechanism(s) controlling sex difference in aging.
Using the medaka, we demonstrate for the first time in teleost that (i) sex differences (female > male) in telomere length and longevity also exist in fish, and (ii) a natural, ‘menopause’-like decline of plasma estrogen was evident in females during aging. Estrogen levels significantly correlated with telomerase activity as well as telomere length in female organs (not in males), suggesting estrogen could modulate telomere length via telomerase activation in a sex -specific manner. A hypothetical in vivo ‘critical’ terminal restriction fragment (TRF, representing telomere) length of approximately 4 kb was deduced in medaka liver for prediction of organismal mortality, which is highly comparable with that for human cells. An age conversion model was also established to enable age translation between medaka (in months) and human (in years). These novel tools are useful for future research on comparative biology of aging using medaka.
The striking similarity in estrogen profile between aging female O. latipes and women enables studying the influence of “postmenopausal” decline of estrogen on telomere and longevity without the need of invasive ovariectomy. Medaka fish is advantageous for studying the direct effect of increased estrogen on telomere length and longevity without the breast cancer complications reported in rodents. The findings strongly support the notion that O. latipes is a unique non-mammalian model for validation of estrogenic influence on telomere and longevity in vertebrates. This laboratory model fish is of potential significance for deciphering the ostensibly conserved mechanism(s) of sex-associated longevity in vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3878272  PMID: 24364913
Lifespan; Aging; Telomerase and telomere; Estrogen profile; Sex difference and medaka O. latipes

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