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1.  Transgenerational effects of food availability on age at maturity and reproductive output in an asexual collembolan species 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):755-758.
Transgenerational effects of environmental conditions can have several important ecological and evolutionary implications. We conducted a fully factorial experiment manipulating food availability across three generations in the collembolan Folsomia candida, a springtail species that inhabits soil and leaf litter environments which vary in resource availability. Maternal and grandmaternal food availability influenced age at maturity and reproductive output. These effects appear to be cumulative rather than adaptive transgenerational life-history adjustments. Such cumulative effects can profoundly influence eco-evolutionary dynamics in both stable and fluctuating environments.
PMCID: PMC3169046  PMID: 21411448
maternal effect; adaptive plasticity; resource variability
2.  Antibiotic treatment leads to the elimination of Wolbachia endosymbionts and sterility in the diplodiploid collembolan Folsomia candida 
BMC Biology  2009;7:54.
Wolbachia is an extremely widespread bacterial endosymbiont of arthropods and nematodes that causes a variety of reproductive peculiarities. Parthenogenesis is one such peculiarity but it has been hypothesised that this phenomenon may be functionally restricted to organisms that employ haplodiploid sex determination. Using two antibiotics, tetracycline and rifampicin, we attempted to eliminate Wolbachia from the diplodiploid host Folsomia candida, a species of springtail which is a widely used study organism.
Molecular assays confirmed that elimination of Wolbachia was successfully achieved through continuous exposure of populations (over two generations and several weeks) to rifampicin administered as 2.7% dry weight of their yeast food source. The consequence of this elimination was total sterility of all individuals, despite the continuation of normal egg production.
Microbial endosymbionts play an obligatory role in the reproduction of their diplodiploid host, most likely one in which the parthenogenetic process is facilitated by Wolbachia. A hitherto unknown level of host-parasite interdependence is thus recorded.
PMCID: PMC2739161  PMID: 19698188
3.  Ecological correlates of sociality in Pemphigus aphids, with a partial phylogeny of the genus 
Because the systems of social organisation in the various species of Pemphigus aphids span the continuum from asociality through to advanced sociality (typified by the possession of morphologically specialised soldiers), the genus is an ideal model clade in which to study the influence of ecology on the origins of eusociality. We made detailed study of the ecology of three gall-dwelling species that show clear differences in their levels of social behaviour. To elucidate evolutionary relationships and to attempt to estimate the number of origins of sociality, we also created a phylogeny based on sequences spanning the mitochondrial genes Cytochrome Oxidase I and II for nine species of Pemphigus.
P. spyrothecae, a highly social species with aggressive morphologically-specialised soldiers, has the longest galling phase, unsynchronised development of a large number of individuals in a densely-populated gall, and an extended period over which alates emerge. P. populi, a species with no soldiers, has the shortest galling phase, synchronised development of a small number of individuals in a sparsely-populated gall, and an extremely brief emergence period. The ecology of P. bursarius, which has behavioural soldiers that are not morphologically specialised, is intermediate between these two extremes. The galls of P. spyrothecae and P. bursarius form small openings during the course of the season and predation-related mortality is relatively high in these two species. Conversely, predation does not occur during the galling phase of P. populi, which has no soldiers but makes an entirely-sealed gall.
The phylogeny allowed us to infer one likely point of origin of basic social defence and two independent origins of enhanced defence. Based on current knowledge of behaviour, the phylogeny also suggests that the defence trait may have been lost at least once.
The life-history strategy of P. spyrothecae appears to be geared towards defending the colony against the constant threat of predation that faces the inhabitants of a long-lived, open gall. The life-history strategy of P. populi, on the other hand, is to avoid predation in the closed gall fortress and flee for the secondary host at the earliest opportunity. The life-history strategy of P. bursarius appears to represent a compromise between these strategies.
PMCID: PMC2140267  PMID: 17915027
4.  Specialised placement of morphs within the gall of the social aphid Pemphigus spyrothecae 
The strategic placement and aggregation of certain castes within the nests of eusocial insects such as bees and ants results in complex colonies that enjoy increased fitness through improved efficiency of social tasks. To examine if this advanced social phenomenon might apply to social aphids, the location of the numerous morphs within the nests (plant galls) of the aphid species Pemphigus spyrothecae was examined.
A strong, almost exclusive tendency for soldiers to occupy the gall section nearest to the opening was detected. In addition, it was found that the most reproductively valuable morphs, the mature gall reproductives and the adult gall emigrants, tended to locate themselves in the gall section furthest from the opening.
The defensive morphs are thus ideally placed at the point most vulnerable to predation while the morphs most directly responsible for the colony's fitness are located in the safest area of the nest. Furthermore, the propensity for soldiers alone to be located at the opening provides excellent supporting evidence that they are also the agents of gall cleaning and repair. These observations demonstrate that relatively high levels of spatial complexity can occur within the galling colonies of the social aphids, just as they occur within the advanced societies of other insect orders.
PMCID: PMC1800903  PMID: 17298667
5.  The effect of autocorrelation in environmental variability on the persistence of populations: an experimental test. 
Despite its significance regarding the conservation and management of biological resources, the body of theory predicting that the correlation between successive environmental states can profoundly influence extinction has not been empirically validated. Identical clonal populations from a model experimental system based on the collembolan Folsomia candida were used in the present study to investigate the effect of environmental autocorrelation on time to extinction. Environmental variation was imposed by variable implementation (present/absent) of a culling procedure according to treatments that represented six patterns of environmental autocorrelation. The average number of culling events was held constant across treatments but, as environmental autocorrelation increased, longer runs of both favourable and unfavourable culling tended to occur. While no difference was found among the survival functions for the various treatments, the time taken for 50% of the component populations to become extinct decreased significantly with increasing environmental autocorrelation. Similarly, analysis of all extinct populations demonstrated that time to extinction was shortened as environmental autocorrelation increased. However, this acceleration of extinction can be fully offset if sequential introduction is used in place of simultaneous introduction when founding the populations.
PMCID: PMC1691845  PMID: 15475334
6.  How aphids lose their marbles. 
Insects provide examples of many cunning stratagems to cope with the challenges of living in a world dominated by surface forces. Despite being the current masters of the land environment, they are at constant risk of being entrapped in liquids, which they prevent by having waxy and hairy surfaces. The problem is particularly acute in an enclosed space, such as a plant gall. Using secreted wax to efficiently parcel and transport their own excrement, aphids were able to solve this problem 200 Myr ago. Here, we report on the physical and physiological significance of this ingenious solution. The secreted powdery wax has three distinct roles: (i) it is hydrophobic, (ii) it creates a microscopically rough inner gall surface made of weakly compacted wax needles making the gall ultra-hydrophobic, and (iii) it coats the honeydew droplets converting them into liquid marbles, that can be rapidly and efficiently moved.
PMCID: PMC1691028  PMID: 12065036

Results 1-6 (6)