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1.  Selection based on the size of the black tie of the great tit may be reversed in urban habitats 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(13):2625-2632.
A standard approach to model how selection shapes phenotypic traits is the analysis of capture–recapture data relating trait variation to survival. Divergent selection, however, has never been analyzed by the capture–recapture approach. Most reported examples of differences between urban and nonurban animals reflect behavioral plasticity rather than divergent selection. The aim of this paper was to use a capture–recapture approach to test the hypothesis that divergent selection can also drive local adaptation in urban habitats. We focused on the size of the black breast stripe (i.e., tie width) of the great tit (Parus major), a sexual ornament used in mate choice. Urban great tits display smaller tie sizes than forest birds. Because tie size is mostly genetically determined, it could potentially respond to selection. We analyzed capture/recapture data of male great tits in Barcelona city (N = 171) and in a nearby (7 km) forest (N = 324) from 1992 to 2008 using MARK. When modelling recapture rate, we found it to be strongly influenced by tie width, so that both for urban and forest habitats, birds with smaller ties were more trap-shy and more cautious than their larger tied counterparts. When modelling survival, we found that survival prospects in forest great tits increased the larger their tie width (i.e., directional positive selection), but the reverse was found for urban birds, with individuals displaying smaller ties showing higher survival (i.e., directional negative selection). As melanin-based tie size seems to be related to personality, and both are heritable, results may be explained by cautious personalities being favored in urban environments. More importantly, our results show that divergent selection can be an important mechanism in local adaptation to urban habitats and that capture–recapture is a powerful tool to test it.
PMCID: PMC4113287  PMID: 25077014
Divergent selection; Parus major; plumage coloration; survival; trap response; urban adaptation
2.  Is Response to Fire Influenced by Dietary Specialization and Mobility? A Comparative Study with Multiple Animal Assemblages 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88224.
Fire is a major agent involved in landscape transformation and an indirect cause of changes in species composition. Responses to fire may vary greatly depending on life histories and functional traits of species. We have examined the taxonomic and functional responses to fire of eight taxonomic animal groups displaying a gradient of dietary and mobility patterns: Gastropoda, Heteroptera, Formicidae, Coleoptera, Araneae, Orthoptera, Reptilia and Aves. The fieldwork was conducted in a Mediterranean protected area on 3 sites (one unburnt and two burnt with different postfire management practices) with five replicates per site. We collected information from 4606 specimens from 274 animal species. Similarity in species composition and abundance between areas was measured by the Bray-Curtis index and ANOSIM, and comparisons between animal and plant responses by Mantel tests. We analyze whether groups with the highest percentage of omnivorous species, these species being more generalist in their dietary habits, show weak responses to fire (i.e. more similarity between burnt and unburnt areas), and independent responses to changes in vegetation. We also explore how mobility, i.e. dispersal ability, influences responses to fire. Our results demonstrate that differences in species composition and abundance between burnt and unburnt areas differed among groups. We found a tendency towards presenting lower differences between areas for groups with higher percentages of omnivorous species. Moreover, taxa with a higher percentage of omnivorous species had significantly more independent responses of changes in vegetation. High- (e.g. Aves) and low-mobility (e.g. Gastropoda) groups had the strongest responses to fire (higher R scores of the ANOSIM); however, we failed to find a significant general pattern with all the groups according to their mobility. Our results partially support the idea that functional traits underlie the response of organisms to environmental changes caused by fire.
PMCID: PMC3917858  PMID: 24516616
3.  Identification of New Snake Venom Metalloproteinase Inhibitors Using Compound Screening and Rational Peptide Design 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2012;3(7):540-543.
The majority of snakebite envenomations in Central America are caused by the viperid species Bothrops asper, whose venom contains a high proportion of zinc-dependent metalloproteinases that play a relevant role in the pathogenesis of hemorrhage characteristic of these envenomations. Broad metalloproteinase inhibitors, such as the peptidomimetic hydroxamate Batimastat, have been shown to inhibit snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMP). However, the difficulty in having open public access to Batimastat and similar molecules highlights the need to design new inhibitors of SVMPs that could be applied in the treatment of snakebite envenomations. We have chosen the SVMP BaP1 as a model to search for new inhibitors using different strategies, that is, screening of the Prestwick Chemical Library and rational peptide design. Results from these approaches provide clues on the structural requirements for efficient BaP1 inhibition and pave the way for the design of new inhibitors of SVMP.
PMCID: PMC4025828  PMID: 24900507
BaP1; metalloproteinase inhibitors; protein docking; snake venom metalloproteinases
4.  Sexy birds are superior at solving a foraging problem 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):668-669.
Yellow, red or orange carotenoid-based colorations in male birds are often a signal to prospecting females about body condition, health status and ability to find food. However, this general ‘ability to find food’ has never been defined. Here we show that more brightly ornamented individuals may also be more efficient when foraging in novel situations. The results highlight the fact that evolution may have provided females tools to evaluate cognitive abilities of the males.
PMCID: PMC3169050  PMID: 21450725
Carduelis spinus; problem-solving; foraging ability; coloration

Results 1-4 (4)