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1.  Continental variation in relative hippocampal volume in birds: the phylogenetic extent of the effect and the potential role of winter temperatures 
Biology letters  2005;1(3):330-333.
Hippocampal (HC) volume has been hypothesized to increase with an increase in food-hoarding specialization in corvids and parids. Recent studies revealed that (i) the HC/hoarding relationship is significant when a difference in HC volume between Eurasian and North American species is controlled for and (ii) the evolutionary association has been acting on a broader phylogenetic context involving avian families outside the Corvidae and Paridae. However, the phylogenetic extent of the continent effect has not been previously addressed. Using data representing 48 avian species, we performed a phylogenetic analysis to test if continental effects are important in a wider evolutionary spectrum. Our results support the observation that Eurasian species have generally larger HC than North American species if variation in food hoarding, which also varied between continents, was held constant. Surprisingly, the relationship between continental distribution and relative HC volume was significant when we included only non-hoarding families in our analysis, indicating that the extent of the continent effect is much broader than originally described. We investigated the potential role of minimal winter temperatures at the northernmost distribution borders in mediating continent effects. The effect of winter temperatures on HC volume was weak and it did not vary consistently along continents. We suggest that the general continental differences in relative HC size are independent of food hoarding and that its determinants should be sought among other ecological factors and life-history traits.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0328
PMCID: PMC1523380  PMID: 16878181
Corvidae; food caching; hippocampus; Paridae; phylogeny
2.  Pregnancy weight gain: marmoset and tamarin dads show it too 
Biology letters  2006;2(2):181-183.
Paternal behaviour is critical for the survival of offspring in many monogamous species. Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) and cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) fathers spend as much or more time caring for infants than mothers. Expectant males of both species showed significant increases in weight across the pregnancy whereas control males did not (five consecutive months for marmoset males and six months for cotton-top tamarin males). Expectant fathers might be preparing for the energetic cost of fatherhood by gaining weight during their mate’s pregnancy.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0426
PMCID: PMC1483903  PMID: 16810338
weight gain; paternal care; couvades; primates
3.  Pregnancy weight gain: marmoset and tamarin dads show it too 
Biology Letters  2006;2(2):181-183.
Paternal behaviour is critical for the survival of offspring in many monogamous species. Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) and cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) fathers spend as much or more time caring for infants than mothers. Expectant males of both species showed significant increases in weight across the pregnancy whereas control males did not (five consecutive months for marmoset males and six months for cotton-top tamarin males). Expectant fathers might be preparing for the energetic cost of fatherhood by gaining weight during their mate's pregnancy.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0426
PMCID: PMC1483903  PMID: 16810338
weight gain; paternal care; couvade; primates
4.  Continental variation in relative hippocampal volume in birds: the phylogenetic extent of the effect and the potential role of winter temperatures 
Biology Letters  2005;1(3):330-333.
Hippocampal (HC) volume has been hypothesized to increase with an increase in food-hoarding specialization in corvids and parids. Recent studies revealed that (i) the HC/hoarding relationship is significant when a difference in HC volume between Eurasian and North American species is controlled for and (ii) the evolutionary association has been acting on a broader phylogenetic context involving avian families outside the Corvidae and Paridae. However, the phylogenetic extent of the continent effect has not been previously addressed. Using data representing 48 avian species, we performed a phylogenetic analysis to test if continental effects are important in a wider evolutionary spectrum. Our results support the observation that Eurasian species have generally larger HC than North American species if variation in food hoarding, which also varied between continents, was held constant. Surprisingly, the relationship between continental distribution and relative HC volume was significant when we included only non-hoarding families in our analysis, indicating that the extent of the continent effect is much broader than originally described. We investigated the potential role of minimal winter temperatures at the northernmost distribution borders in mediating continent effects. The effect of winter temperatures on HC volume was weak and it did not vary consistently along continents. We suggest that the general continental differences in relative HC size are independent of food hoarding and that its determinants should be sought among other ecological factors and life-history traits.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0328
PMCID: PMC1523380  PMID: 16878181
Corvidae; food caching; hippocampus; Paridae; phylogeny
5.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949366  PMID: 24522627
6.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949367  PMID: 24522628
7.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949368  PMID: 24501268
8.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949369  PMID: 24522629
9.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949372  PMID: 24573152
10.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949373  PMID: 24522631
11.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949374  PMID: 24522632
12.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949376  PMID: 24501271
13.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949378  PMID: 24573153
14.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949379  PMID: 24573154
15.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949380  PMID: 24554476
16.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949381  PMID: 24573155
17.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3949382  PMID: 24573156
18.  Experimental perspective on fallback foods and dietary adaptations in early hominins 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130789.
The robust jaws and large, thick-enameled molars of the Plio–Pleistocene hominins Australopithecus and Paranthropus have long been interpreted as adaptations for hard-object feeding. Recent studies of dental microwear indicate that only Paranthropus robustus regularly ate hard items, suggesting that the dentognathic anatomy of other australopiths reflects rare, seasonal exploitation of hard fallback foods. Here, we show that hard-object feeding cannot explain the extreme morphology of Paranthropus boisei. Rather, analysis of long-term dietary plasticity in an animal model suggests year-round reliance on tough foods requiring prolonged postcanine processing in P. boisei. Increased consumption of such items may have marked the earlier transition from Ardipithecus to Australopithecus, with routine hard-object feeding in P. robustus representing a novel behaviour.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0789
PMCID: PMC3917327  PMID: 24402713
australopiths; masticatory apparatus; phenotypic plasticity
19.  Hunter–gatherers have less famine than agriculturalists 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130853.
The idea that hunter–gatherer societies experience more frequent famine than societies with other modes of subsistence is pervasive in the literature on human evolution. This idea underpins, for example, the ‘thrifty genotype hypothesis’. This hypothesis proposes that our hunter–gatherer ancestors were adapted to frequent famines, and that these once adaptive ‘thrifty genotypes’ are now responsible for the current obesity epidemic. The suggestion that hunter–gatherers are more prone to famine also underlies the widespread assumption that these societies live in marginal habitats. Despite the ubiquity of references to ‘feast and famine’ in the literature describing our hunter–gatherer ancestors, it has rarely been tested whether hunter–gatherers suffer from more famine than other societies. Here, we analyse famine frequency and severity in a large cross-cultural database, in order to explore relationships between subsistence and famine risk. This is the first study to report that, if we control for habitat quality, hunter–gatherers actually had significantly less—not more—famine than other subsistence modes. This finding challenges some of the assumptions underlying for models of the evolution of the human diet, as well as our understanding of the recent epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0853
PMCID: PMC3917328  PMID: 24402714
food shortages; foragers; palaeodiet; obesity
20.  The corn snake yolk sac becomes a solid tissue filled with blood vessels and yolk-rich endodermal cells 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130870.
The amniote egg was a key innovation in vertebrate evolution because it supports an independent existence in terrestrial environments. The egg is provisioned with yolk, and development depends on the yolk sac for the mobilization of nutrients. We have examined the yolk sac of the corn snake Pantherophis guttatus by the dissection of living eggs. In contrast to the familiar fluid-filled sac of birds, the corn snake yolk sac invades the yolk mass to become a solid tissue. There is extensive proliferation of yolk-filled endodermal cells, which associate with a meshwork of blood vessels. These novel attributes of the yolk sac of corn snakes compared with birds suggest new pathways for the evolution of the amniote egg.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0870
PMCID: PMC3917329  PMID: 24402715
amniote egg; yolk sac; corn snake; endoderm
21.  Migration and stress during reproduction govern telomere dynamics in a seabird 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130889.
Changes in telomere length are believed to reflect changes in physiological state and life expectancy in animals. However, much remains unknown about the determinants of telomere dynamics in wild populations, and specifically the influence of conditions during highly mobile life-history stages, for example migration. We tested whether telomere dynamics were associated with migratory behaviour and/or with stress during reproduction in free-living seabirds. We induced short-term stress during reproduction in chick-rearing, black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), tracked winter migration with geolocators and measured telomere length before and after winter migration. We found that time spent at wintering grounds correlated with reduced telomere loss, while stress during reproduction accelerated telomere shortening. Our results suggest that different life-history stages interact to influence telomere length, and that migratory patterns may be important determinants of variation in an individual's telomere dynamics.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0889
PMCID: PMC3917333  PMID: 24429681
overwintering; migratory behaviour; breeding; seasonal effects; carry-over; telomeres
22.  Salmon lice increase the age of returning Atlantic salmon 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130896.
The global increase in the production of domestic farmed fish in open net pens has created concerns about the resilience of wild populations owing to shifts in host–parasite systems in coastal ecosystems. However, little is known about the effects of increased parasite abundance on life-history traits in wild fish populations. Here, we report the results of two separate studies in which 379 779 hatchery-reared Atlantic salmon smolts were treated (or not) against salmon lice, marked and released. Adults were later recaptured, and we specifically tested whether the age distribution of the returning spawners was affected by the treatment. The estimates of parasite-induced mortality were 31.9% and 0.6% in the River Vosso and River Dale stock experiments, respectively. Age of returning salmon was on average higher in treated versus untreated fish. The percentages of fish returning after one winter at sea were 37.5% and 29.9% for the treated and untreated groups, respectively. We conclude that salmon lice increase the age of returning salmon, either by affecting their age at maturity or by disproportionately increasing mortality in fish that mature early.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0896
PMCID: PMC3917334  PMID: 24478199
age-at-maturation; sea lice; salmon; life-history traits
23.  Rewards and the evolution of cooperation in public good games 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130903.
Properly coordinating cooperation is relevant for resolving public good problems, such as clean energy and environmental protection. However, little is known about how individuals can coordinate themselves for a certain level of cooperation in large populations of strangers. In a typical situation, a consensus-building process rarely succeeds, owing to a lack of face and standing. The evolution of cooperation in this type of situation is studied here using threshold public good games, in which cooperation prevails when it is initially sufficient, or otherwise it perishes. While punishment is a powerful tool for shaping human behaviours, institutional punishment is often too costly to start with only a few contributors, which is another coordination problem. Here, we show that whatever the initial conditions, reward funds based on voluntary contribution can evolve. The voluntary reward paves the way for effectively overcoming the coordination problem and efficiently transforms freeloaders into cooperators with a perceived small risk of collective failure.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0903
PMCID: PMC3917335  PMID: 24478200
public good game; evolution of cooperation; reward; punishment; coordination problem
24.  Humans rely on the same rules to assess emotional valence and intensity in conspecific and dog vocalizations 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130926.
Humans excel at assessing conspecific emotional valence and intensity, based solely on non-verbal vocal bursts that are also common in other mammals. It is not known, however, whether human listeners rely on similar acoustic cues to assess emotional content in conspecific and heterospecific vocalizations, and which acoustical parameters affect their performance. Here, for the first time, we directly compared the emotional valence and intensity perception of dog and human non-verbal vocalizations. We revealed similar relationships between acoustic features and emotional valence and intensity ratings of human and dog vocalizations: those with shorter call lengths were rated as more positive, whereas those with a higher pitch were rated as more intense. Our findings demonstrate that humans rate conspecific emotional vocalizations along basic acoustic rules, and that they apply similar rules when processing dog vocal expressions. This suggests that humans may utilize similar mental mechanisms for recognizing human and heterospecific vocal emotions.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0926
PMCID: PMC3917336  PMID: 24402716
dog; human; vocal communication; emotion valence assessment; emotion intensity assessment; non-verbal emotion expressions
25.  Natural selection can favour ‘irrational’ behaviour 
Biology Letters  2014;10(1):20130935.
Understanding decisions is the fundamental aim of the behavioural sciences. The theory of rational choice is based on axiomatic principles such as transitivity and independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA). Empirical studies have demonstrated that the behaviour of humans and other animals often seems irrational; there can be a lack of transitivity in choice and seemingly irrelevant alternatives can alter decisions. These violations of transitivity and IIA undermine rational choice theory. However, we show that an individual that is maximizing its rate of food gain can exhibit failure of transitivity and IIA. We show that such violations can be caused because a current option may disappear in the near future or a better option may reappear soon. Current food options can be indicative of food availability in the near future, and this key feature can result in apparently irrational behaviour.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0935
PMCID: PMC3917337  PMID: 24429682
rate maximization; transitivity; independence of irrelevant alternatives; rationality; decision-making

Results 1-25 (2110)