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.
weight gain; paternal care; couvade; primates
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.
Corvidae; food caching; hippocampus; Paridae; phylogeny
Understanding the mechanisms driving the extraordinary diversification of parasites is a major challenge in evolutionary biology. Co-speciation, one proposed mechanism that could contribute to this diversity is hypothesized to result from allopatric co-divergence of host–parasite populations. We found that island populations of the Galápagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) and a parasitic feather louse species (Degeeriella regalis) exhibit patterns of co-divergence across variable temporal and spatial scales. Hawks and lice showed nearly identical population genetic structure across the Galápagos Islands. Hawk population genetic structure is explained by isolation by distance among islands. Louse population structure is best explained by hawk population structure, rather than isolation by distance per se, suggesting that lice tightly track the recent population histories of their hosts. Among hawk individuals, louse populations were also highly structured, suggesting that hosts serve as islands for parasites from an evolutionary perspective. Altogether, we found that host and parasite populations may have responded in the same manner to geographical isolation across spatial scales. Allopatric co-divergence is likely one important mechanism driving the diversification of parasites.
population genetic structure; co-speciation; coevolution; co-divergence
Worldwide, many plant species are experiencing an earlier onset of spring phenophases due to climate warming. Rapid recent temperature increases on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) have triggered changes in the spring phenology of the local vegetation. However, remote sensing studies of the land surface phenology have reached conflicting interpretations about green-up patterns observed on the TP since the mid-1990s. We investigated this issue using field phenological observations from 1990 to 2006, for 11 dominant plants on the TP at the levels of species, families (Gramineae—grasses and Cyperaceae—sedges) and vegetation communities (alpine meadow and alpine steppe). We found a significant trend of earlier leaf-out dates for one species (Koeleria cristata). The leaf-out dates of both Gramineae and Cyperaceae had advanced (the latter significantly, starting an average of 9 days later per year than the former), but the correlation between them was significant. The leaf-out dates of both vegetation communities also advanced, but the pattern was only significant in the alpine meadow. This study provides the first field evidence of advancement in spring leaf phenology on the TP and suggests that the phenology of the alpine steppe can differ from that of the alpine meadow. These findings will be useful for understanding ecosystem responses to climate change and for grassland management on the TP.
leaf-out date; alpine meadow; alpine steppe; climate change; plant phenology; Tibetan Plateau
Understanding and predicting the outcomes of biological invasions is challenging where multiple invader and native species interact. We hypothesize that antagonistic interactions between invaders and natives could divert their impact on subsequent invasive species, thus facilitating coexistence. From field data, we found that, when existing together in freshwater sites, the native amphipod Gammarus duebeni celticus and a previous invader G. pulex appear to facilitate the establishment of a second invader, their shared prey Crangonyx pseudogracilis. Indeed, the latter species was rarely found at sites where each Gammarus species was present on its own. Experiments indicated that this may be the result of G. d. celticus and G. pulex engaging in more intraguild predation (IGP) than cannibalism; when the ‘enemy’ of either Gammarus species was present, that is, the other Gammarus species, C. pseudogracilis significantly more often escaped predation. Thus, the presence of mutual enemies and the stronger inter- than intraspecific interactions they engage in can facilitate other invaders. With some invasive species such as C. pseudogracilis having no known detrimental effects on native species, and indeed having some positive ecological effects, we also conclude that some invasions could promote biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
intraguild predation; predator; prey; coexistence
Variability in metabolic scaling in animals, the relationship between metabolic rate (R) and body mass (M), has been a source of debate and controversy for decades. R is proportional to Mb, the precise value of b much debated, but historically considered equal in all organisms. Recent metabolic theory, however, predicts b to vary among species with ecology and metabolic level, and may also vary within species under different abiotic conditions. Under climate change, most species will experience increased temperatures, and marine organisms will experience the additional stressor of decreased seawater pH (‘ocean acidification’). Responses to these environmental changes are modulated by myriad species-specific factors. Body-size is a fundamental biological parameter, but its modulating role is relatively unexplored. Here, we show that changes to metabolic scaling reveal asymmetric responses to stressors across body-size ranges; b is systematically decreased under increasing temperature in three grazing molluscs, indicating smaller individuals were more responsive to warming. Larger individuals were, however, more responsive to reduced seawater pH in low temperatures. These alterations to the allometry of metabolism highlight abiotic control of metabolic scaling, and indicate that responses to climate warming and ocean acidification may be modulated by body-size.
metabolic scaling; ocean acidification; ecophysiology; metabolic allometry; MLB hypothesis
The social niche specialization hypothesis predicts that repeated social interactions will generate social niches within groups, thereby promoting consistent individual differences in behaviour. Current support for this hypothesis is mixed, probably because the importance of social niches is dependent upon the ecology of the species. We test whether repeated interactions among group mates generate consistent individual differences in boldness in the social spider, Stegodyphus dumicola. In support of the social niche specialization hypothesis, we found that consistent individual differences in boldness increased with longer group tenure. Interestingly, these differences took longer to appear than in previous work suggesting this species needs more persistent social interactions to shape its behaviour. Recently disturbed colonies were shyer than older colonies, possibly reflecting differences in predation risk. Our study emphasizes the importance of the social environment in generating animal personalities, but also suggests that the pattern of personality development can depend on subtle differences in species' ecologies.
social niche specialization; personality; Stegodyphus dumicola; social spider
On the steep surfaces that are common in arboreal environments, many types of animals without claws or adhesive structures must use muscular force to generate sufficient normal force to prevent slipping and climb successfully. Unlike many limbed arboreal animals that have discrete gripping regions on the feet, the elongate bodies of snakes allow for considerable modulation of both the size and orientation of the gripping region. We quantified the gripping forces of snakes climbing a vertical cylinder to determine the extent to which their force production favoured economy or safety. Our sample included four boid species and one colubrid. Nearly all of the gripping forces that we observed for each snake exceeded our estimate of the minimum required, and snakes commonly produced more than three times the normal force required to support their body weight. This suggests that a large safety factor to avoid slipping and falling is more important than locomotor economy.
locomotion; gripping pressure; normal force; prehensile; safety factor
The increased temperature associated with climate change may have important effects on body size and predator–prey interactions. The consequences of these effects for food web structure are unclear because the relationships between temperature and aspects of food web structure such as predator–prey body-size relationships are unknown. Here, we use the largest reported dataset for marine predator–prey interactions to assess how temperature affects predator–prey body-size relationships among different habitats ranging from the tropics to the poles. We found that prey size selection depends on predator body size, temperature and the interaction between the two. Our results indicate that (i) predator–prey body-size ratios decrease with predator size at below-average temperatures and increase with predator size at above-average temperatures, and (ii) that the effect of temperature on predator–prey body-size structure will be stronger at small and large body sizes and relatively weak at intermediate sizes. This systematic interaction may help to simplify forecasting the potentially complex consequences of warming on interaction strengths and food web stability.
global warming; temperature; food web structure; body-size ratios; temperature size rule
Mechanisms of aerial righting in juvenile chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar) were studied from hatching to 14 days-post-hatching (dph). Asymmetric movements of the wings were used from 1 to 8 dph to effect progressively more successful righting behaviour via body roll. Following 8 dph, wing motions transitioned to bilaterally symmetric flapping that yielded aerial righting via nose-down pitch, along with substantial increases in vertical force production during descent. Ontogenetically, the use of such wing motions to effect aerial righting precedes both symmetric flapping and a previously documented behaviour in chukar (i.e. wing-assisted incline running) hypothesized to be relevant to incipient flight evolution in birds. These findings highlight the importance of asymmetric wing activation and controlled aerial manoeuvres during bird development and are potentially relevant to understanding the origins of avian flight.
aerodynamics; control; development; flight origins; manoeuvrability; wing
Human transportation facilitates the dispersal of exotic ants, but few studies have quantified the magnitude and geography of these movements. We used several non-parametric indices to estimate the number of species successfully introduced to or established in new regions. We also compared their source biogeographic realms to assess the importance of geographical origin in determining the likelihood of establishment after introduction. Occurrence data on exotic ants derive from studies of three temperate regions. Our results suggest that the numbers of introduced or established ants may be much larger than the numbers so far documented. Ants introduced or established in new regions tend to arrive from the same or neighbouring realms, as would be expected if exotic species tend to match climates and if arrival/establishment is dependent upon higher trade rates from neighbouring countries.
biological invasions; exotic species; formicidae; richness estimator
In many ecological situations, resources are difficult to find but become more apparent to nearby searchers after one of their numbers discovers and begins to exploit them. If the discoverer cannot monopolize the resources, then others may benefit from joining the discoverer and sharing their discovery. Existing theories for this type of conspecific attraction have often used very simple rules for how the decision to join a discovered resource patch should be influenced by the number of individuals already exploiting that patch. We use a mechanistic, spatially explicit model to demonstrate that individuals should not necessarily simply join patches more often as the number of individuals exploiting the patch increases, because those patches are likely to be exhausted soon or joining them will intensify future local competition. Furthermore, we show that this decision should be sensitive to the nature of the resource patches, with individuals being more responsive to discoveries in general and more tolerant of larger numbers of existing exploiters on a patch when patches are resource-rich and challenging to locate alone. As such, we argue that this greater focus on underlying joining mechanisms suggests that conspecific attraction is a more sophisticated and flexible tactic than currently appreciated.
conspecific attraction; genetic algorithm; population size; spatial resource heterogeneity
The oxytocin (OT) family of neuropeptides are known to modulate social behaviours and anxiety in mammals and birds. We investigated cell numbers and neural activity, assessed as Fos induction, within magnocellular and parvocellular populations of neurons producing the OT homologue mesotocin (MT, Ile8-oxytocin). This was conducted within the male brown anole lizard, Anolis sagrei, following agonistic or courtship encounters with a conspecific. Both neurons colocalizing and not colocalizing corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) were examined. Parvocellular neurons of the paraventricular nucleus exhibited a positive correlation between courtship frequency and Fos colocalization, regardless of whether they produce just MT or MT + CRF. Magnocellular populations showed only trends towards positive relationships with courtship and no cell populations showed aggression-related Fos induction. These findings are novel because they demonstrate the involvement of MT neurons in male social behaviour, especially in reptiles for whom the involvement of MT in social behaviour was previously unknown.
mesotocin; oxytocin; corticotropin-releasing factor; anole lizard; aggression; courtship
Paralleling behaviours in other species, synchronized movement is central to institutionalized collective human activities thought to enhance cooperation, and experiments demonstrate that synchrony has this effect. The influence of synchrony on cooperation may derive from an evolutionary history wherein such actions served to signal coalitional strength to both participants and observers—including adversaries. If so, then synchronous movement should diminish individuals' estimations of a foe's formidability. Envisioned physical size and strength constitute the dimensions of a representation that summarizes relative fighting capacity. Experiencing synchrony should therefore lead individuals to conceptualize an antagonist as smaller and weaker. We found that men who walked synchronously with a male confederate indeed envisioned a purported criminal as less physically formidable than did men who engaged in this task without synchronizing.
synchrony; alliance; fighting capacity
Strong social bonds can make an important contribution to individual fitness, but we still have only a limited understanding of the temporal period relevant to the adjustment of social relationships. While there is growing recognition of the importance of strong bonds that persist for years, social relationships can also vary over weeks and months, suggesting that social strategies may be optimized over shorter timescales. Using biological market theory as a framework, we explore whether temporal variation in the benefits of social relationships might be sufficient to generate daily adjustments of social strategies in wild baboons. Data on grooming, one measure of social relationships, were collected from 60 chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) across two troops over a six month period. Our analyses suggest that social strategies can show diurnal variation, with subordinates preferentially grooming more dominant individuals earlier in the day compared with later in the day. These findings indicate that group-living animals may optimize certain elements of their social strategies over relatively short time periods.
social strategies; grooming; baboon; biological market
The Capromyidae (hutias) are endemic rodents of the Caribbean and represent a model of dispersal for non-flying mammals in the Greater Antilles. This family has experienced severe extinctions during the Holocene and its phylogenetic affinities with respect to other caviomorph relatives are still debated as morphological and molecular data disagree. We used target enrichment and next-generation sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes to infer the phylogenetic relationships of hutias, estimate their divergence ages, and understand their mode of dispersal in the Greater Antilles. We found that Capromyidae are nested within Echimyidae (spiny rats) and should be considered a subfamily thereof. We estimated that the split between hutias and Atlantic Forest spiny rats occurred 16.5 (14.8–18.2) million years ago (Ma), which is more recent than the GAARlandia land bridge hypothesis (34–35 Ma). This would suggest that during the Early Miocene, an echimyid-like ancestor colonized the Greater Antilles from an eastern South American source population via rafting. The basal divergence of the Hispaniolan Plagiodontia provides further support for a vicariant separation between Hispaniolan and western islands (Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica) hutias. Recent divergences among these western hutias suggest Plio-Pleistocene dispersal waves associated with glacial cycles.
ancient DNA; biogeography; Capromyidae; GAARlandia; islands; West Indies
Saline or alkaline soils present a strong stress on plants that together may be even more deleterious than alone. Australia's soils are old and contain large, sometimes overlapping, areas of high salt and alkalinity. Acacia and other Australian plant lineages have evolved in this stressful soil environment and present an opportunity to understand the evolution of salt and alkalinity tolerance. We investigate this evolution by predicting the average soil salinity and pH for 503 Acacia species and mapping the response onto a maximum-likelihood phylogeny. We find that salinity and alkalinity tolerance have evolved repeatedly and often together over 25 Ma of the Acacia radiation in Australia. Geographically restricted species are often tolerant of extreme conditions. Distantly related species are sympatric in the most extreme soil environments, suggesting lack of niche saturation. There is strong evidence that many Acacia have distributions affected by salinity and alkalinity and that preference is lineage specific.
salt-tolerance; soil pH; stress-tolerance
We report a new pleurodiran turtle from the Barremian Morro do Chaves Formation, Sergipe-Alagoas Basin, Brazil. We tested the phylogenetic position of Atolchelys lepida gen. et sp. nov. by including it in a comprehensive cladistic analysis of pleurodires. The new species is a basal member of Bothremydidae and simultaneously the oldest unambiguous crown Pleurodira. The biogeographic and chronostratigraphic significance of the finding has implications for the calibration of molecular clocks studies by pushing back the minimum age of crown Pleurodira by more than 12 Ma (ca 125 Ma). The reanalysis of Pelomedusoides relationships provides evidence that the early evolution and relationships among the main lineages of side-necked turtles can be explained, at least partially, by a sequence of vicariance events.
Testudines; phylogeny; Morro do Chaves Formation; northeastern Brazil; Barremian
Provisioning of abundant food resources in human-altered landscapes can have profound effects on wildlife ecology, with important implications for pathogen transmission. While empirical studies have quantified the effects of provisioning on host behaviour and immunology, the net interactive effect of these components on host–pathogen dynamics is unknown. We use simple compartmental models to investigate how provisioning-induced changes to host demography, contact behaviour and immune defence influence pathogen invasion and persistence. We show that pathogen invasion success and equilibrium prevalence depend critically on how provisioning affects host immune defence and that moderate levels of provisioning can lead to drastically different outcomes of pathogen extinction or maximizing prevalence. These results highlight the need for further empirical studies to fully understand how provisioning affects pathogen transmission in urbanized environments.
supplemental feeding; compartmental models; host–pathogen interactions; urbanization; feline leukaemia virus
Uniquely positioned at the intersection of sexual selection, nutritional ecology and life-history theory, nuptial gifts are widespread and diverse. Despite extensive empirical study, we still have only a rudimentary understanding of gift evolution because we lack a unified conceptual framework for considering these traits. In this opinion piece, we tackle several issues that we believe have substantively hindered progress in this area. Here, we: (i) present a comprehensive definition and classification scheme for nuptial gifts (including those transferred by simultaneous hermaphrodites), (ii) outline evolutionary predictions for different gift types, and (iii) highlight some research directions to help facilitate progress in this field.
sexual conflict; spermatophore; simultaneous hermaphrodite
Remote sensing using airborne imaging spectroscopy (AIS) is known to retrieve fundamental optical properties of ecosystems. However, the value of these properties for predicting plant species distribution remains unclear. Here, we assess whether such data can add value to topographic variables for predicting plant distributions in French and Swiss alpine grasslands. We fitted statistical models with high spectral and spatial resolution reflectance data and tested four optical indices sensitive to leaf chlorophyll content, leaf water content and leaf area index. We found moderate added-value of AIS data for predicting alpine plant species distribution. Contrary to expectations, differences between species distribution models (SDMs) were not linked to their local abundance or phylogenetic/functional similarity. Moreover, spectral signatures of species were found to be partly site-specific. We discuss current limits of AIS-based SDMs, highlighting issues of scale and informational content of AIS data.
species distribution; reflectance; hyperspectral data; alpine grasslands
The swimbladder plays an important role in buoyancy regulation but is typically reduced or even absent in benthic freshwater fishes that inhabit fast flowing water. Here, we document, for the first time, a remarkable example of swimbladder sexual dimorphism in the highly rheophilic South Asian torrent minnows (Psilorhynchus). The male swimbladder is not only much larger than that of the female (up to five times the diameter and up to 98 times the volume in some cases), but is also structurally more complex, with multiple internal septa dividing it into smaller chambers. Males also exhibit a strange organ of unknown function or homology in association with the swimbladder that is absent in females. Extreme sexual dimorphism of non-gonadal internal organs is rare among vertebrates and the swimbladder sexual dimorphisms that we describe for Psilorhynchus are unique among fishes.
morphology; histology; Teleostei; Psilorhynchus
Maternal effects have wide-ranging effects on life-history traits. Here, using the crustacean Daphnia magna, we document a new effect: maternal food quantity affects offspring feeding rate, with low quantities of food triggering mothers to produce slow-feeding offspring. Such a change in the rate of resource acquisition has broad implications for population growth or dynamics and for interactions with, for instance, predators and parasites. This maternal effect can also explain the previously puzzling situation that the offspring of well-fed mothers, despite being smaller, grow and reproduce better than the offspring of food-starved mothers. As an additional source of variation in resource acquisition, this maternal effect may also influence relationships between life-history traits, i.e. trade-offs, and thus constraints on adaptation. Maternal nutrition has long-lasting effects on health and particularly diet-related traits in humans; finding an effect of maternal nutrition on offspring feeding rate in Daphnia highlights the utility of this organism as a powerful experimental model for exploring the relationship between maternal diet and offspring fitness.
maternal effects; transgenerational effects; resource acquisition; population dynamics; trade-offs
When moving slowly, kangaroos plant their tail on the ground in sequence with their front and hind legs. To determine the tail's role in this ‘pentapedal’ gait, we measured the forces the tail exerts on the ground and calculated the mechanical power it generates. We found that the tail is responsible for as much propulsive force as the front and hind legs combined. It also generates almost exclusively positive mechanical power, performing as much mass-specific mechanical work as does a human leg during walking at the same speed. Kangaroos use their muscular tail to support, propel and power their pentapedal gait just like a leg.
kangaroo; locomotion; energetics; biomechanics; pentapedal
Uric acid stored in the fat body of cockroaches is a nitrogen reservoir mobilized in times of scarcity. The discovery of urease in Blattabacterium cuenoti, the primary endosymbiont of cockroaches, suggests that the endosymbiont may participate in cockroach nitrogen economy. However, bacterial urease may only be one piece in the entire nitrogen recycling process from insect uric acid. Thus, in addition to the uricolytic pathway to urea, there must be glutamine synthetase assimilating the released ammonia by the urease reaction to enable the stored nitrogen to be metabolically usable. None of the Blattabacterium genomes sequenced to date possess genes encoding for those enzymes. To test the host's contribution to the process, we have sequenced and analysed Blattella germanica transcriptomes from the fat body. We identified transcripts corresponding to all genes necessary for the synthesis of uric acid and its catabolism to urea, as well as for the synthesis of glutamine, asparagine, proline and glycine, i.e. the amino acids required by the endosymbiont. We also explored the changes in gene expression with different dietary protein levels. It appears that the ability to use uric acid as a nitrogen reservoir emerged in cockroaches after its age-old symbiotic association with bacteria.
nitrogen metabolism; Blattabacterium; glutamine; asparagine; proline; glycine