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1.  Social status gates social attention in humans 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):450-452.
Humans tend to shift attention in response to the averted gaze of a face they are fixating, a phenomenon known as gaze cuing. In the present paper, we aimed to address whether the social status of the cuing face modulates this phenomenon. Participants were asked to look at the faces of 16 individuals and read fictive curriculum vitae associated with each of them that could describe the person as having a high or low social status. The association between each specific face and either high or low social status was counterbalanced between participants. The same faces were then used as stimuli in a gaze-cuing task. The results showed a greater gaze-cuing effect for high-status faces than for low-status faces, independently of the specific identity of the face. These findings confirm previous evidence regarding the important role of social factors in shaping social attention and show that a modulation of gaze cuing can be observed even when knowledge about social status is acquired through episodic learning.
PMCID: PMC3367721  PMID: 22090207
attention; gaze cuing; social cognition
2.  Assessment of metabolic modulation in free-living versus endosymbiotic Symbiodinium using synchrotron radiation-based infrared microspectroscopy 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):434-437.
The endosymbiotic relationship between coral hosts and dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium is critical for the growth and productivity of coral reef ecosystems. Here, synchrotron radiation-based infrared microspectroscopy was applied to examine metabolite concentration differences between endosymbiotic (within the anemone Aiptasia pulchella) and free-living Symbiodinium over the light–dark cycle. Significant differences in levels of lipids, nitrogenous compounds, polysaccharides and putative cell wall components were documented. Compared with free-living Symbiodinium, total lipids, unsaturated lipids and polysaccharides were relatively enriched in endosymbiotic Symbiodinium during both light and dark photoperiods. Concentrations of cell wall-related metabolites did not vary temporally in endosymbiotic samples; in contrast, the concentrations of these metabolites increased dramatically during the dark photoperiod in free-living samples, possibly reflecting rhythmic cell-wall synthesis related to light-driven cell proliferation. The level of nitrogenous compounds in endosymbiotic cells did not vary greatly across the light–dark cycle and in general was significantly lower than that observed in free-living samples collected during the light. Collectively, these data suggest that nitrogen limitation is a factor that the host cell exploits to induce the biosynthesis of lipids and polysaccharides in endosymbiotic Symbiodinium.
PMCID: PMC3367722  PMID: 22090199
Cnidaria; metabolome; nitrogen limitation; photoperiod; symbiosis
3.  Metapopulation models for seasonally migratory animals 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):477-480.
Metapopulation models are widely used to study species that occupy patchily distributed habitat, but are rarely applied to migratory species, because of the difficulty of identifying demographically independent subpopulations. Here, we extend metapopulation theory to describe the directed seasonal movement of migratory populations between two sets of habitat patches, breeding and non-breeding, with potentially different colonization and extinction rates between patch types. By extending the classic metapopulation model, we show that migratory metapopulations will persist if the product of the two colonization rates exceeds the product of extinction rates. Further, we develop a spatially realistic migratory metapopulation model and derive a landscape metric—the migratory metapopulation capacity—that determines persistence. This new extension to metapopulation theory introduces an important tool for the management and conservation of migratory species and may also be applicable to model the dynamics of two host–parasite systems.
PMCID: PMC3367723  PMID: 22090205
seasonal migration; metapopulation; migratory network
4.  Physiological implications of pair-bond status in greylag geese 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):347-350.
In group-living vertebrates, reliable social allies play a decisive role in dealing with stressors. For example, support by social allies is known to dampen glucocorticoid responses. It remains unknown, however, how social embedding affects the sympatho-adrenergic axis as indicated by heart rate (HR) in non-human animals. We studied the relationships between HR, pair-bond status and distance from the pair-partner in twenty-five free-ranging greylag geese (Anser anser) in a natural social environment. In three individuals, we investigated HR responses following partner loss. Overall, we found a context- and sex-dependent difference in HR between paired and unpaired individuals, paired males having a lower HR during agonistic encounters, and unpaired females having a lower HR during resting. Also, in paired females HR increased with increasing distance from the partner. Our data suggest that HR is modulated by pair-bond status in greylag geese in a context- and sex-dependent manner, which may be representative for social vertebrates in general. Despite the low sample size, the present study indicates that proper social embedding may optimize an individual's physiological investment in the social domain. This reduces individual energy expenditure and may benefit health and reproductive success.
PMCID: PMC3367724  PMID: 22090200
pair-bond status; social support; heart rate; greylag geese; Anser anser
5.  Transgenerational effects of parent and grandparent gender on offspring development in a biparental beetle species 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):408-411.
Parental effects on offspring life-history traits are common and increasingly well-studied. However, the extent to which these effects persist into offspring in subsequent generations has received less attention. In this experiment, maternal and paternal effects on offspring and grand-offspring were investigated in the biparental burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, using a split-family design. This allowed the separation of prenatal and postnatal transgenerational effects. Grandparent and parent gender were found to have a cumulative effect on offspring development and may provide a selection pressure on the division of parental investment in biparental species.
PMCID: PMC3367725  PMID: 22090206
maternal effect; biparental care; burying beetle
6.  A minute fossil phoretic mite recovered by phase-contrast X-ray computed tomography 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):457-460.
High-resolution phase-contrast X-ray computed tomography (CT) reveals the phoretic deutonymph of a fossil astigmatid mite (Acariformes: Astigmata) attached to a spider's carapace (Araneae: Dysderidae) in Eocene (44–49 Myr ago) Baltic amber. Details of appendages and a sucker plate were resolved, and the resulting three-dimensional model demonstrates the potential of tomography to recover morphological characters of systematic significance from even the tiniest amber inclusions without the need for a synchrotron. Astigmatids have an extremely sparse palaeontological record. We confirm one of the few convincing fossils, potentially the oldest record of Histiostomatidae. At 176 µm long, we believe this to be the smallest arthropod in amber to be CT-scanned as a complete body fossil, extending the boundaries for what can be recovered using this technique. We also demonstrate a minimum age for the evolution of phoretic behaviour among their deutonymphs, an ecological trait used by extant species to disperse into favourable environments. The occurrence of the fossil on a spider is noteworthy, as modern histiostomatids tend to favour other arthropods as carriers.
PMCID: PMC3367726  PMID: 22072283
Acariformes; Astigmata; Histiostomatidae; Acaridae; amber; Eocene
7.  Symbiotic bacteria on the cuticle of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus protect workers from attack by entomopathogenic fungi 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):461-464.
Although only discovered in 1999, the symbiotic filamentous actinobacteria present on the integument of certain species of leaf-cutting ants have been the subject of intense research. These bacteria have been shown to specifically suppress fungal garden parasites by secretion of antibiotics. However, more recently, a wider role for these bacteria has been suggested from research revealing their generalist anti-fungal activity. Here we show, for the first time, evidence for a role of these bacteria in the defence of young worker ants against a fungal entomopathogen. Experimental removal of the bacterial bio-film using an antibiotic resulted in a significant increase in susceptibility of worker ants to infection by the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae. This is the first direct evidence for the advantage of maintaining a bacterial bio-film on the cuticle as a defensive strategy of the ants themselves and not exclusively for protection of the fungus garden.
PMCID: PMC3367728  PMID: 22130174
defence mechanisms; symbiosis; pathogen; Metarhizium anisopliae; actinobacteria
8.  Does prey size matter? Novel observations of feeding in the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) allow a test of predator–prey size relationships 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):351-354.
Optimal foraging models predict that large predators should concentrate on large prey in order to maximize their net gain of energy intake. Here, we show that the largest species of sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, does not strictly adhere to this general pattern. Field observations combined with a theoretical model suggest that a 300 kg leatherback turtle would meet its energetic requirements by feeding for 3–4 h a day on 4 g jellyfish, but only if prey were aggregated in high-density patches. Therefore, prey abundance rather than prey size may, in some cases, be the overriding parameter for foraging leatherbacks. This is a classic example where the presence of small prey in the diet of a large marine predator may reflect profitable foraging decisions if the relatively low energy intake per small individual prey is offset by high encounter rates and minimal capture and handling costs. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first quantitative estimates of intake rate for this species.
PMCID: PMC3367729  PMID: 22090203
plankton; trophic-niche; allometry; food web; carnivores; filter feeders
9.  Observed heterospecific clutch size can affect offspring investment decisions 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):341-343.
Optimal investment in offspring is important in maximizing lifetime reproductive success. Yet, very little is known how animals gather and integrate information about environmental factors to fine tune investment. Observing the decisions and success of other individuals, particularly when those individuals initiate breeding earlier, may provide a way for animals to quickly arrive at better breeding investment decisions. Here we show, with a field experiment using artificial nests appearing similar to resident tit nests with completed clutches, that a migratory bird can use the observed high and low clutch size of a resident competing bird species to increase and decrease clutch size and egg mass, accordingly. Our results demonstrate that songbirds can discriminate between high and low quantity of heterospecific eggs, and that social information can have long-term physiological consequences affecting reproductive strategies. Such behaviour may help animals to better adapt to changing environments and lead to convergent traits with competitors.
PMCID: PMC3367730  PMID: 22171018
social information use; species interactions; offspring investment; clutch size; interspecific competition
10.  Wild geese do not increase flight behaviour prior to migration 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):469-472.
Hypertrophy of the flight muscles is regularly observed in birds prior to long-distance migrations. We tested the hypothesis that a large migratory bird would increase flight behaviour prior to migration, in order to cause hypertrophy of the flight muscles, and upregulate key components of the aerobic metabolic pathways. Implantable data loggers were used to record year-round heart rate in six wild barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), and the amount of time spent in flight each day was identified. Time in flight per day did not significantly increase prior to either the spring or the autumn migration, both between time periods prior to migration (5, 10 and 15 days), or when compared with a control period of low activity during winter. The lack of significant increase in flight prior to migration suggests that approximately 22 min per day is sufficient to maintain the flight muscles in condition for prolonged long-distance flight. This apparent lack of a requirement for increased flight activity prior to migration may be attributable to pre-migratory mass gains in the geese increasing workload during short flights, potentially prompting hypertrophy of the flight muscles.
PMCID: PMC3367731  PMID: 22090201
barnacle geese; body mass increase; endogenous control; migration; muscle hypertrophy
11.  Susceptibility of the male fitness phenotype to spontaneous mutation 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):426-429.
Adult reproductive success can account for a large fraction of male fitness, however, we know relatively little about the susceptibility of reproductive traits to mutation-accumulation (MA). Estimates of the mutational rate of decline for adult fitness and its components are controversial in Drosophila melanogaster, and post-copulatory performance has not been examined. We therefore separately measured the consequences of MA for total male reproductive success and its major pre-copulatory and post-copulatory components: mating success and sperm competitive success. We also measured juvenile viability, an important fitness component that has been well studied in MA experiments. MA had strongly deleterious effects on both male viability and adult fitness, but the latter declined at a much greater rate. Mutational pressure on total fitness is thus much greater than would be predicted by viability alone. We also noted a significant and positive correlation between all adult traits and viability in the MA lines, suggesting pleiotropy of mutational effect as required by ‘good genes’ models of sexual selection.
PMCID: PMC3367732  PMID: 22090202
mutation-accumulation; sexual selection; sperm competition; viability; fitness
12.  Evidence for a vertebrate catapult: elastic energy storage in the plantaris tendon during frog jumping 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):386-389.
Anuran jumping is one of the most powerful accelerations in vertebrate locomotion. Several species are hypothesized to use a catapult-like mechanism to store and rapidly release elastic energy, producing power outputs far beyond the capability of muscle. Most evidence for this mechanism comes from measurements of whole-body power output; the decoupling of joint motion and muscle shortening expected in a catapult-like mechanism has not been demonstrated. We used high-speed marker-based biplanar X-ray cinefluoroscopy to quantify plantaris muscle fascicle strain and ankle joint motion in frogs in order to test for two hallmarks of a catapult mechanism: (i) shortening of fascicles prior to joint movement (during tendon stretch), and (ii) rapid joint movement during the jump without rapid muscle-shortening (during tendon recoil). During all jumps, muscle fascicles shortened by an average of 7.8 per cent (54% of total strain) prior to joint movement, stretching the tendon. The subsequent period of initial joint movement and high joint angular acceleration occurred with minimal muscle fascicle length change, consistent with the recoil of the elastic tendon. These data support the plantaris longus tendon as a site of elastic energy storage during frog jumping, and demonstrate that catapult mechanisms may be employed even in sub-maximal jumps.
PMCID: PMC3367733  PMID: 22090204
jumping; power amplification; tendon; acceleration; anuran
13.  Human fine body hair enhances ectoparasite detection 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):358-361.
Although we are relatively naked in comparison with other primates, the human body is covered in a layer of fine hair (vellus and terminal hair) at a relatively high follicular density. There are relatively few explanations for the evolutionary maintenance of this type of human hair. Here, we experimentally test the hypothesis that human fine body hair plays a defensive function against ectoparasites (bed bugs). Our results show that fine body hair enhances the detection of ectoparasites through the combined effects of (i) increasing the parasite's search time and (ii) enhancing its detection.
PMCID: PMC3367735  PMID: 22171023
vellus hair; terminal hair; bed bug; ectoparasite detection
14.  Invisible pair bonds detected by molecular analyses 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):355-357.
A focus on pair bonds between males and females is fundamental to study the evolution of social organization. Because pair bonds are generally identified from direct observations of pairs that maintain physical proximity, pair bonds may have been overlooked in animals that do not exhibit such visible pairs. The Lake Tanganyika cichlid fish Xenotilapia rotundiventralis forms schools that consist of mouthbrooding and non-brooding adults in mid-water, and visible pairs are not recognized. A previous study suggested that mouthbrooding females transfer fractions of the young to males when the young become large. However, it remains a mystery whether the mating pairs maintain pair bonds so that the females can transfer the young to their mates. To answer this question, we conducted a parentage analysis using 10 microsatellite markers. The analysis showed that the mouthbrooding adults were most likely genetic fathers and mothers of the young in their mouths. This finding suggests that the female-to-male shift of young takes place between mating partners, and thus the mating pairs maintain pair bonds at least until the shift of young. The present study is the first to detect pair bonds in animals in which physical proximity has not been observed.
PMCID: PMC3367736  PMID: 22114323
cichlid; Tanganyika; microsatellite; parentage relationships; schools
15.  Importance of breeding season and maternal investment in studies of sex-ratio adjustment: a case study using tree swallows 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):401-404.
The control of primary sex-ratio by vertebrates has become a major focus in biology in recent years. Evolutionary theory predicts that a differential effect of maternal characteristics on the fitness of sons and daughters is an important route, whereby selection is expected to favour a bias towards the production of one sex. However, despite experimental evidence for adaptive brood sex-ratio manipulation, support for this prediction remains a major challenge in vertebrates where inconsistencies between correlative studies are frequently reported. Here, we used a large dataset (2215 nestlings over 3 years) from a wild population of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and show that variations in breeding conditions affect female sex allocation in this species. Our results also suggest that such variation in sex allocation, owing to breeding season heterogeneity, modifies the relationships between maternal characteristics and maternal investment. Indeed, we detect a positive effect of maternal age on brood sex-ratio when age also affects offspring condition (in a low-quality breeding season). Our results indicate that including measures of both breeding season quality and maternal investment will help to better understand sex allocation patterns.
PMCID: PMC3367737  PMID: 22130173
birds; breeding season heterogeneity; sex allocation; sex-ratio; tree swallow
16.  The widespread collapse of an invasive species: Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in New Zealand 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):430-433.
Synergies between invasive species and climate change are widely considered to be a major biodiversity threat. However, invasive species are also hypothesized to be susceptible to population collapse, as we demonstrate for a globally important invasive species in New Zealand. We observed Argentine ant populations to have collapsed in 40 per cent of surveyed sites. Populations had a mean survival time of 14.1 years (95% CI = 12.9–15.3 years). Resident ant communities had recovered or partly recovered after their collapse. Our models suggest that climate change will delay colony collapse, as increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall significantly increased their longevity, but only by a few years. Economic and environmental costs of invasive species may be small if populations collapse on their own accord.
PMCID: PMC3367738  PMID: 22130172
biological invasions; persistence; ant community; long-term effects; climate change; Argentine ant
17.  Only pollinator fig wasps have males that collaborate to release their females from figs of an Asian fig tree 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):344-346.
Male insects rarely collaborate with each other, but pollinator fig wasps (Hymenoptera: Agaonidae) are said to be an exception. Immature fig wasps feed on galled ovules located inside figs, the inflorescences of Ficus species (Moraceae). After mating, adult pollinator males chew communal exit-holes that allow mated females (which are often also their siblings) to escape. Figs also support non-pollinating fig wasps (NPFWs), some of which produce exit-holes independently. We determined whether collaboration between pollinator males (Kradibia tentacularis from Ficus montana) was necessary for the release of their females, and used the relationship between male numbers and likelihood of success to measure the extent of cooperation during exit-hole production. These attributes were then compared with those of an NPFW (Sycoscapter sp.) from the same host plant. Pollinators were more abundant than NPFW, but their more female-biased sex ratio meant male pollinator densities were only slightly higher. Individual males of both species could produce an exit-hole. Single males of the NPFW were just as successful as single male pollinators, but only male pollinators cooperated effectively, becoming more successful as their numbers increased. The lack of cooperation among NPFW may be linked to their earlier period of intense inter-male aggression.
PMCID: PMC3367739  PMID: 22130170
aggression; cooperation; fighting; male–male interactions; mutualism; parasitoid
18.  Isotopic segregation between sympatric seabird species increases with nutritional stress 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):442-445.
Dietary segregation is essential for the coexistence of closely related species of animals. However, little is known about how changes in availability of food resources might affect trophic interactions of wild animals breeding in sympatry. Here, we examined how interannual variations in relative food availability (as reflected in blood levels of stress hormone corticosterone, CORT) affect food partitioning (assessed via a comparison of stable isotope δ15N and δ13C ratios of blood) between the common murre (Uria aalge) and thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia), breeding on a single colony in the Bering Sea. During a 6-year study, CORT varied among years but not between species, whereas stable isotope ratios varied among years and between species. Isotopic distance between species increased with increasing CORT. These results indicate that, when food was not limiting, both species relied on similar food resources. As foraging conditions deteriorated, murres diverged in their diets. We conclude that the degree of dietary segregation between Uria spp. varies with changes in the availability of food and is greatest during food shortages.
PMCID: PMC3367740  PMID: 22171022
trophic segregation; food availability; seabirds; corticosterone; stable isotopes
19.  A cockroach that jumps 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):390-392.
We report on a newly discovered cockroach (Saltoblattella montistabularis) from South Africa, which jumps and therefore differs from all other extant cockroaches that have a scuttling locomotion. In its natural shrubland habitat, jumping and hopping accounted for 71 per cent of locomotory activity. Jumps are powered by rapid and synchronous extension of the hind legs that are twice the length of the other legs and make up 10 per cent of the body weight. In high-speed images of the best jumps the body was accelerated in 10 ms to a take-off velocity of 2.1 m s−1 so that the cockroach experienced the equivalent of 23 times gravity while leaping a forward distance of 48 times its body length. Such jumps required 38 µJ of energy, a power output of 3.4 mW and exerted a ground reaction force through both hind legs of 4 mN. The large hind legs have grooved femora into which the tibiae engage fully in advance of a jump, and have resilin, an elastic protein, at the femoro-tibial joint. The extensor tibiae muscles contracted for 224 ms before the hind legs moved, indicating that energy must be stored and then released suddenly in a catapult action to propel a jump. Overall, the jumping mechanisms and anatomical features show remarkable convergence with those of grasshoppers with whom they share their habitat and which they rival in jumping performance.
PMCID: PMC3367741  PMID: 22158737
cockroach; jumping; kinematics; Saltoblattella
20.  Bornean orangutans on the brink of protein bankruptcy 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):333-336.
Protein is a limiting resource that is essential to the growth, maintenance and reproduction of tropical frugivores, yet few studies have examined how wild animals maintain protein balance. During chronic periods of fruit scarcity, Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) often catabolize their own fat reserves despite unusually low metabolic requirements. Such energy deficits suggest a marginal existence, and raise the possibility that orangutans also endure periods of negative protein balance. To test this hypothesis, we conducted the first study of protein cycling in a wild primate. Our five year analysis of urinary metabolites revealed evidence of protein recycling when fruit was scarce. During these periods, orangutans consumed more leaves and bark, proteinaceous but tough foods that yielded a mean daily intake of 1.4 g protein kg−1 metabolic mass. Such an amount is inadequate for humans and one-tenth the intake of mountain gorillas, but sufficient to avert, perhaps narrowly, a severe protein deficit. Our findings highlight the functional and adaptive value of traits that maximize protein assimilation during periods of ecological exigency.
PMCID: PMC3367743  PMID: 22171019
orangutans; Borneo; protein; δ15N; urea
21.  Prey detection in a cruising copepod 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):438-441.
Small cruising zooplankton depend on remote prey detection and active prey capture for efficient feeding. Direct, passive interception of prey is inherently very inefficient at low Reynolds numbers because the viscous boundary layer surrounding the approaching predator will push away potential prey. Yet, direct interception has been proposed to explain how rapidly cruising, blind copepods feed on non-motile phytoplankton prey. Here, we demonstrate a novel mechanism for prey detection in a cruising copepod, and describe how motile and non-motile prey are discovered by hydromechanical and tactile or, likely, chemical cues, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3367744  PMID: 22158738
prey detection; Metridia longa; hydromechanical signals; tactile signals; chemical signals
22.  Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests 
Biology Letters  2011;8(3):397-400.
The exceptionally high species richness of arthropods in tropical rainforests hinges on the complexity of the forest itself: that is, on features such as the high plant diversity, the layered nature of the canopy and the abundance and the diversity of epiphytes and litter. We here report on one important, but almost completely neglected, piece of this complex jigsaw—the intricate network of rhizomorph-forming fungi that ramify through the vegetation of the lower canopy and intercept falling leaf litter. We show that this litter-trapping network is abundant and intercepts substantial amounts of litter (257.3 kg ha−1): this exceeds the amount of material recorded in any other rainforest litter-trapping system. Experimental removal of this fungal network resulted in a dramatic reduction in both the abundance (decreased by 70.2 ± 4.1%) and morphospecies richness (decreased by 57.4 ± 5.1%) of arthropods. Since the lower canopy levels can contain the highest densities of arthropods, the proportion of the rainforest fauna dependent on the fungal networks is likely to be substantial. Fungal litter-trapping systems are therefore a crucial component of habitat complexity, providing a vital resource that contributes significantly to rainforest biodiversity.
PMCID: PMC3367753  PMID: 22188674
arthropods; biodiversity; canopy; fungi; leaf litter; rainforest
23.  A shot in the dark: same-sex sexual behaviour in a deep-sea squid 
Biology Letters  2011;8(2):287-290.
Little is known about the reproductive habits of deep-living squids. Using remotely operated vehicles in the deep waters of the Monterey Submarine Canyon, we have found evidence of mating, i.e. implanted sperm packages, on similar body locations in males and females of the rarely seen mesopelagic squid Octopoteuthis deletron. Equivalent numbers of both sexes were found to have mated, indicating that male squid routinely and indiscriminately mate with both males and females. Most squid species are short-lived, semelparous (i.e. with a single, brief reproductive period) and promiscuous. In the deep, dark habitat where O. deletron lives, potential mates are few and far between. We suggest that same-sex mating behaviour by O. deletron is part of a reproductive strategy that maximizes success by inducing males to indiscriminately and swiftly inseminate every conspecific that they encounter.
PMCID: PMC3297369  PMID: 21937492
Octopoteuthis deletron; Cephalopoda; mating; spermatangia; same-sex sexual behaviour; deep-sea squid
24.  Increased responsiveness in feeding behaviour of Caenorhabditis elegans after experimental coevolution with its microparasite Bacillus thuringiensis 
Biology Letters  2011;8(2):234-236.
Immune responses, either constitutive or induced, are costly. An alternative defence strategy may be based on behavioural responses. For example, avoidance behaviour reduces contact with pathogens and thus the risk of infection as well as the requirement of immune system activation. Similarly, if pathogens are taken up orally, preferential feeding of pathogen-free food may be advantageous. Behavioural defences have been found in many animals, including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We here tested nematodes from a laboratory based evolution experiment which had either coevolved with their microparasite Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) or evolved under control conditions. After 48 generations, coevolved populations were more sensitive to food conditions: in comparison with the controls, they reduced feeding activity in the presence of pathogenic BT strains while at the same time increasing it in the presence of non-pathogenic strains. We conclude that host–parasite coevolution can drive changes in the behavioural responsiveness to bacterial microbes, potentially leading to an increased defence against pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3297370  PMID: 21880622
pathogen avoidance; parasite–host coevolution; experimental evolution; Caenorhabditis elegans; Bacillus thuringiensis
25.  Mid-Cretaceous charred fossil flowers reveal direct observation of arthropod feeding strategies 
Biology Letters  2011;8(2):295-298.
Although plant–arthropod relationships underpin the dramatic rise in diversity and ecological dominance of flowering plants and their associated arthropods, direct observations of such interactions in the fossil record are rare, as these ephemeral moments are difficult to preserve. Three-dimensionally preserved charred remains of Chloranthistemon flowers from the Late Albian to Early Cenomanian of Germany preserve scales of mosquitoes and an oribatid mite with mouthparts inserted into the pollen sac. Mosquitoes, which today are frequent nectar feeders, and the mite were feeding on pollen at the time wildfire consumed the flowers. These findings document directly arthropod feeding strategies and their role in decomposition.
PMCID: PMC3297371  PMID: 21900310
mid-Cretaceous; fossil flowers; charcoal; karst infillings; plant–arthropod interaction

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