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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.  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
3.  The role of model female quality in the mate choice copying behaviour of sailfin mollies 
Biology Letters  2005;2(2):203-205.
Female mate choice copying is a socially mediated mate choice behaviour, in which a male's attractiveness to females increases if he was previously chosen by another female as a mate. Although copying has been demonstrated in numerous species, little is known about the specific benefits it confers to copying females. Here we demonstrate that the mate choice behaviour of female sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) is influenced by the phenotypic quality of model females with whom males are observed consorting. Test females choosing between two males of similar body length were found to significantly increase time spent with previously non-preferred males after having observed them with a relatively high-quality female. Conversely, females were found to significantly decrease time spent with previously preferred males after having observed them with a relatively low-quality female. Female mate choice copying might be maintained by selection based on the heuristic value it provides females choosing between males whose quality differences are not easily distinguishable.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0423
PMCID: PMC1618924  PMID: 17148362
sexual selection; mate choice; non-independent mate choice; mate choice copying
4.  Fees or refuges: which is better for the sustainable management of insect resistance to transgenic Bt corn? 
Biology Letters  2005;2(2):198-202.
The evolution of resistance in insect pests will imperil the efficiency of transgenic insect-resistant crops. The currently advised strategy to delay resistance evolution is to plant non-toxic crops (refuges) in close proximity to plants engineered to express the toxic protein of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). We seek answers to the question of how to induce growers to plant non-toxic crops. A first strategy, applied in the United States, is to require Bt growers to plant non-Bt refuges and control their compliance with requirements. We suggest that an alternative strategy is to make Bt seed more expensive by instituting a user fee, and we compare both strategies by integrating economic processes into a spatially explicit, population genetics model. Our results indicate that although both strategies may allow the sustainable management of the common pool of Bt-susceptibility alleles in pest populations, for the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) one of the most serious pests in the US corn belt, the fee strategy is less efficient than refuge requirements.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0418
PMCID: PMC1618916  PMID: 17148361
Bacillus thuringiensis; European corn borer; resistance management; common property resource; refuge policy; economic model
5.  Occurrence and recent long-distance dispersal of deep-sea hydrothermal vent shrimps 
Biology Letters  2005;2(2):257-260.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents and methane seeps are extreme environments that have a high concentration of hydrogen sulphide. However, abundant unique invertebrates including shrimps of the family Bresiliidae have been found in such environments. The bresiliid shrimps are believed to have radiated in the Miocene (less than 20 Myr); however, the period when and the mechanisms by which they dispersed across the hydrothermal vents and cold seeps in oceans worldwide have not been clarified. In the present study, we collected the deep-sea blind shrimp Alvinocaris longirostris from the hydrothermal vent site in the Okinawa Trough and carried out the first investigation of the 18S rRNA gene of a bresiliid shrimp. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that the bresiliid shrimp is situated at an intermediate lineage within the infraorder Caridea and shows monophyly with palaemonid shrimps, which live in shallow sea and freshwater. Furthermore, the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene sequences were analysed to determine the phylogenetic relationship with known bresiliid shrimps. A. longirostris of the Okinawa Trough had two haplotypes of the COI gene, one of which was identical to the Alvinocaris sp. of the cold seeps in Sagami Bay. These results indicate that a long-distance dispersal of A. longirostris occurred possibly within the last 100 000 years.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0420
PMCID: PMC1618913  PMID: 17148377
dispersal; hydrothermal vent; water current; phylogeny; Bresiliidae Alvinocarididae
6.  Caterpillars benefit from thermal ecosystem engineering by wandering albatrosses on sub-Antarctic Marion Island 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):51-54.
Wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) nest on Southern Ocean islands, building elevated nests upon which they incubate eggs and raise chicks, and which the chicks occupy through winter. The nests support high invertebrate biomass, including larvae of the flightless moth Pringleophaga marioni. Here we argue that high biomass of P. marioni in the nests is not associated with nutrient loading as previously suspected, but that higher temperatures in the nests increase growth and feeding rate, and decrease deleterious repeated cold exposure, providing fitness advantages for P. marioni. Thus, wandering albatrosses may be serving as thermal engineers, modifying temperature and therefore enabling better resource use by P. marioni.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0384
PMCID: PMC1617211  PMID: 17148324
wandering albatross; ecosystem engineering; development thresholds
7.  Accounting for elite indoor 200 m sprint results 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):47-50.
Times for indoor 200 m sprint races are notably worse than those for outdoor races. In addition, there is a considerable bias against competitors drawn in inside lanes (with smaller bend radii). Centripetal acceleration requirements increase average forces during sprinting around bends. These increased forces can be modulated by changes in duty factor (the proportion of stride the limb is in contact with the ground). If duty factor is increased to keep limb forces constant, and protraction time and distance travelled during stance are unchanging, bend-running speeds are reduced. Here, we use results from the 2004 Olympics and World Indoor Championships to show quantitatively that the decreased performances in indoor competition, and the bias by lane number, are consistent with this ‘constant limb force’ hypothesis. Even elite athletes appear constrained by limb forces.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0399
PMCID: PMC1617210  PMID: 17148323
biomechanics; sprint; run; force
8.  Early history of European domestic cattle as revealed by ancient DNA 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):155-159.
We present an extensive ancient DNA analysis of mainly Neolithic cattle bones sampled from archaeological sites along the route of Neolithic expansion, from Turkey to North-Central Europe and Britain. We place this first reasonable population sample of Neolithic cattle mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity in context to illustrate the continuity of haplotype variation patterns from the first European domestic cattle to the present. Interestingly, the dominant Central European pattern, a starburst phylogeny around the modal sequence, T3, has a Neolithic origin, and the reduced diversity within this cluster in the ancient samples accords with their shorter history of post-domestic accumulation of mutation.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0404
PMCID: PMC1617209  PMID: 17148352
ancient DNA; Bos taurus; Neolithic; domestication; mitochondrial haplotypes; starburst network
9.  Marine lake ecosystem dynamics illustrate ENSO variation in the tropical western Pacific 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):144-147.
Understanding El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and its biological consequences is hindered by a lack of high-resolution, long-term data from the tropical western Pacific. We describe a preliminary, 6 year dataset that shows tightly coupled ENSO-related bio-physical dynamics in a seawater lake in Palau, Micronesia. The lake is more strongly stratified during La Niña than El Niño conditions, temperature anomalies in the lake co-vary strongly with the Niño 3.4 climate index, and the abundance of the dominant member of the pelagic community, an endemic subspecies of zooxanthellate jellyfish, is temperature associated. These results have broad relevance because the lake: (i) illustrates an ENSO signal that is partly obscured in surrounding semi-enclosed lagoon waters and, therefore, (ii) may provide a model system for studying the effects of climate change on community evolution and cnidarian–zooxanthellae symbioses, which (iii) should be traceable throughout the Holocene because the lake harbours a high quality sediment record; the sediment record should (iv) provide a sensitive and regionally unique record of Holocene climate relevant to predicting ENSO responses to future global climate change and, finally, (v) seawater lake ecosystems elsewhere in the Pacific may hold similar potential for past, present, and predictive measurements of climate variation and ecosystem response.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0382
PMCID: PMC1617208  PMID: 17148349
climate; El Niño–Southern Oscillation; marine lake; population dynamics; Scyphozoa; zooxanthellae
10.  Predicting the consequences of carry-over effects for migratory populations 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):148-151.
Migratory animals present a unique challenge for predicting population size because they are influenced by events in multiple stages of the annual cycle that are separated by large geographic distances. Here, we develop a model that incorporates non-fatal carry-over effects to predict changes in population size and show how this can be integrated with predictive models of habitat loss and deterioration. Examples from Barn swallows, Greater snow geese and American redstarts show how carry-over effects can be estimated and integrated into the model. Incorporation of carry-over effects should increase the predictive power of models. However, the challenge for developing accurate predictions rests both on the ability to estimate parameters from multiple stages of the annual cycle and to understand how events between these periods interact to influence individual success.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0397
PMCID: PMC1617207  PMID: 17148350
migratory animals; habitat loss; habitat quality; seasonal interactions; regulatory mechanisms
11.  Mass-dependent predation risk as a mechanism for house sparrow declines? 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):43-46.
House sparrow (Passer domesticus) numbers have declined rapidly in both rural and urban habitats across Western Europe over the last 30 years, leading to their inclusion on the UK conservation red list. The decline in farmland has been linked to a reduction in winter survival caused by reduced food supply. This reduction in food supply is associated with agricultural intensification that has led to the loss of seed-rich winter stubble and access to spilt grain. However, urban house sparrows have also declined, suggesting that reduced food supply in farmland is not the sole reason for the decline. Here, we show that changes in house sparrow mass and thus fat reserves are not regulated to minimize starvation risk, as would be expected if limited winter food were the only cause of population decline. Instead, the species appears to be responding to mass-dependent predation risk, with starvation risk and predation risk traded-off such that house sparrows may be particularly vulnerable to environmental change that reduces the predictability of the food supply.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0421
PMCID: PMC1617206  PMID: 17148322
Passer domesticus; starvation–predation risk trade-off; farmland birds; body mass; starvation risk
12.  The influence of phenotypic and genetic effects on maternal provisioning and offspring weight gain in mice 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):81-84.
Close interactions between mother and offspring are said to result in a coevolution of parental and offspring genotypes such that offspring are adapted in their solicitation behaviour to obtain maternal provisioning that maximizes their fitness. Few empirical studies have been conducted in this field and it remains unclear whether maternal provisioning and offspring weight gain are influenced by the same set of maternal and offspring phenotypic and genotypic factors. Using a cross-foster, split-litter design in mice, we found that overall maternal provisioning and offspring weight gain are significantly correlated but are affected by a different set of parameters, except for the effect of maternal bodyweight. While the level of maternal provisioning was influenced by both offspring and foster mother genotype, offspring weight gain was only affected by the number of males in the mixed litter. We suggest that this disparity may hint at the inefficiency of offspring solicitation behaviour or effects of sibling competition.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0403
PMCID: PMC1617205  PMID: 17148332
mice; maternal provisioning; offspring solicitation; coadaptation
13.  Latitudinal and longitudinal barriers in global biogeography 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):69-72.
Due to changes in climate and continental arrangement, plant and animal assemblages faced different dispersal barriers at different moments in Earth's history. It is generally accepted that groups which diversified during times of Gondwanan–Laurasian separation show different distribution patterns from those of more recent origin. Here I present principal component-derived maps for two globally distributed groups, with ca 1000 species each. Gymnosperm assemblages perfectly illustrate the existence of southern and northern components, corresponding to the Gondwanan and Laurasian temperate floras at the time when angiosperms started becoming dominant in the tropics, thus imposing a latitudinal barrier. Bat (chiropteran) assemblages indicate that the major biogeographical barrier in their Cenozoic dispersal was the longitudinal separation between the Old and New World.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0396
PMCID: PMC1617204  PMID: 17148329
bats; biogeography; Gondwanaland; gymnosperms
14.  The scaling and temperature dependence of vertebrate metabolism 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):125-127.
Body size and temperature are primary determinants of metabolic rate, and the standard metabolic rate (SMR) of animals ranging in size from unicells to mammals has been thought to be proportional to body mass (M) raised to the power of three-quarters for over 40 years. However, recent evidence from rigorously selected datasets suggests that this is not the case for birds and mammals. To determine whether the influence of body mass on the metabolic rate of vertebrates is indeed universal, we compiled SMR measurements for 938 species spanning six orders of magnitude variation in mass. When normalized to a common temperature of 38 °C, the SMR scaling exponents of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are significantly heterogeneous. This suggests both that there is no universal metabolic allometry and that models that attempt to explain only quarter-power scaling of metabolic rate are unlikely to succeed.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0378
PMCID: PMC1617203  PMID: 17148344
scaling; allometry; metabolic rate; body mass; body temperature
15.  Strategic sperm allocation under parasitic sex-ratio distortion 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):78-80.
Parasitic sex-ratio distorters are a major selective force in the evolution of host mating behaviour and mate choice. Here, we investigate sperm limitation in the amphipod Gammarus duebeni and the impact of the microsporidian sex-ratio distorter Nosema granulosis on sperm allocation strategies. We show that males become sperm limited after three consecutive matings and provide uninfected, high fecundity, females with more sperm than infected females. We show that sperm limitation leads to a decrease in female productivity. The outcome of sex-ratio distortion has been shown theoretically to be sensitive to the mating limits of males. Our results indicate that strategic sperm allocation under male rarity will have a greater impact on infected females and has the potential to regulate spread of parasitic feminisers in host populations.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0402
PMCID: PMC1617202  PMID: 17148331
sexual selection; Gammarus duebeni; microsporidia; Wolbachia
16.  High olfactory sensitivity for dimethyl sulphide in harbour seals 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):106-109.
Productive areas are patchily distributed at sea and represent important feeding grounds for many marine organisms. Although pinnipeds are known to travel on direct routes and return regularly to particular feeding sites, the environmental information seals use to perform this navigation is as yet unknown. As atmospheric dimethyl sulphide (DMS) has been demonstrated to be a reliable indicator for profitable foraging areas, we tested seals for their ability to smell DMS at concentrations typical for the marine environment. Using a go/no-go response paradigm we determined the DMS detection threshold in two harbour seals (Phoca vitulina vitulina). DMS stimuli from 8.05×108 to 8 pmol (DMS) m−3(air) were tested against a control stimulus using a custom-made olfactometer. DMS-thresholds determined for both seals (20 and 13 pmol m−3) indicate that seals can detect ambient concentrations associated with high primary productivity, e.g. in the North Atlantic. Thus, seals possess an extraordinarily high olfactory sensitivity for DMS, which could provide a sensory basis for identifying or orienting to profitable foraging grounds.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0380
PMCID: PMC1617201  PMID: 17148339
olfaction; seal; dimethyl sulphide; orientation
17.  Physiological constraints on organismal response to global warming: mechanistic insights from clinally varying populations and implications for assessing endangerment 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):135-139.
Recent syntheses indicate that global warming affects diverse biological processes, but also highlight the potential for some species to adapt behaviourally or evolutionarily to rapid climate change. Far less attention has addressed the alternative, that organisms lacking this ability may face extinction, a fate projected to befall one-quarter of global biodiversity. This conclusion is controversial, in part because there exist few mechanistic studies that show how climate change could precipitate extinction. We provide a concrete, mechanistic example of warming as a stressor of organisms that are closely adapted to cool climates from a comparative analysis of organismal tolerance among clinally varying populations along a natural thermal gradient. We found that two montane salamanders exhibit significant metabolic depression at temperatures within the natural thermal range experienced by low and middle elevation populations. Moreover, the magnitude of depression was inversely related to native elevation, suggesting that low elevation populations are already living near the limit of their physiological tolerances. If this finding generally applies to other montane specialists, the prognosis for biodiversity loss in typically diverse montane systems is sobering. We propose that indices of warming-induced stress tolerance may provide a critical new tool for quantitative assessments of endangerment due to anthropogenic climate change across diverse species.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0417
PMCID: PMC1617200  PMID: 17148347
metabolic depression; climate change; salamander; life history; environmental stress; conservation assessment
18.  Dinosaur killer claws or climbing crampons? 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):110-112.
Dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaurs possess a strongly recurved, hypertrophied and hyperextensible ungual claw on pedal digit II. This feature is usually suggested to have functioned as a device for disembowelling herbivorous dinosaurs during predation. However, modelling of dromaeosaurid hindlimb function using a robotic model and comparison of pedal ungual morphology with extant analogue taxa both indicate that this distinctive claw did not function as a slashing weapon, but may have acted as an aid to prey capture.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0395
PMCID: PMC1617199  PMID: 17148340
Dromaeosauridae; predation; functional morphology
19.  African elephants show high levels of interest in the skulls and ivory of their own species 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):26-28.
An important area of biology involves investigating the origins in animals of traits that are thought of as uniquely human. One way that humans appear unique is in the importance they attach to the dead bodies of other humans, particularly those of their close kin, and the rituals that they have developed for burying them. In contrast, most animals appear to show only limited interest in the carcasses or associated remains of dead individuals of their own species. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are unusual in that they not only give dramatic reactions to the dead bodies of other elephants, but are also reported to systematically investigate elephant bones and tusks that they encounter, and it has sometimes been suggested that they visit the bones of relatives. Here, we use systematic presentations of object arrays to demonstrate that African elephants show higher levels of interest in elephant skulls and ivory than in natural objects or the skulls of other large terrestrial mammals. However, they do not appear to specifically select the skulls of their own relatives for investigation so that visits to dead relatives probably result from a more general attraction to elephant remains.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0400
PMCID: PMC1617198  PMID: 17148317
elephants; skulls; ivory; bones; death
20.  Modelling the extinction of Steller's sea cow 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):94-97.
Steller's sea cow, a giant sirenian discovered in 1741 and extinct by 1768, is one of the few megafaunal mammal species to have died out during the historical period. The species is traditionally considered to have been exterminated by ‘blitzkrieg’-style direct overharvesting for food, but it has also been proposed that its extinction resulted from a sea urchin population explosion triggered by extirpation of local sea otter populations that eliminated the shallow-water kelps on which sea cows fed. Hunting records from eighteenth century Russian expeditions to the Commander Islands, in conjunction with life-history data extrapolated from dugongs, permit modelling of sea cow extinction dynamics. Sea cows were massively and wastefully overexploited, being hunted at over seven times the sustainable limit, and suggesting that the initial Bering Island sea cow population must have been higher than suggested by previous researchers to allow the species to survive even until 1768. Environmental changes caused by sea otter declines are unlikely to have contributed to this extinction event. This indicates that megafaunal extinctions can be effected by small bands of hunters using pre-industrial technologies, and highlights the catastrophic impact of wastefulness when overexploiting resources mistakenly perceived as ‘infinite’.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0415
PMCID: PMC1617197  PMID: 17148336
Bering Island; historical extinction; Hydrodamalis gigas; megafauna; overhunting; population viability analysis
21.  Effect of growth compensation on subsequent physical fitness in green swordtails Xiphophorus helleri 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):39-42.
Early environmental conditions have been suggested to influence subsequent locomotor performance in a range of species, but most measurements have been of initial (baseline) performance. By manipulating early growth trajectories in green swordtail fish, we show that males that underwent compensatory growth as juveniles had a similar baseline swimming endurance when mature adults to ad libitum fed controls. However, they had a reduced capacity to increase endurance with training, which is more likely to relate to Darwinian fitness. Compensatory growth may thus result in important locomotor costs later in life.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0414
PMCID: PMC1617196  PMID: 17148321
growth rate; exercise; endurance; resource allocation; swimming performance
22.  Death feigning in the face of sexual cannibalism 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):23-25.
Pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism by females affects male and female reproductive success in profoundly different ways, with the females benefiting from a meal and the male facing the risk of not reproducing at all. This sexual conflict predicts evolution of traits to avoid cannibalism and ensure male reproductive success. We show that males of the nuptial gift-giving spider Pisaura mirabilis display a remarkable death feigning behaviour—thanatosis—as part of the courtship prior to mating with potentially cannibalistic females. Thanatosis is a widespread anti-predator strategy; however, it is exceptional in the context of sexual selection. When the female approached a gift-displaying male, she usually showed interest in the gift but would sometimes attack the male, and at this potentially dangerous moment the male could ‘drop dead’. When entering thanatosis, the male would collapse and remain completely motionless while retaining hold of the gift so it was held simultaneously by both mates. When the female initiated consumption of the gift, the male cautiously ‘came to life’ and initiated copulation. Death feigning males were more successful in gaining copulations, but did not have prolonged copulations. We propose that death feigning evolved as an adaptive male mating strategy in conjunction with nuptial gift giving under the risk of being victimized by females.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0392
PMCID: PMC1617195  PMID: 17148316
sexual cannibalism; sexual conflict; cannibalism avoidance; thanatosis; male mating strategy
23.  First gut contents in a Cretaceous sea turtle 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):113-115.
Modern sea turtles utilize a variety of feeding strategies ranging from herbivory to omnivory. In contrast, the diets of fossil sea turtles are poorly known. This study reports the first direct evidence: inoceramid bivalve shell pieces (encased in phosphatic material) preserved within the body cavities of several small protostegid turtles (cf. Notochelone) from the Lower Cretaceous of Australia. The shell fragments are densely packed and approximately 5–20 mm across. Identical shell accumulations have been found within coprolite masses from the same deposits; these are of a correct size to have originated from Notochelone, and indicate that benthic molluscs were regular food items. The thin, flexible inoceramid shells (composed of organic material integrated into a prismatic calcite framework) appear to have been bitten into segments and ingested, presumably in conjunction with visceral/mantle tissues and encrusting organisms. Although protostegids have been elsewhere interpreted as potential molluscivores, their primitive limb morphology is thought to have limited them to surface feeding. However, the evidence here that at least some forms were able to utilize benthic invertebrate prey indicates that, like modern sea turtles, protostegids probably exhibited a much broader range of feeding habits.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0374
PMCID: PMC1617194  PMID: 17148341
protostegid turtles; gut contents; inoceramid bivalves; Cretaceous; Australia
24.  A comparative study of the anti-settlement properties of mytilid shells 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):88-91.
Marine organisms have evolved defence mechanisms to prevent epibiosis. This study investigated the anti-settlement properties of natural periostracal microtopographies of two mytilid species, Mytilus edulis (from North, Baltic and White Seas) and Perna perna (from the SW Atlantic). Resin replicas of shells were exposed to cyprids of the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides. Replicas with intact isotropic microtopographies and smooth controls were much less fouled than roughened anisotropic surfaces. This indicates that in both M. edulis and P. perna the periostracum possesses a generic anti-settlement property, at least against S. balanoides cyprids, which is not regionally adapted. Such a potential globally effective anti-settlement mechanism possibly contributes to the invasive success of Mytilidae.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0389
PMCID: PMC1617193  PMID: 17148334
mytilidae; microtopography; epibiosis; mussels
25.  Passive internal dispersal of insect larvae by migratory birds 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):55-57.
It has long been assumed that the resistant eggs of many zooplankton are able to survive passage through the gut of migratory waterbirds, thus facilitating their dispersal between isolated aquatic habitats. We present the first evidence that such passive internal transport within birds may be relevant for insect populations. In three out of six faecal samples from black-tailed Godwits on autumn migration in southwest Spain, we found larvae of the chironomid Chironomus salinarius which had survived gut passage. Although adult chironomids can fly, they are likely to disperse greater distances when transported as larvae via birds. In insects with discrete generations, such passive transport also enables colonization of new habitats at times when flight by adults is not an option.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0413
PMCID: PMC1617192  PMID: 17148325
chironomidae; endozoochory; internal transport; passive dispersal; waders

Results 1-25 (177)