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1.  Temperature-dependent sex ratio in a bird 
Biology Letters  2004;1(1):31-33.
To our knowledge, there is, so far, no evidence that incubation temperature can affect sex ratios in birds, although this is common in reptiles. Here, we show that incubation temperature does affect sex ratios in megapodes, which are exceptional among birds because they use environmental heat sources for incubation. In the Australian brush-turkey Alectura lathami, a mound-building megapode, more males hatch at low incubation temperatures and more females hatch at high temperatures, whereas the proportion is 1 : 1 at the average temperature found in natural mounds. Chicks from lower temperatures weigh less, which probably affects offspring survival, but are not smaller. Megapodes possess heteromorphic sex chromosomes like other birds, which eliminates temperature-dependent sex determination, as described for reptiles, as the mechanism behind the skewed sex ratios at high and low temperatures. Instead, our data suggest a sex-biased temperature-sensitive embryo mortality because mortality was greater at the lower and higher temperatures, and minimal at the middle temperature where the sex ratio was 1 : 1.
PMCID: PMC1629050  PMID: 17148121
sex ratio; environmental sex determination; megapode
2.  Community response to enrichment is highly sensitive to model structure 
Biology Letters  2004;1(1):9-12.
Biologists use mathematical functions to model, understand and predict nature. For most biological processes, however, the exact analytical form is not known. This is also true for one of the most basic life processes: the uptake of food or resources. We show that the use of several nearly indistinguishable functions, which can serve as phenomenological descriptors of resource uptake, may lead to alarmingly different dynamical behaviour in a simple community model. More specifically, we demonstrate that the degree of resource enrichment needed to destabilize the community dynamics depends critically on the mathematical nature of the uptake function.
PMCID: PMC1629049  PMID: 17148115
super-sensitivity; model structure; community dynamics; paradox of enrichment
3.  Resistance of flight feathers to mechanical fatigue covaries with moult strategy in two warbler species 
Biology Letters  2004;1(1):27-30.
Flight feather moult in small passerines is realized in several ways. Some species moult once after breeding or once on their wintering grounds; others even moult twice. The adaptive significance of this diversity is still largely unknown. We compared the resistance to mechanical fatigue of flight feathers from the chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, a migratory species moulting once on its breeding grounds, with feathers from the willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, a migratory species moulting in both its breeding and wintering grounds. We found that flight feathers of willow warblers, which have a shaft with a comparatively large diameter, become fatigued much faster than feathers of chiffchaffs under an artificial cyclic bending regime. We propose that willow warblers may strengthen their flight feathers by increasing the diameter of the shaft, which may lead to a more rapid accumulation of damage in willow warblers than in chiffchaffs.
PMCID: PMC1629048  PMID: 17148120
moult; migration; mechanical fatigue; biomechanics
4.  The interplay of positive and negative species interactions across an environmental gradient: insights from an individual-based simulation model 
Biology Letters  2004;1(1):5-8.
Positive interspecific interactions are commonplace, and in recent years ecologists have begun to realize how important they can be in determining community and ecosystem dynamics. It has been predicted that net positive interactions are likely to occur in environments characterized by high abiotic stress. Although empirical field studies have started to support these predictions, little theoretical work has been carried out on the dynamic nature of these effects and their consequences for community structure. We use a simple patch-occupancy model to simulate the dynamics of a pair of species living on an environmental gradient. Each of the species can exist as either a mutualist or a cheater. The results confirm the prediction: a band of mutualists tends to occur in environmental conditions beyond the limits of the cheaters. The region between mutualists and cheaters is interesting: population density here is low. Mutualists periodically occupy this area, but are displaced by cheaters, who themselves go extinct in the absence of the mutualists. Furthermore, the existence of mutualists extends the area occupied by the cheaters, essentially increasing their realized niche. Our approach has considerable potential for improving our understanding of the balance between positive and negative interspecific interactions and for predicting the probable impacts of habitat loss and climate change on communities dominated by positive interspecific interactions.
PMCID: PMC1629044  PMID: 17148114
mutualism; facilitation; competition; range limits; dispersal; spatial structure

Results 1-4 (4)