Data from: Maladaptation beyond a geographic range limit driven by antagonistic and mutualistic biotic interactions across an abiotic gradient
Contributors: Benning, John William, Moeller, David
... Species’ geographic range limits often result from maladaptation to the novel environments beyond the range margin. However, we rarely know which aspects of the n-dimensional environment are driving this maladaptation. Especially of interest is the influence of abiotic versus biotic factors in delimiting species’ distributions. We conducted a two-year reciprocal transplant experiment involving manipulations of the biotic environment to explore how spatio-temporal gradients in precipitation, fatal mammalian herbivory, and pollination affected lifetime fitness within and beyond the range of the California annual plant, Clarkia xantiana ssp. xantiana. In the first, drier year of the experiment, fitness outside the range edge was limited mainly by low precipitation, and there was some evidence for local adaptation within the range. In the second, wetter year, we did not observe abiotic limitations to plant fitness outside the range; instead biotic interactions, especially herbivory, limited fitness outside the range. Together, protection from herbivory and supplementation of pollen resulted in 3-7 fold increases in lifetime fitness outside the range margin in the abiotically benign year. Overall, our work demonstrates the importance of biotic interactions, particularly as they interact with the abiotic environment, in determining fitness beyond geographic range boundaries.
Data from: Evidence for individual discrimination and numerical assessment in collective antipredator behaviour in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula)
Contributors: Coomes, Jenny R., McIvor, Guillam E., Thornton, Alex
... Collective responses to threats occur throughout the animal kingdom but little is known about the cognitive processes underpinning them. Antipredator mobbing is one such response. Approaching a predator may be highly risky, but the individual risk declines and the likelihood of repelling the predator increases in larger mobbing groups. The ability to appraise the number of conspecifics involved in a mobbing event could therefore facilitate strategic decisions about whether to join. Mobs are commonly initiated by recruitment calls, which may provide valuable information to guide decision-making. We tested whether the number of wild jackdaws responding to recruitment calls was influenced by the number of callers. As predicted, playbacks simulating three or five callers tended to recruit more individuals than playbacks of one caller. Recruitment also substantially increased if recruits themselves produced calls. These results suggest that jackdaws use individual vocal discrimination to assess the number of conspecifics involved in initiating mobbing events, and use this information to guide their responses. Our results show support for the use of numerical assessment in antipredator mobbing responses and highlight the need for a greater understanding of the cognitive processes involved in collective behaviour.
Data from: Space, time, and captivity: quantifying the factors influencing the fecal microbiome of an alpine ungulate
Contributors: Haworth, Sarah E., White, Kevin S., Côté, Steeve D., Shafer, Aaron B.A.
... The community of microorganisms in the gut is affected by host species, diet and environment and is linked to normal functioning of the host organism. Although the microbiome fluctuates in response to host demands and environmental changes, there are core groups of microorganisms that remain relatively constant throughout the hosts lifetime. Ruminants are mammals that rely on highly specialized digestive and metabolic modifications, including microbiome adaptations, to persist in extreme environments. Here, we assayed the fecal microbiome of four mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) populations in western North America. We quantified fecal microbiome diversity and composition among groups in the wild and captivity, across populations and in a single group over time. There were no differences in community evenness or diversity across groups, although we observed a decreasing diversity trend across summer months. Pairwise sample estimates grouped the captive population distinctly from the wild populations, and moderately grouped the southern wild group distinctly from the two northern wild populations. We identified 33 genera modified by captivity, with major differences in key groups associated with cellulose degradation that likely reflect differences in diet. Our findings are consistent with other ruminant studies and provide baseline microbiome data in this enigmatic species, offering valuable insights into the health of wild alpine ungulates.
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Contributors: Gripenberg, Sofia, Basset, Yves, Lewis, Owen, Terry, James, Wright, S. Joseph, Simon, Indira, Fernandez, Diana, Cedeno-Sanchez, Marjorie, Rivera, Marleny, Barrios, Hector
... The top-down and indirect effects of insects on plant communities depend on patterns of host use, which are often poorly documented, particularly in species-rich tropical forests. At Barro Colorado Island, Panama, we compiled the first food web quantifying trophic interactions between the majority of co-occurring woody plant species and their internally-feeding insect seed predators. Our study is based on more than 200,000 fruits representing 478 plant species, associated with 369 insect species. Insect host-specificity was remarkably high: only 20% of seed predator species were associated with more than one plant species, while each tree species experienced seed predation from a median of two insect species. Phylogeny, but not plant traits, explained patterns of seed predator attack. These data suggest that seed predators are unlikely to mediate indirect interactions such as apparent competition between plant species, but are consistent with their proposed contribution to maintaining plant diversity via the Janzen-Connell mechanism.
Data from: nlstimedist: an R package for the biologically meaningful quantification of unimodal phenology distributions
Contributors: Steer, Nicola C., Ramsay, Paul M., Franco, Miguel
... Phenological investigation can provide valuable insights into the ecological effects of climate change. Appropriate modelling of the time distribution of phenological events is key to determining the nature of any changes, as well as the driving mechanisms behind those changes. Here we present the nlstimedist R package, a distribution function and modelling framework that describes the temporal dynamics of unimodal phenological events. The distribution function is derived from first principles and generates three biologically interpretable parameters. Using seed germination at different temperatures as an example, we show how the influence of environmental factors on a phenological process can be determined from the quantitative model parameters. The value of this model is its ability to represent various unimodal temporal processes statistically. The three intuitively meaningful parameters of the model can make useful comparisons between different time periods, geographical locations or species’ populations, in turn allowing exploration of possible causes.
Data from: Population-scale treatment informs solutions for control of environmentally transmitted wildlife disease
Contributors: Martin, Alynn, Richards, Shane, Fraser, Tamieka, Polkinghorne, Adam, Burridge, Chris, Carver, Scott
... 1. Long-term pathogen control or eradication in wildlife is rare and represents a major challenge in conservation. Control is particularly difficult for environmentally transmitted pathogens, including some of the most conservation-critical wildlife diseases. 2. We undertook a treatment program aimed at population-scale eradication of the environmentally transmitted Sarcoptes scabiei mite (causative agent of sarcoptic mange) during an epizootic in bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus). Field trial results were used to parameterize a mechanistic host-disease model that explicitly described indirect-transmission, host behaviour, and viable disease intervention methods. 3. Model analysis shows that elimination of S. scabiei in the wild is most sensitive to the success of treatment delivery, and duration of the program. In addition, we found the frequency that wombats switch burrows was an important positive driver of mite persistence. 4. Synthesis and applications: This research emphasises the utility of applying model-guided management techniques in order to achieve practical solutions in the field. Our approach and findings have applicability to other species affected by S. scabiei (e.g., wolves, red foxes, Spanish ibex, and American black bear), as well as other conservation-critical systems involving environmental transmission (e.g., bat white-nose syndrome and amphibian chytridiomycosis).
Data from: Direct and indirect effects of pine silviculture on the larval occupancy and breeding of declining amphibian species
Contributors: Haggerty, Christopher J. E., Crisman, Thomas L., Rohr, Jason R.
... 1. Plantation silviculture is increasing globally and is particularly intensive in temperate coniferous forests, where densely planting trees requires practices common to non-conifer systems that can alter forest floor microhabitat, and potentially threaten amphibian persistence. Most declining amphibian species depend on specific forest microhabitats as terrestrial refugia, but amphibian extirpation associated with tree harvest alone appears unlikely, suggesting that impacts of planting forests on groundcover might better predict recent declines in amphibian occupancy. 2. We repeatedly sampled larval presence or absence of 10 amphibian species native to temperate coniferous forest in the Southeastern United States for one year at 62 isolated wetlands located in either naturally regenerating or planted forest (plantation) to assess three direct ways that planted forests might reduce amphibian breeding site occupancy by: 1) increasing conifer densities, 2) decreasing groundcover, and 3) an indirect pathway, whereby increased tree densities at plantations might reduce groundcover and thus amphibian site occupancy. 3. After controlling for wetland traits and accounting for differences in detection, breeding site occupancy for 8/10 amphibian species was dependent upon whether forests were planted surrounding wetlands (within 300 m). Herbaceous groundcover, not canopy, most commonly influenced occupancy and increased occupancy for declining surface active or fossorial amphibians. 4. Path analyses showed that, by directly and indirectly reducing groundcover (via conifer densities), plantations had significantly lower occupancy of two declining surface active or fossorial frog species, whereas two common aquatic frog species were tolerant to planting conifers. Among declining species, salamanders showed a greater reduction in occupancy than anurans, likely because of greater vulnerability to the drier forest floor conditions of plantation than naturally regenerating forests. 5. Synthesis and applications: Direct negative impacts of coniferous plantation on amphibians can be addressed by limiting groundcover and soil impacts, including switching from high intensity practices, such as mechanical chopping vegetation or bedding soil, to lower intensity site preparation treatments that are less likely to significantly disturb groundcover. Indirect negative effects of dense canopy cover at planted forests could be lowered by periodically thinning canopies prior to final harvest, thus increasing intact forest groundcover and the conservation of both common and declining amphibians.
Data from: Hierarchical controls on extinction selectivity across the diplobathrid crinoid phylogeny
Contributors: Cole, Selina
... Identifying correlates of extinction risk is important for understanding the underlying mechanisms driving differential rates of extinction and variability in the temporal durations of taxa. Increasingly, it is recognized that the effects of multiple, potentially interacting variables and phylogenetic relationships should be incorporated when studying extinction selectivity to account for covariation of traits and shared evolutionary history. Here, I explore a variety of biological and ecological controls on genus longevity in the global fossil record of diplobathrid crinoids by analyzing the combined effects of species richness, habitat preference, body size, filtration fan density, and food size selectivity. I employ a suite of taxic and phylogenetic approaches to (1) quantitatively compare and rank the relative effects of multiple factors on taxonomic longevity, and (2) determine how phylogenetic comparative approaches alter interpretations of extinction selectivity. I find controls on diplobathrid genus duration are hierarchically structured, where species richness is the primary predictor of duration, habitat is the secondary predictor, and a combination of ecological and biological traits are tertiary controls. Ecology plays an important but complex role in the generation of crinoid macroevolutionary patterns. Notably, tolerance of environmental heterogeneity promotes increased genus duration across diplobathrid crinoids, and the effects of traits related to feeding ecology vary depending on habitat lithology. Finally, I find accounting for phylogeny does not consistently decrease the significance of correlations between traits and genus duration, as is commonly expected. Instead, the strength of relationships between traits and duration may increase, decrease, or remain statistically similar, and both the magnitude and direction of these shifts are generally unpredictable. However, traits with strong correlations and/or moderately large effect sizes (Cohen’s f2 > 0.15) under taxic approaches tend to remain qualitatively unchanged under phylogenetic approaches.
Data from: Shared patterns of genome-wide differentiation are more strongly predicted by geography than by ecology.
Contributors: Rennison, Diana Jessie, Delmore, Kira E, Samuk, Kieran M, Owens, Gregory L, Miller, Sara E
... Closely related populations often display similar patterns of genomic differentiation, yet it remains an open question which ecological and evolutionary forces generate these patterns. The leading hypothesis is that this similarity in divergence is driven by parallel natural selection. However, several recent studies have suggested that these patterns may instead be a product of the depletion of genetic variation that occurs as result of background selection (i.e. linked negative selection). To date, there have been few direct tests of these competing hypotheses. To determine the relative contributions of background selection and parallel selection to patterns of repeated differentiation, we examined 24 independently derived populations of freshwater stickleback occupying a variety of niches and estimated genomic patterns of differentiation in each relative to their common marine ancestor. Patterns of genetic differentiation were strongly correlated across pairs of freshwater populations adapting to the same ecological niche, supporting a role for parallel natural selection. In contrast to other recent work, by examining populations adapting to the same niche we did not find evidence that similar patterns of genomic differentiation are generated by background selection. We also found that overall patterns of genetic differentiation were considerably more similar for populations found in closer geographic proximity. In fact, the effect of geography on the repeatability of differentiation was greater than that of parallel selection. Our results suggest that shared selective landscapes and ancestral variation are the key drivers of repeated patterns of differentiation in systems that have recently colonized novel environments.
Contributors: Siva-Jothy, Jonathon A., Vale, Pedro F.
... Host behavioural changes following infection are common and could be important determinants of host behavioural competence to transmit pathogens. Identifying potential sources of variation in sickness behaviours is therefore central to our understanding of disease transmission. Here, we test how group social aggregation and individual locomotor activity vary between different genotypes of male and female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) following septic infection with Drosophila C Virus. We find genetic-based variation in both locomotor activity and social aggregation but we did not detect an effect of DCV infection on fly activity or sleep patterns within the initial days following infection. However, DCV infection caused sex-specific effects on social aggregation, as male flies in most genetic backgrounds increased the distance to their nearest neighbour when infected. We discuss possible causes for these differences in the context of individual variation in immunity and their potential consequences for disease transmission.