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  • Segmental, paired locomotory appendages are a characteristic feature of Panarthropoda — a diversified clade of moulting animals that includes onychophorans (velvet worms), tardigrades (water bears), and arthropods. While arthropods acquired a sclerotised exoskeleton and articulated limbs, onychophorans and tardigrades possess a soft body and unjointed limbs called lobopods, which they inherited from Cambrian lobopodians. To date, the origin and ancestral structure of the lobopods and their transformation into the jointed appendages are all poorly understood. We therefore combined high-resolution computed tomography with high-speed camera recordings to characterise the functional anatomy of a trunk lobopod from the onychophoran Euperipatoides rowelli. Three-dimensional reconstruction of the complete set of muscles and muscle fibres as well as non-muscular structures revealed the spatial relationship and relative volumes of the muscular, excretory, circulatory, and nervous systems within the leg. Locomotory movements of individual lobopods of E. rowelli proved far more diverse than previously thought and might be governed by a complex interplay of fifteen muscles, including one promotor, one remotor, one levator, one retractor, two depressors, two rotators, one flexor and two constrictors as well as muscles for stabilisation and haemolymph control. We discuss the implications of our findings for understanding the evolution of locomotion in panarthropods.
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  • Many animals with external armour, such as hedgehogs, isopods, and trilobites, curl into a protective ball when disturbed. However, in situations where predators would engulf an exposed animal whole, regardless of position, conglobation may provide limited added defence and the benefits were previously unclear. We show that polyplacophoran molluscs (chitons) are 3 times less likely to spend time curled into a ball in the presence of a predator. When the cue of a potential predator is present, animals instead spend significantly more time in active, high risk-high reward behaviours such as arching, balancing on the head and tail ends of their girdle and pushing the soft foot up into an exposed position. Arching increases vulnerability, but also can increase the likelihood of rapidly encountering new substratum that would allow the animal to right itself. In some other animals, the ability to roll into a ball is associated with rolling away from danger. Curling into a ball would improve mobility, to be rolled on to a safer position, but reattachment is the higher priority for chitons in the face of danger.
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    • Video
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  • Objective: To determine whether ascending arousal network (AAN) connectivity is reduced in patients presenting with traumatic coma. Methods: We performed high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) in 16 patients with acute severe traumatic brain injury who were comatose on admission and in 16 matched controls. We used probabilistic tractography to measure the connectivity probability (CP) of AAN axonal pathways linking the brainstem tegmentum to the hypothalamus, thalamus and basal forebrain. To assess the spatial specificity of CP differences between patients and controls, we also measured CP within four subcortical pathways outside the AAN. Results: Compared to controls, patients showed a reduction in AAN pathways connecting the brainstem tegmentum to a region of interest encompassing the hypothalamus, thalamus, and basal forebrain. Examining each pathway individually, brainstem-hypothalamus and brainstem-thalamus CPs, but not brainstem-forebrain CP, were significantly reduced in patients. Only one subcortical pathway outside the AAN showed reduced CP in patients. Conclusions: We provide initial evidence for the reduced integrity of axonal pathways linking the brainstem tegmentum to the hypothalamus and thalamus in patients presenting with traumatic coma. Our findings support current conceptual models of coma as being caused by subcortical AAN injury. AAN connectivity mapping provides an opportunity to advance the study of human coma and consciousness.
    Data Types:
    • Video
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    • Document
  • Recent theoretical and experimental models have evidenced the role played by evolution during species spread, and particularly question the influence of genetic drift at range edges. By investigating the spread of an aquatic invader in patchy habitats, we quantified genetic drift and explored its consequences on genetic diversity and fitness. We examined the interplay of gene flow and genetic drift in 36 populations of the red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, in a relatively recently invaded wetland area (30 years, Brière, northwestern France). Despite the small spatial scale of our study (15 km²), populations were highly structured according to the strong barrier of land surfaces and revealed a clear pattern of colonisation through watercourses. Isolated populations exhibited small effective sizes and low dispersal rates that depended on water connectivity, suggesting that genetic drift dominated in the evolution of allele frequencies in these populations. We also observed a significant decrease in the genetic diversity of isolated populations over only a two-year period, but failed to demonstrate an associated fitness cost using fluctuating asymmetry. This study documents the possible strong influence of genetic drift during the spread of a species, and such findings provide critical insights in the current context of profound rearrangements in species distributions due to global change.
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    • Geospatial Data
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    • Text
  • Learning is a widespread ability among animals and, like physical traits, is subject to evolution. But how did learning first arise? What selection pressures and phenotypic preconditions fostered its evolution? Neither the fossil record nor phylogenetic comparative studies provide answers to these questions. Here, we take a novel approach by studying digital organisms in environments that promote the evolution of navigation and associative learning. Starting with a non-learning, sessile ancestor, we evolve multiple populations in four different environments, each consisting of nutrient trails with various layouts. Trail nutrients cue organisms on which direction to follow, provided they evolve to acquire and use those cues. Thus, each organism is tested on how well it navigates a randomly selected trail before reproducing. We find that behavior evolves modularly and in a predictable sequence, where simpler behaviors are necessary precursors for more complex ones. Associative learning is only one of many successful behaviors to evolve, and its origin depends on the environment possessing certain information patterns that organisms can exploit. Environmental patterns that are stable across generations foster the evolution of reflexive behavior, while environmental patterns that vary across generations, but remain consistent for periods within an organism’s lifetime, foster the evolution of learning behavior. Both types of environmental patterns are necessary, since the prior evolution of simple reflexive behaviors provides the building blocks for learning to arise. Finally, we observe that an intrinsic value system evolves alongside behavior and supports associative learning by providing reinforcement for behavior conditioning.
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    • Video
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  • Learning is a widespread ability among animals and, like physical traits, is subject to evolution. But how did learning first arise? What selection pressures and phenotypic preconditions fostered its evolution? Neither the fossil record nor phylogenetic comparative studies provide answers to these questions. Here, we take a novel approach by studying digital organisms in environments that promote the evolution of navigation and associative learning. Starting with a non-learning, sessile ancestor, we evolve multiple populations in four different environments, each consisting of nutrient trails with various layouts. Trail nutrients cue organisms on which direction to follow, provided they evolve to acquire and use those cues. Thus, each organism is tested on how well it navigates a randomly selected trail before reproducing. We find that behavior evolves modularly and in a predictable sequence, where simpler behaviors are necessary precursors for more complex ones. Associative learning is only one of many successful behaviors to evolve, and its origin depends on the environment possessing certain information patterns that organisms can exploit. Environmental patterns that are stable across generations foster the evolution of reflexive behavior, while environmental patterns that vary across generations, but remain consistent for periods within an organism’s lifetime, foster the evolution of learning behavior. Both types of environmental patterns are necessary, since the prior evolution of simple reflexive behaviors provides the building blocks for learning to arise. Finally, we observe that an intrinsic value system evolves alongside behavior and supports associative learning by providing reinforcement for behavior conditioning.
    Data Types:
    • Other
    • Video
    • Dataset
    • File Set
  • Learning is a widespread ability among animals and, like physical traits, is subject to evolution. But how did learning first arise? What selection pressures and phenotypic preconditions fostered its evolution? Neither the fossil record nor phylogenetic comparative studies provide answers to these questions. Here, we take a novel approach by studying digital organisms in environments that promote the evolution of navigation and associative learning. Starting with a non-learning, sessile ancestor, we evolve multiple populations in four different environments, each consisting of nutrient trails with various layouts. Trail nutrients cue organisms on which direction to follow, provided they evolve to acquire and use those cues. Thus, each organism is tested on how well it navigates a randomly selected trail before reproducing. We find that behavior evolves modularly and in a predictable sequence, where simpler behaviors are necessary precursors for more complex ones. Associative learning is only one of many successful behaviors to evolve, and its origin depends on the environment possessing certain information patterns that organisms can exploit. Environmental patterns that are stable across generations foster the evolution of reflexive behavior, while environmental patterns that vary across generations, but remain consistent for periods within an organism’s lifetime, foster the evolution of learning behavior. Both types of environmental patterns are necessary, since the prior evolution of simple reflexive behaviors provides the building blocks for learning to arise. Finally, we observe that an intrinsic value system evolves alongside behavior and supports associative learning by providing reinforcement for behavior conditioning.
    Data Types:
    • Other
    • Video
    • Dataset
    • File Set
  • The genes underlying adaptations are becoming known, yet the causes of selection on genes -- a key step in the study of the genetics of adaptation -- remains uncertain. We address this issue experimentally in a threespine stickleback species pair showing exaggerated divergence in bony defensive armor in association with competition-driven character displacement. We used semi-natural ponds to test the role of a native predator in causing divergent evolution of armor and two known underlying genes. Predator presence/absence altered selection on dorsal spines and allele frequencies at the Msx2a gene across a generation. Evolutionary trajectories of alleles at a second gene, Pitx1, and the pelvic spine trait it controls, were more variable. Our experiment demonstrates how manipulation of putative selective agents help to identify causes of evolutionary divergence at key genes, rule out phenotypic plasticity as a sole determinant of phenotypic differences, and eliminate reliance on fitness surrogates. Divergence of predation regimes in sympatric stickleback is associated with coevolution in response to resource competition, implying a cascade of biotic interactions driving species divergence. We suggest that as divergence proceeds, an increasing number of biotic interactions generate divergent selection, causing more evolution in turn. In this way, biotic adaptation perpetuates species divergence through time during adaptive radiation in an expanding number of traits and genes.
    Data Types:
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    • Geospatial Data
    • Dataset
  • Carnivorous wasps of the family Vespidae are known to seek out and disperse the diaspores of at least two North American and two Asian plant species. Attraction of the wasps to the diaspores is likely due to the release of volatile compounds that signal availability of an eliaiosome rich in protein and fat, which the wasps remove before releasing the diaspore. It is thought that this interaction between carnivorous wasps and plants is rare, occurring in just a few plant species. Here, we present our findings on dispersal of spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis Hook. & Arn.) achenes by carnivorous wasps of the genus Vespula. Observations and experiments were performed with the goals of discovering: how geographically widespread this interaction is; what the reward system is, if any; and, how wasps detect the achenes. Eight populations of C. occidentalis in northern California were used to observe wasps and plants, and to perform experiments on wasp attraction to the achenes. In all examined populations, workers of western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica [de Saussure, 1857]) were observed entering mature Calycanthus receptacles, removing achenes, taking flight with them, and successfully transporting achenes through the air. Receptacles were found to open upward at an average angle of 45° (SD = 29°), preventing the achenes from falling to the ground when mature. No animals other than wasps were observed visiting the receptacles during the observations. Experiments suggest that wasps are attracted to an elaiosome-like organ of the achene. Nutritional analysis shows that this organ is high in fat and protein. Further experiments using solvent extracts of the achenes suggest that the attraction is likely mediated by volatile compounds.
    Data Types:
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    • Video
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    • Document
  • Conodont elements, consisting of crown and basal tissue are the well-known fossilized hard parts of Conodonta (extinct marine chordates), but the taphonomic processes leading to decomposition or remineralization of the basal tissue are not well understood. Here we focus on the taphonomy of basal tissue, reviewing the published record and describing new material from Asia and Europe (248 occurrences globally). These include crown and basal tissue in conjunction, and isolated basal bodies showing different stages of preservation. Some isolated specimens resemble phosphate rings similar to those assigned to Phosphannulus universalis. High-resolution biostratigraphy indicates that the lamellar type of conodont basal tissue is found in all facies and depositional environments. Other basal tissue types, described in the literature as tubular, mesodentine, spherulitic or lamellar with canalules, are limited to the early Palaeozoic and found exclusively in siliciclastic deposits (with the exception of spherulitic tissue). Although the stratigraphic record of basal tissue spans the range of Euconodonta (Cambrian–Triassic), this study shows that most of the isolated plate and ring-like structures are derived from early Palaeozoic coniform conodonts. Basal tissue of platform-type elements has a much more fragile shape and is therefore rarely preserved as a recognizable isolated unit.
    Data Types:
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    • Image
    • Video
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    • Document
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