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Social animals that live in domiciles constructed from biomaterials may facilitate microbial growth. Spider webs are one of the most conspicuous biomaterials in nature, yet almost nothing is known about the potential for webs to harbor microbes, even in social spiders that live in dense, long-term aggregations. Here, we tested whether the dominant bacteria present in social spider webs vary across sampling localities and whether the more permanent retreat web harbors compositionally distinct microbes from the more ephemeral capture webs in the desert social spider Stegodyphus dumicola. We also sampled spider cuticles and prey items in a subset of colonies. We found that spider colonies across large spatial scales harbored similar web-associated bacterial communities. We also found substantial overlap in bacterial community composition between spider cuticle, prey, and web samples. These data suggest that social spider webs can harbor characteristic microbial communities and potentially facilitate microbial transmission among individuals, and this study serves as the first step towards understanding the microbial ecology of these peculiar animal societies.
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Crocodylomorpha, which includes living crocodylians and their extinct relatives, has a rich fossil record, extending back for more than 200 million years. Unlike modern semi-aquatic crocodylians, extinct crocodylomorphs exhibited more varied lifestyles, ranging from marine to fully terrestrial forms. This ecological diversity was mirrored by a remarkable morphological disparity, particularly in terms of cranial morphology, which seems to be closely associated with ecological roles in the group. Here, I use geometric morphometrics to comprehensively investigate cranial shape variation and disparity in Crocodylomorpha. I quantitatively assess the relationship between cranial shape and ecology (i.e. terrestrial, aquatic, and semi-aquatic lifestyles), as well as possible allometric shape changes. I also characterise patterns of cranial shape evolution and identify regime shifts. I found a strong link between shape and size, and a significant influence of ecology on the observed shape variation. Terrestrial taxa, particularly notosuchians, have significantly higher disparity, and shifts to more longirostrine regimes are associated with large-bodied aquatic or semi-aquatic species. This demonstrates an intricate relationship between cranial shape, body size and lifestyle in crocodylomorph evolutionary history. Additionally, disparity-through-time analyses were highly sensitive to different phylogenetic hypotheses, suggesting the description of overall patterns among distinct trees. For crocodylomorphs, most results agree in an early peak during the Early Jurassic and another in the middle of the Cretaceous, followed by nearly continuous decline until today. Since only crown-group members survived through the Cenozoic, this decrease in disparity was likely the result of habitat loss, which narrowed down the range of crocodylomorph lifestyles.
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Human and other animal cells deploy three closely related dioxygenases (PHD 1, 2 and 3) to signal oxygen levels by catalysing oxygen regulated prolyl hydroxylation of the transcription factor HIF. The discovery of the HIF prolyl-hydroxylase (PHD) enzymes as oxygen sensors raises a key question as to the existence and nature of non-HIF substrates, potentially transducing other biological responses to hypoxia. Over 20 such substrates are reported. We therefore sought to characterise their reactivity with recombinant PHD enzymes. Unexpectedly, we did not detect prolyl-hydroxylase activity on any reported non-HIF protein or peptide, using conditions supporting robust HIF-α hydroxylation. We cannot exclude PHD-catalysed prolyl hydroxylation occurring under conditions other than those we have examined. However, our findings using recombinant enzymes provide no support for the wide range of non-HIF PHD substrates that have been reported.
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Spectral Induced Polarization spectra were carried out on 3 graphitic schists and 2 graphitic sandstones. The microstructural arrangement of graphite of two graphitic schists was studied with thin sections using transmitted and reflected light optical and electron microscopic methods. Chemical maps of selected areas confirm the presence of carbon. The complex conductivity spectra were measured in the frequency range 10 mHz to 45 kHz and in the temperature range +20°C down to -15°C. The measured spectra are fitted with a double Cole Cole complex conductivity model with one component associated with the polarization of graphite and the second component associated with the Maxwell Wagner polarization. The Cole Cole exponent and the chargeability are observed to be almost independent of temperature including in freezing conditions. The conductivity and relaxation time are dependent on the temperature in a predictable way. As long as the temperature decreases, the electrical conductivity decreases and the relaxation time increases. A finite element model is able to reproduce the observed results. In this model, we consider an intra-grain polarization mechanism for the graphite and a change of the conductivity of the background material modeled with an exponential freezing curve. One of the core sample (a black schist), very rich in graphite, appears to be characterized by a very high conductivity (approximately 30 S m-1). Two induced polarization profiles are discussed in the area of Thorens. The model is applied to the chargeability data to map the volumetric content of graphite.
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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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In large clonal populations, several clones generally compete which results in complex evolutionary and ecological dynamics: experiments show successive selective sweeps of favorable mutations as well as long-term coexistence of multiple clonal strains. The mechanisms underlying either coexistence or fixation of several competing strains have rarely been studied altogether. Conditions for coexistence has mostly been studied by population and community ecology, while rates of invasion and fixation have mostly been studied by population genetics. In order to provide a global understanding of the complexity of the dynamics observed in large clonal populations, we develop a stochastic model where three clones compete. Competitive interactions can be intransitive and we suppose that strains enter the population via mutations or rare immigrations. We first describe all possible final states of the population, including stable coexistence of two or three strains, or the fixation of a single strain. Second, we give estimate of the invasion and fixation times of a favorable mutant (or immigrants) entering the population in a single copy. We especially show that invasion and fixation can be slower or faster when considering complex competitive interactions. Third, we explore the parameter space assuming prior distributions of reproduction, death and competitive rates and we estimate the likeliness of the possible dynamics. We especially show that when mutations can affect competitive interactions, even slightly, stable coexistence is likely. We discuss our results in the context of the evolutionary dynamics of large clonal populations.
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We reassessed whether two parapatric non-sister Australian honeyeater species (Aves: Meliphagidae), varied and mangrove honeyeaters (Gavicalis versicolor and G. fasciogularis, respectively), that diverged from a common ancestor c. 2.5 Mya intergrade in the Townsville area of north-eastern Queensland. Consistent with a previous specimenbased study, by using genomics methods we show one-way gene flow for autosomal but not Z-linked markers from varied into mangrove honeyeaters. Introgression barely extends south of the area of parapatry in and around the city of Townsville. While demonstrating the long-term porosity of species boundaries over several million years, our data also suggest a clear role of sex chromosomes in maintaining reproductive isolation.
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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.
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The North Sea is one of the most extensively studied marine regions of the world. Hence, large amounts of molecular data for species identification are available in public repositories, and expectations to find numerous new species in this well-known region are rather low. However, molecular reference data for harpacticoid copepods from this area in particular but also for this group in general is scarce. By assessing COI barcodes and MALDI-TOF mass spectra for this group of small crustaceans, it was discovered that there is a huge unknown diversity in this area. In total, COI sequences for 548 specimens from 115 species of harpacticoid copepods are presented. Over 19% of these were new to science and ten MOTUs were found to be part of cryptic species complexes. MALDI-TOF mass spectra were assessed for 622 specimens from 75 species. Because results were in concordance with species delimitation by COI barcoding and also enabled recognition of possible cryptic species, the discriminative power of this technique for biodiversity assessments is highlighted. Findings imply, species diversity in this group may be largely underestimated and total species number can be expected to be much higher than previously assumed.
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The sugarcane borer moth, Diatraea saccharalis, is one of the most important pests of sugarcane and maize crops in the Western Hemisphere. The pest is widespread throughout South and Central America, the Caribbean region and the southern United States. One of the most intriguing features of D. saccharalis population dynamics is the high rate of range expansion reported in recent years. To shed light on the history of colonization of D. saccharalis, we investigated the genetic structure and diversity in American populations using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) markers throughout the genome and sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase (COI). Our primary goal was to propose possible dispersal routes from the putative center of origin that can explain the spatial pattern of genetic diversity. Our findings showed a clear correspondence between genetic structure and the geographical distributions of this pest insect on the American continents. The clustering analyses indicated three distinct groups: one composed of Brazilian populations, a second group composed of populations from El Salvador, Mexico, Texas and Louisiana and a third group composed of the Florida population. The predicted time of divergence predates the agriculture expansion period, but the pattern of distribution of haplotype diversity suggests that human-mediated movement was most likely the factor responsible for the widespread distribution in the Americas. The study of the early history of D. saccharalis promotes a better understanding of range expansion, the history of invasion, and demographic patterns of pest populations in the Americas.
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