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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.
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For microorganisms cycling between free-living and host-associated stages, where reproduction occurs in both of these lifestyles, an interesting inquiry is whether adaptation to stress during the free-living stage can impact microbial fitness in the host. To address this topic, the mutualism between the Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) and the marine bioluminescent bacterium Vibrio fischeri was utilized. Using microbial experimental evolution, V. fischeri was selected to low (8⁰C), high (34⁰C), and fluctuating temperature stress (8⁰C/34⁰C) for 2,000 generations. The temperatures 8⁰C and 34⁰C were the lower and upper growth limits, respectively. V. fischeri was also selected to benign temperatures (21⁰C and 28⁰C) for 2,000 generations, which served as controls. V. fischeri demonstrated significant adaptation to low, high, and fluctuating temperature stress. V. fischeri did not display significant adaptation to the benign temperatures. Adaptation to stressful temperatures facilitated V. fischeri’s ability to colonize the squid host relative to the ancestral lines. Bioluminescence levels also increased. Evolution to benign temperatures did not manifest these results. In summary, microbial adaptation to stress during the free-living stage can promote coevolution between hosts and microorganisms.
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1. Forest responses to changes in drought frequency is a critical unknown for the future of Amazon forests under climate change, but equally important is the much less studied response to large floods, which may also increase tree mortality and change forest functionality. Further, forest vulnerability to flood is being exacerbated by large hydroelectric dams on Amazon rivers that put upland environments not adapted to flood at unique risk. 2. To address this critical knowledge gap, we evaluated the synergistic effects of the extreme 2014 rainfall coupled with the newly constructed Jirau hydroelectric dam on tree survival and forest functionality, in the upper Madeira River basin. We used surveys of campinarana white-sand forests (stems >1 cm in seven 1 ha plots) conducted before and after the extreme flood to test trait-based ecological theory predictions of the impact of drought on overall community function. 3. We found that flooding increased mortality by nearly five-fold (from 3.2% to 15.1%), mostly in smaller trees. This large mortality induced significant and consistent shifts in community function, towards species with conservative life strategies: direct comparison of trait differences between surviving and dying trees showed that survivors had smaller, high density stomata, and higher leaf dry matter content, wood density and root tissue density. Size and density of stomata and root tissue density were the most important predictors of species mortality rates. 4. Synthesis and applications. Although focused on a single event in one type of forest, this work highlights the general importance, and need for further study, of synergism between climate change and development in Amazon forests. In particular, we expect that continued expansion of hydroelectric dams in Amazonia will likely intensify the impact of large floods on forests made newly vulnerable by these dams, with substantial effect on future forest functionality in expanded floodplain areas across the Basin.16-Aug-2019
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Terrestrial‐breeding amphibians are likely to be vulnerable to warming and drying climates, as their embryos require consistent moisture for successful development. Adaptation to environmental change will depend on sufficient genetic variation existing within or between connected populations. Here, we use Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) data to investigate genome‐wide patterns in genetic diversity, gene flow and local adaptation in a terrestrial‐breeding frog (Pseudophryne guentheri) subject to a rapidly drying climate and recent habitat fragmentation. The species was sampled across 12 central and range‐edge populations (192 samples), and strong genetic structure was apparent, as were high inbreeding coefficients. Populations showed differences in genetic diversity, and one population lost significant genetic diversity in a decade. More than 500 SNP loci were putatively under directional selection, and 413 of these loci were correlated with environmental variables such as temperature, rainfall, evaporation and soil moisture. One locus showed homology to a gene involved in the activation of maturation in Xenopus oocytes, which may facilitate rapid development of embryos in drier climates. The low genetic diversity, strong population structuring and presence of local adaptation revealed in this study shows why management strategies such as targeted gene flow may be necessary to assist isolated populations to adapt to future climates.
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Understanding how wildlife responds to ever-encroaching urbanization is of great concern. Bats are the second-most speciose mammalian order and while many appear to be urban adapted, we currently have a limited understanding of their demography and habitat use within urban environments. Using a combination of captures to obtain demographic data, radio-telemetry to examine foraging and roosting behaviour, and data on diet and prey availability, we examined how big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), a synurbic species, use an urban green space (High Park) in Canada?s largest city centre, Toronto. We found that adult males outnumbered adult females more than two to one and that males were found throughout the park, while females were concentrated in an area with greater access to water, but lower prey availability. We also found that bats of both sexes were in poorer body condition than reported for other non-urban areas, including a site within southern Ontario. Our data suggest that High Park may not provide adequate resources for reproductive females as they were never found roosting in the park and beetles, their preferred prey, were limited. Although previous studies suggest urban green spaces may offer refuge to bats, most have not considered sex-specific responses to urbanization as they have largely been based on acoustic surveys. Our study therefore highlights the importance of considering demographic differences in response to urbanization to better inform urban management plans and green spaces.
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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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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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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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