Contributors:Hall, Martin J. R., Simonsen, Thomas J., Martín-Vega, Daniel
The dramatic metamorphosis from larva to adult of insect orders such as Diptera cannot usually be witnessed because it occurs within an opaque structure. For the cyclorrhaphous dipterans, such as blow flies, this structure is the puparium, formed from the larval cuticle. Here, we reveal metamorphosis within the puparium of a blow fly at higher temporal resolution than previously possible with two-dimensional time-lapse videos created using the X-ray within a micro-computed tomography scanner, imaging development at 1 min and 2 min intervals. Our studies confirm that the most profound morphological changes occur during just 0.5% of the intrapuparial period (approx. equivalent to 1.25 h at 24°C) and demonstrate the significant potential of this technique to complement other methods for the study of developmental changes, such as hormone control and gene expression. We hope this will stimulate a renewed interest among students and researchers in the study of morphology and its astonishing transformation engendered by metamorphosis.
Effective predictive and management approaches for species occurring in a metapopulation structure require good understanding of inter-population connectivity. In this study we ask whether population genetic structure of marine species with fragmented distributions can be predicted by stepping-stone oceanographic transport and habitat continuity, using as model an ecosystem-structuring brown alga, Cystoseira amentacea var. stricta. To answer this question, we analyzed the genetic structure and estimated the connectivity of populations along discontinuous rocky habitat patches in southern Italy, using microsatellite markers at multiple scales. In addition, we modelled the effect of rocky habitat continuity and ocean circulation on gene flow by simulating Lagrangian particle dispersal based on ocean surface currents allowing multigenerational stepping-stone dynamics. Populations were highly differentiated, at scales from few meters up to 1000s of kilometers. The best possible model fit to explain the genetic results combined current direction, rocky habitat extension and distance along the coast among rocky sites. We conclude that a combination of variables suitable habitat and oceanographic transport is a useful predictor of genetic structure. This relationship provides insight into the mechanisms of dispersal and the role of life history traits. Our results highlight the importance of spatially explicit modeling of stepping stone dynamics and oceanographic directional transport coupled with habitat suitability, to better describe and predict marine population structure and differentiation. This study also suggests the appropriate spatial scales for the conservation, restoration and management of species that are increasingly affected by habitat modifications.
Video monitoring of artisanal fish traps in Jamaica demonstrated a new foraging behaviour, with bottlenose dolphins extracting fish from manipulated traps. Sharing of trap manipulation behaviour among individuals may suggest social learning, which could enhance the spread of this behavior within populations. These observations provide an example of how a species with sophisticated cognitive abilities may be able to learn to exploit resources introduced by humans possibly placing them at the forefront of human-wildlife conflict.
Contributors:Peteya, Jennifer A., Clarke, Julia A., Li, Quanguo, Gao, Ke-Qin, Shawkey, Matthew D.
Brilliant colour displays and diverse feather morphologies that are often sexual ornaments are common throughout much of extant Avialae. Here we describe a new basal enantiornithine bird specimen recovered from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of Liaoning Province in northeastern China. We present new information on the plumage of Bohaiornithidae as well as the first detailed colour reconstruction of an enantiornithine bird. The new specimen retains subadult skeletal characteristics, including periosteal pitting of the long bone epiphyses and unfused elements, while also preserving plumage evidence consistent with sexual maturity at the time of death. Exceptionally-preserved feathers cover the body, including elongate crown feathers, body contour feathers, asymmetrically-veined wing primaries, an alula and two elongate rachis-dominated rectrices that may have been sexual ornaments. The crown, neck, and body contour feathers retain elongate melanosome morphologies associated with weakly iridescent colouration in extant feathers. We provide additional evidence of preserved melanin using Raman spectroscopy; a rapid, non-destructive chemical technique. The new specimen provides data on skeletal ontogeny in the Bohaiornithidae as well as evidence for intraspecific communication functions of plumage.
Contributors:Luo, Shi-Xiao, Yao, Gang, Wang, Ziwei, Zhang, Dianxiang, Hembry, David H.
Leafflower plant/leafflower moth brood pollination mutualisms are widespread in the Paleotropics. Leafflower moths pollinate leafflower plants, but their larvae consume a subset of the hosts’ seeds. These interactions are highly phylogenetically constrained: six clades of leafflower plants are each associated with a unique clade of leafflower moths (Epicephala). Here, we report a previously unrecognized basal seventh pollinating Epicephala lineage—associated with the highly derived leafflower clade Glochidion—in Asia. Epicephala lanceolaria is a pollinator and seed predator of Glochidion lanceolarium. Phylogenetic inference indicates that the ancestor of E. lanceolaria most likely shifted onto the ancestor of G. lanceolarium and displaced the ancestral allospecific Epicephala pollinator in at least some host populations. The unusual and apparently coadapted aspects of the G. lanceolarium/E. lanceolaria reproductive cycles suggest that plant-pollinator coevolution may have played a role in this displacement and provide insights into the dynamics of host shifts and trait coevolution in this specialized mutualism.
Here, we describe a novel design to obtain three-dimensional data on the movements of aquatic organisms at depths of up to 140 m.
The set-up consists of two synchronized high-speed cameras fixed to two articulated arms.
The set-up was successfully used to film and quantify the locomotion of coelacanths Latimeria chalumnae living at a depth of about 120 m in Sodwana Bay, South Africa. As an example, the detailed motion of the dorsal fin is presented here.
This set-up can be used for any underwater applications that require synchronized video recordings of medium- to large-sized animals.
Contributors:Adams, Neil F., Collinson, Margaret E., Smith, Selena Y., Bamford, Marion K., Forest, Félix, Malakasi, Panagiota, Marone, Federica, Sykes, Dan
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Fossilized seeds similar to Cissus (Vitaceae) have been recognized from the Miocene of Kenya, though some were previously assigned to the Menispermaceae. We undertook a comparative survey of extant African Cissus seeds to identify the fossils and consider their implications for the evolution and biogeography of Cissus and for African early Miocene paleoenvironments.
METHODS: Micro-computed tomography (µCT) and synchrotron-based X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM) were used to study seed morphology and anatomy. Virtual taphonomy, using SRXTM data sets, produced digital fossils to elucidate seed taphonomy. Phylogenetic relationships within Cissus were reconstructed using existing and newly produced DNA sequences for African species. Paleobiology and paleoecology were inferred from African nearest living relatives.
KEY RESULTS: The fossils were assigned to four new Cissus species, related to four modern clades. The fossil plants were interpreted as climbers inhabiting a mosaic of riverine woodland and forest to more open habitats. Virtual taphonomy explained how complex mineral infill processes concealed key seed features, causing the previous taxonomic misidentification. Newly sampled African species, with seeds most similar to the fossils, belong to four clades within core Cissus, two of which are early diverging.
CONCLUSIONS: Virtual taphonomy, combined with X-ray imaging, has enabled recognition of the first fossil Cissus and Vitaceae from Africa. Early-divergent members of the core Cissus clade were present in Africa by at least the early Miocene, with an African origin suggested for the Cissus sciaphila clade. The fossils provide supporting evidence for mosaic paleoenvironments inhabited by early Miocene hominoids.
Contributors:Casoni, Filippo, Malone, Samuel A., Belle, Morgane, Luzzati, Federico, Collier, Francis, Allet, Cecile, Hrabovszky, Erik, Rasika, Sowmyalakshmi, Prevot, Vincent, Chedotal, Alain, Giacobini, Paolo
Fertility in mammals is controlled by hypothalamic neurons that secrete gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). These neurons differentiate in the olfactory placodes during embryogenesis and migrate from the nose to the hypothalamus before birth. Information regarding this process in humans is sparse. Here, we adapted new tissue-clearing and whole-mount immunohistochemical techniques to entire human embryos/fetuses to meticulously study this system during the first trimester of gestation in the largest series of human fetuses examined to date. Combining these cutting-edge techniques with conventional immunohistochemistry, we provide the first chronological and quantitative analysis of GnRH neuron origins, differentiation and migration, as well as a 3D atlas of their distribution in the fetal brain. We reveal not only that the number of GnRH-immunoreactive neurons in humans is significantly higher than previously thought, but that GnRH cells migrate into several extrahypothalamic brain regions in addition to the hypothalamus. Their presence in these areas raises the possibility that GnRH has non-reproductive roles, creating new avenues for research on GnRH functions in cognitive, behavioral and physiological processes.
Contributors:Hermsen, Elizabeth J., Gandolfo, María A.
Specimens of a new fruit taxon, Alatonucula ignis, from the early Eocene Laguna del Hunco flora of Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina, have characteristics consistent with assignment to Juglandaceae. Each fossil fruit consists of a nutlet with an attached wing that varies from unlobed to trilobed. One specimen clearly shows that the nutlet has a single locule partially subdivided into four chambers; its counterpart contains a four-lobed locule cast. The basally partitioned locule with lobed seed indicates that Alatonucula can be placed within Juglandaceae; the overall structure of the fruits suggests affinities to subfamily Engelhardioideae, which typically have fruits consisting of a nutlet attached to a trilobed wing. Parsimony analyses of a morphological matrix for extant and fossil Juglandaceae revised from a previously published study demonstrate that 1) Alatonucula groups with Engelhardioideae; and 2) Paleooreomunnea, an Eocene North American taxon that includes a fruit type with a trilobed wing, is within crown-group Engelhardioideae. Alatonucula, along with fossil juglandaceous pollen from the Paleogene of Patagonia, indicates that Juglandaceae may have had an unexpectedly early presence in South America. Furthermore, these fruits represent a Laurasian biogeographic signal in the Laguna del Hunco flora, which contrasts with the predominantly Australasian signal highlighted in previous studies.
Contributors:Jakubowska, Monika A., Ferdek, Pawel E., Gerasimenko, Oleg V., Gerasimenko, Julia V., Petersen, Ole H.
The mammalian diffuse stellate cell system comprises retinoid-storing cells capable of remarkable transformations from a quiescent to an activated myofibroblast-like phenotype. Activated pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) attract attention owing to the pivotal role they play in development of tissue fibrosis in chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. However, little is known about the actual role of PSCs in the normal pancreas. These enigmatic cells have recently been shown to respond to physiological stimuli in a manner that is markedly different from their neighbouring pancreatic acinar cells (PACs). Here, we demonstrate the capacity of PSCs to generate nitric oxide (NO), a free radical messenger mediating, for example, inflammation and vasodilatation. We show that production of cytosolic NO in PSCs is unambiguously related to cytosolic Ca2+ signals. Only stimuli that evoke Ca2+ signals in the PSCs elicit consequent NO generation. We provide fresh evidence for the striking difference between signalling pathways in PSCs and adjacent PACs, because PSCs, in contrast to PACs, generate substantial Ca2+-mediated and NOS-dependent NO signals. We also show that inhibition of NO generation protects both PSCs and PACs from necrosis. Our results highlight the interplay between Ca2+ and NO signalling pathways in cell–cell communication, and also identify a potential therapeutic target for anti-inflammatory therapies.