Intralocus conflict has been well documented between the sexes, but much less is known about the potential for this genetic conflict in other polymorphisms, such as alternative reproductive tactics. Here we investigate two of three criteria necessary for demonstrating intralocus tactical conflict: the ARTs have different phenotypic optima for a shared trait, and one or both ARTs are not at their phenotypic optima for a shared trait. We address these two criteria in Xiphophorus multilineatus, a live-bearing freshwater fish that has two male alternative reproductive tactics, a behaviorally fixed courter male and a behaviorally plastic sneaker male that switches between courtship and force-copulatory behavior. We used measures of reproductive success from a wild population to estimate selection gradients on three tactically dimorphic traits involved in sexual selection: body size, body shape, and sword length. We present evidence that both body size and sword length are experiencing tactically antagonistic selection, providing evidence for both criteria. Additionally, selection on body shape in sneaker males appears to be buffered due to behavioral plasticity. Our study provides novel insight from a wild population into the role that intralocus tactical conflict can play in constraining ARTs from reaching their respective phenotypic optima despite tactical dimorphism.
Seed recruitment is a major driver of mangrove restoration globally. It is hypothesized that soil condition and channel hydrology can accelerate seedling recruitment and regeneration after a major disturbance. Species abundance, diversity indices, microbial and chemical concentrations in sand-filled mangrove forest was studied. Eight plots (area = 3902.16 m2) were established with ten transects in each plot in a random block design to investigate the effect of soil conditions on seedling growth. A total of 1, 886 seedlings were physically counted. Seedling abundance was significantly different between red (Rizophora racemosa), white (Laguncularia racemosa) and black (Avicennia germinans) mangroves and nypa palm (nypa fruticans). The most dominant species was black mangroves and the least dominant species was nypa palm. Muddy soils had the most abundant species while sandy soils had the least abundant species. Furthermore, semi-muddy soils had the highest species diversity (H = 0.948) whereas muddy soils had the least species diversity (H = 0.022). The soil metal concentration has no correlation with seed abundance and occur in the order Iron>Nitrate>Copper>Cadmium. Soil with high species diversity had high soil microbial population; however, seedling abundance was correlated with soil nutrients and not heavy metals. Small seeds are easily recruited while good soil condition plus existing hydrological connection facilitated natural seedling regeneration in the disturbed mangrove forest.
1. Behavior and organization of social groups is thought to be vital to the functioning of societies, yet the contributions of various roles within social groups towards population growth and dynamics have been difficult to quantify. A common approach to quantifying these role-based contributions is evaluating the number of individuals conducting certain roles, which ignores how behavior might scale up to effects at the population-level. Manipulative experiments are another common approach to determine population-level effects, but they often ignore potential feedbacks associated with these various roles. 2. Here, we evaluate the effects of worker size distribution in bumblebee colonies on worker production in 24 observational colonies across three environments, using functional linear models. Functional linear models are an underused correlative technique that has been used to assess lag effects of environmental drivers on plant performance. We demonstrate potential applications of this technique for exploring high-dimensional ecological systems, such as the contributions of individuals with different traits to colony dynamics. 3. We found that more larger workers had mostly positive effects and more smaller workers had negative effects on worker production. Most of these effects were only detected under low or fluctuating resource environments suggesting that the advantage of colonies with larger-bodied workers becomes more apparent under stressful conditions. 4. We also demonstrate the wider ecological application of functional linear models. We highlight the advantages and limitations when considering these models, and how they are a valuable complement to many of these performance-based and manipulative experiments.
Tree functional traits together with processes such as forest regeneration, growth, and mortality affect forest and tree structure. Forest management inherently impacts these processes. Moreover, forest structure, biodiversity, resilience, and carbon uptake can be sustained and enhanced with forest management activities. To assess structural complexity of individual trees, comprehensive and quantitative measures are needed, and they are often lacking for current forest management practices. Here, we utilized 3D information from individual Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) trees obtained with terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to first, assess effects of forest management on structural complexity of individual trees, and second, understand relationship between several tree attributes and structural complexity. We studied structural complexity of individual trees represented by a single scale independent metric called “box dimension”. This study aimed at identifying drivers affecting structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees in boreal forest conditions. The results showed that thinning increased structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees. Furthermore, we found a relationship between structural complexity and stem and crown size and shape as well as tree growth. Thus, it can be concluded that forest management affected structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees in managed boreal forests, and stem, crown, and growth attributes were identified as drivers of it.
Comparisons of 3D shapes have recently been applied to diverse anatomical structures using landmarking techniques. However discerning evolutionary patterns can be challenging for structures lacking homologous landmarks. We used alpha shape analyses to quantify vaginal shape complexity in 40 marine mammal specimens including cetaceans, pinnipeds, and sirenians. We explored phylogenetic signal and the potential roles of natural and sexual selection on vaginal shape evolution. Complexity scores were consistent with qualitative observations. Cetaceans had a broad range of alpha complexities, while pinnipeds were comparatively simple and sirenians were complex. Intraspecific variation was found. Three-dimensional surface heat maps revealed that shape complexity was driven by invaginations and protrusions of the vaginal wall. Phylogenetic signal was weak and metrics of natural selection (relative neonate size) and sexual selection (relative testes size, sexual size dimorphism, and penis morphology) did not explain vaginal complexity patterns. Additional metrics, such as penile shape complexity, may yield interesting insights into marine mammal genital coevolution. We advocate for the use of alpha shapes to discern patterns of evolution that would otherwise not be possible in 3D anatomical structures lacking homologous landmarks.
For nearly all organisms, dispersal is a fundamental life history trait that can shape their ecology and evolution. Variation in dispersal capabilities within a species exists and can influence population genetic structure and ecological interactions. In fungus-gardening (attine) ants, co-dispersal of ants and mutualistic fungi is crucial to the success of this obligate symbiosis. Female-biased dispersal (and gene flow) may be favored in attines because virgin queens carry the responsibility of dispersing the fungi, but a paucity of research has made this conclusion difficult. Here, we investigate dispersal of the fungus-gardening ant Trachymyrmex septentrionalis using a combination of maternally- (mitochondrial DNA) and biparentally-inherited (microsatellites) markers. We found three distinct, spatially isolated mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Two were found in the Florida panhandle and the other was found in the Florida peninsula. In contrast, biparental markers illustrated significant gene flow across this region and minimal spatial structure. The differential patterns uncovered from mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite markers suggest that most long-distance ant dispersal is male-biased and that females (and concomitantly the fungus) have more limited dispersal capabilities. Consequently, the limited female dispersal is likely an important bottleneck for the fungal symbiont. This bottleneck could slow fungal genetic diversification, which has significant implications for both ant hosts and fungal symbionts regarding population genetics, species distributions, adaptive responses to environmental change, and coevolutionary patterns.
We examined whether the presence or absence of different environmental stressors influenced the reproductive potential of a saltmarsh species - Plantago maritima. We focused on total seed output, seed quality and biomass of progeny. So far, there are no studies trying to answer the question of how different saltmarsh management affects the quality of seed in saltmarsh species. For the purposes of the study, plots subjected to light mowing, light or heavy grazing, trampling or rooting were designated in three nature reserves in Poland. On each plot, the abundance of infructescences per sq. metre was calculated. Mature infructascences were collected and their length and no of fruit capsules were measured. The seeds obtained from fruit capsules were weighted and sown in controlled conditions. The germination rate and the final germination percentage were calculated. A representative number of sprouts were grown. After a period of two months, the specimens were harvested and their total dry mass was measured. It was found that heavy grazing had the greatest effect on all of the studied characteristics. The presence of this factor resulted in shorter infructescences with a smaller number of fruit capsules. However, this phenomenon was compensated by the higher abundance of infructescences per sq. metre. At the same time seeds produced by grazed specimens were significantly lighter. Intensive trampling by people affected specimens in a similar way to heavy grazing, while mowing and rooting had less impact on the considered characteristics. Although a positive correlation between seed mass and germination success was found, the altogether lower seed mass had a negligible effect on germination parameters. Also, the differences in seed parameters did not affect dry mass of obtained progeny grown in lab conditions.
Third generation sequencing technologies, such as Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) and Pacific Biosciences (PacBio), have gained popularity over the last years. These platforms can generate millions of long read sequences. This is not only advantageous for genome sequencing projects, but also for amplicon-based high-throughput sequencing experiments, such as DNA barcoding. However, the relatively high error rates associated with these technologies still pose challenges for generating high quality consensus sequences. Here we present NGSpeciesID, a program which can generate highly accurate consensus sequences from long-read amplicon sequencing technologies, including ONT and PacBio. The tool includes clustering of the reads to help filter out contaminants or reads with high error rates and employs polishing strategies specific to the appropriate sequencing platform. We show that NGSpeciesID produces consensus sequences with improved usability by minimizing preprocessing and software installation and scalability by enabling rapid processing of hundreds to thousands of samples, while maintaining similar consensus accuracy as current pipelines
The mechanisms of forest seed dispersal and regeneration of various altered forest ecosystems are complemented by the action of carnivores. The objective of this study was to evaluate the role of endozoochoric and diploendozoochoric mammals in the dispersal, scarification, and germination of seeds in two different forest ecosystems: temperate forest (TF) and dry tropical forest (DTF). A direct search and scat collection were carried out to determine dispersing agents and the abundance and richness of seeds in the Protected Natural Area, Sierra Fría, Aguascalientes, Mexico. Viability was evaluated by means of X-rays and a germination test using an optical densitometry. In addition, thickness measurements and observations were made on the surfaces of the testas by a scanning electron microscopy. In the TF, four plant species were dispersed, mainly Arctostaphylos pungens (P < 0.05), by four mammals, where the gray fox dispersed the highest average (66.8 ± 68.2; P < 0.05) and diploendozoochory was detected in bobcat scats associated with rabbit hair (Sylvilagus floridanus). The DTF presented higher abundance and richness of species, where Myrtillocactus geometrizans had the highest abundance (2680 ± 4423) and the coati (P < 0.05) dispersed the highest number of seeds (8639 ± 12203). In both types of forest, endozoochory and diploendozoochory did not affect the viability, the thickness of the testas, or the germination of any species of seeds. These results suggest that dispersing carnivores adapt to the abundance and richness of seeds in the forests they inhabit, thus developing an important ecological function by dispersing, scarifying and promoting the selective germination of seeds with thick testas in TF and thin testas in DTF.
Diapause is an adaptive dormancy strategy by which arthropods endure extended periods of adverse climatic conditions. Seasonal variation in larval diapause initiation and duration in Ostrinia furnacalis influences adult mating generation number (voltinism) across different local environments. The degree of mating period overlap between sympatric voltine ecotypes influence hybridization level, but impacts on O. furnacalis population genetic structure and evolution of divergent adaptive phenotypes remains uncertain. Genetic differentiation was estimated between voltine ecotypes collected from 8 locations. Mitochondrial haplotypes were significantly different between historically allopatric univoltine and bivoltine locations. Haplotypes from sympatric locations were clustered more-closely to bivoltine locations, but influenced by local demographics. Additionally, analyses of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes implicate voltinism, as opposed to geographic distance, as contributing to low, but significant levels of variation among voltine ecotypes. Regardless, only 11 of 257 SNP loci were predicted to be under selection, suggesting population genetic homogenization except at loci proximal to factors putatively responsible for locally adaptive or voltinism-specific traits. These findings provide evidence that divergent voltine ecotypes may be maintained in allopatric and sympatric areas despite relatively high rates of nuclear gene flow, yet influence of voltinism on maintenance of observed haplotype divergence remains unresolved.
Population size is a central parameter for conservation, however monitoring abundance is often problematic for threatened marine species. Despite substantial investment in research, many marine species remain data-poor resulting in uncertain population forecasts and restricting the evaluation of past and present conservation actions. Such is the case for the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), a highly mobile apex predator for whom population monitoring is a conservation priority following substantial declines recorded through the 20th century. Here, we estimate the effective number of breeders that successfully contribute offspring in one reproductive cycle (Nb) providing a snapshot of recent reproductive effort in an east-Australian New Zealand population of white shark. Nb was estimated over four consecutive age cohorts (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) using two genetic estimators (linkage-disequilibrium; LD and sibship assignment; SA) based on genetic data derived from two types of genetic markers (single-nucleotide-polymorphisms; SNPs and microsatellite loci). While estimates of Nb using different marker types produced comparable estimates, microsatellite loci were the least precise. The LD and SA estimates of Nb within cohorts using SNPs were comparable, for example the 2013 age-cohort Nb(SA) was 289 (95%CI 200-461) and Nb(LD) was 208.5 (95%CI 116.4-712.7). We show that over the time period studied Nb was stable and ranged between 206.1(±45.9) and 252.0(±46.7) per year using a combined estimate of Nb(SA+LD) from SNP loci, and a simulation approach showed that in this population effective population size (Ne) per generation can be expected to be larger than Nb per reproductive cycle. This study demonstrates how breeding population size can be monitored over time to provide insight into the effectiveness of recovery and conservation measures for the white shark, where the methods described here may be applicable to other data-poor species of conservation concern.
1. Landscape change is a key driver of biodiversity declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation, but spatially shifting resources can also facilitate range expansion and invasion. Invasive populations are reproductively successful, and landscape change may buoy this success. 2. We show how modelling the spatial structure of reproductive success can elucidate the mechanisms of range shifts and sustained invasions for mammalian species with attendant young. We use an example of white-tailed deer (deer; Odocoileus virginianus) expansion in the Nearctic boreal forest, a North American phenomenon implicated in severe declines of threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus). 3. We hypothesized that deer reproductive success is linked to forage subsidies provided by extensive landscape change via resource extraction. We measured deer occurrence using data from 62 camera-traps in northern Alberta, Canada, over three years. We weighed support for multiple competing hypotheses about deer reproductive success using multi-state occupancy models and generalized linear models in an AIC-based model selection framework. 4. Spatial patterns of reproductive success were best explained by features associated with petroleum exploration and extraction, which offer early seral vegetation resource subsidies. Effect sizes of anthropogenic features eclipsed natural heterogeneity by two orders of magnitude. We conclude that deer populations are likely buffered from overwinter mortality by landscape change, wherein early seral forage subsidies support high springtime reproductive success to offset or exceed winter losses. 5. Synthesis and Applications. Modelling spatial structuring in reproductive success can become a key goal of remote camera-based global networks, yielding ecological insights into mechanisms of invasion and range shifts to inform effective decision-making for global biodiversity conservation.
The structure of Apteryx’s eggshell has generated much debate over the decades because it does not fit well with most allometric predictions. Apteryx eggshells are unusually thin and have been reported to be 60% less porous than expected. It has been suggested that these adaptations are compensations for a very long incubation period. Most studies so far have been carried out in what has been reported as Apteryx australis, and using infertile eggs or eggs laid in captivity. However, A. australis once comprised all kiwi with brown plumage, now separated into three distinct species: Brown Kiwi (A.mantelli), Rowi (A.rowi), and Tokoeka (A.australis). These three species use different habitats and live at different latitudes and altitudes. In addition, captive eggs are much smaller than wild laid eggs. These confounding factors make necessary to revise the assumptions made for Apteryx in the past. In this study, we analysed the physical characteristics of the Apteryx eggshells making a comparison between the three species of brown coloured kiwi and for some of the analysis we included some specimens of Roroa (A. haastii, Great Spotted Kiwi). We found that shell characteristics are different between the different species studied. The pore area of Apteryx eggshells was higher than previously suggested, and the water vapour conductance was much closer to what is expected for an egg that size. We found several new features such as triangular mineral particles composing the cuticle, only reported for a cretaceous Theropod, and the presence of plugs and caps on the eggshell pores. We suggest that the characteristics of the eggshells of the different species relate to the mating system of each species in addition to environmental variables, particularly pluviosity. We also suggest that the erosion of the cuticle during incubation is an adaptation to a long incubation period in a burrow.
Understanding trade-offs in wild populations is difficult, but important if we are to understand the evolution of life histories and the impact of ecological variables upon them. Markers that reflect physiological state and predict future survival would be of considerable benefit to unravelling such trade-offs and could provide insight into individual variation in senescence. However, currently used markers often yield inconsistent results. One underutilised measure is haematocrit, the proportional of blood comprising of erythrocytes, which relates to the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity and viscosity, and to individual endurance. Haematocrit has been shown to decline with age in cross-sectional studies (which may be confounded by selective appearance/disappearance). However, few studies have tested whether haematocrit declines within-individuals or whether low haematocrit impacts survival in wild taxa. Using longitudinal data from the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis), we demonstrated that haematocrit increases with age in young individuals (<1.5 years) but decreases with age in older individuals (1.5–13 years). In breeders, haematocrit was higher in males than females and varied relative to breeding stage. High haematocrit was associated with lower survival in young individuals, but not older individuals. Thus, while we did not find support for haematocrit as a marker of senescence, high haematocrit is indicative of poor condition in younger individuals. Possible explanations are that these individuals were experiencing dehydration and/or high endurance demands prior to capture, which warrants further investigation. Our study demonstrates that haematocrit can be an informative metric for life-history studies investigating trade-offs between survival, longevity and reproduction.
Understanding the processes that enable species coexistence has important implications for assessing how ecological systems will respond to global change. Morphology and functional similarity increase the potential for competition, and therefore, co-occurring morphologically similar but genetically unique species are a good model system for testing coexistence mechanisms. We used DNA metabarcoding and High Throughput Sequencing to characterise for first time the trophic ecology of two recently-described cryptic bat species with parapatric ranges, Myotis escalerai and Myotis crypticus. We collected faecal samples from allopatric and sympatric regions and locations to describe the diet both taxonomically and functionally and compare prey consumption with prey availability. The two bat species had similar diets characterised by high arthropod diversity, particularly Lepidoptera, Diptera and Araneae, and a high proportion of prey that is not volant at night, which points to extensive use of gleaning. Diet overlap at the prey-item level was lower in locally sympatric than allopatric locations, supporting trophic shift under fine-scale sympatry. Furthermore, locally sympatric samples of M. escalerai had a marginally lower proportion of not nocturnally volant prey, suggesting that the shift in diet may be driven by a change in foraging mode. Our findings suggest that fine-scale coexistence mechanisms can have implications for maintaining broad-scale diversity patterns. This study highlights the importance of including both allopatric and sympatric populations and choosing meaningful spatial scales for detecting ecological patterns. We conclude that a combination of high taxonomic resolution with a functional approach helps identify patterns of niche shift.
The Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is of special interest in evolutionary studies due to its taxonomic uniqueness. Globally, Nepal represents the Westernmost edge of the red panda distribution. Fewer studies of red panda have been carried out which hinders the implementation of effective conservation actions of the species. We aim to determine important habitat features influencing the distribution of red panda and recommend possible habitat corridors. We conducted an extensive field survey and analyzed red panda presence data, key food resources (bamboo), and bioclimatic variables to build a Maxent habitat model and determine habitat requirements of the red panda. Himalayan red pandas were confined between the range of 2600 m - 3,600 m, with most records between 3250 m - 3400 m on the north and west-facing slopes. The potentially suitable habitat of the red panda in Western Nepal is estimated to be about 3,222 km2 with a relative abundance of 3.34 signs/km. Important habitat attributes for red panda occurrence include aspects, canopy cover, bamboo cover, and distance to water. Combining species habitat requirements and disturbance factors (human footprint), we suggested five potential biological corridors in Western Nepal. Western Nepal has suitable habitat attributes for the red panda distributions. Ecological variables such as canopy cover, bamboo cover, distance to the water, and aspects are important attributes for red panda occurrence in Western Nepal alike Central Nepal. We suggested five potential corridors in Western Nepal; however, due to a lack of detailed knowledge on corridors and connectivity, a comprehensive field-based assessment is required to validate it scientifically. Keywords: Biological Corridor; Distribution; Habitat requirements; Red panda
Arachnids are the most abundant land predators. Despite the importance of their functional roles as predators and the of necessity to understand their diet for conservation and nutrient fluxes, the trophic ecology of many arachnid species is not fully understood. In the case of the wandering spider, Phoneutria boliviensis F. O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897, only selected field and laboratory observational studies about their diet exist. By using a DNA metabarcoding approach, we compared the prey found in the gut content of males and females from three distant Colombian populations of P. boliviensis. By DNA metabarcoding of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI), we detected and identiﬁed 234 prey records belonging to 96 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), as prey for this wandering predator. Our results broaden the known diet of P. boliviensis with at least 75 prey taxa not previously registered in fieldwork or laboratory experimental trials. These results suggest that P. boliviensis feeds predominantly on invertebrates (Diptera, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Orthoptera) and opportunistically on small squamates. Intersex and interpopulation differences are observed. Assuming that prey preference does not vary between populations, these differences are likely associated with a higher local prey availability. Finally, we suggest that DNA metabarcoding can be used for evaluating subtle differences in the diet of distinct populations of P. boliviensis, particularly when predation records in the field cannot be established or quantified using direct observation
This is the first study to document the genetic diversity of the white-tailed deer population on St. John, US Virgin Islands. The island population was founded by a small number of animals, has very limited hunting or predation, and recently experienced a reduction in size following an extended drought in 2015. DNA samples were collected from hair from 23 anesthetized adult deer (13 males, 10 females) ranging in age from 1-8 years (3.36+ 1.9 yr) and also from fecal DNA samples, for a total of 42 individuals analyzed for genetic diversity. The St. John deer data set averaged 4.19 alleles per marker and demonstrates the second lowest number of alleles (A) when compared to other populations of Odocoileus virginianus (4.19). Heterozygosity was similar to the other studies (0.54) with little evidence of inbreeding. To explain the level of heterogygosity and lack of inbreeding within the St. John population, three hypotheses are proposed, including the effect of intrinsic biological traits within the population, a recent infusion of highly heterogeneous loci from North American populations, and a consistent level of immigration from a nearby island. Additional work is needed to further understand the genetic history of the St. John and regional deer populations.