Phenotypic plasticity can allow animals to adapt their behaviour, such as their mating effort, to their social and sexual environment. However, this relies on the individual receiving accurate and reliable cues of the environmental conditions. This can be achieved via the receipt of multi-component cues, which may provide redundancy and robustness. Male Drosophila melanogaster detect presence of rivals via combinations of any two or more redundant cue components (sound, smell and touch) and respond by extending their subsequent mating duration, which is associated with higher reproductive success. Although alternative combinations of cues of rival presence have previously been found to elicit equivalent increases in mating duration and offspring production, their redundancy in securing success under sperm competition has not previously been tested. Here, we explicitly test this by exposing male D. melanogaster to alternative combinations of rival cues and examining reproductive success in both the presence and absence of sperm competition. The results supported previous findings of redundancy of cues in terms of behavioural responses. However, there was no evidence of reproductive benefits accrued by extending mating duration in response to rivals. The lack of identifiable fitness benefits of longer mating under these conditions, both in the presence and absence of sperm competition, contrasted with some previous results, but could be explained by: 1) damage sustained from aggressive interactions with rivals leading to reduced ability to increase ejaculate investment, 2) presence of features of the social environment, such as male and female mating status, that obscured the fitness benefits of longer mating, 3) decoupling of behavioural investment with fitness benefits.
Plants employ a diverse set of defense mechanisms to mediate interactions with insects and fungi. These relationships can leave lasting impacts on host plant genome structure such as rapid expansion of gene families through tandem duplication. These genomic signatures provide important clues about the complexities of plant/biotic stress interactions and evolution. We used a pseudo-backcross hybrid family to identify Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) controlling associations between Populus trees and several common Populus diseases and insects. Using whole genome sequences from each parent, we identified candidate genes that may mediate these interactions. Candidates were partially validated using mass spectrometry to identify corresponding QTL for defensive compounds. We detected significant QTL for two interacting fungal pathogens and three insects. The QTL intervals contained candidate genes potentially involved in physical and chemical mechanisms of host-plant resistance and susceptibility. In particular, we identified overlapping QTLs for a phenolic glycoside and Phyllocolpa sawfly abundance. There was also significant enrichment of recent tandem duplications in the genomic intervals of the native parent, but not the exotic parent. Tandem gene duplication may be an important mechanism for rapid response to biotic stressors, enabling trees with long juvenile periods to reach maturity despite many coevolving biotic stressors.
Recurrent sea urchin mass mortality has recently affected eastern Atlantic populations of the barren-forming sea urchin Diadema africanum. This new episode of die-off affords the opportunity to determine common meteorological and oceanographic conditions that may promote disease outbreaks. The population dynamics of this sea urchin species are well known—urchin barrens have persisted for many decades along most of the coastlines off the archipelagos of Madeira, Selvages and the Canary Islands, where they limit macroalgae biomass growth. However, this new and explosive mortality event decimated the sea urchin population by 93% on Tenerife and La Palma Islands. Two severe episodes of southwestern rough sea that lead to winter storms, in February 2010 (Xynthia) and February 2018 (Emma), preceded both mass mortality events. The autumn and winter months of those years were anomalous and characterized by swells with an average wave height above 2 m that hit the south and southwest sides of the islands. The amoeba Paramoeba brachiphila was the only pathogen isolated this time from the moribund and dead sea urchins, suggesting that the amoeba was the primary cause of the mortality. This new sea urchin die-off event supports the “killer-storm” hypothesis that has been already described for western Atlantic coasts. These anomalous southwest storms during winters generate pronounced underwater sediment movement and large-scale vertical mixing, detected in local tide gauge, which may promote paramoebiasis. This study presents valuable insights about climate-mediated changes in disease frequency and its impacts on the future of coastal marine ecosystems in the Atlantic.
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The commercial success of this molecule is due to its non-selectivity and its action, which would supposedly target specific biosynthetic pathways found mainly in plants. Multiple studies have however provided evidence for high sensitivity of many non-target species to glyphosate and/or to formulations (glyphosate mixed with surfactants). This herbicide, found at significant levels in aquatic systems through surface runoffs, impacts life history traits and immune parameters of several aquatic invertebrates’ species. Some of these species are vectors of diseases, one of the most important of which is the mosquito. Mosquitoes, from hatching to emergence, are exposed to aquatic chemical contaminants. In this study, we first compared the toxicity of pure glyphosate to the toxicity of glyphosate-based formulations for the main vector of avian malaria in Europe, Culex pipiens mosquito. Then we evaluated, for the first time, how field realistic dose of glyphosate interacts with larval nutritional stress to alter mosquito life history traits and susceptibility to avian malaria parasite infection. Our results show that exposure of larvae to field-realistic doses of glyphosate, pure or in formulation, did not affect larval survival rate, adult size and female fecundity. One of our two experimental blocks showed, however, that exposure to glyphosate decreased development time and reduced mosquito infection probability by malaria parasite. Interestingly the effect on malaria infection was lost when the larvae were also subjected to a nutritional stress, probably due to a lower ingestion of glyphosate.
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is critically endangered throughout its distribution range. Knowledge about age distribution of future spawners (silver eels) is essential to monitor the status and contribute to the recovery of this species. Determination of age in anguillid eels is challenging, especially in eels from the northern part of the distribution area where growth is slow and age at maturation can be up to 30 years or more. Eels from the river Imsa in Norway have been monitored since 1975 and this reference time-series has been used to assess the stock at the European level. Population dynamics in this catchment were analyzed during the late 1980s by estimating ages on whole cleared otoliths. However, techniques for revealing annual increments on otoliths have evolved over the years sometimes yielding significant differences in age estimates. In this study, the historical otolith data were reanalyzed using a grinding and polishing method rather than reading the whole otolith. The new age estimates were considerably higher than the previous ones, sometimes by up to 29 years. Since the 1980s, mean age of silver eels only slightly increased (from 19 to 21 years in the 2010s). This was mainly due to the disappearance of younger silver eels (less than 15 years) in the 2010s. The new age estimates agreed with the steep decline in recruitment which occurred in the late 1980s in the Imsa catchment. Growth (30 mm y-1) has not changed since the 1980s, although density in the catchment has decreased. Revealing and reading age of slow growing eels remain a challenge but adding a measure of otolith reading uncertainty may improve age data collection and contribute to recovery measures for this species.
The capacity of some yeasts to extract energy from single sugars, generating CO2 and ethanol (=fermentation), even in the presence of oxygen is known as the Crabtree effect. This phenomenon represents an important adaptation as it allowed the utilization of the ecological niche given by modern fruits, an abundant source of food that emerged in the terrestrial environment in the Cretaceous. However, identifying the evolutionary events that triggered fermentative capacity in Crabtree positive species is challenging, as microorganisms do not leave fossil evidence. Thus, key innovations should be inferred based only on traits measured under culture conditions. Here, we reanalyzed data form a common-garden experiment where several proxies of fermentative capacity were recorded in Crabtree positive and negative species, representing yeast’s phylogenetic diversity. In particular, we applied the “lasso-OU” algorithm which detects points of adaptive shifts, provided trait values representing a given performance measure. We tested whether multiple events or a single event explains the actual fermentative capacity of yeasts. According to the lasso-OU procedure, evolutionary changes in the three proxies of fermentative capacity that we considered (i.e., glycerol production, ethanol yield and respiratory quotient) are consistent with a single evolutionary episode (a whole-genomic duplication, WGD), instead of a series of small genomic rearrangements. Thus, the WGD appears as the key event behind the diversification of fermentative yeasts, which by increasing gene dosage and maximized their capacity of energy extraction for exploiting the new ecological niche provided by single sugars.
Competitive interactions between distantly related clades could cause complementary diversity patterns of these clades over large spatial scales. One such example might be ants and birds in the eastern Himalaya; ants are very common at low elevations but almost absent at mid-elevations where the abundance of other arthropods and insectivorous bird diversity peaks. Here, we ask if ants at low elevations could compete with birds for arthropod prey. Specifically, we studied the impact of the Asian weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina), a common aggressive ant at low elevations. Diet analysis using molecular methods demonstrate extensive diet overlap between weaver ants and songbirds at both low and mid-elevations. Trees without weaver ants have greater non-ant arthropod abundance and leaf damage. Experimental removal of weaver ants results in an increase in the abundance of non-ant arthropods. Notably, numbers of Coleoptera and Lepidoptera were most affected by removal experiments and were prominent components of both bird and weaver ant diets. Our results suggest that songbirds and weaver ants might potentially compete with each other for arthropod prey at low elevations, thereby contributing to lower insectivorous bird diversity at low elevations in eastern Himalaya. Competition with ants may shape vertebrate diversity patterns across broad biodiversity gradients.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is used for monitoring the occurrence of freshwater organisms. Various studies show a relation between the amount of eDNA detected and target organism abundance, thus providing a potential proxy for reconstructing population densities. However, environmental factors such as water temperature and microbial activity are known to affect the amount of eDNA present as well In this study, we use controlled aquarium experiments using Gammarus pulex L. (Amphipoda) to investigate the relationship between the amount of detectable eDNA through time, pH, and levels of organic material. We found eDNA to degrade faster when organic material was added to the aquarium water, but that pH had no significant effect. We infer that eDNA contained inside cells and mitochondria is extra resilient against degradation, though this may not reflect actual presence of target species. These results indicate that, although estimation of population density might be possible using eDNA, measured eDNA concentration could, in the future, be corrected for local environmental conditions in order to ensure accurate comparisons.
Understanding spatiotemporal population trends and their drivers is a key aim in population ecology. We further need to be able to predict how the dynamics and sizes of populations are affected in the long term by changing landscapes and climate. However, predictions of future population trends are sensitive to a range of modelling assumptions. Deadwood-dependent fungi are an excellent system for testing the performance of different predictive models of sessile species as these species have different rarity and spatial population dynamics, the populations are structured at different spatial scales and they utilize distinct substrates. We tested how the projected large scale occupancies of species with differing landscape-scale occupancies are affected over the coming century by different modelling assumptions. We compared projections based on occupancy models against colonization-extinction models, conducting the modelling at alternative spatial scales, and using fine or coarse resolution deadwood data. We also tested effects of key explanatory variables on species occurrence and colonization-extinction dynamics. The hierarchical Bayesian models applied were fitted to an extensive repeated survey of deadwood and fungi at 174 patches. We projected higher occurrence probabilities and more positive trends using the occupancy models compared to the colonisation-extinction models, with greater difference for the species with lower occupancy, colonization rate and colonization:extinction ratio than for the species with higher estimates of these statistics. The magnitude of future increase in occupancy depended strongly on the spatial modelling scale and resource resolution. We encourage using colonisation-extinction models over occupancy models, modelling the process at the finest resource-unit resolution that is utilizable by the species, and conducting projections for the same spatial scale and resource resolution at which the model fitting is conducted. Further, the models applied should include key variables driving the metapopulation dynamics, such as the availability of suitable resource units, habitat quality and spatial connectivity.