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Title Date Issued Date Released Description
Data from: Moderation is best: effects of grazing intensity on plant-flower visitor networks in Mediterranean communities
09-03-2015 08-04-2016
The structure of pollination networks is an important indicator of ecosystem stability and functioning. Livestock grazing is a frequent land use practice that directly affects the abundance and diversity of flowers and pollinators and, therefore, may indirectly affect the structure of pollination networks. Here we studied how grazing intensity affected the structure of plant-flower visitor networks along a wide range of grazing intensities by sheep and goats, using data from 11 Mediterranean plant-flower visitor communities from Lesvos Island, Greece. We hypothesized that intermediate grazing might result in higher diversity as predicted by the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, which could in turn confer more stability to the networks. Indeed, we found that networks at intermediate grazing intensities were larger, more generalized, more modular, and contained more diverse and even interactions. Despite general responses at the network level, the number of interactions and selectiveness of particular flower visitor and plant taxa in the networks responded differently to grazing intensity, presumably as a consequence of variation in the abundance of different taxa with grazing. Our results highlight the benefit of maintaining moderate levels of livestock grazing by sheep and goats to preserve the complexity and biodiversity of the rich Mediterranean communities, which have a long history of grazing by these domestic animals.
Data from: Socially selected ornaments and fitness: signals of fighting ability in paper wasps are positively associated with survival, reproductive success, and rank
10-12-2015 11-21-2015
Many animals have ornaments that mediate choice and competition in social and sexual contexts. Individuals with elaborate sexual ornaments typically have higher fitness than those with less elaborate ornaments, but less is known about whether socially selected ornaments are associated with fitness. Here, we test the relationship between fitness and facial patterns that are a socially-selected signal of fighting ability in Polistes dominula wasps. We found wasps that signal higher fighting ability have larger nests, are more likely to survive harsh winters, and obtain higher dominance rank than wasps that signal lower fighting ability. In comparison, body weight was not associated with fitness. Larger wasps were dominant over smaller wasps, but showed no difference nest size or survival. Overall, the positive relationship between wasp facial patterns and fitness indicates that receivers can obtain diverse information about a signaler's phenotypic quality by paying attention to socially selected ornaments. Therefore, there are surprisingly strong parallels between the information conveyed by socially and sexually selected signals. Similar fitness relationships in social and sexually selected signals may be one reason it can be difficult to distinguish the role of social versus sexual selection in ornament evolution.
Data from: Species turnover (β diversity) in ectomycorrhizal fungi linked to NH4+ uptake capacity
10-28-2015 02-29-2016
Ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungal communities may be shaped by both deterministic and stochastic processes, potentially influencing ecosystem development and function. We evaluated community assembly processes for EcM fungi of Pseudotsuga menziesii among 12 sites up to 400 km apart in southwest British Columbia (Canada) by investigating species turnover (β diversity) in relation to soil nitrogen (N) availability and physical distance. We then examined functional traits for an N-related niche by quantifying net fluxes of NH4+, NO3- and protons on excised root tips from three contrasting sites using a microelectrode ion flux measurement system. EcM fungal communities were well aligned with soil N availability and pH, with no effect of site proximity (distance-decay curve) on species assemblages. Species turnover was significant (β1/2 = 1.48) along soil N gradients, with many more Tomentella species on high-N than low-N soils, in contrast to Cortinarius species. Ammonium uptake was greatest in the spring on the medium and rich sites, and averaged over 190 nmol m−2 s−1 for Tomentella species. The lowest uptake rates of NH4+ were by non-mycorrhizal roots of axenically grown seedlings (10 nmol m−2 s−1), followed by Cortinarius species (60 nmol m−2 s−1). EcM roots from all sites displayed only marginal uptake of nitrate (8.3 nmol m−2 s−1). These results suggest NH4+ uptake capacity is an important functional trait influencing the assembly of EcM fungal communities. The diversity of EcM fungal species across the region arguably provides critical belowground adaptations to organic and inorganic N supply that are integral to temperate rainforest ecology.
Data from: Combining phylogenomic and supermatrix approaches, and a time-calibrated phylogeny for squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) based on 52 genes and 4162 species
10-22-2015 12-28-2015
Two common approaches for estimating phylogenies in species-rich groups are to: (i) sample many loci for few species (e.g. phylogenomic approach), or (ii) sample many species for fewer loci (e.g. supermatrix approach). In theory, these approaches can be combined to simultaneously resolve both higher-level relationships (with many genes) and species-level relationships (with many taxa). However, fundamental questions remain unanswered about this combined approach. First, will higher-level relationships more closely resemble those estimated from many genes or those from many taxa? Second, will branch support increase for higher-level relationships (relative to the estimate from many taxa)? Here, we address these questions in squamate reptiles. We combined two recently published datasets, one based on 44 genes for 161 species, and one based on 12 genes for 4161 species. The likelihood-based tree from the combined matrix (52 genes, 4162 species) shared more higher-level clades with the 44-gene tree (90% vs. 77% shared). Branch support for higher level-relationships was marginally higher than in the 12-gene tree, but lower than in the 44-gene tree. Relationships were apparently not obscured by the abundant missing data (92% overall). We provide a time-calibrated phylogeny based on extensive sampling of genes and taxa as a resource for comparative studies.
Data from: Ancient mitochondrial genomes clarify the evolutionary history of New Zealand’s enigmatic acanthisittid wrens
05-31-2016 07-27-2016
The New Zealand acanthisittid wrens are the sister-taxon to all other “perching birds” (Passeriformes) and – including recently extinct species – represent the most diverse endemic passerine family in New Zealand. Consequently, they are important for understanding both the early evolution of Passeriformes and the New Zealand biota. However, five of the seven species have become extinct since the arrival of humans in New Zealand, complicating evolutionary analyses. The results of morphological analyses have been largely equivocal, and no comprehensive genetic analysis of Acanthisittidae has been undertaken. We present novel mitochondrial genome sequences from four acanthisittid species (three extinct, one extant), allowing us to resolve the phylogeny and revise the taxonomy of acanthisittids. Reanalysis of morphological data in light of our genetic results confirms a close relationship between the extant rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris) and an extinct Miocene wren (Kuiornis indicator), making Kuiornis a useful calibration point for molecular dating of passerines. Our molecular dating analyses reveal that the stout-legged wrens (Pachyplichas) diverged relatively recently from a more gracile (Xenicus-like) ancestor. Further, our results suggest a possible Early Oligocene origin of the basal Lyall’s wren (Traversia) lineage, which would imply that Acanthisittidae survived the Oligocene marine inundation of New Zealand and therefore that the inundation was not complete.
Data from: Vervet monkeys use paths consistent with context-specific spatial movement heuristics
10-05-2015 10-28-2015
Animal foraging routes are analogous to the computationally demanding “traveling salesman problem” (TSP), where individuals must find the shortest path among several locations before returning to the start. Humans approximate solutions to TSPs using simple heuristics or “rules of thumb,” but our knowledge of how other animals solve multidestination routing problems is incomplete. Most nonhuman primate species have shown limited ability to route plan. However, captive vervets were shown to solve a TSP for six sites. These results were consistent with either planning three steps ahead or a risk-avoidance strategy. I investigated how wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) solved a path problem with six, equally rewarding food sites; where site arrangement allowed assessment of whether vervets found the shortest route and/or used paths consistent with one of three simple heuristics to navigate. Single vervets took the shortest possible path in fewer than half of the trials, usually in ways consistent with the most efficient heuristic (the convex hull). When in competition, vervets' paths were consistent with different, more efficient heuristics dependent on their dominance rank (a cluster strategy for dominants and the nearest neighbor rule for subordinates). These results suggest that, like humans, vervets may solve multidestination routing problems by applying simple, adaptive, context-specific “rules of thumb.” The heuristics that were consistent with vervet paths in this study are the same as some of those asserted to be used by humans. These spatial movement strategies may have common evolutionary roots and be part of a universal mental navigational toolkit. Alternatively, they may have emerged through convergent evolution as the optimal way to solve multidestination routing problems.
Data from: The selective myosin II inhibitor blebbistatin reversibly eliminates gastrovascular flow and stolon tip pulsations in the colonial hydroid Podocoryna carnea
11-25-2015 12-22-2015
Blebbistatin reversibly disrupted both stolon tip pulsations and gastrovascular flow in the colonial hydroid Podocoryna carnea. Epithelial longitudinal muscles of polyps were unaffected by blebbistatin, as polyps contracted when challenged with a pulse of KCl. Latrunculin B, which sequesters G actin preventing F actin assembly, caused stolons to retract, exposing focal adhesions where the tip epithelial cells adhere to the substratum. These results are consistent with earlier suggestions that non-muscle myosin II provides the motive force for stolon tip pulsations and further suggest that tip oscillations are functionally coupled to hydrorhizal axial muscle contraction.
Data from: Continuous theta burst stimulation over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases medium load working memory performance in healthy humans
03-17-2015 09-23-2015
The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plays a key role in working memory. Evidence indicates that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the DLPFC can interfere with working memory performance. Here we investigated for how long continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) over the DLPFC decreases working memory performance and whether the effect of cTBS on performance depends on working memory load. Forty healthy young subjects received either cTBS over the left DLPFC or sham stimulation before performing a 2-, and 3-back working memory letter task. An additional 0-back condition served as a non-memory-related control, measuring general attention. cTBS over the left DLPFC significantly impaired 2-back working memory performance for about 15 min, whereas 3-back and 0-back performances were not significantly affected. Our results indicate that the effect of left DLPFC cTBS on working memory performance lasts for roughly 15 min and depends on working memory load.
Data from: Perceptual expertise in forensic facial image comparison
09-02-2015 09-24-2015
Forensic facial identification examiners are required to match the identity of faces in images that vary substantially, owing to changes in viewing conditions and in a person's appearance. These identifications affect the course and outcome of criminal investigations and convictions. Despite calls for research on sources of human error in forensic examination, existing scientific knowledge of face matching accuracy is based, almost exclusively, on people without formal training. Here, we administered three challenging face matching tests to a group of forensic examiners with many years' experience of comparing face images for law enforcement and government agencies. Examiners outperformed untrained participants and computer algorithms, thereby providing the first evidence that these examiners are experts at this task. Notably, computationally fusing responses of multiple experts produced near-perfect performance. Results also revealed qualitative differences between expert and non-expert performance. First, examiners' superiority was greatest at longer exposure durations, suggestive of more entailed comparison in forensic examiners. Second, experts were less impaired by image inversion than non-expert students, contrasting with face memory studies that show larger face inversion effects in high performers. We conclude that expertise in matching identity across unfamiliar face images is supported by processes that differ qualitatively from those supporting memory for individual faces.
Data from: Novel genetic capacitors and potentiators for the natural genetic variation of sensory bristles and their trait-specificity in Drosophila
10-06-2015 02-24-2016
Cryptic genetic variation (CGV) is defined as the genetic variation that has little effect on phenotypic variation under a normal condition, but contributes to heritable variation under environmental or genetic perturbations. Genetic buffering systems that suppress the expression of CGV and store it in a population are called genetic capacitors, and the opposite systems are called genetic potentiators. One of the best-known candidates for a genetic capacitor and potentiator is the molecular chaperone protein, HSP90, and one of its characteristics is that it affects the genetic variation in various morphological traits. However, it remains unclear whether the wide-ranging effects of HSP90 on a broad range of traits are a general feature of genetic capacitors and potentiators. In the current study, I searched for novel genetic capacitors and potentiators for quantitative bristle traits of Drosophila melanogaster, and then investigate the trait-specificity of their genetic buffering effect. Three bristle traits of D. melanogaster were used as the target traits, and the genomic regions with genetic buffering effects were screened using the 61 genomic deficiencies examined previously for genetic buffering effects in wing shape. As a result, four and six deficiencies with significant effects on increasing and decreasing the broad-sense heritability of the bristle traits were identified, respectively. Of the 18 deficiencies with significant effects detected in the current study and/or by the previous study, 14 showed trait-specific effects, and four affected the genetic buffering of both bristle traits and wing shape. This suggests that most genetic capacitors and potentiators exert trait-specific effects, but that general capacitors and potentiators with effects on multiple traits also exist.