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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.