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Title Date Issued Date Released Description
Data from: Clinical study reports of randomised controlled trials: an exploratory review of previously confidential industry reports
02-26-2013 03-11-2013
Objective: To explore the structure and content of a non-random sample of clinical study reports (CSRs) to guide clinicians and systematic reviewers. Search strategy: We searched public sources and lodged Freedom of Information requests for previously confidential CSRs primarily written by industry for regulators. Selection criteria: CSR reporting sufficient information for extraction (“adequate”). Primary outcome measures: Presence and length of essential elements of trial design and reporting and compression factor (ratio of page length for CSR compared to its published counterpart in a scientific journal). Data extraction: data were extracted on standard forms and cross-checked for accuracy. Results: We assembled a population of 78 CSRs (covering 90 RCTs; 144,610 pages total) dated 1991-2011 of 14 pharmaceuticals. Report synopses had a median length of 5 pages, efficacy evaluation 13.5 pages, safety evaluation 17 pages, attached tables 337 pages, trial protocol 62 pages, statistical analysis plan 15 pages, and individual efficacy and safety listings had a median length of 447 and 109.5 pages, respectively. While 16 (21%) of CSRs contained completed case report forms, these were accessible to us in only one case (765 pages representing 16 individuals). Compression factors ranged between 1 and 8805. Conclusions: Clinical study reports represent a hitherto mostly hidden and untapped source of detailed and exhaustive data on each trial. They should be consulted by independent parties interested in a detailed record of a clinical trial, and should form the basic unit for evidence synthesis as their use is likely to minimize the problem of reporting bias. We cannot say whether our sample is representative and whether our conclusions are generalizable to an undefined and undefineable population of CSRs.
Data from: Dynamic disease management in Trachymyrmex fungus-growing ants (Attini: Formicidae)
02-27-2013 04-02-2013
Multipartner mutualisms have potentially complex dynamics, with compensatory responses when one partner is lost or relegated to a minor role. Fungus-growing ants (Attini) are mutualistic associates of basidiomycete fungi and antibiotic-producing actinomycete bacteria; the former are attacked by specialized fungi (Escovopsis) and diverse generalist microbes. Ants deploy biochemical defenses from bacteria and metapleural glands (MGs) and express different behaviors to control contaminants. We studied four Trachymyrmex species that differed in relative abundance of actinomycetes to understand interactions among antimicrobial tactics that are contingent on the nature of infection. MG grooming rate and actinomycete abundance were negatively correlated. The two species with high MG grooming rates or abundant actinomycetes made relatively little use of behavioral defenses. Conversely, the two species with relatively modest biochemical defenses relied heavily on behavior. Trade-offs suggest that related species can evolutionarily diverge to rely on different defense mechanisms against the same threat. Neither bacterial symbionts nor MG secretions thus appear to be essential for mounting defenses against the specialized pathogen Escovopsis, but reduced investment in one of these defense modes tends to increase investment in the other.
Data from: Interglacial genetic diversification of Moussonia deppeana (Gesneriaceae), a hummingbird-pollinated, cloud forest shrub in northern Mesoamerica
07-18-2014 08-06-2014
Recent empirical work on cloud forest-adapted species supports the role of both old divergences across major geographical areas and more recent divergences attributed to Pleistocene climate changes. The shrub Moussonia deppeana is distributed in northern Mesoamerica, with geographically disjunct populations. Based on sampling throughout the species range and employing plastid and nuclear markers, we (i) test whether the fragmented distribution is correlated with main evolutionary lineages, (ii) reconstruct its phylogeographical history to infer the history of cloud forest in northern Mesoamerica and (iii) evaluate a set of refugia/vicariance scenarios for the region and demographic patterns of the populations whose ranges expanded and tracked cloud forest conditions during the Last Glacial Maximum. We found a deep evolutionary split in M. deppeana about 6–3 Ma, which could be consistent with a Pliocene divergence. Comparison of variation in plastid and nuclear markers revealed several lineages mostly congruent with their isolated geographical distribution and restricted gene flow among groups. Results of species distribution modelling and coalescent simulations fit a model of multiple refugia diverging during interglacial cycles. The demographic history of M. deppeana is not consistent with an expanding–contracting cloud forest archipelago model during the Last Glacial Maximum. Instead, our data suggest that populations persisted across the geographical range throughout the glacial cycles, and experienced isolation and divergence during interglacial periods.
Data from: Taxonomic composition and body-mass distribution in the terminal Pleistocene mammalian fauna from the Marmes site, southeastern Washington state, U.S.A.
03-27-2013 05-30-2013
Mean adult body mass of mammal taxa is a fundamental ecological variable. Variability in the distributions of body masses of a mammal fauna suggest variability in habitat structure. Mammal remains from the Marmes archaeological site in southeastern Washington State date between 13,200 and 10,400 b.p., during the Pleistocene–Holocene transition (PHT). Known environmental history prompts the expectations that the Marmes PHT mammal remains should represent greater species richness and a larger array of body-mass sizes than modern faunas in the Marmes locale and in open shrub-steppe habitats, and lower species richness and a smaller array of body-mass sizes than modern faunas in closed forest habitats; species richness and the array of body-mass sizes should be similar to that for a mixed habitat of cool shrub-steppe with scattered conifers. The Marmes PHT cenogram meets these expectations. Body-mass clumps displayed by the Marmes PHT mammal fauna fall between those of closed forests and open shrub-steppe habitats in terms of clump richness and breadth, and in terms of gap width. Marmes PHT body-mass clumps are very similar to those for the mixed habitat. Cenograms and body-mass clumps confirm conclusions drawn 40 years ago that the Marmes PHT habitat was much like that of today but cooler and with more plant biomass and greater structural diversity than today.
Data from: Specialty choice in times of economic crisis: a cross-sectional survey of Spanish medical students
02-12-2013 02-26-2013
Objective: To investigate the determinants of specialty choice among graduating medical students in Spain, a country that entered into a severe, ongoing economic crisis in 2008. Setting: Since 2008, the percentage of Spanish medical school graduates electing Family and Community Medicine (FCM) has experienced a reversal after more than a decade of decline. Design: A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted online in April 2011. Participants: We invited all students in their final year before graduation from each of Spain's 27 public and private medical schools to participate. Main outcome measures: Respondents’ preferred specialty in relation to their perceptions of: (1) the probability of obtaining employment; (2) lifestyle and work hours; (3) recognition by patients; (4) prestige among colleagues; (5) opportunity for professional development; (6) annual remuneration and (7) the proportion of the physician's compensation from private practice. Results: 978 medical students (25% of the nationwide population of students in their final year) participated. Perceived job availability had the largest impact on specialty preference. Each 10% increment in the probability of obtaining employment increased the odds of preferring a specialty by 33.7% (95% CI 27.2% to 40.5%). Job availability was four times as important as compensation from private practice in determining specialty choice (95% CI 1.7 to 6.8). We observed considerable heterogeneity in the influence of lifestyle and work hours, with students who preferred such specialties as Cardiovascular Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology valuing longer rather than shorter workdays. Conclusions: In the midst of an ongoing economic crisis, job availability has assumed critical importance as a determinant of specialty preference among Spanish medical students. In view of the shortage of practitioners of FCM, public policies that take advantage of the enhanced perceived job availability of FCM may help steer medical school graduates into this specialty.
Data from: Coalescent species delimitation in milksnakes (genus Lampropeltis) and impacts on phylogenetic comparative analyses
12-10-2013 02-17-2014
Both gene-tree discordance and unrecognized diversity are sources of error for accurate estimation of species trees, and can affect downstream diversification analyses by obscuring the correct number of nodes, their density, and the lengths of the branches subtending them. While the theoretical impact of gene-tree discordance on evolutionary analyses has been examined previously, the effect of unsampled and cryptic diversity has not. Here, we examine how delimitation of previously unrecognized diversity in the milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) and use of a species-tree approach affects both estimation of the Lampropeltis phylogeny and comparative analyses with respect to the timing of diversification. Coalescent species delimitation indicates that L. triangulum is not monophyletic and that there are multiple species of milksnake, which increases the known species diversity in the genus Lampropeltis by 40%. Both genealogical and temporal discordance occurs between gene trees and the species tree, with evidence that mtDNA introgression is a main factor. This discordance is further manifested in the preferred models of diversification, where the concatenated gene tree strongly supports an early burst of speciation during the Miocene, in contrast to species-tree estimates where diversification follows a birth-death model and speciation occurs mostly in the Pliocene and Pleistocene. This study highlights the crucial interaction among coalescent-based phylogeography and species delimitation, systematics, and species diversification analyses.
Data from: Characterization of human cortical gene expression in relation to glucose utilization.
04-04-2013 01-26-2017
Objectives: Human brain development follows a unique pattern characterized by a prolonged period of postnatal growth and reorganization, and a postnatal peak in glucose utilization. The molecular processes underlying these developmental changes are poorly characterized. The objectives of this study were to determine developmental trajectories of gene expression and to examine the evolutionary history of genes differentially expressed as a function of age. Methods: We used microarrays to determine age-related patterns of mRNA expression in human cerebral cortical samples ranging from infancy to adulthood. In contrast to previous developmental gene expression studies of human neocortex that relied on postmortem tissue, we measured mRNA expression from the nondiseased margins of surgically resected tissue. We used regression models designed to identify transcripts that followed significant linear or curvilinear functions of age and used population genetics techniques to examine the evolution of these genes. Results: We identified 40 transcripts with significant age-related trajectories in expression. Ten genes have documented roles in nervous system development and energy metabolism, others are novel candidates in brain development. Sixteen transcripts showed similar patterns of expression, characterized by decreasing expression during childhood. Comparative genomic analyses revealed that the regulatory regions of three genes have evidence of adaptive evolution in recent human evolution. Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that a subset of genes expressed in the human cerebral cortex broadly mirror developmental patterns of cortical glucose consumption. Whether there is a causal relationship between gene expression and glucose utilization remains to be determined.
Data from: Gene coexpression networks reveal key drivers of phenotypic divergence in lake whitefish
03-21-2013 05-20-2013
BACKGROUND: A functional understanding of processes involved in adaptive divergence is one of the awaiting opportunities afforded by high throughput transcriptomic technologies. Functional analysis of co-expressed genes has succeeded in the biomedical field in identifying key drivers of disease pathways. However, in ecology and evolutionary biology, functional interpretation of transcriptomic data is still limited. RESULTS: Here we used Weighted Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis (WGCNA) to identify modules of co-expressed genes in muscle and brain tissue of a lake whitefish backcross progeny. Modules were connected to gradients of known adaptive traits involved in the ecological speciation process between benthic and limnetic ecotypes. Key drivers, i.e. hub genes of functional modules related to reproduction, growth, and behavior were identified, and module preservation was assessed in natural populations. Using this approach, we identified modules of co-expressed genes involved in phenotypic divergence and their key drivers, and further identified a module part specifically rewired in the backcross progeny. CONCLUSIONS: Functional analysis of transcriptomic data can significantly contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying ecological speciation. Our findings point to BMP and Calcium signaling as common pathways involved in coordinated evolution of trophic behavior, trophic morphology (gill rakers), and reproduction. Results also point to pathways implicating hemoglobins and constitutive stress response (HSP70) governing growth in lake whitefish.
Data from: Repeated parallel evolution reveals limiting similarity in subterranean diving beetles
05-15-2013 06-19-2013
The theory of limiting similarity predicts that co-occurring species must be sufficiently different to coexist. Although this idea is a staple of community ecology, convincing empirical evidence has been scarce. Here we examine 34 subterranean beetle communities in arid inland Australia that share the same habitat type but have evolved in complete isolation over the past 5 million years. Although these communities come from a range of phylogenetic origins, we find that they have almost invariably evolved to share a similar size structure. The relative positions of coexisting species on the body size axis were significantly more regular across communities than would be expected by chance, with a size ratio, on average, of 1.6 between coexisting species. By contrast, species’ absolute body sizes varied substantially from one community to the next. This suggests that self-organized spacing according to limiting-similarity theory, as opposed to evolution toward preexisting fixed niches, shaped the communities. Using a model starting from random sets of founder species, we demonstrate that the patterns are indeed consistent with evolutionary self-organization. For less isolated habitats, the same model predicts the coexistence of multiple species in each regularly spaced functional group. Limiting similarity, therefore, may also be compatible with the coexistence of many redundant species.
Data from: High genetic diversity and low population structure in Porter’s sunflower (Helianthus porteri)
03-13-2013 04-11-2013
Granite outcrops in the southeastern United States are rare and isolated habitats that support edaphically controlled communities dominated by herbaceous plants. They harbor rare and endemic species that are expected to have low genetic variability and high population structure due to small populations sizes and their disjunct habitat. We test this expectation for an annual outcrop endemic, Helianthus porteri (Porter’s sunflower). Contrary to expectation, H. porteri has relatively high genetic diversity (He = 0.681) and relatively low genetic structure among the native populations (FST = 0.077) when compared to five other Helianthus species (N = 288; 18 EST-SSR markers). These findings suggest greater gene flow than expected. The potential for gene flow is supported by the analysis of transplant populations established with propagules from a common source in 1959. One population established close to a native popualtion (1.5 km) at the edge of the natural range is genetically similar to and shares rare alleles with the adjancent native population and is distinct from the central source population. In contrast, a transplant population established north of the native range has remained similar to the source population. The relatively high genetic diversity and low population structure of this species, combined with the long term success of transplanted populations, bodes well for its persistence as long as the habitat persists.
Data from: Genomic dissection of variation in clutch size and egg mass in a wild great tit (Parus major) population
07-25-2013 05-01-2015
Clutch size and egg mass are life history traits that have been extensively studied in wild bird populations, as life history theory predicts a negative trade-off between them, either at the phenotypic or genetic level. Here, we analyse the genomic architecture of these heritable traits in a wild great tit (Parus major) population, using three marker-based approaches - chromosome partitioning, quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and a genome-wide association study (GWAS). The variance explained by each great tit chromosome scales with predicted chromosome size, no location in the genome contains genome-wide significant QTL, and no individual SNPs are associated with a large proportion of phenotypic variation, all of which may suggest that variation in both traits is due to many loci of small effect, located across the genome. There is no evidence that any regions of the genome contribute significantly to both traits, which combined with a small, non-significant, negative genetic covariance between the traits, suggests the absence of genetic constraints on the independent evolution of these traits. Our findings support the hypothesis that variation in life history traits in natural populations is likely to be determined by many loci of small effect spread throughout the genome, which are subject to continued input of variation by mutation and migration, although we cannot exclude the possibility of an additional input of major effect genes influencing either trait.
Data from: Fossils, molecules, divergence times, and the origin of Lissamphibians
06-08-2017 02-15-2013
A review of the paleontological literature shows that the early dates of appearance of Lissamphibia recently inferred from molecular data do not favor an origin of extant amphibians from temnospondyls, contrary to recent claims. A supertree is assembled using new Mesquite modules that allow extinct taxa to be incorporated into a time-calibrated phylogeny with a user-defined geological time scale. The supertree incorporates 223 extinct species of lissamphibians and has a highly significant stratigraphic fit. Some divergences can even be dated with sufficient precision to serve as calibration points in molecular divergence date analyses. Fourteen combinations of minimal branch length settings and 10 random resolutions for each polytomy give much more recent minimal origination times of lissamphibian taxa than recent studies based on a phylogenetic analyses of molecular sequences. Attempts to replicate recent molecular date estimates show that these estimates depend strongly on the choice of calibration points, on the dating method, and on the chosen model of evolution; for instance, the estimate for the date of the origin of Lissamphibia can lie between 351 and 266 Mya. This range of values is generally compatible with our time-calibrated supertree and indicates that there is no unbridgeable gap between dates obtained using the fossil record and those using molecular evidence, contrary to previous suggestions.
Data from: Lifetime fitness and age-related female ornament signalling: evidence for survival and fecundity selection in the pied flycatcher
05-02-2013 05-02-2014
Ornaments displayed by females have often been denied evolutionary interest due to their frequently reduced expression relative to males, habitually attributed to a genetic correlation between the sexes. We estimated annual and lifetime reproductive success of female pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) and applied capture–mark–recapture models to analyse annual survival rates in relation to the patterns of expression (absence/presence) of an ornament displayed by all males and a fraction of females. Overall, the likelihood of expressing the ornament increased nonlinearly with female age and was due to within-individual variation, not to the selective appearance or disappearance of ornament-related expression of phenotypes in the population. Accordingly, expressing the forehead patch in a given year did not influence survival probability. However, those females expressing the ornament at early ages (1–2 years old) enjoyed survival advantages throughout lifetime. Although ornamented females had higher lifetime fecundity and fledging success, their yearly reproductive performance, in terms of fledging productivity, decreased as they aged so that, late in life, ornamented females reared fewer offspring than nonexpressing females of the same age. In addition, both strategies (expressing vs. not expressing the trait) returned similar fitness payoffs in terms of recruited offspring. Our results support the hypothesis that fecundity and survival selection are involved in the displaying of this ‘male’ ornament by females.
Data from: Testosterone positively associated with both male mating effort and paternal behavior in savanna baboons (Papio cynocephalus)
11-30-2012 05-14-2013
Testosterone (T) is often positively associated with male sexual behavior and negatively associated with paternal care. These associations have primarily been demonstrated in species where investment in paternal care begins well after mating activity is complete, when offspring are hatched or born. Different patterns may emerge in studies of species where investment in mating and paternal care overlap temporally, for instance in non-seasonal breeders in which males mate with multiple females sequentially and may simultaneously have multiple offspring of different ages. In a 9-year data set on levels of T in male baboons, fecal concentrations of T (fT) were positively associated with both mate guarding (“consortship”) — a measure of current reproductive activity — and with the number of immature offspring a male had in his social group — a measure of past reproductive activity and an indicator of likely paternal behavior. To further examine the relationship between T and potential paternal behavior, we next drew on an intensive 8-month study of male behavior, and found that fathers were more likely to be in close proximity to their offspring than expected by chance. Because male baboons are known to provide paternal care, and because time in proximity to offspring would facilitate such care, this suggests that T concentrations in wild male baboons may be associated with both current reproductive activity and with current paternal behavior. These results are consistent with the predicted positive association between T and mating effort but not with a negative association between T and paternal care; in male baboons, high levels of T occur in males that are differentially associating with their offspring.
Data from: Stepping-stone expansion and habitat loss explain a peculiar genetic structure and distribution of a forest insect
05-29-2013 10-26-2015
It is challenging to unravel the history of organisms with highly scattered populations. Such species may have fragmented distributions because extant populations are remnants of a previously more continuous range, or because the species has narrow habitat requirements in combination with good dispersal capacity (naturally or vector borne). The northern pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pinivora has a scattered distribution with fragmented populations in two separate regions, northern and south-western Europe. The aims of this study were to explore the glacial and postglacial history of T. pinivora, and add to the understanding of its current distribution and level of contemporary gene flow. We surveyed published records of its occurrence and analysed individuals from a representative subset of populations across the range. A 633 bp long fragment of the mtDNA COI gene was sequenced and nine polymorphic microsatellite loci were genotyped. Only nine nucleotide sites were polymorphic in the COI gene and 90% of the individuals from across its whole range shared the same haplotype. The microsatellite diversity gradually declined towards the north, and unique alleles were found in only three of the northern and three of southern sites. Genetic structuring did not indicate complete isolation among regions, but an increase of genetic isolation by geographic distance. Approximate Bayesian model choice suggested recent divergence during the postglacial period, but glacial refugia remain unidentified. The progressive reduction of suitable habitats is suggested to explain the genetic structure of the populations and we suggest that T. pinivora is a cold-tolerant relict species, with situation-dependent dispersal.
Data from: Tracking climate change in a dispersal-limited species: reduced spatial and genetic connectivity in a montane salamander
05-24-2013 06-14-2013
Tropical montane taxa are often locally adapted to very specific climatic conditions, contributing to their lower dispersal potential across complex landscapes. Climate and landscape features in montane regions affect population genetic structure in predictable ways, yet few empirical studies quantify the effects of both factors in shaping genetic structure of montane-adapted taxa. Here, we considered temporal and spatial variability in climate to explain contemporary genetic differentiation between populations of the montane salamander, Pseudoeurycea leprosa. Specifically, we used ecological niche modelling (ENM) and measured spatial connectivity and gene flow (using both mtDNA and microsatellite markers) across extant populations of P. leprosa in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TVB). Our results indicate significant spatial and genetic isolation among populations, but we cannot distinguish between isolation by distance over time or current landscape barriers as mechanisms shaping population genetic divergences. Combining ecological niche modelling, spatial connectivity analyses, and historical and contemporary genetic signatures from different classes of genetic markers allows for inference of historical evolutionary processes and predictions of the impacts future climate change will have on the genetic diversity of montane taxa with low dispersal rates. Pseudoeurycea leprosa is one montane species among many endemic to this region and thus is a case study for the continued persistence of spatially and genetically isolated populations in the highly biodiverse TVB of central Mexico.
Data from: Who’s for dinner? High-throughput sequencing reveals bat diet differentiation in a biodiversity hotspot where prey taxonomy is largely undescribed
10-31-2013 07-24-2014
Effective management and conservation of biodiversity requires understanding of predator–prey relationships to ensure the continued existence of both predator and prey populations. Gathering dietary data from predatory species, such as insectivorous bats, often presents logistical challenges, further exacerbated in biodiversity hot spots because prey items are highly speciose, yet their taxonomy is largely undescribed. We used high-throughput sequencing (HTS) and bioinformatic analyses to phylogenetically group DNA sequences into molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs) to examine predator–prey dynamics of three sympatric insectivorous bat species in the biodiversity hotspot of south-western Australia. We could only assign between 4% and 20% of MOTUs to known genera or species, depending on the method used, underscoring the importance of examining dietary diversity irrespective of taxonomic knowledge in areas lacking a comprehensive genetic reference database. MOTU analysis confirmed that resource partitioning occurred, with dietary divergence positively related to the ecomorphological divergence of the three bat species. We predicted that bat species' diets would converge during times of high energetic requirements, that is, the maternity season for females and the mating season for males. There was an interactive effect of season on female, but not male, bat species' diets, although small sample sizes may have limited our findings. Contrary to our predictions, females of two ecomorphologically similar species showed dietary convergence during the mating season rather than the maternity season. HTS-based approaches can help elucidate complex predator–prey relationships in highly speciose regions, which should facilitate the conservation of biodiversity in genetically uncharacterized areas, such as biodiversity hotspots.
Data from: Phylogenetic relationships and character evolution analysis of Saxifragales using a supermatrix approach
04-29-2013 05-20-2013
Premise of the study: We sought novel evolutionary insights for the highly diverse Saxifragales by constructing a large phylogenetic tree encompassing 36.8% of the species-level biodiversity. Methods: We built a phylogenetic tree for 909 species of Saxifragales and used this hypothesis to examine character evolution for: annual or perennial habit, woody or herbaceous habit, ovary position, petal number, carpel number, and stamen: petal ratio. We employed likelihood approaches to investigate the effect of habit and life history on speciation and extinction within this clade. Key results: Two major shifts occurred from a woody ancestor to the herbaceous habit, with multiple secondary changes from herbaceous to woody. Transitions among superior, subinferior, and inferior ovaries appear equiprobable. A major increase in petal number is correlated with a large increase in carpel number; these increases have co-occurred multiple times in Crassulaceae. Perennial or woody lineages have higher rates of speciation than annual or herbaceous ones, but higher probabilities of extinction offset these differences. Hence, net diversification rates are highest for annual, herbaceous lineages and lowest for woody perennials. The shift from annuality to perenniality in herbaceous taxa is frequent. Conversely, woody perennial lineages to woody annual transitions are infrequent; if they occur, the woody annual state is left immediately. Conclusions: The large tree provides new insights into character evolution that are not obvious with smaller trees. Our results indicate that in some cases the evolution of angiosperms might be conditioned by constraints that have been so far overlooked.
Data from: The scent of inbreeding: male sex pheromones betray inbred males
03-06-2013 04-18-2013
Inbreeding depression results from mating among genetically related individuals and impairs reproductive success. The decrease in male mating success is usually attributed to an impact on multiple fitness-related traits that reduce the general condition of inbred males. Here we find that the production of the male sex pheromone is reduced significantly by inbreeding in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Other traits indicative of the general condition, including flight performance, are also negatively affected in male butterflies by inbreeding. Yet we unambiguously show that only the production of male pheromones affects mating success. Thus, this pheromone signal informs females about the inbreeding status of their mating partners. We also identify the specific chemical component, hexadecanal, likely responsible for the decrease in male mating success. Our results advocate giving increased attention to olfactory communication as a major causal factor of mate-choice decisions and sexual selection.
Data from: Facultative use of thelytokous parthenogenesis for queen production in the polyandrous ant Cataglyphis cursor
05-05-2013 07-22-2013
The evolutionary paradox of sex remains one of the major debates in evolutionary biology. The study of species capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction can elucidate factors important in the evolution of sex. One such species is the ant Cataglyphis cursor, where the queen maximises the transmission of her genes by producing new queens (gynes) asexually while simultaneously maintaining a genetically diverse workforce via the sexual production of workers. We show that the queen can also produce gynes sexually, and may do so to offset the costs of asexual reproduction. We genotyped 235 gynes from 18 colonies, and found that half were sexually produced. A few colonies contained both sexually and asexually produced gynes. While workers in this species can also use thelytoky, we found no evidence of worker production of gynes based on genotypes of 471 workers from the six colonies producing sexual gynes. Gynes are thus mainly, and potentially exclusively, produced by the queen. Simulations of gynes inbreeding level following one to ten generations of automictic thelytoky suggest that the queen switches between or combines thelytoky and sex, which may reduce the costs of inbreeding. This is supported by the relatively small size of inbred gynes in one colony, though we found no relationship between the level of inbreeding and immune parameters. Such facultative use of sex and thelytoky by individual queens contrasts with other known forms of parthenogenesis in ants, which are typically characterised by distinct lineages specialising in one strategy or the other.