Although the field of urban evolutionary ecology is in its infancy, much progress has been made in identifying adaptations that arise as a result of selective pressures within these unique environments. However, as studies within urban environments have rapidly increased, researchers have recognized there are challenges and opportunities in characterizing urban adaptation. Some of these challenges are novel as a consequence of increased direct and indirect human influence, which compounds long-recognized issues with research on adaptive evolution more generally. In this perspective, we discuss several common research challenges to urban adaptation related to: (1) methodological approaches, (2) trait-environment relationships and the natural history of organisms, (3) agents and targets of selection, and (4) habitat heterogeneity. Ignoring these challenges may lead to misconceptions and further impede our ability to draw conclusions regarding evolutionary and ecological processes in urban environments. Our goal is to first shed light on the conceptual challenges of conducting urban adaptation research to help avoid propagation of these misconceptions. We further summarize potential strategies to move forward productively to construct a more comprehensive picture of urban adaptation, and discuss how urban environments also offer unique opportunities and applications for adaptation research.
Understanding population change across long time scales and at fine spatiotemporal resolutions is important for confronting a broad suite of conservation challenges. However, this task is hampered by a lack of quality long-term census data for multiple species collected across large geographic regions. Here, we used century-long (1919-2018) data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) survey to assess population changes in over 300 avian species in North America and evaluate their temporal non-stationarity. To estimate population sizes across the entire century, we employed a Bayesian hierarchical model that accounts for species detection probabilities, variable sampling effort, and missing data. We evaluated population trends using generalized additive models (GAMs) and assessed temporal non-stationarity in the rate of population change by extracting the first derivatives from the fitted GAM functions. We then summarized the population dynamics across species, space, and time using a non-parametric clustering algorithm that categorized individual population trends into four distinct trend clusters. We found that species varied widely in their population trajectories, with over 90% of species showing a considerable degree of spatial and/or temporal non-stationarity, and many showing strong shifts in the direction and magnitude of population trends throughout the past century. Species were roughly equally distributed across the four clusters of population trajectories, though grassland, forest, and desert specialists more commonly showed declining trends. Interestingly, for many species, region-wide population trends often differed from those observed at individual sites, suggesting that conservation decisions need to be tailored to fine spatial scales. Together, our results highlight the importance of considering spatial and temporal non-stationarity when assessing long-term population changes. More generally, we demonstrate the promise of novel statistical techniques for improving the utility and extending the temporal scope of existing citizen science datasets.
In the French Mediterranean plain, the northern extreme of its native range, the Iberian grey shrike, Lanius meridionalis, predominantly feeds on arthropods. Its type of loral plumage plays a key role in protecting its eyes while transporting large prey. The aims is to understand the role played by feathers in protecting the animal from various types of defensive prey. We combine an inspection of large insect prey types found on larders with a review of bird specimens found in museum collections to examine the morphometric characteristics of rictal feathers and culmen. In addition, precision photographs are used to observe the posture of the plumage in natura. We could identify four categories of protective feathers: clustered bristles, semi-bristles, semi-plumes distributed in the loral area, and semi-plumes above the eyes. Our results suggest that the Iberian grey shrike has a complex structure of loral feathers, specific to its foraging activity and prey types. In France, local species have longer beaks than their Spanish counterparts which suggests a more insect-based diet.
The existence of hypopigmentation such as leucism is the result of inbreeding in isolated populations of wildlife and it is associated with environmental stressors. This anomaly may reduce survival rates. Leucism has been record in wildlife, but overall, it is considered very rare. There have been few records of mantled howler monkeys with leucism in Mexico and Costa Rica, but whole-body leucism in howler monkeys from South America was unknown. In this article, we report for the first-time documented cases of whole-body leucism in young individuals of mantled howler monkeys Alouatta palliata in an isolated remanent of tropical dry forest in southwestern Ecuador known as Cerro Blanco Protective Forest. In total, we found two individuals: a juvenile female and a juvenile male in October 2021. We also include a short report about the observation of two seedlings of Dichapetalum (Dichapetalaceae) showing albinism. The report of howler monkeys with whole-body leucism may be caused by the interaction of two processes: inbreeding because of isolated populations and air pollution with sulphur. Thus, immediate management strategies must be considered to significantly increase connectivity with other populations of howler monkeys and reduce air pollution in Guayaquil. Our findings also reveal that hypopigmentation is becoming more frequent in howler monkey´s population along its distributional range. Therefore, we encourage the community to consider a regional management strategy.
Telomeres, the terminal repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of linear chromosomes, have strong associations with longevity in some major taxa. Longevity has been linked to rate of decline in telomere length in birds and mammals, and absolute telomere length seems to be associated with body mass in mammals. Using a phylogenetic comparative method and 30 species of birds, we examined longevity (reflected by maximum lifespan), absolute telomere length, the rate of change in telomere length (TROC), and body mass (often strongly associated with longevity) to ascertain their degree of association. We divided lifespan into two life-history components, one reflected by body size (measured as body mass), and a component that was statistically independent of body mass. While both lifespan and body mass were strongly associated with a family tree of the species (viz., the phylogeny of the species), telomere measures were not. Telomere length was not significantly associated with longevity or body mass, or our measure of mass-independent lifespan. TROC, however, was strongly associated with mass-independent lifespan, but to a lesser degree with body mass. Our results supported an association of TROC and longevity, in particular longevity that was independent of body size and part of the pace-of-life syndrome of life histories.
Primula, well known for its heterostyly, is the largest genus in the family Primulaceae with more than 500 species. The considerable species number has introduced a huge challenge for taxonomy. Although several phylogenetic constructions have been carried out thoroughly, the relationships between Primula species were remained incompletely understood, especially for the relationship among sections within Chinese species. P. wilsonii Dunn is a PSESP (plant species with extremely small populations) with very limited genetic information to explore its endangered mechanism and conservation. In this study, we sequenced and assembled the complete chloroplast genomes of P. wilsonii using Illumina sequencing and compared its genomic sequences with those of four related Primula species. The chloroplast genomes of Primula species were similar in the basic structure, gene order and GC content. The detected 38 SSRs loci and 17 hyper-variable regions had many similarities in P. wilsonii, P. anisodora, P. miyabeana and P. poissonii, but showed a significant difference compared with those in P. secundiflora. Slight variations were observed among Primula chloroplast genomes, in consideration of the relatively stable patterns of IR contraction and expansion. Phylogenetic analysis based on chloroplast genomes confirmed three major clades in Chinese Primula, but the infrageneric sections were not in accordance with morphological traits. The P. poissonii complex was confirmed here and P. anisodora was the species that was most closely related to P. wilsonii. Overall, the chloroplast genome sequences provided useful genetic and evolutionary information for phylogeny, population genetics and conservation studies on Chinese Primula species.
The predicted temperature increase caused by climate change is a threat to biodiversity. Male reproduction is particularly sensitive to elevated temperatures resulting in sterility. Here we investigate temperature induced changes in reproductive tissues and the fertility reduction in male Drosophila melanogaster. We challenged males during development and either allowed them to recover or not in early adulthood, while measuring several determinants of male reproductive success. We found significant differences in recovery rate, organ sizes, sperm production and other key reproductive traits among males from our different temperature treatments. Spermatogenesis and hence sperm maturation was impaired before reaching the upper thermal sterility threshold. While some effects were reversible, this did not compensate the earlier damage imposed. Surprisingly, developmental heat stress was damaging to accessory gland growth and female post mating responses mediated by seminal fluid proteins were impaired regardless of the possibility of recovery. We suggest that sub-lethal thermal sterility and the subsequent fertility reduction is caused by a combination of malfunctioning reproductive traits: inefficient functionality of the accessory gland and alteration of spermatogenesis.
Carnivore communities are extremely important for maintaining the structure/function of ecosystems. Exploring the carnivore coexistence can provide the data needed for the development of effective conservation strategies for endangered species. We aimed to (1) reveal the dietary composition of a carnivore community that inhabits the Everest region by analyzing molecular diets, (2) assess activity patterns by analyzing camera-trapping records. Dietary analysis revealed 22 food MOTUs of 7 orders and 2 classes. Snow leopard and wolf mainly preyed on ungulate mammals (%PR = 61%, 50%), while lynx and red fox mainly consumed small mammals (%PR = 62%, 76%). Higher dietary overlap (Pianka’s index = 0.95 ~ 0.97) was observed between similar-sized predators (snow leopard versus wolf, lynx versus fox); and there was no dietary difference between them (P > 0.05). Lower dietary overlap (Pianka’s index = 0.53 ~ 0.67) was observed between predators with large body size difference (snow leopard versus lynx, snow leopard versus red fox, wolf versus fox); and dietary difference was significant (P < 0.01), indicating the existence of dietary partitioning. In activity pattern analysis, predators exhibited higher temporal overlap with the more frequently consumed prey species, indicating that predator activity can be regulated by prey availability. Snow leopard and wolf had the higher activity overlap (Δ = 0.87) suggesting the lack of temporal partitioning. Red fox had the lower coefficients of overlap with snow leopard and wolf (Δ = 0.60, Δ = 0.59), suggesting that fox temporally avoid snow leopard and wolf slightly. We revealed the coexistence mechanisms of a carnivore community in the Everest region, by confirming that sympatric coexistence was facilitated by both dietary and temporal partitioning. These results will help to increase understanding of carnivore communities, and provide the scientific foundation for the conservation of threatened species in the Mount Everest region.
Although the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 had some environmental benefits, the pandemic’s impact on the global economy has also had conservation repercussions, especially in biodiverse nations. Ecuador, which is heavily reliant on petroleum, agricultural exports, and ecotourism, experienced a rise in poverty in response to pandemic shutdowns. In this study, we sought to quantify levels of illegal timber extraction and poaching before and after the start of COVID-19 lockdowns throughout two protected areas (Reserva Jama Coaque [JCR] and Reserva Bosque Seco Lalo Loor [BSLL]) in the endangered Pacific Forest of Ecuador. We analyzed chainsaw and gunshot acoustic data recorded from devices installed in the forest canopy from December 2019 to March 2020 and October 2020 to March 2021. Results from generalized linear mixed effects models indicated less chainsaw activity before lockdowns (post.lockdown = 0.571 + 0.196 SE, p-value = 0.004), although increased average rainfall also seemed to negatively affect chainsaw activity (avg.rainfall = -0.005 + 0.001 SE, p-value < 0.001). Gunshots were too infrequent to conduct statistical models; however, 87% of gunshots were detected during the ‘lockdown’ period. Observational data collected by rangers from these protected areas also noted an increase in poaching activities beginning mid to late 2020 and persisting into 2021. These results add to the steadily growing literature indicating an increase in environmental crime, particularly in biodiverse nations, catalyzed by COVID-19-related economic hardships. Identifying areas where environmental crime increased during pandemic lockdowns is vital to address both socioeconomic drivers and enforcement deficiencies to prevent further biodiversity loss and disease outbreaks and to promote ecosystem resilience. Our study also demonstrates the utility of passive acoustic monitoring to detect illegal resource extraction patterns, which can inform strategies such as game theory modeling for ranger patrol circuits and placement of real-time acoustic detection technologies to monitor and mitigate environmental crimes.
Resting stages of aquatic organisms that accumulate in the sediment over time are an exceptional resource that allows direct insights into past populations and addressing evolutionary questions. This is of particular interest in taxa that have recently faced environmental changes such as the Daphnia longispina species complex, a keystone zooplankton group in European freshwater ecosystems. However, genomic analysis might be challenging as many of these resting stages are very small and the DNA might be degraded. To reliably allow the resequencing of single Daphnia resting eggs from different sediment layers and characterize genomic changes through time, we performed whole genome amplification to obtain DNA amounts suitable for genome re-sequencing and tested multiple protocols involving egg isolation, whole genome amplification kits and library preparation. A pre-sequencing contamination screening was developed to quickly assess possible contamination. In total, we successfully amplified and sequenced nine genomes from Daphnia resting eggs that could be identified as Daphnia longispina species. We analyzed the genome coverage and SNP calling of these samples to optimize this method for future projects involving population genomic investigation of the resting egg bank.
Abstract 1. Classic evolutionary theory suggests that sexual dimorphism evolves primarily via sexual and fecundity selection. However, theory and evidence is beginning to accumulate suggesting that resource competition can drive the evolution of sexual dimorphism, via ecological character displacement between sexes. A key prediction of this hypothesis is that the extent of ecological divergence between sexes will be associated with the extent of sexual dimorphism. 2. As the stable isotope ratios of animal tissues provide a quantitative measure of various aspects of ecology, we carried out a meta-analysis examining associations between the extent of isotopic divergence between sexes and the extent of body size dimorphism. Our models demonstrate that large amounts of between-study variation in isotopic (ecological) divergence between sexes is due to systematic heterogeneity, which may be associated with the traits of study subjects. We then completed meta-regressions to examine whether the extent of isotopic divergence between sexes is associated with the extent of sexual size dimorphism. 3. We found a modest but significantly positive association between size dimorphism and sex differences in trophic level. Furthermore, the strength of this positive association varied between ecological contexts, increasing in species whose diets provide the greatest scope for trophic variation and in those for which body size is of greater relevance to feeding. 4. Our results therefore provide further evidence that ecologically mediated selection, unrelated to reproduction, can contribute to the evolution of sexual dimorphism.
Researchers' ability to accurately screen fossil and subfossil specimens for preservation of DNA and protein sequences remains limited. Thermal exposure and geologic age are usable proxies for sequence preservation on a broad scale but are of nominal use for specimens of similar depositional environments. Cell and tissue biomolecular histology is thus proposed as a novel proxy for determining sequence preservation potential of ancient specimens with improved accuracy. Biomolecular histology as a proxy is hypothesized to elucidate why fossils/subfossils of some depositional environments preserve sequences while others do not and to facilitate selection of ancient specimens for use in molecular studies.
Earth systems are nearing a global tipping point, beyond which the dynamics of biological systems will become unstable. One major driver of instability is species invasion, especially by organisms that act as “ecosystem engineers” through their modification of abiotic and biotic factors. In a mosaic landscape of non-invaded and invaded habitat, ecosystems modified through invasion may serve as “sink” habitat. To understand how native organisms respond to habitat that is becoming increasingly modified, it is essential to examine biological communities within invaded and non-invaded habitat, identifying compositional shifts between native and non-native taxa as well as measuring how modification has affected interactions among community members. Using dietary metabarcoding, our study examines the response of a native Hawaiian generalist predator to habitat modification by comparing biotic interactions across metapopulations of spiders collected in native forest and sites invaded by kahili ginger. Our study shows that, although there are shared components of the dietary community, spiders in invaded habitat are eating a less consistent and more diverse diet consisting of more non-native arthropods which are rarely or entirely undetected in spiders collected from native forest. Additionally, the frequency of novel interactions with parasites was significantly higher in invaded sites, reflected by the frequency and diversity of non-native Hymenoptera parasites and entomopathogenic fungi. The study highlights the role of habitat modification driven by an invasive plant in altering community structure and biotic interactions, appearing to serve as a “sink” for native arthropods and thereby threatening the stability of the ecosystem.
East Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau is rich in biodiversity in China. Complex geographical and climatic conditions, and rich bird resources made this area an ideal system for studying the spatial distribution mechanism and influencing factors of birds, which were still unknown. Bird community data from 37 sites in this region were collected, including 505 bird species and 164 species of resident passerine bird analyzed. The taxonomic diversity, phylogenetic diversity, functional diversity, and community structure index were calculated. Redundancy analysis (RDA), ordinary least square (OLS), and structural equation model (SEM), were used to explore the relationship between bird diversity index and 12 environmental factors used to describe the habitat conditions of birds. Results indicated that the vascular plant species richness, habitat area, and vertical altitude difference were the three most critical factors affecting bird diversity. The phylogenetic structure of bird community was dispersed in west and clustered in east, and significantly related to latitude, habitat area, and vertical altitude difference. The functional structure was dispersed in all sites, and significantly related to mean annual precipitation and longitude. This suggest that the distribution pattern of bird diversity was caused by the comprehensive action of various habitat factors which were mainly related to food availability and habitat heterogeneity. Considering the protection of birds in this area, it is necessary to continuously promote the construction of nature reserve system proposed by the Chinese government, and pay attention to the protection of urban green space such as campus and urban parks, to maintain the area and integrity of bird habitat, while only a high plant species and area is not enough, improving the habitat heterogeneity is of great significance.
Smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) and Malayan water monitor lizards (Varanus salvator) occupy similar habitats and and interact regularly in Singapore’s waterways. These interactions have a range of potential outcomes and are sometimes lethal. Few formal behavioral studies exist for either species. We analyzed interactions between otters and monitor lizards by gleaning data from publicly available videos from citizen scientists to examine what factors influence aggressive and defensive behaviors, and what influences vigilance in otters. Behavioral sequence analysis revealed no obvious monitor lizard behavior that predicted otter aggression towards monitors. We found that the presence and number of otter pups is positively associated with otter aggression. Otters also tended to be more vigilant in groups with more pups, and more vigilant on land than water. Monitor lizards displayed aggressive and defensive behaviors more frequently than did otters, regardless of whether the otters were aggressive towards lizards. These observations suggests that otters vary their aggression and vigilance levels depending on the context of each interaction.
1. Ombrotrophic peatbogs provide valuable records of environmental change on long timescales but are rarely preserved in an undamaged state near the major centres of industrial activity. Holcroft Moss is a rare example of an intact lowland peatbog in NW England, which provides a valuable opportunity to trace industrial impacts on vegetation in a sensitive environmental archive in close proximity to the early industrialising cities of Manchester and Liverpool. 2. We reconstructed the environmental changes of a Holcroft Moss before and after the Industrial Revolution using a high-resolution record of pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs, microcharcoal, peat composition (organic content, ash-free bulk density) and heavy metal content constrained by a radiocarbon and SCP (spheroidal carbonaceous particle) chronology. We examine the relationship between abiotic and biotic environmental tracers using principal components analysis and evaluate the role of local and regional climatic and anthropogenic drivers using canonical redundancy analysis and partitioning of variation. 3. Results show significant changes in bog vegetation composition during the last 700 years. From the 14th to 18th centuries AD, atmospheric climate variability and local agro-pastoral disturbance (grazing and fires) were the main drivers of vegetation change. From the mid-18th century onwards, the intensification of regional coal-fired industry contributed to increases in atmospheric pollutants such as dust, heavy metals and acid deposition that severely impacted vegetation, driving the decline of Sphagnum. Grasses subsequently rose to dominance in the 20th century associated especially with cumulative nitrogen deposition. Although atmospheric pollution significantly decreased after the Industrial Revolution, vegetation has not returned to previous pre-industrial conditions, reflecting the ongoing impact of external press drivers which pose challenges for conservation and restoration. 4. Synthesis. Palaeoecological studies are needed to reveal the long-term history of vegetation degradation and to offer guidelines for restoration and conservation practices.
The diet of an individual animal is subject to change over time, both in response to short-term food fluctuations and over longer time scales as an individual ages and meets different challenges over its life cycle. A metabarcoding approach was used to elucidate the diet of different life stages of a songbird, the Eurasian reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) over the summer breeding season of 2017. The faeces of adult, juvenile and nestling warblers were screened for invertebrate DNA, enabling identification of prey species. Dietary analysis was coupled with monitoring of Diptera in the field using yellow sticky traps. Seasonal changes in warbler diet were subtle whereas age class had a greater influence on overall diet composition. Age classes showed high dietary overlap, but significant dietary differences were mediated through the selection of prey, i) from different taxonomic groups, ii) with different habitat origins (aquatic versus terrestrial) and iii) of different average approximate sizes. Our results highlight the value of metabarcoding data for enhancing ecological studies of insectivores in dynamic environments.
Invasive predatory species are frequently observed to cause evolutionary responses in prey phenotypes, which in turn may translate into evolution of the prey’s population dynamics. Research has provided a link between rates of predation and the evolution of prey population growth in the lab, but studies from natural populations are rare. Here we tested for evolutionary changes in population dynamics parameters of zooplankton Daphnia pulicaria following invasion by the predator Bythotrephes longimanus into Lake Kegonsa, Wisconsin, US. We used a resurrection ecological approach, whereby clones from pre- and post-invasive periods were hatched from eggs obtained in sediment cores and were used in a 3-month growth experiment. Based on these data we estimated intrinsic population growth rates (r) and carrying capacities (K) using theta-logistic models. We found that post-invasion Daphnia maintained a higher r and K under these controlled, predation-free laboratory conditions. Thus, whereas previous experimental evolution studies of predator-prey interactions have demonstrated that genotypes that have evolved under predation have inferior competitive ability when the predator is absent, this was not the case for the Daphnia. Given that our study was conducted in a laboratory environment and the possibility for genotype-by-environment interactions, extrapolating these apparent counterintuitive results to the wild should be done with caution. However, barring such complications, we discuss how selection for reduced predator exposure, either temporally or spatially, may have led to the observed changes. This scenario suggests that complexities in ecological interactions represents a challenge when predicting the evolutionary responses of population dynamics to changes in predation pressure in natural systems.