Morphology-based taxonomic research frequently applies linear morphometrics (LMM) in skulls to quantify species distinctions. The choice of which measurements to collect generally relies on the expertise of the investigators or a set of standard measurements, but this practice may ignore less obvious or common discriminatory characters. In addition, taxonomic analyses often ignore the potential for subgroups of an otherwise cohesive population to differ in shape purely due to size differences (or allometry). Geometric morphometrics (GMM) is more complicated as an acquisition technique, but can offer a more holistic characterization of shape and provides a rigorous toolkit for accounting for allometry. In this study, we used linear discriminant analysis to assess the discriminatory performance of four published LMM protocols and a 3D GMM dataset for three clades of antechinus known to differ subtly in shape. We assessed discrimination of raw data (which are frequently used by taxonomists); data with isometry removed; and data after allometric correction. We found that group discrimination among raw data was high for LMM, possibly inflated relative to GMM when visualised in PCA plots. However, GMM produced better results in group discrimination after the size and allometry treatments. High measurement redundancy in LMM protocols appears to result in relatively high allometry but low discriminatory performance. These findings suggest that taxonomic measurement protocols might benefit from GMM-based pilot studies, because this offers the option of differentiating allometric and non-allometric shape differences between species, which can then inform on the development of the easier-to-apply LMM protocols.
1. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment assessed ecosystem change, human well-being and scientific evidence for sustainable use of biological systems. Despite intergovernmental acknowledgement of the problem, global ecological decline has continued, including declines in insect biodiversity, which has received much media attention in recent years. 2. Several roadmaps to averting biological declines have failed, due to various economic and political factors, and so biodiversity loss continues, driven by several interacting human pressures. Humans are innately linked with nature but tend to take it for granted. The benefits we gain from the insect world are broad, yet aversion or phobias of invertebrates are common, and stand firmly in the path of their successful conservation. 3. Providing an integrated synthesis for policy teams, conservation NGOs, academic researchers and those interested in public engagement, this article considers: (1) the lack of progress to preserve and protect insects. (2) Examples relating to insect decline and contributions insects make to people worldwide, and consequently what we stand to lose. (3) How to engage the public, governmental organisations and researchers through “insect contributions to people” to better address insect declines. 4. International political will has consistently acknowledged the existence of biodiversity decline, but apart from a few narrow cases of charismatic megafauna, little meaningful change has been achieved. Public values are reflected in political willpower, the progress being made across the world changing views on insects in the public should initiate a much-needed political sea-change, but only if we as entomologists enormously expand our engagement efforts.
We sought to assess effect of plant environmental adaptation strategies and evolutionary history and quantify the contribution of ecological processes to community assembly by measuring functional traits and phylogenetic composition in local forest community. We selected 18 dominant tree species in a Lithocarpus glaber–Cyclobalanopsis glauca evergreen broad-leaved forest and measured nine leaf functional traits and phylogenetic data of each species. We analyzed the variation in traits and trade-off relationships, tested phylogenetic effects on leaf functional traits, explored the influence of phylogeny and environment on leaf functional traits, and distinguished the relative effects of spatial and environmental variables on functional traits and phylogenetic compositions. The results showed the following: (i) Leaf traits had moderate intraspecific variation, and significant interspecific variation existed especially among life forms. (ii) Significant phylogenetic signals were detected only in leaf thickness and leaf area. The correlations among traits both supported “the leaf economics spectrum” at the species and community levels, and the relationships significantly increased or only a little change after removing the influence of phylogeny, which showed a lack of consistency between the leaf functional trait patterns and phylogenetic patterns. We infer the coexistent species tended to adopt “realism” to adapt to their habitats. (iii) Soil total potassium and phosphorus content, altitude, aspect, and convexity were the most critical environmental factors affecting functional traits and phylogenetic composition. Total environmental and spatial variables explained 63.38% of the variation in functional trait composition and 47.96% of the variation in phylogenetic structures. Meanwhile, the contribution of pure spatial factors was significantly higher than that of the pure environment. Neutral- theory-based stochastic processes played dominant roles in driving community functional trait assembly, but niche-theory-based determinative processes such as environmental filtering had a stronger effect on shaping community phylogenetic structure at a fine scale.
In order to interpret the degree of postmating isolation and the evolutionary relationships among Fejervarya species from Indonesia (Lesser Sunda), Bangladesh, China, and Japan, crossing experiments and molecular phylogenetic analyses were carried out using frogs of Fejervarya species from these countries. The crossing experiments revealed that the reciprocal hybrids among F. iskandari, F. verruculosa, and F. sp. Large type, and those between F. multistriata and F. kawamurai were viable through metamorphosis, but those between F. iskandari group and F. limnocharis group were completely or partially inviable at the tadpole stage, and those between Southeast -Asian and South-Asian Fejervarya groups were completely inviable at the embryonic stage. The matured reciprocal hybrids between F. iskandari and F. verruculosa from Indonesia, Lesser Sunda showed some degree of abnormality in spermatogenesis. The phylogenetic analyses using mtDNA Cytb gene sequences demonstrated that F. iskandari formed a sister clade with F. verruculosa from Lesser Sunda, Indonesia with 8.1% sequence divergence. Fejervaraya multistriata from China made a clade with Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesian (topotype) populations of F. limnocharis which showed sister relationships to F. kawamurai from Japan with 8.9% sequence divergence of Cytb gene. Fejervarya sp. small type from Bangladesh formed a clade with the other South-Asian members of Fejervarya group and made a sister clade with Southeast-Asian Fejervarya group having 23.1% sequence divergence of Cytb gene. This study showed that the degree of postmating isolation reflects the molecular phylogenetic relationships, and that the two species, F. iskandari and F. verruculosa from Indonesia (Lesser Sunda) are reproductively isolated by abnormal spermatogenesis, and genetically deviated.
Animal-borne telemetry devices provide essential insights into the life-history strategies of far-ranging species and allow us to understand how they interact with their environment. Many species in the seabird family Alcidae undergo a synchronous moult of all primary flight feathers during the non-breeding season, making them flightless and more susceptible to environmental stressors, including severe storms and prey shortages. However, the timing and location of moult remains largely unknown, with most information coming from studies on birds killed by storms or shot at sea. Using light-level geolocators with saltwater immersion loggers, we develop a method for determining flightless periods in the context of the annual cycle. Four Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) were equipped with geolocator/immersion loggers on each leg to attempt to overcome issues of leg-tucking in plumage while sitting on the water, which confounds the interpretation of logger data. Light level and saltwater immersion time-series data were combined to correct for this issue. This approach was adapted and applied to 40 puffins equipped with the standard practice deployments of geolocators on one leg only. Flightless periods consistent with moult were identified in the dual-equipped birds, whereas moult identification in single-equipped birds was less definitive and should be treated with caution. Within the dual-equipped sample, we present evidence for two flightless moult periods per non-breeding season in two puffins that undertook more extensive migrations (> 2000km), and were flightless for up to 76 days in a single non-breeding season. A biannual flight feather moult is highly unusual among non-passerine birds, and may be unique to birds that undergo catastrophic moult, i.e. become flightless when moulting. Though our conclusions are based on a small sample, we have established a freely available methodological framework for future investigation of the moult patterns of this and other seabird species.
1. The encroachment of woody plants into grasslands is an ongoing global problem that is largely attributed to anthropogenic factors such as climate change and land management practices. Determining the mechanisms that drive successful encroachment is a critical step towards planning restoration and long-term management strategies. Feedbacks between soil and aboveground communities can have a large influence on the fitness of plants and must be considered as potentially important drivers for woody encroachment. 2. We conducted a plant-soil feedback experiment in a greenhouse between eastern redcedar Juniperus virginiana and four common North American prairie grass species. We assessed how soils that had been occupied by redcedar, a pervasive woody encroacher in the Great Plains of North America, affected the growth of big bluestem, little bluestem smooth brome, and western wheatgrass over time. We evaluated the effect of redcedar on grass performance by comparing the height and biomass of individuals of each grass species that were grown in live or sterilized conspecific or redcedar soil. 3. We found that redcedar created a negative plant-soil feedback that limited the growth of two species. These effects were found in both live and sterilized redcedar soils, indicating redcedar may exude an allelochemical into the soil that limits grass growth. 4. Synthesis. By evaluating the strength and direction of plant-soil feedbacks in the encroaching range, we can further our understanding of how woody pants successfully establish in new plant communities. Our results demonstrate that plant-soil feedback created by redcedar inhibits the growth of certain grass species. By creating a plant-plant interaction that negatively affects competitors, redcedars increase the probability of seedling survival until they can grow to overtop their neighbors. These results indicate plant-soil feedback is a mechanism of native woody plant encroachment that could be important in many systems yet is understudied.
Workers of the ant Cardiocondyla elegans drop female sexuals into the nest entrance of other colonies to promote outbreeding with unrelated, wingless males. Corroborating results from previous years we document that carrier and carried female sexuals are typically related and that the transfer initially occurs mostly from their joint natal colonies to unrelated colonies. Female sexuals mate multiply with up to seven genetically distinguishable males. Contrary to our expectation, the colony growth rate of multiple-mated and outbred female sexuals was lower than that of inbred or single-mated females, leading to the question of why female sexuals mate multiply at all. Despite the obvious costs, multiple mating might be a way for female sexuals to “pay rent” for hibernation in an alien nest. We argue that in addition to evading inbreeding depression from regular sibling mating over many generations, assisted dispersal might also be a strategy for minimizing the risk of losing all reproductive investment when nests are flooded in winter.
One of the most effective defenses of avian hosts against obligate brood parasites is the ejection of parasitic eggs from the nests. Despite the clear fitness benefits of this behavior, individuals within so-called “egg rejecter” host species still show substantial variation in their propensity to eliminate foreign eggs from the nest. We argue that this variation can be further understood by studying the physiological mechanisms of host responses to brood parasitic egg stimuli: independent lines of research increasingly support the hypothesis that stress-related physiological response to parasitic eggs may trigger egg rejection. The “stress-mediated egg rejection” hypothesis requires that hosts activate the stress-response when responding to parasitic eggs. We tested this prediction by experimentally parasitizing incubating American robins Turdus migratorius, an egg rejecter host to obligate brood parasitic brown-headed cowbirds Molothrus ater, with mimetic or non-mimetic model eggs. To assess the stress response, we measured the heart rate in incubating females immediately after experimental parasitism. We also measured plasma corticosterone and, in a subset of birds, used RNA-sequencing to analyze the expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC), a precursor of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), two hours after experimental parasitism. We found that egg type had no effect on heart rate. Two hours following experimental parasitism, plasma corticosterone did not differ between the differently colored model egg treatments or between rejecter and accepter females within the non-mimetic treatment. However, females exposed to non-mimetic eggs showed an upregulation of POMC gene expression in the pituitary compared to females treated with mimetic eggs. Our findings suggest that parasitic eggs may activate the stress-related hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in an egg-rejecter host species, although the dynamics of this response are not yet understood.
Uganda lies within the drier end of the natural distribution range of Coffea canephora and contains unexplored genetic material that could be drought-adapted and useful for developing climate-resilient varieties. Using experimental treatments, (i) ample and (ii) restricted-water, response of 148 genotypes were studied comprising wild, feral and cultivated C. canephora. Biomass allocation, standing leaf area and leaf area growth data were collected. Linear mixed effect models and PCA were used to analyse effect of drought on genotypes from different: (i) cultivation status, (ii) genetic groups and (iii) locations. We assessed the relationship between drought tolerance for relative growth rate in leaf area (RGRA), total number of leaves (TNL), total leaf area (TL) and total leaf dry weight (TLDW) of genotypes at final harvest. Restricted-water reduced RGRA across genetic groups (3.2 – 32.5%) and locations (7.1 – 36.7%) but not cultivation status. For TNL, TL and TLDW, genotypes that performed well in ample-water performed worse under restricted-water, indicating growth-tolerance trade-off. Drought tolerance in RGRA and TNL were negatively correlated with wetness index suggesting some degree of adaptation to local climate. Findings indicate a growth-tolerance trade-off within this tropical tree species and drought tolerance of Uganda’s C. canephora is somewhat associated with local climate.
Allopreening occurs in many species of birds and is known for providing hygienic and social benefits. While this behavior has been studied between conspecifics, its occurrence among different species remains mysterious. Outside of captive environment, only a few records of interspecific allopreening exist. In this study, we describe our observations of Spot-necked Babbler (Stachyris strialata) preening Nonggang Babbler (Stachyris nonggangensis) in a non-captive environment in southern China. We provide three hypotheses (social dominance, cleaning mutualism, and hybridization) to explain the occurrence of this understudied behavior. We suggest that interspecific allopreening may not be as rare as we thought if we study this behavior under circumstances where it most frequently occurs. This study contributes to our understanding of not only the potential mechanism(s) for interspecific allopreening but also the behavioral ecology of the vulnerable Nonggang Babbler.
Giant clams are ecologically important, benefitting species of all trophic levels. But numerous populations have declined drastically in numbers due to past intensive exploitation that led to their listing in both CITES Appendix II and IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.. However, giant clams are notoriously difficult to identify, and recent molecular work has revealed that morphological misidentification of giant clams have confounded current population assessments and extinction risk. The most recent study of the status of giant clams in the Samoan Archipelago was published in a journal over 20 years ago, without molecular corroboration of visual identifications. Using morphologic characteristics and ezRAD genetic techniques, we identify the existence of Tridacna noae in the Samoan Archipelago, presenting the first observation and a resulting range expansion. Accurately identifying the extant species in the archipelago is the first step towards a much-needed population status assessment to effectively manage these long-lived species.
Intense fishing pressure and climate change are major threats to fish populations and coastal fisheries. Larimichthys crocea (large yellow croaker) is a long-lived fish, which performs seasonal migrations from its spawning and nursery grounds along the coast of the East China Sea (ECS) to overwintering grounds offshore. This study used length-based analysis and habitat suitability index (HSI) model to evaluate current life-history parameters and overwintering habitat suitability of L. crocea, respectively. We compared recent (2019) and historical (1971-1982) life-history parameters and overwintering HSI to analyze the fishing pressure and climate change effects on the overall population and overwintering phase of L. crocea. The length-based analysis indicated serious overfishing of L. crocea, characterized by reduced catch yield, size truncation, constrained distribution, and advanced maturation causing a recruitment bottleneck. The overwintering HSI modeling results indicated that climate change has led to decreased sea surface temperature during L. crocea overwintering phase over the last half-century, which in turn led to area decrease and an offshore-oriented shifting of optimal overwintering habitat of L. crocea. The fishing-caused size truncation may have constrained the migratory ability and distribution of L. crocea subsequently leading to the mismatch of the optimal overwintering habitat against climate change background, namely habitat bottleneck. Hence, while heavily fishing was the major cause of L. crocea collapse, climate-induced overwintering habitat suitability may have intensified the fishery collapse of L. crocea population. It is important for management to take both overfishing and climate change issues into consideration when developing stock enhancement activities and policy regulations, particularly for migratory long-lived fish that share a similar life history to L. crocea. Combined with China’s current restocking and stock enhancement initiatives, we propose recommendations for future restocking of L. crocea in China.
Parasites form an integral part of food webs, however, mechanistic insights into the role of parasites for energy flow and community dynamics is currently limited by a lack of conceptual studies investigating host-parasite interactions in a community context. In aquatic systems, chytrids constitute a major group of fungal parasites and their free-living infective stage (zoospores) forms a highly nutritional food source to zooplankton. Consumption of zoospores can create an energy pathway from otherwise inedible phytoplankton to zooplankton (“mycoloop”). The impact of such parasite-mediated energy pathways on community dynamics and energy transfer to higher trophic levels is of high importance considering eutrophication and global warming induced shifts to dominance of unfavourable prey such as cyanobacteria. We theoretically investigated community dynamics and energy transfer in a food web consisting of an edible-nonhost and an inedible-host phytoplankton species, a fungal parasite, and a zooplankton species grazing on edible phytoplankton and fungi. Food web dynamics were investigated along a nutrient gradient for two cases: (1) non-adaptive zooplankton species representative for filter feeders like cladocerans and (2) zooplankton with the ability to actively adapt their feeding preferences like many copepod species. For both feeding strategies, the importance of the mycoloop for zooplankton increases with nutrient availability. This increase is smooth for non-adaptive consumers. For a consumer with an adaptive feeding preference, we observe an abrupt shift from almost exclusive preference for edible phytoplankton (dominant prey) at low nutrient levels to a strong preference for parasitic fungi at high nutrient levels. The model predicts that parasitic fungi can contribute up to 50% of the zooplankton diet in nutrient rich environments, agreeing with empirical observations on zooplankton gut content from eutrophic systems during cyanobacterial blooms. Our findings highlight the role of parasite-mediated energy pathway for predictions on energy flow and community composition under environmental change.
1. Bumble bees are key pollinators with some species reared in captivity at a commercial scale, but with evidence of population declines and with alarming predictions under climate change scenarios. While studies on the thermal biology of temperate species are still limited, they are entirely absent from the tropics where the effects of climate change are expected to be greater. 2. Herein we test if tropical bumble bees’ lower (CTMin) and upper (CTMax) critical thermal limits decrease with elevation and if the stable optimal conditions used in laboratory-reared colonies reduces their thermal tolerance. 3. We assessed changes in CTMin and CTMax of four species at two elevations (2600 and 3600 m) in the Colombian Andes and of laboratory-reared individuals of B. pauloensis. In addition, we examined the effect of body size and compiled information on bumble bees’ thermal limits from the literature to assess potential predictors for broad-scale patterns of variation. 4. CTMin decreased with elevation while CTMax did not. CTMax was slightly higher (0.84 °C) in laboratory-reared than in wild-caught bees while CTMin was similar. CTMin decreased with increasing body size while CTMax did not. Latitude is a good predictor for variations in CTMin while annual mean temperature and extreme monthly temperatures are good predictors for both CTMin and CTMax. 5. The stronger response in CTMin with increasing elevation supports Brett’s heat-invariant hypothesis. Tropical bumble bees appear to be about as heat tolerant as those from temperate areas, suggesting that other aspects of climate besides temperature (e.g., water balance) might be more determinant environmental factors for these species under global warming. Laboratory-reared colonies are adequate surrogates for addressing questions on thermal tolerance and global warming impacts.
Patterns of biodiversity provide insights into the processes that shape biological communities around the world. Variation in species diversity along biogeographical or ecological gradients, such as latitude or precipitation, can be attributed to variation in different components of biodiversity: changes in the total abundance (i.e. more-individual effects) and changes in the regional species abundance distribution (SAD). Rarefaction curves can provide a tool to partition these sources of variation on diversity, but first must be converted to a common unit of measurement. Here, we partition species diversity gradients into components of the SAD and abundance using the effective number of species (ENS) transformation of the individual-based rarefaction curve. Because the ENS curve is unconstrained by sample size, it can act as a standardized unit of measurement when comparing effect sizes among different components of biodiversity change. We illustrate the utility of the approach using two datasets spanning latitudinal diversity gradients in trees and marine reef fish, and find contrasting results. Whereas the diversity gradient of fish was mostly associated with variation in abundance (86%), the tree diversity gradient was mostly associated with variation in the SAD (59%). These results suggest that local fish diversity may be limited by energy through the more-individuals effect, while species pool effects are the larger determinant of tree diversity. We suggest that the framework of the ENS-curve has the potential to quantify the underlying factors influencing most aspects of diversity change.
An upsurge in anthropogenic climate change has accelerated the habitat loss and fragmentation of wild animal and plants. The rare and endangered plants is an important elements of biodiversity, but holistic conservation management has been hampered by lacking of detailed and reliable information about their spatial distribution. Our aim is to study the consequences of climate change on geographical distributions of a rare tree species Firmiana kwangsiensis (Malvaceae) to provide reference for conservation, introduction and cultivation of this species. Based on 30 effective occurrence records and 27 environmental variables, we modeling the potential distribution of F. kwangsiensis under current and two future climate scenarios in maximum entropy. We found that the potential suitable habitat boundary of F. kwangsiensis were limited by precipitation-associated variables and temperature-associated variables. Our model predicted 259,504 km2 of F. kwangsiensis habitat based on 25 percentile thresholds in contemporary, of which the high suitable area is about 41,027 km2. Guangxi’s protected areas provide the most coverage for F. kwangsiensis habitat. However, the existing reserves encompass 2.7% of the total suitable habitat and 4.2% of the high suitable habitat, which is lower than the average protection intensity in Guangxi (7.2%), meaning protected areas network is currently insufficient and alternative conservation mechanisms are needed to protect the habitat. Our findings will help to identify additional localities where F. kwangsiensis may exist, and also where it may spread to. It provides important information for the conservation management and cultivation of such rare tree species.
The Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis) is a cryptic songbird that uses a Nearctic-Paleotropical migratory strategy. Using geolocators, we provide the first documentation of the migratory routes and wintering locations of two territorial adult male Arctic Warblers from Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. After accounting for position estimation uncertainties and biases, we found that both individuals departed their breeding grounds in early September, stopped over in southeastern Russia and China during autumn migration, then wintered in the Philippines and the island of Palau. Our documentation of Arctic Warbler wintering on Palau suggests that additional study is needed to document their wintering range. These results suggest that Arctic Warblers may migrate further overwater than previously thought and provide hitherto unknown information on stopover and wintering locations.
Climate change affects the species spatio-temporal distribution deeply. However, how climate affects the spatio-temporal distribution pattern of related species on the large scale remains largely unclear. Here, we selected two closely related species in Taxus genus Taxus chinensis and Taxus mairei to explore their distribution pattern. Four environmental variables were employed to simulate the distribution patterns using the optimized Maxent model. The results showed that the highly suitable area of T. chinensis and T. mairei in current period was 1.964×105km2 and 3.074×105km2, respectively. The distribution area of T. chinensis was smaller than that of T. mairei in different periods. Temperature and precipitation were the main climate factors that determined the potential distribution of the two species. The centroids of T. chinensis and T. mairei were in Sichuan and Hunan province in current period, respectively. In the future, the centroid migration direction of two species was almost opposite. T. chinensis would shift towards southwest, while T. mairei towards northeast. Our results revealed that the average elevation distribution of T. chinensis was higher than that of T. mairei. This study sheds new insights into the habitat preference and limiting environment factors of the two related species and provides a valuable reference for the conservation of these two endangered species.