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Integrative and Comparative Biology

David B Stern, Keith A Crandall
In the absence of light in caves, animals have repeatedly evolved reduced eyes and visual systems. Whether the underlying genetic components remain intact in blind species remains unanswered across taxa. The freshwater crayfish have evolved to live in caves multiple times throughout their history; therefore, this system provides an opportunity to probe the genetic patterns and processes underlying repeated vision loss. Using transcriptomic data from the eyes of 14 species of cave and surface crayfishes, we identify the expression of 17 genes putatively related to visual phototransduction...
May 14, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Tim Watkins, Abraham J Miller-Rushing, Sarah J Nelson
The United States has set aside over 400 national parks and other protected areas to be managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Collectively, these sites attract over 300 million visits per year which makes the NPS one of the largest informal education institutions in the country. Because the NPS supports and facilitates scientific studies in parks, the national park system provides abundant opportunity for biologists and other scientists to engage global audiences in learning, exploring, and even conducting science...
May 14, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Gerhard Schlosser
Evolving from filter feeding chordate ancestors, vertebrates adopted a more active life style. These ecological and behavioral changes went along with an elaboration of the vertebrate head including novel complex paired sense organs such as the eyes, inner ears and olfactory epithelia. However, the photoreceptors, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors used in these sense organs have a long evolutionary history and homologous cell types can be recognized in many other bilaterians or even cnidarians. After briefly introducing some of the major sensory cell types found in vertebrates, this review summarizes the phylogenetic distribution of sensory cell types in metazoans and presents a scenario for the evolutionary history of various sensory cell types involving several cell type diversification and fusion events...
May 8, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Stephanie A Ross, David S Ryan, Sebastian Dominguez, Nilima Nigam, James M Wakeling
Muscles undergo cycles of length change and force development during locomotion, and these contribute to their work and power production to drive body motion. Muscle fibres are typically considered to be linear actuators whose stress depends on their length, velocity, and activation state, and whose properties can be scaled up to explain the function of whole muscles. However, experimental and modelling studies have shown that a muscle's stress additionally depends on inactive and passive tissues within the muscle, the muscle's size, and its previous contraction history...
May 3, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
David Gold
Molecular and fossil data place the initial diversification of animals in the Neoproterozoic, though there remains too much enough uncertainty to produce an exact chronology. This is unfortunate, as the Neoproterozoic represents a period of intense climate change, including multiple global glaciation events as well changes to ocean chemistry and oxygen content. Several authors have suggested that the coevolution of animals and their environment was tightly coupled, but such hypotheses rest on the presence of swimming (pelagic) species...
May 3, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Dillon J Chung, Timothy M Healy, Jessica L McKenzie, Adam J Chicco, Genevieve C Sparagna, Patricia M Schulte
Life history strategies, physiological traits and behavior are thought to covary along a "pace of life" axis, with organisms at the fast end of this continuum having higher fecundity, shorter lifespan, and more rapid development, growth, and metabolic rates. Countergradient variation represents a special case of pace of life variation, in which high-latitude organisms occupy the fast end of the continuum relative to low-latitude conspecifics when compared at a common temperature. Here, we use Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) to explore the role of mitochondrial properties as a mechanism underlying countergradient variation, and thus variation in the pace of life...
April 30, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Lidya G Tarhan, Mary L Droser, Devon B Cole, James G Gehling
The Ediacara Biota, Earth's earliest communities of complex, macroscopic, multicellular organisms, appeared during the late Ediacaran Period, just prior to the Cambrian Explosion. Ediacara fossil assemblages consist of exceptionally preserved soft-bodied forms of enigmatic morphology and affinity which nonetheless represent a critical stepping-stone in the evolution of complex animal ecosystems. The Ediacara Biota has historically been divided into three successive Assemblages-the Avalon, the White Sea and the Nama...
April 27, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Masato Yoshizawa, Ernest Hixon, William R Jeffery
Evolutionary changes in Astyanax mexicanus cavefish with respect to conspecific surface fish, including the regression of eyes, loss of pigmentation, and modification of the cranial skeleton, involve derivatives of the neural crest. However, the role of neural crest cells in cavefish evolution and development is poorly understood. One of the reasons is that experimental methods for neural crest analysis are not well developed in the Astyanax system. Here we describe neural crest transplantation between Astyanax surface fish and cavefish embryos...
April 27, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Israt Jahan, Karen L Elliott, Bernd Fritzsch
The mammalian hearing organ is a stereotyped cellular assembly with orderly innervation: two types of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) innervate two types of differentially distributed hair cells (HCs). HCs and SGNs evolved from single neurosensory cells through gene multiplication and diversification. Independent regulation of HCs and neuronal differentiation through expression of basic Helix-loop-Helix transcription factors (bHLH TFs: Atoh1, Neurog1, Neurod1) led to the evolution of vestibular HC assembly and their unique type of innervation...
April 26, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Inna Sokolova
Mitochondria are the key organelles involved in energy and redox homeostasis, cellular signaling and survival. Animal mitochondria are exquisitely sensitive to environmental stress, and stress-induced changes in the mitochondrial integrity and function have major consequences for the organismal performance and fitness. Studies in the model organisms such as terrestrial mammals and insects showed that mitochondrial dysfunction is a major cause of injury during pathological conditions and environmental insults such as hypoxia, ischemia-reperfusion and exposure to toxins...
April 26, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Lauren B Buckley, Anthony F Cannistra, Aji John
Despite the pressing need for accurate forecasts of ecological and evolutionary responses to environmental change, commonly used modelling approaches exhibit mixed performance because they omit many important aspects of how organisms respond to spatially and temporally variable environments. Integrating models based on organismal phenotypes at the physiological, performance and fitness levels can improve model performance. We summarize current limitations of environmental data and models and discuss potential remedies...
April 26, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Simon Baeckens, Tess Driessens, Katleen Huyghe, Bieke Vanhooydonck, Raoul Van Damme
In many animals, male secondary sexual traits advertise reliable information on fighting capacity in a male-male context. The iconic sexual signaling device of anole lizards, the dewlap, has been extensively studied in this respect. For several territorial anole species (experiencing strong intrasexual selection), there is evidence for a positive association between dewlap size and bite capacity, which is an important determinant of combat outcome in lizards. Intriguingly, earlier studies did not find this expected correlation (relative dewlap size-relative bite force) in the highly territorial brown anole lizard, Anolis sagrei...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Eric J Gangloff, Rory S Telemeco
Much recent theoretical and empirical work has sought to describe the physiological mechanisms underlying thermal tolerance in animals. Leading hypotheses can be broadly divided into two categories that primarily differ in organizational scale: 1) high temperature directly reduces the function of subcellular machinery, such as enzymes and cell membranes, or 2) high temperature disrupts system-level interactions, such as mismatches in the supply and demand of oxygen, prior to having any direct negative effect on the subcellular machinery...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Jennifer Harrower, Jennifer Parker, Martha Merson
Human-induced global change has triggered the sixth major extinction event on earth with profound consequences for humans and other species. A scientifically literate public is necessary to find and implement approaches to prevent or slow species loss. Creating science-inspired art can increase public understanding of the current anthropogenic biodiversity crisis and help people connect emotionally to difficult concepts. In spite of the pressure to avoid advocacy and emotion, there is a rich history of scientists who make art, as well as art-science collaborations resulting in provocative work that engages public interest; however, such interdisciplinary partnerships can often be challenging to initiate and navigate...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Christopher A Emerling
Regressive evolution involves the degradation of formerly useful traits as organisms invade novel ecological niches. In animals, committing to a strict subterranean habit can lead to regression of the eyes, likely due to a limited exposure to light. Several lineages of subterranean mammals show evidence of such degeneration, which can include decreased organization of the retina, malformation of the lens and subcutaneous positioning of the eye. Advances in DNA sequencing have revealed that this regression co-occurs with a degradation of genomic loci encoding visual functions, including protein-coding genes...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Carol Lynn Alpert
Scientists can reap personal rewards through collaborations with science and natural history museums, zoos, botanical gardens, aquaria, parks, and nature preserves, and, while doing so, help to advance science literacy and broaden participation in the natural sciences. Beyond volunteer opportunities, which allow scientists to contribute their knowledge and passion within the context of existing programs and activities, there are also opportunities for scientists to bring their knowledge and resources to the design and implementation of new learning experiences for visitors to these informal science learning organizations (ISLOs)...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Denise King, Joyce Ma, Angela Armendariz, Kristina Yu
Science museums have made a concerted effort to work with researchers to incorporate current scientific findings and practices into informal learning opportunities for museum visitors. Many of these efforts have focused on creating opportunities and support for researchers to interact face-to-face with the public through, for example, speaker series, community forums, and engineering competitions. However, there are other means by which practicing scientists can find a voice on the museum floor - through the design and development of exhibits...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Juan C Valdez-Lopez, Mary W Donohue, Michael J Bok, Julia Wolf, Thomas W Cronin, Megan L Porter
Most stomatopod crustaceans have complex retinas in their compound eyes, with up to 16 spectral types of photoreceptors, but members of the superfamily Squilloidea have much simpler retinas, thought to contain a single photoreceptor spectral class. In the Atlantic stomatopod Squilla empusa, microspectrophotometry shows that all photoreceptors absorb light maximally at 517 nm, indicating that a single visual pigment is present in all photoreceptors in the retina. However, six distinct, but partial, long wavelength sensitive (LWS) opsin transcripts, which encode the protein component of the visual pigment, have been previously isolated through RT-PCR...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Julie Risien, Martin Storskdieck
We propose a thoughtful process for scientists to develop their "impact identity", a concept that integrates scholarship in a scientific discipline with societal needs, personal preferences, capacities and skills, and one's institutional context. Approaching broader impacts from a place of integrated identity can support cascading impacts that develop over the course of a career. We argue identity is a productive driver that can improve outcomes for scientists and for society. Widespread adoption of the concept of impact identity may also have implications for the recruitment and retention of a more diverse range of scientist...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Shauna R Marquardt, Mandy Annis, Ryan G Drum, Stephanie Longstaff Hummel, David E Mosby, Tamara Smith
Today's conservation challenges are complex. Solving these challenges often requires scientific collaborations that extend beyond the scope, expertise, and capacity of any single agency, organization, or institution. Conservation efforts can benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration, scientific and technological innovations, and the leveraging of capacity and resources among partners. Here we explore a series of case studies demonstrating how collaborative scientific partnerships are furthering the mission of the U...
April 25, 2018: Integrative and Comparative Biology
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