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Biology Letters

Jamie Hudson, Frédérique Viard, Charlotte Roby, Marc Rius
Human activities are responsible for the translocation of vast amounts of organisms, altering natural patterns of dispersal and gene flow. Most research to date has focused on the consequences of anthropogenic transportation of non-indigenous species within introduced ranges, with little research focusing on native species. Here, we compared genetic patterns of the sessile marine invertebrate, Ciona intestinalis, which has highly restricted dispersal capabilities. We collected individuals in a region of the species' native range where human activities that are known to facilitate the artificial spread of species are prevalent...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Damien A Fordham, Barry W Brook, Conrad J Hoskin, Robert L Pressey, Jeremy VanDerWal, Stephen E Williams
The effect of twenty-first-century climate change on biodiversity is commonly forecast based on modelled shifts in species ranges, linked to habitat suitability. These projections have been coupled with species-area relationships (SAR) to infer extinction rates indirectly as a result of the loss of climatically suitable areas and associated habitat. This approach does not model population dynamics explicitly, and so accepts that extinctions might occur after substantial (but unknown) delays-an extinction debt...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Jonathan L Payne, Andrew M Bush, Ellen T Chang, Noel A Heim, Matthew L Knope, Sara B Pruss
The macroevolutionary effects of extinction derive from both intensity of taxonomic losses and selectivity of losses with respect to ecology, physiology and/or higher taxonomy. Increasingly, palaeontologists are using logistic regression to quantify extinction selectivity because the selectivity metric is independent of extinction intensity and multiple predictor variables can be assessed simultaneously. We illustrate the use of logistic regression with an analysis of physiological buffering capacity and extinction risk in the Phanerozoic marine fossil record...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Andrew C Gallup, Allyson M Church, Anthony J Pelegrino
Research indicates that the motor action pattern of yawning functions to promote cortical arousal and state change through enhanced intracranial circulation and brain cooling. Because the magnitude of this response likely corresponds to the degree of neurophysiological change, we hypothesized that interspecies variation in yawn duration would correlate with underlying neurological differences. Using openly accessible data, we show that both the mean and variance in yawn duration are robust predictors of mammalian brain weight and cortical neuron number (ρ-values > 0...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Constantí Stefanescu, David X Soto, Gerard Talavera, Roger Vila, Keith A Hobson
The painted lady, Vanessa cardui, is a migratory butterfly that performs an annual multi-generational migration between Europe and North Africa. Its seasonal appearance south of the Sahara in autumn is well known and has led to the suggestion that it results from extremely long migratory flights by European butterflies to seasonally exploit the Sahel and the tropical savannah. However, this possibility has remained unproven. Here, we analyse the isotopic composition of butterflies from seven European and seven African countries to provide new support for this hypothesis...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Tanja Stadler, Jana Smrckova
Macroevolutionary studies recently shifted from only reconstructing the past state, i.e. the species phylogeny, to also infer the past speciation and extinction dynamics that gave rise to the phylogeny. Methods for estimating diversification dynamics are sensitive towards incomplete species sampling. We introduce a method to estimate time-dependent diversification rates from phylogenies where clades of a particular age are represented by only one sampled species. A popular example of this type of data is phylogenies on the genus- or family-level, i...
October 2016: Biology Letters
Martin Rücklin, Philip C J Donoghue
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
September 2016: Biology Letters
Carole Burrow, Yuzhi Hu, Gavin Young
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
September 2016: Biology Letters
Alicia S Arroyo, David López-Escardó, Colomban de Vargas, Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo
Animals with bilateral symmetry comprise the majority of the described species within Metazoa. However, the nature of the first bilaterian animal remains unknown. As most recent molecular phylogenies point to Xenacoelomorpha as the sister group to the rest of Bilateria, understanding their biology, ecology and diversity is key to reconstructing the nature of the last common bilaterian ancestor (Urbilateria). To date, sampling efforts have focused mainly on coastal areas, leaving potential gaps in our understanding of the full diversity of xenacoelomorphs...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Lachlan J Pettit, Matthew J Greenlees, Richard Shine
As a population expands into novel areas (as occurs in biological invasions), the range edge becomes dominated by rapidly dispersing individuals-thereby accelerating the rate of population spread. That acceleration has been attributed to evolutionary processes (natural selection and spatial sorting), to which we add a third complementary process: behavioural plasticity. Encountering environmental novelty may directly elicit an increased rate of dispersal. When we reciprocally translocated cane toads (Rhinella marina) among study sites in southern Australia, the transported animals massively increased dispersal rates relative to residents (to an extent similar to the evolved increase between range-core versus invasion-front toad populations in Australia)...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Shannen M Smith, Rebecca J Fox, Jennifer M Donelson, Megan L Head, David J Booth
With global change accelerating the rate of species' range shifts, predicting which are most likely to establish viable populations in their new habitats is key to understanding how biological systems will respond. Annually, in Australia, tropical fish larvae from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are transported south via the East Australian Current (EAC), settling into temperate coastal habitats for the summer period, before experiencing near-100% mortality in winter. However, within 10 years, predicted winter ocean temperatures for the southeast coast of Australia will remain high enough for more of these so-called 'tropical vagrants' to survive over winter...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Xi-Guang Zhang, Martin R Smith, Jie Yang, Jin-Bo Hou
The restricted, exclusively terrestrial distribution of modern Onychophora contrasts strikingly with the rich diversity of onychophoran-like fossils preserved in marine Cambrian Lagerstätten The transition from these early forebears to the modern onychophoran body plan is poorly constrained, in part owing to the absence of fossils preserving details of the soft anatomy. Here, we report muscle tissue in a new early Cambrian (Stage 3) lobopodian, Tritonychus phanerosarkus gen. et sp. nov., preserved in the Orsten fashion by three-dimensional replication in phosphate...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Carlos P Muñoz-Ramírez, Pierre-Paul Bitton, Stéphanie M Doucet, Lacey L Knowles
The ground beetle genus Ceroglossus contains co-distributed species that show pronounced intraspecific diversity in the form of geographical colour morphs. While colour morphs among different species appear to match in some geographical regions, in others, there is little apparent colour matching. Mimicry is a potential explanation for covariation in colour patterns, but it is not clear whether the degree of sympatric colour matching is higher than expected by chance given the obvious mismatches among morphs in some regions...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Kristian M Forbes, Tapio Mappes, Tarja Sironen, Tomas Strandin, Peter Stuart, Seppo Meri, Olli Vapalahti, Heikki Henttonen, Otso Huitu
Trade-offs in the allocation of finite-energy resources among immunological defences and other physiological processes are believed to influence infection risk and disease severity in food-limited wildlife populations. However, this prediction has received little experimental investigation. Here we test the hypothesis that food limitation impairs the ability of wild field voles (Microtus agrestis) to mount an immune response against parasite infections. We conducted a replicated experiment on vole populations maintained in large outdoor enclosures during boreal winter, using food supplementation and anthelmintic treatment of intestinal nematodes...
September 2016: Biology Letters
F Alice Cang, Ashley A Wilson, John J Wiens
Climate change may soon threaten much of global biodiversity, especially if species cannot adapt to changing climatic conditions quickly enough. A critical question is how quickly climatic niches change, and if this speed is sufficient to prevent extinction as climates warm. Here, we address this question in the grass family (Poaceae). Grasses are fundamental to one of Earth's most widespread biomes (grasslands), and provide roughly half of all calories consumed by humans (including wheat, rice, corn and sorghum)...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Julie J H Nati, Jan Lindström, Lewis G Halsey, Shaun S Killen
The physiology and behaviour of ectotherms are strongly influenced by environmental temperature. A general hypothesis is that for performance traits, such as those related to growth, metabolism or locomotion, species face a trade-off between being a thermal specialist or a thermal generalist, implying a negative correlation between peak performance and performance breadth across a range of temperatures. Focusing on teleost fishes, we performed a phylogenetically informed comparative analysis of the relationship between performance peak and breadth for aerobic scope (AS), which represents whole-animal capacity available to carry out simultaneous oxygen-demanding processes (e...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Joseph B Pfaller, Michael A Gil
The capacity for resource monopolization by individuals often dictates the size and composition of animal groups, and ultimately, the adoption of mating strategies. For refuge-dwelling animals, the ability (or inability) of individuals to monopolize refuges should depend on the relative size of the refuge. In theory, groups should be larger and more inclusive when refuges are large, and smaller and more exclusive when refuges are small, regardless of refuge type. We test this prediction by comparing the size and composition of groups of oceanic crabs (Planes minutus) living on plastic flotsam and loggerhead sea turtles...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Silva Uusi-Heikkilä, Kai Lindström, Noora Parre, Robert Arlinghaus, Josep Alós, Anna Kuparinen
Changes in trait variability owing to size-selective harvesting have received little attention in comparison with changes in mean trait values, perhaps because of the expectation that phenotypic variability should generally be eroded by directional selection typical for fishing and hunting. We show, however, that directional selection, in particular for large body size, leads to increased body-size variation in experimentally harvested zebrafish (Danio rerio) populations exposed to two alternative feeding environments: ad libitum and temporarily restricted food availability...
September 2016: Biology Letters
Matthew J Vavrek
During the Mesozoic (242-66 million years ago), terrestrial regions underwent a massive shift in their size, position and connectivity. At the beginning of the era, the land masses were joined into a single supercontinent called Pangaea. However, by the end of the Mesozoic, terrestrial regions had become highly fragmented, both owing to the drifting apart of the continental plates and the extremely high sea levels that flooded and divided many regions. How terrestrial biodiversity was affected by this fragmentation and large-scale flooding of the Earth's landmasses is uncertain...
September 2016: Biology Letters
M Daniela Biaggio, Iara Sandomirsky, Yael Lubin, Ally R Harari, Maydianne C B Andrade
Copulatory cannibalism of male 'widow' spiders (genus Latrodectus) is a model example of the extreme effects of sexual selection, particularly in L. hasselti and L. geometricus where males typically facilitate cannibalism by females and mate only once. We show that these males can increase their reproductive success by copulating with final-instar, immature females after piercing the female's exoskeleton to access her newly developed sperm storage organs. Females retain sperm through their final moult and have similar fecundity to adult-mated females...
September 2016: Biology Letters
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