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11 October 2017

How and Why to Build a Unified Tree of Life [BioEssays]

Keywords : open science, evolution, data deposition, phylogeny, tree of life

Phylogenetic trees are a crucial backbone for a wide breadth of biological research spanning systematics, organismal biology, ecology, and medicine. In 2015, the Open Tree of Life project published a first draft of a comprehensive tree of life, summarizing digitally available taxonomic and phylogenetic knowledge. This paper reviews, investigates, and addresses the following questions as a follow-up to that paper, from the perspective of researchers involved in building this summary of the tree of life: Is there a tree of life and should we reconstruct it? Is available data sufficient to reconstruct the tree of life? Do we have access to phylogenetic inferences in usable form? Can we combine different phylogenetic estimates across the tree of life? And finally, what is the future of understanding the tree of life?

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11 October 2017

Spatio-temporal variation in lifelong telomere dynamics in a long-term ecological study [Journal of Animal Ecology]

Keywords : biomarkers, intra- and inter-individual variation, life history, senescence, Seychelles warbler, telomere

1.Understanding individual-level variation in response to the environment is fundamental to understanding life-history evolution and population dynamics. Telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, shorten in response to oxidative stress, and telomere shortening is correlated with reduced survival and life span. Investigating telomere dynamics may help us quantify individual variation in the costs experienced from social and ecological factors, and enhance our understanding of the dynamics of natural populations.
2.Here, we study spatio-temporal variation in lifelong telomere dynamics in the Seychelles warbler, Acrocephalus sechellensis. We combine long-term life history and ecological data with a large longitudinal dataset of mean telomere lengths, consisting of 1,808 samples from 22 cohorts born between 1993 and 2014. We provide a detailed analysis of how telomere dynamics vary over individual life spans and cohorts, and with spatio-temporal variation in the social and ecological environment.(...)

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10 October 2017

Generalist predator’s niche shifts reveal ecosystem changes in an experimentally fragmented landscape [Ecography]

Habitat fragmentation can alter the trophic structure of communities and environmental conditions, thus driving changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Quantifying niches of generalist predators can reveal how fragmentation alters ecosystems. In a habitat fragmentation experiment, we used stable isotopes of a generalist predator skink to test predictions from spatial theory on trophic structure and to quantify abiotic changes associated with fragmentation among continuous forest, fragments, and matrix habitats.(...)

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10 October 2017

Mammal diversity influences the carbon cycle through trophic interactions in the Amazon [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biodiversity

Biodiversity affects many ecosystem functions and services, including carbon cycling and retention. While it is known that the efficiency of carbon capture and biomass production by ecological communities increases with species diversity, the role of vertebrate animals in the carbon cycle remains undocumented. Here, we use an extensive dataset collected in a high-diversity Amazonian system to parse out the relationship between animal and plant species richness, feeding interactions, tree biomass and carbon concentrations in soil.(...)

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10 October 2017

The global distribution of tetrapods reveals a need for targeted reptile conservation [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biodiversity, conservation biology

The distributions of amphibians, birds and mammals have underpinned global and local conservation priorities, and have been fundamental to our understanding of the determinants of global biodiversity. In contrast, the global distributions of reptiles, representing a third of terrestrial vertebrate diversity, have been unavailable. This prevented the incorporation of reptiles into conservation planning and biased our understanding of the underlying processes governing global vertebrate biodiversity. Here, we present and analyse the global distribution of 10,064 reptile species (99% of extant terrestrial species).(...)

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