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5 December 2017

The ecological importance of intraspecific variation [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biodiversity, evolution, evolutionary ecology

Human activity is causing wild populations to experience rapid trait change and local extirpation. The resulting effects on intraspecific variation could have substantial consequences for ecological processes and ecosystem services. Although researchers have long acknowledged that variation among species influences the surrounding environment, only recently has evidence accumulated for the ecological importance of variation within species. We conducted a meta-analysis comparing the ecological effects of variation within a species (intraspecific effects) with the effects of replacement or removal of that species (species effects). We evaluated direct and indirect ecological responses, including changes in abundance (or biomass), rates of ecological processes and changes in community composition.(...)

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5 December 2017

Dominant forest tree mycorrhizal type mediates understory plant invasions [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : Eastern USA, forest mycorrhizal type, nutrient cycling, plant-soil feedback, temperate forests, understory invasions

Forest mycorrhizal type mediates nutrient dynamics, which in turn can influence forest community structure and processes. Using forest inventory data, we explored how dominant forest tree mycorrhizal type affects understory plant invasions with consideration of forest structure and soil properties. We found that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) dominant forests, which are characterised by thin forest floors and low soil C : N ratio, were invaded to a greater extent by non-native invasive species than ectomycorrhizal (ECM) dominant forests. Understory native species cover and richness had no strong associations with AM tree dominance.(...)

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5 December 2017

Are the big and beautiful less bold? Differences in avian fearfulness between the sexes in relation to body size and colour [Journal of Zoology]

Keywords : colour, conspicuousness, escape behaviour, flight-initiation distance, sexual selection, fearfulness, sexual dimorphism

Conspicuousness towards predators may influence escape behaviour (or ‘fearfulness’) among animals, with more conspicuous species initiating escape behaviour earlier. Among birds, for example, body size and colour may influence differences in escape behaviour between species, and possibly between the sexes of dimorphic species. We examined 19 bird species with varying degrees of body size and colour dimorphism (including individually marked and sexed monomorphic species), to examine whether these two potential measures of conspicuousness influence sex differences in flight-initiation distance (FID).(...)

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4 December 2017

Bacterial endosymbionts influence host sexuality and reveal reproductive genes of early divergent fungi [Nature Communications]

Keywords : coevolution, fungal evolution

Many heritable mutualisms, in which beneficial symbionts are transmitted vertically between host generations, originate as antagonisms with parasite dispersal constrained by the host. Only after the parasite gains control over its transmission is the symbiosis expected to transition from antagonism to mutualism. Here, we explore this prediction in the mutualism between the fungus Rhizopus microsporus (Rm, Mucoromycotina) and a beta-proteobacterium Burkholderia, which controls host asexual reproduction. We show that reproductive addiction of Rm to endobacteria extends to mating, and is mediated by the symbiont gaining transcriptional control of the fungal ras2 gene, which encodes a GTPase central to fungal reproductive development.(...)

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4 December 2017

Climatic niche shifts are common in introduced plants [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biogeography, invasive species, macroecology

Our understanding of how climate influences species distributions and our ability to assess the risk of introduced species depend on the assumption that species’ climatic niches remain stable across space and time. While niche shifts have been detected in individual invasive species, one assessment of 50 plants in Europe and North America concluded that niche shifts were rare, while another concluded the opposite. These contradictory findings, limited in species number and geographic scope, leave open a need to understand how often introduced species experience niche shifts and whether niche shifts can be predicted. We found evidence of climatic niche shifts in 65–100% of 815 terrestrial plant species introduced across five continents, depending on how niche shifts were measured.(...)

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