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12 April 2017

Removal of an exotic fish influences amphibian breeding site selection [The Journal of Wildlife Management]

Keywords : amphibian conservation, exotic fish, Gambusia holbrooki, green and golden bell frog, Litoria aurea, mosquitofish, pond draining, tadpole predation

For pond-breeding species, the distribution of larvae is a reflection of habitat suitability and adult breeding site selection. Some species preferentially breed in ephemeral ponds, which can provide benefits for larvae. An alternative strategy used by adults to increase offspring survival is to detect aquatic predators and avoid them when selecting breeding sites. We investigated whether either of these types of breeding site selection are contributing to the negative correlation between the distributions of tadpoles of the threatened green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) and the introduced eastern gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki) in Sydney, Australia.(...)

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11 April 2017

Contentious relationships in phylogenomic studies can be driven by a handful of genes [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : molecular evolution, phylogenetics

Phylogenomic studies have resolved countless branches of the tree of life, but remain strongly contradictory on certain, contentious relationships. Here, we use a maximum likelihood framework to quantify the distribution of phylogenetic signal among genes and sites for 17 contentious branches and 6 well-established control branches in plant, animal and fungal phylogenomic data matrices. We find that resolution in some of these 17 branches rests on a single gene or a few sites, and that removal of a single gene in concatenation analyses or a single site from every gene in coalescence-based analyses diminishes support and can alter the inferred topology.(...)

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11 April 2017

Gene flow from domesticated escapes alters the life history of wild Atlantic salmon [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : conservation biology, genetic hybridization

Interbreeding between domesticated and wild animals occurs in several species. This gene flow has long been anticipated to induce genetic changes in life-history traits of wild populations, thereby influencing population dynamics and viability. Here, we show that individuals with high levels of introgression (domesticated ancestry) have altered age and size at maturation in 62 wild Atlantic salmon Salmo salar populations, including seven ancestral populations to breeding lines of the domesticated salmon. This study documents widespread changes to life-history traits in wild animal populations following gene flow from selectively bred, domesticated conspecifics. The continued high abundance of escaped, domesticated Atlantic salmon thus threatens wild Atlantic salmon populations by inducing genetic changes in fitness-related traits. Our results represent key evidence and a timely warning concerning the potential ecological impacts of the globally increasing use of domesticated animals.

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8 April 2017

Plant–pollinator networks in semi-natural grasslands are resistant to the loss of pollinators during blooming of mass-flowering crops [Ecography]

Mass-flowering crops lead to spatial redistributions of pollinators and to transient shortages within nearby semi-natural grasslands, but the impacts on plant–pollinator interactions remain largely unexplored. Here, we characterised which pollinator species are attracted by oilseed rape and how this affected the structure of plant–pollinator networks in nearby grasslands. We surveyed 177 networks from three countries (Germany, Sweden and United Kingdom) in 24 landscapes with high crop cover, and compared them to 24 landscapes with low or no oilseed rape during and after crop blooming.(...)

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7 April 2017

Epigenetics and the evolution of instincts [Science - Perspective]

An animal mind is not born as an empty canvas: Bottlenose dolphins know how to swim and honey bees know how to dance without ever having learned these skills. Little is known about how animals acquire the instincts that enable such innate behavior. Instincts are widely held to be ancestral to learned behavior. Some have been elegantly analyzed at the cellular and molecular levels, but general principles do not exist. Based on recent research, we argue instead that instincts evolve from learning and are therefore served by the same general principles that explain learning.

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