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29 November 2017

Applying species distribution models to caves and other subterranean habitats [Ecography]

Over the last two decades there has been an exponential increase in the use of correlative species distribution models (SDMs) to address a variety of topics in ecology, biogeography, evolution, and conservation biology. Conversely, the use of these statistical methods to study the potential distribution of subterranean organisms has lagged behind, relative to their above-ground (epigean) counterparts. The reason for this is possibly related to a number of peculiarities of subterranean systems, which pose important limits, but also opportunities, for these correlative models. The aim of this forum is to explore the caveats that need to be made when generalizing these statistical techniques to caves and other subterranean habitats.(...)

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29 November 2017

Rapid morphological change of a top predator with the invasion of a novel prey [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary ecology, evolutionary genetics, invasive species

Invasive exotic species are spreading rapidly throughout the planet. These species can have widespread impacts on biodiversity, yet the ability for native species, particularly long-lived vertebrates, to respond rapidly to invasions remains mostly unknown. Here we provide evidence of rapid morphological change in the endangered snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) across its North American range with the invasion of a novel prey, the island apple snail (Pomacea maculata), a much larger congener of the kite’s native prey. In less than one decade since invasion, snail kite bill size and body mass increased substantially.(...)

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29 November 2017

Ecological opportunity and ecomorphological convergence in Australasian robins (Petroicidae) [Journal of Avian Biology]

Keywords : adaptation, Australia, evolutionary radiation, morphology, phenotypic evolution

Ecological theories of adaptive radiation predict that ecological opportunity (EO) stimulates cladogenesis through entry into a novel environment and/or release of competition pressures.
Due to its dynamic paleoclimatic and geological history, the Australo-Papuan region constitutes an opportune scenario to study patterns of diversification in relation to the colonization of new ecological niches. Here, we employ a comparative framework using the Australasian robins (Petroicidae) as a model system to test whether the diversification of this bird family fulfils a niche-filling process as predicted by the EO model, and to test whether the observed morphological similarity is described by a pattern of phylogenetic niche conservatism (PNC) or convergence. Although we detected an early-burst, we did not find a slowdown in speciation or morphological evolution as expected in a niche-filling scenario.(...)

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29 November 2017

Complexity and conservation of regulatory landscapes underlie evolutionary resilience of mammalian gene expression [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolution, evolutionary biology, genomics

To gain insight into how mammalian gene expression is controlled by rapidly evolving regulatory elements, we jointly analysed promoter and enhancer activity with downstream transcription levels in liver samples from 15 species. Genes associated with complex regulatory landscapes generally exhibit high expression levels that remain evolutionarily stable. While the number of regulatory elements is the key driver of transcriptional output and resilience, regulatory conservation matters: elements active across mammals most effectively stabilize gene expression.(...)

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29 November 2017

The relationship between egg size and helper number in cooperative breeders: a meta-analysis across species [PeerJ]

Keywords : animal behavior, ecology, evolutionary studies, zoology

Life history theory predicts that mothers should adjust reproductive investment depending on benefits of current reproduction and costs of reduced future reproductive success. These costs and benefits may in turn depend on the breeding female’s social environment. Cooperative breeders provide an ideal system to test whether changes in maternal investment are associated with the social conditions mothers experience. As alloparental helpers assist in offspring care, larger groups might reduce reproductive costs for mothers or alternatively indicate attractive conditions for reproduction. Thus, mothers may show reduced (load-lightening) or increased (differential allocation) reproductive investment in relation to group size.(...)

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