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7 February 2017

Genome of the pitcher plant Cephalotus reveals genetic changes associated with carnivory [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : coevolution, evolutionary developmental biology, plant evolution

Carnivorous plants exploit animals as a nutritional source and have inspired long-standing questions about the origin and evolution of carnivory-related traits. To investigate the molecular bases of carnivory, we sequenced the genome of the heterophyllous pitcher plant Cephalotus follicularis, in which we succeeded in regulating the developmental switch between carnivorous and non-carnivorous leaves. Transcriptome comparison of the two leaf types and gene repertoire analysis identified genetic changes associated with prey attraction, capture, digestion and nutrient absorption. Analysis of digestive fluid proteins from C. follicularis and three other carnivorous plants with independent carnivorous origins revealed repeated co-options of stress-responsive protein lineages coupled with convergent amino acid substitutions to acquire digestive physiology. These results imply constraints on the available routes to evolve plant carnivory.(...)

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6 February 2017

MtDNA metagenomics reveals large-scale invasion of belowground arthropod communities by introduced species [Molecular Ecology]

Christophe Thébaud

Using a series of standardised sampling plots within forest ecosystems in remote oceanic islands, we reveal fundamental differences between the structuring of aboveground and belowground arthropod biodiversity that are likely due to large-scale species introductions by humans. Species of beetle and spider were sampled almost exclusively from single islands, while soil dwelling Collembola exhibited more than tenfold higher species sharing among islands. Comparison of Collembola mitochondrial metagenomic data to a database of more than 80,000 Collembola barcode sequences revealed almost 30% of sampled island species are genetically identical, or near identical, to individuals sampled from often very distant geographic regions of the world. Patterns of mtDNA relatedness among Collembola implicate human-mediated species introductions, with minimum estimates for the proportion of introduced species on the sampled islands ranging from 45-88%. Our results call for more attention to soil mesofauna to understand the global extent and ecological consequences of species introductions.

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6 February 2017

A review of the reproductive biology of the only known matrotrophic viviparous anuran, the West African Nimba toad, Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis [Zoosystematics and Evolution]

Keywords : amphibia, development, evolution, ovary, oviduct, pueriparity, seasonality, testes, uterus

Amphibians, and anurans in particular, show the highest diversity of reproductive modes among tetrapods. Nevertheless, viviparity is scarce in anurans and its occurrence is even more often assumed rather than confirmed. Probably the best studied viviparous amphibian is the Nimba toad, Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis. During more than 40 years of research, the Nimba toad’s reproductive morphology, endocrine activity of the ovary as well as the pituitary gland, and to some extent the ecological impact (seasonality, humidity, food availability) on reproduction was examined. Due to the Nimba toad’s unique reproductive mode, summaries are usually included in reviews discussing amphibian reproduction and articles on reproductive biology often discuss the exceptional reproductive system of Nimba toads. However, to our knowledge a detailed synthesis, summarising all the different original studies on the toad’s reproduction, is so far missing. In this paper we review and summarise all available initial publications, which often have been published in French and/or are difficult to access.(...)

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3 February 2017

Multiple night-time light-emitting diode lighting strategies impact grassland invertebrate assemblages [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : artificial light at night, beetles, grassland, invertebrates, light-emitting diodes, light pollution, spiders

White light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are rapidly replacing conventional outdoor lighting technologies around the world. Despite rising concerns over their impact on the environment and human health, the flexibility of LEDs has been advocated as a means of mitigating the ecological impacts of globally widespread outdoor night-time lighting through spectral manipulation, dimming and switching lights off during periods of low demand. We conducted a three-year field experiment in which each of these lighting strategies was simulated in a previously artificial light naïve grassland ecosystem. White LEDs both increased the total abundance and changed the assemblage composition of adult spiders and beetles.(...)

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2 February 2017

Mega-evolutionary dynamics of the adaptive radiation of birds [Nature]

The origin and expansion of biological diversity is regulated by both developmental trajectories and limits on available ecological niches. As lineages diversify, an early and often rapid phase of species and trait proliferation gives way to evolutionary slow-downs as new species pack into ever more densely occupied regions of ecological niche space. Small clades such as Darwin’s finches demonstrate that natural selection is the driving force of adaptive radiations, but how microevolutionary processes scale up to shape the expansion of phenotypic diversity over much longer evolutionary timescales is unclear. Here we address this problem on a global scale by analysing a crowdsourced dataset of three-dimensional scanned bill morphology from more than 2,000 species.(...)

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