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16 December 2016

The spider tree of life: phylogeny of Araneae based on target-gene analyses from an extensive taxon sampling [Cladistics]

We present a phylogenetic analysis of spiders using a dataset of 932 spider species, representing 115 families (only the family Synaphridae is unrepresented), 700 known genera, and additional representatives of 26 unidentified or undescribed genera. Eleven genera of the orders Amblypygi, Palpigradi, Schizomida and Uropygi are included as outgroups. The dataset includes six markers from the mitochondrial (12S, 16S, COI) and nuclear (histone H3, 18S, 28S) genomes, and was analysed by multiple methods, including constrained analyses using a highly supported backbone tree from transcriptomic data. We recover most of the higher-level structure of the spider tree with good support, including Mesothelae, Opisthothelae, Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae.(...)

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16 December 2016

Estimating the volume and age of water stored in global lakes using a geo-statistical approach [Nature Communications]

Keywords : hydrology, limnology

Lakes are key components of biogeochemical and ecological processes, thus knowledge about their distribution, volume and residence time is crucial in understanding their properties and interactions within the Earth system. However, global information is scarce and inconsistent across spatial scales and regions. Here we develop a geo-statistical model to estimate the volume of global lakes with a surface area of at least 10 ha based on the surrounding terrain information. Our spatially resolved database shows 1.42 million individual polygons of natural lakes with a total surface area of 2.67 × 106 km2 (1.8% of global land area), a total shoreline length of 7.2 × 106  km (about four times longer than the world’s ocean coastline) and a total volume of 181.9 × 103 km3 (0.8% of total global non-frozen terrestrial water stocks). We also compute mean and median hydraulic residence times for all lakes to be 1,834 days and 456 days, respectively.

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14 December 2016

The evolution of sex-specific virulence in infectious diseases [Nature Communications]

Keywords : evolutionary theory, pathogens

Fatality rates of infectious diseases are often higher in men than women. Although this difference is often attributed to a stronger immune response in women, we show that differences in the transmission routes that the sexes provide can result in evolution favouring pathogens with sex-specific virulence. Because women can transmit pathogens during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding, pathogens adapt, evolving lower virulence in women. (...)

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13 December 2016

Effect of acute pesticide exposure on bee spatial working memory using an analogue of the radial-arm maze [Scientific Reports]

Keywords : agroecology, animal behaviour, behavioural ecology

Pesticides, including neonicotinoids, typically target pest insects by being neurotoxic. Inadvertent exposure to foraging insect pollinators is usually sub-lethal, but may affect cognition. One cognitive trait, spatial working memory, may be important in avoiding previously-visited flowers and other spatial tasks such as navigation. To test this, we investigated the effect of acute thiamethoxam exposure on spatial working memory in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris, using an adaptation of the radial-arm maze (RAM).(...)

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12 December 2016

Intracellular innate immune surveillance devices in plants and animals [Science/Review]

The innate immune systems of both plants and animals depend on the ability to recognize pathogen-derived molecules and stimulate a defense response. Jones et al. review how that common function is achieved in such diverse kingdoms by similar molecules. The recognition system is built for hair-trigger sensitivity and constructed in a modular manner. Understanding such features could be useful in building new pathways through synthetic biology, whether for broadening disease defenses or constructing new signal-response circuits.

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