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1 October 2018

Do linden trees kill bees? Reviewing the causes of bee deaths on silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) [Biology Letters]

Keywords : bumblebee, ecotoxicology, pollinator decline, urban ecology

For decades, linden trees (basswoods or lime trees), and particularly silver linden (Tilia tomentosa), have been linked to mass bee deaths. This phenomenon is often attributed to the purported occurrence of the carbohydrate mannose, which is toxic to bees, in Tilia nectar. In this review, however, we conclude that from existing literature there is no experimental evidence for toxicity to bees in linden nectar. Bee deaths on Tilia probably result from starvation, owing to insufficient nectar resources late in the tree’s flowering period. We recommend ensuring sufficient alternative food sources in cities during late summer to reduce bee deaths on silver linden.(...)

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1 October 2018

Primate archaeology evolves [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Since its inception, archaeology has traditionally focused exclusively on humans and our direct ancestors. However, recent years have seen archaeological techniques applied to material evidence left behind by non-human animals. Here, we review advances made by the most prominent field investigating past non-human tool use: primate archaeology. This field combines survey of wild primate activity areas with ethological observations, excavations and analyses that allow the reconstruction of past primate behaviour. Because the order Primates includes humans, new insights into the behavioural evolution of apes and monkeys also can be used to better interrogate the record of early tool use in our own, hominin, lineage.(...)

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1 October 2018

The Sacred Ibis debate: The first test of evolution [PLOS Biology]

Subject areas : birds, Egypt, animal evolution, skeleton, bone, evolutionary theory, feathers, organismal evolution

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte’s army invaded Egypt, returning with many treasures including large numbers of Sacred Ibis mummies. The ancient Egyptians revered the ibis and mummified literally millions of them. The French naturalist Georges Cuvier used these mummies to challenge an emerging idea of the time, namely Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory of evolution. Cuvier detected no measurable differences between mummified Sacred Ibis and contemporary specimens of the same species. Consequently, he argued that this was evidence for the “fixity of species.” The “Sacred Ibis debate” predates the so-called “Great Debate” between Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species five decades later. Cuvier’s views and his study had a profound influence on the scientific and public perception of evolution, setting back the acceptance of evolutionary theory in Europe for decades.

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1 October 2018

History is written by the victors: The effect of the push of the past on the fossil record [Evolution]

Keywords : crown groups, diversification rates, mass extinctions, molecular clocks, push of the past, survivorship bias

Survivorship biases can generate remarkable apparent rate heterogeneities through time in otherwise homogeneous birth‐death models of phylogenies. They are a potential explanation for many striking patterns seen in the fossil record and molecular phylogenies. One such bias is the “push of the past”: clades that survived a substantial length of time are likely to have experienced a high rate of early diversification. This creates the illusion of a secular rate slow‐down through time that is, rather, a reversion to the mean. An extra effect increasing early rates of lineage generation is also seen in large clades.(...)

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1 October 2018

Visual Detection and Avoidance of Pathogenic Bacteria by Aphids [Current Biology]

Keywords : Pseudomonas syringae, Acyrthosiphon pisum, pathogen avoidance, non-immunological defenses, insect vision, pyoverdine, fluorescence

Aphids are diverse sap-sucking insects that can be serious agricultural pests and vectors of plant disease. Some species, including pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum), are susceptible to infection by epiphytic bacteria that are commonly found on plant surfaces. Pea aphids appear unable to recover from these infections, possibly because pea aphids are missing apparent orthologs of some immune response genes, and these aphids exhibit relatively low immune responses after pathogen exposure. We therefore tested the ability of pea aphids to use avoidance as a non-immunological defense against Pseudomonas syringae, a widespread plant epiphyte and aphid pathogen.(...)

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