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26 January 2017

Predator personality structures prey communities and trophic cascades [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : Copepod, Daphnia, Epitheca canis, food web, intraspecific variation, predation competition

Intraspecific variation is central to our understanding of evolution and population ecology, yet its consequences for community ecology are poorly understood. Animal personality – consistent individual differences in suites of behaviours – may be particularly important for trophic dynamics, where predator personality can determine activity rates and patterns of attack. We used mesocosms with aquatic food webs in which the top predator (dragonfly nymphs) varied in activity and subsequent attack rates on zooplankton, and tested the effects of predator personality.(...)

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26 January 2017

Species decline under nitrogen fertilization increases community-level competence of fungal diseases [Royal Society Open Science - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : alpine meadow, community competence, dilution effect, diversity–disease relationship, foliar fungal disease, nitrogen addition

The artificial fertilization of soils can alter the structure of natural plant communities and exacerbate pathogen emergence and transmission. Although the direct effects of fertilization on disease resistance in plants have received some research attention, its indirect effects of altered community structure on the severity of fungal disease infection remain largely uninvestigated. We designed manipulation experiments in natural assemblages of Tibetan alpine meadow vegetation along a nitrogen-fertilization gradient over 5 years to compare the relative importance of direct and indirect effects of fertilization on foliar fungal infections at the community level. (...)

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26 January 2017

Using the MitoB method to assess levels of reactive oxygen species in ecological studies of oxidative stress [Scientific Reports]

Keywords : ageing, animal physiology, biological techniques, ecology, evolution

In recent years evolutionary ecologists have become increasingly interested in the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on the life-histories of animals. ROS levels have mostly been inferred indirectly due to the limitations of estimating ROS from in vitro methods. However, measuring ROS (hydrogen peroxide, H2O2) content in vivo is now possible using the MitoB probe. Here, we extend and refine the MitoB method to make it suitable for ecological studies of oxidative stress using the brown trout Salmo trutta as model. The MitoB method allows an evaluation of H2O2 levels in living organisms over a timescale from hours to days.(...)

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25 January 2017

Species-rich networks and eco-evolutionary synthesis at the metacommunity level [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : coevolution, ecological networks, ecosystem ecology, microbial ecology, microbiome

Understanding how ecological and evolutionary processes interdependently structure biosphere dynamics is a major challenge in the era of worldwide ecosystem degradation. However, our knowledge of ‘eco-evolutionary feedbacks’ depends largely on findings from simple systems representing limited spatial scales and involving few species. Here we review recent conceptual developments for the understanding of multispecies coevolutionary processes and then discuss how new lines of concepts and methods will accelerate the integration of ecology and evolutionary biology. To build a research workflow for integrating insights into spatiotemporal dynamics of species-rich systems, we focus on the roles of ‘metacommunity hub’ species, whose population size and/or genetic dynamics potentially control landscape- or regional-scale phenomena. As large amounts of network data are becoming available with high-throughput sequencing of various host–symbiont, prey–predator, and symbiont–symbiont interactions, we suggest it is now possible to develop bases for the integrated understanding and management of species-rich ecosystems.(...)

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25 January 2017

Association mapping of morphological traits in wild and captive zebra finches: reliable within but not between populations [Molecular Ecology]

Keywords : quantitative trait locus, association study, morphology, genotype-phenotype maps, linkage mapping, standing genetic variation

Identifying causal genetic variants underlying heritable phenotypic variation is a longstanding goal in evolutionary genetics. We previously identified several quantitative trait loci (QTL) for five morphological traits in a captive population of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) by whole-genome linkage mapping. We here follow up on these studies with the aim to narrow down on the quantitative trait variants (QTN) in one wild and three captive populations. First, we performed an association study using 672 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within candidate genes located in the previously identified QTL regions in a sample of 939 wild-caught zebra finches. Then, we validated the most promising SNP-phenotype associations (n = 25 SNPs) in 5,228 birds from four populations.(...)

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