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16 January 2017

Experimental test and refutation of a classic case of molecular adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary genetics, molecular evolution

Identifying the genetic basis for adaptive differences between species requires explicit tests of historical hypotheses concerning the effects of past changes in gene sequence on molecular function, organismal phenotype and fitness. We address this challenge by combining ancestral protein reconstruction with biochemical experiments and physiological analysis of transgenic animals that carry ancestral genes. We tested a widely held hypothesis of molecular adaptation—that changes in the alcohol dehydrogenase protein (ADH) along the lineage leading to Drosophila melanogaster increased the catalytic activity of the enzyme and thereby contributed to the ethanol tolerance and adaptation of the species to its ethanol-rich ecological niche. Our experiments strongly refute the predictions of the adaptive ADH hypothesis and caution against accepting intuitively appealing accounts of historical molecular adaptation that are based on correlative evidence. The experimental strategy we employed can be used to decisively test other adaptive hypotheses and the claims they entail about past biological causality.(...)

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13 January 2017

Fast life history traits promote invasion success in amphibians and reptiles [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : amphibians, biological invasions, comparative analyses, invasion biology, invasive species, life history theory, population dynamics, population growth, reptiles, transient dynamics

Competing theoretical models make different predictions on which life history strategies facilitate growth of small populations. While ‘fast’ strategies allow for rapid increase in population size and limit vulnerability to stochastic events, ‘slow’ strategies and bet-hedging may reduce variance in vital rates in response to stochasticity. We test these predictions using biological invasions since founder alien populations start small, compiling the largest dataset yet of global herpetological introductions and life history traits.(...)

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13 January 2017

The Global Distribution and Drivers of Alien Bird Species Richness [Plos Biology]

Subject Areas : invasive species, birds, species diversity, species colonization, spatial autocorrelation, biogeography, population density, species delimitation

Alien species are a major component of human-induced environmental change. Variation in the numbers of alien species found in different areas is likely to depend on a combination of anthropogenic and environmental factors, with anthropogenic factors affecting the number of species introduced to new locations, and when, and environmental factors influencing how many species are able to persist there. However, global spatial and temporal variation in the drivers of alien introduction and species richness remain poorly understood. Here, we analyse an extensive new database of alien birds to explore what determines the global distribution of alien species richness for an entire taxonomic class.(...)

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12 January 2017

Critical catchments for freshwater biodiversity conservation in Europe: identification, prioritisation and gap analysis [Journal of Applied Ecology]

Keywords : alliance for zero extinction, dragonfly, fishing and fishery, key biodiversity area, Marxan, reserve design, snail, mussel and clam, systematic conservation planning, threatened species, watershed management and restoration

1.The conservation of freshwater ecosystems has lagged behind that of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and often requires the integration of large-scale approaches and transboundary considerations. This study aims to set the foundations of a spatial conservation strategy by identifying the most important catchments for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity in Europe.
2.Using data on 1296 species of fish, mollusc, odonate and aquatic plant, and the key biodiversity area criteria (species Red List status, range restriction and uniqueness of species assemblages), we identified a network of Critical Catchments for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity. Applying spatial prioritisation, we show how the prioritised network differs from the ideal case of protecting all Critical Catchments and how it changes when protected areas are included, and we also identify gaps between the prioritised network and existing protected areas.(...)

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11 January 2017

Herpetofauna of the Northwest Amazon forest in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, with remarks on the Gurupi Biological Reserve [ZooKeys]

Keywords : amphibians, Belém Center of Endemism, inventory, new records, reptiles

Understanding the biodiversity of an area is the first step for establishing effective interventions for conservation, especially when it comes to herpetofauna, since 4.1% and 9.2%, respectively, of Brazilian amphibians and reptiles are endangered. The aim of this study is to identify the composition of the herpetofauna occurring in the Northwest Amazonian state of Maranhão, with a focus on the Gurupi Biological Reserve and surrounding areas.(...)

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