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24 September 2018

Logging and soil nutrients independently explain plant trait expression in tropical forests [New Phytologist]

Keywords : anthropogenic disturbance, Borneo, functional diversity, functional traits, land use, Rao’s Q, tropical rainforest, variance partitioning

Plant functional traits regulate ecosystem functions but little is known about how co‐occurring gradients of land use and edaphic conditions influence their expression. We test how gradients of logging disturbance and soil properties relate to community‐weighted mean traits in logged and old‐growth tropical forests in Borneo.
We studied 32 physical, chemical and physiological traits from 284 tree species in eight 1 ha plots and measured long‐term soil nutrient supplies and plant‐available nutrients.
Logged plots had greater values for traits that drive carbon capture and growth, whilst old‐growth forests had greater values for structural and persistence traits.(...)

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24 September 2018

Fossils reveal the complex evolutionary history of the mammalian regionalized spine [Science]

A unique characteristic of mammals is a vertebral column with anatomically distinct regions, but when and how this trait evolved remains unknown. We reconstructed vertebral regions and their morphological disparity in the extinct forerunners of mammals, the nonmammalian synapsids, to elucidate the evolution of mammalian axial differentiation. Mapping patterns of regionalization and disparity (heterogeneity) across amniotes reveals that both traits increased during synapsid evolution. However, the onset of regionalization predates increased heterogeneity. On the basis of inferred homology patterns, we propose a “pectoral-first” hypothesis for region acquisition, whereby evolutionary shifts in forelimb function in nonmammalian therapsids drove increasing vertebral modularity prior to differentiation of the vertebral column for specialized functions in mammals.

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21 September 2018

Changes in rearing conditions rapidly modify gut microbiota structure in Tenebrio molitor larvae [BioRxiv]

Marine Cambon, Jean-Baptiste Ferdy

The gut microbiota of multicellular organisms has been shown to play a key role in their host biology. In mammals, it has an invariant component, responsible for establishing a mutualistic relationship with the host. It also contains a dynamic fraction which facilitates adaptation in response to changes in the environment. These features have been well described in mammals, but little is known about microbiota stability or plasticity in insects. We assessed changes in microbiota composition and structure in a reared insect after a change in rearing conditions. We reared Tenebrio molitor (Coleoptera, Tenebrioninae) larvae for five days in soil samples from two river banks and analyzed their gut microbial communities by a metabarcoding technique, using the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene and the housekeeping gene gyrB.(...)

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21 September 2018

Repeated inversions within a pannier intron drive diversification of intraspecific colour patterns of ladybird beetles [Nature Communications]

How genetic information is modified to generate phenotypic variation within a species is one of the central questions in evolutionary biology. Here we focus on the striking intraspecific diversity of >200 aposematic elytral (forewing) colour patterns of the multicoloured Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis, which is regulated by a tightly linked genetic locus h. Our loss-of-function analyses, genetic association studies, de novo genome assemblies, and gene expression data reveal that the GATA transcription factor gene pannier is the major regulatory gene located at the h locus, and suggest that repeated inversions and cis-regulatory modifications at pannier led to the expansion of colour pattern variation in H. axyridis.(...)

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21 September 2018

Transgenerational and Within-Generation Plasticity in Response to Climate Change: Insights from a Manipulative Field Experiment across an Elevational Gradient [The American Naturalist]

Keywords: seed dormancy, germination, maternal effects, parental effects, seed mass, reciprocal transplant.

Parental environmental effects—or transgenerational plasticity—can influence an individual’s phenotype or fitness yet remain underexplored in the context of global change. Using the perennial self-pollinating plant Boechera stricta, we explored the effects of climate change on transgenerational and within-generation plasticity in dormancy, germination, growth, and survival. We first conducted a snow removal experiment in the field, in which we transplanted 16 families of known origin into three common gardens at different elevations and exposed half of the siblings to contemporary snow dynamics and half to early snow removal. We planted the offspring of these individuals in a factorial manipulation of temperature and water level in the growth chamber and reciprocally transplanted them across all parental environments in the field. The growth chamber experiment revealed that the effects of transgenerational plasticity persist in traits expressed after establishment, even when accounting for parental effects on seed mass.(...)

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