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Home > Communication > Scientific newsletter > Publications

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24 October 2016

Climate forcing of an emerging pathogenic fungus across a montane multi-host community [Royal Society Open Science]

Keywords : climate change, chytridiomycosis, multi-host communities, epidemiology, mountain ecosystems, host × pathogen ×, environment interaction

Changes in the timings of seasonality as a result of anthropogenic climate change are predicted to occur over the coming decades. While this is expected to have widespread impacts on the dynamics of infectious disease through environmental forcing, empirical data are lacking. Here, we investigated whether seasonality, specifically the timing of spring ice-thaw, affected susceptibility to infection by the emerging pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) across a montane community of amphibians that are suffering declines and extirpations as a consequence of this infection. We found a robust temporal association between the timing of the spring thaw and Bd infection in two host species, where we show that an early onset of spring forced high prevalences of infection.(...)

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24 October 2016

Mitigating amphibian chytridiomycoses in nature [Royal Society Open Science]

Keywords : chytridiomycosis, mitigation, conservation strategy

Amphibians across the planet face the threat of population decline and extirpation caused by the disease chytridiomycosis. Despite consensus that the fungal pathogens responsible for the disease are conservation issues, strategies to mitigate their impacts in the natural world are, at best, nascent. Reducing risk associated with the movement of amphibians, non-amphibian vectors and other sources of infection remains the first line of defence and a primary objective when mitigating the threat of disease in wildlife. Amphibian-associated chytridiomycete fungi and chytridiomycosis are already widespread, though, and we therefore focus on discussing options for mitigating the threats once disease emergence has occurred in wild amphibian populations. (...)

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21 October 2016

Human Germline Mutation and the Erratic Evolutionary Clock [PLOS Biology]

Keywords : substitution mutation, primates, human evolution, germline mutation, mammalian genomics, puberty, cell cycle and cell division, mutation detection

Our understanding of the chronology of human evolution relies on the “molecular clock” provided by the steady accumulation of substitutions on an evolutionary lineage. Recent analyses of human pedigrees have called this understanding into question by revealing unexpectedly low germline mutation rates, which imply that substitutions accrue more slowly than previously believed. Translating mutation rates estimated from pedigrees into substitution rates is not as straightforward as it may seem, however. We dissect the steps involved, emphasizing that dating evolutionary events requires not “a mutation rate” but a precise characterization of how mutations accumulate in development in males and females—knowledge that remains elusive.

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21 October 2016

Predictable convergence in hemoglobin function has unpredictable molecular underpinnings [Science]

To investigate the predictability of genetic adaptation, we examined the molecular basis of convergence in hemoglobin function in comparisons involving 56 avian taxa that have contrasting altitudinal range limits. Convergent increases in hemoglobin-oxygen affinity were pervasive among high-altitude taxa, but few such changes were attributable to parallel amino acid substitutions at key residues. Thus, predictable changes in biochemical phenotype do not have a predictable molecular basis. Experiments involving resurrected ancestral proteins revealed that historical substitutions have context-dependent effects, indicating that possible adaptive solutions are contingent on prior history. Mutations that produce an adaptive change in one species may represent precluded possibilities in other species because of differences in genetic background.

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19 October 2016

Bushmeat hunting and extinction risk to the world’s mammals [Royal Society Open Science]

Keywords : wild, meat, bushmeat, hunting, mammals, extinction

Terrestrial mammals are experiencing a massive collapse in their population sizes and geographical ranges around the world, but many of the drivers, patterns and consequences of this decline remain poorly understood. Here we provide an analysis showing that bushmeat hunting for mostly food and medicinal products is driving a global crisis whereby 301 terrestrial mammal species are threatened with extinction. Nearly all of these threatened species occur in developing countries where major coexisting threats include deforestation, agricultural expansion, human encroachment and competition with livestock.(...)

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