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18 April 2017

A latitudinal phylogeographic diversity gradient in birds [PLoS Biology]

Keywords : phylogeography, species diversity, taxonomy, latitude, speciation, species delimitation, paleoclimatology, mitochondrial DNA

High tropical species diversity is often attributed to evolutionary dynamics over long timescales. It is possible, however, that latitudinal variation in diversification begins when divergence occurs within species. Phylogeographic data capture this initial stage of diversification in which populations become geographically isolated and begin to differentiate genetically. There is limited understanding of the broader implications of intraspecific diversification because comparative analyses have focused on species inhabiting and evolving in restricted regions and environments. Here, we scale comparative phylogeography up to the hemisphere level and examine whether the processes driving latitudinal differences in species diversity are also evident within species. We collected genetic data for 210 New World bird species distributed across a broad latitudinal gradient and estimated a suite of metrics characterizing phylogeographic history.(...)

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18 April 2017

Cumulative culture can emerge from collective intelligence in animal groups [Nature Communications]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, social evolution

Studies of collective intelligence in animal groups typically overlook potential improvement through learning. Although knowledge accumulation is recognized as a major advantage of group living within the framework of Cumulative Cultural Evolution (CCE), the interplay between CCE and collective intelligence has remained unexplored. Here, we use homing pigeons to investigate whether the repeated removal and replacement of individuals in experimental groups (a key method in testing for CCE) alters the groups’ solution efficiency over successive generations.(...)

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18 April 2017

Aquatic environmental DNA detects seasonal fish abundance and habitat preference in an urban estuary [Plos One]

Keywords : marine fish, estuaries, freshwater fish, fresh water, surface water, DNA filter assay, sea water, shores

The difficulty of censusing marine animal populations hampers effective ocean management. Analyzing water for DNA traces shed by organisms may aid assessment. Here we tested aquatic environmental DNA (eDNA) as an indicator of fish presence in the lower Hudson River estuary. A checklist of local marine fish and their relative abundance was prepared by compiling 12 traditional surveys conducted between 1988–2015.(...)

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13 April 2017

Urbanization erodes ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity and may cause microbial communities to converge [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : environmental impact, microbial ecology, urban ecology

Urbanization alters the physicochemical environment, introduces non-native species and causes ecosystem characteristics to converge. It has been speculated that these alterations contribute to loss of regional and global biodiversity, but so far most urban studies have assessed macro-organisms and reported mixed evidence for biodiversity loss. We studied five cities on three continents to assess the global convergence of urban soil microbial communities. We determined the extent to which communities of bacteria, archaea and fungi are geographically distributed, and to what extent urbanization acts as a filter on species diversity.(...)

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12 April 2017

Seasonal variation in environmental DNA in relation to population size and environmental factors [Scientific Reports]

Keywords : ecological genetics, freshwater ecology, molecular ecology

Analysing DNA that organisms release into the environment (environmental DNA, or eDNA) has enormous potential for assessing rare and cryptic species. At present the method is only reliably used to assess the presence-absence of species in natural environments, as seasonal influences on eDNA in relation to presence, abundance, life stages and seasonal behaviours are poorly understood. A naturally colonised, replicated pond system was used to show how seasonal changes in eDNA were influenced by abundance of adults and larvae of great crested newts (Triturus cristatus).(...)

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