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14 September 2017

Narrow hybrid zones in spite of very low population differentiation in neutral markers in an island bird species complex [Journal of Evolutionary Biology]

Christophe Thébaud

Patterns of phenotypic and genic frequencies across hybrid zones provide insight into the origin and evolution of reproductive isolation. The Reunion grey white-eye, Zosterops borbonicus, exhibits parapatrically distributed plumage colour forms across the lowlands of the small volcanic island of Reunion (Mascarene archipelago). These forms meet and hybridise in regions that are natural barriers to dispersal (rivers, lava fields). Here, we investigated the relationship among patterns of differentiation at neutral genetic (microsatellite) markers, phenotypic traits (morphology and plumage colour) and niche characteristics across three independent hybrid zones. Patterns of phenotypic divergence revealed that these hybrid zones are among the narrowest ever documented in birds.(...)

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13 September 2017

Greater reproductive investment, but shorter lifespan, in agrosystem than in natural-habitat toads [PeerJ]

Keywords : conservation biology, evolutionary studies, zoology, biosphere interactions

Global amphibian decline is due to several factors: habitat loss, anthropization, pollution, emerging diseases, and global warming. Amphibians, with complex life cycles, are particularly susceptible to habitat alterations, and their survival may be impaired in anthropized habitats. Increased mortality is a well-known consequence of anthropization. Life-history theory predicts higher reproductive investment when mortality is increased. In this work, we compared age, body size, and different indicators of reproductive investment, as well as prey availability, in natterjack toads (Epidalea calamita) from agrosystems and adjacent natural pine groves in Southwestern Spain.(...)

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12 September 2017

Selective disappearance of great tits with short telomeres in urban areas [Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : telomere, urbanization, survival, great tit

Urban environments pose novel challenges, as well as opportunities, for urban-dwelling wildlife. Although differences have been reported in several phenotypic traits (e.g. morphology, physiology and behaviour) between urban and rural populations, it is poorly understood whether this affects individual fitness. Telomere dynamics are posited as one possible mechanism underlying senescence and mortality. It was recently shown that telomere shortening is accelerated when growing up in an urban, compared with a rural, environment. However, the implications of accelerated telomere attrition for fitness are still unclear. Here, we examine the relationship between telomere length (TL) and survival in a bird common to urban and rural environments, and during both early and later life.(...)

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12 September 2017

The Evolution of Diverse Floral Morphologies [Current Biology]

The angiosperm flower develops through a modular programme which, although ancient and conserved, provides the flexibility that has allowed an almost infinite variety of floral forms to emerge. In this review, we explore the evolution of floral diversity, focusing on our recent understanding of the mechanistic basis of evolutionary change. We discuss the various ways in which flower size and floral organ size can be modified, the means by which flower shape and symmetry can change, and the ways in which floral organ position can be varied. We conclude that many challenges remain before we fully understand the ecological and molecular processes that facilitate the diversification of flower structure.

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12 September 2017

Harnessing ancient genomes to study the history of human adaptation [Nature Reviews Genetics]

Subject terms : coevolution, DNA sequencing, evolutionary genetics, genetic variation, genomics, next-generation sequencing, population genetics

The past several years have witnessed an explosion of successful ancient human genome-sequencing projects, with genomic-scale ancient DNA data sets now available for more than 1,100 ancient human and archaic hominin (for example, Neandertal) individuals. Recent ’evolution in action’ analyses have started using these data sets to identify and track the spatiotemporal trajectories of genetic variants associated with human adaptations to novel and changing environments, agricultural lifestyles, and introduced or co-evolving pathogens. Together with evidence of adaptive introgression of genetic variants from archaic hominins to humans and emerging ancient genome data sets for domesticated animals and plants, these studies provide novel insights into human evolution and the evolutionary consequences of human behaviour that go well beyond those that can be obtained from modern genomic data or the fossil and archaeological records alone.

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