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14 May 2018

Lemur species-specific metapopulation responses to habitat loss and fragmentation [PLOS One]

Subject areas : lemurs, forests, species extinction, primates, metapopulation dynamics, habitats, biogeography, Madagascar

Determining what factors affect species occurrence is vital to the study of primate biogeography. We investigated the metapopulation dynamics of a lemur community consisting of eight species (Avahi occidentalis, Propithecus coquereli, Microcebus murinus, Microcebus ravelobensis, Lepilemur edwardsi, Cheirogaleus medius, Eulemur mongoz, and Eulemur fulvus) within fragmented tropical dry deciduous forest habitat in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar. We measured fragment size and isolation of 42 fragments of forest ranging in size from 0.23 to 117.7 ha adjacent to continuous forest. Between June and November 2011, we conducted 1218 surveys and observed six of eight lemur species (M. murinus, M. ravelobensis, C. medius, E. fulvus, P. coquereli, and L. edwardsi) in the 42 fragments. We applied among patch incidence function models (IFMs) with various measures of dispersal and a mainland-island IFM to lemur species occurrence, with the aim of answering the following questions: 1) Do lemur species in dry deciduous forest fragments form metapopulations? 2) What are the separate effects of area (extinction risk) and connectivity/isolation (colonization potential) within a lemur metapopulation? 3) Within simulated metapopulations over time, how do area and connectivity/isolation affect occurrence? and 4) What are the conservation implications of our findings?(...)

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14 May 2018

A guide to using a multiple-matrix animal model to disentangle genetic and nongenetic causes of phenotypic variance [BioRxiv]

Caroline Elizabeth Thomson, Isabel Sophie Winney, Oceane Salles, Benoit Pujol

Non-genetic influences on phenotypic traits can affect our interpretation of genetic variance and the evolutionary potential of populations to respond to selection, with consequences for our ability to predict the outcomes of selection. Long-term population surveys and experiments have shown that quantitative genetic estimates are influenced by nongenetic effects, including shared environmental effects, epigenetic effects, and social interactions. Recent developments to the "animal model" of quantitative genetics can now allow us to calculate precise individual-based measures of non-genetic phenotypic variance. These models can be applied to a much broader range of contexts and data types than used previously, with the potential to greatly expand our understanding of nongenetic effects on evolutionary potential. Here, we provide the first practical guide for researchers interested in distinguishing between genetic and nongenetic causes of phenotypic variation in the animal model.(...)

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14 May 2018

Overestimation of the adaptive substitution rate in fluctuating populations [Biology Letters]

Keywords : molecular adaptation, simulations, coding sequence evolution, fitness effect of mutations, effective population size

Estimating the proportion of adaptive substitutions (α) is of primary importance to uncover the determinants of adaptation in comparative genomic studies. Several methods have been proposed to estimate α from patterns polymorphism and divergence in coding sequences. However, estimators of α can be biased when the underlying assumptions are not met. Here we focus on a potential source of bias, i.e. variation through time in the long-term population size (N) of the considered species. We show via simulations that ancient demographic fluctuations can generate severe overestimations of α, and this is irrespective of the recent population history.

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14 May 2018

Strategic investment explains patterns of cooperation and cheating in a microbe [PNAS]

Keywords : cooperation, conflict, game theory, cheating, kin selection

Contributing to cooperation is costly, while its rewards are often available to all members of a social group. Therefore, cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation by individuals that do not contribute but nevertheless share the benefits. So why contribute to cooperation? This dilemma can be resolved if individuals modulate their ‟investment” into cooperation dependent on whether benefits go to relatives or nonrelatives, which maximizes the return on investment to their genes. To evaluate this idea, we derived a model for cooperative investment and tested its predictions using a social microbe that cooperatively builds a stalk to facilitate spore dispersal. We find that cooperative investment into stalk closely matches predictions, with strains strategically adjusting investment according to their relatedness to their group.

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9 May 2018

Are the ghosts of nature’s past haunting ecology today? [Current Biology]

Humans have decimated populations of large-bodied consumers and their functions in most of the world’s ecosystems. It is less clear how human activities have affected the diversity of habitats these consumers occupy. Rebounding populations of some predators after conservation provides an opportunity to begin to investigate this question. Recent research shows that following long-term protection, sea otters along the northeast Pacific coast have expanded into estuarine marshes and seagrasses, and alligators on the southeast US coast have expanded into saltwater ecosystems, habitats presently thought beyond their niche space. There is also evidence that seals have expanded into subtropical climates, mountain lions into grasslands, orangutans into disturbed forests and wolves into coastal marine ecosystems.(...)

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