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11 February 2017

Ancient hybridization fuels rapid cichlid fish adaptive radiations [Nature Communications]

Keywords : adaptive radiation, evolutionary genetics, molecular evolution, phylogenetics

nderstanding why some evolutionary lineages generate exceptionally high species diversity is an important goal in evolutionary biology. Haplochromine cichlid fishes of Africa’s Lake Victoria region encompass >700 diverse species that all evolved in the last 150,000 years. How this ‘Lake Victoria Region Superflock’ could evolve on such rapid timescales is an enduring question. Here, we demonstrate that hybridization between two divergent lineages facilitated this process by providing genetic variation that subsequently became recombined and sorted into many new species.(...)

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10 February 2017

Social evolution: from molecules and superorganisms to flocks, shoals and parenting [Journal of Experimental Biology / Inside JEB]

No matter how small or large, from bacteria and amoebae to the planet’s largest mammals, all organisms interact socially with other members of their species. Social organisation – whether conspiring to construct vast colonies, shoaling for comfort or uniting to raise offspring, provides the infrastructure for life. However, social behaviours also have implications at the genetic level. Gene pathways can influence group dynamics and how individuals behave socially can affect the ability for genes to be passed on – it is these phenomena that fascinate Joel Levine from the University of Toronto, Canada, and Daniel Kronauer from the Rockefeller University, USA.

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8 February 2017

Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses [Nature Communications]

Keywords : ecosystem ecology, food webs, grassland ecology

Soil organisms have an important role in aboveground community dynamics and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial ecosystems. However, most studies have considered soil biota as a black box or focussed on specific groups, whereas little is known about entire soil networks. Here we show that during the course of nature restoration on abandoned arable land a compositional shift in soil biota, preceded by tightening of the belowground networks, corresponds with enhanced efficiency of carbon uptake. In mid- and long-term abandoned field soil, carbon uptake by fungi increases without an increase in fungal biomass or shift in bacterial-to-fungal ratio. The implication of our findings is that during nature restoration the efficiency of nutrient cycling and carbon uptake can increase by a shift in fungal composition and/or fungal activity. Therefore, we propose that relationships between soil food web structure and carbon cycling in soils need to be reconsidered.

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8 February 2017

The golden mimicry complex uses a wide spectrum of defence to deter a community of predators [eLife]

Mimicry complexes typically consist of multiple species that deter predators using similar anti-predatory signals. Mimics in these complexes are assumed to vary in their level of defence from highly defended through to moderately defended, or not defended at all. Here, we report a new multi-order mimicry complex that includes at least 140 different putative mimics from four arthropod orders including ants, wasps, bugs, tree hoppers and spiders.(...)

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7 February 2017

Greater temperature sensitivity of plant phenology at colder sites: implications for convergence across northern latitudes [Global Change Biology]

Warmer temperatures are accelerating the phenology of organisms around the world. Temperature sensitivity of phenology might be greater in colder, higher latitude sites than in warmer regions, in part because small changes in temperature constitute greater relative changes in thermal balance at colder sites. To test this hypothesis, we examined up to 20 years of phenology data for 47 tundra plant species at 18 high-latitude sites along a climatic gradient. (...)

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