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19 December 2017

Functional diversity and community assembly of river invertebrates show globally consistent responses to decreasing glacier cover [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biogeography, freshwater ecology, macroecology

Global change threatens invertebrate biodiversity and its central role in numerous ecosystem functions and services. Functional trait analyses have been advocated to uncover global mechanisms behind biodiversity responses to environmental change, but the application of this approach for invertebrates is underdeveloped relative to other organism groups. From an evaluation of 363 records comprising >1.23 million invertebrates collected from rivers across nine biogeographic regions on three continents, consistent responses of community trait composition and diversity to replicated gradients of reduced glacier cover are demonstrated.(...)

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19 December 2017

Hidden genetic variation shapes the structure of functional elements in Drosophila [Nature Genetics]

Keywords : genetics, genomics

Mutations that add, subtract, rearrange, or otherwise refashion genome structure often affect phenotypes, although the fragmented nature of most contemporary assemblies obscures them. To discover such mutations, we assembled the first new reference-quality genome of Drosophila melanogaster since its initial sequencing. By comparing this new genome to the existing D. melanogaster assembly, we created a structural variant map of unprecedented resolution and identified extensive genetic variation that has remained hidden until now. Many of these variants constitute candidates underlying phenotypic variation, including tandem duplications and a transposable element insertion that amplifies the expression of detoxification-related genes associated with nicotine resistance. The abundance of important genetic variation that still evades discovery highlights how crucial high-quality reference genomes are to deciphering phenotypes.

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19 December 2017

The diversity of floral temperature patterns, and their use by pollinators [eLIFE]

Pollinating insects utilise various sensory cues to identify and learn rewarding flower species. One such cue is floral temperature, created by captured sunlight or plant thermogenesis. Bumblebees, honeybees and stingless bees can distinguish flowers based on differences in overall temperature between flowers. We report here that floral temperature often differs between different parts of the flower creating a temperature structure or pattern. Temperature patterns are common, with 55% of 118 plant species thermographed, showing within-flower temperature differences greater than the 2°C difference that bees are known to be able to detect.(...)

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19 December 2017

Social transmission of avoidance among predators facilitates the spread of novel prey [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : behavioural ecology, coevolution

Warning signals are an effective defence strategy for aposematic prey, but only if they are recognized by potential predators. If predators must eat prey to associate novel warning signals with unpalatability, how can aposematic prey ever evolve? Using experiments with great tits (Parus major) as predators, we show that social transmission enhances the acquisition of avoidance by a predator population. Observing another predator’s disgust towards tasting one novel conspicuous prey item led to fewer aposematic than cryptic prey being eaten for the predator population to learn. Despite reduced personal encounters with unpalatable prey, avoidance persisted and increased over subsequent trials. Next we use a mathematical model to show that social transmission can shift the evolutionary trajectory of prey populations from fixation of crypsis to fixation of aposematism more easily than was previously thought. Therefore, social information use by predators has the potential to have evolutionary consequences across ecological communities.

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19 December 2017

Designing flows to resolve human and environmental water needs in a dam-regulated river [Nature Communications]

Keywords : freshwater ecology, hydrology, invasive species

Navigating trade-offs between meeting societal water needs and supporting functioning ecosystems is integral to river management policy. Emerging frameworks provide the opportunity to consider multiple river uses explicitly, but balancing multiple priorities remains challenging. Here we quantify relationships between hydrologic regimes and the abundance of multiple native and nonnative fish species over 18 years in a large, dryland river basin in southwestern United States. These models were incorporated into a multi-objective optimization framework to design dam operation releases that balance human water needs with the dual conservation targets of benefiting native fishes while disadvantaging nonnative fishes.(...)

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