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8 March 2017

Assessing soil biodiversity potentials in Europe [Science of The Total Environment]

Soil is important as a critical component for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. The largest part of the terrestrial biodiversity relies, directly or indirectly, on soil. Furthermore, soil itself is habitat to a great diversity of organisms. The suitability of soil to host such a diversity is strongly related to its physico-chemical features and environmental properties. However, due to the complexity of both soil and biodiversity, it is difficult to identify a clear and unambiguous relationship between environmental parameters and soil biota. Nevertheless, the increasing diffusion of a more integrated view of ecosystems, and in particular the development of the concept of ecosystem services, highlights the need for a better comprehension of the role played by soils in offering these services, including the habitat provision.(...)

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7 March 2017

Models projecting the fate of fish populations under climate change need to be based on valid physiological mechanisms [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : aerobic scop, gill surface area, growth, metabolism, oxygen consumption, respiration, scaling

Some recent modelling papers projecting smaller fish sizes and catches in a warmer future are based on erroneous assumptions regarding (i) the scaling of gills with body mass and (ii) the energetic cost of ‘maintenance’. Assumption (i) posits that insurmountable geometric constraints prevent respiratory surface areas from growing as fast as body volume. It is argued that these constraints explain allometric scaling of energy metabolism, whereby larger fishes have relatively lower mass-specific metabolic rates. Assumption (ii) concludes that when fishes reach a certain size, basal oxygen demands will not be met, because of assumption (i). We here demonstrate unequivocally, by applying accepted physiological principles with reference to the existing literature, that these assumptions are not valid.(...)

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7 March 2017

Bumblebees can discriminate between scent-marks deposited by conspecifics [Scientif Reports]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology

Bumblebees secrete a substance from their tarsi wherever they land, which can be detected by conspecifics. These secretions are referred to as scent-marks, which bumblebees are able to use as social cues. Although it has been found that bumblebees can detect and associate scent-marks with rewarding or unrewarding flowers, their ability at discriminating between scent-marks from bumblebees of differing relatedness is unknown. We performed three separate experiments with bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), where they were repeatedly exposed to rewarding and unrewarding artificial flowers simultaneously.(...)

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5 March 2017

Information Certainty Determines Social and Private Information Use in Ants [Nature]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, entomology, social evolution

Decision-making in uncertain environments requires animals to evaluate, contrast and integrate various information sources to choose appropriate actions. In consensus-making groups, quorum responses are commonly used to combine private and social information, leading to both robust and flexible decisions. Here we show that in house-hunting ant colonies, individuals fine-tune the parameters of their quorum responses depending on their private knowledge: informed ants evaluating a familiar new nest rely relatively more on social than private information when the certainty of their private information is low, and vice versa. This indicates that the ants follow a highly sophisticated ‘copy-when-uncertain’ social learning strategy similar to that observed in a few vertebrate species. Using simulations, we further show that this strategy improves colony performance during emigrations and confers well-informed individuals more weight in the decision process, thus representing a novel mechanism for the emergence of leadership in collective decision-making.

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5 March 2017

Precipitation drives global variation in natural selection [Science]

Climate change has the potential to affect the ecology and evolution of every species on Earth. Although the ecological consequences of climate change are increasingly well documented, the effects of climate on the key evolutionary process driving adaptation—natural selection—are largely unknown. We report that aspects of precipitation and potential evapotranspiration, along with the North Atlantic Oscillation, predicted variation in selection across plant and animal populations throughout many terrestrial biomes, whereas temperature explained little variation. By showing that selection was influenced by climate variation, our results indicate that climate change may cause widespread alterations in selection regimes, potentially shifting evolutionary trajectories at a global scale.

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