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22 June 2016

Dimensions of biodiversity in the Earth mycobiome [Nature Reviews Microbiology]

Subject terms : fungal ecology, fungal evolution, fungal genomics, microbiome, soil microbiology

Fungi represent a large proportion of the genetic diversity on Earth and fungal activity influences the structure of plant and animal communities, as well as rates of ecosystem processes. Large-scale DNA-sequencing datasets are beginning to reveal the dimensions of fungal biodiversity, which seem to be fundamentally different to bacteria, plants and animals. In this Review, we describe the patterns of fungal biodiversity that have been revealed by molecular-based studies. Furthermore, we consider the evidence that supports the roles of different candidate drivers of fungal diversity at a range of spatial scales, as well as the role of dispersal limitation in maintaining regional endemism and influencing local community assembly. Finally, we discuss the ecological mechanisms that are likely to be responsible for the high heterogeneity that is observed in fungal communities at local scales.

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15 June 2016

Characterizing the adult and larval transcriptome of the multicolored Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis [PeerJ]

Keywords : Harmonia axyridis, Ladybeetle, Transcriptome

The reasons for the evolution and maintenance of striking visual phenotypes are as widespread as the species that display these phenotypes. While study systems such as Heliconius and Dendrobatidae have been well characterized and provide critical information about the evolution of these traits, a breadth of new study systems, in which the phenotype of interest can be easily manipulated and quantified, are essential for gaining a more general understanding of these specific evolutionary processes. One such model is the multicolored Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis, which displays significant elytral spot and color polymorphism. Using transcriptome data from two life stages, adult and larva, we characterize the transcriptome, thereby laying a foundation for further analysis and identification of the genes responsible for the continual maintenance of spot variation in H. axyridis.

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14 June 2016

The shaping of human diversity: filters, boundaries and transitions [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B]

Keywords : human evolution, modern human origins, African prehistory, dispersals, human evolutionary genetics, Holocene filter

The evolution of modern humans was a complex process, involving major changes in levels of diversity through time. The fossils and stone tools that record the spatial distribution of our species in the past form the backbone of our evolutionary history, and one that allows us to explore the different processes—cultural and biological—that acted to shape the evolution of different populations in the face of major climate change. Those processes created a complex palimpsest of similarities and differences, with outcomes that were at times accelerated by sharp demographic and geographical fluctuations. The result is that the population ancestral to all modern humans did not look or behave like people alive today. This has generated questions regarding the evolution of human universal characters, as well as the nature and timing of major evolutionary events in the history of Homo sapiens.(...)

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14 June 2016

Carryover effects drive competitive dominance in spatially structured environments [PNAS]

Keywords : carryover effects, natal habitat effect, competition, metacommunity, dispersal

Understanding how changes to the quality of habitat patches affect the distribution of species across the whole landscape is critical in our human-dominated world and changing climate. Although patterns of species’ abundances across a landscape are clearly influenced by dispersal among habitats and local species interactions, little is known about how the identity and origin of dispersers affect these patterns. Because traits of individuals are altered by experiences in their natal habitat, differences in the natal habitat of dispersers can carry over when individuals disperse to new habitats and alter their fitness and interactions with other species. We manipulated the presence or absence of such carried-over natal habitat effects for up to eight generations to examine their influence on two interacting species across multiple dispersal rates and different habitat compositions.(...)

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13 June 2016

Territoriality, social bonds, and the evolution of communal signalling in birds [Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution]

Communal signalling—wherein males and females collaborate to produce joint visual or acoustic displays—is perhaps the most complex and least understood form of communication in social animals. Although many communal signals appear to mediate competitive interactions within and between coalitions of individuals, previous studies have highlighted a confusing array of social and environmental factors that may explain the evolution of these displays, and we still lack the global synthesis needed to understand why communal signals are distributed so unevenly across large taxonomic and geographic scales. Here we use Bayesian phylogenetic models to test whether acoustic communal signals (duets and choruses) are explained by a range of life-history and environmental variables across 10328 bird species worldwide.(...)

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