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15 November 2017

Recurrent sublethal warming reduces embryonic survival, inhibits juvenile growth, and alters species distribution projections under climate change [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : vlimate change, distribution, embryo, growth, ontogeny, sublethal, survival, temperature

The capacity to tolerate climate change often varies across ontogeny in organisms with complex life cycles. Recently developed species distribution models incorporate traits across life stages; however, these life-cycle models primarily evaluate effects of lethal change. Here, we examine impacts of recurrent sublethal warming on development and survival in ecological projections of climate change. We reared lizard embryos in the laboratory under temperature cycles that simulated contemporary conditions and warming scenarios. We also artificially warmed natural nests to mimic laboratory treatments.(...)

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15 November 2017

Colour change of twig-mimicking peppered moth larvae is a continuous reaction norm that increases camouflage against avian predators [PeerJ]

Keywords : animal behavior, ecology, evolutionary studies, zoology

Camouflage, and in particular background-matching, is one of the most common anti-predator strategies observed in nature. Animals can improve their match to the colour/pattern of their surroundings through background selection, and/or by plastic colour change. Colour change can occur rapidly (a few seconds), or it may be slow, taking hours to days. Many studies have explored the cues and mechanisms behind rapid colour change, but there is a considerable lack of information about slow colour change in the context of predation: the cues that initiate it, and the range of phenotypes that are produced. Here we show that peppered moth (Biston betularia) larvae respond to colour and luminance of the twigs they rest on, and exhibit a continuous reaction norm of phenotypes.(...)

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15 November 2017

Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture [Nature Communications]

Keywords : agriculture, environmental impact, sustainability

Organic agriculture is proposed as a promising approach to achieving sustainable food systems, but its feasibility is also contested. We use a food systems model that addresses agronomic characteristics of organic agriculture to analyze the role that organic agriculture could play in sustainable food systems. Here we show that a 100% conversion to organic agriculture needs more land than conventional agriculture but reduces N-surplus and pesticide use. However, in combination with reductions of food wastage and food-competing feed from arable land, with correspondingly reduced production and consumption of animal products, land use under organic agriculture remains below the reference scenario.(...)

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15 November 2017

TreeSimGM: Simulating phylogenetic trees under general Bellman–Harris models with lineage-specific shifts of speciation and extinction in R [Methods in Ecology and Evolution]

Keywords : birth–death model, macroevolution, phylogeny, simulation

1.Understanding macroevolutionary processes using phylogenetic trees is a challenging and complex process that draws on mathematics, computer science and biology. Given the development of complex mathematical models and the growing computational processing power, simulation tools are becoming increasingly popular.
2.In order to simulate phylogenetic trees, most evolutionary biologists are forced to build their own algorithms or use existing tools built on different platforms and/or as standalone programmes. The absence of a simulation tool accommodating for user-chosen model specifications limits, amongst others, model testing and pipelining with approximate Bayesian computation methods or other subsequent statistical analysis.
3.We introduce “TreeSimGM,” an r-package simulation tool for phylogenetic trees under a general Bellman and Harris model. This package allows the user to specify any desired probability distribution for the waiting times until speciation and extinction (e.g. age-dependent speciation/extinction).(...)

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14 November 2017

Statistical and integrative system-level analysis of DNA methylation data [Nature Reviews Genetics]

Keywords : bioinformatics, DNA methylation, epigenetics analysis, epigenomics, statistical methods

Epigenetics plays a key role in cellular development and function. Alterations to the epigenome are thought to capture and mediate the effects of genetic and environmental risk factors on complex disease. Currently, DNA methylation is the only epigenetic mark that can be measured reliably and genome-wide in large numbers of samples. This Review discusses some of the key statistical challenges and algorithms associated with drawing inferences from DNA methylation data, including cell-type heterogeneity, feature selection, reverse causation and system-level analyses that require integration with other data types such as gene expression, genotype, transcription factor binding and other epigenetic information.

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