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7 June 2018

‘Green incubation’: avian offspring benefit from aromatic nest herbs through improved parental incubation behaviour [Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : egg temperature, European starling, prenatal, medicinal herbs, timing, volatile

Development of avian embryos requires thermal energy, usually from parents. Parents may, however, trade off catering for embryonic requirements against their own need to forage through intermittent incubation. This dynamically adjusted behaviour can be affected by properties of the nest. Here, we experimentally show a novel mechanism by which parents, through incorporation of aromatic herbs into nests, effectively modify their incubation behaviour to the benefit of their offspring. Our study species, the European starling, includes in its nest aromatic herbs which promote offspring fitness. We provided wild starlings with artificial nests including or excluding the typically selected fresh herbs and found strong support for our prediction of facilitated incubation.(...)

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6 June 2018

Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning respond unimodally to environmental stress [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : stress, biodiversity, community model, meta‐analysis, plant communities

Understanding how biodiversity (B) affects ecosystem functioning (EF) is essential for assessing the consequences of ongoing biodiversity changes. An increasing number of studies, however, show that environmental conditions affect the shape of BEF relationships. Here, we first use a game‐theoretic community model to reveal that a unimodal response of the BEF slope can be expected along environmental stress gradients, but also how the ecological mechanisms underlying this response may vary depending on how stress affects species interactions. Next, we analysed a global dataset of 44 experiments that crossed biodiversity with environmental conditions.(...)

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6 June 2018

Restore the lost ecological functions of people [Nature Ecology & Evolution - Comment]

Recent calls for the reintroduction of functionally important animal species are motivated by a desire to restore ecological function, but overlook the ecological roles performed by humans. Here, we consider humans in ecological context, exploring our roles in the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem function.

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6 June 2018

An epigenetic mechanism for cavefish eye degeneration [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary developmental biology, evolutionary genetics, experimental organisms

Coding and non-coding mutations in DNA contribute significantly to phenotypic variability during evolution. However, less is known about the role of epigenetics in this process. Although previous studies have identified eye development genes associated with the loss-of-eyes phenotype in the Pachón blind cave morph of the Mexican tetra Astyanax mexicanus, no inactivating mutations have been found in any of these genes. Here, we show that excess DNA methylation-based epigenetic silencing promotes eye degeneration in blind cave A. mexicanus. By performing parallel analyses in A. mexicanus cave and surface morphs, and in the zebrafish Danio rerio, we have discovered that DNA methylation mediates eye-specific gene repression and globally regulates early eye development.(...)

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1 June 2018

Aquatic insect functional diversity and nutrient content in urban streams in a medium‐sized city [Ecosphere]

Keywords : aquatic insects, functional feeding groups, medium‐sized city, nitrogen, phosphorus, urbanization

Aquatic insects play a large role in the processing of organic matter in headwater streams; however, anthropogenic disturbances associated with watershed urbanization can impact the biodiversity and abundance of these insects. Aquatic insects function on multiple trophic levels (i.e., shredders, collectors, scrapers, and predators) and interact in the nutrient cycling within lotic systems. The degradation or loss of any of these functional groups could disrupt stream biogeochemistry and the flow of energy in stream ecosystems. We used a paired reach site design to assess the insect functional group representation in five streams impacted by urbanization with downstream urban and upstream rural reach sites. We also sampled two non‐urban reference streams with rural upstream and rural downstream reach sites.(...)

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