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14 February 2017

Mapping evaporative water loss in desert passerines reveals an expanding threat of lethal dehydration [PNAS]

Keywords : avian ecology, physiological ecology, climate change, heat waves, water balance

Extreme high environmental temperatures produce a variety of consequences for wildlife, including mass die-offs. Heat waves are increasing in frequency, intensity, and extent, and are projected to increase further under climate change. However, the spatial and temporal dynamics of die-off risk are poorly understood. Here, we examine the effects of heat waves on evaporative water loss (EWL) and survival in five desert passerine birds across the southwestern United States using a combination of physiological data, mechanistically informed models, and hourly geospatial temperature data.(...)

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13 February 2017

Mismatch between marine plankton range movements and the velocity of climate change [Nature Communications]

Keywords : biodiversity, biogeography, climate-change ecology, environmental impact, marine biology

The response of marine plankton to climate change is of critical importance to the oceanic food web and fish stocks. We use a 60-year ocean basin-wide data set comprising >148,000 samples to reveal huge differences in range changes associated with climate change across 35 plankton taxa. While the range of dinoflagellates and copepods tended to closely track the velocity of climate change (the rate of isotherm movement), the range of the diatoms moved much more slowly. (...)

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11 February 2017

Ancient hybridization fuels rapid cichlid fish adaptive radiations [Nature Communications]

Keywords : adaptive radiation, evolutionary genetics, molecular evolution, phylogenetics

nderstanding why some evolutionary lineages generate exceptionally high species diversity is an important goal in evolutionary biology. Haplochromine cichlid fishes of Africa’s Lake Victoria region encompass >700 diverse species that all evolved in the last 150,000 years. How this ‘Lake Victoria Region Superflock’ could evolve on such rapid timescales is an enduring question. Here, we demonstrate that hybridization between two divergent lineages facilitated this process by providing genetic variation that subsequently became recombined and sorted into many new species.(...)

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10 February 2017

Social evolution: from molecules and superorganisms to flocks, shoals and parenting [Journal of Experimental Biology / Inside JEB]

No matter how small or large, from bacteria and amoebae to the planet’s largest mammals, all organisms interact socially with other members of their species. Social organisation – whether conspiring to construct vast colonies, shoaling for comfort or uniting to raise offspring, provides the infrastructure for life. However, social behaviours also have implications at the genetic level. Gene pathways can influence group dynamics and how individuals behave socially can affect the ability for genes to be passed on – it is these phenomena that fascinate Joel Levine from the University of Toronto, Canada, and Daniel Kronauer from the Rockefeller University, USA.

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8 February 2017

Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses [Nature Communications]

Keywords : ecosystem ecology, food webs, grassland ecology

Soil organisms have an important role in aboveground community dynamics and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial ecosystems. However, most studies have considered soil biota as a black box or focussed on specific groups, whereas little is known about entire soil networks. Here we show that during the course of nature restoration on abandoned arable land a compositional shift in soil biota, preceded by tightening of the belowground networks, corresponds with enhanced efficiency of carbon uptake. In mid- and long-term abandoned field soil, carbon uptake by fungi increases without an increase in fungal biomass or shift in bacterial-to-fungal ratio. The implication of our findings is that during nature restoration the efficiency of nutrient cycling and carbon uptake can increase by a shift in fungal composition and/or fungal activity. Therefore, we propose that relationships between soil food web structure and carbon cycling in soils need to be reconsidered.

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