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27 February 2017

Unraveling the processes shaping mammalian gut microbiomes over evolutionary time [Nature Communications]

Keywords : bacterial evolution, microbiome, phylogenetics, symbiosis

Whether mammal–microbiome interactions are persistent and specific over evolutionary time is controversial. Here we show that host phylogeny and major dietary shifts have affected the distribution of different gut bacterial lineages and did so on vastly different bacterial phylogenetic resolutions. Diet mostly influences the acquisition of ancient and large microbial lineages. Conversely, correlation with host phylogeny is mostly seen among more recently diverged bacterial lineages, consistent with processes operating at similar timescales to host evolution. Considering microbiomes at appropriate phylogenetic scales allows us to model their evolution along the mammalian tree and to infer ancient diets from the predicted microbiomes of mammalian ancestors.(...)

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27 February 2017

Age-dependent trajectories differ between within-pair and extra-pair paternity success [Journal of Evolutionary Biology]

Keywords : ageing, breeding success, indirect benefits, life-history strategy, optimal allocation strategy, mating system

Reproductive success is associated with age in many taxa, increasing in early life followed by reproductive senescence. In socially monogamous, but genetically polygamous species, this generates the interesting possibility of differential trajectories of within-pair and extra-pair siring success with age in males. We investigate these relationships simultaneously using within-individual analyses with 13 years of data from an insular house sparrow (Passer domesticus) population. As expected, we found that both within- and extra-pair paternity success increased with age, followed by a senescence-like decline. However, the age trajectories of within- and extra-pair paternity successes differed significantly(...)

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24 February 2017

Bumblebees show cognitive flexibility by improving on an observed complex behavior [Science]

We explored bees’ behavioral flexibility in a task that required transporting a small ball to a defined location to gain a reward. Bees were pretrained to know the correct location of the ball. Subsequently, to obtain a reward, bees had to move a displaced ball to the defined location. Bees that observed demonstration of the technique from a live or model demonstrator learned the task more efficiently than did bees observing a “ghost” demonstration (ball moved via magnet) or without demonstration. Instead of copying demonstrators moving balls over long distances, observers solved the task more efficiently, using the ball positioned closest to the target, even if it was of a different color than the one previously observed. Such unprecedented cognitive flexibility hints that entirely novel behaviors could emerge relatively swiftly in species whose lifestyle demands advanced learning abilities, should relevant ecological pressures arise.

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23 February 2017

Do invasive alien plants benefit more from global environmental change than native plants? [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : climate change, effect size, global environmental change, meta-analysis, nitrogen deposition, plant invasion, precipitation, temperature

Invasive alien plant species threaten native biodiversity, disrupt ecosystem functions and can cause large economic damage. Plant invasions have been predicted to further increase under ongoing global environmental change. Numerous case studies have compared the performance of invasive and native plant species in response to global environmental change components (i.e. changes in mean levels of precipitation, temperature, atmospheric CO2 concentration or nitrogen deposition). Individually, these studies usually involve low numbers of species and therefore the results cannot be generalized. Therefore, we performed a phylogenetically controlled meta-analysis to assess whether there is a general pattern of differences in invasive and native plant performance under each component of global environmental change. We compiled a database of studies that reported performance measures for 74 invasive alien plant species and 117 native plant species in response to one of the above-mentioned global environmental change components.(...)

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23 February 2017

Characterizing fish responses to a river restoration over 21 years based on species traits [Conservation Biology]

Keywords : stream restoration, bioenv analysis, long-term monitoring, overshooting response, regional species pool

Understanding restoration effectiveness is often impaired by a lack of quality, long-term monitoring data and, to date, few studies have used species trait information to gain insight into the processes that drive the reaction of fish communities to restoration. We examined fish community responses using a highly resolved dataset with 21 consecutive years of data (4 years pre- and 17 years post-restoration) at multiple restored and unrestored sampling reaches from a river restoration project at the Lippe River, Germany. This restoration led to a doubling of both species richness and abundance. Abundance exhibited an overshooting response immediately following restoration and both richness and abundance stabilized approximately seven years after the restoration. However, interannual variability remained high, illustrating the challenge to reliably assess restoration outcomes based on data from individual samplings, especially in the first years following restoration.(...)

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