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2 June 2016

Investigating the impacts of field-realistic exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide on bumblebee foraging, homing ability and colony growth [Journal of Applied Ecology]

Keywords : agrochemical, bumble bee Bombus terrestris, flower-visiting insects, insecticide, navigation, neonicotinoids, pesticide exposure, pollination, RFID tagging

1.The ability to forage and return home is essential to the success of bees as both foragers and pollinators. Pesticide exposure may cause behavioural changes that interfere with these processes, with consequences for colony persistence and delivery of pollination services.
2.We investigated the impact of chronic exposure (5–43 days) to field-realistic levels of a neonicotinoid insecticide (2·4 ppb thiamethoxam) on foraging ability, homing success and colony size using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in free-flying bumblebee colonies.(...)

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2 June 2016

The gene cortex controls mimicry and crypsis in butterflies and moths [Nature]

Subject terms : evolutionary genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, development, evolutionary biology

The wing patterns of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are diverse and striking examples of evolutionary diversification by natural selection1, 2. Lepidopteran wing colour patterns are a key innovation, consisting of arrays of coloured scales. We still lack a general understanding of how these patterns are controlled and whether this control shows any commonality across the 160,000 moth and 17,000 butterfly species. Here, we use fine-scale mapping with population genomics and gene expression analyses to identify a gene, cortex, that regulates pattern switches in multiple species across the mimetic radiation in Heliconius butterflies.(...)

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31 May 2016

Non-cultivated plants present a season-long route of pesticide exposure for honey bees [Nature communications]

Recent efforts to evaluate the contribution of neonicotinoid insecticides to worldwide pollinator declines have focused on honey bees and the chronic levels of exposure experienced when foraging on crops grown from neonicotinoid-treated seeds. However, few studies address non-crop plants as a potential route of pollinator exposure to neonicotinoid and other insecticides. Here we show that pollen collected by honey bee foragers in maize- and soybean-dominated landscapes is contaminated throughout the growing season with multiple agricultural pesticides, including the neonicotinoids used as seed treatments. Notably, however, the highest levels of contamination in pollen are pyrethroid insecticides targeting mosquitoes and other nuisance pests.(...)

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30 May 2016

How sexual selection can drive the evolution of costly sperm ornamentation [Nature]

Subject terms : sexual selection, evolutionary theory

Post-copulatory sexual selection (PSS), fuelled by female promiscuity, is credited with the rapid evolution of sperm quality traits across diverse taxa. Yet, our understanding of the adaptive significance of sperm ornaments and the cryptic female preferences driving their evolution is extremely limited. Here we review the evolutionary allometry of exaggerated sexual traits (for example, antlers, horns, tail feathers, mandibles and dewlaps), show that the giant sperm of some Drosophila species are possibly the most extreme ornaments in all of nature and demonstrate how their existence challenges theories explaining the intensity of sexual selection, mating-system evolution and the fundamental nature of sex differences. We also combine quantitative genetic analyses of interacting sex-specific traits in D. melanogaster (...)

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25 May 2016

Potent social synchronization can override photic entrainment of circadian rhythms [Nature communications]

Circadian rhythms in behaviour and physiology are important for animal health and survival. Studies with individually isolated animals in the laboratory have consistently emphasized the dominant role of light for the entrainment of circadian rhythms to relevant environmental cycles. Although in nature interactions with conspecifics are functionally significant, social signals are typically not considered important time-givers for the animal circadian clock. Our results challenge this view. By studying honeybees in an ecologically relevant context and using a massive data set, we demonstrate that social entrainment can be potent, may act without direct contact with other individuals and does not rely on gating the exposure to light. We show for the first time that social time cues stably entrain the clock, even in animals experiencing conflicting photic and social environmental cycles. These findings add to the growing appreciation for the importance of studying circadian rhythms in ecologically relevant contexts.

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