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25 October 2017

Rapid Diversification and Time Explain Amphibian Richness at Different Scales in the Tropical Andes, Earth’s Most Biodiverse Hotspot [The American Naturalist]

Keywords : amphibians, biogeography, diversification, speciation, species richness, time-for-speciation effect

The Tropical Andes make up Earth’s most species-rich biodiversity hotspot for both animals and plants. Nevertheless, the ecological and evolutionary processes underlying this extraordinary richness remain uncertain. Here, we examine the processes that generate high richness in the Tropical Andes relative to other regions in South America and across different elevations within the Andes, using frogs as a model system. We combine distributional data, a newly generated time-calibrated phylogeny for 2,318 frog species, and phylogenetic comparative methods to test the relative importance of diversification rates and colonization times for explaining Andean diversity at different scales.(...)

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25 October 2017

Unsolved mysteries: Magnetoreception - A sense without a receptor [PLOS Biology]

Subject Areas : magnetic fields, electromagnetics, animal navigation, magnetoreception, magnetite, animal migration, animal behavior, crystals

Evolution has equipped life on our planet with an array of extraordinary senses, but perhaps the least understood is magnetoreception. Despite compelling behavioral evidence that this sense exists, the cells, molecules, and mechanisms that mediate sensory transduction remain unknown. So how could animals detect magnetic fields? We introduce and discuss 3 concepts that attempt to address this question: (1) a mechanically sensitive magnetite-based magnetoreceptor, (2) a light-sensitive chemical-based mechanism, and (3) electromagnetic induction within accessory structures. In discussing the merits and issues with each of these ideas, we draw on existing precepts in sensory biology. We argue that solving this scientific mystery will require the development of new genetic tools in magnetosensitive species, coupled with an interdisciplinary approach that bridges physics, behavior, anatomy, physiology, molecular biology, and genetics.

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25 October 2017

Variation and functional impact of Neanderthal ancestry in Western Asia [Genome Biology and Evolution]

Neanderthals contributed genetic material to modern humans via multiple admixture events. Initial admixture events presumably occurred in Western Asia shortly after humans migrated out-of-Africa. Despite being a focal point of admixture, earlier studies indicate lower Neanderthal introgression rates in some Western Asian populations as compared to other Eurasian populations. To better understand the genome-wide and phenotypic impact of Neanderthal introgression in the region, we sequenced whole genomes of 10 present-day Europeans, Africans, and the Western Asian Druze at high depth, and analyzed available whole genome data from various other populations, including 16 genomes from present-day Turkey.(...)

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25 October 2017

Insect elevational specialization in a tropical biodiversity hotspot [Insect Conservation & Diversity]

Keywords : altitudinal range, climate change, elevational specialisation, extinction risk, range shifting, tropical insects, tropical rainforest

1.Tropical montane organisms are vulnerable to climate change because of elevational specialisation, but little is known of the variability in elevational specialisation across tropical insects.
2.We assessed elevational specialisation across several insect taxa comprising four trophic groups 80–2263 m up an elevational transect in Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, using community-based and species-based approaches.
3.We sampled 697 species, of which 32% were found only in the top and 45% only in the bottom half of the transect.(...)

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25 October 2017

Genomic Quantitative Genetics to Study Evolution in the Wild [Trends in Ecology & Evolution]

Quantitative genetic theory provides a means of estimating the evolutionary potential of natural populations. However, this approach was previously only feasible in systems where the genetic relatedness between individuals could be inferred from pedigrees or experimental crosses. The genomic revolution opened up the possibility of obtaining the realized proportion of genome shared among individuals in natural populations of virtually any species, which could promise (more) accurate estimates of quantitative genetic parameters in virtually any species. Such a ‘genomic’ quantitative genetics approach relies on fewer assumptions, offers a greater methodological flexibility, and is thus expected to greatly enhance our understanding of evolution in natural populations, for example, in the context of adaptation to environmental change, eco-evolutionary dynamics, and biodiversity conservation.

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