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2 septembre 2016

Variation in helper effort among cooperatively breeding bird species is consistent with Hamilton’s Rule [Nature communications]

Keywords : behavioural ecology, social evolution

Investment by helpers in cooperative breeding systems is extremely variable among species, but this variation is currently unexplained. Inclusive fitness theory predicts that, all else being equal, cooperative investment should correlate positively with the relatedness of helpers to the recipients of their care. We test this prediction in a comparative analysis of helper investment in 36 cooperatively breeding bird species. We show that species-specific helper contributions to cooperative brood care increase as the mean relatedness between helpers and recipients increases. Helper contributions are also related to the sex ratio of helpers, but neither group size nor the proportion of nests with helpers influence helper effort. Our findings support the hypothesis that variation in helping behaviour among cooperatively breeding birds is consistent with Hamilton’s rule, indicating a key role for kin selection in the evolution of cooperative investment in social birds.

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1er septembre 2016

Alien Pathogens on the Horizon : Opportunities for Predicting their Threat to Wildlife [Conservation Letters]

Keywords : environmental hazard, horizon scanning, invasive alien species, legislation, wildlife diseases

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, by 2020 invasive alien species (IAS) should be identified and their impacts assessed, so that species can be prioritised for implementation of appropriate control strategies and measures put in place to manage invasion pathways. For one quarter of the IAS listed as the “100 of the world’s worst”, environmental impacts are linked to diseases of wildlife, undomesticated plants and animals. Moreover, IAS are a significant source of ‘pathogen pollution’ defined as the human-mediated introduction, often unintentional, of a pathogen to a new host or region.(...)

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1er septembre 2016

Tectonic collision and uplift of Wallacea triggered the global songbird radiation [Nature communications]

Keywords : biogeography, phylogenetics, zoology

Songbirds (oscine passerines) are the most species-rich and cosmopolitan bird group, comprising almost half of global avian diversity. Songbirds originated in Australia, but the evolutionary trajectory from a single species in an isolated continent to worldwide proliferation is poorly understood. Here, we combine the first comprehensive genome-scale DNA sequence data set for songbirds, fossil-based time calibrations, and geologically informed biogeographic reconstructions to provide a well-supported evolutionary hypothesis for the group. We show that songbird diversification began in the Oligocene, but accelerated in the early Miocene, at approximately half the age of most previous estimates. This burst of diversification occurred coincident with extensive island formation in Wallacea, which provided the first dispersal corridor out of Australia, and resulted in independent waves of songbird expansion through Asia to the rest of the globe. Our results reconcile songbird evolution with Earth history and link a major radiation of terrestrial biodiversity to early diversification within an isolated Australian continent.

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1er septembre 2016

How could fully scaled carps appear in natural waters in Madagascar ? [Proceedings of the Royal Society B]

Keywords : evolution, mutation, compensation, heritability

The capacity of organisms to rapidly evolve in response to environmental changes is a key feature of evolution, and studying mutation compensation is a way to evaluate whether alternative routes of evolution are possible or not. Common carps (Cyprinus carpio) carrying a homozygous loss-of-function mutation for the scale cover gene fgfr1a1, causing the ‘mirror’ reduced scale cover, were introduced in Madagascar a century ago. Here we show that carps in Malagasy natural waters are now predominantly covered with scales, though they still all carry the homozygous mutation. We also reveal that the number of scales in mutated carps is under strong polygenic genetic control, with a heritability of 0.49. As a whole, our results suggest that carps submitted to natural selection could evolve a wild-type-like scale cover in less than 40 generations from standing polygenic genetic variation, confirming similar findings mainly retrieved from model organisms.

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30 juin 2016

A toolkit for optimizing fish passage barrier mitigation actions [Journal of Applied Ecology]

Keywords : barrier mitigation, dams, fish passage barriers, mixed integer linear programming, optimization, rapid barrier assessment, regression, river connectivity restoration, stream–road crossings

1. The presence of dams, stream–road crossings and other infrastructure often compromises the connectivity of rivers, leading to reduced fish abundance and diversity. The assessment and mitigation of river barriers is critical to the success of restoration efforts aimed at restoring river integrity.
2. In this study, we present a combined modelling approach involving statistical regression methods and mixed integer linear programming to maximize resident fish species richness within a catchment through targeted barrier mitigation. Compared to existing approaches, our proposed method provides enhanced biological realism while avoiding the use of complex and computationally intensive population/ecosystem models.(...)

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