Evolutionary theory predicts that infection by a parasite that reduces future host survival or fecundity should select for increased investment in current reproduction. In this study we use the cestode Ligula intestinalis and its intermediate fish host Engraulicypris sardella in Wissman Bay, Lake Nyasa (Tanzania) as a model system. Using data about infection of E. sardella fish hosts by L. intestinalis collected for a period of 10 years, we explored whether parasite infection affects the fecundity of the fish host E. sardella, and whether host reproductive investment has increased at the expense of somatic growth. We found that L. intestinalis had a strong negative effect on the fecundity of its intermediate fish host. For the non-infected fish we observed an increase in relative gonadal weight at maturity over the study period, while size at maturity decreased. These findings suggest that the life history of E. sardella has been shifting towards earlier reproduction. Further studies are warranted to assess whether these changes reflect plastic or evolutionary responses. We also discuss the interaction between parasite and fishery-mediated selection as a possible explanation for the decline of E. sardella stock in the lake. KEYWORDS Life history evolution; African Great Lakes; Lake Nyasa; Usipa; Lake Malawi sardine; Parasite invasion; Environmental change.
Meta-analyses often encounter studies with incompletely reported variance measures (e.g. standard deviation values) or sample sizes, both needed to conduct weighted meta-analyses. Here, we first present a systematic literature survey on the frequency and treatment of missing data in published ecological meta-analyses showing that the majority of meta-analyses encountered incompletely reported studies. We then simulated meta-analysis data sets to investigate the performance of 14 options to treat or impute missing SDs and/or SSs. Performance was thereby assessed using results from fully informed weighted analyses on (hypothetically) complete data sets. We show that the omission of incompletely reported studies is not a viable solution. Unweighted and sample size-based variance approximation can yield unbiased grand means if effect sizes are independent of their corresponding SDs and SSs. The performance of different imputation methods depends on the structure of the meta-analysis data set, especially in the case of correlated effect sizes and standard deviations or sample sizes. In a best-case scenario, which assumes that SDs and/or SSs are both missing at random and are unrelated to effect sizes, our simulations show that the imputation of up to 90% of missing data still yields grand means and confidence intervals that are similar to those obtained with fully informed weighted analyses. We conclude that multiple imputation of missing variance measures and sample sizes could help overcome the problem of incompletely reported primary studies, not only in the field of ecological meta-analyses. Still, caution must be exercised in consideration of potential correlations and pattern of missingness.
Na+ and Cl– are the most abundant dissolved ions in seawater, constituting ~85% of total ions. They significantly affect the osmolality of body fluids of marine invertebrates. Seawater also contains minor ions such as Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, and SO42–, but their effects on marine organisms are unclear. This study analyzed the effects of Mg2+, Ca2+, and K+ (ambient minor cations) on survival, hemolymph ionic composition, and gene expression in the gills of three euryhaline crabs: Helice tridens, Macrophthalmus japonicus, and Chiromantes dehaani. Ambient minor cations were required for survival of H. tridens and M. japonicus under isosmotic conditions with seawater. The ambient minor cations also affected the osmolality and ionic composition of hemolymph by regulating expressions of specific genes in the gills required for Na+ uptake, such as Na+/K+ ATPase, cytoplasmic carbonic anhydrase, and Na+/H+ exchanger. Administration of carbonic anhydrase and Na+/H+ exchanger inhibitors increased the survival rate even if ambient minor cations did not exist. In contrast, under hypo-osmotic conditions, ambient minor cations had different effects on crabs; a lethal effect on M. japonicus, and an increase of the hemolymph K+ concentration in H. tridens and M. japonicus. It is thus concluded that the effects of ambient minor cations are osmolality–dependent. In contrast, in C. dehaani, the hemolymph ionic composition and survival rate were hardly affected by ambient minor cations, probably reflecting the habitat of this species. These results strongly indicated that C. dehaani is less susceptive to ambient minor cations compared to H. tridens and M. japonicus.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia and Ambrosia trifida are two species of very harmful and invasive plants of the same genus. However, it remains unclear why A. artemisiifolia is more widely distributed than A. trifida worldwide. Distribution and abundance of these two species were surveyed and measured from 2010 to 2017 in the Yili Valley, Xinjiang, China. Soil temperature and humidity, main companion species, the biological characteristics in farmland ecotone, residential area, roadside and grassland, and water demand of the two species were determined and studied from 2017 to 2018. The area occupied by A. artemisiifolia in the Yili Valley was more extensive than that of A. trifida, while the abundance of A. artemisiifolia in grassland was less than that of A. trifida at eight years after invasion. The interspecific competitive ability of two species were stronger than those of companion species in farmland ecotone, residential, and roadside. In addition, A. trifida had greater interspecific competitive ability than other plant species in grassland. The seed size and seed weight of A. trifida were five times or eight times those of A.artemisiifolia. When comparing the changes under simulated annual precipitation of 840 mm versus 280 mm, the seed yield per m2 of A. trifida decreased from 50,185 to 19, while that of A. artemisiifolia decreased from 15,579 to 530. The differences in the distribution of the two species are mainly due to differences in interspecific competitive ability, seed size, and water dependence. The two species have stronger interspecific competitive ability than that of companion species, but A. artemisiifolia has a smaller seed size and stronger drought tolerance, which allows A. artemisiifolia to spread farther than A. trifida. The reason for wider distribution of A. trifida in grassland is that A. trifida has stronger interspecific competitive ability than A. artemisiifolia under sufficient water.
Polyandry, when females mate with more than one male, is theorised to play an important role in successful colonisation of new habitats. In addition to possible benefits from sexual selection, even mild polyandry could facilitate colonisation by protecting against inbreeding and reducing the costs of mating with incompatible or infertile males. Here, we measure the importance of mild polyandry for population viability and reproductive fitness following experimental founder events into a higher temperature regime. Using colonisation experiments with the model beetle Tribolium castaneum, in which females can produce offspring for up to 140 days following a single mating, we founded more than 100 replicate populations using single females that had been given the opportunity to mate with either one or two males, and then tracked their subsequent population dynamics. Following population viability and fitness across ten generations, we found that extinction rates were significantly lower in populations founded by females given polyandrous opportunities to mate with two males (9%) compared to populations founded by monogamous females (34%). In addition, populations founded by females that had been provided with opportunities to store sperm from two different males showed double the median productivity following colonisation compared to monogamous-founded populations. Notably, we identified short-term and longer-term benefits to post-colonisation populations from double-mating, with results suggesting that polyandry acts to both protect against mating with incompatible males through the founder event, and reduce inbreeding depression as the colonisation proceeds for ten generations. Our results therefore show that even mild polyandry provides both reproductive and genetic benefits for colonising populations.
Reduced representation genome sequencing has popularized the application of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to address evolutionary and conservation questions in non-model organisms. Patterns of genetic structure and diversity based on SNPs often diverge from those obtained with microsatellites to different degrees, but few studies have explicitly compared their performance under similar sampling regimes in a shared analytical framework. We compared range-wide patterns of genetic structure and diversity in two amphibians endemic to the Iberian Peninsula: Hyla molleri and Pelobates cultripes, based on microsatellite (18 and 14 loci) and SNP (15,412 and 33,140 loci) datasets of comparable sample size and spatial extent. Model-based clustering analyses with STRUCTURE revealed minor differences in genetic structure between marker types, but inconsistent values of the optimal number of populations (K) inferred. SNPs yielded more repeatable and less admixed ancestries with increasing K compared to microsatellites. Genetic diversity was weakly correlated between marker types, with SNPs providing a better representation of southern refugia and of gradients of genetic diversity congruent with the demographic history of both species. Our results suggest that the larger number of loci in a SNP dataset can provide more reliable inferences of patterns of genetic structure and diversity than a typical microsatellite dataset, at least at the spatial and temporal scales investigated.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is the most devastating citrus disease worldwide. The causal organism of the disease is spread by an insect vector, Diaphorina citri, commonly known as Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). Current management of HLB relies either on physical removal of the infected plants or on chemical control of ACP. Both methods are not overly effective and costly. In addition, public concerns regarding insecticide residues in fruit have greatly increased in recent years. It has been hypothesized that plant volatiles could act as repellents to ACP, thus reduce the incidence of HLB. To test this hypothesis, the repellency of fresh tissues of 41 aromatic plant species to ACP was investigated. The repellency of individual species was determined using a Y-tube olfactometer. Our results showed that volatiles of five plant species were highly effective in repelling ACP with repellency as much as 76%. Among these, the tree species, Camptotheca acuminate, and the two shrubs, Lantana camara and Mimosa bimucronata, could potentially be planted as a landscape barrier. The two herbs, Capsicum annuum and Gynura bicolor, could potentially be used as interrow plantings in orchards. This is the first time that the repellency of fresh tissues from a diverse range of plant species to ACP has been determined. Although further field evaluation of various interplanting regimes and landscape barriers are needed to assess their effectiveness, our results showed that these aromatic species, being highly repellent to ACT, offer great potential as more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternatives to the current methods of managing HLB.
Interspecific hybrid frequencies can vary considerably across contact zones of a single pair of progenitor species. The reasons for this are not well understood, but could help explain processes such as species diversification or the range expansion of invasive hybrids. The widespread cattails Typha latifolia and T. angustifolia seldom hybridize in some parts of their range, but in other areas produce the dominant hybrid T. × glauca. We used a combination of field and greenhouse experiments to investigate why T. × glauca has invaded wetlands in the Laurentian Great Lakes region of southern Ontario, Canada, but is much less common in the coastal wetlands of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada. One potentially important environmental difference between these two regions is salinity. We therefore tested three hypotheses: 1) T. latifolia and T. angustifolia in Nova Scotia are genetically incompatible; 2) the germination or growth of T. × glauca is reduced by salinity; and 3) T. latifolia, a main competitor of T. × glauca, is locally adapted to saline conditions in Nova Scotia. Our experiments showed that Nova Scotia T. latifolia and T. angustifolia are genetically compatible, and that saline conditions do not impede growth of hybrid plants. However, we also found that under conditions of high salinity, germination rates of hybrid seeds were substantially lower than those of Nova Scotia T. latifolia. In addition, germination rates of Nova Scotia T. latifolia were higher than those of Ontario T. latifolia, suggesting local adaptation to salinity in coastal wetlands. This study adds to the growing body of literature which identifies the important roles that local habitat and adaptation can play in the distributions and characteristics of hybrid zones.
This spring, instructors moved their courses online in an emergency fashion as campuses were closed due to the pandemic. As colleges prepare for the next academic year, there is a need to provide flexible instruction that is more intentional for quality online learning. We taught two undergraduate courses online for the first time this spring and surveyed our students’ reactions to the course experiences. From our experiences and student feedback we identified design elements and activities that were beneficial in promoting student engagement, sense of connectivity, and learning. We describe four qualities for a successful transition to online learning: 1) big questions and core concepts; 2) peer groups including reflective writing; 3) outreach to broader scientific community; and 4) instructor’s social presence in the class. Our experience gives us confidence that courses can be redesigned for online without compromising rigor or essential learning goals.
Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a pedagogical tool that has great potential to develop student engagement, accountability, and equity in the online classroom. TBL is rooted in evidence-based educational theories and practices that underlie many active learning approaches such as self-testing, team discussion, and application of knowledge. The use of these approaches is associated with better student performance, retention, and sense of belonging in the classroom, aspects that are often reported to be especially lacking in online courses. Here, we describe how we implemented TBL in a face-to-face and an online introductory level evolution and biodiversity course. Our experiences using TBL approaches in the online course have been rewarding, students are engaged and accountable for their learning, and performed well in the course. Our goal is to provide an example of how we designed a life science course using TBL approaches and transitioned the course to an online environment. With the current switch to remote instruction and online learning, we recommend the use of TBL as a course design approach that can improve the students online learning experience.
Education in ecology and evolution often utilizes field instruction to teach key learning outcomes. Remote teaching of learning outcomes that have been traditionally taught in the field, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, presents unique challenges for students, instructors, and institutions. A survey of 117 faculty conducted during spring 2020 revealed substantial reduction of learning outcomes typically taught in the field, and frequent substitutions of less active and more instructor-centered remote activities for field activities. The survey revealed generally negative instructor views on many remote teaching substitutions, yet also showed several approaches that instructors regarded as more effective, despite potential challenges with equitably teaching them. I suggest several models of remote substitutions for traditional field teaching of identification, field techniques, data collection, and study design in the context of the results of this survey.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced the global higher education community to rapidly adapt to partially- or fully-online course offerings. For field- or lab-based courses in ecological curricula, this presents unique challenges. Fortunately, a diverse set of active learning techniques exist, and these techniques translate well to online settings. However, limited guidance and resources exist for developing, implementing, and evaluating active learning assignments that fulfil specific objectives of ecology-focused courses. To address these informational gaps, we (1) identify broad learning objectives across a variety of ecology-focused courses, (2) provide examples, based on our collective online teaching experience, of active learning activities that are relevant to the identified ecological learning goals, and (3) provide guidelines for successful implementation of active learning assignments in online courses. Using The Wildlife Society’s list of online higher education ecology-focused courses as a guide, we obtained syllabi from 45 ecology-focused courses, comprising a total of 321 course-specific learning objectives. We classified all course-specific learning objectives into at least one of five categories: (1) Identification, (2) Application of Concepts/Hypotheses/Theories, (3) Management of Natural Resources, (4) Development of Professional Skills, or (5) Evaluation of Concepts/Practices. We then provided two examples of active learning activities for each of the five categories, along with guidance on their implementation in online settings. We suggest that, when based on sound pedagogy, active learning techniques can enhance the online student’s experience by activating ecological knowledge; moreover, active learning techniques should also be incorporated into in-person offerings once the current COVID-19 crisis has abated.
Barriers to fieldwork exist for many reasons such as physical ability, financial cost, and time availability. Unfortunately, these barriers disproportionately affect minority communities and create a disparity in access to fieldwork experience in the natural science community. Travel restrictions and the global lockdown has extended this barrier to fieldwork across the community and led to increased anxiety about gaps in productivity, especially for graduate students and early-career researchers. In this paper, we discuss Agent-Based Modeling as an open-source, accessible, and inclusive resource to substitute for lost fieldwork during COVID-19 and future scenarios of travel restrictions such as climate change. We detail the process of model development with a plethora of examples from the literature on how Agent-Based Models can be applied broadly across life-science research. We aim to amplify awareness and adoption of this technique to broaden the diversity and size of the Agent-Based Modeling community in ecology and evolutionary research. We also describe the benefits of Agent-Based models as a teaching and training resource for students across education levels. Finally, we discuss the current challenges facing Agent-Based Modeling and discuss how the field of quantitative ecology can work in tandem with traditional field ecology to improve both methods.
DNA barcoding based on mitochondrial (mt) nucleotide sequences is an enigma. Neutral models of mt evolution predict DNA barcoding cannot work for recently diverged taxa, and yet, mt DNA barcoding accurately delimits species for many bilaterian animals. Meanwhile, mt DNA barcoding often fails for plants and fungi. I propose that because mt gene products must cofunction with nuclear gene products, the evolution of mt genomes is best understood with full consideration of the two environments that impose selective pressure on mt genes: the external environment and the internal genomic environment. Moreover, it is critical to fully consider the potential for adaptive evolution of not just protein products of mt genes but also of mt transfer RNAs and mt ribosomal RNAs. The tight linkage of genes on mt genomes that do not engage in recombination could facilitate selective sweeps whenever there is positive selection on any element in the mt genome, leading to the purging of mt genetic diversity within a population and to the rapid fixation of novel mt DNA sequences. Accordingly, the most important factor determining whether or not mt DNA sequences diagnose species boundaries may be the extent to which the mt chromosomes engage in recombination.
Restoring vegetation can effectively reduce soil erosion and significantly improve soil properties and quality. To analyze the response of soil organic carbon components and related enzymes to different vegetation types in the northern Loess Plateau, we collected soil samples of four vegetation types: Xanthoceras sorbifolia (XS), Hippophae rhamnoides (HR), Caragana korshinskii (CK), and Grassland (GL). We used these samples to analyze the organic carbon components (i.e., soil organic carbon (SOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), easily oxidized carbon (EOC), particulate organic carbon (POC) )and enzyme activities (i.e., amylase, catalase, urease and sucrase). We found that the content of the soil organic carbon fractions and the enzyme activities was greater in the upper layer than in the lower layer for each vegetation type except for MBC and catalase activity, where we observed no significant difference between soil layers. The EOC and amylase of GL vegetation were significantly higher than in other vegetation types. POC, SOC, urease and sucrase were considerably higher in SX vegetation than in other vegetation types. The maximum soil MBC content was found in HR vegetation, and among the four vegetation types, MBC content varied significantly differences in the lower layer, but no significant difference was observed in the surface soil. Correlation analysis demonstrated that the MBC content significantly influenced urease and sucrase activities, and that SOC significantly influenced urease and sucrase activities. These results emphasize the importance of the organic components of soil and the activities of soil enzymes in different kinds of vegetation in the Loess Plateau, providing a basis for improving the sustainable restoration of vegetative ecosystems.
Nutritional geometry has advanced our understanding of how macronutrients (e.g., proteins and carbohydrates) influence the expression of life history traits and their corresponding trade-offs. For example, recent work has revealed that reproduction and immune function in male decorated crickets are optimized at very different protein:carbohydrate (P:C) dietary ratios. However, it is unclear how an individual’s macronutrient intake interacts with its perceived infection status to determine investment in reproduction or other key life history traits. Here, we employed a fully factorial design in which calling effort and immune function were quantified for male crickets fed either diets previously demonstrated to maximize calling effort (P:C = 1:8) or immune function (P:C = 5:1), and then administered a treatment from a spectrum of increasing infection cue intensity using heat-killed bacteria. Both diet and a simulated infection threat independently influenced the survival, immunity, and reproductive effort of males. If they called, males increased calling effort at the low infection cue dose, consistent with the terminal investment hypothesis, but interpretation of responses at the higher threat levels was hampered by the differential mortality of males across infection cue and diet treatments. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet severely reduced the health, survival, and overall fitness of male crickets. There was, however, no evidence of an interaction between diet and infection cue dose on calling effort, suggesting that the threshold for terminal investment was not contingent on diet as investigated here.
Phenotypic variation among individuals and species is a fundamental principle of natural selection. In this review, we focus on numerous experiments involving the model species Daphnia (Crustacea) and categorize the factors, especially secondary ones, affecting intraspecific variations in inducible defense. Primary factors, such as predator type and density, determine the degree to which inducible defense expresses and increases or decreases. Secondary factors, on the other hand, act together with primary factors to inducible defense, or without primary factors on inducible defense. The secondary factors increase intra-species variation in inducible defense, and thus the level of adaptation of organisms varies within species. Future research will explore the potential for new secondary factors, as well as the relative importance between factors needs to be clarified.
The use of biota to analyze the spatial range and distribution of biogeographic regions is essential to gain a better understanding of the ecological processes that cause biotic differentiation and biodiversity at multiple spatiotemporal scales. Recently, the collection of high-resolution biological distribution data (e.g., specimens) and advances in analytical theory have led to their quantitative analysis and more refined spatial delineation. This study was conducted to redefine floristic zones in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and to better understand the eco-evolutionary significance of the spatial distribution patterns. Based on the distribution data of 309,333 vascular plant species in the Korean Peninsula, we derived floristic zones using self-organizing maps. We compared the characteristics of the derived regions with those of historical floristic zones and ecologically important environmental factors (climate, geology, and geography). In a clustering analysis of the floristic assemblages, four distinct regions were identified, namely, the cold floristic zone (Zone I) in high-altitude regions at the center of the Korean Peninsula, cool floristic zone (Zone II) in high-altitude regions in the south of the Korean Peninsula, warm floristic zone (Zone III) in low-altitude regions in the central and southern parts of the Korean Peninsula, and maritime warm floristic zone (Zone IV) including the volcanic islands of Jejudo and Ulleungdo. A total of 1,099 taxa were common to the four floristic zones. Zone IV had the highest abundance of specific plants (those found in only one zone), with 404 taxa. This study improves floristic zone definitions using high-resolution regional biological distribution data. It will help better understand and re-establish regional species diversity. In addition, our study provides key data for hotspot analysis techniques required for the conservation of plant diversity.