The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is an iconic species in Canada, valued for both its fur and its integral role in wetland ecosystems, and widely regarded for its perseverance. However, the resilience of this semi-aquatic mammal seems to be in question now as increasing evidence points to widespread population declines. Recent analyses of harvest data across North America suggest a reduction in their numbers, but this has not been widely corroborated by population surveys. In this study we replicated historic muskrat house count surveys at two large Great Lakes coastal wetlands and present confirmation that declines in muskrat harvest correspond to actual declines in muskrat abundance. At the Point Pelee National Park marsh and the Matchedash Bay-Gray Marsh wetland we found that mean muskrat house counts declined by 93% and 91% respectively between historic surveys 40-50 years ago and contemporary surveys over the past five years. The factors responsible for these dramatic declines remain unclear but there may be a relationship with changes in the habitat quality of these wetlands that have occurred over the same time frame. Not only is the loss of muskrats an issue for the resulting loss of the wetland ecosystem services they provide, but it may be an indication of broader marsh ecosystem degradation. As such, a scarcity of muskrats should be considered a red flag for the state of biodiversity in our wetlands. Continued surveys and ongoing research are needed to shed more light on the current status of muskrat populations and their marsh habitats across their native range. Keywords: Fur harvest; Muskrat; Ondatra; Population decline; Typha; Wetlands
Abstract: 1. In our paper four events of blood sucking on human by Placobdella costata were described. 2. Human blood was sucked by both adults and juvenile specimens of P. costata. 3. The feeding strategies of juveniles under parental care are presented. 4. New data of juvenile specimens body form are presented. 5. Information on the potential role of mammals in species dispersion and habitat preferences of leeches are under consideration.
Populations adapt to novel environmental conditions by genetic changes or phenotypic plasticity. Plastic responses are generally faster and can buffer fitness losses under variable conditions. Plasticity is typically modelled as random noise and linear reaction norms that assume simple one-to-one genotype-phenotype maps and no limits to the phenotypic response. Most studies on plasticity have focused on its effect on population viability. However, it is not clear, whether the advantage of plasticity depends solely on environmental fluctuations or also on the genetic and demographic properties (life histories) of populations. Here we present an individual-based model and study the relative importance of adaptive and non-adaptive plasticity for populations of sexual species with different life histories experiencing directional stochastic climate change. Environmental fluctuations were simulated using differentially autocorrelated climatic stochasticity or noise color, and scenarios of directional climate change. Non-adaptive plasticity was simulated as a random environmental effect on trait development, while adaptive plasticity as a linear, logistic, or sinusoidal reaction norm. The last two imposed limits to the plastic response and emphasized flexible interactions of the genotype with the environment. Interestingly, this assumption led to (i) smaller phenotypic than genotypic variance in the population and the coexistence of polymorphisms, (ii) many-to-one genotype-phenotype map, and (iii) the maintenance of higher genetic variation – compared to linear reaction norms and genetic determinism – even when the population was exposed to a constant environment for several generations. Limits to plasticity led to genetic accommodation, when costs were negligible, and to the appearance of cryptic variation when limits were exceeded. We found that adaptive plasticity promoted population persistence under red noise stochasticity and was particularly important for life histories with low fecundity. Populations producing more offspring could cope with environmental fluctuations solely by genetic changes or random plasticity, unless environmental change was too fast.
Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) have provided valuable insights into how sexual selection and life history tradeoffs can lead to variation within a sex. However, the possibility that tactics may constrain evolution through intralocus tactical conflict (IATC) is rarely considered. In addition, when IATC has been considered, the focus has often been on the genetic correlations between the ARTs, while evidence that the ARTs have different optima for associated traits and that at least one of the tactics is not at its optima is often missing. Here we investigate selection on three traits associated with the ARTs in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus; body size, body shape and the sexually selected trait for which these fishes were named, sword length (elongation of the caudal fin). All three traits are tactically dimorphic, with courter males being larger, deeper bodied and having longer swords, and the sneaker males being smaller, more fusiform and having shorter swords. Using measures of reproductive success in a wild population we calculated selection differentials, linear and quadratic gradients, demonstrate that the tactics have different optima and at least one of the tactics is not at its optima for body size and sword length. Our results provide the first evidence of selection in the wild on the sword, an iconic trait for sexual selection. In addition, given the high probability that these traits are genetically correlated to some extent between the two tactics, our study suggests that IATC is constraining both body size and the sword from reaching their phenotypic optima. We discuss the importance of considering the role of IATC in the evolution of tactical dimorphism, how this conflict can be present despite tactical dimorphism, and how it is important to consider this conflict when explaining not only variation within a species but differences across species as well.
Many insects possess the plastic ability to either develop directly to adulthood, or enter diapause and postpone reproduction until the next year, depending on environmental cues (primarily photoperiod) that signal the amount of time remaining until the end of the growth season. These two developmental pathways often differ in co-adapted life history traits, e.g. with slower development and larger size in individuals headed for diapause. The developmental timing of these differences may be of adaptive importance: if pathways diverge late, the scope for phenotypic differences is smaller, whereas if pathways diverge early, the risk is higher of expressing a maladaptive phenotype if the selective environment changes. Here we explore the effects of changes in photoperiodic information during life on pupal diapause and associated life history traits in the butterfly Pararge aegeria. We find that both pupal diapause and larval development rate are asymmetrically regulated: while exposure to long days late in life (regardless of earlier experiences) was sufficient to produce nondiapause development and accelerate larval development accordingly, more prolonged exposure to short days was required to induce diapause and slow down pre-diapause larval development. While the two developmental pathways diverged early in development, development rates could be partially reversed by altered environmental cues. Meanwhile, pathway differences in body size were more inflexible, despite emerging late in development. Hence, in P. aegeria several traits are regulated by photoperiod, along subtly different ontogenies, into an integrated phenotype that strikes a balance between flexibility and phenotype-environment matching.
Hybridization is a common and important stage in species formation in plants and animals. The evolutionary consequences of hybridization depend not only on reproductive compatibility between sympatric species, but also on factors like vulnerability to each other’s predators and parasites. We examine infection patterns of the blood parasite Haemoproteus lophortyx, a causative agent of avian malaria, at a site in the contact zone between California quail (Callipepla californica) and Gambel’s quail (C. gambelii). We tested whether species identity, sex, and year predicted infection status and intensity. While we found no effect of sex on the status or intensity of infection, we found differences in infection status and intensity across species and between years. The prevalence of infection in California and hybrid quail was lower than in Gambel’s quail. Once infected, however, California and hybrid quail had higher infection intensities than Gambel’s quail. California and hybrid quail exhibited no significant differences in prevalence or intensity of infection. These findings suggest that infection by H. lophortyx has the potential to influence species barrier dynamics in this system, however, more work is necessary to determine the exact evolutionary consequences of this blood parasite.
Kauri dieback, caused by Phytophthora agathidicida, is an ecosystem disturbance that poses a recent threat to the survival of kauri (Agathis australis) forests in New Zealand. Throughfall and stemflow play an important role in meeting the nutrient requirements of kauri forests. However, the effects of kauri dieback on canopy nutrient deposition remain unknown. Here we measured throughfall, stemflow and forest floor water yield and nutrient concentrations and fluxes (potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, sulphur, sodium, iron) of ten kauri trees differing in soil P. agathidicida DNA concentration and health status. We did not observe an effect of soil P. agathidicida DNA concentration on throughfall and stemflow water yield. Throughfall and forest floor nutrient concentrations and fluxes tended to decrease (up to 50%) with increasing soil P. agathidicida DNA concentration. Significant effects were found for potassium and manganese fluxes in throughfall, and calcium and silicon fluxes in forest floor leachate. The decline in nutrient input will have implications on plant nutrition, tree health and susceptibility to future pathogen infection in these ecologically unique kauri forests. Given our findings and the increasing spread of Phytophthora species worldwide, research on the underlying physiological mechanisms linking dieback and plant-soil nutrient fluxes is critical.
Understanding what variables affect ungulate neonate survival is imperative to successful conservation and management of the species. Predation is commonly cited as a cause-specific source of mortality and ecological covariates often influence neonate survival. However, variation in survival estimates related to capture methodology has been documented with opportunistically captured neonates generally displaying greater survival than those captured via aid of vaginal implant transmitters (VITs), likely because of increased left truncation observed in the opportunistically captured datasets. Our goal was to assess if 3- and 6-month survival estimates varied by capture method while simultaneously assessing if capture method affected model selection and interpretation of ecological covariates for white-tailed deer neonates captured from three study sites in North Dakota and South Dakota, USA. We found survival varied by capture method for 3-month neonate survival with opportunistically captured neonates displaying up to 26% greater survival than their counterparts captured via VITs; however, this relationship was not present for 6-month survival. We also found model selection and subsequent interpretation of ecological covariates varied when analyzing datasets comprised of neonates captured via VITs, neonates captured opportunistically, and all neonates combined regardless of capture method. When interpreting results from our VIT only analysis for 3-month survival, we found survival varied by three time intervals and was lowest in the first two weeks of life. Capture method did not affect 6-month survival which was most influenced by total precipitation occurring during 3 – 8 weeks of a neonate’s life and percent canopy cover found at a neonate’s capture site. Our results support previous research that capture method must be accounted for when deriving survival estimates for ungulate neonates as it can impact derived estimates and subsequent interpretation of results.
Mating systems and patterns in reproductive success of fishes play an important role in ecology and evolution. While information on the reproductive ecology of many anadromous salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) is well-detailed, there is less information for non-anadromous species including the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (O. clarkii bouvieri), a species of recreational angling importance and conservation concern. Here, we used data from a parentage-based tagging study to describe the mating system of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout from a spawning tributary of the South Fork Snake River, Idaho, and identify predictors of relative reproductive success. We detected evidence of monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry and showed that reproductive success was best explained by arrival time at the spawning ground and total length. Specifically, the largest adults arrived earliest in the season and produced a disproportionate number of offspring. Lastly, we estimated the effective number of breeders (Nb) and effective population size (Ne) and showed that while Nb was lower than Ne, both are sufficiently high to suggest Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in Burns Creek represent a genetically stable and diverse population.
Seed recruitment is a major driver of mangrove restoration globally. It is hypothesized that soil condition and channel hydrology can accelerate seedling recruitment and regeneration after a major disturbance. Species abundance, diversity indices, microbial and chemical concentrations in sand-filled mangrove forest was studied. Eight plots (area = 3902.16 m2) were established with ten transects in each plot in a random block design to investigate the effect of soil conditions on seedling growth. A total of 1, 886 seedlings were physically counted. Seedling abundance was significantly different between red (Rizophora racemosa), white (Laguncularia racemosa) and black (Avicennia germinans) mangroves and nypa palm (nypa fruticans). The most dominant species was black mangroves and the least dominant species was nypa palm. Muddy soils had the most abundant species while sandy soils had the least abundant species. Furthermore, semi-muddy soils had the highest species diversity (H = 0.948) whereas muddy soils had the least species diversity (H = 0.022). The soil metal concentration has no correlation with seed abundance and occur in the order Iron>Nitrate>Copper>Cadmium. Soil with high species diversity had high soil microbial population; however, seedling abundance was correlated with soil nutrients and not heavy metals. Small seeds are easily recruited while good soil condition plus existing hydrological connection facilitated natural seedling regeneration in the disturbed mangrove forest.
Cooperative breeding, which is commonly characterized by non-breeding individuals that assist others with reproduction, is common in avian species. However, few accounts have been reported in Charadriiformes, particularly island-nesting species. We present observations of cooperative breeding behaviors in Hawaiian Stilts during the 2012-2020 nesting seasons on the Hawaiian islands of O‘ahu and Moloka‘i. We describe three different behaviors that indicate cooperative breeding: (1) nest sharing; (2) helper at the nest; (3) cooperative chick rearing. Our observations suggest an ideal opportunity to examine the evolution of cooperative breeding behaviors in the order Charadriiformes.
The relative contributions of adaptation and drift to morphological diversification of the crania of echolocating mammals was investigated using two horseshoe bat species, Rhinolophus simulator and R. cf. simulator as test cases. We used 3D geometric morphometrics to compare the shapes of skulls of the two lineages collected at various localities in southern Africa. Shape variation was predominantly attributed to selective forces; the between population variance (B) was not proportional to the within population variance (W). Modularity was evident in the crania of R. simulator but absent in the crania of R. cf. simulator and the mandibles of both species. The skulls of the two lineages thus appeared to be under different selection pressures, despite the overlap in their distributions. Selection acted mainly on the nasal dome region of R. cf. simulator whereas selection acted more on the cranium and mandibles than on the nasal domes of R. simulator. Probably the relatively higher echolocation frequencies used by R. cf. simulator, the shape of the nasal dome, which acts as a frequency dependent acoustic horn, is more crucial than in R. simulator, allowing maximization of the intensity of the emitted calls and resulting in comparable detection distances. In contrast, selection pressure is probably more pronounced on the mandibles and cranium of R. simulator to compensate for the loss in bite force because of its elongated rostrum. The predominance of selection probably reflects the stringent association between environment and the optimal functioning of phenotypic characters associated with echolocation and feeding in bats.
Capture-mark-recapture (CMR) studies have been used extensively in ecology and evolution. While it is feasible to apply CMR in some animals, it is considerably more challenging in small fast-moving species such as insects. In these groups, low recapture rates can bias estimates of demographic parameters, thereby, handicapping effective management of wild populations. Here we use high-speed videos (HSV) of the adults of two large dragonfly species that rarely land and, thus, are particularly challenging for CMR studies. We specifically test whether HSV, compared to conventional eye observations, increases the “resighting” rates and improves the certainty of the estimates of survival rate, and the effects of demographic covariates on survival rates. We show that the use of HSV increases the number of resights substantially. HSV improved our estimates of resighting and survival probability which were either under- or overestimated with the conventional observations. HSV increased the accuracy of the estimates of effect sizes of important covariates (age and body size). Integrating HSV in CMR of highly mobile animals is valuable because it is easy, non-invasive, and has the potential to improve demographic estimates. Hence, it opens the door for a wide range of research possibilities on species that are traditionally difficult to monitor, including within insects, birds, and mammals.
All organisms are susceptible to the environment and changing environmental conditions can infer structural modifications in predator-prey communities. A change in the environment can influence, for example, the mortality rate of both the prey and the predator, or determine how long the interaction between both partners is. This may have a substantial impact on ecological, but also evolutionary dynamics. Experimental studies, in which microbial populations are maintained by a repeated dilution into fresh conditions after a certain period of time, are able to dissipate underlying mechanisms in a controlled way. By design, dilution rate (modifying mortality) and transfer interval (determining the time of interaction) are crucial factors, but they often receive little attention in experimental design. We study data from a live predator-prey (bacteria and ciliates) system used to gain insight into eco-evolutionary principles and apply a mathematical model to predict how various dilution rates and transfer intervals would affect such an experiment. We find the ecological dynamics to be surprisingly robust for both factors. However, the evolutionary rates are expected to be affected. Our work predicts that the evolution of the anti-predator defence in the bacteria, and the evolution of the predation efficiency in the ciliates, both decrease with higher dilution rate, but increase with longer transfer intervals. Our results provide testable hypotheses for future studies of predator-prey systems and we hope this work will help improving our understanding how ecological and evolutionary processes together shape composition of microbial communities.
The main strategy for animal diversity conservation is to increase the territory size but little consideration is given to habitat characteristics requirement, which lead to a decrease in effectiveness for protected areas. Marginal of protected areas are considered to have higher species richness due to the edge effect. Strategy in these sites are still adopts to increase territory size or pay no attention to needs of specific habitat characteristics that is an important topic for the planner and manager. In this study, camera traps was used to estimate composition, diversity and habitat characteristics of mammals in a non-protected area near Huangshan Mountains in Anhui Province, China. We ran 49 liner models with the relative abundance index and 13 habitat characteristic factors of 11 mammals. To answer the question of habitat characteristics or territory size: which is more important to composition and diversity of mammals in non-protect area? We hypothesized that: (1) Non-protected areas have more mammal species than protected areas with the edge effect. (2) Non-protected areas have more species associated with habitat characteristics. We predicted that the habitat characteristics should be firstly considered, territory size secondly in non-protected areas, would provide a last refuge for mammals. Cameras were operated from June 2017 to October 2019, for a total of 29 months, 2,212 independent photos, 9,485 trap-days, recorded 18 species of mammals more than any other protected areas confirmed first hypothesis 1. The model analysis results showed that, habitat characteristics of mammals were different and showed a significant correlation, supported hypothesis 2. In addition, most species are related to vegetation characteristics except to primates (Macaca. thibetana) and rodent (Leopoldamys edwardsi) confirmed our prediction. We suggested conservation policies in non-protected areas: Habitat characteristics should be concerned at first and then increasing protected areas to provide the last refuge for species conservation.
1. Behavior and organization of social groups is thought to be vital to the functioning of societies, yet the contributions of various roles within social groups towards population growth and dynamics have been difficult to quantify. A common approach to quantifying these role-based contributions is evaluating the number of individuals conducting certain roles, which ignores how behavior might scale up to effects at the population-level. Manipulative experiments are another common approach to determine population-level effects, but they often ignore potential feedbacks associated with these various roles. 2. Here, we evaluate the effects of worker size distribution in bumblebee colonies on worker production in 24 observational colonies across three environments, using functional linear models. Functional linear models are an underused correlative technique that has been used to assess lag effects of environmental drivers on plant performance. We demonstrate potential applications of this technique for exploring high-dimensional ecological systems, such as the contributions of individuals with different traits to colony dynamics. 3. We found that more larger workers had mostly positive effects and more smaller workers had negative effects on worker production. Most of these effects were only detected under low or fluctuating resource environments suggesting that the advantage of colonies with larger-bodied workers becomes more apparent under stressful conditions. 4. We also demonstrate the wider ecological application of functional linear models. We highlight the advantages and limitations when considering these models, and how they are a valuable complement to many of these performance-based and manipulative experiments.
Increasingly animal behaviour studies are enhanced through the use of accelerometry. To allow translation of raw accelerometer data to animal behaviours requires the development of classifiers. Here, we present the “rabc” package to assist researchers with the interactive development of such animal-behaviour classifiers based on datasets consisting out of accelerometer data with their corresponding animal behaviours. Using an accelerometer and a corresponding behavioural dataset collected on white stork (Ciconia ciconia), we illustrate the workflow of this package, including raw data visualization, feature calculation, feature selection, feature visualization, extreme gradient boost model training, validation, and, finally, a demonstration of the behaviour classification results.
Elevation is involved in determining plant diversity in montane ecosystems. This study examined whether the species distribution of plants in the Yatsugatake Mountains, central Japan, substantiated hypotheses associated with an elevational diversity gradient. Species richness of trees, shrubs, herbs, ferns, and bryophytes was investigated in study plots established at 200-m elevational intervals from 1800 to 2800 m. The changes in plant diversity (alpha and beta diversities, plant functional types, and elevational ranges) with elevation were analyzed in relation to climatic factors and elevational diversity gradient hypotheses, that is, mass effect, mid-domain effect, and Rapoport’s elevational rule. A comparison of alpha and beta diversities revealed that different plant groups respond variably to elevation; the alpha diversity of trees and ferns decreased, that of herbs increased, whereas the alpha diversity of shrubs and bryophytes showed a U-shaped relationship and a hump-shaped pattern. The beta diversity of shrubs, herbs, and bryophytes increased above the subalpine–alpine transition ecotone. In accordance with these changes, the dominance of evergreen shrubs and graminoids increased above this ecotone, whereas that of evergreen trees and liverworts decreased. None of the plant groups showed a wide elevational range at higher elevations. These elevational patterns of plant groups were explained by climatic factors, and not by elevational diversity gradient hypotheses. These patterns were further influenced by plant–plant interactions via competition for light availability and physical habitat alternation.