Stable isotope analysis is a universally recognized and efficient method of indicating trophic relationships that is widely applied in research. However, variations in natural isotopic abundance may lead to inaccuracies due to the effects of complex environmental conditions. This research compared the carbon and nitrogen isotopic niches of fish communities between diverse biotopes around the Yellow River estuary and adjacent sea areas, with the aim of revealing distinctions in stable isotopic niche metrics, trophic positions, and feeding preferences. Stable isotopic niche results indicated that the communities of estuarine habitants were compatible in most study biotopes, and may provide a corridor for energy and material transportation between Laizhou Bay and the open water. Local biocoenosis was embodied in the wider isotopic niche corresponding to frequent environmental changes and abiotic gradients. This implied that they used various food sources to adapt to the fickle environment, including marine-terrestrial boundaries and the estuary. Our analysis of the food source contribution indicated that allochthonous sources were considered major energy sources in estuarine areas directly affected by Yellow River-diluted water, while autochthonous benthic and pelagic producers dominated carbon input into the food web in Laizhou Bay and the open water. A significant variation in the fish δ15N characteristic was found within estuarine adjacent regions, so, together with the results from previous studies, we deemed the local high concentration of dissolved inorganic nitrogen as the original trigger of the abnormal δ15N characteristic in fishes via a transport process along food chains. These results provide a new perspective on the natural distinction of carbon and nitrogen isotopic niches. The detailed data reported here enhance our understanding of variations in fish communities in estuarine ecosystems.
1. Understanding the animal-habitat relationship at local scale is crucial in ecology, particularly to develop strategies for wildlife management and conservation. As this relationship is governed by environmental features and intra and inter-specific interactions, habitat selection of a population may vary locally between its core and edges. 2. This is particularly true for central place foragers, such as grey and harbour seals, whose trends in numbers vary among different regions in the Northeast Atlantic. Here, we aimed at studying how foraging habitat selection may vary locally with the influence of population trends and physical habitat features 3. Using GPS/GSM tags deployed in grey and harbour seal colonies of contrasting sizes, we investigate spatial patterns and foraging habitat selection by comparing trip characteristics and home range similarities, and fitting GAMM to the seal distribution and environmental data respectively. 4. We show that grey seal foraging habitat selection and spatial patterns differed markedly between regions. Grey seals may select environmental characteristics for their foraging habitat accounting for local differences in prey consumed. Spatial patterns were different might depend on local seal density and regional productivity, located from inshore to offshore areas for the limit ranges and core population respectively. Our results on foraging habitat selection reflected the coastal and sedentary behaviour of harbour seals. We found no difference in spatial patterns between colonies, except for the Inner Hebrides where seals foraged further, potentially reflecting density dependence pressure, as the number in this colony is higher. 5. These results suggest that local conditions might have a strong influence on population spatial ecology, highlighting as well the relevance of studying foraging habitat selection based on foraging behaviour at fine geographical scale, particularly if species are managed within regional units.
1. The volatiles from damaged plants induce defense in neighboring plants. The phenomenon is called plant-plant communication, plant talk or plant eavesdropping. Plant-plant communication has been reported to be stronger between kin plants than genetically far plants in sagebrush. 2. Why do plants distinguish volatiles from kin or genetically far plants? We hypothesize that plants respond only to important conditions; the induced defense is not free of cost for the plant. To clarify the hypothesis, we conducted experiments and investigations using goldenrod of 4 different genotypes. 3. The arthropods community on tall goldenrods were different among 4 genotypes. The response to volatiles was stronger from genetically close plants to the emitter than from genetically distant plants from the emitter. The volatiles from each genotype of goldenrods were different; and they were categorized accordingly. Moreover, the arthropod community on each genotype of goldenrods were different. 4. Synthesis: Our results support the hypothesis: goldenrods respond to volatiles from genetically close plants because they would have similar arthropod species. These results are important clues elucidating adaptive significance of plant-plant communication.
1. The dissimilarity and hierarchy of trait values that characterize niche and fitness differences, respectively, have been increasingly applied to infer mechanisms driving community assembly and to explain species co-occurrence patterns. Here, we predict that limiting similarity should result in the spatial segregation of functionally similar species, while functionally similar species will be more likely to co-occur together either due to environmental filtering or competitive exclusion of inferior competitors (hereafter hierarchical competition). 2. We used a fully mapped 50-ha subtropical forest plot in southern China to explore how pairwise spatial associations were influenced by trait dissimilarity and hierarchy between species in order to gain insight into assembly mechanisms. We assessed pairwise spatial associations using two summary statistics of spatial point patterns at different spatial scales and compared the effects of trait dissimilarity and trait hierarchy of different functional traits on the interspecific spatial associations. These comparisons allow us to disentangle the effects of limiting similarity, environmental filtering and hierarchical competition on species co-occurrence. 3. We found that trait dissimilarity was generally negatively correlated with interspecific spatial associations, meaning that species with similar trait values were more likely to co-occur together and thus supporting environmental filtering or hierarchical competition. We further found that leaf area, wood density and maximum height had stronger trait hierarchy effects on the pairwise spatial associations relative to their corresponding trait dissimilarity effects, which suggests that hierarchical competition played a more (or at least equally) important role in structuring our forest community compared to environmental filtering. 4. This study employed a novel method to disentangle the relative importance of multiple assembly mechanisms in structuring co-occurrence patterns, especially the mechanisms of environmental filtering and hierarchical competition, which lead to indistinguishable co-occurrence patterns. This study also reinforced the importance of trait hierarchy rather than trait dissimilarity in driving neighborhood competition.
The Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus), smallest of the “grey” geese, is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and protected in all range states. There are three sub-populations, with the least studied being the East Asian sub-population, shared between Russia and China. The extreme remoteness of breeding enclaves makes them largely inaccessible to researchers. As a substitute for visitation, remotely tracking birds from wintering grounds allows exploration of their summer range. Over a period of three years, and using highly accurate GPS tracking devices, eleven individuals of A. erythropus were tracked from the key wintering site of Dongting Lake, China, to breeding, molting, and staging sites in north-eastern Russia. Data obtained from that tracking, bolstered by ground survey and literature records, were used to model the summer distribution of A. erythropus. Although earlier literature suggests the summer range is patchy, the model confirms a contiguous summer range. The most suitable habitats are located along the coasts of the Laptev Sea, primarily the Lena-Delta, in the Yana-Kolyma Lowland, and smaller lowlands of Chukotka with narrow riparian extensions upstream along major rivers such as the Lena, Indigirka and Kolyma. The probability of A. erythropus presence is related to sites with altitude less than 500 m with abundant wetlands, especially riparian habitat, and a climate with precipitation of warmest quarter around 55 mm and mean temperature of wettest quarter around 14oC. Human disturbance also affects site suitability, with a gradual decrease in species presence starting around 160 km from human settlements. Remote tracking of animal species can bridge the knowledge gap required for robust estimation of species distribution patterns in remote areas. Better knowledge of species’ distribution is important in understanding the large-scale ecological consequences of rapid global change and establishing conservation management strategies.
For procellariiform seabirds, wind and body morphology are crucial determinants of flight costs and flight speeds. During chick-rearing, parental seabirds commute frequently to provision their chicks, and their body mass changes between outbound and return legs. In Antarctica, the typical diurnal katabatic winds which blow stronger in the mornings, form al natural experiment to investigate flight behaviours in response to wind conditions. We GPS-tracked three closely related species of sympatrically breeding Antarctic fulmarine petrels which differ in wing loading and aspect ratio and investigated their flight behaviour in response to wind and changes in body mass. All three species reached higher flight speeds under stronger tailwinds, especially on return legs from foraging, when wing loading was increased since birds carried food for their chicks. Flight speeds decreased under stronger headwinds. Antarctic petrels (Thalassoica antarctica; intermediate body mass, highest wind loading and aspect ratio) responded stronger to changes in wind speed and direction than cape petrels (Daption capense; lowest body mass, wing loading and aspect ratio) or southern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialoides; highest body mass, intermediate wing loading and aspect ratio). Birds did not adjust their flight direction in relation to wind direction nor maximum distance to nest when they encountered strong headwinds on their outbound commutes. However, birds appeared to adjust the timing of commutes to those hours of the day when headwinds were weakest and they were more likely to encounter favourable tail- and crosswinds. Despite these adaptations to the predictable diurnal wind conditions, birds frequently encountered unfavourably strong headwinds, possibly as a result of weather systems disrupting the katabatics coupled with the need to feed. How the predicted decrease in Antarctic near-coastal wind speeds over the remainder of the century will affect flight costs and breeding success which ultimately drives population trajectories remains to be seen.
Competition between the sympatric harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) is thought to underlie some recent local declines of the former while the population of the latter remains stable or increases. A better understanding of the interactions between these two species is critical to elucidate current changes. This study aims at identifying and quantifying the niche overlap between harbour and grey seals at their Southern European limit range, in the baie de Somme (Eastern English Channel, France), in a context of exponential increase in the number of resident harbour seals and visiting grey seals. Isotopic niche overlap was quantified between both species using whisker δ13C and δ15N isotopic values, taking intra- and interindividual variability into account. Dietary overlap was quantified from scat contents using hierarchical clustering. A high degree of trophic niche overlap was identified between both species. The narrower isotopic niche of harbour seals was nested within that of grey seals (58.2% [CI95%: 22.7-100%] overlap). Six diet clusters were identified from scat content analysis. Two of them gathered most of harbour seals’ scats (85.5 % [80.3-90.2%]) and around half of grey seals’ ones (46.8% [35.1-58.4%]) that almost exclusively contained benthic flatfish. Consumption of this type of prey was identified here to be the root cause of trophic overlap. This highlighted the potential for competition between the two species at their Southern European limit range, linked to foraging on benthic flatfish, in coastal waters close to their haulout sites, especially during spring/summer. We suggest that (1) interspecific competition for prey could occur/increase in the future if the number of grey and harbour seals still increase and/or if flatfish supply decrease in this area, and (2) harbour seals would be disadvantaged in such a case if they do not adapt, as being specialised on flatfish at the colony scale.
Tree functional traits together with processes such as forest regeneration, growth, and mortality affect forest and tree structure. Forest management inherently impacts these processes. Moreover, forest structure, biodiversity, resilience, and carbon uptake can be sustained and enhanced with forest management activities. To assess structural complexity of individual trees, comprehensive and quantitative measures are needed, and they are often lacking for current forest management practices. Here, we utilized 3D information from individual Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) trees obtained with terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to first, assess effects of forest management on structural complexity of individual trees, and second, understand relationship between several tree attributes and structural complexity. We studied structural complexity of individual trees represented by a single scale independent metric called “box dimension”. This study aimed at identifying drivers affecting structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees in boreal forest conditions. The results showed that thinning increased structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees. Furthermore, we found a relationship between structural complexity and stem and crown size and shape as well as tree growth. Thus, it can be concluded that forest management affected structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees in managed boreal forests, and stem, crown, and growth attributes were identified as drivers of it.
1.Ectomycorrhizal (ECM) roots are evolutionary strategies of plants for effective nutrient uptake under varying abiotic conditions. Formation and morphological differentiations of ECM roots are important strategies in foraging environments. However, little is known on how such strategies mediate the nutrients of the below- and aboveground tissues and the balances among nutrient elements across environmental gradients. 2.We studied the function of ECM symbiosis in Abies faxoniana across its distributional range in Southwest China. The effects of differential ECM strategies, i.e. the contact exploration type, the short-distance exploration type, and the medium-distance exploration type, and root tips functional traits, etc., on root and foliar N and P and N:P ratio were examined across natural environmental gradients. 3.The ECM symbionts preferentially facilitated P uptake in A. faxoniana under both N and P limitations. The uptakes of N and P were primarily promoted by the effectiveness of ECM roots, e.g. ECM root tips per unit biomass, superficial area of ECM root tips, the ratio of living and dead root tips, but negatively related to the ECM proliferations and morphological differentiations. Generally, plant N and P nutrients were always promoted by the contact exploration type, while negatively affected by the short-distance exploration type in A. faxoniana. Root and foliar N and P nutrients were expected to be affected by the medium-distance exploration type in dynamics. Especially, root P limitation could be relieved when the frequency of medium-distance exploration type up to c.15%, whilst root N limitation was strengthen when the frequency of medium-distance exploration type over 20%. 4.We suggest that both below- and above-ground nutritional traits of host tree species could be strongly affected by ECM symbiosis in natural environments. The ECM strategies responding to environmental conditions significantly affect the plant nutrient uptakes and trade-offs. ECM soil exploration types are the great supplementary mechanisms for plant nutrient uptake.
1. Bat abundance, diversity and behaviour can be monitored by capturing bats for identification and measurement in the hand, but this has several disadvantages. These include disturbance to the bats, which limits the frequency with which captures can be made at an individual capture site, and potentially alters the behaviours being studied. 2. Passive recording and automated analysis and identification of bat calls offers an alternative, non-invasive approach to monitoring bats. In this study, we examine the effectiveness of acoustic monitoring in comparison with capture-based monitoring of seasonal swarming behaviour among several species of Myotis bats in southern Britain. 3. We show that both approaches have advantages and disadvantages for different tasks, but can be viewed as complementary methods for addressing different types of research questions. 4. We applied these complementary approaches, together with observations from infra-red video monitoring, to describe seasonal, overnight and species-specific variation in swarming behaviour in a multi-species community of Myotis bats. 5. In our study of swarming behaviour, capture and examination of bats in the hand was necessary for measuring sex ratios, reproductive status, and even for confirmation of species identification for some difficult to separate taxa. Capture is also an essential aspect of tagging bats for individual identification and tracking studies. 6. Passive acoustic monitoring is a valuable non-invasive method for continuous monitoring of within-night, seasonal and between-year variation in the abundance of bat calls. These can be used as an index of variation in relative abundance within -- but not between -- bat species.
Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) have a number of ways to avoid predation, including camouflage, sharp cranial horns, flattening of the body, and the ability to squirt blood from the eyes. These characteristics and their relatively low survival rates in the wild suggests these lizards are under high predation pressure. These lizards have been declining in much of their eastern range due to increased urbanization, agriculture, and loss of prey species. However, they can be still be found in some small south Texas towns where they can reach densities that are much higher (~50 lizards/ha) than in natural areas (~4-10 lizards/ha). We hypothesized that one reason for the high densities observed in these towns may be due to reduced predation pressure. We used model Texas horned lizards to test whether predation levels were lower in two south Texas towns than on a nearby ranch. We constructed models from urethane foam, a material that is ideal for preserving marks left behind by predators. Models (n = 126) and control pieces of foam (n = 21) were left in the field for 9 days in each location in early and late summer and subsequent predation marks were categorized by predator taxa. We observed significantly more predation attempts on the models than on controls and significantly fewer attempts in town (n = 1) compared to the ranch (n = 60). On the ranch, avian predation attempts appear to be common especially when the models did not match the color of the soil. Our results suggest that human modified environments that have suitable habitat and food resources may provide a refuge for some prey species like horned lizards from predators.
Connectivity of marine populations is shaped by complex interactions of biological and physical processes across the seascape. The influence of environmental features on the genetic structure of populations has key implications to the dynamics and persistence of populations, and an understanding of spatial scales and patterns of connectivity is crucial for management and conservation. This study employed a seascape genetics approach combining larval dispersal modeling and population genomic analysis based on RADseq to examine environmental factors influencing patterns of genetic structure and connectivity for a highly-dispersive mud crab, Scylla olivacea (Herbst, 1796) in the Sulu Sea. Dispersal simulations reveal widespread but asymmetric larval dispersal influenced by persistent southward and westward surface circulation features in the Sulu Sea. Despite potential for widespread dispersal, significant genetic differentiation was detected among eight Sulu Sea populations based on 1,655 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers (FST = 0.0057, p = 0.001) and a subset of 1,643 putatively neutral SNP markers (FST = 0.0042, p = 0.001). Oceanography influences genetic structure, as redundancy analysis (RDA) revealed significant contribution of asymmetric ocean currents to neutral genetic variation (R2adj = 0.133; p = 0.035). Genetic structure may also reflect demographic factors, with divergent populations characterized by low effective population sizes (Ne < 50). Pronounced latitudinal genetic structure was recovered for loci putatively under selection (FST = 0.2390, p = 0.001), significantly correlated with variability in mean sea surface temperatures during peak spawning months of S. olivacea (R2adj = 0.763; p = 0.041), suggesting putative signatures of selection and local adaptation of early life history stages to thermal clines. This study contributes to the growing body of literature documenting population genetic structure and local adaptation for highly-dispersive marine species, and provides information useful for spatial management of the fishery resource.
Aim: In theory, long-distance dispersal (LDD) outside a species’ range contributes to genetic divergence. However, previous studies have not discriminated this process from vicariant speciation in migratory bird species. We conducted an integrative phylogeographic approach to test the LDD hypothesis, which predicts that a Japanese migratory bird subspecies diverged from a population in the coastal region of the East China Sea (CRECS) via LDD over the East China Sea (ECS). Location: East Asia Taxon: Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) Methods: Both a haplotype network and a multi-locus gene network of its three subspecies were reconstructed to examine from which continental population the Japanese subspecies diverged. A species distribution model (SDM) for the Japanese subspecies was constructed using bioclimatic variables under the maximum entropy algorithm. It was projected to the climate of the last glacial maximum (LGM) to infer the candidate source area of colonisation. A migratory route of the Japanese subspecies, which possibly reflects a candidate past colonisation route, was tracked by light-level geolocators. Results: Molecular phylogenetic networks suggest that the Japanese subspecies diverged from a population in the CRECS. The SDM inferred that the emerged continental shelf of the ECS and the present CRECS were suitable breeding areas for the Japanese subspecies during the LGM. A major migratory route for the Japanese subspecies was inferred between the CRECS and the Japanese archipelago across the ECS. Main conclusions: Our integrative approach supported the LDD hypothesis for divergence of the Japanese subspecies of the Brown Shrike. Shrinkage and expansion of the ECS may have been responsible for successful colonisation and isolation of the new population. Vicariance was inferred for divergence of the subspecies in the northeast Asian continent from the Japanese population. Our framework provides a new phylogeographic scenario in this region, and discriminating LDD and vicariance models should improve our understanding of the phylogeographic histories of migratory species.
Comparisons of 3D shapes have recently been applied to diverse anatomical structures using landmarking techniques. However discerning evolutionary patterns can be challenging for structures lacking homologous landmarks. We used alpha shape analyses to quantify vaginal shape complexity in 40 marine mammal specimens including cetaceans, pinnipeds, and sirenians. We explored phylogenetic signal and the potential roles of natural and sexual selection on vaginal shape evolution. Complexity scores were consistent with qualitative observations. Cetaceans had a broad range of alpha complexities, while pinnipeds were comparatively simple and sirenians were complex. Intraspecific variation was found. Three-dimensional surface heat maps revealed that shape complexity was driven by invaginations and protrusions of the vaginal wall. Phylogenetic signal was weak and metrics of natural selection (relative neonate size) and sexual selection (relative testes size, sexual size dimorphism, and penis morphology) did not explain vaginal complexity patterns. Additional metrics, such as penile shape complexity, may yield interesting insights into marine mammal genital coevolution. We advocate for the use of alpha shapes to discern patterns of evolution that would otherwise not be possible in 3D anatomical structures lacking homologous landmarks.
1. Species distribution modelling, which allows users to predict the spatial distribution of species with the use of environmental covariates, has become increasingly popular, with many software platforms providing tools to fit species distribution models. However, the species observations used in species distribution models can have varying levels of quality and can have incomplete information, such as uncertain species identity. 2. In this paper, we develop two algorithms to reclassify observations with unknown species identities which simultaneously predict different species distributions using spatial point processes. We compare the performance of the different algorithms using different initializations and parameters with models fitted using only the observations with known species identity through simulations. 3. We show that performance varies with differences in correlation among species distributions, species abundance, and the proportion of observations with unknown species identities. Additionally, some of the methods developed here outperformed the models that didn't use the misspecified data. 4. These models represent an helpful and promising tool for opportunistic surveys where misidentification happens or for the distribution of species newly separated in their taxonomy.
1. Patterns in, and the underlying dynamics of, species cooccurrence is of interest in many ecological applications. Unaccounted for, imperfect detection of the species can lead to misleading inferences about the nature and magnitude of any interaction. A range of different parameterisations have been published that could be used with the same fundamental modelling framework that accounts for imperfect detection, although each parameterisation has different advantages and disadvantages. 2. We propose a parameterisation based on log-linear modelling that does not require a species hierarchy to be defined (in terms of dominance), and enables a numerically robust approach for estimating covariate effects. 3. Conceptually the parameterisation is equivalent to using the presence of species in the current, or a previous, time period as predictor variables for the current occurrence of other species. This leads to natural, ’symmetric’, interpretations of parameter estimates. 4. The parameterisation can be applied to many species, in either a maximum-likelihood or Bayesian estimation framework. We illustrate the method using camera trapping data collected on three mesocarnivore species in South Texas.
1. A time-consuming challenge faced by ecologists is the extraction of meaningful data from camera trap images to inform ecological management. Automated object detection solutions are increasingly, however, most are not sufficiently robust to be deployed on a large scale due to lack of location invariance across sites. This prevents optimal use of ecological data and results in significant resource expenditure to annotate and retrain object detectors. 2. In this study, we aimed to (a) assess the value of publicly available image datasets including FlickR and iNaturalist (FiN) when training deep learning models for camera trap object detection (b) develop a for training location invariant object detection models and (c) explore the use of small subsets of camera trap images for optimization training. 3. We collected and annotated 3 datasets of images of striped hyena, rhinoceros and pig, from FiN, and used transfer learning to train 3 object detection models in the task of animal detection. We compared the performance of these models to that of 3 models trained on the Wildlife Conservation Society and Camera CATalogue datasets, when tested on out of sample Snapshot Serengeti datasets. Furthermore, optimized the FiN models via infusion of small subsets of camera trap images to increase robustness for challenging detection cases. 4. In all experiments, the mean Average Precision (mAP) of the FiN models was significantly higher (82.33-88.59%) than that achieved by the models trained only on camera trap datasets (38.5-66.74%). The infusion of camera trap images into FiN training further improved mAP, with increases ranging from 1.78-32.08%. 5. Ecology researchers can use FiN images for training robust, location invariant, out-of-the-box, deep learning object detection solutions for camera trap image processing. This would allow AI technologies to be deployed on a large scale in ecological applications. Datasets and code related to this study are open source and available at: https://github.com/ashep29/infusion
For nearly all organisms, dispersal is a fundamental life history trait that can shape their ecology and evolution. Variation in dispersal capabilities within a species exists and can influence population genetic structure and ecological interactions. In fungus-gardening (attine) ants, co-dispersal of ants and mutualistic fungi is crucial to the success of this obligate symbiosis. Female-biased dispersal (and gene flow) may be favored in attines because virgin queens carry the responsibility of dispersing the fungi, but a paucity of research has made this conclusion difficult. Here, we investigate dispersal of the fungus-gardening ant Trachymyrmex septentrionalis using a combination of maternally- (mitochondrial DNA) and biparentally-inherited (microsatellites) markers. We found three distinct, spatially isolated mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Two were found in the Florida panhandle and the other was found in the Florida peninsula. In contrast, biparental markers illustrated significant gene flow across this region and minimal spatial structure. The differential patterns uncovered from mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite markers suggest that most long-distance ant dispersal is male-biased and that females (and concomitantly the fungus) have more limited dispersal capabilities. Consequently, the limited female dispersal is likely an important bottleneck for the fungal symbiont. This bottleneck could slow fungal genetic diversification, which has significant implications for both ant hosts and fungal symbionts regarding population genetics, species distributions, adaptive responses to environmental change, and coevolutionary patterns.