Population size is a central parameter for conservation, however monitoring abundance is often problematic for threatened marine species. Despite substantial investment in research, many marine species remain data-poor resulting in uncertain population forecasts and restricting the evaluation of past and present conservation actions. Such is the case for the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), a highly mobile apex predator for whom population monitoring is a conservation priority following substantial declines recorded through the 20th century. Here, we estimate the effective number of breeders that successfully contribute offspring in one reproductive cycle (Nb) providing a snapshot of recent reproductive effort in an east-Australian New Zealand population of white shark. Nb was estimated over four consecutive age cohorts (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) using two genetic estimators (linkage-disequilibrium; LD and sibship assignment; SA) based on genetic data derived from two types of genetic markers (single-nucleotide-polymorphisms; SNPs and microsatellite loci). While estimates of Nb using different marker types produced comparable estimates, microsatellite loci were the least precise. The LD and SA estimates of Nb within cohorts using SNPs were comparable, for example the 2013 age-cohort Nb(SA) was 289 (95%CI 200-461) and Nb(LD) was 208.5 (95%CI 116.4-712.7). We show that over the time period studied Nb was stable and ranged between 206.1(±45.9) and 252.0(±46.7) per year using a combined estimate of Nb(SA+LD) from SNP loci, and a simulation approach showed that in this population effective population size (Ne) per generation can be expected to be larger than Nb per reproductive cycle. This study demonstrates how breeding population size can be monitored over time to provide insight into the effectiveness of recovery and conservation measures for the white shark, where the methods described here may be applicable to other data-poor species of conservation concern.
Understanding the processes that enable species coexistence has important implications for assessing how ecological systems will respond to global change. Morphology and functional similarity increase the potential for competition, and therefore, co-occurring morphologically similar but genetically unique species are a good model system for testing coexistence mechanisms. We used DNA metabarcoding and High Throughput Sequencing to characterise for first time the trophic ecology of two recently-described cryptic bat species with parapatric ranges, Myotis escalerai and Myotis crypticus. We collected faecal samples from allopatric and sympatric regions and locations to describe the diet both taxonomically and functionally and compare prey consumption with prey availability. The two bat species had similar diets characterised by high arthropod diversity, particularly Lepidoptera, Diptera and Araneae, and a high proportion of prey that is not volant at night, which points to extensive use of gleaning. Diet overlap at the prey-item level was lower in locally sympatric than allopatric locations, supporting trophic shift under fine-scale sympatry. Furthermore, locally sympatric samples of M. escalerai had a marginally lower proportion of not nocturnally volant prey, suggesting that the shift in diet may be driven by a change in foraging mode. Our findings suggest that fine-scale coexistence mechanisms can have implications for maintaining broad-scale diversity patterns. This study highlights the importance of including both allopatric and sympatric populations and choosing meaningful spatial scales for detecting ecological patterns. We conclude that a combination of high taxonomic resolution with a functional approach helps identify patterns of niche shift.
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.
1. The metric of functional evenness FEve is an example of how approaches to conceptualizing and measuring functional variability may go astray. 2. The index of functional evenness FEve has critical conceptual and practical drawbacks: a) Different values of the FEve index for the same community can be obtained if the species have unequal species abundances; this result is highly likely if most of the traits are categorical. b) Very minor differences in even one pairwise distance can result in very different values of FEve. c) FEve uses only a fraction of the information contained in the matrix of species distances. Counterintuitively, this can cause very similar FEve scores for communities with substantially different patterns of species dispersal in trait space. d) FEve is a valid metric only if all species have exactly the same abundances. However, the meaning of FEve in such an instance is unclear as the purpose of the metric is to measure the variability of abundances in trait space. 3. We recommend not using FEve metric in studies of functional variability. Given the wide usage of FEve index over the last decade, the validity of the conclusions based on those estimates are in question. 4. Instead, we suggest three alternative metrics that combines variability in species distances in trait space with abundance in various ways, and more broadly recommend that researchers think about which community properties (e.g., trait-distances of a focus species to the nearest neighbor or all other species, variability of pairwise interactions between species) they want to measure and pick from among the appropriate metrics.
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.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic introduced an abrupt change in human behavior globally. Here, we discuss unique insights into the eco-evolutionary role of pathogens in ecosystems and present data that indicates the pandemic can fundamentally change our learning choices. This pathogen has indirectly affected many organisms and processes by globally changing the behavior of humans to avoid being infected. The pandemic also changed our learning behavior by affecting the relative importance of information and forcing teaching and learning into a framework that accommodates human behavioral measures to avoid disease transmission. Not only are these indirect effects on the environment occurring through a unique mechanistic pathway in ecology, the pandemic along with its effects on us provides a profound example of the role risk can play in the transmission of information between the at-risk. Ultimately, these changes in our learning behavior led to this special issue “Taking learning online in Ecology and Evolution.” The special issue was a call to the community to take learning in new directions, including online and distributed experiences. The topics examined include a significant component of DIY ecology and evolution that is experiential and but done individually, opportunities to use online tools and apps to be more inclusive, student-focused strategies for teaching online, how to reinvent conferences, strategies to retain experiential learning safely, emerging forms of teaching such as citizen science, apps and podcasting, and ideas on how to accommodate ever changing constraints in the college classroom, to name a few. The collective consensus in our fields is that these times are challenging but we can continue to improve and innovate on existing developments, and more broadly and importantly, this situation may provide an opportunity to reset some of the existing practices that fail to promote an effective and inclusive learning environment.
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.
Resource quality has direct or indirect effects on female oviposition choice, offspring performance, and ultimately on body size and sex ratios. We examined these patterns in Sirex noctilio Fabricus, the globally invasive European pine woodwasp, in South African Pinus patula plantations. We studied how natural variation in biotic and abiotic factors influenced sex-specific density, larval growth rates, and survival. Twenty trees infested trees divided into top, middle, and bottom sections were sampled at three time points during larval developmental. We measured moisture content, bluestain colonization, and co-occurring insect density and counted, measured, and sexed all immature wasps. A subset of larval tunnels was measured to assess compensatory feeding and growth efficiency. Wasp density increased from the bottoms to the tops of trees for both males and females. However, the largest individuals and the longest tunnels were found in bottom sections. Male bias was strong (~10:1) and likewise differed among sections, with the highest proportion in the middle and top sections. Sex ratios became more strongly male biased due to high female mortality, especially in top and middle logs. Biotic and abiotic factors such as colonization by Diplodia sapinea, weevil (Pissodes spp.) density, and wood moisture explained modest residual variation in our primary mixed effects models, generally between 6-12%. These findings contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of sex-specific resource quality for S. noctilio and of how variation in key biotic and abiotic factors can influence body size, sex ratio and survival in this economically important woodwasp.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced researchers in Ecology to change the way we work almost overnight. Nonetheless, the pandemic has provided us with several novel components for a new way of conducting international Science. In this perspective piece, we summarize eight central insights that are helping us, as early career researchers, navigate the uncertainties, fears and challenges of advancing Science during the COVID-19 pandemic. We highlight how innovative, collaborative and often Open Science-driven developments that have arisen from this crisis can form a blueprint for a community reinvention in academia. Our insights include personal approaches to managing our new reality, maintaining capacity to focus and resilience in our projects, and a variety of tools that facilitate remote collaboration. We also highlight how, at a community level, we can take advantage of online communication platforms for gaining accessibility to conferences and meetings, and for maintaining research networks and community engagement while promoting a more diverse and inclusive community. Overall, we are confident that these practices can support a more inclusive and kinder scientific culture for the longer term.
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.
The desert harvester ant Veromessor pergandei displays geographic variation in colony founding with queens initiating nests singly (haplometrosis) or in groups (pleometrosis). The transition from haplo- to pleometroic founding is associated with lower rainfall. Numerous hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of cooperative founding in this species, but the ultimate explanation remains unanswered. In laboratory experiments, water level was positively associated with survival, condition, and brood production by single queens. Queen survival also was positively influenced by water level and queen number in a two-factor experiment. Water level also was a significant effect for three measures of queen condition, but queen number was not significant for any measure. Foundress queens excavated after two weeks of desiccating conditions were dehydrated compared to alate queens captured from their natal colony, indicating that desiccation can be a source of queen mortality. Long-term monitoring in central Arizona, USA, documented that recruitment only occurred in 4 of 20 years. A discriminant analysis using rainfall as a predictor of recruitment correctly predicted recruitment in 17 of 20 years for total rainfall from January–June (the period for mating flights and establishment) and in 19 of 20 years for early plus late rainfall (January–March and April–June, respectively), often with a posterior probability > 0.90. Moreover, recruitment occurred only in years in which both early and late rainfall exceeded the long-term mean. This result also was supported by the discriminant analysis predicting no recruitment when long-term mean early and late rainfall were included as ungrouped periods. These data suggest that pleometrosis in V. pergandei evolved to enhance colony survival in areas with harsh abiotic (desiccating) conditions, facilitating colonization of habitats in which solitary queens could not establish even in wet years. This favorable-year hypothesis supports enhanced worker production as the primary advantage of pleometrosis.
The rapid shift to online teaching in spring 2020 meant most of us were teaching in panic mode. As we move forward with course planning for fall and beyond, we can invest more time and energy into improving the online experience for our students. We advocate that instructors use inclusive teaching practices, specifically through active learning, in their online classes. Incorporating pedagogical practices that work to maximize active and inclusive teaching concepts will be beneficial for all students, and especially those from minoritized or underserved groups. Like many STEM fields, Ecology and Evolution shows achievement gaps and faces a leaky pipeline issue for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science. Making online classes both active and inclusive will aid student learning and will also help students feel more connected to their learning, their peers, and their campus. This approach will likely help with performance, retention, and persistence of students. In this paper we offer strategies and techniques that weave together active and inclusive teaching practices and challenge faculty to commit to making small changes in the fall as a first step to more inclusive teaching in ecology and evolutionary biology courses.
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.
COVID-19 created a host of challenges for science education; in our case, the pandemic halted our in-person elementary school outreach project on bird biology. This project was designed as a year-long program to teach fifth grade students in Ithaca, New York, USA about bird ecology and biodiversity, using outdoor demonstrations and in-person games and activities to engage students in nature. As a central part of this effort, we set up nest boxes on school property and had planned to monitor them with students during bird breeding in the spring. Here, we describe our experiences transitioning this program online: we live streamed nest boxes to students’ virtual classrooms and used them as starting points for virtual lessons on bird breeding and nestling development. We suggest that instituting similar programs at local schools can promote equitable learning opportunities for students across geographical locations and with various living situations. In an era of social distancing and isolation, we propose that nest box live streaming and virtual lessons can support local communities by providing access to the outdoors and unconventional science learning opportunities for all students.