1. Grassy ecosystems cover ~40% of the global land surface and are an integral component of the global carbon cycle. Grass litter decomposes via a combination of ultraviolet radiation degradation (which returns carbon to the atmosphere rapidly) and biological decomposition (a slower carbon pathway). As such, decomposition and carbon storage in grasslands may vary with climate and exposure to solar radiation. We investigated rates of grass litter decomposition in Australian temperate grasslands along a climate gradient to uncouple the relative importance of UV radiation and climate on decomposition. 2. Litterbags containing two common native grass species were deployed at six grassland sites across a precipitation gradient (380-890 mm) in south-eastern Australia. Bags were retrieved over 39 weeks to measure mass loss from decomposition. We used shade treatments to partition UV degradation from biological decomposition. 3. The shade treatment consistently reduced the rate of decomposition relative to full-sun treatments at all sites; there was no significant difference in the effect size of the shade treatment among sites. The rate of decomposition was positively correlated with rainfall midway through the experiment, but there were no significant differences in total decomposition among sites after 39 weeks. In general, the shape of decomposition curves was more linear than has typically been observed in global decomposition studies. 4. Synthesis: We found that UV exposure was a strong contributor to litter decomposition in temperate Australian grasslands. This effect was not influenced by climatic variables and may be related to a period of photopriming prior to further biotic decomposition. This study highlights the importance of litter composition and UV exposure in our understanding of how decomposition patterns contribute to global carbon cycling.
C4 is one of three known photosynthetic processes of carbon fixation in flowering plants. It evolved independently more than 61 times in multiple angiosperm lineages and consists of a series of anatomical and biochemical modifications to the ancestral C3 pathway increasing plant productivity under warm and light-rich conditions. The C4 lineages of eudicots belong to seven orders and 15 families, are phylogenetically less clustered than those of monocots, and entail an enormous structural and ecological diversity. Eudicot C4 lineages likely evolved the C4 syndrome along different evolutionary paths. Therefore, a better understanding of this diversity is key to understanding the evolution of this complex trait as a whole. Compiling 1,207 recognized C4 eudicots species described in the literature and presenting trait data among these species, we identify global centres of species richness and of high phylogenetic diversity. Furthermore, we discuss climatic preferences in the context of plant functional traits. We identify two hotspots of C4 eudicot diversity: arid regions of Mexico/Southern United States and Australia, where several C4 eudicot lineages diversified independently. Further eudicot C4 hotspots with many different families and genera represented are in South Africa, West Africa, Patagonia, Central Asia and the Mediterranean. In general, C4 eudicots were abundant in deserts and xeric shrublands, tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands. We found C4 eudicots to occur in areas with less annual precipitation than C4 grasses which can be explained by frequently associated adaptations to drought stress such as among others succulence and salt tolerance. We conclude that in most eudicot lineages C4 evolved in ancestrally drought adapted clades and enabled these to further spread in these habitats and colonise even drier areas.
Biological invasions are recognized as one of the factors causing biodiversity loss. Incomplete reproductive isolation with a closely related species can result in hybridization when a non-native species is introduced into a new habitat. Management of hybrids is essential for biodiversity conservation; however, the distinction between the two species becomes a challenge in cases of hybrids with similar characteristics to native species. Although image recognition technology can be a powerful tool for identifying hybrids, studies have yet to utilize deep learning approaches. Hence, this study aimed to identify hybrids between native Japanese giant salamanders (Andrias japonicus) and non-native Chinese giant salamanders (Andrias davidianus) using EfficientNet and smartphone images. We used smartphone images of 11 native individuals (with 5 training and 6 test images) and 20 hybrid individuals (with 5 training and 15 test images). In our experimental environment, an AI model constructed with efficientNet-V2 showed 100% accuracy in identifying hybrids. In addition, highlighting the regions that influenced the AI model’s predictions using Grad-CAM revealed that salamander head spots are responsible for correctly classifying native and hybrid species. The results of this study revealed that our approach is one of the methods that enable the identification of hybrids, which was previously considered difficult without identification by the experts. Furthermore, since this study achieved high-performance identification using smartphone images, it is expected to be applied to a wide range of low-cost identification using citizen science.
As climate changes, understanding the genetic basis of local adaptation in plants becomes an ever more pressing issue. Combining Genotype-Environment Association (GEA) with Genotype-Phenotype Association (GPA) analysis has an exciting potential to uncover the genetic basis of environmental responses. We use these approaches to identify genetic variants linked to local adaptation to drought in Pinus ponderosa. Over 4 million SNPs were identified using 223 individuals from across the Sierra Nevada of California. We found 1458 associated with five largely uncorrelated climate variables, with the largest number (1151) associated with April 1st snowpack. We also conducted a greenhouse study with various drought-tolerance traits measured in seedlings grown in control and drought treatments. 817 SNPs were associated with control-condition trait values, while 1154 were associated with responsiveness of these traits to drought. While no individual SNPs were associated with both the environmental variables and the measured traits, several annotated genes were associated with both, particularly those involved in cell wall formation, biotic and abiotic stress responses, and ubiquitination. However, the functions of many of the associated genes have not yet been determined due to the lack of gene annotation information for conifers. Future studies are needed to assess the developmental roles and ecological significance of these unknown genes.
Increasing studies have shown the importance of intraspecific trait variation (ITV) on the ecological process. However, the patterns and sources of ITV are still unclear, especially in the propagule of coastal vegetation. Here, we measured fresh weight (FW), fresh length (FL), maximum transverse diameter (TDmax), minimum transverse diameter (TDmin) and the ratio of TDmax to TDmin (RTD) of the hypocotyl (propagule) of Kandelia obovata for 66 genealogies across 26 sites. By combining multiple factors of climate, ocean and maternal tree to analyze their effects on the intraspecific trait variation of mangrove hypocotyl. The results showed that value of establishment traits (FW, FL, TDmax and TDmin which are related to mass) decreased along increasing latitudinal gradients and they were directly positively regulated by temperature. ITV of dispersal trait (RTD) was unstructured along latitudinal gradients, which was constrained by fitness tradeoff. Our findings indicate that establishment traits mainly varied between populations, whereas dispersal traits mainly varied between individuals. This study provides insights into the ITV of propagule in different functional dimensions on a broad scale and that may help integrate ITV into future analyses of mangrove protection.
1. Ice coverage duration on lakes and ponds is decreasing due to climate change, but experimentally testing the effects of decreased ice coverage on aquatic communities is challenging in field settings. 2. To assess whether we could simulate changes predicted to occur in aquatic habitats as climate change progresses including shorter ice duration, warmer temperatures, and thinner ice and associated water chemistry changes, we designed and constructed greenhouses to place over a set of ten experimental ponds, roughly 3x3m in area which slope to a maximum depth of 1m, dug into the ground at the Koffler Scientific Reserve (Ontario, Canada). Half of the wedge-shaped greenhouses were enclosed on all sides (n=5) while the other the other half were open on three sides, with only the top fitted with plastic sheeting (n=5). The open greenhouses provided a less-warmed treatment while controlling for precipitation reduction and light filtering caused by the sheeting. In November 2019 greenhouses were placed over the ponds. Snow was cleared from the greenhouses and water chemistry measures were taken once weekly through the 2019-2020 winter. 3. Ice was thinner across the winter and melted on average 10.6 days earlier in closed greenhouses compared to open greenhouses. Average winter water temperatures were also significantly higher in closed versus open greenhouses although these differences were not significant in all months. Similarly, maximum and minimum water temperatures were also higher in ponds with closed compared with open greenhouses. We successfully demonstrate a method for simulating expected changes in ice conditions as climate change progresses including decreasing ice coverage duration at levels similar to those observed in north temperate ecosystems (per century) and alpine ecosystems (per 36 years) and raising temperatures in a highly manipulatable experimental system.
Changing climate and growing human impacts are resulting in globally rising temperatures and the widespread loss of habitats. How species will adapt to these changes is not well understood. The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) can be found across the Holarctic but is coming under more intense pressure in many places. Studies of recent populations in Finland and Denmark have shown a marked decline in body size of Northern Goshawks over the past century. Here we investigate long-term changes to Norwegian populations of Northern Goshawk by including material from the Middle Ages and Viking Age. We measured 240 skeletons of modern Northern Goshawks from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and 89 Medieval Goshawk bones. Our results show that Norwegian and Swedish female Goshawks have decreased in size over the past century, whilst males showed little decline. Medieval female Goshawks were larger than contemporary females. The Viking Age specimens showed little difference to modern populations but appeared smaller than specimens from the Medieval period. A decline in forest habitats and a concomitant shift towards smaller prey likely drove a shift to smaller body size in Northern Goshawks. Our study shows that significant body size changes in birds can occur over relatively short time spans in response to environmental factors, and that these effects can sometimes differ between sexes.
The extended phenotype of helical burrowing behavior in animals has evolved independently many times since first appearing after the Cambrian explosion (~540 million years ago). A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of helical burrowing in certain taxa, but no study has searched for a general explanation encompassing all taxa. We reviewed helical burrowing in both extant and extinct animals and from the trace fossil record and compiled from the literature 10 possible hypotheses for why animals construct helical burrows, including our own ideas. Of these, six were post-construction hypotheses—-benefits to the creator or offspring, realized after burrow construction—-and four were construction hypotheses reflecting direct benefits to the creator during construction. We examined the fit of these hypotheses to a total of 21 extant taxa and ichnotaxa representing 59–184 spp. Only two hypotheses—-antipredator, biomechanical advantage—-could not be rejected for any species (possible in 100% of spp.), but six of the hypotheses could not be rejected for most species (possible in 86–100 % of spp.): microclimate buffer, reduced falling sediment (soil), anticrowding, vertical patch, and the above two hypotheses. Four of these six were construction hypotheses, raising the possibility that helical burrowing might have evolved without providing post-construction benefits. Our analysis showed that increased drainage, deposit feeding, microbial farming, and offspring escape could not explain helical burrowing behavior in the majority of taxa (5–48%). Overall, the evidence does not support a general explanation for the evolution of helical burrowing in animals. The function and evolution of the helix as an extended phenotype would seem, at least in some cases, to provide different advantages for different taxa. Although direct tests of many of the hypotheses would be difficult, we nevertheless offer ways to test some of the hypotheses for selected taxa.
1. Otoliths have been widely studied as natural recorders of the entire life cycle of aquatic teleosts. Trace elements and stable isotope rations in otoliths are well understood and used as proxies of migration histories, however few elements have shown the potential to reconstruct the migration history of oceanodromous fish. 2. This study reports the first use of radiocarbon in otolith to reconstruct the horizontal migration history of fish. We analyzed three different stocks of walleye pollock Gadus chalcogrammus around Hokkaido, Japan. 3. Radiocarbon concentration from the outermost edge of otoliths showed a general consistency with seawater radiocarbon concentration of the sampling region, validating the application of otolith radiocarbon concentration to fish migration studies. Pollocks of all three stocks generally inhabited the nearby sampling area throughout their life cycle, though some pollocks of the Okhotsk and Japan Sea stocks respectively showed a possibility of migration between different sea regions. 4. This study confirmed a novel method using radiocarbon concentrations to reconstruct the migration history of marine teleost. Using the high sensitivity of otolith radiocarbon concentration observed in this study, it may be possible to detect fish migration with higher spatial resolution than previous studies using conventional proxies.
Tidal flats can be found on most of the world's coastlines and are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances. They are important transient ecosystems between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and their biodiversity provides important ecosystem services. Owed to their unique position between the terrestrial and the marine realm, strong environmental gradients of elevation, sediment composition but also food availability are prevailing. Here we investigate which environmental factors drive the spatial and temporal patterns in macrozoobenthos abundance, biomass, richness, diversity and species composition on back barrier tidal flats in the East-Frisian Wadden Sea. We found that with increasing mud content the total abundance of organisms in the sediment significantly increased, while biodiversity and biomass were not changing significantly with increasing mud content. Biomass of macrozoobenthos decreased with higher elevation towards the salt marsh. In contrast to expectations, increasing Chl a availability as a measure of primary productivity did not enhance biomass or abundance, but was associated with significantly reduced species richness. Species composition varied significantly among and within islands due to variation in sediment composition, resource availability and human-induced disturbance. In conclusion, macrozoobenthos biomass, abundance and biodiversity is interrelated in a complex way with the physical, abiotic and biotic processes in and above the sediment. Negative impacts of primary production on macrozoobenthos species richness demonstrate possible negative effects of nutrient inputs in tidal flat areas and the need for cross-boundary protection.
Tetraodontiformes is a special group of higher teleosts, with a long and problematic taxonomic history due to their wide distribution and species diversity. It is a difficult task for both professionals and nonprofessionals to accurately identify all species only according to morphological characteristics. DNA barcoding can identify species at the molecular level. In this study, we collected 616 specimens of Tetraodontiformes and their DNA barcodes from the coastal waters of China. According to the morphological characteristics, 50 species were preliminarily identified, belonging to 23 genera, 6. Among them, DNA barcoding analysis showed that Takifugu pseudommus and Takifugu chinensis are the synonyms of Takifugu rubripes. And Lagocephalus wheeleri is the synonym of Lagocephalus Spadiceus. The third important finding is that the species of Takifugu have close genetic relationship. If T. rubripes, T. pseudommus and T. chinensis are taken as one species, the average interspecific genetic distance of Takifugu is 6.21 times of the average intraspecific genetic distance, which does not reach the DNA barcode threshold of more than 10 times proposed by Hebert. Among them, the genetic distance between T. oblongus and T. stictonotus is the largest, 0.045; And between T. bimaculatus and T. flavidus is the smallest, only 0.013. However, species can be clustered into separate clades in the NJ tree. In conclusion, this study provided molecular basis for solving the problem of confusion in the classification of Tetraodontiformes, it found that there are synonym phenomena in the order, and provided molecular evidence for clarifying the valid species names of Lagocephalus Spadiceus and Takifugu rubripes. The results can provide reliable DNA barcoding information for the identification and classification of Tetraodontiformes, and also provide technical support for the development and utilization of puffer fish resources and the identification of the original components of related commodities on the aquatic product market.
In the Anopheles genus, various mosquito species are able to transmit Plasmodium parasites responsible for malaria, while others are non-vectors. In an effort to better understand the biology of Anopheles species and to quantify transmission risk in an area, the identification of mosquito species collected on the field is an essential but problematic task. Morphological identification requires expertise, well-preserved specimens and high-quality equipment, and it does not allow any subsequent verification when samples are later used in a destructive treatment. Moreover, it involves physical manipulations that are not compatible with experiments requiring fast sampling and processing of specimens, hence species identification is often based on DNA sequencing of reference genes or region such as the Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 (ITS2) region of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Sequencing ITS2 for numerous samples is costly, but the design of species-specific PCR primers is not always possible when local species diversity is high. Here, we introduce a molecular technique of species identification based on precise determination of ITS2 length combined with a simple visual observation, the color of mosquito hindleg tip. DNA extracted from field-collected Anopheles mosquitoes was amplified with universal Anopheles ITS2 primers and analyzed with a capillary electrophoresis device, which precisely determines the size of the fragments. We defined windows of amplicon sizes combined with fifth hind tarsus color, which allow to discriminate the major Anopheles species found in our collections. We validated our parameters via Sanger sequencing of the ITS2 amplicons. This method can be particularly useful in situations with a moderate species diversity, i.e. when the number of local species is too high to define species-specific primers but low enough to avoid individual ITS2 sequencing. This tool will be of interest to evaluate local malaria transmission risk and this approach may further be implemented for other mosquito genera.
Reproductive isolation plays an important role in maintaining the species integrity of sympatric close relatives. For sympatric Arisaema species, interspecific gene flow is expected to be effectively prevented by pre-pollination barriers, particularly strong pollinator isolation mediated by fungus gnats. However, due to the lack of quantitative studies combining multiple pre- and post-pollination barriers, it is not known whether pre-pollination isolation is complete, and whether post-pollination barriers also contribute to reproductive isolation among some Arisaema species. We studied five pre- and post-pollination barriers (geographic isolation, phenological isolation, pollinator isolation, hybrid fruit production, and hybrid seed formation) among three sympatric Arisaema species (A. bockii, A. lobatum, and A. erubescens). The strength of individual barriers and their contribution to total isolation were quantified.The habitat elevations of the three Arisaema species mostly overlapped. Although phenological isolation and pollinator isolation reduced the frequencies of interspecific pollen transfer among these species, the partial overlap of flowering times and pollinator assemblages resulted in pre-pollination isolation that does not adequately prevent interspecific hybridization. Post-pollination barriers also contributed to reproductive isolation at the hybrid fruit and seed formation stages.We propose that, although pre-pollination barriers are expected to contribute more to total isolation than post-pollination barriers in Arisaema, pre-pollination barriers may not completely prevent interspecific pollen transfer among some Arisaema species. Post-pollination barriers, which are generally ignored, may also have contributed significantly to reproductive isolation in Arisaema.
The development of DNA-based methods in recent decades has opened the door to numerous new lines of research in the biological sciences. While their speed and accuracy are clearly beneficial, the sensitivity of these methods has the adverse effect of increased susceptibility to false positives resulting from contamination in field or lab. Here, we present findings from a metabarcoding study on the diet of and food availability for several insectivorous birds, in which multiple lepidopteran species not known to occur locally were discovered. After describing the pattern of occurrences of these non-local species in the samples, we discuss various potential origins of these sequences. First, we assess that the taxonomic assignments appear reliable, and local occurrences of many of the species can be plausibly ruled out. Then, we look into the possibilities of natural environmental contamination, judging it to be unlikely, albeit impossible to fully falsify. Finally, while the pattern of occurrences did not suggest lab contamination, we find overlap with material handled in the same lab, which was undoubtedly not coincidental. Even so, not all exact sequences were accounted for in these locally conducted studies, nor was it clear if these and other sequences could remain detectable years later. Although the full explanation for the observations of non-local species remains inconclusive, these findings highlight the importance of critical examination of metabarcoding results, and showcase how species-level taxonomic assignments utilizing comprehensive reference libraries may be a tool in detecting potential contamination events, and false positives in general.
Invasive alien species are generally highly fertile and adaptable and can pose a severe threat to the ecological security of invaded localities. Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) is a rapidly evolving cryptic complex. Among them, Mediterranean (MED) and Middle East–Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) is the most invasive and widely distributed. To clarify the invasion source, population structure, and genetic differentiation drivers of whitefly populations in Xinjiang, China, we collected B. tabaci from 14 host crops in Xinjiang, China. A total of 453 sequenced cytochrome c oxidase subunit I(COI) fragments were analysed. We used common methods and parameters of genetic analysis, such as phylogenetic analysis, haplotype diversity, and nucleotide diversity, neutrality testing, and mismatch distribution chart analysis to determine the genetic structure and genetic differentiation and explore the origin of the invasion of B. tabaci populations in Xinjiang. The results have shown that global MED and MEAM1 populations are genetically differentiated, and MED has a significant geographical lineage structure at the Xinjiang and global spatial scales. This was the same for the MEAM1 population at the Xinjiang spatial scale. There have been multiple local expansions and founder effects in the MED populations. The MEAM1 population has retained a stable population size with a bottleneck effect. Based on the phylogenetic tree for MED and MEAM1, it has been demonstrated that there have been multiple points and pathways of invasion of B. tabaci and the sources in Xinjiang, China were complex. The sources of MED invasion of MED are likely to be Zhejiang, Hebei, or Shanxi. The source for MEAM1 is complex, and Zhejiang is one of the main invasion sources. This study has shown that host plant differences in open habitats, geographic isolation, and habitat differences were the driving factors for genetic differentiation of B. tabaci populations in Xinjiang, China
Landlocking is a process whereby a population of normally diadromous fish becomes limited to freshwater, potentially leading to behavioural, morphological, and genetic changes, and occasionally speciation. The study of recently landlocked populations can shed light on how populations adapt to environmental change, and how such life-history shifts affect population-genetic structure. Kōaro (Galaxias brevipinnis) is a facultatively diadromous Southern Hemisphere galaxiid fish that frequently becomes landlocked in inland lakes. This study compares seven landlocked kōaro populations to diadromous populations from main and offshore islands of New Zealand. Genotyping-by-sequencing was used to obtain genotypes at 18,813 single nucleotide polymorphism sites for each population. Analyses of population structure revealed that most landlocked populations were genetically highly distinct from one another, as well as from diadromous populations. A few particularly isolated island and lake populations were particularly strongly genetically differentiated. Landscape characteristics were measured to test whether lake elevation, size, or distance from the sea predicted genetic diversity or differentiation from diadromous kōaro. While there were no significant relationships indicating isolation-by-distance or isolation-by-environment, we detected a trend toward lower genetic diversity in lakes at higher elevations. Our findings illustrate the critical role that landlocking can play in the structure of intraspecific genetic diversity within and between populations.
Montane birds experience a range of challenges that may limit their breeding success, including nest predation and severe climactic conditions. The continuing effects of climate change are causing shifts in biotic and abiotic factors that may compound these threats to montane bird species. In northeastern montane forests, many bird species are shifting downslope, potentially as the result of increased precipitation and temperature at higher elevations. Although lower elevations might be more favorable in terms of climactic conditions, nest predation is higher at lower elevations. Thus, montane birds might be faced with the opposing pressures of adverse climactic conditions at higher elevations and increased predation at lower elevations. We monitored nests of Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus) along an elevation gradient in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021 to examine the effect of biotic and abiotic factors on nest survival. We found a significant negative effect of rain intensity (millimeters per hour per day) on daily nest survival, suggesting that heavier rain per hour decreases Swainson’s thrush daily daily nest survival. Moreover, we found a negative interaction effect of elevation in conjunction with minimum daily temperature and average daily temperature, suggesting that at higher elevations, temperature, specifically on colder days, decreases Swainson’s thrush nest survival. Our results provide evidence for a potential mechanism of how climate change will affect nesting survival of montane breeding birds as heavier precipitation events become more frequent and intense, a likely outcome due to the changing climate within the White Mountains and other montane ecosystems, putting other passerine species at risk in this system.
The Philippine native pig (PhNP) is a unique genetic resource with complex genetics due to multiple ancestries and hybridizations with wild pigs. No prior study has determined the population structure and genetic diversity of PhNPs on multiple islands and provinces, which is essential for establishing conservation priorities. In this study, we explore the population structure and genetic diversity of various PhNP populations in Luzon and the Visayas, Philippines, to identify conservation priorities. We analyzed 157 native pigs representing 7 populations (Benguet (B), Kalinga (K), Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela (I), Quezon (Q), Marinduque (M), and Samar (S)) and 39 pigs of transboundary distribution (Duroc, Large White, Landrace, and Berkshire). The pigs were compared against a panel of 21 ISAG–FAO recommended microsatellite markers. We tested for population structure at the island, administrative region and province levels. Strong genetic differentiation between native and transboundary breeds was confirmed by analysis of molecular variance (Frt: 0.08; F’st: 0.288-0.728), Bayesian clustering (k = 2) and Nei’s DA genetic distance (98% bootstrap support for the PhNP cluster). PhNP exhibited high heterozygosity (Ho: 0.72), a high allele count (Na: 9.24) and a low inbreeding coefficient (Fis: -0.022 to 0.150). Bayesian clustering supported genetic differentiation at the island (k = 2; North Luzon and South Luzon-Visayas cluster), administrative region (k = 4) and population (k= 9) levels. The pairwise F’st between PhNP populations ranged from 0.130 (Q and M) to 0.427 (Q and K), confirming that PhNP populations exhibited sufficient genetic distance to be considered separate populations. This study shows that the seven previously assigned PhNP populations, roughly delimited by provincial origin, are unique genetic units for conservation. Furthermore, the small effective population sizes of B, Q, I, and S (Ne: 5, 17, 24, and 26, respectively) necessitate immediate conservation actions, such as incentivizing the farming of PhNP.