The construction of morphological character matrices is central to paleontological systematic study, which extracts paleontological information from fossils. Although the word information has been repeatedly mentioned in a wide array of paleontological systematic studies, its meaning has rarely been clarified and there has not been a standard to measure paleontological information due to the incompleteness of fossils, difficulty of recognizing homologous and homoplastic structures, etc. Here, based on information theory, we show the deep connections between paleontological systematic study and communication system engineering. It is information, the decrease of uncertainty, in morphological characters that distinguishes operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and reconstructs evolutionary history. We propose that concepts in communication system engineering such as source coding and channel coding correspond in paleontological studies to the construction of diagnostic features and the entire character matrices, which should be distinguished as how typical communication systems are engineered because these two steps serve dual purposes. With character matrices from six different vertebrate groups, we analyzed their information properties including source entropy, mutual information, and channel capacity. Estimation of channel capacity shows upper limits of all matrices in transmitting paleontological information, indicating that, due to the presence of noise, too many characters not only increase the burden in character scoring, but also may decrease quality of matrices. Information entropy, which measure how informative a variable is, of each character is tested as a weighting criterion in parsimony-based systematic studies, the results show high consistence with existing knowledge with both good resolution and interpretability.
Anthropogenic-driven global change, including changes in atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition and precipitation patterns, is dramatically altering N cycling in soil. How long-term N deposition, precipitation changes, and their interaction influence nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions remains unknown, especially in the alpine steppes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). To fill this knowledge gap, a platform of N addition and altered precipitation experiments was established in an alpine steppe of the QTP in 2013. N addition significantly increased N2O emissions, and alterations in soil NO3-N, pH, temperature, and belowground biomass modulated N2O emissions. In addition to abiotic parameters, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria dominated N2O emissions in nitrification compared with ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Changes in the denitrifying microbial community, namely a high ratio of (nirS+nirK) gene-containing to nosZ gene-containing organisms, were responsible for N2O emissions in denitrification. Altered precipitation did not affect N2O emissions. This unexpected finding, which is inconsistent with the conventional view that N2O emissions are controlled by soil water content, indicates that N2O emissions are particularly susceptible to N deposition in the alpine steppes. Notably, whereas N2O emissions were affected by N addition as a single factor, they were not significantly affected by the combination of precipitation changes and N addition, indicating that altered precipitation patterns may mitigate the positive feedback effect of N addition on N2O emissions. Consequently, our study suggests that the response of N2O emissions to N deposition in future global change scenarios will be affected by precipitation regimes in the alpine steppes.
Predation is the most common cause of nest failure in birds. While nest predation is relatively well studied in general, our knowledge is unevenly distributed across the globe and taxa, with for example limited information on shorebirds breeding in sub-tropics. Importantly, we know fairly little about the timing of predation within a day and season. Here, we followed 444 nests of red-wattled lapwings (Vanellus indicus), a ground-nesting shorebird, for a sum of 7828 days to estimate a nest predation rate, and continuously monitored 230 of these nests for a sum of 2779 days to reveal how the timing of predation changes over the day and season in a sub-tropical desert. We found that 312 nests (70%) hatched, 76 nests (17%) were predated, 23 (5%) failed for other reasons and 33 (7%) had an unknown fate. Daily predation rate was 0.95% (95%CrI: 0.76% – 1.19%), which for a 30-day long incubation period translates into ~25% (20% – 30%) chance of nest being predated. Such a predation rate is low compared to most other avian species. Predation events (N = 25) were distributed evenly across day and night, with a tendency for increased predation around sunrise. Predation rate and events were distributed evenly also across the season, although night predation was more common later in the season, perhaps because predators reduce their activity during daylight to avoid extreme heat. Indeed, nests were never predated when mid-day ground temperatures exceeded 45°C. Whether the diel activity pattern of resident predators undeniably changes across the breeding season and whether the described predation patterns hold for other populations, species and geographical regions awaits future investigations.
Also investigate how the potential distribution of this species changes with the addition of new records over the decades (decade effect). Assuming that (1: hypothesis of the effect of the decade) the addition of new occurrence records over time increases the potential size of the species distribution; and (2: Wallacean distance hypothesis) over the years, the new points added are increasingly distant from the research centers. Considering the geographic knowledge gap of Histiotu velatus, our objective is to report a new record of this species and estimate its potential distribution in South America through ENMs. For this, we compiled records of occurrence of species, selected from 1900 to 2015. We used 19 bioclimatic variables available in the WorldCLim database to estimate the potential distribution of the species and we used three modeling algorithms: Maximum Entropy (MXT) Random Forest (RDF) and Support Vector Machine (SVM). We selected the main bat research centers in Brazil, using the Lattes platform for the Wallacean distance hypothesis, using the Euclidean distance calculation. To test the hypothesis of the decade effect, we used beta regression analysis, taking conservative and non-conservative approaches. The results showed that the predicted area expanded and retracted over the decades, with an improvement in the accuracy of the models with the addition of new data. Most of the records are located in the southeastern region of Brazil, but the algorithms predicted areas in countries where there were no records. Only the conservatism approach has had a positive relationship over the decades. The distance from new points does not increase over the years of research centers.
Heterogeneity in the intrinsic quality and nutritional condition of individuals affects reproductive success and consequently fitness. Understanding differences in energy allocation towards survival and reproduction within and among years might help explain variability in individual fitness. Black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) are long-lived, migratory, specialist herbivores. Long migratory pathways and short summer breeding seasons constrain the time and energy available for reproduction, thus magnifying life-history trade-offs. These constraints, combined with long lifespans and trade-offs between current and future reproductive value, provide a model system to examine the role of individual heterogeneity in driving life-history strategies and individual heterogeneity in fitness. We used hierarchical Bayesian models to examine reproductive trade-offs, modeling the relationships between within-year measures of reproductive energy allocation and among-year demographic rates of individual females breeding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska using capture-recapture and reproductive data from 1988 to 2014. We provide evidence for relationships between breeding probability and clutch size (posterior mean of β = 0.45, 95% CRI = 0.33 – 0.57, SD = 0.06), breeding probability and nest initiation date (posterior mean of β = -0.12, 95% CRI = -0.2 ¬– -0.04, SD = 0.04), and an interaction between clutch size and initiation date (posterior mean of β = -0.12, 95% CRI = -0.2 – -0.04, SD = 0.04). Average lifetime clutch size also had a weak positive relationship with survival probability (posterior mean of β = 0.03, 95% CRI = -0.01 – 0.7, SD = 0.02). Our results support the use of demographic buffering strategies for black brant; reductions in reproductive energy allocation preserve high adult survival rates during years with poor environmental conditions, maximizing future reproductive value. We also indirectly show links among environmental conditions during growth, fitness, and energy allocation, highlighting the effects of early growth conditions on individual heterogeneity, and subsequently, reproductive investment.
1. Stable isotopes represent a unique approach to provide insights into the ecology of organisms. δ13C and δ15N have specifically be used to obtain information on the trophic ecology and food web interactions. Trophic discrimination factors (TDF, Δ13C and Δ15N) describe the isotopic fractionation occurring from diet to consumer tissue and these factors are critical for obtaining precise estimates within any application of δ13C and δ15N values. It is widely acknowledged that metabolism influences TDF, being responsible for different TDF between tissues of variable metabolic activity (e.g. liver vs. muscle tissue) or species body size (small vs. large). However, the connection between the variation of metabolism occurring within a single species during its ontogeny and TDF has rarely been considered. 2. Here, we conducted a 9-month feeding experiment to report Δ13C and Δ15N of muscle and liver tissue for several weight classes of Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis), a widespread teleost often studied using stable isotopes, but without established TDF for feeding on a natural diet. In addition, we assessed the relationship between the standard metabolic rate (SMR) and TDF by measuring their oxygen consumption of the individuals. 3. Our results showed a significant negative relationship of SMR with Δ13C, and a significant positive relationship of SMR with Δ15N of muscle tissue, but not with TDF of liver tissue. SMR varies inversely with size, which translated into a significantly different TDF of muscle tissue between size classes. 4. In summary, our results emphasize the role of metabolism in shaping specific TDF (i.e. Δ13C and Δ15N of muscle tissue), and especially highlight the substantial differences between individuals of different ontogenetic stages within a species. Our findings thus have direct implications for the use of stable isotope data and the applications of stable isotopes in food web studies.
Appendages have been reduced or lost hundreds of times independently during vertebrate evolution. This suggests that selection routinely favors appendage reduction. How often are the same developmental and genetic pathways used during loss by independent lineages? We reviewed the developmental and evolutionary literatures of appendage reduction in 12 genera spanning fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. We found that appendage reduction and loss resulted from modified gene expression in each case but one. However, the genes for which expression was modified were rarely shared. Our findings suggest that adaptive loss of complex traits might proceed relatively easily through changes in gene expression along multiple developmental pathways.
Cushion plants are widely representative species of the alpine ecosystem due to their vital roles in the abiotic and biotic environments, ecological succession processes, and ecosystem engineering. Importantly, Cushion plants, such as Androsace L. and Arenaria L., can be regarded as critical pioneers of ecosystem health, restoration and sustainability across the Tibetan Plateau because these plants (i) exhibit tenacious vitality, regulate regional climates, substrates and soil nutrients and keep warmth in extreme regions; (ii) facilitate relationships with surrounding and maintain the diversity of above- and below-ground communities; and (iii) have high sensitivity to environmental changes, which can indicate grassland ecosystem health and resilience in the context of global change.
As an essential micronutrient for many organisms, sodium plays an important role in ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Although plants mediate trophic fluxes of sodium, from substrates to higher trophic levels, we know relatively little about plants’ comparative growth and sodium accumulation responses to variation in substrate sodium. We carried out a systematic review to examine how plants respond to variation in substrate sodium concentrations. We compared growth and tissue-sodium responses among 107 populations (67 species in 20 plant families), broadly expanding beyond the agricultural and model taxa for which several generalizations previously have been made. We hypothesized a priori response models for each population’s growth and sodium accumulation responses as a function of increasing substrate NaCl. We used BIC to choose the best model. Additionally, using a phylogenetic signal analysis, we tested for phylogenetic patterning of growth and sodium accumulation responses across plant taxa. The influence of substrate sodium on growth differed across taxa, with most populations experiencing detrimental effects at high concentrations. Irrespective of growth response, tissue concentrations of sodium for most taxa increased as sodium concentrations in the substrate increased. We found no strong associations between growth and types of sodium accumulation responses across taxa. Our phylogenetic signal analyses found that evolutionary history helps predict the distribution of total plant growth responses across the phylogeny, but not sodium accumulation responses. Our study suggests that saltier plants in saltier soils may prove to be a broadly general pattern for sodium across plant taxa. Regardless of growth responses, sodium accumulation mostly followed an increasing trend and did not have any evident association with growth responses as substrate sodium levels increased. Finally, plant adaptations to substrate sodium vary with a degree of phylogenetic conservatism.
Understanding and preserving intra-specific diversity (ISD) is important for species conservation. However, ISD units do not have taxonomic standards and are not universally recognized. The terminology used to describe ISD is varied and often used ambiguously. We compared classical and authoritative definitions of terms used to describe ISD with terms used in recent studies of three fish taxa: sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae), Pacific salmon and trout (Oncorhynchus spp., “PST”), and lampreys (Petromyzontiformes). Our review revealed the terminological ambiguity of “races” and “subspecies”, found similar definitions of “subspecies” and “ecotype”, and of “ecotype” and “reaction norms”. “Species pairs” describes two phenotypes; however, in some situations more than one phenotype may occur. “Ecotype” was originally used to describe patterns in genes and ecology, and recent studies employing this term tend to report a genetic basis in ISD. Ecotype is used most frequently in genetic- and evolution-based journals. By contrast, “life history” includes biological parameters that affect population growth and decline, and this term tends to be used in organismal- and ecology-based journals. When the genetic or demographic components of ISD are not well understood, a conservative approach would be to refer to expressions of this diversity as “phenotypes”. The nature of human interests in particular taxa could influence how these organisms are studied, and hence the ways in which their ISD is understood, described, and conserved.
With many plant-pollinator interactions undergoing change, we require a better understanding of how the addition of new interacting partners, such as antagonists, can affect plant reproduction. One such group of antagonistic floral visitors, nectar robbers, can deplete plants of nectar rewards without contributing to pollination. The addition of nectar robbing to the floral visitor assemblage could therefore have costs to the plant´s reproductive output. We focus on a recent plant colonist, Digitalis purpurea, a plant that in its native range is rarely robbed, but experiences intense nectar robbing in areas it has been introduced to. Here, we test the costs to reproduction following experimental nectar robbing. To identify any changes in the behaviour of the principal pollinators in response to nectar robbing, we measured visitation rates, visit duration, proportion of flowers visited and rate of rejection of inflorescences. To find the effects of robbing on fitness, we used proxies for female and male components of reproductive output, by measuring the seeds produced per fruit and the pollen export respectively. Nectar robbing significantly reduced the rate of visitation and lengths of visits by bumblebees. Additionally, bumblebees visited a lower proportion of flowers on an inflorescence that had robbed flowers. We found that flowers in the robbed treatment produced significantly fewer seeds per fruit on average but did not export fewer pollen grains. Our finding that robbing leads to reduced seed production could be due to fewer and shorter visits to flowers leading to less effective pollination. We discuss the potential consequences of new pollinator environments, such as exposure to nectar robbing, for plant reproduction.
Soil nematodes are a foremost component of terrestrial biodiversity, they display the whole gamut of trophic guilds and life strategies, and by their activity, affect major ecosystem processes, such as organic matter degradation and carbon cycling. Based on nematodes’ functional types, nematode community indices have been developed and can be used to link variation in nematode community composition and ecosystem processes. Yet, the use of these indices has been mainly restricted to anthropogenic stresses. In this study, we propose to expand the use of nematodes’ derived ecological indices to link soil and climate properties with soil food webs, and ecosystem processes that all vary along steep elevation gradients. For this purpose, we explored how elevation affects the trophic and functional diversity of nematode communities sampled every 300 m, from about 1000 m to 3700 m above sea level, across four transects in the lesser Himalayan range of Jammu and Kashmir. We found that (1) the trophic and functional diversity of nematodes increases with elevation; (2) differences in nematodes communities generate habitat-specific functional diversity; (3) the sigma maturity index, the channel index, and the metabolic footprint of nematodes increase with elevation, indicating less mature and less productive ecosystems, enhanced fungal-based energy flow, and a predominant role of nematodes in generating carbon influxes at high elevation sites, respectively. We thus conclude that the functional contribution of soil nematodes to belowground ecosystem processes, including carbon and energy flow, is stronger at high elevation. Overall, this study highlights the central importance of nematodes in sustaining soil ecosystems and brings insights into their functional role, particularly in alpine and arctic soils.
Understanding and predicting how species will response to future climate change is crucial for biodiversity conservation. Here, we conducted an assessment of future climate change impacts on the distribution of D. involucrate in China, using the most recent global circulation models developed in the sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC6). We assessed the potential range shifts in this species by using an ensemble of species distribution models (SDMs). The ensemble SDMs exhibited high predictive ability and suggested that the temperature annual range, annual mean temperature, and precipitation of the driest month are the most influential predictors in shaping distribution patterns of this species. The projections of the ensemble SDMs also suggested that D. involucrate is very vulnerable to future climate change, with at least one-third of its suitable range expected to be lost in all future climate change scenarios and will shift to the northward of high-latitude regions. These findings suggest that it is of great urgent and significance to adaptive management strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on D. involucrate.
Installation of feral pig (Sus scrofa) exclusion fences to conserve and rehabilitate coastal floodplain habitat for fish production and water quality services remains untested. Twenty-one floodplain and riverine wetlands in the Archer River catchment (north Queensland) were surveyed during post-wet (June-August) and late-dry season (November-December) in 2016, 2017 and 2018, using a fyke net soaked overnight (~14-15hrs) to test: 1) whether the fish assemblage are similar in wetlands with and without fences; and 2) whether specific environmental conditions influence fish composition between fenced and unfenced wetlands. A total of 6,353 fish representing twenty-six species from 15 families were captured. There were no wetland differences in fish assemblages across seasons, years and for fenced and unfenced (PERMANOVA, Pseudo-F <0.589, P<0.84). Interestingly the late-dry season fish were far smaller compared to post-wet season fish: a strategy presumably in place to maximise rapid disposal following rain and floodplain connectivity. In each wetland a calibrated Hydrolab was deployed (between 2-4 days, with 20min logging) in the epilimnion (0.2m) and revealed distinct diel water quality cycling of temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH (conductivity represented freshwater wetlands), which was more obvious in the late-dry season survey because of extreme summer conditions. Water quality varied among wetlands in terms of the daily amplitude and extent of daily photosynthesis recovery, which highlights the need to consider local conditions and that applying general assumptions around water quality conditions for these types of wetlands is problematic for managers. Though many fish access wetlands during wet season connection, the seasonal effect of reduced water level conditions seems more over-improvised when compared to whether fences are installed, as all wetlands supported few, juvenile, or no fish species because they had dried completely regardless of the presence of fences.
We have studied the long- and short-term periods of seabird influence on coastal vegetation. In the Aleutian Islands during the Holocene, terrestrial predators were virtually absent; as a result, large seabird colonies thrived along the coasts or across entire islands. Bird guano enriches the soil with nitrogen, which can lead to the formation of highly modified ornithogenic (bird-formed) ecosystems. The vegetation of several Aleutian Islands has been reconstructed; however, only the vegetation on Carlisle Island had noticeable impact from the seabird guano. For more detailed investigation of bird influence, we conducted pollen analysis to reconstruct the 9,300-year-old vegetation dynamics of the coast of Shemya Island. From earlier studies of nitrogen isotopes in peat, we discovered that a large seabird colony existed on Shemya from 4600 to 2400 years ago, and birds also influenced coastal ecosystems between 1470–1160 and 810–360 years ago. In these sequences, the tundra dominated by Ericaceae dwarf shrubs initially spread on the coast. During a period of at least 2200-years nitrogen enrichment led to the development of herb meadows with a high presence of Apiaceae. After a noticeable reduction in seabird colonies due to human hunting, grass-meadows spread. During the late Holocene several hundred years of seabird impact led to an increase in abundance of indicator taxa, ferns and umbelliferous species, as well as in total pollen concentration, but this did not result in a radical change of dominants. In recent decades, due to the extinction of the bird colonies, heather communities have begun to spread on the Shemya coast. Also large ash emissions in the Aleutian Islands can lead to a decrease in pollen concentration even in peat located far from an eruption.
Nest building can represent an energetically-costly activity for a variety of animal taxa. Besides, the determinants of within-species variation in the design of nests, notably with respect to natural and sexual selection, are still poorly known although the situation has been partly remedied recently. Based on an observational study, we examined the influence of nesting conditions (nesting-substrate quality, colony, laying date, and year) on the volume of male-built nests and its potential role as a post-mating sexually-selected display in the whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida, a monogamous species with obligate bi-parental care breeding on unstable aquatic vegetation beds. No relationship was found between the nest volume and the nesting-substrate quality (i.e. nest stability) indicating that the density of white waterlily leaves was large enough when whiskered terns breed. In contrast, building a large nest likely constitutes a selective advantage since nests were larger in less densely populated colonies and for early breeders whatever the year. Since being influenced by nesting conditions, the volume of male-built nests was unlikely to be a sexually selected trait in whiskered terns. The reproductive effort by females (the probability of laying one, two or three eggs, and variation in mean egg volume per clutch) was indeed not correlated with the volume of male-built nests. The fitness consequences of building a large nest are yet to be studied and additional investigations are recommended to better depict the participation of males early during breeding (including notably courtship feeding) and later to chick provisioning.
Investigating diversity gradients helps to understand biodiversity drivers and threats. However, one diversity gradient is seldomly assessed, namely how plant species distribute along the depth gradient of lakes. Here, we provide the first in-depth characterization of depth diversity gradients (DDG) of submerged macrophytes across different lakes. We characterize the DDG for additive richness components (alpha, beta, gamma), assess environmental drivers and address temporal change over recent years. We take advantage of yet the largest dataset of macrophyte occurrence along lake depth (274 depth transects across 28 deep lakes) as well as of physio-chemical measurements (12 deep lakes from 2006 to 2017 across Bavaria), provided publicly online by the Bavarian State Office for the Environment. We found a high variability in DDG shapes across the study lakes. The DDG for alpha and gamma richness are predominantly hump-shaped, while beta richness shows a decreasing DDG. Generalized additive mixed-effect models indicate that the maximum alpha richness within the depth transect (Rmax) is significantly influenced by lake area only, whereas for the corresponding depth (Dmax) are influenced by light quality, light quantity and layering depth. Most observed DDGs seem generally stable over recent years. However, for single lakes we found significant linear trends for Rmax and Dmax going into different directions. The observed hump-shaped DDGs agree with three competing hypotheses: the mid-domain effect, the mean-disturbance hypothesis, and the mean-productivity hypothesis. The DDG amplitude seems driven by lake area (thus following known species-area relationships), whereas skewness depended on physio-chemical factors, mainly water transparency and layering depth. Our results provide insights for conservation strategies and for mechanistic frameworks to disentangle competing explanatory hypotheses for the DDG.
Drooping wildryegrass (Elymus nutans) has been widely planted together with other perennial grasses for rebuilding degraded alpine meadow atop the Tibetan Plateau. However, the rebuilt sown pastures begin to decline a few years after establishing. One of the possible causes for degradation of sown grassland may come from allelopathy of planted grasses. The purpose of this study was to examine allelopathic potential of drooping wildryegrass. Three types aqueous extracts from drooping wildryegrass and its root zone soil were prepared and 5 highland crops and 5 perennial grasses were used as recipient plants. Drooping wildryegrass exhibited strong allelopathic potential on germination and seedling growth of 5 crops germination and growth, but different crops or perennial grasses respond to the extracts differently. The pieces extract has stronger inhibition than others. Hulless barley, oat and Chinese fescue were the most affected, while quinoa and Siberian wildryegrass were the least affected. Drooping wildryegrass presented less influence on Kentucky bluegrass and crymophylla bluegrass than on Chinese fescue. It is recommended that the species combination of mixture for restoration should consider allopathic effects of the co-seeding and decrease the seeding rate ratio of drooping wildryegrass. The annual dicot crop quinoa and rape seeds can be used as alternative subsequent crop for seed field of drooping wildryegrass monoculture.