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Highlighted research articles:
Hawk Dove game theory suggests that it is possible for two subtypes of a species to exist in a population. These subtypes are aggressive 'hawks', who will always fight for resources and peaceful 'doves' who will share with each other but back down to hawks. A real-life example of this is detailed in this study using Gouldian finches which exist as with either red or black head feathers. Red 'hawks' outperform black 'doves' in contests over nest sites and can therefore invade an established black population, but when reds become too common their fitness decreases due to decreased parental ability. This species provides one of the very few real-life proofs of Maynard Smith's classic theory.
Sharks are one of the most threatened groups of marine animals worldwide, mostly due to overfishing and habitat degradation/loss. Although these cartilaginous fish have evolved to fill many ecological niches across a wide range of habitats, they have limited capability to rapidly adapt to human-induced changes in their environments. Here we show, for the first time, that an early ontogenetic acclimation process of a tropical shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum) to the projected scenarios of ocean acidification and warming for 2100 elicited significant impairments on juvenile shark condition and survival.
Marine phytoplankton is the foundation of ocean ecosystems. They produce half our oxygen, act as a CO2-sink and contribute to marine food webs. This paper shows how responses of phytoplankton to future conditions, before they evolve, can predict how much phytoplankton will evolve in a changing ocean. Predictions were made using current populations alongside evolution experiments. While CO2 enrichment is initially beneficial for green alga, long-term exposure is stressful, so evolution reverses the short-term response.
News fossils from Newfoundland, Canada are described here which possess the oldest evidence for muscle tissue currently known from the fossil record. Found in rocks of ~560 million years in age, the new organism, Haootia quadriformis, shares several similarities with modern cnidarians (the group to which jellyfish and sea anemones belong). Haootia is important since it suggests that animals were present amongst the Ediacaran biota, around 20 million years before the 'Cambrian Explosion'.
Cuckoos are famous for their exquisite mimicry of host eggs. This mimicry arises from an ‘arms race’ between species, with cuckoo eggs evolving to evade hosts’ ever-improving defences. Some Australiasian cuckoos lay cryptic rather than mimetic eggs. This study shows that egg crypsis likely results from a within species ‘arms race’ where eggs must evade removal by other cuckoos targeting the same host nests. Thus cuckoos can be locked into two evolutionary races – one with hosts and one with their competitors.
Evidence that reproductive traits decline with increasing ages in both females and males are increasing. However, little is known about the factors that can potentially influence this senescence, especially in males. In our study, we found that male red deer (Cervus elaphus) that had larger harems and thereby allocated more resources to reproduction during early adulthood experienced higher rates of senescence in both harem size and rut duration.
The critical role of heat shock proteins in heat tolerance has been clarified in cultured cells and animal tissues, but rarely in whole organisms due to methodological difficulties. This paper shows that over expression of heat shock proteins in turtle embryos enhances embryo heat tolerance and hatching success, but subsequently decreases heat tolerance of surviving hatchlings. This provides the first unequivocal evidence that heat shock proteins promote thermal tolerance of embryos in oviparous amniotes.
It has long been debated whether Neolithic economies could exist beyond the 60th parallel north in regions where farming of animals and plants originally domesticated in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ would be severely limited. This suggests that prehistoric dairy farming enabled sustainable farming economies to exist in southern Finland 4,500 years ago.
Highlighted review articles:
Striking ecosystem changes can occur when species move into new areas. Driven by ocean warming, tropical herbivorous fish are shifting their distribution polewards and interacting for the first time with temperate algal forests. While tropical reefs depend on abundant and diverse herbivorous fishes to keep corals free of algae, temperate algal forests can be lost with high levels of herbivory. The intrusion of tropical herbivores therefore poses an important threat to temperate coastal habitats. Overgrazing of algal forests and a ‘tropicalization’ of ecological communities has already been documented in Japan and the Mediterranean, with emerging evidence suggesting this is a phenomenon of global importance.
Evolutionarily conserved signalling pathways are repeatedly utilized in a variety of developmental contexts as genetic toolkits. Nevertheless, the shape, size and pattern of homologous organs vary even between closely related species. Insect wings are excellent resources for studying diversified morphogenesis, since it is generally accepted that wings originated only once in the arthropod lineage and have undergone considerable variation in shape, size, and venation. Among those, wing venation is one of the most characteristic features of insect species. Recent observations in Drosophila and the sawfly Athalia provide novel insights into evolutionary conserved mechanisms underlying diversified wing venation among insects.
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