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Nature Ecology & Evolution is celebrating two years of publishing outstanding work from across the entire breadth of ecological and evolutionary subjects. This has included both fundamental advances and work with immediate applied significance. Topics have ranged across species, evolutionary timescales, geographical scales and ecosystem types. In addition, the journal’s Perspectives, Reviews and Comments have fostered discussion between scientific disciplines and with the wider world.
The evolutionary history of life and the history of the planet itself are closely entwined. This Perspective looks at the sources of energy — geochemical, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire — that have shaped this inter-relationship and the course of evolution.
As well as allowing horizontal gene transfer, the increased copy number of plasmids could accelerate evolution. Here, it is shown that clinically relevant antibiotic resistance evolves faster when the target gene is on a plasmid.
Ant colonies include reproductive queens and sterile workers. Based on brain transcriptomes from five ant species, the authors identify an ancestral gene network for caste differentiation that has been modified over time as ant societies evolved.
Thanks to phylogenomics, reconstruction of the tree of life is now possible, yet different datasets and methods can yield contradictory relationships. Here, the authors quantify phylogenetic signals and show that contentious relationships can be supported by a tiny amount of data.
Munias are small birds that underwent a rapid radiation in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Here, the authors show that the unique colouration of each species was generated by introgression and selection of ancestral genetic variation at a few relevant genes.
Humans have been modifying environments and habitats both indirectly and directly for millennia. This has resulted in extensive changes to the biology of non-domesticated non-human species, and this pattern is likely to increase in the future
Cancer evolution is central to poor outcomes of cancer therapies, enabling tumour progression and the acquisition of drug resistance. Joint efforts of evolutionary biologists, oncologists and cancer researchers are necessary to understand the principles of cancer evolution and to derive therapeutic strategies that can control it.
A full understanding of speciation requires the integration of knowledge at the macro and micro evolutionary scales. Here, the authors discuss the developmental processes associated with variation within plant species and morphological innovations that promote speciation in plants.
Although plant functional trait combinations reflect ecological trade-offs at the species level, little is known about how this translates to whole communities. Here, the authors show that global trait composition is captured by two main dimensions that are only weakly related to macro-environmental drivers.
Female common cuckoos often make a hawk-like call after parasitizing a host’s clutch. Here, field experiments show that this call increases the chances of parasitic success by diverting host parents’ attention.
Host–microbiome interactions may have unique characteristics that are not completely captured by existing ecological and evolutionary theories. Here, the authors highlight potential pitfalls in applying these frameworks to the human microbiome.
Open data is increasing rapidly, but data sets may be scattered among many repositories. Here, the authors present an overview of the open data landscape in ecology and evolutionary biology, and highlight key points to consider when reusing data.
Accurate understanding of plant litter decomposition is vital to inform Earth system modelling. Here the dominant hierarchical model for plant litter decomposition is found to be wanting, and revisions are suggested.
A meta-analysis comparing the ecological effects of variation within a species with the effects of species replacement or renewal shows that intraspecific effects may be comparable to, or sometimes stronger than, species effects.
A field study of young trees shows that complementarity among tree crowns in canopy space is a mechanism linking biodiversity with ecosystem productivity, and as such may contribute to diversity-enhanced productivity in forests.
Survival of competing microbial species pairs predicts competition outcome between a greater number of species: species that coexist with each other in pairs will survive, species that are excluded by any of the surviving species will go extinct.
Maximum speed could scale with body mass, but the largest animals are not actually the fastest. A general scaling law explains this with a hump-shaped relationship due to a finite limit on acceleration time.
High-throughput metabarcoding of coral reef fish larvae from the Red Sea enables species-level reconstruction of the highly biodiverse larval community, and their spatio-temporal distribution and abundance.
Analysing the spatial and temporal extents of 348 ecological studies published between 2004 and 2014, the authors show that although the average study interval and extent has increased, resolution and duration have remained largely unchanged.
Testing widely known biodiversity models on a dataset of >20,000 microbial community samples from a wide variety of ecosystems, the authors find that microbial abundance and diversity across scales is best predicted by a model of lognormal dynamics.
A directly dated Homo sapiens phalanx from the Nefud desert reveals human presence in the Arabian Peninsula before 85,000 years ago. This represents the earliest date for H. sapiens outside Africa and the Levant.
Evidence from starch grains, theobromine residues and ancient DNA demonstrate cacao use in the upper Amazon circa 5,300 years ago. This is earlier than previous evidence for cacao domestication in Mesoamerica.
A new titanosaurian sauropod, Mansourasaurus, is the most complete terrestrial vertebrate from the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous of the African mainland. Phylogenetic analyses reveal the existence of a titanosaurian clade inhabiting both Africa and Europe at this time and a faunal connection between the two continents.
Five laws derived from fossil data describe the relationships between species extinction and longevity, species richness, origination rates, extinction rates and diversification. These laws are crucial to the study of evolution and ecology.
Years before they conquered the Internet, cats colonized our sofas. But they haven’t spent the last ten thousand years just snoozing. A new study reveals that tamed cats swept through Eurasia and Africa carried by early farmers, ancient mariners and even Vikings. The researchers analysed DNA from over 200 cat remains and found that farmers in the Near East were probably the first people to successfully tame wild cats 9,000 years ago, before a second wave of cat domestication a few thousand years later in ancient Egypt.
A high-resolution local palaeoclimatic archive is correlated to the early Holocene human behavioural record at the British Mesolithic site of Star Carr. Despite environmental stresses at this time, intensive human activity persisted over centuries, suggesting resilience to climate change.
A new palaeobotanical method analyses molecular signatures of fossil leaf cuticles to reveal hitherto obscure phylogenetic relationships, for example between Nilssoniales and Bennettitales; Ginkgoales and Leptostrobales.
Targeted enrichment of >1,000 ultraconserved elements and divergence time analysis resolves relationships among 120 major acanthomorph lineages and provides a new timescale for acanthomorph radiation in the wake of the K–Pg boundary.
The teeth of Mesozoic marine reptiles are used to establish a dietary guild system for the species of the Jurassic Sub-Boreal Seaway over about 18 million years, revealing that niche partition and spatial distribution that varied following sea depth enabled species coexistence, as with marine faunas today.
Ancient DNA from victims of a sixteenth-century disease in Mexico suggests that Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C (enteric fever) was responsible for a devastating epidemic that closely followed European presence in the region.
Multi-proxy data from Wonderwerk Cave reveal that both C3 and C4 grasses and prolonged wetlands formed major components of Early Pleistocene hominin palaeoenvironments in southern Africa, with regional trends distinct from contemporary ones in eastern Africa.
One of the main drivers of human-induced biodiversity loss is exploitation of natural resources for trade. Here, the authors identify global ‘hotspots’ of threats to wildlife from international trade that directly link production of goods in one country with their consumption in another.
Recent calls for the reintroduction of functionally important animal species are motivated by a desire to restore ecological function, but overlook the ecological roles performed by humans. Here, we consider humans in ecological context, exploring our roles in the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem function.
Daily location data on the individuals of 14 migratory marine species from 2000 to 2009 allow annual migratory cycles to be mapped to the time spent in the high seas and the exclusive economic zones of specific countries, providing a basis for international management strategies for these species.
A study of foot-and-mouth disease in Tanzanian livestock and buffalo populations identifies waves spreading through cattle herds across the region, and economic impacts to rural communities that could be alleviated by targeted vaccination.
As peace consolidates in Colombia, can biodiversity survive development? We discuss challenges and opportunities for integrating forest biodiversity conservation into developing, war-dilapidated economies of post-conflict regions, paving the way for a green economy and climate resilient society.
Aichi Target 11 has galvanized expansion of the global protected area network, but there is little evidence that this brings real biodiversity gains. We argue that area-based prioritization risks unintended perverse consequences and that the focus of protected area target development should shift from quantity to quality.
The widespread occurrence of microscopic plastic particles in the ocean is of both and ecological and societal concern. Here, the authors review the biological impacts of interactions with microplastics in the marine environment.
A survey of black-grass occurrence and herbicide resistance on farms across the United Kingdom suggests that resistance drives weed density and that cyclical or combination herbicide application does not reduce resistance evolution.