Evolutionary ecology

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Herbivore cooperation between insect pests can result in substantially greater damage to crops but also constitutes a good target for improved pest control. Liu et al. reveal how the brown plant-hopper and the rice striped stem-borer obtain mutual benefits when feeding on the same rice plant.

    • Qingsong Liu
    • , Xiaoyun Hu
    •  & Yunhe Li
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Insect acquisition of insecticide resistance represents a serious problem for agriculture. Here, authors reveal an insect symbiotic bacteria that degrades insecticide fenitrothion into a non-insecticidal but bactericidal compound, which is subsequently excreted by the insect host.

    • Yuya Sato
    • , Seonghan Jang
    •  & Yoshitomo Kikuchi
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The microbiomes associated with reef corals are complex and diverse. Here, the authors investigate fire coral clones naturally occurring in distinct habitats as a model system to disentangle the contribution of host genotype and environment on their microbiome, and predict genomic functions based on taxonomic profiles.

    • C. E. Dubé
    • , M. Ziegler
    •  & C. R. Voolstra
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There are many hypotheses for why the tropics are more biodiverse than higher latitudes. Phylogenomic analyses of 21 montane birds finds that tropical birds disperse less and have more genetically structured populations than their counterparts at higher latitudes, possibly due to a larger elevational climate gradient in the tropics

    • Gregory Thom
    • , Marcelo Gehara
    •  & Fábio Raposo do Amaral
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Anthropogenic change, such as urban heat islands, present challenges to biodiversity that can be overcome through phenotypic plasticity. Unlike their ancestral counterparts, urban lizards have fewer maladaptive gene expression responses to higher temperatures in a common garden experiment, suggesting the evolution of adaptive plasticity.

    • Shane C. Campbell-Staton
    • , Jonathan P. Velotta
    •  & Kristin M. Winchell
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The relative importance of evolutionary history and ecology for traits that drive ecosystem processes is poorly understood. Analyzing nine traits associated with fish stoichiometry from 1,572 individuals yields multiple lines of evidence that phylogeny is a critical determinant of nutrient cycling in coral reefs.

    • Jacob E. Allgeier
    • , Brian C. Weeks
    •  & Deron E. Burkepile
  • Perspective
    | Open Access

    The microbiome is becoming recognized as a key determinant of host phenotype. Here, Henry et al. present a framework for building our understanding of how the microbiome also influences host evolution, review empirical examples and research approaches, and highlight emerging questions.

    • Lucas P. Henry
    • , Marjolein Bruijning
    •  & Julien F. Ayroles
  • Article
    | Open Access

    It is still unclear when and by which route modern humans expanded out of Africa. Here, Beyer et al. use paleoclimate reconstructions and estimates of human precipitation requirements to evaluate the survivability of spatial and temporal migration corridors to Eurasia over the last 300,000 years.

    • Robert M. Beyer
    • , Mario Krapp
    •  & Andrea Manica
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Understanding the dynamics of species interactions can help predict community responses to climate change. A spatially explicit model finds that species interactions and competition mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change, and that temperature-dependent competition makes communities more variable and responsive to changing climates.

    • Anna Åkesson
    • , Alva Curtsdotter
    •  & György Barabás
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Long-distance bird migration timing is thought to be relatively inflexible despite climate change. Here, based on 13 years of mark-resight and geolocator-tracking data on bar-tailed godwits, the authors report a 6-day advance of departure time which is explained by an unexpected degree of individual plasticity.

    • Jesse R. Conklin
    • , Simeon Lisovski
    •  & Phil F. Battley
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Theory predicts that organisms in varied environments should evolve to be more phenotypically flexible. Evidence combining genetic and physiological variation with thermal acclimation experiments shows that the thermogenic flexibility of wild juncos is greatest in populations where temperatures are most variable.

    • Maria Stager
    • , Nathan R. Senner
    •  & Zachary A. Cheviron
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Welwitschia mirabilis is a unique plant that only has two leaves, but it can survive in hostile conditions of the African desert. Here, the authors report its chromosome-level genome assembly and discuss how gene function and regulation have given rise to its unique morphology and environmental adaptions.

    • Tao Wan
    • , Zhiming Liu
    •  & Qingfeng Wang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Increasing body and brain size constitutes a key pattern in human evolution, but the mechanisms driving these changes remain debated. Using a large fossil dataset combined with global paleoclimatic reconstructions, the authors show that different environmental variables influenced the evolution of brain and body size in Homo.

    • Manuel Will
    • , Mario Krapp
    •  & Andrea Manica
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Many species learn through social transmission, which can alter co-evolutionary selection pressures. Experiments involving artificial prey and social networks show that wild birds can learn about unpalatable food by watching others, which helps explain the persistence of costly prey defences despite influxes of naïve juvenile predators.

    • Liisa Hämäläinen
    • , William Hoppitt
    •  & Rose Thorogood
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The parasite causing toxoplasmosis can manipulate prey to behave in ways that promote transmission to the parasite’s definitive feline hosts. The first study consistent with this extended phenotype in the wild finds that infected hyena cubs approach lions more closely than uninfected peers and have higher rates of lion mortality.

    • Eben Gering
    • , Zachary M. Laubach
    •  & Thomas Getty
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There are relatively few known extant adaptive radiations in Europe that predate the Pleistocene. Here, Borko et al. characterize the diversity and diversification of the subterranean amphipod genus Niphargus, showing evidence for a large adaptive radiation associated with massif uplift 15 million years ago.

    • Špela Borko
    • , Peter Trontelj
    •  & Cene Fišer
  • Article
    | Open Access

    While there is strong evidence that many mutualisms evolved from antagonism, how or why remains unclear. A study combining theory and a data-based model sheds light on how mutualisms evolve without extremely tight host fidelity and how ecological context affects evolutionary outcomes and vice-versa.

    • Christopher A. Johnson
    • , Gordon P. Smith
    •  & Régis Ferrière
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The evolution of metamorphic species may be constrained by different ecologies of the larval and adult stages. Here, Bardua et al. show that in frogs, adult ecology is more important than larval ecology for skull evolution, but species that don’t feed as tadpoles evolve faster than those that do.

    • Carla Bardua
    • , Anne-Claire Fabre
    •  & Anjali Goswami
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Whether invasive species must first establish in conditions within their native climatic niche before spreading remains largely untested. This study presents the Niche Margin Index for estimating climatic niche-matching of alien mammal species to a particular site, which could be used to help predict the success of invasions.

    • Olivier Broennimann
    • , Blaise Petitpierre
    •  & Antoine Guisan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Trait-based approaches assume upper critical thermal limits (CTLs) are good predictors of climate change vulnerability. Here, the authors show that male fertility thermal limits, which are lower than CTLs, are better at predicting Drosophila extinction in the lab, suggesting species may be living close to their thermal limits.

    • Belinda van Heerwaarden
    •  & Carla M. Sgrò
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Anthropogenic changes, such as eutrophication from lake pollution, can lead to rapid evolution. Comparing Daphnia resurrected from generations adapted to historical pollution to contemporary, post-cleanup populations finds that Daphnia rapidly reversed their evolved resistance to harmful cyanobacteria.

    • Jana Isanta-Navarro
    • , Nelson G. Hairston Jr
    •  & Dominik Martin-Creuzburg
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Most mammals are nocturnal, but a new analysis suggests that although most groups of species active at a particular time of day or night occupy different ecological niches, a surprisingly large proportion of species are more flexible in the timing of their activity than previously thought.

    • D. T. C. Cox
    • , A. S. Gardner
    •  & K. J. Gaston
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Historical climate adaptation can give insight into the potential for adaptation to contemporary changing climates. Here Bennett et al. investigate thermal tolerance evolution across much of the tree of life and find different effects of ancestral climate on the subsequent evolution of ectotherms vs. endotherms.

    • Joanne M. Bennett
    • , Jennifer Sunday
    •  & Miguel Ángel Olalla-Tárraga
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Climate change may pose a challenge not only for survival of animals but also for their reproduction. Here, Schou et al. analyse how male and female ostrich fertility relates to fluctuating temperature across 20 years, finding reduced fertility away from the thermal optimum, but also individual variation in thermal tolerance.

    • Mads F. Schou
    • , Maud Bonato
    •  & Charlie K. Cornwallis
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Arms races between herbivores and plants have likely affected their evolutionary histories, which could have led to their high diversity. Allio et al. find that butterflies shifting to new host plants have more adaptive molecular signatures across their genomes and show repeated bursts of speciation rates.

    • Rémi Allio
    • , Benoit Nabholz
    •  & Fabien L. Condamine
  • Article
    | Open Access

    It has been hypothesized that domestication can occur through the ‘commensal pathway’ in which the domesticate takes advantage of a niche created as a byproduct by the domesticator. Here, Brooker et al. provide evidence for a commensal domestication process between longfin damselfish and mysid shrimps.

    • Rohan M. Brooker
    • , Jordan M. Casey
    •  & William E. Feeney
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Here, Griffiths et al. show infection of 80–100% of sampled vampire bats in Peru with a newly discovered betaherpesvirus (DrBHV) that exhibits specificity within neotropical bats and evidence for superinfection. These data suggest that DrBHV could be a candidate for virally vectored vaccines that spread autonomously through a bat population.

    • Megan E. Griffiths
    • , Laura M. Bergner
    •  & Daniel G. Streicker
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Migration is costly. In the first global analysis of migratory vertebrates, authors report that migratory birds and mammals have faster paces of life than their non-migratory relatives, and that among swimming and walking species, migrants tend to be larger, while among flying species, migrants are smaller.

    • Andrea Soriano-Redondo
    • , Jorge S. Gutiérrez
    •  & Stuart Bearhop
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Animal signals often encode information on the emitter’s species identity. Using woodpecker drumming as a model, here the authors show that limited signal divergence during a clade radiation does not impair species discrimination, as long as the signals are adapted to local ecological requirements.

    • Maxime Garcia
    • , Frédéric Theunissen
    •  & Nicolas Mathevon
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Nearly 17% of all bird species are hosts to obligate brood parasites like the common cuckoo. Antonson et al. show that parasite species hedge their reproductive bets by outsourcing parental care to a greater variety of host species when the rearing environment for their young is more unpredictable.

    • Nicholas D. Antonson
    • , Dustin R. Rubenstein
    •  & Carlos A. Botero
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The average body size of salmon has declined rapidly over recent decades. Here the authors quantify changes in body size distributions for Pacific salmon in Alaska and examine the causes and consequences of size declines for ecosystems, food security, and commercial fisheries.

    • K. B. Oke
    • , C. J. Cunningham
    •  & E. P. Palkovacs
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Floral phenotypes impact interactions between plants and pollinators. Here, the authors show that Moricandia arvensis displays discrete seasonal plasticity in floral phenotype, with large, lilac flowers attracting long-tongued bees in spring and small, rounded, white flowers attracting generalist pollinators in summer.

    • José M. Gómez
    • , Francisco Perfectti
    •  & Rubén Torices
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Phenotypic robustness to environmental variation is seemingly at odds with evolvability. Here, the authors analyze carotenoid use and accommodation in feather development across a recent avian range expansion and show that cooption of a stress-buffering mechanism can reconcile robustness and evolvability.

    • Ahva L. Potticary
    • , Erin S. Morrison
    •  & Alexander V. Badyaev
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The ecological niche of host-associated microbes is defined by both abiotic and biotic dimensions. Here the authors analyse published data on fungal and oomycete pathogens of plants, demonstrating that specialization can evolve independently on abiotic and biotic axes and that interactions with host plants reduce thermal niche breadth.

    • Thomas M. Chaloner
    • , Sarah J. Gurr
    •  & Daniel P. Bebber
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Both geography and ecology can drive the origins of new species. Siqueira et al. show how geological changes in the structure of Miocene reefs and the concurrent evolution of new feeding strategies combine to explain why coral reefs contain such a diversity of fish species.

    • Alexandre C. Siqueira
    • , Renato A. Morais
    •  & Peter F. Cowman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Sensory drive theory posits that selection on sexual signals should depend on the environmental background. Here, Hulse et al. analyze the spatial statistics of body patterning in 10 darter fish species and find a correlation with habitat spatial statistics only for males, consistent with sexual selection via sensory drive.

    • Samuel V. Hulse
    • , Julien P. Renoult
    •  & Tamra C. Mendelson
  • Article
    | Open Access

    In contrast to bird plumage, little is known about the evolution of bird skin color. Here, Nicolaï et al. find that black skin has evolved over 100 times in birds and is associated with baldness and/or white feathers as well as with high irradiation habitats, suggesting a role in UV protection.

    • Michaël P. J. Nicolaï
    • , Matthew D. Shawkey
    •  & Liliana D’Alba
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Endemism is an important metric for conservation, but it may be sensitive to the measurement approach. Here Daru et al analyze global datasets of birds and amphibians and show that both weighted and phylogenetic endemism are scale dependent, across grain sizes, spatial extent and taxonomic treatment.

    • Barnabas H. Daru
    • , Harith Farooq
    •  & Søren Faurby
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Europe hosts isolated remnants of the steppe belt that once covered much of Eurasia. Here the authors combine genomic data and ecological niche modelling on three plant and three insect species to show evolution independent of the zonal steppe and high conservation value of these extrazonal steppes.

    • Philipp Kirschner
    • , Eliška Záveská
    •  & Peter Schönswetter
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Measurement of species abundance is fundamental in ecology, yet challenging at large spatial scales. Here, the authors show estimates of abundance of 1248 woody plant species over the East Asian islands that highlight macroevolutionary processes of biodiversity and the status of the national red listing.

    • Keiichi Fukaya
    • , Buntarou Kusumoto
    •  & Yasuhiro Kubota
  • Article
    | Open Access

    One hypothesis for the latitudinal diversity gradient is based on an assumption of stronger species interactions at lower latitudes. Here, Roesti et al. estimate pelagic fish predation from long-term fishing records and find evidence of stronger predation at higher latitudes and with lower fish species richness.

    • Marius Roesti
    • , Daniel N. Anstett
    •  & Roi Holzman