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  • Transcriptome of pleuropodia from locust embryos supports that these organs produce enzymes enabling the larva to hatch
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2020-01-16
    Barbora Konopová; Elisa Buchberger; Alastair Crisp

    Pleuropodia are limb-derived glandular organs that transiently appear on the first abdominal segment in embryos of insects from majority of “orders”. They are missing in the genetic model Drosophila and little is known about them. Experiments carried out on orthopteran insects 80 years ago indicated that the pleuropodia secrete a “hatching enzyme” that digests the serosal cuticle to enable the larva to hatch, but evidence by state-of-the-art molecular methods is missing. We used high-throughput RNA-sequencing to identify the genes expressed in the pleuropodia of the locust Schistocerca gregaria (Orthoptera). First, using transmission electron microscopy we studied the development of the pleuropodia during 11 stages of the locust embryogenesis. We show that the glandular cells differentiate and start secreting just before the definitive dorsal closure of the embryo and the secretion granules outside the cells become more abundant prior to hatching. Next, we generated a comprehensive embryonic reference transcriptome for the locust and used it to study genome wide gene expression across ten morphologicaly defined stages of the pleuropodia. We show that when the pleuropodia have morphological markers of functional organs and produce secretion, they are primarily enriched in transcripts associated with transport functions. They express genes encoding enzymes capable of digesting cuticular protein and chitin. These include the potent cuticulo-lytic Chitinase 5, whose transcript rises just before hatching. Unexpected finding was the enrichment in transcripts for immunity-related enzymes. This indicates that the pleuropodia are equipped with epithelial immunity similarly as barrier epithelia in postembryonic stages. These data provide transcriptomic support for the historic hypothesis that pleuropodia produce cuticle-degrading enzymes and function in hatching. They may also have other functions, such as facilitation of embryonic immune defense. By the genes that they express the pleuropodia are specialized embryonic organs and apparently an important though neglected part of insect physiology.

  • The impact of elevated temperature and CO2 on growth, physiological and immune responses of Polypedates cruciger (common hourglass tree frog)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2020-01-13
    W. A. Manasee T. Weerathunga; Gayani Rajapaksa

    Amphibians are one of the most susceptible groups to climate change as their development occurs in aquatic environments or in microhabitats with high humidity. Accordingly, our primary objective was to investigate the chronic physiological responses seen in early larval to adult stages of Polypedates cruciger (Common hourglass tree frog) to future climate change based on continuous exposure to elevated temperature and elevated CO2 -induced low water pH. Free-swimming and free-feeding tadpoles were observed until metamorphosis under four experimental treatments; two elevated temperatures, one elevated CO2 (reduced pH) and a control maintained at ambient temperature (29 °C ± 1 °C) and CO2 (pH = 7). Elevated temperature treatments were maintained at 32 °C ± 0.5 °C and 34 °C ± 0.5 °C to represent respectively, the future climate scenarios RCP2.6 (Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6, the ‘base-case’ scenario) and RCP8.5 (‘business-as-usual’ scenario) according to the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC. Elevated CO2 treatment was maintained within the pH range of 5.5–5.6 representing the range expected between RCP8.5 and RCP2.6. Compared to the control, elevated CO2 accelerated phenological progression of tadpoles through Gosner stages, thus resulting in lower body size at metamorphosis. Both elevated temperatures significantly delayed the development and reduced the growth of tadpoles. 100% mortality was observed in 34 °C treatment before metamorphosis (before Gosner stage 36) while all the tadpoles died after metamorphosis (at Gosner stage 46) in 32 °C treatment. Elevated CO2 increased tadpole activity, in terms of their swimming speed, while both of the elevated temperatures reduced it compared to the control. Catalase activity increased at elevated CO2. Ammonia excretion by tadpoles was decreased by elevated CO2, but increased under temperature elevation. Both Elevated CO2 and temperature treatments reduced the white blood cell count and its percentage of thrombocytes. Percentages of lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils were increased at 32 °C, while lymphocyte percentage and lysozyme activity were increased at elevated CO2. Several deformities were observed in tadpoles at elevated temperature and CO2. Elevated temperatures and reduced pH due to elevated CO2, being major features of climate change, increase the vulnerability of amphibians, who are already one of the most threatened vertebrate groups. Based on our observations on the model amphibian species P. cruciger, increased vulnerability to climate change occurs by reducing their growth, body size and motility while also reducing their immunity and inducing physical deformities. These impacts are highly-likely to reduce the foraging, competitive and reproductive capabilities in their natural habitats. We conclude further that even the ‘best-case’ scenario of future climate change can impose significant physiological impacts that could threaten amphibian populations on broader spatial and temporal scales.

  • Does the frontal sensory organ in adults of the hoplonemertean Quasitetrastemma stimpsoni originate from the larval apical organ?
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2020-01-06
    Timur Yu Magarlamov; Vyacheslav Dyachuk; Alexey V. Chernyshev

    The apical organ is the most prominent neural structure in spiralian larvae. Although it has been thoroughly investigated in larvae of the class Pilidiophora in phylum Nemertea, studies on its structure in other nemertean larvae are limited. Most adult hoplonemertean worms have a frontal organ located in a position corresponding to that of the larval apical organ. The development and sensory function of the frontal organ has not been thoroughly characterized to date. The apical organ in the early rudiment stage of Quasitetrastemma stimpsoni larvae consists of an apical plate enclosed by ducts of frontal gland cells and eight apical neurons. The apical plate is abundantly innervated by neurites of apical neurons. During the late rudiment stage, the larval apical organ has external innervation from below by two subapical-plate neurons, along with 11 apical neurons, and its plate contains serotonin-like immunoreactive (5-HT-lir) cells. In the vermicular stage (free-swimming juvenile), the number of apical neurons is reduced, and their processes are resorbed. Serotonin is detected in the apical plate with no visible connection to apical neurons. In adult worms, the frontal organ has a small apical pit with openings for the frontal gland ducts. The organ consists of 8 to 10 densely packed 5-HT-lir cells that form the roundish pit. Although the ultrastructure of the Q. stimpsoni larval apical organ closely resembles that of the apical organ of Polycladida larvae, the former differs in the presence of flask-shaped neurons typical of Spiralia. Significant differences in the structure of the apical organs of hoplonemertean and pilidia larvae point to two different paths in the evolutionary transformation of the ancestral apical organ. Ultrastructural and immunoreactive analyses of the apical organ of a hoplonemertean larva in the late rudiment and vermicular stages and the frontal organ of the adult worms identified common morphological and functional features. Thus, we hypothesize that the larval apical organ is modified during morphogenesis to form the adult frontal organ, which fulfills a sensory function in the hoplonemertean worm. This unique developmental trait distinguishes the Hoplonemertea from other nemertean groups.

  • Maternal effects on offspring growth indicate post-weaning juvenile dependence in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2020-01-07
    Liran Samuni; Patrick Tkaczynski; Tobias Deschner; Therese Löhrrich; Roman M. Wittig; Catherine Crockford

    In animals with altricial offspring, most growth occurs after birth and may be optimized by post-natal maternal care. Maternal effects on growth may be influenced by individual characteristics of the mothers, such as social status, individual investment strategies and the length of association with offspring. The prolonged juvenile dependence seen in humans is a distinctive life history adaptation, which may have evolved to facilitate sustained somatic and brain growth. In chimpanzees, offspring are typically weaned at approximately 4 years old, yet immature individuals continue to associate with their mothers for up to 10 years beyond weaning. Whether this lengthy association or the individual characteristics of mothers influences growth patterns in this species is not clear. The relationship between urinary creatinine and specific gravity is an established non-invasive measure of muscle mass in humans and chimpanzees. We analysed the urinary creatinine and specific gravity of 1318 urine samples from 70 wild chimpanzees from the Taï Forest, Ivory Coast aged 4 to 15 years. We showed a clear increase in urinary creatinine levels with age in both males and females, replicating established growth curves in this species and reaffirming this measure as a reliable proxy for lean body mass. Comparing those who experience maternal loss (orphans) with non-orphan chimpanzees, maternal presence beyond weaning age and into late juvenility positively influenced offspring muscle mass throughout ontogeny such that orphans had significantly less muscle mass than age-matched non-orphans. In age-matched offspring with mothers, those with high-ranking mothers had greater muscle mass. Accounting for variation in muscle mass attributable to maternal presence, we found no effect of maternal investment (length of inter birth interval, from own birth to birth of following sibling) on offspring muscle mass. Chimpanzee mothers have an extended and multi-faceted influence on offspring phenotypes. Our results suggest that maternal investment extends beyond lactation and into early adulthood and has clear benefits to offspring physical development. Therefore, prolonged juvenile dependence, although unique in its form in human societies, may be a trait with deeper evolutionary origins.

  • Eumelanin and pheomelanin pigmentation in mollusc shells may be less common than expected: insights from mass spectrometry
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-12-23
    Susanne Affenzeller; Klaus Wolkenstein; Holm Frauendorf; Daniel J. Jackson

    The geometric patterns that adorn the shells of many phylogenetically disparate molluscan species are comprised of pigments that span the visible spectrum. Although early chemical studies implicated melanin as a commonly employed pigment, surprisingly little evidence generated with more recent and sensitive techniques exists to support these observations. Here we present the first mass spectrometric investigations for the presence of eumelanin and pheomelanin in 13 different molluscan species from three conchiferan classes: Bivalvia, Cephalopoda and Gastropoda. In the bivalve Mytilus edulis we demonstrate that eumelanin mainly occurs in the outermost, non-mineralised and highly pigmented layer of the shell (often referred to as the periostracum). We also identified eumelanin in the shells of the cephalopod Nautilus pompilius and the marine gastropods Clanculus pharaonius and Steromphala adriatica. In the terrestrial gastropod Cepaea nemoralis we verify the presence of pheomelanin in a mollusc shell for the first time. Surprisingly, in a large number of brown/black coloured shells we did not find any evidence for either type of melanin. We recommend methods such as high-performance liquid chromatography with mass spectrometric detection for the analysis of complex biological samples to avoid potential false-positive identification of melanin. Our results imply that many molluscan species employ as yet unidentified pigments to pattern their shells. This has implications for our understanding of how molluscs evolved the ability to pigment and pattern their shells, and for the identification of the molecular mechanisms that regulate these processes.

  • Non-invasive quantification of cardiac stroke volume in the edible crab Cancer pagurus
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-12-12
    Bastian Maus; Sebastian Gutsfeld; Hans-Otto Pörtner; Christian Bock

    Brachyuran crabs can effectively modulate cardiac stroke volume independently of heart rate in response to abiotic drivers. Non-invasive techniques can help to improve the understanding of cardiac performance parameters of these animals. This study demonstrates the in vivo quantification of cardiac performance parameters through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the edible crab Cancer pagurus. Furthermore, the suitability of signal integrals of infra-red photoplethysmographs as a qualitative tool is assessed under severe hypoxia. Multi-slice self-gated cardiac cinematic (CINE) MRI revealed the structure and motion of the ventricle to quantify heart rates, end-diastolic volume, end-systolic volume, stroke volume and ejection fraction. CINE MRI showed that stroke volumes increased under hypoxia because of a reduction of end-systolic volumes at constant end-diastolic volumes. Plethysmograph recordings allowed for automated heart rate measurements but determination of a qualitative stroke volume proxy strongly depended on the position of the sensor on the animal. Both techniques revealed a doubling in stroke volumes after 6 h under severe hypoxia (water PO2 = 15% air saturation). MRI has allowed for detailed descriptions of cardiac performance in intact animals under hypoxia. The temporal resolution of quantitative non-invasive CINE MRI is limited but should encourage further refining. The stroke volume proxy based on plethysmograph recordings is feasible to complement other cardiac measurements over time. The presented methods allow for non-destructive in vivo determinations of multiple cardiac performance parameters, with the possibility to study neuro-hormonal or environmental effects on decapod cardio physiology.

  • Characteristics of tiger moth (Erebidae: Arctiinae) anti-bat sounds can be predicted from tymbal morphology
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-12-10
    Nicolas J. Dowdy; William E. Conner

    Acoustic signals are used by many animals to transmit information. Variation in the acoustic characteristics of these signals often covaries with morphology and can relay information about an individual’s fitness, sex, species, and/or other characteristics important for both mating and defense. Tiger moths (Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Arctiinae) use modified cuticular plates called “tymbal organs” to produce ultrasonic clicks which can aposematically signal their toxicity, mimic the signals of other species, or, in some cases, disrupt bat echolocation. The morphology of the tymbal organs and the sounds they produce vary greatly between species, but it is unclear how the variation in morphology gives rise to the variation in acoustic characteristics. This is the first study to determine how the morphological features of tymbals can predict the acoustic characteristics of the signals they produce. We show that the number of striations on the tymbal surface (historically known as “microtymbals”) and, to a lesser extent, the ratio of the projected surface area of the tymbal to that of the thorax have a strong, positive correlation with the number of clicks a moth produces per unit time. We also found that some clades have significantly different regression coefficients, and thus the relationship between microtymbals and click rate is also dependent on the shared ancestry of different species. Our predictive model allows the click rates of moths to be estimated using preserved material (e.g., from museums) in cases where live specimens are unavailable. This has the potential to greatly accelerate our understanding of the distribution of sound production and acoustic anti-bat strategies employed by tiger moths. Such knowledge will generate new insights into the evolutionary history of tiger moth anti-predator defenses on a global scale.

  • Assesment and interpretation of negative forelimb allometry in the evolution of non-avian Theropoda
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-12-02
    José A. Palma Liberona; Sergio Soto-Acuña; Marco A. Mendez; Alexander O. Vargas

    The origin of birds is marked by a significant decrease in body size along with an increase in relative forelimb size. However, before the evolution of flight, both traits may have already been related: It has been proposed that an evolutionary trend of negative forelimb allometry existed in non-avian Theropoda, such that larger species often have relatively shorter forelimbs. Nevertheless, several exceptions exist, calling for rigorous phylogenetic statistical testing. Here, we re-assessed allometric patterns in the evolution of non-avian theropods, for the first time taking into account the non-independence among related species due to shared evolutionary history. We confirmed a main evolutionary trend of negative forelimb allometry for non-avian Theropoda, but also found support that some specific subclades (Coelophysoidea, Ornithomimosauria, and Oviraptorosauria) exhibit allometric trends that are closer to isometry, losing the ancestral negative forelimb allometry present in Theropoda as a whole. Explanations for negative forelimb allometry in the evolution of non-avian theropods have not been discussed, yet evolutionary allometric trends often reflect ontogenetic allometries, which suggests negative allometry of the forelimb in the ontogeny of most non-avian theropods. In modern birds, allometric growth of the limbs is related to locomotor and behavioral changes along ontogeny. After reviewing the evidence for such changes during the ontogeny of non-avian dinosaurs, we propose that proportionally longer arms of juveniles became adult traits in the small-sized and paedomorphic Aves.

  • Physiological predictors of reproductive performance in the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-11-22
    Melinda A. Fowler; Mélissa Paquet; Véronique Legault; Alan A. Cohen; Tony D. Williams

    It is widely assumed that variation in fitness components has a physiological basis that might underlie selection on trade-offs, but the mechanisms driving decreased survival and future fecundity remain elusive. Here, we assessed whether physiological variables are related to workload ability or immediate fitness consequences and if they mediate future survival or reproductive success. We used data on 13 physiological variables measured in 93 female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) at two breeding stages (incubation, chick-rearing), for first-and second-broods over two years (152 observations). There was little co-variation among the physiological variables, either in incubating or chick-rearing birds, but some systematic physiological differences between the two stages. Chick-rearing birds had lower hematocrit and plasma creatine kinase but higher hemoglobin, triglyceride and uric acid levels. Only plasma corticosterone was repeatable between incubation and chick-rearing. We assessed relationships between incubation or chick-rearing physiology and measures of workload, current productivity, future fecundity or survival in a univariate manner, and found very few significant relationships. Thus, we next explored the utility of multivariate analysis (principal components analysis, Mahalanobis distance) to account for potentially complex physiological integration, but still found no clear associations. This implies either that a) birds maintained physiological variables within a homeostatic range that did not affect their performance, b) there are relatively few links between physiology and performance, or, more likely, c) that the complexity of these relationships exceeds our ability to measure it. Variability in ecological context may complicate the relationship between physiology and behavior. We thus urge caution regarding the over-interpretation of isolated significant findings, based on single traits in single years, in the literature.

  • Morphological and biochemical characterization of the cutaneous poison glands in toads (Rhinella marina group) from different environments
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-11-23
    Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana; Marta Maria Antoniazzi; Juliana Mozer Sciani; Daniel Carvalho Pimenta; Katia Cristina Barbaro; Carlos Jared

    Amphibian defence against predators and microorganisms is directly related to cutaneous glands that produce a huge number of different toxins. These glands are distributed throughout the body but can form accumulations in specific regions. When grouped in low numbers, poison glands form structures similar to warts, quite common in the dorsal skin of bufonids (toads). When accumulated in large numbers, the glands constitute protuberant structures known as macroglands, among which the parotoids are the most common ones. This work aimed at the morphological and biochemical characterization of the poison glands composing different glandular accumulations in four species of toads belonging to group Rhinella marina (R. icterica, R. marina, R. schneideri and R. jimi). These species constitute a good model since they possess other glandular accumulations together with the dorsal warts and the parotoids and inhabit environments with different degrees of water availability. We have observed that the toads skin has three types of poison glands that can be differentiated from each other through the morphology and the chemical content of their secretion product. The distribution of these different glands throughout the body is peculiar to each toad species, except for the parotoids and the other macroglands, which are composed of an exclusive gland type that is usually different from that composing the dorsal warts. Each type of poison gland presents histochemical and biochemical peculiarities, mainly regarding protein components. The distribution, morphology and chemical composition of the different types of poison glands, indicate that they may have different defensive functions in each toad species.

  • Sex chromosomal dimorphisms narrated by X-chromosome translocation in a spiny frog (Quasipaa boulengeri)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-11-27
    Xiuyun Yuan; Yun Xia; Xiaomao Zeng

    In the general model of sex chromosome evolution for diploid dioecious organisms, the Y (or W) chromosome is derived, while the homogametic sex presumably represents the ancestral condition. However, in the frog species Quasipaa boulengeri, heteromorphisms caused by a translocation between chromosomes 1 and 6 are not related to sex, because the same heteromorphic chromosomes are found both in males and females at the cytological level. To confirm whether those heteromorphisms are unrelated to sex, a sex-linked locus was mapped at the chromosomal level and sequenced to identify any haplotype difference between sexes. Chromosome 1 was assigned to the sex chromosome pair by mapping the sex-linked locus. X-chromosome translocation was demonstrated and confirmed by the karyotypes of the progeny. Translocation heteromorphisms were involved in normal and translocated X chromosomes in the rearranged populations. Based on phylogenetic inference using both male and female sex-linked haplotypes, recombination was suppressed not only between the Y and normal X chromosomes, respectively the Y and translocated X chromosomes, but also between the normal and translocated X chromosomes. Both males and females shared not only the same translocation heteromorphisms but also the X chromosomal dimorphisms in this frog. The reverse of the typical situation, in which the X is derived and the Y has remained unchanged, is known to be very rare. In the present study, X-chromosome translocation has been known to cause sex chromosomal dimorphisms. The X chromosome has gone processes of genetic differentiation and/or structural changes by chance, which may facilitate sex chromosome differentiation. These sex chromosomal dimorphisms presenting in both sexes may represent the early stages of sex chromosome differentiation and aid in understanding sex chromosome evolution.

  • The nervous system in the cyclostome bryozoan Crisia eburnea as revealed by transmission electron and confocal laser scanning microscopy
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-12-03
    Elena N. Temereva; Igor A. Kosevich

    Among bryozoans, cyclostome anatomy is the least studied by modern methods. New data on the nervous system fill the gap in our knowledge and make morphological analysis much more fruitful to resolve some questions of bryozoan evolution and phylogeny. The nervous system of cyclostome Crisia eburnea was studied by transmission electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The cerebral ganglion has an upper concavity and a small inner cavity filled with cilia and microvilli, thus exhibiting features of neuroepithelium. The cerebral ganglion is associated with the circumoral nerve ring, the circumpharyngeal nerve ring, and the outer nerve ring. Each tentacle has six longitudinal neurite bundles. The body wall is innervated by thick paired longitudinal nerves. Circular nerves are associated with atrial sphincter. A membranous sac, cardia, and caecum all have nervous plexus. The nervous system of the cyclostome C. eburnea combines phylactolaemate and gymnolaemate features. Innervation of tentacles by six neurite bundles is similar of that in Phylactolaemata. The presence of circumpharyngeal nerve ring and outer nerve ring is characteristic of both, Cyclostomata and Gymnolaemata. The structure of the cerebral ganglion may be regarded as a result of transformation of hypothetical ancestral neuroepithelium. Primitive cerebral ganglion and combination of nerve plexus and cords in the nervous system of C. eburnea allows to suggest that the nerve system topography of C. eburnea may represent an ancestral state of nervous system organization in Bryozoa. Several scenarios describing evolution of the cerebral ganglion in different bryozoan groups are proposed.

  • Nutritional quality modulates trait variability
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-12-05
    Adrian Brückner; Romina Schuster; Katja Wehner; Michael Heethoff

    Trait based functional and community ecology is en vogue. Most studies, however, ignore phenotypical diversity by characterizing entire species considering only trait means rather than their variability. Phenotypical variability may arise from genotypical differences or from ecological factors (e.g., nutritionally imbalanced diet), and these causes can usually not be separated in natural populations. We used a single genotype from a parthenogenetic model system (the oribatid mite Archegozetes longisetosus Aoki) to exclude genotypical differences. We investigated patterns of dietary (10 different food treatments) induced trait variation by measuring the response of nine different traits (relating to life history, morphology or exocrine gland chemistry). Nutritional quality (approximated by carbon-to-nitrogen ratios) influenced all trait means and their variation. Some traits were more prone to variation than others. Furthermore, the “threshold elemental ratio”- rule of element stoichiometry applied to phenotypic trait variation. Imbalanced food (i.e. food not able to fully meet the nutritional demands of an animal) led to lower trait mean values, but also to a higher variation of traits. Imbalanced food led not only to lower trait value averages, but also to higher trait variability. There was a negative relationship between both parameters, indicating a direct link of both, average trait levels and trait variation to nutritional quality. Hence, variation of trait means may be a predictor for general food quality, and further indicate trade-offs in specific traits an animal must deal with while feeding on imbalanced diets.

  • Anticipatory parental effects in a subtropical lizard in response to experimental warming
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-12-05
    Bao-Jun Sun; Yang Wang; Yong Wang; Hong-Liang Lu; Wei-Guo Du

    Parental effects may produce adaptive or maladaptive plasticity that either facilitates persistence or increases the extinction risk of species and populations in a changing climate. However, empirical evidence of transgenerational adaptive plastic responses to climate change is still scarce. Here we conducted thermal manipulation experiments with a factorial design in a Chinese lacertid lizard (Takydromus septentrionalis) to identify the fitness consequences of parental effects in response to climate warming. Compared to present climate conditions, a simulated warming climate significantly advanced the timing of oviposition, depressed the immune capability of post-partum females, and decreased the hatching success of embryos, but did not affect female reproductive output (clutch size and egg mass). These results indicate that maternal warming negatively affects female health, and embryonic hatchability. More interestingly, we found that offspring from parents exposed to warming environments survived well under a simulated warming climate, but not under a present climate scenario. Accordingly, our study demonstrates anticipatory parental effects in response to a warming climate in an ectothermic vertebrate. However, the fitness consequences of this parental effect will depend on future climate change scenarios.

  • Standing on the shoulders of giants: young aphids piggyback on adults when searching for a host plant
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-12-06
    Moshe Gish; Moshe Inbar

    Upon the detection of imminent peril, pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) often drop off their host plant. Dropping in response to insect enemies is intermittent in nature, but when a mammalian herbivore feeds on their host plant, a large mixed-age group of aphids usually drops off the plant at once. Aphids that reach the ground are confronted with new, hostile environmental conditions and must therefore quickly walk toward a suitable host plant. The longer it takes an aphid to reach a host plant, the more it is exposed to the risks of starvation, desiccation and predation. We found that young nymphs, which have limited mobility and high mortality on the ground, quickly climb on conspecific (not necessarily parental) adults and cling to them before the latter start walking in search of a plant. This “riding” behavior is likely to be adaptive for the nymphs, for it shortens their journey and the time they spend off a host plant. Adults however, seem to be irritated by the riding nymphs, as they often actively try to remove them. After dropping from the host plant, young aphid nymphs travel at least part of the way back to a plant on the backs of adults. For the riding behavior to take place, nymphs need to successfully find adults and withstand removal attempts.

  • Also looking like Limulus? – retinula axons and visual neuropils of Amblypygi (whip spiders)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-12-19
    Tobias Lehmann; Roland R. Melzer

    Only a few studies have examined the visual systems of Amblypygi (whip spiders) until now. To get new insights suitable for phylogenetic analysis we studied the axonal trajectories and neuropil architecture of the visual systems of several whip spider species (Heterophrynus elaphus, Damon medius, Phrynus pseudoparvulus, and P. marginemaculatus) with different neuroanatomical techniques. The R-cell axon terminals were identified with Cobalt fills. To describe the morphology of the visual neuropils and of the protocerebrum generally we used Wigglesworth stains and μCT. The visual system of whip spiders comprises one pair of median and three pairs of lateral eyes. The R-cells of both eye types terminate each in a first and a second visual neuropil. Furthermore, a few R-cell fibres from the median eyes leave the second median eye visual neuropil and terminate in the second lateral eye neuropil. This means R-cell terminals from the lateral eyes and the median eyes overlap. Additionally, the arcuate body and the mushroom bodies are described. A detailed comparison of our findings with previously studied chelicerate visual systems (i.e., Xiphosura, Scorpiones, Pseudoscorpiones, Opiliones, and Araneae) seem to support the idea of close evolutionary relationships between Xiphosura, Scorpiones, and Amblypygi.

  • Dispersal and adaptation strategies of the high mountain butterfly Boloria pales in the Romanian Carpathians
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-01-17
    Stefan Ehl; Niklas Böhm; Manuel Wörner; László Rákosy; Thomas Schmitt

    Habitat quality is one main trigger for the persistence of butterflies. The effects of the influencing biotic and abiotic factors may be enhanced by the challenging conditions in high-alpine environments. To better our knowledge in this field, we performed a mark-release-recapture study with Boloria pales in the Southern Carpathians. We analysed population structure, movement and foraging behaviour to investigate special adaptations to the alpine environment and to reveal differences between sexes. We compared these aspects in one sector with and one sector without grazing to address the effects of grazing intensity on habitat quality. We observed “soft” protandry, in which only a small number of males appeared before females, and an extended emergence of individuals over the observed flight period, dividing the population’s age structure into three phases; both observations are considered adaptations to high mountain environments. Although both sexes were mostly sedentary, movement differences between them were obvious. Males flew larger distances than females and were more flight-active. This might explain the dimorphism in foraging behaviour: males preferred nectar sources of Asteraceae, females Caprifoliaceae. Transition from the grazed to the ungrazed sector was only observed for males and not for females, but the population density was higher and the flight distances of the individuals were significantly longer on the grazed sector compared with the ungrazed one. Soft protandry, an extended emergence of the individuals and an adapted behavioural dimorphism between sexes render to represent a good adaptation of B. pales to the harsh environmental conditions of high mountain ecosystems. However, land-use intensity apparently has severe influence on population densities and movement behaviour. To protect B. pales and other high-alpine species from the negative consequences of overgrazing, areas without or just light grazing are needed.

  • The Australian dingo: untamed or feral?
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-02-13
    J. William O. Ballard; Laura A. B. Wilson

    The Australian dingo continues to cause debate amongst Aboriginal people, pastoralists, scientists and the government in Australia. A lingering controversy is whether the dingo has been tamed and has now reverted to its ancestral wild state or whether its ancestors were domesticated and it now resides on the continent as a feral dog. The goal of this article is to place the discussion onto a theoretical framework, highlight what is currently known about dingo origins and taxonomy and then make a series of experimentally testable organismal, cellular and biochemical predictions that we propose can focus future research. We consider a canid that has been unconsciously selected as a tamed animal and the endpoint of methodical or what we now call artificial selection as a domesticated animal. We consider wild animals that were formerly tamed as untamed and those wild animals that were formerly domesticated as feralized. Untamed canids are predicted to be marked by a signature of unconscious selection whereas feral animals are hypothesized to be marked by signatures of both unconscious and artificial selection. First, we review the movement of dingo ancestors into Australia. We then discuss how differences between taming and domestication may influence the organismal traits of skull morphometrics, brain and size, seasonal breeding, and sociability. Finally, we consider cellular and molecular level traits including hypotheses concerning the phylogenetic position of dingoes, metabolic genes that appear to be under positive selection and the potential for micronutrient compensation by the gut microbiome. Western Australian Government policy is currently being revised to allow the widespread killing of the Australian dingo. These policies are based on an incomplete understanding of the evolutionary history of the canid and assume the dingo is feralized. However, accumulated evidence does not definitively show that the dingo was ever domesticated and additional focused research is required. We suggest that incorporating ancient DNA data into the debate concerning dingo origins will be pivotal to understanding the evolutionary history of the canid. Further, we advocate that future morphological, behavioural and genetic studies should focus on including genetically pure Alpine and Desert dingoes and not dingo-dog hybrids. Finally, we propose that future studies critically examine genes under selection in the dingo and employ the genome from a wild canid for comparison.

  • Positive or negative? The shell alters the relationship among behavioral defense strategy, energy metabolic levels and antioxidant capacity in freshwater turtles
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-02-13
    Wenyi Zhang; Cuijuan Niu; Yukun Liu; Kenneth B. Storey

    The relationships among energy metabolic levels, behavioral and other physiological traits help to determine the trade-off of energy allocation between different traits and the evolution of life-history driven by natural selection. However, these relationships may be distinctive in selected animal taxa because of their unique traits. In the present study, the relationships among energy metabolic levels, behavioral defense strategies, and antioxidant capacity were explored in three freshwater turtle species with different shell morphologies, by assessing responses to attack, righting time, shell morphology, whole-organism metabolic rates, tissue metabolic enzyme activities and antioxidant levels. The Chinese three-keeled pond turtles, Chinemys reevesii, showed a passive defense strategy, relatively larger shells, a higher resting metabolic rate (RMR) and higher antioxidant levels compared to the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, or the Chinese soft-shelled turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis. These latter two species both showed an active defense strategy, a higher factorial aerobic scope and better muscle anaerobic metabolic capacity but relatively smaller shells, lower RMR and antioxidant capacity. Our results indicate a negative relationship between RMR and activity levels in behavioral defense strategies along small-big shell continuum among the three turtle species. We also found a positive relationship between antioxidant capacity and energy metabolism but a negative one between antioxidant capacity and activity levels in defense strategies. The present study indicated a role of turtle shell in forming unique relationship between energy metabolic levels and behaviors in freshwater turtle taxa and a possible trade-off between the maintenance of physiological homeostasis and activity levels in energy allocation.

  • Crowded developmental environment promotes adult sex-specific nutrient consumption in a polyphagous fly
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-02-18
    Juliano Morimoto; Binh Nguyen; Hue Dinh; Anh The Than; Phillip W. Taylor; Fleur Ponton

    The fitness of holometabolous insects depends largely on resources acquired at the larval stage. Larval density is an important factor modulating larval resource-acquisition, influencing adult survival, reproduction, and population maintenance. To date, however, our understanding of how larval crowding affects adult physiology and behaviour is limited, and little is known about how larval crowding affects adult non-reproductive ecological traits. Here, larval density in the rearing environment of the polyphagous fruit fly Bactrocera tryoni (‘Queensland fruit-fly’) was manipulated to generate crowded and uncrowded larval treatments. The effects of larval crowding on pupal weight, adult emergence, adult body weight, energetic reserves, fecundity, feeding patterns, flight ability, as well as adult predation risk were investigated. Adults from the crowded larval treatment had lower adult emergence, body weight, energetic reserves, flight ability and fecundity compared to adults from the uncrowded larval treatment. Adults from the crowded larval treatment had greater total food consumption (i.e., consumption of yeast plus sucrose) relative to body weight for both sexes compared to adults from the uncrowded treatment. Furthermore, males from the crowded treatment consumed more yeast relative to their body weight than males from the uncrowded treatment, while females from the crowded treatment consumed more sucrose relative to their body weight than females from the uncrowded treatment. Importantly, an interaction between the relative consumptions of sucrose and yeast and sex revealed that the density of conspecifics in the developmental environment differentially affects feeding of adult males and females. We found no effect of larval treatment on adult predation probability. However, males were significantly more likely to be captured by ants than females. We show that larvae crowding can have important implications to ecological traits in a polyphagous fly, including traits such as adult energetic reserve, flight ability, and adult sex-specific nutrient intake. Our findings contextualise the effects of larval developmental conditions into a broad ecological framework, hence providing a better understanding of their significance to adult behaviour and fitness. Furthermore, the knowledge presented here can help us better understanding downstream density-dependent effects of mass rearing conditions of this species, with potential relevance to Sterile Insect Technique.

  • Limb phase flexibility in walking: a test case in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-02-18
    Charlotte Elizabeth Miller; Laura Elizabeth Johnson; Henry Pinkard; Pierre Lemelin; Daniel Schmitt

    Previous analyses of factors influencing footfall timings and gait selection in quadrupeds have focused on the implications for energetic cost or gait mechanics separately. Here we present a model for symmetrical walking gaits in quadrupedal mammals that combines both factors, and aims to predict the substrate contexts in which animals will select certain ranges of footfall timings that (1) minimize energetic cost, (2) minimize rolling and pitching moments, or (3) balance the two. We hypothesize that energy recovery will be a priority on all surfaces, and will be the dominant factor determining footfall timings on flat, ground-like surfaces. The ability to resist pitch and roll, however, will play a larger role in determining footfall choice on narrower and more complex branch-like substrates. As a preliminary test of the expectations of the model, we collected sample data on footfall timings in a primate with relatively high flexibility in footfall timings – the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) – walking on a flat surface, straight pole, and a pole with laterally-projecting branches to simulate simplified ground and branch substrates. We compare limb phase values on these supports to the expectations of the model. As predicted, walking steps on the flat surface tended towards limb phase values that promote energy exchange. Both pole substrates induced limb phase values predicted to favor reduced pitching and rolling moments. These data provide novel insight into the ways in which animals may choose to adjust their behavior in response to movement on flat versus complex substrates and the competing selective factors that influence footfall timing in mammals. These data further suggest a pathway for future investigations using this perspective.

  • The central nervous system of Oweniidae (Annelida) and its implications for the structure of the ancestral annelid brain
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-03-12
    Patrick Beckers; Conrad Helm; Günter Purschke; Katrine Worsaae; Pat Hutchings; Thomas Bartolomaeus

    Recent phylogenomic analyses congruently reveal a basal clade which consists of Oweniidae and Mageloniidae as sister group to the remaining Annelida. These results indicate that the last common ancestor of Annelida was a tube-dwelling organism. They also challenge traditional evolutionary hypotheses of different organ systems, among them the nervous system. In textbooks the central nervous system is described as consisting of a ganglionic ventral nervous system and a dorsally located brain with different tracts that connect certain parts of the brain to each other. Only limited information on the fine structure, however, is available for Oweniidae, which constitute the sister group (possibly together with Magelonidae) to all remaining annelids. The brain of Oweniidae is ring- shaped and basiepidermal. Ganglia, higher brain centers or complex sensory organs do not exist; instead the central nervous system is medullary. Posterior to the brain the ventral medullary cord arises directly from the ventral region of the brain in Myriowenia sp. while in Owenia fusiformis two medullary cords arise perpendicular to the brain ring, extend caudally and fuse posterior. The central nervous system is composed of a central neuropil and surrounding somata of the neurons. According to ultrastructural and histological data only one type of neuron is present in the central nervous system. The central nervous system of Oweniidae is the simplest in terms of enlargement of the dorsal part of the brain and neuron distribution found among Annelida. Our investigation suggests that neither ganglia nor commissures inside the brain neuropil or clusters of polymorphic neurons were present in the annelid stem species. These structures evolved later within Annelida, most likely in the stem lineage of Amphinomidae, Sipuncula and Pleistoannelida. Palps were supposedly present in the last common ancestor of annelids and innervated by two nerves originating in the dorsal part of the brain. A broader comparison with species of each major spiralian clade shows the medullary nervous system to be a common feature and thus possibly representing the ancestral state of the spiralian nervous system. Moreover, ganglia and clusters of polymorphic neurons seemingly evolved independently in the compared taxa of Spiralia and Annelida.

  • Parental incubation exchange in a territorial bird species involves sex-specific signalling
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-03-22
    Martin Sládeček; Eva Vozabulová; Kateřina Brynychová; Miroslav E. Šálek

    Effective communication between sexual partners is essential for successful reproduction. Avian parents with biparental incubation need to know how to negotiate, when and who will incubate, and how to harmonize partner exchange at the nest. Although considerable effort has been dedicated to studies of incubation rhythms, few studies have investigated how behavioural signals serve to tighten cooperation between parents. Moreover, existing studies are almost exclusively restricted to species in which long distances between incubating and non-incubating parents prevent continuous communication during incubation. Thus, the most frequently described parental exchange system is a simple model characterized by the return of the non-incubating parent to the nest itself. Here, we propose more complex parental exchange behaviour in the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), a territorial species capable of continuous partner communication during incubation and with a highly variable male contribution to incubation. Northern Lapwing females regularly vocalized shortly before departing from the nest, while males mostly left the nest quietly. Responsiveness of the male to female vocalization, perhaps in combination with her flying away from the nest, helped to synchronize incubation care by increasing the probability of exchange, and also by shortening the exchange gaps. In contrast, a male-to-female exchange gap most often occurred after the male quietly flew away from the nest. The frequency of female vocal signalling was not correlated with the male incubation effort on a between-nest scale, but the highest probability of a female-to-male exchange occurred after vocal signalling by females with the most nest-attentive males. Conversely, lowered effort by females to vocalize in the night was accompanied by lower willingness of males to incubate. Our results suggest that (1) that the incubating parent can communicate with the non-incubating partner using sex-specific behavioural signals, and this helps to synchronize parental exchange on the nest, (2) this signalling may combine acoustic and visual cues, and (3) the efficiency of this signalling might influence the overall nest attendance. The presumption that the repertoire of behavioural signals during reproduction will be much more complex in territorial species that are capable of continuous communication between the partners during the incubation period should be further tested.

  • Oviposition and father presence reduce clutch cannibalism by female poison frogs
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-03-22
    Sandra Spring; Marion Lehner; Ludwig Huber; Eva Ringler

    The consumption of conspecific young by adult individuals is a common phenomenon across various animal taxa. Possible adaptive benefits of such behaviour include the acquisition of nutrients, decreased competition for one’s own offspring, and/or increased mating opportunities. Clutch cannibalism has occasionally been observed in several species of Neotropical poison frogs, but the circumstances under which this behaviour occurs has rarely been investigated experimentally. Recent experiments with the poison frog Allobates femoralis have shown that males indiscriminately transport all clutches located inside their own territory to bodies of water, but become highly cannibalistic when taking over a new territory. Females are able to indirectly discriminate between their own and foreign clutches by location and take over transport duties of their own clutches only in the absence of the father. Cannibalism by A. femoralis females has not been previously observed. We thus asked if, and under which circumstances, cannibalism of unrelated clutches by female A. femoralis would occur, by manipulating the presence of the clutch’s father, the female’s own reproductive state, and the female’s familiarity with the environment. Females clearly cannibalize foreign clutches. Cannibalism was most pronounced when the female had not recently produced her own clutch and the father of the foreign clutch was absent. The female’s familiarity with the area had no significant influence on the likelihood of cannibalism to occur. Our data indicate that both previous oviposition and the father’s presence reduce cannibalistic behaviour in A. femoralis females. Cannibalistic females may gain nutritional benefits or enhanced inclusive fitness by preying on other females’ offspring. The finding that the father’s presence at the clutch site/territory was sufficient to reduce cannibalism by females suggests a prominent role of male territoriality for the evolution of male parental care.

  • The neuroanatomy of Barentsia discreta (Entoprocta, Coloniales) reveals significant differences between bryozoan and entoproct nervous systems
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-03-28
    Anastasia O. Borisanova; Vladimir V. Malakhov; Elena N. Temereva

    Entoprocta affinities within Lophotrochozoa remain unclear. In different studies, entoprocts are considered to be related to different groups, including Cycliophora, Bryozoa, Annelida, and Mollusca. The use of modern methods to study the neuroanatomy of Entoprocta should provide new information that may be useful for phylogenetic analysis. The anatomy of the nervous system in the colonial Barentsia discreta was studied using immunocytochemistry and transmission electron microscopy. The ganglion gives rise to several main nerves: paired lateral, aboral, and arcuate nerves, and three pairs of tentacular cords that branch out into tentacular nerves. The serotonergic nervous system includes paired esophageal perikarya and two large peripheral perikarya, each with a complex net of neurites. Each tentacle is innervated by one abfrontal and two laterofrontal neurite bundles. Sensory cells occur regularly along the abfrontal side of each tentacle. Star-like nerve cells are scattered in the epidermis of the calyx. The stalk is innervated by paired stalk nerves. The neuroanatomy of the colonial Barentsia discreta is generally similar to that of solitary entoprocts but differs in the anatomy and ultrastructure of the ganglion, the number of neurite bundles in the calyx, and the distribution of serotonin in the nerve elements. A comparison of the organization of the nervous system in the Entoprocta and Bryozoa reveals many differences in tentacle innervations, which may indicate that these groups may not be closely related. Our results can not support with any certainty the homology of nervous system elements in adult entoprocts and adult “basal mollusks”.

  • The sex- and duration-dependent effects of intermittent fasting on lifespan and reproduction of spider mite Tetranychus urticae
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-04-11
    Guang-Yun Li; Zhi-Qiang Zhang

    Intermittent fasting (IF) is receiving increasing attention as an alternative to continuous restriction of calories because of its benefits in aging-related disease prevention and lifespan extension. However, whether both sexes with sexual dimorphism have similar response to IF have rarely been assayed. In this study, we determined how different durations of IF influence lifespan and whether males and females differed in their responses to IF. We also tested whether there is a trade-off between lifespan and lifetime reproduction in females under IF. We used spider mite Tetranychus urticae, with female-biased sexual size dimorphism (SSD), as our model species to investigate the survival and lifespan difference of both sexes at different durations of IF regimes, and explore the association between longevity and fecundity in females within and across treatments. The lifespan of females increased before intermediate level of IF and then decreased afterwards, but males showed a decreasing trend in lifespan when subjected to IF. Within each treatment, female longevity was positively associated with their fecundity. However, the females fed ad libitum had a higher lifetime fecundity with a shorter lifespan, whereas mites fed 50% IF outlived ad libitum fed ones with lower fecundity because of the later onset of reproduction and lower daily fecundity, showing clear survival and reproduction trade-off when variation of resource availability enhanced across treatments. We showed sex-specific response to IF in lifespan, indicating that sexes with SSD have different optimal level of IF. These findings showed trade-off between survival and reproduction between treatments but not within treatments, suggesting that variation in resource availability is the necessary precondition for life history trade-off, and IF extends lifespan of females at the cost of reproductive success.

  • Photoresponsiveness affects life history traits but not oxidative status in a seasonal rodent
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-04-18
    Anna S. Przybylska; Michał S. Wojciechowski; Małgorzata Jefimow

    Shortening photoperiod triggers seasonal adjustments like cessation of reproduction, molting and heterothermy. However there is a considerable among-individual variation in photoresponsiveness within one population. Although seasonal adjustments are considered beneficial to winter survival, and natural selection should favor the individuals responding to changes in photoperiod (responders), the phenotype non-responding to changes in day length is maintained in population. Assuming the same resource availability for both phenotypes which differ in strategy of winter survival, we hypothesized that they should differ in life history traits. To test this we compared reproductive traits of two extreme phenotypes of Siberian hamster Phodopus sungorus – responding and non-responding to seasonal changes in photoperiod. We bred individuals of the same phenotype and measured time to first parturition, time interval between litters, offspring body mass 3, 10 and 18 days after birth and their growth rate. We also analyzed nest-building behavior. Additionally, we estimated the correlation between reproduction, and basal metabolic rate (BMR) and oxidative status in both phenotypes to infer about the effect of reproductive output on future investments in somatic maintenance. Prior to reproduction responding individuals were smaller than non-responding ones, but this difference disappeared after reproduction. Responding pairs commenced breeding later than non-responding ones but there was no difference in time interval between consecutive litters. Responders delivered smaller offspring than non-responders and more out of responding individuals built the nest during winter than non-responding ones. Reproduction did not affect future investments in somatic maintenance. Phenotypes did not differ in BMR and oxidative status after reproduction. However, concentration of reactive oxygen metabolites (ROM) was highest in responding males, and biological antioxidant potential (BAP) was higher in males of both phenotypes than in females. Delayed breeding in responding Siberian hamsters and high ROM concentration in male responders support our hypothesis that differences in adjustment to winter result in different life history characteristics which may explain coexistence of both phenotypes in a population. We propose that polymorphism in photoresponsiveness may be beneficial in stochastic environment, where environmental conditions differ between winters. We suggest that non-responding phenotype may be particularly beneficial during mild winter, whereas responders would be favored under harsh conditions. Therefore, none of the phenotypes is impaired when compared to the other.

  • Metabolic reprogramming involving glycolysis in the hibernating brown bear skeletal muscle
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-05-06
    Blandine Chazarin; Kenneth B. Storey; Anna Ziemianin; Stéphanie Chanon; Marine Plumel; Isabelle Chery; Christine Durand; Alina L. Evans; Jon M. Arnemo; Andreas Zedrosser; Jon E. Swenson; Guillemette Gauquelin-Koch; Chantal Simon; Stephane Blanc; Etienne Lefai; Fabrice Bertile

    In mammals, the hibernating state is characterized by biochemical adjustments, which include metabolic rate depression and a shift in the primary fuel oxidized from carbohydrates to lipids. A number of studies of hibernating species report an upregulation of the levels and/or activity of lipid oxidizing enzymes in muscles during torpor, with a concomitant downregulation for glycolytic enzymes. However, other studies provide contrasting data about the regulation of fuel utilization in skeletal muscles during hibernation. Bears hibernate with only moderate hypothermia but with a drop in metabolic rate down to ~ 25% of basal metabolism. To gain insights into how fuel metabolism is regulated in hibernating bear skeletal muscles, we examined the vastus lateralis proteome and other changes elicited in brown bears during hibernation. We show that bear muscle metabolic reorganization is in line with a suppression of ATP turnover. Regulation of muscle enzyme expression and activity, as well as of circulating metabolite profiles, highlighted a preference for lipid substrates during hibernation, although the data suggested that muscular lipid oxidation levels decreased due to metabolic rate depression. Our data also supported maintenance of muscle glycolysis that could be fuelled from liver gluconeogenesis and mobilization of muscle glycogen stores. During hibernation, our data also suggest that carbohydrate metabolism in bear muscle, as well as protein sparing, could be controlled, in part, by actions of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid. Our work shows that molecular mechanisms in hibernating bear skeletal muscle, which appear consistent with a hypometabolic state, likely contribute to energy and protein savings. Maintenance of glycolysis could help to sustain muscle functionality for situations such as an unexpected exit from hibernation that would require a rapid increase in ATP production for muscle contraction. The molecular data we report here for skeletal muscles of bears hibernating at near normal body temperature represent a signature of muscle preservation despite atrophying conditions.

  • Preference of spectral features in auditory processing for advertisement calls in the music frogs
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-05-10
    Yanzhu Fan; Xizi Yue; Jing Yang; Jiangyan Shen; Di Shen; Yezhong Tang; Guangzhan Fang

    Animal vocal signals encode very important information for communication during which the importance of temporal and spectral characteristics of vocalizations is always asymmetrical and species-specific. However, it is still unknown how auditory system represents this asymmetrical and species-specific patterns. In this study, auditory event related potential (ERP) changes were evaluated in the Emei music frog (Babina daunchina) to assess the differences in eliciting neural responses of both temporal and spectral features for the telencephalon, diencephalon and mesencephalon respectively. To do this, an acoustic playback experiment using an oddball paradigm design was conducted, in which an original advertisement call (OC), its spectral feature preserved version (SC) and temporal feature preserved version (TC) were used as deviant stimuli with synthesized white noise as standard stimulus. The present results show that 1) compared with TC, more similar ERP components were evoked by OC and SC; and 2) the P3a amplitudes in the forebrain evoked by OC were significantly higher in males than in females. Together, the results provide evidence for suggesting neural processing for conspecific vocalization may prefer to the spectral features in the music frog, prompting speculation that the spectral features may play more important roles in auditory object perception or vocal communication in this species. In addition, the neural processing for auditory perception is sexually dimorphic.

  • Mining morphometrics and age from past survey photographs
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-05-13
    Caitlin E. Black; Hannah S. Mumby; Michelle D. Henley

    Researchers often document wildlife surveys using images. These images contain data that can be used to understand alterative research objectives, even years after they were originally captured. We have developed a method to measure age and morphology (body size measurements and tusk size) from survey image databases and future surveys, without the availability of a known subject distance or a scale in each image. African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) serve as an ideal model species to develop a non-invasive, image-based morphometric methodology: as handling these animals is particularly invasive and expensive, involving anaesthesia and because of their IUCN ‘vulnerable’ status. We compare in situ measurements, taken during collaring events, to tusk-to-body-size ratios, measured from the images. We provide evidence that relative morphological measurements, musth timing, and age of male African savanna elephants can accurately be obtained from a survey image database of over 30,000 images, taken over an 18-year period. Of the 11 tusk to body size ratios calculated, we recommend the use of two in particular for future measurement in African elephants to determine size and age: 1) tusk length to tusk diameter and 2) tusk length to body height. We present a practical, non-invasive measure to estimate morphometrics, including both age and tusk size from photographs, which has conservation applications to the protection of elephants and is relevant to a range of other taxa.

  • Nest initiation and flooding in response to season and semi-lunar spring tides in a ground-nesting shorebird
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-05-23
    Silvia Plaschke; Martin Bulla; Medardo Cruz-López; Salvador Gómez del Ángel; Clemens Küpper

    Marine and intertidal organisms face the rhythmic environmental changes induced by tides. The large amplitude of spring tides that occur around full and new moon may threaten nests of ground-nesting birds. These birds face a trade-off between ensuring nest safety from tidal flooding and nesting near the waterline to provide their newly hatched offspring with suitable foraging opportunities. The semi-lunar periodicity of spring tides may enable birds to schedule nest initiation adaptively, for example, by initiating nests around tidal peaks when the water line reaches the farthest into the intertidal habitat. We examined the impact of semi-lunar tidal changes on the phenology of nest flooding and nest initiation in Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus) breeding at Bahía de Ceuta, a coastal wetland in Northwest Mexico. Using nest initiations and fates of 752 nests monitored over ten years we found that the laying season coincides with the lowest spring tides of the year and only 6% of all nests were flooded by tides. Tidal nest flooding varied substantially over time. First, flooding was the primary cause of nest failures in two of the ten seasons indicating high between-season stochasticity. Second, nests were flooded almost exclusively during the second half of the laying season. Third, nest flooding was associated with the semi-lunar spring tide cycle as nests initiated around spring tide had a lower risk of being flooded than nests initiated at other times. Following the spring tide rhythm, plovers appeared to adapt to this risk of flooding with nest initiation rates highest around spring tides and lowest around neap tides. Snowy Plovers appear generally well adapted to the risk of nest flooding by spring tides. Our results are in line with other studies showing that intertidal organisms have evolved adaptive responses to predictable rhythmic tidal changes but these adaptations do not prevent occasional catastrophic losses caused by stochastic events.

  • Evidence for cell turnover as the mechanism responsible for the transport of embryos towards the vagina in viviparous onychophorans (velvet worms)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-07
    Sandra Treffkorn; Oscar Yesid Hernández-Lagos; Georg Mayer

    Onychophorans, commonly known as velvet worms, display a remarkable diversity of reproductive strategies including oviparity, and placentotrophic, lecithotrophic, matrotrophic or combined lecithotrophic/matrotrophic viviparity. In the placentotrophic species, the embryos of consecutive developmental stages are attached to the uterus via a placental stalk, suggesting they might be transported passively towards the vagina due to proximal growth and distal degeneration of tissue. However, this assumption has never been tested using specific markers. We therefore analyzed the patterns of cell proliferation and apoptosis in the genital tracts of two placentotrophic peripatids from Colombia and a non-placentotrophic peripatopsid from Australia. All three species show a high number of apoptotic cells in the distal portion of the genital tract near the genital opening. In the two placentotrophic species, additional apoptotic cells appear in ring-like vestigial placentation zones of late embryonic chambers. While moderate cell proliferation occurs along the entire uterus in all three species, only the two placentotrophic species show a distinct proliferation zone near the ovary as well as in the ring-like implantation zone of the first embryonic chamber. In contrast to the two placentotrophic species, the non-placentotrophic species clearly does not show such regions of high proliferation in the uterus but exhibits proliferating and apoptotic cells in the ovarian stalks. While cell proliferation mainly occurs in stalks carrying maturating oocytes, apoptosis is restricted to stalks whose oocytes have been released into the ovarian lumen. Our results confirm the hypothesis that the uterus of placentotrophic onychophorans grows proximally but is resorbed distally. This is supported by the detection of a proximal proliferation zone and a distal degenerative zone in the two placentotrophic species. Hence, cell turnover might be responsible for the transport of their embryos towards the vagina, analogous to a conveyor belt. Surprisingly, the distal degenerative zone is also found in the non-placentotrophic species, in which cell turnover was unexpected. These findings suggest that the distal degenerative zone is an ancestral feature of Onychophora, whereas the proximal proliferation zone might have evolved in the last common ancestor of the placentotrophic Peripatidae.

  • A dune with a view: the eyes of a neotropical fossorial lizard
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-10
    Carola A. M. Yovanovich; Michele E. R. Pierotti; Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues; Taran Grant

    Lizards are excellent models to study the adaptations of the visual system to different scenarios, and surface-dwelling representatives have been relatively well studied. In contrast, very little is known about the functional anatomy of the eyes of fossorial lineages, and properties such as the light transmission by the ocular media have never been characterised in any fossorial species. Some lizards in the family Gymnophthalmidae endemic to the sand dunes of North Eastern Brazil have evolved sand-burrowing habits and nocturnal activity. Lizards in the sister group to Gymnophthalmidae, the family Teiidae, have decidedly diurnal and epigeal lifestyles, yet they are equally poorly known in terms of visual systems. We focussed on the eye anatomy, photoreceptor morphology and light transmittance properties of the ocular media and oil droplets in the gymnophthalmid Calyptommatus nicterus and the teiid Ameivula ocellifera. The general organisation of the eyes of the fossorial nocturnal C. nicterus and the epigeal diurnal A. ocellifera is remarkably similar. The lenses are highly transmissive to light well into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. The photoreceptors have the typical cone morphology, with narrow short outer segments and oil droplets. The main difference between the two species is that C. nicterus has only colourless oil droplets, whereas A. ocellifera has colourless as well as green-yellow and pale-orange droplets. Our results challenge the assumption that fossorial lizards undergo loss of visual function, a claim that is usually guided by the reduced size and external morphology of their eyes. In the case of C. nicterus, the visual system is well suited for vision in bright light and shows specialisations that improve sensitivity in dim light, suggesting that they might perform some visually-guided behaviour above the surface at the beginning or the end of their daily activity period, when light levels are relatively high in their open dunes habitat. This work highlights how studies on the functional anatomy of sensory systems can provide insights into the habits of secretive species.

  • Differential expression of myosin heavy chain isoforms in cardiac segments of gnathostome vertebrates and its evolutionary implications
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-10
    Miguel A. López-Unzu; Ana Carmen Durán; María Teresa Soto-Navarrete; Valentín Sans-Coma; Borja Fernández

    Immunohistochemical studies of hearts from the lesser spotted dogfish, Scyliorhinus canicula (Chondrichthyes) revealed that the pan-myosin heavy chain (pan-MyHC) antibody MF20 homogeneously labels all the myocardium, while the pan-MyHC antibody A4.1025 labels the myocardium of the inflow (sinus venosus and atrium) but not the outflow (ventricle and conus arteriosus) cardiac segments, as opposed to other vertebrates. We hypothesized that the conventional pattern of cardiac MyHC isoform distribution present in most vertebrates, i.e. MYH6 in the inflow and MYH7 in the outflow segments, has evolved from a primitive pattern that persists in Chondrichthyes. In order to test this hypothesis, we conducted protein detection techniques to identify the MyHC isoforms expressed in adult dogfish cardiac segments and to assess the pan-MyHC antibodies reactivity against the cardiac segments of representative species from different vertebrate groups. Western and slot blot results confirmed the specificity of MF20 and A4.1025 for MyHC in dogfish and their differential reactivity against distinct myocardial segments. HPLC-ESI-MS/MS and ESI-Quadrupole-Orbitrap revealed abundance of MYH6 and MYH2 in the inflow and of MYH7 and MYH7B in the outflow segments. Immunoprecipitation showed higher affinity of A4.1025 for MYH2 and MYH6 than for MYH7 and almost no affinity for MYH7B. Immunohistochemistry showed that A4.1025 signals are restricted to the inflow myocardial segments of elasmobranchs, homogeneous in all myocardial segments of teleosts and acipenseriforms, and low in the ventricle of polypteriforms. The cardiac inflow and outflow segments of the dogfish show predominance of fast- and slow-twitch MyHC isoforms respectively, what can be considered a synapomorphy of gnathostomes. The myocardium of the dogfish contains two isomyosins (MYH2 and MYH7B) not expressed in the adult heart of other vertebrates. We propose that these isomyosins lost their function in cardiac contraction during the evolution of gnathostomes, the later acquiring a regulatory role in myogenesis through its intronic miRNA. Loss of MYH2 and MYH7B expression in the heart possibly occurred before the origin of Osteichthyes, being the latter reacquired in polypteriforms. We raise the hypothesis that the slow tonic MYH7B facilitates the peristaltic contraction of the conus arteriosus of fish with a primitive cardiac anatomical design and of the vertebrate embryo.

  • Comparative and functional analysis of the digital mucus glands and secretions of tree frogs
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-13
    Julian K.A. Langowski; Saranshu Singla; Alex Nyarko; Henk Schipper; Frank T. van den Berg; Sukhmanjot Kaur; Henry C. Astley; Sander W.S. Gussekloo; Ali Dhinojwala; Johan L. van Leeuwen

    Mucus and mucus glands are important features of the amphibian cutis. In tree frogs, the mucus glands and their secretions are crucial components of the adhesive digital pads of these animals. Despite a variety of hypothesised functions of these components in tree frog attachment, the functional morphology of the digital mucus glands and the chemistry of the digital mucus are barely known. Here, we use an interdisciplinary comparative approach to analyse these components, and discuss their roles in tree frog attachment. Using synchrotron micro-computer-tomography, we discovered in the arboreal frog Hyla cinerea that the ventral digital mucus glands differ in their morphology from regular anuran mucus glands and form a subdermal gland cluster. We show the presence of this gland cluster also in several other—not exclusively arboreal—anuran families. Using cryo-histochemistry as well as infrared and sum frequency generation spectroscopy on the mucus of two arboreal (H. cinerea and Osteopilus septentrionalis) and of two terrestrial, non-climbing frog species (Pyxicephalus adspersus and Ceratophrys cranwelli), we find neutral and acidic polysaccharides, and indications for proteinaceous and lipid-like mucus components. The mucus chemistry varies only little between dorsal and ventral digital mucus in H. cinerea, ventral digital and abdominal mucus in H. cinerea and O. septentrionalis, and between the ventral abdominal mucus of all four studied species. The presence of a digital mucus gland cluster in various anuran families, as well as the absence of differences in the mucus chemistry between arboreal and non-arboreal frog species indicate an adaptation towards generic functional requirements as well as to attachment-related requirements. Overall, this study contributes to the understanding of the role of glands and their secretions in tree frog attachment and in bioadhesion in general, as well as the evolution of anurans.

  • Unravelling the sex- and age-specific impact of poaching mortality with multievent modeling
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-13
    Luca Corlatti; Ana Sanz-Aguilar; Giacomo Tavecchia; Alessandro Gugiatti; Luca Pedrotti

    Poaching is a prominent source of ‘hidden hurdles’, cryptic impacts of human activities that may hinder the conservation of animal populations. Estimating poaching mortality is challenging, as the evidence for illegal killing is not outwardly obvious. Using resighting and recovery data collected on 141 marked red deer Cervus elaphus within the Stelvio National Park (central Italian Alps), we show how multievent models allow to assess the direct impacts of illegal harvesting on age- and sex-specific survival, accounting for uncertainty over mortality causes. Mortality caused by poaching was consistently higher for males than for females in all age classes. In males, the probability of dying from poaching was higher for extreme age classes, while in females all age classes showed fairly similar values of poaching mortality. The strong bias in sex-specific poaching mortality was possibly due to trophy killing in adult males and ‘bushmeat-like’ killing for private or commercial gain in young males and in females. A robust assessment of age- and sex-specific prevalence of poaching in wildlife populations is pivotal when illegal killing is of conservation concern. This provides timely information on what segment of the population is most likely to be affected. Besides obvious demographic consequences on small populations, age- and sex-biased poaching prevalence may contrast with the need to maintain ecosystem complexity and may alter behavioral responses to human presence. The information provided by multievent models, whose flexibility makes them adaptable to many systems where individual-based data is part of population monitoring, offers a support to design appropriate strategies for the conservation of wildlife populations.

  • Effects of reproduction and environmental factors on body temperature and activity patterns of wolverines
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-17
    Alexandra Thiel; Alina L. Evans; Boris Fuchs; Jon M. Arnemo; Malin Aronsson; Jens Persson

    Mammals in the far north are exposed to extreme seasonal changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature and photoperiod, which have notable effects on animal physiology and behaviour. The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a carnivore with a circumpolar distribution and well-adapted to extreme environmental conditions. Still, ecophysiological studies on free-ranging wolverines are lacking. In this study, we used abdominally implanted body temperature loggers in combination with GPS collars with acceleration sensors on 14 free-ranging wolverines in northern Sweden to study daily and seasonal variation in body temperature and activity patterns. We used generalized additive mixed modelling to investigate body temperature patterns over time and Lomb-Scargle periodogram analysis to analyse circadian rhythms. We found that wolverines have an average core body temperature of 38.5 ± 0.2 °C with a daily variation of up to 6 °C. Body temperature patterns varied between reproductive states. Pregnant females showed a distinct decrease in body temperature during gestation. Wolverines were active both in day and night, but displayed distinct activity peaks during crepuscular hours. However, body temperature and activity patterns changed seasonally, with a gradual change from a unimodal pattern in winter with concentrated activity during the short period of day light to a bimodal pattern in autumn with activity peaks around dusk and dawn. Wolverines were less likely to display 24-h rhythms in winter, when hours of day light are limited. The combination of different biologging techniques gave novel insight into the ecophysiology, activity patterns and reproductive biology of free-ranging wolverines, adding important knowledge to our understanding of animals adapted to cold environments at northern latitudes.

  • Uncertainty about flying conspecifics causes territorial contests of the Old World swallowtail, Papilio machaon
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-06-24
    Tsuyoshi Takeuchi; Shinji Yabuta; Hiroyuki Takasaki

    Male-male aerial contests of territorial butterflies are difficult to explain by major contest models based on game theory because of butterflies’ apparent inability to inflict substantial costs on their opponent. As an alternative, the “erroneous courtship hypothesis” was presented. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that territorial butterflies cannot discriminate the sex of flying conspecifics. The hypothesis regards the aerial contest of male butterflies as an inevitable same-sex entanglement in the butterflies’ behavioral sequence. To test the robustness of the hypothesis, we investigated the sex recognition abilities of the Old World swallowtail, Papilio machaon. We presented four types of flapping butterfly specimens (fresh male and female, chemicals-removed male and female) to territorial males. The males touched fresh female specimens and showed typical courtship flight. For the other types of specimens, they rarely showed courtship flight although they approached or touched them. In addition, territorial males reacted longer to fresh males than to fresh females. The results indicated that although territorial males recognize flying females as sexual partners by sensing their semiochemicals, they cannot identify flying conspecific males, and continue to gather information on them. P. machaon is one of the species whose behavior is most incompatible with the erroneous courtship hypothesis, as its males perform a typical courtship flight to flying females, suggesting the ability of sexing flying conspecifics. Nevertheless, the erroneous courtship hypothesis was not disproved by our results.

  • Phylogenetic analysis and embryonic expression of panarthropod Dmrt genes
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-02
    Virginia Panara; Graham E. Budd; Ralf Janssen

    One set of the developmentally important Doublesex and Male-abnormal-3 Related Transcription factors (Dmrt) is subject of intense research, because of their role in sex-determination and sexual differentiation. This likely non-monophyletic group of Dmrt genes is represented by the Drosophila melanogaster gene Doublesex (Dsx), the Caenorhabditis elegans Male-abnormal-3 (Mab-3) gene, and vertebrate Dmrt1 genes. However, other members of the Dmrt family are much less well studied, and in arthropods, including the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, data on these genes are virtually absent with respect to their embryonic expression and function. Here we investigate the complete set of Dmrt genes in members of all main groups of Arthropoda and a member of Onychophora, extending our data to Panarthropoda as a whole. We confirm the presence of at least four families of Dmrt genes (including Dsx-like genes) in Panarthropoda and study their expression profiles during embryogenesis. Our work shows that the expression patterns of Dmrt11E, Dmrt93B, and Dmrt99B orthologs are highly conserved among panarthropods. Embryonic expression of Dsx-like genes, however, is more derived, likely as a result of neo-functionalization after duplication. Our data suggest deep homology of most of the panarthropod Dmrt genes with respect to their function that likely dates back to their last common ancestor. The function of Dsx and Dsx-like genes which are critical for sexual differentiation in animals, however, appears to be much less conserved.

  • Under pressure: force resistance measurements in box mites (Actinotrichida, Oribatida)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-04
    Sebastian Schmelzle; Nico Blüthgen

    Mechanical defenses are very common and diverse in prey species, for example in oribatid mites. Here, the probably most complex form of morphological defense is known as ptychoidy, that enables the animals to completely retract the appendages into a secondary cavity and encapsulate themselves. The two groups of ptychoid mites constituting the Ptyctima, i.e. Euphthiracaroidea and Phthiracaroidea, have a hardened cuticle and are well protected against similar sized predators. Euphthiracaroidea additionally feature predator-repelling secretions. Since both taxa evolved within the glandulate group of Oribatida, the question remains why Phthiracaroidea lost this additional protection. In earlier predation bioassays, chemically disarmed specimens of Euphthiracaroidea were cracked by the staphylinid beetle Othius punctulatus, whereas equally sized specimens of Phthiracaroidea survived. We thus hypothesized that Phthiracaroidea can withstand significantly more force than Euphthiracaroidea and that the specific body form in each group is key in understanding the loss of chemical defense in Phthiracaroidea. To measure force resistance, we adapted the principle of machines applying compressive forces for very small animals and tested the two ptyctimous taxa as well as the soft-bodied mite Archegozetes longisetosus. Some Phthiracaroidea individuals sustained about 560,000 times their body weight. Their mean resistance was about three times higher, and their mean breaking point in relation to body weight nearly two times higher than Euphthiracaroidea individuals. The breaking point increased with body weight and differed significantly between the two taxa. Across taxa, the absolute force resistance increased sublinearly (with a 0.781 power term) with the animal’s body weight. Force resistance of A. longisetosus was inferior in all tests (about half that of Euphthiracaroidea after accounting for body weight). As an important determinant of mechanical resistance in ptychoid mites, the individuals’ cuticle thickness increased sublinearly with body diameter and body mass as well and did not differ significantly between the taxa. We showed the feasibility of the force resistance measurement method, and our results were consistent with the hypothesis that Phthiracaroidea compensated its lack of chemical secretions by a heavier mechanical resistance based on a different body form and associated build-up of hemolymph pressure (defensive trade-off).

  • Among-population divergence in personality is linked to altitude in plateau pikas (Ochotona curzoniae)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-08
    Jiapeng Qu; Denis Réale; Quinn E. Fletcher; Yanming Zhang

    Animals inhabiting high altitudes consistently show slow life-histories. The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis posits behavioural, physiological and/or morphological traits that mediate the trade-off between current and future reproduction or survival, which have coevolved along a slow-fast life history continuum. Previous studies have shown that the life histories of plateau pikas varied across altitude, high-altitude individuals showed slow pace of life which were characterized by few litters per year with small litter sizes. Thus, we hypothesized that pikas populations at higher altitudes would also express personalities characteristic associated with slow life history, such as high sociability, low activity or aggressiveness. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the activity and docility of three plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae) populations distributed along an altitudinal gradient of the Tibetan Plateau. We predicted that high-altitude pika would be more docile and less active. The behaviour of 556 pikas, from which 120 individuals were measured at least twice, was quantified. We observed that plateau pikas at high altitudes were less active and more docile than pika at lower altitudes. Activity and docility were significantly and negatively correlated in populations from high altitudes but not in populations from low altitudes. Our results support the POLS hypothesis, highlight the existence of personality variation among populations distributed along an altitudinal gradient and emphasise the importance of environmental selection on personality divergence.

  • Repeatability of signalling traits in the avian dawn chorus
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-09
    Marc Naguib; Joris Diehl; Kees van Oers; Lysanne Snijders

    Birdsong, a key model in animal communication studies, has been the focus of intensive research. Song traits are commonly considered to reflect differences in individual or territory quality. Yet, few studies have quantified the variability of song traits between versus within individuals (i.e. repeatability), and thus whether certain song traits indeed provide reliable individual-specific information. Here, we studied the dawn chorus of male great tits (Parus major) to determine if key song traits are repeatable over multiple days and during different breeding stages. Additionally, we examined whether repeatability was associated with exploration behaviour, a relevant personality trait. Finally, we tested if variation in song traits could be explained by breeding stage, lowest night temperature, and exploration behaviour. We show that the start time of an individual’s dawn song was indeed repeatable within and across breeding stages, and was more repeatable before, than during, their mate’s egg laying stage. Males started singing later when the preceding night was colder. Daily repertoire size was repeatable, though to a lesser extent than song start time, and no differences were observed between breeding stages. We did not find evidence for an association between exploration behaviour and variation in dawn song traits. Repertoire composition, and specifically the start song type, varied across days, but tended to differ less than expected by chance. Our findings that individuals consistently differ in key song traits provides a better understanding of the information receivers can obtain when sampling songs of different males. Surprisingly, start time, despite being influenced by a highly variable environmental factor, appeared to be a more reliable signal of individual differences than repertoire size. Against expectation, singers were more repeatable before than during their mate’s egg laying stage, possibly because before egg laying, females are less constrained to move around unguarded and thus may then already sample (and compare) different singers. Combining repeated dawn song recordings with spatial tracking could reveal if the sampling strategies of receivers are indeed important drivers of repeatability of song traits. Such a complementary approach will further advance our insights into the dynamics and evolution of animal signalling systems.

  • Goats distinguish between positive and negative emotion-linked vocalisations
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-10
    Luigi Baciadonna; Elodie F. Briefer; Livio Favaro; Alan G. McElligott

    Evidence from humans suggests that the expression of emotions can regulate social interactions and promote coordination within a group. Despite its evolutionary importance, social communication of emotions in non-human animals is still not well understood. Here, we combine behavioural and physiological measures, to determine if animals can distinguish between vocalisations linked to different emotional valences (positive and negative). Using a playback paradigm, goats were habituated to listen to a conspecific call associated with positive or negative valence (habituation phase) and were subsequently exposed to a variant of the same call type (contact call) associated with the opposite valence (dishabituation phase), followed by a final call randomly selected from the habituation phase as control (rehabituation phase). The effects of the calls on the occurrence of looking and cardiac responses in these phases were recorded and compared. We found that when the valence of the call variant changed, goats were more likely to look at the source of the sound, indicating that they could distinguish calls based on their valence. Heart rate was not affected by the valence of the calls played, whereas heart-rate variability tended to be higher in the habituation and rehabituation phases, when positive calls were played compared to negative ones. Together, the behavioural and physiological measures provide evidence suggesting, first, that goats are able to distinguish call variants based on their valence, and second, that goat behaviour and cardiac responses are affected by call valence. This study indicates that auditory modalities are a potent means to communicate emotions in non-human animals. These findings can contribute to our understanding of the evolution of emotion perception in non-human animals.

  • A nemertean excitatory peptide/CCHamide regulates ciliary swimming in the larvae of Lineus longissimus
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-10
    Daniel Thiel; Philipp Bauknecht; Gáspár Jékely; Andreas Hejnol

    The trochozoan excitatory peptide (EP) and its ortholog, the arthropod CCHamide, are neuropeptides that are only investigated in very few animal species. Previous studies on different trochozoan species focused on their physiological effect in adult specimens, demonstrating a myo-excitatory effect, often on tissues of the digestive system. The function of EP in the planktonic larvae of trochozoans has not yet been studied. We surveyed transcriptomes from species of various spiralian (Orthonectida, Nemertea, Brachiopoda, Entoprocta, Rotifera) and ecdysozoan taxa (Tardigrada, Onychophora, Priapulida, Loricifera, Nematomorpha) to investigate the evolution of EPs/CCHamides in protostomes. We found that the EPs of several pilidiophoran nemerteans show a characteristic difference in their C-terminus. Deorphanization of a pilidiophoran EP receptor showed, that the two splice variants of the nemertean Lineus longissimus EP activate a single receptor. We investigated the expression of EP in L. longissimus larvae and juveniles with customized antibodies and found that EP positive nerves in larvae project from the apical organ to the ciliary band and that EP is expressed more broadly in juveniles in the neuropil and the prominent longitudinal nerve cords. While exposing juvenile L. longissimus specimens to synthetic excitatory peptides did not show any obvious effect, exposure of larvae to either of the two EPs increased the beat frequency of their locomotory cilia and shifted their vertical swimming distribution in a water column upwards. Our results show that EP/CCHamide peptides are broadly conserved in protostomes. We show that the EP increases the ciliary beat frequency of L. longissimus larvae, which shifts their vertical distribution in a water column upwards. Endogenous EP may be released at the ciliary band from the projections of apical organ EP positive neurons to regulate ciliary beating. This locomotory function of EP in L. longissimus larvae stands in contrast to the repeated association of EP/CCHamides with its myo-excitatory effect in adult trochozoans and the general association with the digestive system in many protostomes.

  • Small-scale phenotypic differentiation along complex stream gradients in a non-native amphipod
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-11
    Jonas Jourdan; Kathrin Piro; Alexander Weigand; Martin Plath

    Selective landscapes in rivers are made up by an array of selective forces that vary from source to downstream regions or between seasons, and local/temporal variation in fitness maxima can result in gradual spatio-temporal variation of phenotypic traits. This study aimed at establishing freshwater amphipods as future model organisms to study adaptive phenotypic diversification (evolutionary divergence and/or adaptive plasticity) along stream gradients. We collected Gammarus roeselii from 16 sampling sites in the Rhine catchment during two consecutive seasons (summer and winter). Altogether, we dissected n = 1648 individuals and quantified key parameters related to morphological and life-history diversification, including naturally selected (e.g., gill surface areas) as well as primarily sexually selected traits (e.g., male antennae). Acknowledging the complexity of selective regimes in streams and the interrelated nature of selection factors, we assessed several abiotic (e.g., temperature, flow velocity) and biotic ecological parameters (e.g., conspecific densities, sex ratios) and condensed them into four principal components (PCs). Generalized least squares models revealed pronounced phenotypic differentiation in most of the traits investigated herein, and components of the stream gradient (PCs) explained parts of the observed differences. Depending on the trait under investigation, phenotypic differentiation could be ascribed to variation in abiotic conditions, anthropogenic disturbance (influx of thermally polluted water), or population parameters. For example, female fecundity showed altitudinal variation and decreased with increasing conspecific densities, while sexual dimorphism in the length of male antennae—used for mate finding and assessment—increased with increasing population densities and towards female-biased sex ratios. We provide a comprehensive protocol for comparative analyses of intraspecific variation in life history traits in amphipods. Whether the observed phenotypic differentiation over small geographical distances reflects evolutionary divergence or plasticity (or both) remains to be investigated in future studies. Independent of the mechanisms involved, variation in several traits is likely to have consequences for ecosystem functions. For example, leaf-shredding in G. roeselii strongly depends on body size, which varied in dependence of several ecological parameters.

  • The “amphi”-brains of amphipods: new insights from the neuroanatomy of Parhyale hawaiensis (Dana, 1853)
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-07-26
    Christin Wittfoth; Steffen Harzsch; Carsten Wolff; Andy Sombke

    Over the last years, the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis has developed into an attractive marine animal model for evolutionary developmental studies that offers several advantages over existing experimental organisms. It is easy to rear in laboratory conditions with embryos available year-round and amenable to numerous kinds of embryological and functional genetic manipulations. However, beyond these developmental and genetic analyses, research on the architecture of its nervous system is fragmentary. In order to provide a first neuroanatomical atlas of the brain, we investigated P. hawaiensis using immunohistochemical labelings combined with laser-scanning microscopy, X-ray microcomputed tomography, histological sectioning and 3D reconstructions. As in most amphipod crustaceans, the brain is dorsally bent out of the body axis with downward oriented lateral hemispheres of the protocerebrum. It comprises almost all prominent neuropils that are part of the suggested ground pattern of malacostracan crustaceans (except the lobula plate and projection neuron tract neuropil). Beyond a general uniformity of these neuropils, the brain of P. hawaiensis is characterized by an elaborated central complex and a modified lamina (first order visual neuropil), which displays a chambered appearance. In the light of a recent analysis on photoreceptor projections in P. hawaiensis, the observed architecture of the lamina corresponds to specialized photoreceptor terminals. Furthermore, in contrast to previous descriptions of amphipod brains, we suggest the presence of a poorly differentiated hemiellipsoid body and an inner chiasm and critically discuss these aspects. Despite a general uniformity of amphipod brains, there is also a certain degree of variability in architecture and size of different neuropils, reflecting various ecologies and life styles of different species. In contrast to other amphipods, the brain of P. hawaiensis does not display any striking modifications or bias towards processing one particular sensory modality. Thus, we conclude that this brain represents a common type of an amphipod brain. Considering various established protocols for analyzing and manipulating P. hawaiensis, this organism is a suitable model to gain deeper understanding of brain anatomy e.g. by using connectome approaches, and this study can serve as first solid basis for following studies.

  • Landscape homogenization due to agricultural intensification disrupts the relationship between reproductive success and main prey abundance in an avian predator
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-08-06
    Petra Sumasgutner; Julien Terraube; Aurélie Coulon; Alexandre Villers; Nayden Chakarov; Luise Kruckenhauser; Erkki Korpimäki

    Selecting high-quality habitat and the optimal time to reproduce can increase individual fitness and is a strong evolutionary factor shaping animal populations. However, few studies have investigated the interplay between land cover heterogeneity, limitation in food resources, individual quality and spatial variation in fitness parameters. Here, we explore how individuals of different quality respond to possible mismatches between a cue for prey availability (land cover heterogeneity) and the actual fluctuating prey abundance. We analyse timing of breeding and reproductive success in a migratory population of Eurasian kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) breeding in nest-boxes, over a full three-year abundance cycle of main prey (voles), and consider several components of individual quality, including body condition, blood parasite infection, and genetic diversity (n = 448 adults) that act on different time scales. Older individuals, and kestrel parents in higher body condition started egg-laying earlier than younger birds and those in lower body condition. Additionally, egg-laying was initiated earlier during the increase and decrease phases (2011 and 2012) than during the low phase of the vole cycle (2013). Nestling survival (ratio of eggs that fledged successfully) was higher in early nests and in heterogeneous landscapes (i.e., mosaic of different habitat types), which was evident during the increase and decrease phases of the vole cycle, but not during the low vole year. We found a strong positive effect of landscape heterogeneity on nestling survival, but only when voles were relatively abundant, whereas a difference in the timing of breeding related to territory landscape heterogeneity was not evident. Therefore, landscape heterogeneity appeared as the main driver of high reproductive performance under favourable food conditions. Our results show that landscape homogenization linked to agricultural intensification disrupts the expected positive effect of vole abundance on reproductive success of kestrels.

  • Cryptic diversity in smooth-shelled mussels on Southern Ocean islands: connectivity, hybridisation and a marine invasion
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-08-06
    Małgorzata Zbawicka; Jonathan P. A. Gardner; Roman Wenne

    Large numbers of endemic species inhabit subantarctic continental coasts and islands that are characterised by highly variable environmental conditions. Southern hemisphere populations of taxa that are morphologically similar to northern counterparts have traditionally been considered to be extensions of such Northern hemisphere taxa, and may not exhibit differentiation amongst geographically isolated populations in the Southern Ocean. Smooth-shelled blue mussels of the genus Mytilus that exhibit an anti-tropical distribution are a model group to study phylogeography, speciation and hybridisation in the sea, and contribute to the theory and practice of marine biosecurity. We used a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) panel that has the ability to accurately identify reference Northern and Southern hemisphere Mytilus taxa to test for evolutionary differentiation amongst native Southern Ocean island populations. Native mussels from the Falkland Islands and the Kerguelen Islands exhibited greatest affinity to native M. platensis d’Orbigny 1846 from the Atlantic coast of South America. The major Southern Ocean current flow from west to east is likely to explain the spreading of M. platensis to remote offshore islands, as adults via the process of rafting or perhaps directly as larvae. SNPs variation revealed that mussels from Tasmania were native and clearly differentiated from all other blue mussel groups in the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The native mussels M. planulatus from Tasmania and from mainland New Zealand (NZ), and tentatively M. aoteanus from the two NZ Southern Ocean offshore island groups (the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island), formed a distinct M. galloprovincialis–like Southern hemisphere group with closest affinity to Northern hemisphere M. galloprovincialis from the Mediterranean Sea. In all cases, the SNPs revealed evidence of hybridisation between two or more distinct taxa. The invasive Northern hemisphere M. galloprovincialis was identified only in Tasmania, amongst native mussels of a distinct Australian M. planulatus lineage. Overall, our results reveal that Southern hemisphere island mussels have mixed genome ancestry and are native, not introduced by human activities. The preservation of distinct evolutionary lineages of Southern hemisphere species needs to be an ongoing focus of conservation efforts, given that population sizes on some of the remote offshore oceanic islands will be small and may be more easily adversely affected by invasion and subsequent hybridisation and introgression than larger populations elsewhere.

  • Morphology of the nervous system of monogonont rotifer Epiphanes senta with a focus on sexual dimorphism between feeding females and dwarf males
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-08-07
    Ludwik Gąsiorowski; Anlaug Furu; Andreas Hejnol

    Monogononta is a large clade of rotifers comprised of diverse morphological forms found in a wide range of ecological habitats. Most monogonont species display cyclical parthenogenesis, where generations of asexually reproducing females are interspaced by mixis events when sexual reproduction occurs between mictic females and dwarf, haploid males. The morphology of monogonont feeding females is relatively well described, however data on male anatomy are very limited. Thus far, male musculature of only two species has been described with confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and it remains unknown how dwarfism influences the neuroanatomy of males on detailed level. Here, we provide a CLSM-based description of the nervous system of both sexes of Epiphanes senta, a freshwater monogonont rotifer. The general nervous system architecture is similar between males and females and shows a similar level of complexity. However, the nervous system in males is more compact and lacks a stomatogastric part. Comparison of the neuroanatomy between male and normal-sized feeding females provides a better understanding of the nature of male dwarfism in Monogononta. We propose that dwarfism of monogonont non-feeding males is the result of a specific case of heterochrony, called “proportional dwarfism” as they, due to their inability to feed, retain a juvenile body size, but still develop a complex neural architecture comparable to adult females. Reduction of the stomatogastric nervous system in the males correlates with the loss of the entire digestive tract and associated morphological structures.

  • Artificial selection for male winners in the Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens correlates with high female aggression
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-08-08
    A. Ramos; D. Gonçalves

    In Southeast Asia, males of the Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens have been selected across centuries for paired-staged fights. During the selection process, matched for size males fight in a small tank until the contest is resolved. Breeders discard losing batches and reproduce winner batches with the aim of increasing fight performance. We assessed the results of this long-term selection process by comparing under standard laboratory conditions male and female aggressive behaviour of one strain selected for staged fights (“fighters”) and one strain of wild-types. The aggressive response of adult fish was tested against their mirror image or a size-matched conspecific. Fighter males were more aggressive than wild-type males for all measured behaviours. Differences were not only quantitative but the pattern of fight display was also divergent. Fighter males had an overall higher swimming activity, performing frequent fast strikes in the direction of the intruder and displaying from a distance. Wild-type males were less active and exhibited aggressive displays mostly in close proximity to the stimuli. Females of the fighter strain, which are not used for fights, were also more aggressive than wild-type females. Aggressive behaviours were correlated across male and female fighter siblings, suggesting common genetic and physiological mechanisms to male and female aggression in this species. The study further shows that results were largely independent of the stimulus type, with the mirror test inducing similar and less variable responses than the live conspecific presentation. These results suggest that selection for male winners co-selected for high-frequency and metabolic demanding aggressive display in males and also enhanced female aggression, opening a wide range of testable hypothesis about the ultimate and proximate mechanisms of male and female aggression in B. splendens.

  • Evolutionary transformation of mouthparts from particle-feeding to piercing carnivory in Viper copepods: Review and 3D analyses of a key innovation using advanced imaging techniques
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-08-22
    Tomonari Kaji; Chihong Song; Kazuyoshi Murata; Shigenori Nonaka; Kota Ogawa; Yusuke Kondo; Susumu Ohtsuka; A. Richard Palmer

    Novel feeding adaptations often facilitate adaptive radiation and diversification. But the evolutionary origins of such feeding adaptations can be puzzling if they require concordant change in multiple component parts. Pelagic, heterorhabdid copepods (Calanoida) exhibit diverse feeding behaviors that range from simple particle feeding to a highly specialized form of carnivory involving piercing mouthparts that likely inject venom. We review the evolutionary history of heterorhabdid copepods and add new high-resolution, 3D anatomical analyses of the muscular system, glands and gland openings associated with this remarkable evolutionary transformation. We examined four heterorhabdid copepods with different feeding modes: one primitive particle-feeder (Disseta palumbii), one derived and specialized carnivore (Heterorhabdus subspinifrons), and two intermediate taxa (Mesorhabdus gracilis and Heterostylites longicornis). We used two advanced, high-resolution microscopic techniques — serial block-face scanning electron microscopy and two-photon excitation microscopy — to visualize mouthpart form and internal anatomy at unprecedented nanometer resolution. Interactive 3D graphical visualizations allowed putative homologues of muscles and gland cells to be identified with confidence and traced across the evolutionary transformation from particle feeding to piercing carnivory. Notable changes included: a) addition of new gland cells, b) enlargement of some (venom producing?) glands, c) repositioning of gland openings associated with hollow piercing fangs on the mandibles, d) repurposing of some mandibular-muscle function to include gland-squeezing, and e) addition of new muscles that may aid venom injection exclusively in the most specialized piercing species. In addition, live video recording of all four species revealed mandibular blade movements coupled to cyclic contraction of some muscles connected to the esophagus. These behavioral and 3D morphological observations revealed a novel injection system in H. subspinifrons associated with piercing (envenomating?) carnivory. Collectively, these results suggest that subtle changes in mandibular tooth form, and muscle and gland form and location, facilitated the evolution of a novel, piercing mode of feeding that accelerated diversification of the genus Heterorhabdus. They also highlight the value of interactive 3D animations for understanding evolutionary transformations of complex, multicomponent morphological systems.

  • Combining morphological and genomic evidence to resolve species diversity and study speciation processes of the Pallenopsis patagonica (Pycnogonida) species complex
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-09-06
    Jana S. Dömel; Till-Hendrik Macher; Lars Dietz; Sabrina Duncan; Christoph Mayer; Andrey Rozenberg; Katherine Wolcott; Florian Leese; Roland R. Melzer

    Pallenopsis patagonica (Hoek, 1881) is a morphologically and genetically variable sea spider species whose taxonomic classification is challenging. Currently, it is considered as a species complex including several genetic lineages, many of which have not been formally described as species. Members of this species complex occur on the Patagonian and Antarctic continental shelves as well as around sub-Antarctic islands. These habitats have been strongly influenced by historical large-scale glaciations and previous studies suggested that communities were limited to very few refugia during glacial maxima. Therefore, allopatric speciation in these independent refugia is regarded as a common mechanism leading to high biodiversity of marine benthic taxa in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere. However, other mechanisms such as ecological speciation have rarely been considered or tested. Therefore, we conducted an integrative morphological and genetic study on the P. patagonica species complex to i) resolve species diversity using a target hybrid enrichment approach to obtain multiple genomic markers, ii) find morphological characters and analyze morphometric measurements to distinguish species, and iii) investigate the speciation processes that led to multiple lineages within the species complex. Phylogenomic results support most of the previously reported lineages within the P. patagonica species complex and morphological data show that several lineages are distinct species with diagnostic characters. Two lineages are proposed as new species, P. aulaeturcarum sp. nov. Dömel & Melzer, 2019 and P. obstaculumsuperavit sp. nov. Dömel, 2019, respectively. However, not all lineages could be distinguished morphologically and thus likely represent cryptic species that can only be identified with genetic tools. Further, morphometric data of 135 measurements showed a high amount of variability within and between species without clear support of adaptive divergence in sympatry. We generated an unprecedented molecular data set for members of the P. patagonica sea spider species complex with a target hybrid enrichment approach, which we combined with extensive morphological and morphometric analyses to investigate the taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography of this group. The extensive data set enabled us to delineate species boundaries, on the basis of which we formally described two new species. No consistent evidence for positive selection was found, rendering speciation in allopatric glacial refugia as the most likely model of speciation.

  • Gene expression vs. sequence divergence: comparative transcriptome sequencing among natural Rhinolophus ferrumequinum populations with different acoustic phenotypes
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-09-13
    Hanbo Zhao; Hui Wang; Tong Liu; Sen Liu; Longru Jin; Xiaobin Huang; Wentao Dai; Keping Sun; Jiang Feng

    Although the sensory drive hypothesis can explain the geographic variation in echolocation frequencies of some bat species, the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still unclear. The three lineages of greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) in China (northeast, central-east, and southwest) have significant geographic variation in resting frequencies (RF) of echolocation calls. Because their cochleae have an acoustic fovea that is highly sensitive to a narrow range of frequencies, we reported the transcriptomes of cochleae collected from three genetic lineages of R. ferrumequinum, which is an ideal organism for studying geographic variation in echolocation signals, and tried to understand the mechanisms behind this bat phenomenon by analyzing gene expression and sequence variation. A total of 8190 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified. We identified five modules from all DEGs that were significantly related to RF or forearm length (FL). DEGs in the RF-related modules were significantly enriched in the gene categories involved in neural activity, learning, and response to sound. DEGs in the FL-related modules were significantly enriched in the pathways related to muscle and actin functions. Using 21,945 single nucleotide polymorphisms, we identified 18 candidate unigenes associated with hearing, five of which were differentially expressed among the three populations. Additionally, the gene ERBB4, which regulates diverse cellular processes in the inner ear such as cell proliferation and differentiation, was in the largest module. We also found 49 unigenes that were under positive selection from 4105 one-to-one orthologous gene pairs between the three R. ferrumequinum lineages and three other Chiroptera species. The variability of gene expression and sequence divergence at the molecular level might provide evidence that can help elucidate the genetic basis of geographic variation in echolocation signals of greater horseshoe bats.

  • Persistence of multiple patterns and intraspecific polymorphism in multi-species Müllerian communities of net-winged beetles
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-10-17
    Matej Bocek; Dominik Kusy; Michal Motyka; Ladislav Bocak

    In contrast to traditional models of purifying selection and a single aposematic signal in Müllerian complexes, some communities of unprofitable prey contain members with multiple aposematic patterns. Processes responsible for diversity in aposematic signaling are poorly understood and large multi-species communities are seldom considered. We analyzed the phylogeny and aposematic patterns of closely related Eniclases net-winged beetles in New Guinea using mtDNA and nextRAD data. We suggest three clades of closely related and incompletely reproductively isolated lineages, detail the extent of polymorphism among Eniclases, and categorize their low-contrast aposematic patterns. The warning signal of Eniclases consists of body shape and color, with ambiguous color perception under some circumstances, i.e., when resting on the undersides of leaves. Field observations suggest that perception of the aposematic signal is affected by beetle behavior and environmental conditions. Local communities containing Eniclases consisted of 7–85 metriorrhynchine species assigned to 3–10 colour patterns. As a result, we suggest that under certain light conditions the aposematic colour signal is less apparent than the body shape in net-winged beetle communities. We document variable environmental factors in our study area and highly diverse multi-species communities of other net-winged beetles. Which implies dynamically changing community structure in space and time. Variable environmental conditions and diverse community composition are suggested to be favorable for the persistence of multiple aposematic patterns, imperfect mimics, and intraspecific polymorphism. Further research should identify the relative effect of these factors on purifying selection and the alleles which are responsible for phenotypic differences.

  • The innervation of the male copulatory organ of spiders (Araneae) – a comparative analysis
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-10-24
    Tim M. Dederichs; Carsten H. G. Müller; Lenka Sentenská; Elisabeth Lipke; Gabriele Uhl; Peter Michalik

    Nervous tissue is an inherent component of the many specialized genital structures for transferring sperm directly into the female’s body. However, the male copulatory organ of spiders was considered a puzzling exception. Based on the recent discovery of nervous tissue in the pedipalps of two distantly related spider species, we investigated representatives of all major groups across the spider tree of life for the presence of palpal nerves. We used a correlative approach that combined histology, micro-computed tomography and electron microscopy. We show that the copulatory organ is innervated in all species investigated. There is a sensory organ at the base of the sperm transferring sclerite in several taxa and nervous tissue occurs close to the glandular tissue of the spermophor, where sperm are stored before transfer. The innervation of the copulatory organ by the bulb nerve and associated efferent fibers is part of the ground pattern of spiders. Our findings pave the way for unraveling the sensory interaction of genitalia during mating and for the still enigmatic mode of uptake and release of sperm from the male copulatory organ.

  • Individual variation of the masticatory system dominates 3D skull shape in the herbivory-adapted marsupial wombats
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-11-01
    Vera Weisbecker; Thomas Guillerme; Cruise Speck; Emma Sherratt; Hyab Mehari Abraha; Alana C. Sharp; Claire E. Terhune; Simon Collins; Stephen Johnston; Olga Panagiotopoulou

    Within-species skull shape variation of marsupial mammals is widely considered low and strongly size-dependent (allometric), possibly due to developmental constraints arising from the altricial birth of marsupials. However, species whose skulls are impacted by strong muscular stresses – particularly those produced through mastication of tough food items – may not display such intrinsic patterns very clearly because of the known plastic response of bone to muscle activity of the individual. In such cases, allometry may not dominate within-species shape variation, even if it is a driver of evolutionary shape divergence; ordination of shape in a geometric morphometric context through principal component analysis (PCA) should reveal main variation in areas under masticatory stress (incisor region/zygomatic arches/mandibular ramus); but this main variation should emerge from high individual variability and thus have low eigenvalues. We assessed the evidence for high individual variation through 3D geometric morphometric shape analysis of crania and mandibles of three species of grazing-specialized wombats, whose diet of tough grasses puts considerable strain on their masticatory system. As expected, we found little allometry and low Principal Component 1 (PC1) eigenvalues within crania and mandibles of all three species. Also as expected, the main variation was in the muzzle, zygomatic arches, and masticatory muscle attachments of the mandibular ramus. We then implemented a new test to ask if the landmark variation reflected on PC1 was reflected in individuals with opposite PC1 scores and with opposite shapes in Procrustes space. This showed that correspondence between individual and ordinated shape variation was limited, indicating high levels of individual variability in the masticatory apparatus. Our results are inconsistent with hypotheses that skull shape variation within marsupial species reflects a constraint pattern. Rather, they support suggestions that individual plasticity can be an important determinant of within-species shape variation in marsupials (and possibly other mammals) with high masticatory stresses, making it difficult to understand the degree to which intrinsic constraints act on shape variation at the within-species level. We conclude that studies that link micro- and macroevolutionary patterns of shape variation might benefit from a focus on species with low-impact mastication, such as carnivorous or frugivorous species.

  • Characterizing the composition, metabolism and physiological functions of the fatty liver in Rana omeimontis tadpoles
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-11-14
    Wei Zhu; Meihua Zhang; Liming Chang; Wenbo Zhu; Cheng Li; Feng Xie; Huan Zhang; Tian Zhao; Jianping Jiang

    Fat storage is required for the life cycle of many organisms. The primary fat depot for most vertebrates is white adipose tissue. However, in primitive vertebrates (e.g., agnathan group and elasmobranchs), the liver is usually responsible for fat storage. Among the vertebrates, amphibians have a unique status, as their larvae live in the water and exhibit some primitive traits that are similar to fish. Although it has been recognized that adult frogs use their abdominal white adipose tissue as a primary fat depot, how tadpoles store their fat is still inconclusive. The metabolic traits and physiological functions of primitive fat depots may have wide-ranging implications on the pathology of abnormal lipid deposition in mammals and the evolution of fat storage. Rana omeimontis tadpoles used their liver as the primary fat depot. In sufficiently fed tadpoles at stage 30–31, the hepatosomatic index (HSI) reached up to 7%, and triglycerides (TG) accounted for 15% of liver weight. Their liver resembled white adipose tissue in histological morphology, characterized by polygonal hepatocytes filled with fat. Their liver metabolic composition was unique, characterized by the dominance of maltotriose, arachidonic acid and dipeptides in soluble carbohydrates, free fatty acids and amino acids. Hepatic fat was the major metabolic fuel of fasted R. omeimontis tadpoles, which had similar reserve mobilization and allocation patterns as mammals. From a developmental perspective, hepatic fat was important to fuel late metamorphic climax. Interestingly, starvation induced accelerated metamorphosis in tadpoles with high HSI (4.96 ± 0.21%). However, this phenomenon was not observed in tadpoles with low HSI (2.71 ± 0.16%), even though they had similar initial body weight and developmental stage. Hepatic fat abundance was the most prominent difference between the two groups. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report that liver can be the primary fat depot in vertebrates with higher evolutionary status than bony fish. The unique hepatic histological and metabolic traits likely either guard their liver against lipotoxicity or make their hepatocytes adapt to fat accumulation. This fatty liver could be a primitive counterpart of mammalian white adipose tissue (WAT). In addition, our study showed that the hepatic reserves of tadpoles, especially TG content, may provide body condition signals to modulate metamorphosis.

  • Social isolation improves the performance of rodents in a novel cognitive flexibility task
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2019-11-15
    Xin-Yuan Fei; Sha Liu; Yan-Hong Sun; Liang Cheng

    Social isolation, i.e., the deprivation of social contact, is a highly stressful circumstance that affects behavioral and functional brain development in social animals. Cognitive flexibility, one of the essential executive brain function that facilitates survival problem solving, was reported to be impaired after social isolation rearing. However, most of the previous studies have focused on the constrained aspect of flexibility and little is known about the unconstrained aspect. In the present study, the unconstrained cognitive flexibility of Kunming mice (Mus musculus, Km) reared in isolation was examined by a novel digging task. The exploratory behavior of the mice was also tested utilizing the hole-board and elevated plus maze tests to explain the differences in cognitive flexibility between the mice reared socially and in isolation. The results demonstrated that the isolated mice had a higher success rate in solving the novel digging problem and showed a higher rate of exploratory behavior compared with the controls. Linear regression analysis revealed that the time it took the mice to solve the digging problem was negatively associated with exploratory behavior. The data suggest that social isolation rearing improves unconstrained cognitive flexibility in mice, which is probably related to an increase in their exploratory behavior. Such effects may reflect the behavioral and cognitive evolutionary adaptations of rodents to survive under complex and stressful conditions.

  • Correction to: Sea urchin growth dynamics at microstructural length scale revealed by Mn-labeling and cathodoluminescence imaging.
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-04-24
    Przemysław Gorzelak,Aurélie Dery,Philippe Dubois,Jarosław Stolarski

    [This corrects the article DOI: 10.1186/s12983-017-0227-8.].

  • Correction to: getting fat or getting help? how female mammals cope with energetic constraints on reproduction.
    Front. Zool. (IF 2.982) Pub Date : 2018-02-17
    Sandra A Heldstab,Carel P van Schaik,Karin Isler

    [This corrects the article DOI: 10.1186/s12983-017-0214-0.].

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上海纽约大学William Glover