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Multimodal and Multifunctional Signaling? – Web Reduction Courtship Behavior in a North American Population of the False Black Widow Spider

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-02-26
Abstract: 

Males of widow spiders courting on the web of females engage in web-reduction behavior which entails excising a section of the web, bundling it up, and wrapping it with their silk. Males of the false black widow spider, Steatoda grossa, in European populations also produce stridulatory courtship sound which has not yet been studied in their invaded North American range. Working with a North American population of Sgrossa, we tested the hypotheses that (1) web reduction by males renders webs less attractive to rival males; (2) deposition of silk by courting males has an inter-sexual (male-female) signal function that enhances their likelihood of copulation; and (3) stridulatory sound is a courtship signal of males. Testing anemotactic attraction of males in Y-tube olfactometer experiments revealed that reduced webs (indicative of a mated female) and intact webs (indicative of a virgin female) were equally attractive to males. Recording courtship behavior of males with either functional (silk-releasing) spinnerets or spinnerets experimentally occluded on the web of virgin females showed that males with functional spinnerets were more likely to copulate with the female they courted. Although males possess the stridulatory apparatus to produce courtship sound, they did not stridulate when courting or copulating on the web of females. Our data support the conclusion that web-reduction behavior of Sgrossa males in their invaded North American range has no long-range effect on mate seeking males. Instead, web-reduction behavior has an inter-sexual signaling function that seems to be linked to functional spinnerets of the courting male. The signal produced by a male likely entails a volatile silk-borne pheromone, but may also embody a gauge of his endurance (the amount of time he engages in web reduction causing web vibrations).

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How Flies Are Flirting on the Fly

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-02-14
Abstract: 

Background  Flies have some of the most elaborate visual systems in the Insecta, often featuring large, sexually dimorphic eyes with specialized “bright zones” that may have a functional role during mate-seeking behavior. The fast visual system of flies is considered to be an adaptation in support of their advanced flight abilities. Here, we show that the immense processing speed of the flies’ photoreceptors plays a crucial role in mate recognition.

Results  Video-recording wing movements of abdomen-mounted common green bottle flies, Lucilia sericata, under direct light at 15,000 frames per second revealed that wing movements produce a single, reflected light flash per wing beat. Such light flashes were not evident when we video-recorded wing movements under diffuse light. Males of L. sericata are strongly attracted to wing flash frequencies of 178 Hz, which are characteristic of free-flying young females (prospective mates), significantly more than to 212, 235, or 266 Hz, characteristic of young males, old females, and old males, respectively. In the absence of phenotypic traits of female flies, and when given a choice between light emitting diodes that emitted either constant light or light pulsed at a frequency of 110, 178, 250, or 290 Hz, males show a strong preference for the 178-Hz pulsed light, which most closely approximates the wing beat frequency of prospective mates.

Conclusions  We describe a previously unrecognized visual mate recognition system in L. sericata. The system depends upon the sex- and age-specific frequencies of light flashes reflecting off moving wings, and the ability of male flies to distinguish between the frequency of light flashes produced by rival males and prospective mates. Our findings imply that insect photoreceptors with fast processing speed may not only support agile flight with advanced maneuverability but may also play a supreme role in mate recognition. The low mating propensity of L. sericata males on cloudy days, when light flashes from the wings of flying females are absent, seems to indicate that these flies synchronize sexual communication with environmental conditions that optimize the conspicuousness of their communication signals, as predicted by sensory drive theory.

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Article
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Are Sawfishes Still Present In Mozambique? A Baseline Ecological Study

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-02-02
Abstract: 

Sawfishes (Pristidae) were formerly abundant in the western Indian Ocean, but current data on sawfish presence and distribution are lacking for most of the region. This paper summarises historical records of sawfishes in Mozambican waters and presents the findings of the first assessment of the presence and status of sawfishes in Mozambique. A countrywide baseline assessment was undertaken between May and July 2014, using interviews with artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial fishers, fish traders and fisheries monitoring staff as the primary source of information on sawfish distribution, recent catches, socio-economic value and cultural importance. Additional interviews were conducted via email or telephone with individuals running sport fishing operations or who otherwise had considerable experience interacting with the fishing sectors or the marine environment in Mozambique. Where encountered, sawfish rostra were photographed and a series of measurements and associated data were collected. In total, 200 questionnaire surveys and seven interviews with recreational fishing and dive operators were conducted, and 19 rostra were documented from museum archives and private collections, belonging to two sawfish species, the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) and Green Sawfish (P. zijsron). The most recent captures of sawfishes were reported to have occurred in 2014. Two key sites were identified where both recent encounters were reported and numerous Largetooth Sawfish rostra were documented. Gill nets were the fishing gear most commonly attributed to sawfish catches. Sawfishes did not hold any cultural importance in Mozambique, but they have at least some socio-economic importance to artisanal fishers, primarily through the sale of their fins. The meat did not appear to be held in high regard and was usually consumed locally. Sampling and further research is now required to confirm the presence of sawfishes and to assess the primary threats to sawfishes in those areas. At one site where a number of rostra were present and where fishers stated that they still catch sawfish, gill nets are being provided to fishers as an alternative to beach seining. This may have a serious impact on the local sawfish population and more broadly for other elasmobranchs in the area. Immediate action is required to develop a landings monitoring programme in this and other key habitats, and to encourage fishers to release sawfishes alive.

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Sympathy for the Devil: A Conservation Strategy for Devil and Manta Rays

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-03-14
Abstract: 

Background  International trade for luxury products, medicines, and tonics poses a threat to both terrestrial and marine wildlife. The demand for and consumption of gill plates (known as Peng Yu Sai, “Fish Gill of Mobulid Ray”) from devil and manta rays (subfamily Mobulinae, collectively referred to as mobulids) poses a significant threat to these marine fishes because of their extremely low productivity. The demand for these gill plates has driven an international trade supplied by largely unmonitored and unregulated catches from target and incidental fisheries around the world. Scientific research, conservation campaigns, and legal protections for devil rays have lagged behind those for manta rays despite similar threats across all mobulids.

Methods  To investigate the difference in attention given to devil rays and manta rays, we examined trends in the scientific literature and updated species distribution maps for all mobulids. Using available information on target and incidental fisheries, and gathering information on fishing and trade regulations (at international, national, and territorial levels), we examined how threats and protective measures overlap with species distribution. We then used a species conservation planning approach to develop the Global Devil and Manta Ray Conservation Strategy, specifying a vision, goals, objectives, and actions to advance the knowledge and protection of both devil and manta rays.

Results and Discussion  Our literature review revealed that there had been nearly 2.5-times more “manta”-titled publications, than “mobula” or “devil ray”-titled publications over the past 4.5 years (January 2012–June 2016). The majority of these recent publications were reports on occurrence of mobulid species. These publications contributed to updated Area of Occupancy and Extent of Occurrence maps which showed expanded distributions for most mobulid species and overlap between the two genera. While several international protections have recently expanded to include all mobulids, there remains a greater number of national, state, and territory-level protections for manta rays compared to devil rays. We hypothesize that there are fewer scientific publications and regulatory protections for devil rays due primarily to perceptions of charisma that favour manta rays. We suggest that the well-established species conservation framework used here offers an objective solution to close this gap. To advance the goals of the conservation strategy we highlight opportunities for parity in protection and suggest solutions to help reduce target and bycatch fisheries.

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Article
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Migrant Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) Have Over Four Decades Steadily Shifted Towards Safer Stopover Locations

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-01-31
Abstract: 

Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) have undergone a steady hemisphere-wide recovery since the ban on DDT in 1973, resulting in an ongoing increase in the level of danger posed for migrant birds, such as Arctic-breeding sandpipers. We anticipate that in response migrant semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) have adjusted migratory behavior, including a shift in stopover site usage toward locations offering greater safety from falcon predation. We assessed semipalmated sandpiper stopover usage within the Atlantic Canada Shorebird Survey dataset. Based on 3,030 surveys (totalling ~32M birds) made during southward migration, 1974–2017, at 198 stopover locations, we assessed the spatial distribution of site usage in each year (with a “priority matching distribution” index, PMD) in relation to the size (intertidal area) and safety (proportion of a site's intertidal area further than 150 m of the shoreline) of each location. The PMD index value is >1 when usage is concentrated at dangerous locations, 1.0 when usage matches location size, and <1 when usage is concentrated at safer locations. A large majority of migrants were found at the safest sites in all years, however our analysis of the PMD demonstrated that the fraction using safer sites increased over time. In 1974, 80% of birds were found at the safest 20% of the sites, while in 2017, this had increased to 97%. A sensitivity analysis shows that the shift was made specifically toward safer (and not just larger) sites. The shift as measured by a PMD index decline cannot be accounted for by possible biases inherent in the data set. We conclude that the data support the prediction that increasing predator danger has induced a shift by southbound migrant semipalmated sandpipers to safer sites.

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Why and How Imprinted Genes Drive Fetal Programming

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-01-24
Abstract: 

Imprinted genes mediate fetal and childhood growth and development, and early growth patterns drive fetal programming effects. However, predictions and evidence from the kinship theory of imprinting have yet to be directly integrated with data on fetal programming and risks of metabolic disease. I first define paternal-gene and maternal-gene optima with regard to early human growth and development. Next, I review salient evidence with regard to imprinted gene effects on birth weight, body composition, trajectories of feeding and growth, and timing of developmental stages, to evaluate why and how imprinted gene expression influences risks of metabolic disease in later life. I find that metabolic disease risks derive primarily from maternal gene biases that lead to reduced placental efficacy, low birth weight, low relative muscle mass, high relative white fat, increased abdominal adiposity, reduced pancreatic β-cell mass that promotes insulin resistance, reduced appetite and infant sucking efficacy, catch-up fat deposition from family foods after weaning, and early puberty. Paternal gene biases, by contrast, may contribute to metabolic disease via lower rates of brown fat thermiogenesis, and through favoring more rapid postnatal catch-up growth after intrauterine growth restriction from environmental causes. These disease risks can be alleviated through dietary and pharmacological alterations that selectively target imprinted gene expression and relevant metabolic pathways. The kinship theory of imprinting, and mother-offspring conflict more generally, provide a clear predictive framework for guiding future research on fetal programming and metabolic disease.

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Article
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Pregnancy Complications Recur Independently of Maternal Vascular Malperfusion Lesions

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-02-06
Abstract: 

Background Spontaneous abortions, intrauterine growth restriction, and preeclampsia are thought to be caused by defective placentation and are associated with increased risk of adverse outcomes in subsequent pregnancies. However, it is not known whether the recurrence of adverse outcomes is associated with the recurrence of placental pathology. We hypothesized that recurrent maternal vascular malperfusion (MVM) underlies the recurrence of adverse outcomes.

Methods Using data from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project, we assessed the recurrence of pregnancy complications and MVM lesions (N = 3865), associations between a history of spontaneous abortions and MVM lesions or adverse outcomes in subsequent pregnancies (N = 8312), and whether the recurrence of pregnancy complications occurred independently of the presence of MVM lesions.

Results The odds of an MVM lesion were higher for a woman who had had an MVM lesion in a previous pregnancy (aOR = 1.6; 95% CI 1.3–1.9), although this was marginally non-significant after adjusting for covariates such as gestational age, race and BMI. The odds of preeclampsia, a small-for-gestational-age infant, premature delivery and early pregnancy loss were 2.7–5.0 times higher if there had been that same adverse outcome in a previous pregnancy. A history of spontaneous abortions was associated with higher risk of a small-for-gestational-age baby (aOR = 2.4; 95% CI 1.7–3.4) and prematurity (aOR = 5.1; 95% CI 2.3–11.5 for extremely preterm), but not preeclampsia. The recurrence of adverse outcomes was significant when restricting analyses to women without MVM lesions. Similarly, associations between adverse outcomes and previous spontaneous abortions were significant when statistically controlling for the presence of MVM lesions, or excluding pregnancies with MVM lesions.

Conclusions Women with adverse outcomes in one pregnancy are at higher risk of complications in subsequent pregnancies. However, there is significant recurrence of adverse outcomes even in the absence of MVM.

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Article
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Scientists on Twitter: Preaching to the Choir or Singing from the Rooftops?

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-06-28
Abstract: 

There have been strong calls for scientists to share their discoveries with society. Some scientists have heeded these calls through social media platforms such as Twitter. Here, we ask whether Twitter allows scientists to promote their findings primarily to other scientists (“inreach”), or whether it can help them reach broader, non-scientific audiences (“outreach”). We analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology and found that their followers are, on average, predominantly (∼55%) other scientists. However, beyond a threshold of ∼1000 followers, the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, members of the public with no stated association with science, and a small number of decision-makers. This varied audience was, in turn, followed by more people, resulting in an exponential increase in the social media reach of tweeting academic scientists. Tweeting, therefore, has the potential to disseminate scientific information widely after initial efforts to gain followers. These results should encourage scientists to invest in building a social media presence for scientific outreach.

 

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A Wearable Gait Phase Detection System Based on Force Myography Techniques

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-04-21
Abstract: 

(1) Background: Quantitative evaluation of gait parameters can provide useful information for constructing individuals’ gait profile, diagnosing gait abnormalities, and better planning of rehabilitation schemes to restore normal gait pattern. Objective determination of gait phases in a gait cycle is a key requirement in gait analysis applications; (2) Methods: In this study, the feasibility of using a force myography-based technique for a wearable gait phase detection system is explored. In this regard, a force myography band is developed and tested with nine participants walking on a treadmill. The collected force myography data are first examined sample-by-sample and classified into four phases using Linear Discriminant Analysis. The gait phase events are then detected from these classified samples using a set of supervisory rules; (3) Results: The results show that the force myography band can correctly detect more than 99.9% of gait phases with zero insertions and only four deletions over 12,965 gait phase segments. The average temporal error of gait phase detection is 55.2 ms, which translates into 2.1% error with respect to the corresponding labelled stride duration; (4) Conclusions: This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the feasibility of force myography techniques as viable solutions in developing wearable gait phase detection systems.

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Hallmarks of Science Missing from North American Wildlife Management

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-03-07
Abstract: 

Resource management agencies commonly defend controversial policy by claiming adherence to science-based approaches. For example, proponents and practitioners of the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” which guides hunting policy across much of the United States and Canada, assert that science plays a central role in shaping policy. However, what that means is rarely defined. We propose a framework that identifies four fundamental hallmarks of science relevant to natural resource management (measurable objectives, evidence, transparency, and independent review) and test for their presence in hunt management plans created by 62 U.S. state and Canadian provincial and territorial agencies across 667 management systems (species-jurisdictions). We found that most (60%) systems contained fewer than half of the indicator criteria assessed, with more criteria detected in systems that were peer-reviewed, that pertained to “big game,” and in jurisdictions at increasing latitudes. These results raise doubt about the purported scientific basis of hunt management across the United States and Canada. Our framework provides guidance for adopting a science-based approach to safeguard not only wildlife but also agencies from potential social, legal, and political conflict.

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