Biological Sciences, Department of

Receive updates for this collection

Coherent Assessments of Europe’s Marine Fishes Show Regional Divergence and Megafauna Loss

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-08
Abstract: 

Europe has a long tradition of exploiting marine fishes and is promoting marine economic activity through its Blue Growth strategy. This increase in anthropogenic pressure, along with climate change, threatens the biodiversity of fishes and food security. Here, we examine the conservation status of 1,020 species of European marine fishes and identify factors that contribute to their extinction risk. Large fish species (greater than 1.5 m total length) are most at risk; half of these are threatened with extinction, predominantly sharks, rays and sturgeons. This analysis was based on the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) European regional Red List of marine fishes, which was coherent with assessments of the status of fish stocks carried out independently by fisheries management agencies: no species classified by IUCN as threatened were considered sustainable by these agencies. A remarkable geographic divergence in stock status was also evident: in northern Europe, most stocks were not overfished, whereas in the Mediterranean Sea, almost all stocks were overfished. As Europe proceeds with its sustainable Blue Growth agenda, two main issues stand out as needing priority actions in relation to its marine fishes: the conservation of marine fish megafauna and the sustainability of Mediterranean fish stocks.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Unpredictable Perturbation Reduces Breeding Propensity Regardless of Pre-Laying Reproductive Readiness in a Partial Capital Breeder

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2016-12-31
Abstract: 

Theoretically, individuals of migratory species should optimize reproductive investment based on a combination of timing of and body condition at arrival on the breeding grounds. A minimum threshold body mass is required to initiate reproduction, and the timing of reaching this threshold is critical because of the trade-off between delaying breeding to gain in condition against the declining value of offspring with later reproductive timing. Long-lived species have the flexibility within their life history to skip reproduction in a given year if they are unable to achieve this theoretical mass threshold. Although the decision to breed or not is an important parameter influencing population dynamics, the mechanisms underlying this decision are poorly understood. Here, we mimicked an unpredictable environmental perturbation that induced a reduction in body mass of Arctic pre-breeding (before the laying period) female common eiders Somateria mollissima; a long-lived migratory seaduck, while controlling for individual variation in the pre-laying physiological reproductive readiness via vitellogenin (VTG) – a yolk-targeted lipoprotein. Our aim was to causally determine the interaction between body condition and pre-laying reproductive readiness (VTG) on breeding propensity by experimentally reducing body mass in treatment females. We first demonstrated that arrival body condition was a key driver of breeding propensity. Secondly, we found that treatment and VTG levels interacted to influence breeding propensity, indicating that our experimental manipulation, mimicking an unpredictable food shortage, reduced breeding propensity, regardless of the degree of pre-laying physiological reproductive readiness (i.e. timing of ovarian follicles recruitment). Our experiment demonstrates that momentary environmental perturbations during the pre-breeding period can strongly affect the decision to breed, a key parameter driving population dynamics.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Global Priorities for Conserving the Evolutionary History of Sharks, Rays, and Chimaeras

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-01-18
Abstract: 

In an era of accelerated biodiversity loss and limited conservation resources, systematic prioritization of species and places is essential. In terrestrial vertebrates, evolutionary distinctness has been used to identify species and locations that embody the greatest share of evolutionary history. We estimate evolutionary distinctness for a large marine vertebrate radiation on a dated taxon-complete tree for all 1,192 chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, rays and chimaeras) by augmenting a new 610-species molecular phylogeny using taxonomic constraints. Chondrichthyans are by far the most evolutionarily distinct of all major radiations of jawed vertebrates—the average species embodies 26 million years of unique evolutionary history. With this metric, we identify 21 countries with the highest richness, endemism and evolutionary distinctness of threatened species as targets for conservation prioritization. On average, threatened chondrichthyans are more evolutionarily distinct—further motivating improved conservation, fisheries management and trade regulation to avoid significant pruning of the chondrichthyan tree of life.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Associations Between Imprinted Gene Expression in the Placenta, Human Fetal Growth and Preeclampsia

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-11-29
Abstract: 

Genomic imprinting is essential for normal placental and fetal growth. One theory to explain the evolution of imprinting is the kinship theory (KT), which predicts that genes that are paternally expressed will promote fetal growth, whereas maternally expressed genes will suppress growth. We investigated the expression of imprinted genes using microarray measurements of expression in term placentae. Correlations between birthweight and the expression levels of imprinted genes were more significant than for non-imprinted genes, but did not tend to be positive for paternally expressed genes and negative for maternally expressed genes.  Imprinted genes were more dysregulated in preeclampsia (a disorder associated with placental insufficiency) than randomly selected genes, and we observed an excess of patterns of dysregulation in preeclampsia that would be expected to reduce nutrient allocation to the fetus, given the predictions of the KT. However, we found no evidence of coordinated regulation among these imprinted genes. A few imprinted genes have previously been shown to be associated with fetal growth and preeclampsia, and our results indicate that this is true for a broader set of imprinted genes.

Document type: 
Article

Maximum Intrinsic Rate of Population Increase in Sharks, Rays, and Chimaeras: The Importance of Survival to Maturity

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2016-06-10
Abstract: 

The maximum intrinsic rate of population increase rmax  is a commonly estimated demographic parameter used in assessments of extinction risk. In teleosts, rmax can be calculated using an estimate of spawners per spawner, but for chondrichthyans, most studies have used annual reproductive output b instead. This is problematic as it effectively assumes all juveniles survive to maturity. Here, we propose an updated rmax equation that uses a simple mortality estimator which also accounts for survival to  maturity: the reciprocal of average lifespan. For 94 chondrichthyans, we now estimate that rmax values are on average 10% lower than previously published. Our updated rmax estimates are lower than previously published for species that mature later relative to maximum age and those with high annual fecundity. The most extreme discrepancies in rmax values occur in species with low age at maturity and low annual reproductive output. Our results indicate that chondrichthyans that mature relatively later in life, and to a lesser extent those that are highly fecund, are less resilient to fishing than previously thought.

Document type: 
Article

Canada's Wild Salmon Policy: an Assessment of Conservation Progress

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-08-21
Abstract: 

Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon has been heralded as a transformative approach to the management of wild salmon whereby conservation is the highest priority. Given that changes to the Policy are under consideration, it is timely that we understand whether our state of knowledge and the status of wild salmon in Canada have indeed improved after its adoption in 2005. To answer these questions, we used two indices of improvement: (i) monitoring effort and (ii) abundance of spawning adults. Our results, based on data for all species from British Columbia’s north and central coasts, show that monitoring effort has continued to erode, abundance of spawning adults has significantly declined for several species, the status of many salmon Conservation Units are in zones of concern, and 42% of the Conservation Units that we assessed as Red (threatened) would have improved in status had the Canadian fishery been reduced. We conclude with recommendations to help improve our knowledge of the status of salmon and enable a robust and successfully implemented Wild Salmon Policy for the future.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Amphibian Species’ Traits, Evolutionary History, and Environment Predict Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis Infection Patterns, but not Extinction Risk

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-09
Abstract: 

The fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (B. dendrobatidis) has emerged as a major agent of amphibian extinction, requiring conservation intervention for many susceptible species. Identifying susceptible species is challenging, but many aspects of species biology are predicted to influence the evolution of host resistance, tolerance, or avoidance strategies towards disease. In turn, we may expect species exhibiting these distinct strategies to differ in their ability to survive epizootic disease outbreaks. Here, we test for phylogenetic and trait-based patterns of B. dendrobatidis infection risk and infection intensity among 302 amphibian species by compiling a global data set of B. dendrobatidis infection surveys across 95 sites. We then use best-fit models that associate traits, taxonomy and environment with B. dendrobatidis infection risk and intensity to predict host disease mitigation strategies (tolerance, resistance, avoidance) for 122 Neotropical amphibian species that experienced epizootic B. dendrobatidis outbreaks, and noted species persistence or extinction from these events. Aspects of amphibian species life history, habitat use and climatic niche were consistently linked to variation in B. dendrobatidis infection patterns across sites around the world. However, predicted B. dendrobatidis infection risk and intensity based on site environment and species traits did not reveal a consistent pattern between the predicted host disease mitigation strategy and extinction outcome. This suggests that either tolerant or resistant species may have no advantage in ameliorating disease during epizootic events, or that other factors drive the persistence of amphibian populations during chytridiomycosis outbreaks. These results suggest that using a trait-based approach may allow us to identify species with resistance or tolerance to endemic B. dendrobatidis infections, but that this approach may be insufficient to ultimately identify species at risk of extinction from epizootics.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Linking Speciation to Extinction: Diversification Raises Contemporary Extinction Risk in Amphibians

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-05-03
Abstract: 

Many of the traits associated with elevated rates of speciation, including niche specialization and having small and isolated populations, are similarly linked with an elevated risk of extinction. This suggests that rapidly speciating lineages may also be more extinction prone. Empirical tests of a speciation-extinction correlation are rare because assessing paleontological extinction rates is difficult. However, the modern biodiversity crisis allows us to observe patterns of extinction in real time, and if this hypothesis is true then we would expect young clades that have recently diversified to have high contemporary extinction risk. Here, we examine evolutionary patterns of modern extinction risk across over 300 genera within one of the most threatened vertebrate classes, the Amphibia. Consistent with predictions, rapidly diversifying amphibian clades also had a greater share of threatened species. Curiously, this pattern is not reflected in other tetrapod classes and may reflect a greater propensity to speciate through peripheral isolation in amphibians, which is partly supported by a negative correlation between diversification rate and mean geographic range size. This clustered threat in rapidly diversifying amphibian genera means that protecting a small number of species can achieve large gains in preserving amphibian phylogenetic diversity. Nonindependence between speciation and extinction rates has many consequences for patterns of biodiversity and how we may choose to conserve it.

Document type: 
Article

Unique Two-Photoreceptor Scanning Eye of the Nematode Mermisnigrescens

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2007
Abstract: 

A single eye is present in females of the nematode Mermis nigrescens. A pigment cup occupies the entire cross section near the anterior tip of the worm, and the curved cuticle at the tip becomes a cornea. The shading pigment is hemoglobin instead of melanin. The eye has been shown to provide a positive phototaxis utilizing a scanning mechanism; however, the eye's structure has not been sufficiently described. Here, we provide a reconstruction of the eye on the basis of light and electron microscopy of serial sections. Hemoglobin crystals are densely packed in the cytoplasm of expanded hypodermal cells, forming the cylindrical shadowing structure. The two putative photoreceptors are found laterally within the transparent conical center of this structure where they would be exposed to light from different anterior fields of view. Each consists of a multilamellar sensory process formed by one of the dendrites in each of the two amphidial sensory nerve bundles that pass through the center. Multilamellar processes are also found in the same location in immature adult females and fourth stage juvenile females, which lack the shadowing pigment and exhibit a weak negative phototaxis. The unique structure of the pigment cup eye is discussed in terms of optical function, phototaxis mechanism, eye nomenclature, and evolution.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

The Nematode Stoma: Homology of Cell Architecture with Improved Understanding by Confocal Microscopy of Labeled Cell Boundaries

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2016
Abstract: 

Nematode stomas vary widely in the cuticular structures evolved for different feeding strategies, yet the arrangement of the epithelial cell classes that form these structures may be conserved. This article addresses several issues that have impeded the full acceptance of this hypothesis including controversies arising from the structure of the Caenorhabditis elegans stoma. We investigated fluorescent antibody labeling of cell boundaries in conjunction with confocal microscopy as an alternative to transmission electron microscopy (TEM), using MH27 to label apical junctions in C. elegans and two other species. Accurately spaced optical sections collected by the confocal microscope provide a three-dimensional array of pixels (voxels) that, using image-processing software, can be rotated and sectioned at accurately chosen thicknesses and locations. Ribbons of fluorescence clearly identify cell boundaries along the luminal cuticle in C. elegans and Zeldia punctata and less clearly in Bunonema sp. The patterns render cell classes and their relationships readily identifiable. In the C. elegans stoma they correct a misreading of serial TEMs that was not congruent with architecture in other nematodes—the row of marginal cells is now seen to be continuous as in other nematodes, rather than being interrupted by encircling pm1 cells. Also impeding understanding, the reference to certain cell classes as ‘epithelial’ and others as “muscle” in the C. elegans literature is at variance with muscle expression in most other taxa. For consistent comparison among species, we propose that these cell class descriptors based on function be replaced by topological terms. With these and other confusing concepts and terminology removed, the homology of the cellular architecture among taxa becomes obvious. We provide a corrected description of the cell architecture of the C. elegans stoma and examples of how it is modified in other taxa with different feeding strategies.

Document type: 
Article
File(s):