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Developmental Heterochrony And The Evolution Of Autistic Perception, Cognition And Behavior

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Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Background

Autism is usually conceptualized as a disorder or disease that involves fundamentally abnormal neurodevelopment. In the present work, the hypothesis that a suite of core autism-related traits may commonly represent simple delays or non-completion of typical childhood developmental trajectories is evaluated.

Discussion

A comprehensive review of the literature indicates that, with regard to the four phenotypes of (1) restricted interests and repetitive behavior, (2) short-range and long-range structural and functional brain connectivity, (3) global and local visual perception and processing, and (4) the presence of absolute pitch, the differences between autistic individuals and typically developing individuals closely parallel the differences between younger and older children.

Summary

The results of this study are concordant with a model of ‘developmental heterochrony’, and suggest that evolutionary extension of child development along the human lineage has potentiated and structured genetic risk for autism and the expression of autistic perception, cognition and behavior.

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Article
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Differential Expression of Apoptosis Related Genes in Selected Strains of Aedes aegypti with Different Susceptibilities to Dengue Virus

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Aedes aegypti is the principal vector of Dengue viruses worldwide. We identified field collected insects with differential susceptibility to Dengue-2 virus (DENv-2) and used isofemale selection to establish susceptible and refractory strains based on midgut infection barriers. Previous experiments had identified higher expression of apoptosis-related genes in the refractory strain. To identify potential molecular mechanisms associated with DENv susceptibility, we evaluated the differential expression of Caspase-16, Aedronc, Aedredd, Inhibitor of apoptosis (AeIAP1) and one member of the RNAi pathway, Argonaute-2 in the midguts and fat body tissues of the selected strains at specific times post blood feeding or infection with DENv-2. In the refractory strain there was significantly increased expression of caspases in midgut and fatbody tissues in the presence of DENv-2, compared to exposure to blood alone, and significantly higher caspase expression in the refractory strain compared with the susceptible strain at timepoints when DENv was establishing in these tissues. We used RNAi to knockdown gene expression; knockdown of AeIAP1 was lethal to the insects. In the refractory strain, knockdown of the pro-apoptotic gene Aedronc increased the susceptibility of refractory insects to DENv-2 from 53% to 78% suggesting a contributing role of this gene in the innate immune response of the refractory strain.

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Article
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Native Predators Do Not Influence Invasion Success of Pacific Lionfish on Caribbean Reefs

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Biotic resistance, the process by which new colonists are excluded from a community by predation from and/or competition with resident species, can prevent or limit species invasions. We examined whether biotic resistance by native predators on Caribbean coral reefs has influenced the invasion success of red lionfishes (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles), piscivores from the Indo-Pacific. Specifically, we surveyed the abundance (density and biomass) of lionfish and native predatory fishes that could interact with lionfish (either through predation or competition) on 71 reefs in three biogeographic regions of the Caribbean. We recorded protection status of the reefs, and abiotic variables including depth, habitat type, and wind/wave exposure at each site. We found no relationship between the density or biomass of lionfish and that of native predators. However, lionfish densities were significantly lower on windward sites, potentially because of habitat preferences, and in marine protected areas, most likely because of ongoing removal efforts by reserve managers. Our results suggest that interactions with native predators do not influence the colonization or post-establishment population density of invasive lionfish on Caribbean reefs.

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Article
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The Conservation and Management of Tunas and Their Relatives: Setting Life History Research Priorities

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Scombrids (tunas, bonitos, Spanish mackerels and mackerels) support important fisheries in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters around the world, being one of the most economically- and socially-important marine species globally. Their sustainable exploitation, management and conservation depend on accurate life history information for the development of quantitative fisheries stock assessments, and in the fishery data-poor situations for the identification of vulnerable species. Here, we assemble life history traits (maximum size, growth, longevity, maturity, fecundity, spawning duration and spawning interval) for the 51 species of scombrids globally. We identify major biological gaps in knowledge and prioritize life history research needs in scombrids based on their biological gaps in knowledge, the importance of their fisheries and their current conservation status according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. We find that the growth and reproductive biology of tunas and mackerel species have been more extensively studied than for Spanish mackerels and bonitos, although there are notable exceptions in all groups. We also reveal that reproductive biology of species, particular fecundity, is the least studied biological aspect in scombrids. We identify two priority groups, including 32 species of scombrids, and several populations of principal market tunas, for which life history research should be prioritized following the species-specific life history gaps identified in this study in the coming decades. By highlighting the important gaps in biological knowledge and providing a priority setting for life history research in scombrid species this study provides guidance for management and conservation and serves as a guide for biologists and resource managers interested in the biology, ecology, and management of scombrid species.

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Article
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Evaluating Social and Ecological Vulnerability of Coral Reef Fisheries to Climate Change

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

There is an increasing need to evaluate the links between the social and ecological dimensions of human vulnerability to climate change. We use an empirical case study of 12 coastal communities and associated coral reefs in Kenya to assess and compare five key ecological and social components of the vulnerability of coastal social-ecological systems to temperature induced coral mortality [specifically: 1) environmental exposure; 2) ecological sensitivity; 3) ecological recovery potential; 4) social sensitivity; and 5) social adaptive capacity]. We examined whether ecological components of vulnerability varied between government operated no-take marine reserves, community-based reserves, and openly fished areas. Overall, fished sites were marginally more vulnerable than community-based and government marine reserves. Social sensitivity was indicated by the occupational composition of each community, including the importance of fishing relative to other occupations, as well as the susceptibility of different fishing gears to the effects of coral bleaching on target fish species. Key components of social adaptive capacity varied considerably between the communities. Together, these results show that different communities have relative strengths and weaknesses in terms of social-ecological vulnerability to climate change.

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Article
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Evolutionarily Conserved Histone Methylation Dynamics during Seed Life-Cycle Transitions

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Plants have a remarkable ability to react to seasonal changes by synchronizing life-cycle transitions with environmental conditions. We addressed the question of how transcriptional re-programming occurs in response to an environmental cue that triggers the major life cycle transition from seed dormancy to germination and seedling growth. We elucidated an important mechanistic aspect of this process by following the chromatin dynamics of key regulatory genes with a focus on the two antagonistic marks, H3K4me3 and H3K27me3. Histone methylation patterns of major dormancy regulators changed during the transition to germination and seedling growth. We observed a switch from H3K4me3 and high transcription levels to silencing by the repressive H3K27me3 mark when dormancy was broken through exposure to moist chilling, underscoring that a functional PRC2 complex is necessary for this transition. Moreover, this reciprocal regulation by H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 is evolutionarily conserved from gymnosperms to angiosperms.

Document type: 
Article

Age-Associated Hyper-Methylated Regions in the Human Brain Overlap with Bivalent Chromatin Domains

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Recent associations between age-related differentially methylated sites and bivalently marked chromatin domains have implicated a role for these genomic regions in aging and age-related diseases. However, the overlap between such epigenetic modifications has so far only been identified with respect to age-associated hyper-methylated sites in blood. In this study, we observed that age-associated differentially methylated sites characterized in the human brain were also highly enriched in bivalent domains. Analysis of hyper- vs. hypo-methylated sites partitioned by age (fetal, child, and adult) revealed that enrichment was significant for hyper-methylated sites identified in children and adults (child, fold difference = 2.28, P = 0.0016; adult, fold difference = 4.73, P = 4.00×10−5); this trend was markedly more pronounced in adults when only the top 100 most significantly hypo- and hyper-methylated sites were considered (adult, fold difference = 10.7, P = 2.00×10−5). Interestingly, we found that bivalently marked genes overlapped by age-associated hyper-methylation in the adult brain had strong involvement in biological functions related to developmental processes, including neuronal differentiation. Our findings provide evidence that the accumulation of methylation in bivalent gene regions with age is likely to be a common process that occurs across tissue types. Furthermore, particularly with respect to the aging brain, this accumulation might be targeted to loci with important roles in cell differentiation and development, and the closing off of these developmental pathways. Further study of these genes is warranted to assess their potential impact upon the development of age-related neurological disorders.

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Article
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A Method for Quantifying Consistency in Animal Distributions Using Survey Data

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

The degree of consistency with which groups of animals use the landscape is determined by a variety of ecological processes that influence their movements and patterns of habitat use. We developed a technique termed Distributional Consistency that uses survey data of unmarked individuals to quantify temporal consistency in their spatial distribution, while accounting for changes in population size. Distributional consistency is quantified by comparing the observed distribution patterns to all theoretically possible distribution patterns of observed individuals, leading to a proportional score between 0 and 1, reflecting increasingly consistent use of sites within a region. The technique can be applied to survey data for any taxa across a range of spatial and temporal scales. We suggest ways in which distributional consistency could provide inferences about the dispersal and habitat decisions of individuals, and the scales at which these decisions operate. Distributional consistency integrates spatial and temporal processes to quantify an important characteristic of different habitats and their use by populations, which in turn will be particularly useful in complimenting and interpreting other ecological measures such as population density and stability. The technique can be applied to many existing data sets to investigate and evaluate a range of important ecological questions using simple survey data.

Document type: 
Article

Prioritizing Key Resilience Indicators to Support Coral Reef Management in a Changing Climate

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Managing coral reefs for resilience to climate change is a popular concept but has been difficult to implement because the empirical scientific evidence has either not been evaluated or is sometimes unsupportive of theory, which leads to uncertainty when considering methods and identifying priority reefs. We asked experts and reviewed the scientific literature for guidance on the multiple physical and biological factors that affect the ability of coral reefs to resist and recover from climate disturbance. Eleven key factors to inform decisions based on scaling scientific evidence and the achievability of quantifying the factors were identified. Factors important to resistance and recovery, which are important components of resilience, were not strongly related, and should be assessed independently. The abundance of resistant (heat-tolerant) coral species and past temperature variability were perceived to provide the greatest resistance to climate change, while coral recruitment rates, and macroalgae abundance were most influential in the recovery process. Based on the 11 key factors, we tested an evidence-based framework for climate change resilience in an Indonesian marine protected area. The results suggest our evidence-weighted framework improved upon existing un-weighted methods in terms of characterizing resilience and distinguishing priority sites. The evaluation supports the concept that, despite high ecological complexity, relatively few strong variables can be important in influencing ecosystem dynamics. This is the first rigorous assessment of factors promoting coral reef resilience based on their perceived importance, empirical evidence, and feasibility of measurement. There were few differences between scientists' perceptions of factor importance and the scientific evidence found in journal publications but more before and after impact studies will be required to fully test the validity of all the factors. The methods here will increase the feasibility and defensibility of including key resilience metrics in evaluations of coral reefs, as well as reduce costs. Adaptation, marine protected areas, priority setting, resistance, recovery.

Document type: 
Article

Face Your Fears: Cleaning Gobies Inspect Predators despite Being Stressed by Them

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Social stressors typically elicit two distinct behavioural responses in vertebrates: an active response (i.e., “fight or flight”) or behavioural inhibition (i.e., freezing). Here, we report an interesting exception to this dichotomy in a Caribbean cleaner fish, which interacts with a wide variety of reef fish clients, including predatory species. Cleaning gobies appraise predatory clients as potential threat and become stressed in their presence, as evidenced by their higher cortisol levels when exposed to predatory rather than to non-predatory clients. Nevertheless, cleaning gobies neither flee nor freeze in response to dangerous clients but instead approach predators faster (both in captivity and in the wild), and interact longer with these clients than with non-predatory clients (in the wild). We hypothesise that cleaners interrupt the potentially harmful physiological consequences elicited by predatory clients by becoming increasingly proactive and by reducing the time elapsed between client approach and the start of the interaction process. The activation of a stress response may therefore also be responsible for the longer cleaning service provided by these cleaners to predatory clients in the wild. Future experimental studies may reveal similar patterns in other social vertebrate species when, for instance, individuals approach an opponent for reconciliation after a conflict.

Document type: 
Article