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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Wary? Effect of Repeated Culling on the Behaviour of an Invasive Predator

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-04-04
Abstract: 

As a result of being hunted, animals often alter their behaviour in ways that make future encounters with predators less likely. When hunting is carried out for conservation, for example to control invasive species, these behavioural changes can inadvertently impede the success of future efforts. We examined the effects of repeated culling by spearing on the behaviour of invasive predatory lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) on Bahamian coral reef patches. We compared the extent of concealment and activity levels of lionfish at dawn and midday on 16 coral reef patches off Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Eight of the patches had been subjected to regular daytime removals of lionfish by spearing for two years. We also estimated the distance at which lionfish became alert to slowly approaching divers on culled and unculled reef patches. Lionfish on culled reefs were less active and hid deeper within the reef during the day than lionfish on patches where no culling had occurred. There were no differences at dawn when removals do not take place. Lionfish on culled reefs also adopted an alert posture at a greater distance from divers than lionfish on unculled reefs. More crepuscular activity likely leads to greater encounter rates by lionfish with more native fish species because the abundance of reef fish outside of shelters typically peaks at dawn and dusk. Hiding deeper within the reef could also make remaining lionfish less likely to be encountered and more difficult to catch by spearfishers during culling efforts. Shifts in the behaviour of hunted invasive animals might be common and they have implications both for the impact of invasive species and for the design and success of invasive control programs.

Document type: 
Article
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ss3sim: An R Package for Fisheries Stock Assessment Simulation with Stock Synthesis

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-04-03
Abstract: 

Simulation testing is an important approach to evaluating fishery stock assessment methods. In the last decade, the fisheries stock assessment modeling framework Stock Synthesis (SS3) has become widely used around the world. However, there lacks a generalized and scriptable framework for SS3 simulation testing. Here, we introduce ss3sim, an R package that facilitates reproducible, flexible, and rapid end-to-end simulation testing with SS3. ss3sim requires an existing SS3 model configuration along with plain-text control files describing alternative population dynamics, fishery properties, sampling scenarios, and assessment approaches. ss3sim then generates an underlying ‘truth’ from a specified operating model, samples from that truth, modifies and runs an estimation model, and synthesizes the results. The simulations can be run in parallel, reducing runtime, and the source code is free to be modified under an open-source MIT license. ss3sim is designed to explore structural differences between the underlying truth and assumptions of an estimation model, or between multiple estimation model configurations. For example, ss3sim can be used to answer questions about model misspecification, retrospective patterns, and the relative importance of different types of fisheries data. We demonstrate the software with an example, discuss how ss3sim complements other simulation software, and outline specific research questions that ss3sim could address.

Document type: 
Article
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Ecological Sexual Dimorphism and Environmental Variability within a Community of Antarctic Penguins (Genus Pygoscelis)

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-03-05
Abstract: 

Background

Sexual segregation in vertebrate foraging niche is often associated with sexual size dimorphism (SSD), i.e., ecological sexual dimorphism. Although foraging behavior of male and female seabirds can vary markedly, differences in isotopic (carbon, δ13C and nitrogen, δ15N) foraging niche are generally more pronounced within sexually dimorphic species and during phases when competition for food is greater. We examined ecological sexual dimorphism among sympatric nesting Pygoscelis penguins asking whether environmental variability is associated with differences in male and female pre-breeding foraging niche. We predicted that all Pygoscelis species would forage sex-specifically, and that higher quality winter habitat, i.e., higher or lower sea ice coverage for a given species, would be associated with a more similar foraging niche among the sexes.

Results

P2/P8 primers reliably amplified DNA of all species. On average, male Pygoscelis penguins are structurally larger than female conspecifics. However, chinstrap penguins were more sexually dimorphic in culmen and flipper features than Adélie and gentoo penguins. Adélies and gentoos were more sexually dimorphic in body mass than chinstraps. Only male and female chinstraps and gentoos occupied separate δ15N foraging niches. Strong year effects in δ15N signatures were documented for all three species, however, only for Adélies, did yearly variation in δ15N signatures tightly correlate with winter sea ice conditions. There was no evidence that variation in sex-specific foraging niche interacted with yearly winter habitat quality.

Conclusion

Chinstraps were most sexually size dimorphic followed by gentoos and Adélies. Pre-breeding sex-specific foraging niche was associated with overall SSD indices across species; male chinstrap and gentoo penguins were enriched in δ15N relative to females. Our results highlight previously unknown trophic pathways that link Pygoscelis penguins with variation in Southern Ocean sea ice suggesting that each sex within a species should respond similarly in pre-breeding trophic foraging to changes in future winter habitat.

Document type: 
Article
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Location Is Everything: Evaluating the Effects of Terrestrial and Marine Resource Subsidies on an Estuarine Bivalve

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Estuaries are amongst the world’s most productive ecosystems, lying at the intersection between terrestrial and marine environments. They receive substantial inputs from adjacent landscapes but the importance of resource subsidies is not well understood. Here, we test hypotheses for the effects of both terrestrial- and salmon-derived resource subsidies on the diet (inferred from stable isotopes of muscle tissue), size and percent nitrogen of the soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria), a sedentary estuarine consumer. We examine how these relationships shift across natural gradients among 14 estuaries that vary in upstream watershed size and salmon density on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. We also test how assimilation and response to subsidies vary at smaller spatial scales within estuaries. The depletion and enrichment of stable isotope ratios in soft-shell clam muscle tissue correlated with increasing upstream watershed size and salmon density, respectively. The effects of terrestrial- and salmon-derived subsidies were also strongest at locations near stream outlets. When we controlled for age of individual clams, there were larger individuals with higher percent nitrogen content in estuaries below larger watersheds, though this effect was limited to the depositional zones below river mouths. Pink salmon exhibited a stronger effect on isotope ratios of clams than chum salmon, which could reflect increased habitat overlap as spawning pink salmon concentrate in lower stream reaches, closer to intertidal clam beds. However, there were smaller clams in estuaries that had higher upstream pink salmon densities, possibly due to differences in habitat requirements. Our study highlights the importance of upstream resource subsidies to this bivalve species, but that individual responses to subsidies can vary at smaller scales within estuaries.

Document type: 
Article
Dataset

Prioritizing Populations for Conservation Using Phylogenetic Networks

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-02-28
Abstract: 

In the face of inevitable future losses to biodiversity, ranking species by conservation priority seems more than prudent. Setting conservation priorities within species (i.e., at the population level) may be critical as species ranges become fragmented and connectivity declines. However, existing approaches to prioritization (e.g., scoring organisms by their expected genetic contribution) are based on phylogenetic trees, which may be poor representations of differentiation below the species level. In this paper we extend evolutionary isolation indices used in conservation planning from phylogenetic trees to phylogenetic networks. Such networks better represent population differentiation, and our extension allows populations to be ranked in order of their expected contribution to the set. We illustrate the approach using data from two imperiled species: the spotted owl Strix occidentalis in North America and the mountain pygmy-possum Burramys parvus in Australia. Using previously published mitochondrial and microsatellite data, we construct phylogenetic networks and score each population by its relative genetic distinctiveness. In both cases, our phylogenetic networks capture the geographic structure of each species: geographically peripheral populations harbor less-redundant genetic information, increasing their conservation rankings. We note that our approach can be used with all conservation-relevant distances (e.g., those based on whole-genome, ecological, or adaptive variation) and suggest it be added to the assortment of tools available to wildlife managers for allocating effort among threatened populations.

Document type: 
Article
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Equations for Lipid Normalization of Carbon Stable Isotope Ratios in Aquatic Bird Eggs

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-01-22
Abstract: 

Stable isotope ratios are biogeochemical tracers that can be used to determine the source of nutrients and contaminants in avian eggs. However, the interpretation of stable carbon ratios in lipid-rich eggs is complicated because 13C is depleted in lipids. Variation in 13C abundance can therefore be obscured by variation in percent lipids. Past attempts to establish an algebraic equation to correct carbon isotope ratios for lipid content in eggs have been unsuccessful, possibly because they relied partly on data from coastal or migratory species that may obtain egg lipids from different habitats than egg protein. We measured carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope ratios in 175 eggs from eight species of aquatic birds. Carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes were enriched in lipid-extracted egg samples compared with non extracted egg samples. A logarithmic equation using the C:N ratio and carbon isotope ratio from the non extracted egg tissue calculated 90% of the lipid-extracted carbon isotope ratios within ±0.5‰. Calculating separate equations for eggs laid by species in different habitats (pelagic, offshore and terrestrial-influenced) improved the fit. A logarithmic equation, rather than a linear equation as often used for muscle, was necessary to accurately correct for lipid content because the relatively high lipid content of eggs compared with muscle meant that a linear relationship did not accurately approximate the relationship between percent lipids and the C:N ratio. Because lipid extraction alters sulphur and nitrogen isotope ratios (and cannot be corrected algebraically), we suggest that isotopic measurement on bulk tissue followed by algebraic lipid normalization of carbon stable isotope ratio is often a good solution for homogenated eggs, at least when it is not possible to complete separate chemical analyses for each isotope.

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Article
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Genetic Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis Alters Feeding Behaviour in the Cabbage Looper, Trichoplusia ni

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-01-21
Abstract: 

Evolved resistance to xenobiotics and parasites is often associated with fitness costs when the selection pressure is absent. Resistance to the widely used microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has evolved in several insect species through the modification of insect midgut binding sites for Bt toxins, and reports of costs associated with Bt resistance are common. Studies on the costs of Bt-resistance restrict the insect to a single artificial diet or host-plant. However, it is well documented that insects can self-select appropriate proportions of multiple nutritionally unbalanced foods to optimize life-history traits. Therefore, we examined whether Bt-resistant and susceptible cabbage loopers Trichoplusia ni differed in their nutrient intake and fitness costs when they were allowed to compose their own protein:carbohydrate diet. We found that Bt-resistant T. ni composed a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrate than susceptible T. ni. Bt-resistant males exhibited no fitness cost, while the fitness cost (reduced pupal weight) was present in resistant females. The absence of the fitness cost in resistant males was associated with increased carbohydrate consumption compared to females. We demonstrate a sex difference in a fitness cost and a new behavioural outcome associated with Bt resistance.

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Article
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Prey Vulnerability Limits Top-Down Control and Alters Reciprocal Feedbacks in a Subsidized Model Food Web

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-01-21
Abstract: 

Resource subsidies increase the productivity of recipient food webs and can affect ecosystem dynamics. Subsidies of prey often support elevated predator biomass which may intensify top-down control and reduce the flow of reciprocal subsidies into adjacent ecosystems. However, top-down control in subsidized food webs may be limited if primary consumers posses morphological or behavioral traits that limit vulnerability to predation. In forested streams, terrestrial prey support high predator biomass creating the potential for strong top-down control, however armored primary consumers often dominate the invertebrate assemblage. Using empirically based simulation models, we tested the response of stream food webs to variations in subsidy magnitude, prey vulnerability, and the presence of two top predators. While terrestrial prey inputs increased predator biomass (+12%), the presence of armored primary consumers inhibited top-down control, and diverted most aquatic energy (~75%) into the riparian forest through aquatic insect emergence. Food webs without armored invertebrates experienced strong trophic cascades, resulting in higher algal (~50%) and detrital (~1600%) biomass, and reduced insect emergence (−90%). These results suggest prey vulnerability can mediate food web responses to subsidies, and that top-down control can be arrested even when predator-invulnerable consumers are uncommon (20%) regardless of the level of subsidy.

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Article
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Pharmacological Inhibition of O-GlcNAcase (OGA) Prevents Cognitive Decline and Amyloid Plaque Formation in Bigenic Tau/APP Mutant Mice

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are the defining pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Increasing the quantity of the O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) post-translational modification of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins slows neurodegeneration and blocks the formation of NFTs in a tauopathy mouse model. It remains unknown, however, if O-GlcNAc can influence the formation of amyloid plaques in the presence of tau pathology.

Results

We treated double transgenic TAPP mice, which express both mutant human tau and amyloid precursor protein (APP), with a highly selective orally bioavailable inhibitor of the enzyme responsible for removing O-GlcNAc (OGA) to increase O-GlcNAc in the brain. We find that increased O-GlcNAc levels block cognitive decline in the TAPP mice and this effect parallels decreased β-amyloid peptide levels and decreased levels of amyloid plaques.

Conclusions

This study indicates that increased O-GlcNAc can influence β-amyloid pathology in the presence of tau pathology. The findings provide good support for OGA as a promising therapeutic target to alter disease progression in Alzheimer disease.

Document type: 
Article
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A Meal or a Male: The ‘Whispers’ Of Black Widow Males Do Not Trigger a Predatory Response in Females

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Introduction

Female spiders are fine-tuned to detect and quickly respond to prey vibrations, presenting a challenge to courting males who must attract a female’s attention but not be mistaken for prey. This is likely particularly important at the onset of courtship when a male enters a female’s web. In web-dwelling spiders, little is known about how males solve this conundrum, or about their courtship signals. Here we used laser Doppler vibrometry to study the vibrations produced by males and prey (house flies and crickets) on tangle webs of the western black widow Latrodectus hesperus and on sheet webs of the hobo spider Tegenaria agrestis. We recorded the vibrations at the location typically occupied by a hunting female spider. We compared the vibrations produced by males and prey in terms of their waveform, dominant frequency, frequency bandwidth, amplitude and duration. We also played back recorded male and prey vibrations through the webs of female L. hesperus to determine the vibratory parameters that trigger a predatory response in females.

Results

We found overlap in waveform between male and prey vibrations in both L. hesperus and T. agrestis. In both species, male vibrations were continuous, of long duration (on average 6.35 s for T. agrestis and 9.31 s for L. hesperus), and lacked complex temporal patterning such as repeated motifs or syllables. Prey vibrations were shorter (1.38 - 2.59 s), sporadic and often percussive. Based on the parameters measured, courtship signals of male L. hesperus differed more markedly from prey cues than did those of T. agrestis. Courtship vibrations of L. hesperus males differed from prey vibrations in terms of dominant frequency, amplitude and duration. Vibrations of T. agrestis males differed from prey in terms of duration only. During a playback experiment, L. hesperus females did not respond aggressively to low-amplitude vibrations irrespective of whether the playback recording was from a prey or a male.

Conclusions

Unlike courtship signals of other spider species, the courtship signals of L. hesperus and T. agrestis males do not have complex temporal patterning. The low-amplitude ‘whispers’ of L. hesperus males at the onset of courtship are less likely to trigger a predatory response in females than the high-amplitude vibrations of struggling prey.

Document type: 
Article
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