Biological Sciences, Department of

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Wind Speed during Migration Influences the Survival, Timing of Breeding, and Productivity of a Neotropical Migrant, Setophaga petechia

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-05-14
Abstract: 

Over the course of the annual cycle, migratory bird populations can be impacted by environmental conditions in regions separated by thousands of kilometers. We examine how climatic conditions during discrete periods of the annual cycle influence the demography of a nearctic-neotropical migrant population of yellow warblers (Setophaga petechia), that breed in western Canada and overwinter in Mexico. We demonstrate that wind conditions during spring migration are the best predictor of apparent annual adult survival, male arrival date, female clutch initiation date and, via these timing effects, annual productivity. We find little evidence that conditions during the wintering period influence breeding phenology and apparent annual survival. Our study emphasizes the importance of climatic conditions experienced by migrants during the migratory period and indicates that geography may play a role in which period most strongly impacts migrant populations.

Document type: 
Article
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Maternal Effects Underlie Ageing Costs of Growth in the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-05-14
Abstract: 

Maternal effects provide a mechanism to adapt offspring phenotype and optimize the mother’s fitness to current environmental conditions. Transferring steroids to the yolk is one way mothers can translate environmental information into potential adaptive signals for offspring. However, maternally-derived hormones might also have adverse effects for offspring. For example, recent data in zebra finch chicks suggested that ageing related-processes (i.e. oxidative stress and telomere loss) were increased after egg-injection of corticosterone (CORT). Still, we have few experimental data describing the effect of maternal effects on the growth-ageing trade-off in offspring. Here, we chronically treated pre-laying zebra finch females (Taeniopygia guttata) with 17-β-estradiol (E2) or CORT, and followed offspring growth and cellular ageing rates (oxidative stress and telomere loss). CORT treatment decreased growth rate in male chicks and increased rate of telomere loss in mothers and female offspring. E2 increased body mass gain in male offspring, while reducing oxidative stress in both sexes but without affecting telomere loss. Since shorter telomeres were previously found to be a proxy of individual lifespan in zebra finches, maternal effects may, through pleiotropic effects, be important determinants of offspring life-expectancy by modulating ageing rate during embryo and post-natal growth.

Document type: 
Article
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Biogeography and Change among Regional Coral Communities across the Western Indian Ocean

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-04-09
Abstract: 

Coral reefs are biodiverse ecosystems structured by abiotic and biotic factors operating across many spatial scales. Regional-scale interactions between climate change, biogeography and fisheries management remain poorly understood. Here, we evaluated large-scale patterns of coral communities in the western Indian Ocean after a major coral bleaching event in 1998. We surveyed 291 coral reef sites in 11 countries and over 30° of latitude between 2004 and 2011 to evaluate variations in coral communities post 1998 across gradients in latitude, mainland-island geography and fisheries management. We used linear mixed-effect hierarchical models to assess total coral cover, the abundance of four major coral families (acroporids, faviids, pocilloporids and poritiids), coral genus richness and diversity, and the bleaching susceptibility of the coral communities. We found strong latitudinal and geographic gradients in coral community structure and composition that supports the presence of a high coral cover and diversity area that harbours temperature-sensitive taxa in the northern Mozambique Channel between Tanzania, northern Mozambique and northern Madagascar. Coral communities in the more northern latitudes of Kenya, Seychelles and the Maldives were generally composed of fewer bleaching-tolerant coral taxa and with reduced richness and diversity. There was also evidence for continued declines in the abundance of temperature-sensitive taxa and community change after 2004. While there are limitations of our regional dataset in terms of spatial and temporal replication, these patterns suggest that large-scale interactions between biogeographic factors and strong temperature anomalies influence coral communities while smaller-scale factors, such as the effect of fisheries closures, were weak. The northern Mozambique Channel, while not immune to temperature disturbances, shows continued signs of resistance to climate disturbances and remains a priority for future regional conservation and management actions.

Document type: 
Article
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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.

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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.

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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.

Document type: 
Article
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