Many pathogens persist in multihost systems, making the identification of infection reservoirs crucial for devising effective interventions. Here, we present a conceptual framework for classifying patterns of incidence and prevalence, and review recent scientific advances that allow us to study and manage reservoirs simultaneously. We argue that interventions can have a crucial role in enriching our mechanistic understanding of how reservoirs function and should be embedded as quasi-experimental studies in adaptive management frameworks. Single approaches to the study of reservoirs are unlikely to generate conclusive insights whereas the formal integration of data and methodologies, involving interventions, pathogen genetics, and contemporary surveillance techniques, promises to open up new opportunities to advance understanding of complex multihost systems.
The global loss of biodiversity continues at an alarming rate. Genomic approaches have been suggested as a promising tool for conservation practice as scaling up to genome-wide data can improve traditional conservation genetic inferences and provide qualitatively novel insights. However, the generation of genomic data and subsequent analyses and interpretations remain challenging and largely confined to academic research in ecology and evolution. This generates a gap between basic research and applicable solutions for conservation managers faced with multifaceted problems. Before the real-world conservation potential of genomic research can be realized, we suggest that current infrastructures need to be modified, methods must mature, analytical pipelines need to be developed, and successful case studies must be disseminated to practitioners.
Although there are many examples of contemporary directional selection, evidence for responses to selection that match predictions are often missing in quantitative genetic studies of wild populations. This is despite the presence of genetic variation and selection pressures – theoretical prerequisites for the response to selection. This conundrum can be explained by statistical issues with accurate parameter estimation, and by biological mechanisms that interfere with the response to selection. These biological mechanisms can accelerate or constrain this response. These mechanisms are generally studied independently but might act simultaneously. We therefore integrated these mechanisms to explore their potential combined effect. This has implications for explaining the apparent evolutionary stasis of wild populations and the conservation of wildlife. Recent discoveries at the intersection of quantitative genetics and evolutionary ecology are challenging our views on the potential of wild populations to respond to selection. Multiple biological mechanisms can disconnect genetic variation from the response to selection in the wild. We highlight areas for future research. We provide an integrative framework that can be used to qualitatively assess the combined influence of these mechanisms on the response to selection.
We challenge the view that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved within a single population and/or region of Africa. The chronology and physical diversity of Pleistocene human fossils suggest that morphologically varied populations pertaining to the H. sapiens clade lived throughout Africa. Similarly, the African archaeological record demonstrates the polycentric origin and persistence of regionally distinct Pleistocene material culture in a variety of paleoecological settings. Genetic studies also indicate that present-day population structure within Africa extends to deep times, paralleling a paleoenvironmental record of shifting and fractured habitable zones. We argue that these fields support an emerging view of a highly structured African prehistory that should be considered in human evolutionary inferences, prompting new interpretations, questions, and interdisciplinary research directions.
Every animal occupies a unique cognitive world based on its sensory capacities, and attentional and learning biases. Behaviour results from the interaction of this cognitive world with the environment. As humans alter environments, cognitive processes ranging from perceptual processes to learned behaviour govern animals’ reactions. By harnessing animals’ perceptual biases and applying insights from cognitive theory, we can purposefully alter cues to reduce maladaptive responses and shape behaviour. Despite the fundamental connection between cognition and behaviour, the breadth of cognitive theory is underutilised in conservation practice. Bridging these disciplines could augment existing conservation efforts targeting animal behaviour. We outline relevant principles of perception and learning, and develop a step-by-step process for applying aspects of cognition towards specific conservation issues.
In 1948, Angus J. Bateman reported a stronger relationship between mating and reproductive success in male fruit flies compared with females, and concluded that selection should universally favour ‘an undiscriminating eagerness in the males and a discriminating passivity in the females’ to obtain mates. The conventional view of promiscuous, undiscriminating males and coy, choosy females has also been applied to our own species. Here, we challenge the view that evolutionary theory prescribes stereotyped sex roles in human beings, firstly by reviewing Bateman's principles and recent sexual selection theory and, secondly, by examining data on mating behaviour and reproductive success in current and historic human populations. We argue that human mating strategies are unlikely to conform to a single universal pattern.
The field of ecology has focused on understanding characteristics of natural systems in a manner as free as possible from biases of human observers. However, demand is growing for knowledge of human–nature interactions at the level of individual people. This is particularly driven by concerns around human health consequences due to changes in positive and negative interactions. This requires attention to the biased ways in which people encounter and experience other organisms. Here we define such a ‘personalised ecology’, and discuss its connections to other aspects of the field. We propose a framework of focal research topics, shaped by whether the unit of analysis is a single person, a single population, or multiple populations, and whether a human or nature perspective is foremost. Traditionally, ecologists have focused on understanding the ecological world unbiased by how human observers interact with it. However, both the positive and negative nature interactions that people experience are the result of these biases. The nature interactions people experience will be heavily dependent on the ecology of species, as well as their own opportunities and behaviour. Scientists and policymakers need to determine and account for this ‘personalised ecology’, to better understand and balance the benefits that people gain from the natural world, whilst limiting negative impacts upon it.
The altruism of insect workers has puzzled researchers for decades. Inclusive fitness theory suggests that high relatedness has been key in promoting such altruism. Recent theory, however, indicates that the intermediate levels of relatedness found within insect societies are too low to directly cause the extreme altruism observed in many species. Instead, recent results show that workers are frequently coerced into acting altruistically. Hence, the altruism seen in many modern-day insect societies is not voluntary but enforced. Here, we also consider the role of coercion in promoting altruism and cooperation in other social systems, such as vertebrate and human societies, and interspecific mutualisms.
Understanding how major organismal lineages originated is fundamental for understanding processes by which life evolved. Major evolutionary transitions, like eukaryogenesis, merging genetic material from distantly related organisms, are rare events, hence difficult ones to explain causally. If most archaeal lineages emerged after massive acquisitions of bacterial genes, a rule however arises: metabolic bacterial genes contributed to all major evolutionary transitions.