Urbanization contributes to the loss of the world's biodiversity and the homogenization of its biota. However, comparative studies of urban biodiversity leading to robust generalities of the status and drivers of biodiversity in cities at the global scale are lacking. Here, we compiled the largest global dataset to date of two diverse taxa in cities: birds (54 cities) and plants (110 cities). We found that the majority of urban bird and plant species are native in the world's cities. Few plants and birds are cosmopolitan, the most common being Columba livia and Poa annua. The density of bird and plant species (the number of species per km(2)) has declined substantially: only 8% of native bird and 25% of native plant species are currently present compared with estimates of non-urban density of species. The current density of species in cities and the loss in density of species was best explained by anthropogenic features (landcover, city age) rather than by non-anthropogenic factors (geography, climate, topography). As urbanization continues to expand, efforts directed towards the conservation of intact vegetation within urban landscapes could support higher concentrations of both bird and plant species. Despite declines in the density of species, cities still retain endemic native species, thus providing opportunities for regional and global biodiversity conservation, restoration and education.
Climate-driven changes in biotic interactions can profoundly alter ecological communities, particularly when they impact foundation species. In marine systems, changes in herbivory and the consequent loss of dominant habitat forming species can result in dramatic community phase shifts, such as from coral to macroalgal dominance when tropical fish herbivory decreases, and from algal forests to 'barrens' when temperate urchin grazing increases. Here, we propose a novel phase-shift away from macroalgal dominance caused by tropical herbivores extending their range into temperate regions. We argue that this phase shift is facilitated by poleward-flowing boundary currents that are creating ocean warming hotspots around the globe, enabling the range expansion of tropical species and increasing their grazing rates in temperate areas. Overgrazing of temperate macroalgae by tropical herbivorous fishes has already occurred in Japan and the Mediterranean. Emerging evidence suggests similar phenomena are occurring in other temperate regions, with increasing occurrence of tropical fishes on temperate reefs.
Increases in the frequency, severity and duration of temperature extremes are anticipated in the near future. Although recent work suggests that changes in temperature variation will have disproportionately greater effects on species than changes to the mean, much of climate change research in ecology has focused on the impacts of mean temperature change. Here, we couple fine-grained climate projections (2050-2059) to thermal performance data from 38 ectothermic invertebrate species and contrast projections with those of a simple model. We show that projections based on mean temperature change alone differ substantially from those incorporating changes to the variation, and to the mean and variation in concert. Although most species show increases in performance at greater mean temperatures, the effect of mean and variance change together yields a range of responses, with temperate species at greatest risk of performance declines. Our work highlights the importance of using fine-grained temporal data to incorporate the full extent of temperature variation when assessing and projecting performance.
A light-sensitive, externally powered microchip was surgically implanted subretinally near the macular region of volunteers blind from hereditary retinal dystrophy. The implant contains an array of 1500 active microphotodiodes ('chip'), each with its own amplifier and local stimulation electrode. At the implant's tip, another array of 16 wire-connected electrodes allows light-independent direct stimulation and testing of the neuron-electrode interface. Visual scenes are projected naturally through the eye's lens onto the chip under the transparent retina. The chip generates a corresponding pattern of 38 × 40 pixels, each releasing light-intensity-dependent electric stimulation pulses. Subsequently, three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, two of whom could discern grating patterns. One of these patients was able to correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife on a table, geometric patterns, different kinds of fruit and discern shades of grey with only 15 per cent contrast. Without a training period, the regained visual functions enabled him to localize and approach persons in a room freely and to read large letters as complete words after several years of blindness. These results demonstrate for the first time that subretinal micro-electrode arrays with 1500 photodiodes can create detailed meaningful visual perception in previously blind individuals.
resulted in about the same estimated species gain for arable plants. Conservation initiatives are most (cost-)effective if they are preferentially implemented in extensively farmed areas that still support high levels of biodiversity.,Worldwide agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity decline. Effective conservation strategies depend on the type of relationship between biodiversity and land-use intensity, but to date the shape of this relationship is unknown. We linked plant species richness with nitrogen (N) input as an indicator of land-use intensity on 130 grasslands and 141 arable fields in six European countries. Using Poisson regression, we found that plant species richness was significantly negatively related to N input on both field types after the effects of confounding environmental factors had been accounted for. Subsequent analyses showed that exponentially declining relationships provided a better fit than linear or unimodal relationships and that this was largely the result of the response of rare species (relative cover less than 1%). Our results indicate that conservation benefits are disproportionally more costly on high-intensity than on low-intensity farmland. For example, reducing N inputs from 75 to 0 and 400 to 60 kg ha
Agriculture today places great strains on biodiversity, soils, water and the atmosphere, and these strains will be exacerbated if current trends in population growth, meat and energy consumption, and food waste continue. Thus, farming systems that are both highly productive and minimize environmental harms are critically needed. How organic agriculture may contribute to world food production has been subject to vigorous debate over the past decade. Here, we revisit this topic comparing organic and conventional yields with a new meta-dataset three times larger than previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations) and a new hierarchical analytical framework that can better account for the heterogeneity and structure in the data. We find organic yields are only 19.2% (+/- 3.7%) lower than conventional yields, a smaller yield gap than previous estimates. More importantly, we find entirely different effects of crop types and management practices on the yield gap compared with previous studies. For example, we found no significant differences in yields for leguminous versus non-leguminous crops, perennials versus annuals or developed versus developing countries. Instead, we found the novel result that two agricultural diversification practices, multi-cropping and crop rotations, substantially reduce the yield gap (to 9 +/- 4% and 8 +/- 5%, respectively) when the methods were applied in only organic systems. These promising results, based on robust analysis of a larger meta-dataset, suggest that appropriate investment in agroecological research to improve organic management systems could greatly reduce or eliminate the yield gap for some crops or regions.
A tenet of macroecology is that physiological processes of organisms are linked to large-scale geographical patterns in environmental conditions. Species at higher latitudes experience greater seasonal temperature variation and are consequently predicted to withstand greater temperature extremes. We tested for relationships between breadths of thermal tolerance in ectothermic animals and the latitude of specimen location using all available data, while accounting for habitat, hemisphere, methodological differences and taxonomie affinity. We found that thermal tolerance breadths generally increase with latitude, and do so at a greater rate in the Northern Hemisphere. In terrestrial ectotherms, upper thermal limits vary little while lower thermal limits decrease with latitude. By contrast, marine species display a coherent poleward decrease in both upper and lower thermal limits. Our findings provide comprehensive global support for hypotheses generated from studies at smaller taxonomie subsets and geographical scales. Our results further indicate differences between terrestrial and marine ectotherms in how thermal physiology varies with latitude that may relate to the degree of temperature variability experienced on land and in the ocean.
Drastic biodiversity declines have raised concerns about the deterioration of ecosystem functions and have motivated much recent research on the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem functioning. A functional trait framework has been proposed to improve the mechanistic understanding of this relationship, but this has rarely been tested for organisms other than plants. We analysed eight datasets, including five animal groups, to examine how well a trait-based approach, compared with a more traditional. taxonomic approach, predicts seven ecosystem functions below- and above-ground. Trait-based indices consistently provided greater explanatory power than species richness or abundance. The frequency distributions of single or multiple traits in the community were the best predictors of ecosystem functioning. This implies that the ecosystem functions we investigated were underpinned by the combination of trait identities (i.e. single-trait indices) and trait complementarity (i.e. multi-trait indices) in the communities. Our study provides new insights into the general mechanisms that link biodiversity to ecosystem functioning in natural animal communities and suggests that the observed responses were due to the identity and dominance patterns of the trait composition rather than the number or abundance of species per se.
Climate change in the past has led to significant changes in species' distributions. However, how individual species respond to climate change depends largely on their adaptations and environmental tolerances. In the Quaternary, temperate-adapted taxa are in general confined to refugia during glacials while coldadapted taxa are in refugia during interglacials. In the Northern Hemisphere, evidence appears to be mounting that in addition to traditional southern refugia for temperate species, cryptic refugia existed in the North during glacials. Equivalent cryptic southern refugia, to the south of the more conventional high-latitude polar refugia, exist in montane areas during periods of warm climate, such as the current interglacial. There is also a continental/oceanic longitudinal gradient, which should be included in a more complete consideration of the interaction between species ranges and climates. Overall, it seems clear that there is large variation in both the size of réfugia and the duration during which species are confined to them. This has implications for the role of réfugia in the evolution of species and their genetic diversity.
Global warming is increasing the overheating risk for many organisms, though the potential for plasticity in thermal tolerance to mitigate this risk is largely unknown. In part, this shortcoming stems from a lack of knowledge about global and taxonomic patterns of variation in tolerance plasticity. To address this critical issue, we test leading hypotheses for broad-scale variation in ectotherm tolerance plasticity using a dataset that includes vertebrate and invertebrate taxa from terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. Contrary to expectation, plasticity in heat tolerance was unrelated to latitude or thermal seasonality. However, plasticity in cold tolerance is associated with thermal seasonality in some habitat types. In addition, aquatic taxa have approximately twice the plasticity of terrestrial taxa. Based on the observed patterns of variation in tolerance plasticity, we propose that limited potential for behavioural plasticity (i.e. behavioural thermoregulation) favours the evolution of greater plasticity in physiological traits, consistent with the 'Bogert effect'. Finally, we find that all ectotherms have relatively low acclimation in thermal tolerance and demonstrate that overheating risk will be minimally reduced by acclimation in even the most plastic groups. Our analysis indicates that behavioural and evolutionary mechanisms will be critical in allowing ectotherms to buffer themselves from extreme temperatures.
Bats are the natural reservoirs of a number of high-impact viral zoonoses. We present a quantitative analysis to address the hypothesis that bats are unique in their propensity to host zoonotic viruses based on a comparison with rodents, another important host order. We found that bats indeed host more zoonotic viruses per species than rodents, and we identified life-history and ecological factors that promote zoonotic viral richness. More zoonotic viruses are hosted by species whose distributions overlap with a greater number of other species in the same taxonomic order (sympatry). Specifically in bats, there was evidence for increased zoonotic viral richness in species with smaller litters (one young), greater longevity and more litters per year. Furthermore, our results point to a new hypothesis to explain in part why bats host more zoonotic viruses per species: the stronger effect of sympatry in bats and more viruses shared between bat species suggests that interspecific transmission is more prevalent among bats than among rodents. Although bats host more zoonotic viruses per species, the total number of zoonotic viruses identified in bats (61) was lower than in rodents (68), a result of there being approximately twice the number of rodent species as bat species. Therefore, rodents should still be a serious concern as reservoirs of emerging viruses. These findings shed light on disease emergence and perpetuation mechanisms and may help lead to a predictive framework for identifying future emerging infectious virus reservoirs.
A central biological question is how natural organisms are so evolvable (capable of quickly adapting to new environments). A key driver of evolvability is the widespread modularity of biological networks-their organization as functional, sparsely connected subunits-but there is no consensus regarding why modularity itself evolved. Although most hypotheses assume indirect selection for evolvability, here we demonstrate that the ubiquitous, direct selection pressure to reduce the cost of connections between network nodes causes the emergence of modular networks. Computational evolution experiments with selection pressures to maximize network performance and minimize connection costs yield networks that are significantly more modular and more evolvable than control experiments that only select for performance. These results will catalyse research in numerous disciplines, such as neuroscience and genetics, and enhance our ability to harness evolution for engineering purposes.
The fossil record suggests a rapid radiation of placental mammals following the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction 65 million years ago (Ma); nevertheless, molecular time estimates, while highly variable, are generally much older. Early molecular studies suffer from inadequate dating methods, reliance on the molecular clock, and simplistic and over-confident interpretations of the fossil record. More recent studies have used Bayesian dating methods that circumvent those issues, but the use of limited data has led to large estimation uncertainties, precluding a decisive conclusion on the timing of mammalian diversifications. Here we use a powerful Bayesian method to analyse 36 nuclear genomes and 274 mitochondrial genomes (20.6 million base pairs), combined with robust but flexible fossil calibrations. Our posterior time estimates suggest that marsupials diverged from eutherians 168-178 Ma, and crown Marsupialia diverged 64-84 Ma. Placentalia diverged 88-90 Ma, and present-day placental orders (except Primates and Xenarthra) originated in a ~20 Myr window (45-65 Ma) after the K-Pg extinction. Therefore we reject a pre K-Pg model of placental ordinal diversification. We suggest other infamous instances of mismatch between molecular and palaeontological divergence time estimates will be resolved with this same approach.
within Deuterostomia, and place Cycliophora with Entoprocta and Ectoprocta. The work highlights the implications that these arrangements have for metazoan evolution and permits a clearer picture of ancestral morphologies and life histories in the deep past.,A clear picture of animal relationships is a prerequisite to understand how the morphological and ecological diversity of animals evolved over time. Among others, the placement of the acoelomorph flatworms, Acoela and Nemertodermatida, has fundamental implications for the origin and evolution of various animal organ systems. Their position, however, has been inconsistent in phylogenetic studies using one or several genes. Furthermore, Acoela has been among the least stable taxa in recent animal phylogenomic analyses, which simultaneously examine many genes from many species, while Nemertodermatida has not been sampled in any phylogenomic study. New sequence data are presented here from organisms targeted for their instability or lack of representation in prior analyses, and are analysed in combination with other publicly available data. We also designed new automated explicit methods for identifying and selecting common genes across different species, and developed highly optimized supercomputing tools to reconstruct relationships from gene sequences. The results of the work corroborate several recently established findings about animal relationships and provide new support for the placement of other groups. These new data and methods strongly uphold previous suggestions that Acoelomorpha is sister clade to all other bilaterian animals, find diminishing evidence for the placement of the enigmatic
This study aims at substituting the essential functions of photoreceptors in patients who are blind owing to untreatable forms of hereditary retinal degenerations. A microelectronic neuroprosthetic device, powered via transdermal inductive transmission, carrying 1500 independent microphotodiode-amplifier-electrode elements on a 9 mm(2) chip, was subretinally implanted in nine blind patients. Light perception (8/9), light localization (7/9), motion detection (5/9, angular speed up to 35 deg s(-1)), grating acuity measurement (6/9, up to 3.3 cycles per degree) and visual acuity measurement with Landolt C-rings (2/9) up to Snellen visual acuity of 20/546 (corresponding to decimal 0.037 or corresponding to 1.43 logMAR (minimum angle of resolution)) were restored via the subretinal implant. Additionally, the identification, localization and discrimination of objects improved significantly (n = 8; p < 0.05 for each subtest) in repeated tests over a nine-month period. Three subjects were able to read letters spontaneously and one subject was able to read letters after training in an alternative-force choice test. Five subjects reported implant-mediated visual perceptions in daily life within a field of 158 of visual angle. Control tests were performed each time with the implant's power source switched off. These data show that subretinal implants can restore visual functions that are useful for daily life.
Orchids are the most diverse family of angiosperms, with over 25 000 species, more than mammals, birds and reptiles combined. Tests of hypotheses to account for such diversity have been stymied by the lack of a fully resolved broad-scale phylogeny. Here, we provide such a phylogeny, based on 75 chloroplast genes for 39 species representing all orchid subfamilies and 16 of 17 tribes, time-calibrated against 17 angiosperm fossils. A supermatrix analysis places an additional 144 species based on three plastid genes. Orchids appear to have arisen roughly 112 million years ago (Mya); the subfamilies Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae diverged from each other at the end of the Cretaceous; and the eight tribes and three previously unplaced subtribes of the upper epidendroids diverged rapidly from each other between 37.9 and 30.8 Mya. Orchids appear to have undergone one significant acceleration of net species diversification in the orchidoids, and two accelerations and one deceleration in the upper epidendroids. Consistent with theory, such accelerations were correlated with the evolution of pollinia, the epiphytic habit, CAM photosynthesis, tropical distribution (especially in extensive cordilleras), and pollination via Lepidoptera or euglossine bees. Deceit pollination appears to have elevated the number of orchid species by one-half but not via acceleration of the rate of net diversification. The highest rate of net species diversification within the orchids (0.382 sp sp 1 My-1) is 6.8 times that at the Asparagales crown.
Whole genome duplication (WGD) is often considered to be mechanistically associated with species diversification. Such ideas have been anecdotally attached to a WGD at the stem of the salmonid fish family, but remain untested. Here, we characterized an extensive set of gene paralogues retained from the salmonid WGD, in species covering the major lineages (subfamilies Salmoninae, Thymallinae and Coregoninae). By combining the data in calibrated relaxed molecular clock analyses, we provide the first well-constrained and direct estimate for the timing of the salmonid WGD. Our results suggest that the event occurred no later in time than 88Ma and that 40-50 Myr passed subsequently until the subfamilies diverged. We also recovered a Thymallinae-Coregoninae sister relationship with maximal support. Comparative phylogenetic tests demonstrated that salmonid diversification patterns are closely allied in time with the continuous climatic cooling that followed the Eocene-Oligocene transition, with the highest diversification rates coinciding with recent ice ages. Further tests revealed considerably higher speciation rates in lineages that evolved anadromy-the physiological capacity to migrate between fresh and seawater-than in sister groups that retained the ancestral state of freshwater residency. Anadromy, which probably evolved in response to climatic cooling, is an established catalyst of genetic isolation, particularly during environmental perturbations (for example, glaciation cycles). We thus conclude that climate-linked ecophysiological factors, rather than WGD, were the primary drivers of salmonid diversification.
This review outlines how eyes of terrestrial vertebrates and insects meet the competing requirements of coding both spatial and spectral information. There is no unique solution to this problem. Thus, mammals and honeybees use their long-wavelength receptors for both achromatic (luminance) and colour vision, whereas flies and birds probably use separate sets of photoreceptors for the two purposes. In particular, we look at spectral tuning and diversification among ‘long-wavelength’ receptors (sensitivity maxima at greater than 500 nm), which play a primary role in luminance vision. Data on spectral sensitivities and phylogeny of visual photopigments can be incorporated into theoretical models to suggest how eyes are adapted to coding natural stimuli. Models indicate, for example, that animal colour vision—involving five or fewer broadly tuned receptors—is well matched to most natural spectra. We can also predict that the particular objects of interest and signal-to-noise ratios will affect the optimal eye design. Nonetheless, it remains difficult to account for the adaptive significance of features such as co-expression of photopigments in single receptors, variation in spectral sensitivities of mammalian L-cone pigments and the diversification of long-wavelength receptors that has occurred in several terrestrial lineages.
Genealogical data are an important source of evidence for delimiting species, yet few statistical methods are available for calculating the probabilities associated with different species delimitations. Bayesian species delimitation uses reversible-jump Markov chain Monte Carlo (rjMCMC) in conjunction with a user-specified guide tree to estimate the posterior distribution for species delimitation models containing different numbers of species. We apply Bayesian species delimitation to investigate the speciation history of forest geckos (Hemidactylus fasciatus) from tropical West Africa using five nuclear loci (and mtDNA) for 51 specimens representing 10 populations. We find that species diversity in H. fasciatus is currently underestimated, and describe three new species to reflect the most conservative estimate for the number of species in this complex. We examine the impact of the guide tree, and the prior distributions on ancestral population sizes (θ) and root age (τ₀), on the posterior probabilities for species delimitation. Mis-specification of the guide tree or the prior distribution for θ can result in strong support for models containing more species. We describe a new statistic for summarizing the posterior distribution of species delimitation models, called speciation probabilities, which summarize the posterior support for each speciation event on the starting guide tree.
Insect pollinators provide a crucial ecosystem service, but are under threat. Urban areas could be important for pollinators, though their value relative to other habitats is poorly known. We compared pollinator communities using quantified flower-visitation networks in 36 sites (each 1 km(2)) in three landscapes: urban, farmland and nature reserves. Overall, flower-visitor abundance and species richness did not differ significantly between the three landscape types. Bee abundance did not differ between landscapes, but bee species richness was higher in urban areas than farmland. Hoverfly abundance was higher in farmland and nature reserves than urban sites, but species richness did not differ significantly. While urban pollinator assemblages were more homogeneous across space than those in farmland or nature reserves, there was no significant difference in the numbers of rarer species between the three landscapes. Network-level specialization was higher in farmland than urban sites. Relative to other habitats, urban visitors foraged from a greater number of plant species (higher generality) but also visited a lower proportion of available plant species (higher specialization), both possibly driven by higher urban plant richness. Urban areas are growing, and improving their value for pollinators should be part of any national strategy to conserve and restore pollinators.