The latest issue of Ecology and Evolution is now live! Over 20 excellent articles free to read, download and share. The cover image is taken from Non-linear feeding functional responses in the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) predict immediate negative impact of wetland degradation on this flagship species by Anne-Sophie Deville et al. Below are some highlights from this issue:
Taxonome: a software package for linking biological species data by Thomas A. Kluyver and Colin P. Osborne
Summary: Online databases of biological information offer tremendous potential for evolutionary and ecological discoveries, especially if data are combined in novel ways. However, the different names and varied spellings used for many species present major barriers to linking data. Taxonome is a software tool designed to solve this problem by quickly and reproducibly matching biological names to a given reference set. It is available both as a graphical user interface (GUI) for simple interactive use, and as a library for more advanced functionality with programs written in Python. Taxonome also includes functions to standardize distribution information to a well-defined set of regions, such as the TDWG World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions. In combination, these tools will help biologists to rapidly synthesize disparate datasets, and to investigate large-scale patterns in species traits.
Interpretations arising from Wrightian and Malthusian fitness under strong frequency dependent selection by Bin Wu, Chaitanya S. Gokhale, Matthijs van Veelen, Long Wang and Arne Traulsen
Summary: Fitness is the central concept in evolutionary theory. It measures a phenotype’s ability to survive and reproduce. There are different ways to represent this measure: Malthusian fitness and Wrightian fitness. One can go back and forth between the two, but when we characterize model properties or interpret data, it can be important to distinguish between them. Here, we discuss a recent experiment to show how the interpretation changes if an alternative definition is used.
Anthropogenic extinction threats and future loss of evolutionary history in reef corals by Danwei Huang and Kaustuv Roy
Summary: Extinction always results in loss of phylogenetic diversity (PD), but phylogenetically selective extinctions have long been thought to disproportionately reduce PD. Recent simulations show that tree shapes also play an important role in determining the magnitude of PD loss, potentially offsetting the effects of clustered extinctions. While patterns of PD loss under different extinction scenarios are becoming well characterized in model phylogenies, analyses of real clades that often have unbalanced tree shapes remain scarce, particularly for marine organisms. Here, we use a fossil-calibrated phylogeny of all living scleractinian reef corals in conjunction with IUCN data on extinction vulnerabilities to quantify how loss of species in different threat categories will affect the PD of this group. Our analyses reveal that predicted PD loss in corals varies substantially among different threats, with extinctions due to bleaching and disease having the largest negative effects on PD. In general, more phylogenetically clustered extinctions lead to larger losses of PD in corals, but there are notable exceptions; extinction of rare corals from distantly-related old and unique lineages can also result in substantial PD loss. Thus our results show that loss of PD in reef corals is dependent on both tree shape and the nature of extinction threats.
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