The latest issue of Ecology and Evolution is now live! Over 30 excellent articles free to read, download and share. The cover image has been taken from the article ‘Different modes of evolution in males and females generate dichromatism in fairy-wrens (Maluridae)’ by Allison E. Johnson, J. J. Price, and S. Pruett-Jones. Below are some highlights from this issue:
Different modes of evolution in males and females generate dichromatism in fairy-wrens (Maluridae) by Allison E. Johnson, J. Jordan Price, Stephen Pruett-Jones
Summary: Sexual dichromatism in birds is often attributed to selection for elaboration in males. However, evolutionary changes in either sex can result in plumage differences between them, and such changes can result in either gains or losses of dimorphism. We reconstructed the evolution of plumage colors in both males and females of species in Maluridae, a family comprising the fairy-wrens (Malurus, Clytomias, Sipodotus), emu-wrens (Stipiturus), and grasswrens (Amytornis). Our results show that, across species, males and females differ in their patterns of color evolution. Male plumage has diverged at relatively steady rates, whereas female coloration has changed dramatically in some lineages and little in others. Accordingly, in comparisons against evolutionary models, plumage changes in males best fit a Brownian motion (BM) model, whereas plumage changes in females fit an Ornstein Uhlenbeck (OU) multioptimum model, with different adaptive peaks corresponding to distributions in either Australia or New Guinea. Levels of dichromatism were significantly associated with latitude, with greater dichromatism in more southerly taxa. Our results suggest that current patterns of plumage diversity in fairy-wrens are a product of evolutionary changes in both sexes, driven in part by environmental differences across the distribution of the family.
Tropical rain forest conservation and the twin challenges of diversity and rarity by Stephen P. Hubbell
Summary: Data from a global network of large, permanent plots in lowland tropical forests demonstrate (1) that the phenomenon of tropical tree rarity is real and (2) that almost all the species diversity in such forests is due to rare species. Theoretical and empirically based reasoning suggests that many of these rare species are not as geographically widespread as previously thought. These findings suggest that successful strategies for conserving global tree diversity in lowland tropical forests must pay much more attention to the biogeography of rarity, as well as to the impact of climate change on the distribution and abundance of rare species. Because the biogeography of many tropical tree species is poorly known, a high priority should be given to documenting the distribution and abundance of rare tropical tree species, particularly in Amazonia, the largest remaining tropical forested region in the world.
Nonconsumptive effects in a multiple predator system reduce the foraging efficiency of a keystone predator by Jon M. Davenport, David R. Chalcraft
Summary: Many studies have demonstrated that the nonconsumptive effect (NCE) of predators on prey traits can alter prey demographics in ways that are just as strong as the consumptive effect (CE) of predators. Less well studied, however, is how the CE and NCE of multiple predator species can interact to influence the combined effect of multiple predators on prey mortality. We examined the extent to which the NCE of one predator altered the CE of another predator on a shared prey and evaluated whether we can better predict the combined impact of multiple predators on prey when accounting for this influence. We conducted a set of experiments with larval dragonflies, adult newts (a known keystone predator), and their tadpole prey. We quantified the CE and NCE of each predator, the extent to which NCEs from one predator alters the CE of the second predator, and the combined effect of both predators on prey mortality. We then compared the combined effect of both predators on prey mortality to four predictive models. Dragonflies caused more tadpoles to hide under leaf litter (a NCE), where newts spend less time foraging, which reduced the foraging success (CE) of newts. Newts altered tadpole behavior but not in a way that altered the foraging success of dragonflies. Our study suggests that we can better predict the combined effect of multiple predators on prey when we incorporate the influence of interactions between the CE and NCE of multiple predators into a predictive model. In our case, the threat of predation to prey by one predator reduced the foraging efficiency of a keystone predator. Consequently, the ability of a predator to fill a keystone role could be compromised by the presence of other predators.
Functional traits, the phylogeny of function, and ecosystem service vulnerability by Sandra Díaz, Andy Purvis, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Georgina M. Mace, Michael J. Donoghue, Robert M. Ewers, Pedro Jordano, William D. Pearse
Summary: People depend on benefits provided by ecological systems. Understanding how these ecosystem services – and the ecosystem properties underpinning them – respond to drivers of change is therefore an urgent priority. We address this challenge through developing a novel risk-assessment framework that integrates ecological and evolutionary perspectives on functional traits to determine species’ effects on ecosystems and their tolerance of environmental changes. We define Specific Effect Function (SEF) as the per-gram or per capita capacity of a species to affect an ecosystem property, and Specific Response Function (SRF) as the ability of a species to maintain or enhance its population as the environment changes. Our risk assessment is based on the idea that the security of ecosystem services depends on how effects (SEFs) and tolerances (SRFs) of organisms – which both depend on combinations of functional traits – correlate across species and how they are arranged on the species’ phylogeny. Four extreme situations are theoretically possible, from minimum concern when SEF and SRF are neither correlated nor show a phylogenetic signal, to maximum concern when they are negatively correlated (i.e., the most important species are the least tolerant) and phylogenetically patterned (lacking independent backup). We illustrate the assessment with five case studies, involving both plant and animal examples. However, the extent to which the frequency of the four plausible outcomes, or their intermediates, apply more widely in real-world ecological systems is an open question that needs empirical evidence, and suggests a research agenda at the interface of evolutionary biology and ecosystem ecology.
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