The latest issue of Ecology and Evolution is now live! Over 30 excellent articles free to read, download and share. ‘Interior Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) breeding distribution and ecology: implications for population-level studies and the evaluation of alternative management strategies on large, regulated rivers’ by Casey A. Lott et al. Below are some highlights from this issue:
Dramatic response to climate change in the Southwest: Robert Whittaker’s 1963 Arizona Mountain plant transect revisited by Richard C. Brusca, et al.
Summary: Models analyzing how Southwestern plant communities will respond to climate change predict that increases in temperature will lead to upward elevational shifts of montane species. We tested this hypothesis by reexamining Robert Whittaker’s 1963 plant transect in the Santa Catalina Mountains of southern Arizona, finding that this process is already well underway. Our survey, five decades after Whittaker’s, reveals large changes in the elevational ranges of common montane plants, while mean annual rainfall has decreased over the past 20 years, and mean annual temperatures increased 0.25°C/decade from 1949 to 2011 in the Tucson Basin. Although elevational changes in species are individualistic, significant overall upward movement of the lower elevation boundaries, and elevational range contractions, have occurred. This is the first documentation of significant upward shifts of lower elevation range boundaries in Southwestern montane plant species over decadal time, confirming that previous hypotheses are correct in their prediction that mountain communities in the Southwest will be strongly impacted by warming, and that the Southwest is already experiencing a rapid vegetation change.
Did the house mouse (Mus musculus L.) shape the evolutionary trajectory of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)? by C. F. Morris, et al.
Summary: Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is one of the most successful domesticated plant species in the world. The majority of wheat carries mutations in the Puroindoline genes that result in a hard kernel phenotype. An evolutionary explanation, or selective advantage, for the spread and persistence of these hard kernel mutations has yet to be established. Here, we demonstrate that the house mouse (Mus musculus L.) exerts a pronounced feeding preference for soft over hard kernels. When allele frequencies ranged from 0.5 to 0.009, mouse predation increased the hard allele frequency as much as 10-fold. Studies involving a single hard kernel mixed with ~1000 soft kernels failed to recover the mutant kernel. Nevertheless, the study clearly demonstrates that the house mouse could have played a role in the evolution of wheat, and therefore the cultural trajectory of humankind.
Quantitative genetic analysis of responses to larval food limitation in a polyphenic butterfly indicates environment- and trait-specific effects by Marjo Saastamoinen, et al.
Summary: Different components of heritability, including genetic variance (VG), are influenced by environmental conditions. Here, we assessed phenotypic responses of life-history traits to two different developmental conditions, temperature and food limitation. The former represents an environment that defines seasonal polyphenism in our study organism, the tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana, whereas the latter represents a more unpredictable environment. We quantified heritabilities using restricted maximum likelihood (REML) procedures within an “Information Theoretical” framework in a full-sib design. Whereas development time, pupal mass, and resting metabolic rate showed no genotype-by-environment interaction for genetic variation, for thorax ratio and fat percentage the heritability increased under the cool temperature, dry season environment. Additionally, for fat percentage heritability estimates increased under food limitation. Hence, the traits most intimately related to polyphenism in B. anynana show the most environmental-specific heritabilities as well as some indication of cross-environmental genetic correlations. This may reflect a footprint of natural selection and our future research is aimed to uncover the genes and processes involved in this through studying season and condition-dependent gene expression.
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