Migratory bird species that feed on air-borne insects are experiencing widespread regional declines, but these remain poorly understood. Agricultural intensification in the breeding range is often regarded as one of the main drivers of these declines. Here, we tested the hypothesis that body mass in breeding individuals should reflect habitat quality in an aerial insectivore, the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), along a gradient of agricultural intensity. Our dataset was collected over 7 years (2005-2011) and included 2918 swallow captures and 1483 broods. Analyses revealed a substantial decline of the population over the course of the study (-19% occupancy rate), mirrored by decreasing body mass. This trend was especially severe in females, representing a total loss of 8% of their mass. Reproductive success was negatively influenced by intensive agriculture, but did not decrease over time. Interestingly, variation in body mass was independent of breeding habitat quality, leading us to suggest that this decline in body mass may result from carry-over effects from non-breeding areas and affect population dynamics through reduced survival. This work contributes to the growing body of evidence suggesting that declines in migratory aerial insectivores are driven by multiple, complex factors requiring better knowledge of year-round habitat use.
The capacity of an individual to battle infection is an important fitness determinant in wild vertebrate populations. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes are crucial for a host's adaptive immune system to detect pathogens. However, anthropogenic activities may disrupt natural cycles of co-evolution between hosts and pathogens. In this study, we investigated the dynamic sequence and expression variation of host parasite interactions in brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) in a context of past human disturbance via population supplementation from domestic individuals. To do so, we developed a new method to examine selection shaping MHC diversity within and between populations and found a complex interplay between neutral and selective processes that varied between lakes that were investigated. We provided evidence for a lower introgression rate of domestic alleles and found that parasite infection increased with domestic genomic background of individuals. We also documented an association between individual MHC alleles and parasite taxa. Finally, longer cis-regulatory minisatellites were positively correlated with MHC II down-regulation and domestic admixture, suggesting that inadvertent selection during domestication resulted in a lower immune response capacity, through a trade-off between growth and immunity, which explained the negative selection of domestic alleles at least under certain circumstances.
Biodiversity is comprised of genetic and phenotypic variation among individual organisms, which might belong to the same species or to different species. Spatial patterns of biodiversity are of central interest in ecology and evolution for several reasons: to identify general patterns in nature (e.g. species-area relationships, latitudinal gradients), to inform conservation priorities (e.g. identifying hotspots, prioritizing management efforts) and to draw inferences about processes, historical or otherwise (e.g. adaptation, the centre of origin of particular clades). There are long traditions in ecology and evolutionary biology of examining spatial patterns of biodiversity among species (i.e. in multispecies communities) and within species, respectively, and there has been a recent surge of interest in studying these two types of pattern simultaneously. The idea is that examining both levels of diversity can materially advance the above-stated goals and perhaps lead to entirely novel lines of inquiry. Here, we review two broad categories of approach to merging studies of inter- and intraspecific variation: (i) the study of phenotypic trait variation along environmental gradients and (ii) the study of relationships between patterns of molecular genetic variation within species and patterns of distribution and diversity across species. For the latter, we report a new meta-analysis in which we find that correlations between species diversity and genetic diversity are generally positive and significantly stronger in studies with discrete sampling units (e.g. islands, lakes, forest fragments) than in studies with nondiscrete sampling units (e.g. equal-area study plots). For each topic, we summarize the current state of knowledge and key future directions.
1. Understanding the causes of animal personality (i.e. consistent behavioural differences), is a major aim of evolutionary studies. 2. Recent theoretical work suggest that major personality traits may contribute to evolutionary trade offs. However, such associations have only been investigated in a few study systems, and even less so in free ranging animal populations. 3. Eastern chipmunks exhibit consistent individual differences in exploration, ranging from slow to fast. Birth cohorts also experience dramatic differences in age at first breeding opportunity due to annual differences in beech mast. Individuals may breed for the first time at 24, 33 or 50% of their average lifespan, depending on year of birth. Here we used data from a long-term survey on a wild population to investigate the relationship between reproductive life-history and consistent individual differences in exploration. We determined whether predictable differences in age at first breeding opportunity among birth cohorts were associated with exploration differences, and favoured individuals with different exploration. 4. Birth cohorts with a predictably earlier age at first breeding opportunity were faster explorers on average. Slower explorers displayed their highest fecundity (females) or highest fertilization success (males) later in their life compared with faster explorers. Overall, slow explorers attained a higher lifetime reproductive success than fast explorers when given an opportunity to reproduce later in their life. 5. Our results suggest that the timing of mating seasons, associated with fluctuating food abundance, may favour individual variation in exploration and maintain population variation through its effects on reproductive life-history. Together, our result shed light on how fluctuation in ecological conditions may maintain personality differences and on the nature of the relationships between animal personality and life history. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
In many parts of the world, farmland bird species are declining at faster rates than other birds. For aerial insectivores, this decline has been related to a parallel reduction in the abundance of their invertebrate prey in agricultural landscapes. While the effects of agricultural intensification (AI) on arthropod communities at the landscape level have been substantially studied in recent years, seasonal variation in these impacts has not been investigated. To assess the contention that intensive cultures negatively impact food resources for aerial insectivorous birds, we analyzed the spatiotemporal distribution patterns of Diptera, the main food resource for breeding tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor), across a gradient of AI in southeastern Quebec, Canada. Linear mixed models computed from a data set of 5000 samples comprising >150,000 dipterans collected over three years (2006-2008) suggest that both Diptera abundance and biomass varied greatly during swallow breeding season, following a quadratic curve. Globally, AI had a negative effect on Diptera abundance (but not biomass), but year-by-year analyses showed that in one of three years (2008), dipterans were more abundant in agro-intensive landscapes. Analyses also revealed a significant interaction between the moment in the season and AI: In early June, Diptera abundances were similar regardless of the landscape, but differences increased as the season progressed, with highly intensive landscapes harboring fewer prey, possibly creating an "ecological trap" for aerial insectivores. While global trends in our results are in agreement with expectations (negative impact of Al on insect abundance), strong discrepancies in 2008 highlight the difficulty of predicting the abundance of insect communities. Our study indicates that predicting the effects of AI may prove more challenging than generally assumed, even when large data sets are collected, and that temporal variation within a season is important to take into consideration. While further work is required to assess the direct impacts of these seasonal trends in Diptera abundance on bird breeding success and post-fledging survival, management strategies in agricultural landscapes may need to consider the phenology of breeding birds and their dipteran prey in order to mitigate the potentially negative effects of AI late in the breeding season.
The discipline of molecular ecology has undergone enormous changes since the journal bearing its name was launched approximately two decades ago. The field has seen great strides in analytical methods development, made groundbreaking discoveries and experienced a revolution in genotyping technology. Here, we provide brief perspectives on the main subdisciplines of molecular ecology, describe key questions and goals, discuss common challenges, predict future research directions and suggest research priorities for the next 20 years.
Discriminating between genetic and environmental causes of phenotypic variation is an essential requirement for understanding the evolutionary potential of populations. However, the extent to which genetic variation differs among conspecific groups and environments during ontogeny has rarely been investigated. In this study, the genetic basis of body mass was measured in three divergent strains of brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) in different rearing environments and at different time periods. The results indicate that body mass was a heritable trait in all strains but that the level of heritability greatly differed among strains. Moreover, heritability estimates of each strain varied differently according to environmental rearing conditions, and cross-environments correlations were all significantly lower than unity, indicating strain-specific patterns of genotype-environment interactions. Heritability estimates also varied throughout ontogeny and decreased by 50% from 9 to 21 months of age. This study highlights the divergence in genetic architecture and evolutionary potential among these strains and emphasizes the importance of considering the strain-specific potential of the response to selection according to environmental variation.
Investigating the nature of physiological traits potentially related to fitness is important towards a better understanding of how species and/or populations may respond to selective pressures imposed by contrasting environments. In northern species in particular, the ability to mobilize energy reserves to compensate for the low external energy intake during winter is crucial. However, the phenotypic and genetic bases of energy reserve accumulation and mobilization have rarely been investigated, especially pertaining to variation in strategy adopted by different populations. In the present study, we documented variation in several energy reserve variables and estimated their quantitative genetic basis to test the null hypothesis of no difference in variation at those traits among three strains of brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) and their reciprocal hybrids. Our results indicate that the strategy of winter energy preparation and mobilization was specific to each strain, whereby (1) domestic fish accumulated a higher amount of energy reserves before winter and kept accumulating liver glycogen during winter despite lower feeding; (2) Laval fish used liver glycogen and lipids during winter and experienced a significant decrease in condition factor; (3) Rupert fish had relatively little energy reserves accumulated at the end of fall and preferentially mobilized visceral fat during winter. Significant heritability for traits related to the accumulation and use of energy reserves was found in the domestic and Laval but not in the Rupert strain. Genetic and phenotypic correlations also varied among strains, which suggested population-specific genetic architecture underlying the expression of these traits. Hybrids showed limited evidence of non-additive effects. Overall, this study provides the first evidence of a genetically based-and likely adaptive-population-specific strategy for energy mobilization related to overwinter survival.
Evolutionary ecologists have long been interested by the link between different immune defenses and fitness. Given the importance of a proper immune defense for survival, it is important to understand how its numerous components are affected by environmental heterogeneity. Previous studies targeting this question have rarely considered more than two immune markers. In this study, we measured seven immune markers (response to phytohemagglutinin (PHA), hemolysis capacity, hemagglutination capacity, plasma bactericidal capacity, percentage of lymphocytes, percentage of heterophils, and percentage of eosinophils) in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings raised in two types of agro-ecosystems of contrasted quality and over 2 years. First, we assessed the effect of environmental heterogeneity (spatial and temporal) on the strength and direction of correlations between immune measures. Second, we investigated the effect of an immune score integrating information from several immune markers on individual performance (including growth, mass at fledging and parasite burden). Both a multivariate and a pair-wise approach showed variation in relationships between immune measures across years and habitats. We also found a weak association between the integrated score of nestling immune function and individual performance, but only under certain environmental conditions. We conclude that the ecological context can strongly affect the interpretation of immune defenses in the wild. Given that spatiotemporal variations are likely to affect individual immune defenses, great caution should be used when generalizing conclusions to other study systems.
Pulsed systems are characterized by boom and bust cycles of resource production that are expected to cascade through multiple trophic levels. Many of the consumers within pulsed resource systems have specific adaptations to cope with these cycles that may serve to either amplify or dampen their community-wide consequences. We monitored a seed predator, the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus), in an American beech (Fagus grandifolia) dominated forest, and used capture-mark-recapture analyses to estimate chipmunk vital rates and relate them to interannual variation in beech seed production. The summer activity and reproduction of adults anticipated autumn beech production, with high activity and intense reproduction occurring in summers prior to beech masts. Chipmunks also reproduced every spring following a beech mast. However, adult survival was independent of beech production. In contrast, juvenile survival was lower in years of mast failure than in years of mast production, but their activity was consistently high and independent of beech production. Population growth was strongly affected by the number of juveniles and therefore by beech seed production, which explains nearly 70% of variation in population growth. Our results suggest that a combination of resource-dependent reproduction and variable activity levels associated with anticipation and response to resource pulses allows consumers to buffer potential deleterious effects of low food abundance on their survival.
The control of primary sex-ratio by vertebrates has become a major focus in biology in recent years. Evolutionary theory predicts that a differential effect of maternal characteristics on the fitness of sons and daughters is an important route, whereby selection is expected to favour a bias towards the production of one sex. However, despite experimental evidence for adaptive brood sex-ratio manipulation, support for this prediction remains a major challenge in vertebrates where inconsistencies between correlative studies are frequently reported. Here, we used a large dataset (2215 nestlings over 3 years) from a wild population of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and show that variations in breeding conditions affect female sex allocation in this species. Our results also suggest that such variation in sex allocation, owing to breeding season heterogeneity, modifies the relationships between maternal characteristics and maternal investment. Indeed, we detect a positive effect of maternal age on brood sex-ratio when age also affects offspring condition (in a low-quality breeding season). Our results indicate that including measures of both breeding season quality and maternal investment will help to better understand sex allocation patterns.
In response to handling or other acute stressors, most mammals, including humans, experience a temporary rise in body temperature (T(b)). Although this stress-induced rise in T(b) has been extensively studied on model organisms under controlled environments, individual variation in this interesting phenomenon has not been examined in the field. We investigated the stress-induced rise in T(b) in free-ranging eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) to determine first if it is repeatable. We predicted that the stress-induced rise in T(b) should be positively correlated to factors affecting heat production and heat dissipation, including ambient temperature (T(a)), body mass (M(b)), and field metabolic rate (FMR). Over two summers, we recorded both T(b) within the first minute of handling time (T(b1)) and after 5 min of handling time (T(b5)) 294 times on 140 individuals. The mean ?T(b) (T(b5) - T(b1)) during this short interval was 0.30 ± 0.02°C, confirming that the stress-induced rise in T(b) occurs in chipmunks. Consistent differences among individuals accounted for 40% of the total variation in ?T(b) (i.e. the stress-induced rise in T(b) is significantly repeatable). We also found that the stress-induced rise in T(b) was positively correlated to T(a), M(b), and mass-adjusted FMR. These results confirm that individuals consistently differ in their expression of the stress-induced rise in T(b) and that the extent of its expression is affected by factors related to heat production and dissipation. We highlight some research constraints and opportunities related to the integration of this laboratory paradigm into physiological and evolutionary ecology.
The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis specifies that closely related species or populations experiencing different ecological conditions should differ in a suite of metabolic, hormonal and immunity traits that have coevolved with the life-history particularities related to these conditions. Surprisingly, two important dimensions of the POLS concept have been neglected: (i) despite increasing evidence for numerous connections between behavioural, physiological and life-history traits, behaviours have rarely been considered in the POLS yet; (ii) the POLS could easily be applied to the study of covariation among traits between individuals within a population. In this paper, we propose that consistent behavioural differences among individuals, or personality, covary with life history and physiological differences at the within-population, interpopulation and interspecific levels. We discuss how the POLS provides a heuristic framework in which personality studies can be integrated to address how variation in personality traits is maintained within populations.
Dispersal and gene flow are important processes affecting the evolutionary potential of wild populations. Assessing the importance of such patterns is thus critical, especially in contexts where environmental attributes may enhance or restrict the movements of individuals across patchy habitats. A landscape genetics approach is effective in that respect as it combines spatial and genetic data to identify landscape features that play a role in shaping genetic structure. The primary objective of our research was to characterize the determinants of population genetic structure in the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) over a large heterogeneous study area in southern Quebec and Ontario, Canada. We genotyped 572 individuals using 7 microsatellites loci and found an average F(ST) of 0.127 +/- 0.035 among our 7 sampling sites. We found evidence that major rivers act as important barriers to gene flow at a large scale. We also detected a signal of male-biased gene flow at all scales considered. Our findings highlight the importance of simultaneously taking into account landscape elements and geographic distance, considering the scale at which determinants of genetic structure may act and using the appropriate measures to detect sex-biased dispersal based on the characteristics of the sampling design.
Calcium is an essential micronutrient for birds during egg formation and for skeletal development in nestlings. Habitat level studies suggest that birds breeding in low-calcium areas may be limited in the size or number of eggs they lay and in the quality of their nestlings. However, as birds forage non-randomly and may travel considerable distances to acquire calcium, describing different breeding environments in terms of their calcium availability is problematic. Here we explore the spatial relationships between 300-fold variation in soil calcium and the life-history traits of ca. 6,000 pairs of great tits breeding in a single continuous woodland over 41 years. Controlling for other habitat differences, we found strong positive associations between soil calcium, clutch size and recruitment at spatial scales of over 300 m from each nestbox, suggesting that females may have been travelling inter-territorially to acquire calcium during egg formation. Soil calcium near each nestbox (mean distance = 58 m) was a strong positive predictor of mean fledgling mass, suggesting that local calcium was more important during nestling stages. We found no effect of soil calcium on lay-date or egg mass. This study is the first to provide evidence that small woodland passerines are limited by calcium availability at several different spatial scales. However, experimental work is necessary to test the causality of these spatial patterns.
Improving our knowledge of the links between ecology and evolution is especially critical in the actual context of global rapid environmental changes. A critical step in that direction is to quantify how variation in ecological factors linked to habitat modifications might shape observed levels of genetic variability in wild populations. Still, little is known on the factors affecting levels and distribution of genetic diversity at the individual level, despite its vital underlying role in evolutionary processes. In this study, we assessed the effects of habitat quality on population structure and individual genetic diversity of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) breeding along a gradient of agricultural intensification in southern Québec, Canada. Using a landscape genetics approach, we found that individual genetic diversity was greater in poorer quality habitats. This counter-intuitive result was partly explained by the settlement patterns of tree swallows across the landscape. Individuals of higher genetic diversity arrived earlier on their breeding grounds and settled in the first available habitats, which correspond to intensive cultures. Our results highlight the importance of investigating the effects of environmental variability on individual genetic diversity, and of integrating information on landscape structure when conducting such studies.
Evolutionary biologists have usefully applied quantitative genetics methods to the pedigrees of wild animals to understand how natural selection shapes phenotypic diversity in nature. Despite recent reviews on the importance of rapid evolutionary changes for conservation biology and the increasing concerns about potentially adverse effects of adaptation to captivity for wild species, the integration of evolutionary-based knowledge into conservation programs remains elusive. Here we review the value of long-term pedigrees and associated phenotypic data of captive stocks for evolutionary research and conservation programs. We emphasize that using zoological records to assess quantitative genetics parameters represents a promising avenue to study adaptation to captivity.
Estimating quantitative genetic parameters ideally takes place in natural populations, but relatively few studies have overcome the inherent logistical difficulties. For this reason, no estimates currently exist for the genetic basis of life-history traits in natural populations of large marine vertebrates. And yet such estimates are likely to be important given the exposure of this taxon to changing selection pressures, and the relevance of life-history traits to population productivity. We report such estimates from a long-term (1995-2007) study of lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) conducted at Bimini, Bahamas. We obtained these estimates by genetically reconstructing a population pedigree (117 dams, 487 sires, and 1351 offspring) and then using an "animal model" approach to estimate quantitative genetic parameters. We find significant additive genetic (co)variance, and hence moderate heritability, for juvenile length and mass. We also find substantial maternal effects for these traits at age-0, but not age-1, confirming that genotype-phenotype interactions between mother and offspring are strongest at birth; although these effects could not be parsed into their genetic and nongenetic components. Our results suggest that human-imposed selection pressures (e.g., size-selective harvesting) might impose noteworthy evolutionary change even in large marine vertebrates. We therefore use our findings to explain how maternal effects may sometimes promote maladaptive juvenile traits, and how lemon sharks at different nursery sites may show "constrained local adaptation." We also show how single-generation pedigrees, and even simple marker-based regression methods, can provide accurate estimates of quantitative genetic parameters in at least some natural systems.
Translocation of plants and animal populations between environments is one of the major forms of anthropogenic perturbation experienced by pristine populations, and consequently, human-mediated hybridization by stocking practices between wild and exogenous conspecifics is of increasing concern. In this study, we compared the expression of seven candidate genes involved in multifactorial traits and regulatory pathways for growth as a function of level of introgressive hybridization between wild and domestic brook charr to test the null hypothesis of no effect of introgression on wild fish. Our analyses revealed that the expression of two of the genes tested, cytochrome c oxidase VIIa and the growth hormone receptor isoform I, was positively correlated with the level of introgression. We also observed a positive relationship between the extent of introgression and physiological status quantified by the Fultons condition index. The expression of other genes was influenced by other variables, including year of sampling (reflecting different thermal conditions), sampling method and lake of origin. This is the first demonstration in nature that introgression from stocked populations has an impact on the expression of genes playing a role in important biological functions that may be related with fitness in wild introgressed populations.
Evaluating the permeability of potential barriers to movement, dispersal and gene exchanges can help describe spreading patterns of wildlife diseases. Here, we used landscape genetics methods to assess the genetic structure of the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), which is a frequent vector of rabies, a lethal zoonosis of great concern for public health. Our main objective was to identify landscape elements shaping the genetic structure of this species in Southern Québec, Canada, in an area where the raccoon rabies variant has been detected. We hypothesised that geographic distance and landscape barriers, such as highways and major rivers, would modulate genetic structure. We genotyped a total of 289 individuals sampled across a large area (22,000 km²) at nice microsatellite loci. Genetic structure analyses identified a single genetic cluster in the study area. Major rivers and highways, however, influenced the genetic relatedness among sampled individuals. Sex-specific analyses revealed that rivers significantly limited dispersal only for females while highways only had marginal effects. Rivers and highways did not significantly affect male dispersal. These results support the contention that female skunks are more philopatric than males. Overall, our results suggest that the effects of major rivers and highways on dispersal are sex-specific and rather weak and are thus unlikely to prevent the spread of rabies within and among striped skunk populations.
Although the recent emergence of the field of landscape genetics has led to several studies investigating the effects of habitat composition between populations on genetic differentiation, much less is known on the impact of within-habitat ecological characteristics on levels of gene flow and genetic differentiation among populations. Using data on 840 individuals sampled in 8 sites in Corsica and 1 in southern France and analyzed at 10 microsatellite loci, we assessed the spatial and temporal population genetic structure of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) in Corsica and identified the ecological factors, both between- and within-sampling sites, responsible for the observed genetic structure. We found temporally stable fine-scale genetic structure within Corsica, with genetic differentiation values among populations corresponding to ~25% of levels observed between Corsica and the mainland. This structure was not explained by the geographic distance among populations or by the presence of physical barriers but was instead related to local habitat types (deciduous or evergreen oaks). Our results are thus consistent with previously documented phenotypic differences among habitats in morphological and reproductive traits. These findings suggest that although individuals have high dispersal ability, local adaptation might reduce gene flow among populations located in different habitats.
Several empirical studies have shown that variation in daily energy expenditure (DEE) and resting metabolic rate (RMR) is influenced by environmental and individual factors, but whether these shared influences are responsible for, or independent of, relationships between DEE and RMR remains unknown. The objectives of this study were to (i) simultaneously evaluate the effects of environmental and individual variables on DEE and RMR in free-ranging eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) and (ii) quantify the correlation between DEE and RMR before and after controlling for common sources of variation. We found that the influence of individual factors on DEE and RMR is most often shared, whereas the influence of environmental factors tends to be distinct. Both raw and mass-adjusted DEE and RMR were significantly correlated, but this correlation vanished after accounting for the shared effect of reproduction on both traits. However, within reproductive individuals, DEE and RMR remained positively correlated after accounting for all other significant covariates. The ratio of DEE to RMR was significantly higher during reproduction than at other times of the year and was negatively correlated with ambient temperature. DEE and RMR appear to be inherently correlated during reproduction, but this correlation does not persist during other, less energy-demanding periods of the annual cycle.
The study of the spatial distribution of relatives in a population under contrasted environmental conditions provides critical insights into the flexibility of dispersal behaviour and the role of environmental conditions in shaping population relatedness and social structure. Yet few studies have evaluated the effects of fluctuating environmental conditions on relatedness structure of solitary species in the wild. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of interannual variations in environmental conditions on the spatial distribution of relatives [spatial genetic structure (SGS)] and dispersal patterns of a wild population of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), a solitary rodent of North America. Eastern chipmunks depend on the seed of masting trees for reproduction and survival. Here, we combined the analysis of the SGS of adults with direct estimates of juvenile dispersal distance during six contrasted years with different dispersal seasons, population sizes and seed production. We found that environmental conditions influences the dispersal distances of juveniles and that male juveniles dispersed farther than females. The extent of the SGS of adult females varied between years and matched the variation in environmental conditions. In contrast, the SGS of males did not vary between years. We also found a difference in SGS between males and females that was consistent with male-biased dispersal. This study suggests that both the dispersal behaviour and the relatedness structure in a population of a solitary species can be relatively labile and change according to environmental conditions.
The growth/survival trade-off is a fundamental aspect of life-history evolution that is often explained by the direct energetic requirement for growth that cannot be allocated into maintenance. However, there is currently no empirical consensus on whether fast-growing individuals have higher resting metabolic rates at thermoneutrality (RMRt) than slow growers. Moreover, the link between growth rate and daily energy expenditure (DEE) has never been tested in a wild endotherm. We assessed the energetic and survival costs of growth in juvenile eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) during a year of low food abundance by quantifying post-emergent growth rate (n = 88), RMRt (n = 66), DEE (n = 20), and overwinter survival. Both RMRt and DEE were significantly and positively related to growth rate. The effect size was stronger for DEE than RMRt, suggesting that the energy cost of growth in wild animals is more likely to be related to the maintenance of a higher foraging rate (included in DEE) than to tissue accretion (included in RMRt). Fast growers were significantly less likely to survive the following winter compared to slow growers. Juveniles with high or low RMRt were less likely to survive winter than juveniles with intermediate RMRt. In contrast, DEE was unrelated to survival. In addition, botfly parasitism simultaneously decreased growth rate and survival, suggesting that the energetic budget of juveniles was restricted by the simultaneous costs of growth and parasitism. Although the biology of the species (seed-storing hibernator) and the context of our study (constraining environmental conditions) were ideally combined to reveal a direct relationship between current use of energy and future availability, it remains unclear whether the energetic cost of growth was directly responsible for reduced survival.
1. Phenotypic plasticity, the response of individual phenotypes to their environment, can allow organisms to cope with spatio-temporal variation in environmental conditions. Recent studies have shown that variation exists among individuals in their capacity to adjust their traits to environmental changes and that this individual plasticity can be under strong selection. Yet, little is known on the extent and ultimate causes of variation between populations and individuals in plasticity patterns. 2. In passerines, timing of breeding is a key life-history trait strongly related to fitness and is known to vary with the environment, but few studies have investigated the within-species variation in individual plasticity. 3. Here, we studied between- and within-population variation in breeding time, phenotypic plasticity and selection patterns for this trait in four Mediterranean populations of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) breeding in habitats varying in structure and quality. 4. Although there was no significant warming over the course of the study, we found evidence for earlier onset of breeding in warmer years in all populations, with reduced plasticity in the less predictable environment. In two of four populations, there was significant inter-individual variation in plasticity for laying date. Interestingly, selection for earlier laying date was significant only in populations where there was no inter-individual differences in plasticity. 5. Our results show that generalization of plasticity patterns among populations of the same species might be challenging even at a small spatial scale and that the amount of within-individual variation in phenotypic plasticity may be linked to selective pressures acting on these phenotypic traits.
Salmonid fishes rank among species being most severely affected by introgressive hybridization as a result of a long tradition of stocking with hatchery-reared conspecifics. The objectives of this study were (i) to evaluate the genetic consequences of stocking and resulting introgression rates on the genetic integrity of natural populations of brook charr, (ii) to identify genomic regions potentially associated with adaptation to natural and artificial rearing environments, and (iii) to test the null hypothesis that introgression from domesticated brook charr into wild populations is homogeneous among loci. A total of 336 individuals were sampled from nine lakes, which were stocked at different intensities with domestic fish. Individuals were genotyped at 280 SNPs located in transcribed regions and developed by means of next-generation sequencing. As previously reported with microsatellites, we observed a positive relationship between stocking intensity and genetic diversity among stocking groups, and a decrease in population differentiation. Individual admixture proportions also increased with stocking intensity. Moreover, genomic cline analysis revealed 27 SNPs, seven of which were also identified as outliers in a genome scan, which showed an introgression rate either more restricted or enhanced relative to neutral expectations. This indicated that selection, mainly for growth-related biological processes, has favored or hampered the introgression of genomic blocks into the introgressed wild populations. Overall, this study highlights the usefulness of investigating the impact of stocking on the dynamics of introgression of potentially adaptive genetic variation to better understand the consequences of such practice on the genomic integrity of wild populations.
Monitoring fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in wild animals, using enzyme immunoassays, enables the study of endocrinological patterns relevant to ecology and evolution. While some researchers use antibodies against the parent hormone (which is typically absent from fecal samples), others advocate the use of antibodies designed to detect glucocorticoid metabolites. We validated two assays to monitor fecal cortisol metabolites in the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus). We compared an antibody produced against cortisol and one produced against 5?-pregnane-3?, 11?, 21-triol-20-one using a radiometabolism study and an injection with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Most cortisol metabolites were excreted in the urine (?83%). Peak excretion in the feces occurred 8 h after injection. Both assays detected an increase in fecal cortisol metabolite levels after injection of ACTH. Males, but not females, exhibited a circadian variation in metabolite levels. The sexes did not exhibit any difference over the time course and route of excretion or the relative increase in fecal cortisol metabolite levels after ACTH injection. The cortisol assay displayed higher reactivity to ACTH injection relative to baseline than did the metabolite assay. While both antibodies gave comparable results, the cortisol antibody was more sensitive to changes in plasma cortisol levels in eastern chipmunks.
Safe and reliable capture techniques for wild animals are important for ecologic studies and management operations. We assessed the efficiency of ketamine-medetomidine (K:M) injection and reversal with atipamezole. We anesthetized 67 raccoons (Procyon lotor; 34 males, 33 females) 103 times (individuals captured between one and five times) from April 2009-October 2010 in Mont-Orford Provincial Park, Quebec, Canada. We administered a 1:1 mixture by volume of ketamine and medetomidine by intramuscular injection. Mean (±SD) induction times for males and females were 6.1±2.8 and 6.6±3.7 min, respectively. Mean induction time was 2 min longer for juveniles than for adults (7.8±3.9 and 5.8±2.9 min, respectively) and longer in autumn than in spring for adults (7.7±3.8 and 5.4±2.9 min, respectively). Recovery time after administration of atipamezole was 9.6±3.8 and 8.4±4.4 min for males and females, respectively. Recovery time was longer in spring than in autumn (10.2±4 and 7.4±3.8 min, respectively) for adults. Induction time increased by 166% after five captures of the same individual. Immobilization did not affect body mass, adult survival, or female reproductive success. We suggest the K:M mixture used is a safe and reliable method for anesthetizing raccoons in field conditions.
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