Organisms exhibit plasticity in response to their environment, but there is large variation even within populations in the expression and magnitude of response. Maternal influence alters offspring survival through size advantages in growth and development. However, the relationship between maternal influence and variation in plasticity in response to predation risk is unknown. We hypothesized that variation in the magnitude of plastic responses between families is at least partly due to maternal provisioning and examined the relationship between maternal condition, egg provisioning and magnitude of plastic response to perceived predation risk (by dragonfly larvae: Aeshna spp.) in northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens). Females in better body condition tended to lay more (clutch size) larger (egg diameter) eggs. Tadpoles responded to predation risk by increasing relative tail depth (morphology) and decreasing activity (behaviour). We found a positive relationship between morphological effect size and maternal condition, but no relationship between behavioural effect size and maternal condition. These novel findings suggest that limitations imposed by maternal condition can constrain phenotypic variation, ultimately influencing the capacity of populations to respond to environmental change.
Anthropogenically driven climatic change is expected to reshape global patterns of species distribution and abundance. Given recent links between genetic variation and environmental patterns, climate change may similarly impact genetic population structure, but we lack information on the spatial and mechanistic underpinnings of genetic-climate associations. Here, we show that current genetic variability of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is strongly correlated with a winter climate gradient (i.e. increasing snow depth and winter precipitation from west-to-east) across the Pacific-North American (PNO) to North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) climatic systems. This relationship was stronger than isolation by distance and not explained by landscape variables or changes in abundance. Thus, these patterns suggest that individuals restricted dispersal across the climate boundary, likely in the absence of changes in habitat quality. We propose habitat imprinting on snow conditions as one possible explanation for this unusual phenomenon. Coupling historical climate data with future projections, we also found increasingly diverging snow conditions between the two climate systems. Based on genetic simulations using projected climate data (2041-2070), we predicted that this divergence could lead to a threefold increase in genetic differentiation, potentially leading to isolated east-west populations of lynx in North America. Our results imply that subtle genetic structure can be governed by current climate and that substantive genetic differentiation and related ecological divergence may arise from changing climate patterns.
Determining the causes of cyclic fluctuations in population size is a central tenet in population ecology and provides insights into population regulatory mechanisms. We have a firm understanding of how direct and delayed density dependence affects population stability and cyclic dynamics, but there remains considerable uncertainty in the specific processes contributing to demographic variability and consequent change in cyclic propensity. Spatiotemporal variability in cyclic propensity, including recent attenuation or loss of cyclicity among several temperate populations and the implications of habitat fragmentation and climate change on this pattern, highlights the heightened need to understand processes underlying cyclic variation. Because these stressors can differentially impact survival and productivity and thereby impose variable time delays in density dependence, there is a specific need to elucidate how demographic vital rates interact with the type and action of density dependence to contribute to population stability and cyclic variation. Here, we address this knowledge gap by comparing the stability of time series derived from general and species-specific (Canada lynx: Lynx canadensis; small rodents: Microtus, Lemmus and Clethrionomys spp.) matrix population models, which vary in their demographic rates and the direct action of density dependence. Our results reveal that density dependence acting exclusively on survival as opposed to productivity is destabilizing, suggesting that a shift in the action of population regulation toward reproductive output may decrease cyclic propensity and cycle amplitude. This result was the same whether delayed density dependence was pulsatile and acted on a single time period (e.g. t-1, t-2 or t-3) vs. more constant by affecting a successive range of years (e.g. t-1,…, t-3). Consistent with our general models, reductions in reproductive potential in both the lynx and small rodent systems led to notably large drops in cyclic propensity and amplitude, suggesting that changes in this vital rate may contribute to the spatial or temporal variability observed in the cyclic dynamics of both systems. Collectively, our results reveal that the type of density dependence and its effect on different demographic parameters can profoundly influence numeric stability and cyclic propensity and therefore may shift populations across the cyclic-to-noncyclic boundary.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adolescents includes three vaccines (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis [Tdap]; human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccine; and meningococcal conjugate vaccine [MCV4]) and an annual influenza vaccination. Given the increasing number of recommended vaccines for adolescents and health and economic costs associated with nonvaccination, it is imperative that effective strategies for increasing vaccination rates among adolescents are developed. This article describes the development, theoretical framework, and initial first-year evaluation of an intervention designed to promote vaccine acceptance among a middle and high school-based sample of adolescents and their parents in eastern Georgia. Adolescents, parents, and teachers were active participants in the development of the intervention. The intervention, which consisted of a brochure for parents and a teacher-delivered curriculum for adolescents, was guided by constructs from the health belief model and theory of reasoned action. Evaluation results indicated that our intervention development methods were successful in creating a brochure that met cultural relevance and the literacy needs of parents. We also demonstrated an increase in student knowledge of and positive attitudes toward vaccines. To our knowledge, this study is the first to extensively engage middle and high school students, parents, and teachers in the design and implementation of key theory-based educational components of a school-based, teacher-delivered adolescent vaccination intervention.
Peripheral populations often experience more extreme environmental conditions than those in the centre of a species' range. Such extreme conditions include habitat loss, defined as a reduction in the amount of suitable habitat, as well as habitat fragmentation, which involves the breaking apart of habitat independent of habitat loss. The 'threshold hypothesis' predicts that organisms will be more affected by habitat fragmentation when the amount of habitat on the landscape is scarce (i.e., less than 30%) than when habitat is abundant, implying that habitat fragmentation may compound habitat loss through changes in patch size and configuration. Alternatively, the 'flexibility hypothesis' predicts that individuals may respond to increased habitat disturbance by altering their selection patterns and thereby reducing sensitivity to habitat loss and fragmentation. While the range of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) has contracted during recent decades, the relative importance of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation on this phenomenon is poorly understood. We used a habitat suitability model for lynx to identify suitable land cover in Ontario, and contrasted occupancy patterns across landscapes differing in cover, to test the 'threshold hypothesis' and 'flexibility hypothesis'. When suitable land cover was widely available, lynx avoided areas with less than 30% habitat and were unaffected by habitat fragmentation. However, on landscapes with minimal suitable land cover, lynx occurrence was not related to either habitat loss or habitat fragmentation, indicating support for the 'flexibility hypothesis'. We conclude that lynx are broadly affected by habitat loss, and not specifically by habitat fragmentation, although occurrence patterns are flexible and dependent on landscape condition. We suggest that lynx may alter their habitat selection patterns depending on local conditions, thereby reducing their sensitivity to anthropogenically-driven habitat alteration.
Understanding the effects of climate change on species persistence is a major research interest; however, most studies have focused on responses at the northern or expanding range edge. There is a pressing need to explain how species can persist at their southern range when changing biotic interactions will influence species occurrence. For predators, variation in distribution of primary prey owing to climate change will lead to mismatched distribution and local extinction, unless their diet is altered to more extensively include alternate prey. We assessed whether addition of prey information in climate projections restricted projected habitat of a specialist predator, Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), and if switching from their primary prey (snowshoe hare; Lepus americanus) to an alternate prey (red squirrel; Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) mitigates range restriction along the southern range edge. Our models projected distributions of each species to 2050 and 2080 to then refine predictions for southern lynx on the basis of varying combinations of prey availability. We found that models that incorporated information on prey substantially reduced the total predicted southern range of lynx in both 2050 and 2080. However, models that emphasized red squirrel as the primary species had 7-24% lower southern range loss than the corresponding snowshoe hare model. These results illustrate that (i) persistence at the southern range may require species to exploit higher portions of alternate food; (ii) selection may act on marginal populations to accommodate phenotypic changes that will allow increased use of alternate resources; and (iii) climate projections based solely on abiotic data can underestimate the severity of future range restriction. In the case of Canada lynx, our results indicate that the southern range likely will be characterized by locally varying levels of mismatch with prey such that the extent of range recession or local adaptation may appear as a geographical mosaic.
Four vaccines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for adolescents. Parental attitudes may play a key role in vaccination uptake in this age group. In 2011, we conducted a cross-sectional survey among parents of adolescents in one county in Georgia to identify parental attitudes toward adolescent vaccination, reasons for vaccine acceptance or refusal, and impact of a physician recommendation for vaccination. Physician recommendation was reported as one of the top reasons for receipt or intent to receive any of the vaccines. Physician recommendation of any of the four vaccines was associated with receipt of Tdap (p < 0.001), MCV4 (p < 0.001), and HPV (p = 0.03) and intent to receive Tdap (p = 0.05), MCV4 (p = 0.005), and HPV (p = 0.05). Compared with parents who did not intend to have their adolescent vaccinated with any of the vaccines, parents who did intend reported higher perceived susceptibility (3.12 vs. 2.63, p = 0.03) and severity of disease (3.89 vs. 3.70, p = 0.02) and higher perceived benefit of vaccination (8.48 vs. 7.74, p = 0.02). These findings suggest that future vaccination efforts geared toward parents may benefit from addressing the advantages of vaccination and enhancing social norms. Physicians can play a key role by providing information on the benefits of adolescent vaccination.
Influenza remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Vaccinating school-aged children has been demonstrated to be beneficial to the child and in reducing viral transmission to vulnerable groups such as the elderly. This qualitative study sought to identify reasons parents and students participated in a school-based influenza vaccination clinic and to characterize the decision-making process for vaccination. Eight focus groups were conducted with parents and students. Parents and students who participated in the influenza vaccination clinic stated the educational brochure mailed to their home influenced participation in the program. Parents of non-participating students mentioned barriers, such as the lengthy and complicated consent process and suspicions about the vaccine clinic, as contributing to their decision not to vaccinate their child. Vaccinated students reported initiating influenza vaccine discussion with their parents. Parental attitudes and the educational material influenced parents decision to allow their child to receive influenza vaccine. This novel study explored reasons for participating in a school-based vaccination clinic and the decision-making process between parents and child(ren). Persons running future school-based vaccination clinics may consider hosting an information session with a question and answer session to address parental concerns and assist with the consent process.
Ozone exposure effect on free radical-catalyzed oxidation products of lipids, proteins, and DNA in the plasma and urine of rats was studied as a continuation of the international Biomarker of Oxidative Stress Study (BOSS) sponsored by NIEHS/NIH. The goal was to identify a biomarker for ozone-induced oxidative stress and to assess whether inconsistent results often reported in the literature might be due to the limitations of the available methods for measuring the various types of oxidative products. The time- and dose-dependent effects of ozone exposure on rat plasma lipid hydroperoxides, malondialdehyde, F2-isoprostanes, protein carbonyls, methionine oxidation, and tyrosine- and phenylalanine oxidation products, as well as urinary malondialdehyde and F2-isoprostanes were investigated with various techniques. The criterion used to recognize a marker in the model of ozone exposure was that a significant effect could be identified and measured in a biological fluid seen at both doses at more than one time point. No statistically significant differences between the experimental and the control groups at either ozone dose and time point studied could be identified in this study. Tissue samples were not included. Despite all the work accomplished in the BOSS study of ozone, no available product of oxidation in biological fluid has yet met the required criteria of being a biomarker. The current negative findings as a consequence of ozone exposure are of great importance, because they document that in complex systems, as the present in vivo experiment, the assays used may not provide meaningful data of ozone oxidation, especially in human studies.
Climate change likely will lead to increasingly favourable environmental conditions for many parasites. However, predictions regarding parasitisms impacts often fail to account for the likely variability in host distribution and how this may alter parasite occurrence. Here, we investigate potential distributional shifts in the meningeal worm, Parelaphostrongylosis tenuis, a protostrongylid nematode commonly found in white-tailed deer in North America, whose life cycle also involves a free-living stage and a gastropod intermediate host. We modelled the distribution of the hosts and free-living larva as a complete assemblage to assess whether a complex trophic system will lead to an overall increase in parasite distribution with climate change, or whether divergent environmental niches may promote an ecological mismatch. Using an ensemble approach to climate modelling under two different carbon emission scenarios, we show that whereas the overall trend is for an increase in niche breadth for each species, mismatches arise in habitat suitability of the free-living larva vs. the definitive and intermediate hosts. By incorporating these projected mismatches into a combined model, we project a shift in parasite distribution accounting for all steps in the transmission cycle, and identify that overall habitat suitability of the parasite will decline in the Great Plains and southeastern USA, but will increase in the Boreal Forest ecoregion, particularly in Alberta. These results have important implications for wildlife conservation and management due to the known pathogenicity of parelaphostrongylosis to alternate hosts including moose, caribou and elk. Our results suggest that disease risk forecasts which fail to consider biotic interactions may be overly simplistic, and that accounting for each of the parasites life stages is key to refining predicted responses to climate change.
Prey can invest in a variety of defensive traits when balancing risk of predation against that of starvation. What remains unknown is the relative costs of different defensive traits and how prey reconcile investment into these traits when energetically limited. We tested the simple allocation model of prey defense, which predicts an additive effect of increasing predation risk and resource availability, resulting in the full deployment of defensive traits under conditions of high risk and resource saturation. We collected morphometric, developmental, and behavioural data in an experiment using dragonfly larvae (predator) and Northern leopard frog tadpoles (prey) subject to variable levels of food availability and predation risk. Larvae exposed to food restriction showed limited response to predation risk; larvae at food saturation altered behaviour, development, and growth in response to predation risk. Responses to risk varied through time, suggesting ontogeny may affect the deployment of particular defensive traits. The observed negative correlation between body size and activity level for food-restricted prey - and the absence of a similar response among adequately-fed prey - suggests that a trade-off exists between behavioural and growth responses when energy budgets are limited. Our research is the first to demonstrate how investment into these defensive traits is mediated along gradients of both predation risk and resource availability over time. The interactions we demonstrate between resource availability and risk level on deployment of inducible defenses provide evidence that both internal condition and extrinsic risk factors play a critical role in the production of inducible defenses over time.
Determining the patterns, causes and consequences of character displacement is central to our understanding of competition in ecological communities. However, the majority of competition research has occurred over small spatial extents or focused on fine-scale differences in morphology or behaviour. The effects of competition on broad-scale distribution and niche characteristics of species remain poorly understood but critically important. Using range-wide species distribution models, we evaluated whether Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) or bobcat (Lynx rufus) were displaced in regions of sympatry. Consistent with our prediction, we found that lynx niches were less similar to those of bobcat in areas of sympatry versus allopatry, with a stronger reliance on snow cover driving lynx niche divergence in the sympatric zone. By contrast, bobcat increased niche breadth in zones of sympatry, and bobcat niches were equally similar to those of lynx in zones of sympatry and allopatry. These findings suggest that competitively disadvantaged species avoid competition at large scales by restricting their niche to highly suitable conditions, while superior competitors expand the diversity of environments used. Our results indicate that competition can manifest within climatic niche space across species ranges, highlighting the importance of biotic interactions occurring at large spatial scales on niche dynamics.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a well-known cause of atypical pneumonia. CNS involvement is a relatively frequent extrapulmonary manifestation, most commonly manifesting as encephalitis in the pediatric population. We present two unusual cases of M. pneumoniae encephalitis that presented with symptoms and imaging findings suggesting mass occupying lesions, and worsening altered mental status. Biopsy of the lesions was necessary in both cases to aid with diagnosis. Histopathologic features excluded neoplasm, and established the diagnosis of encephalitis, but did not point toward its etiology. The only finding that indicated M. pneumoniae as the most likely pathogen was serum IgM positivity in the absence of any other identifiable infectious source, and complete neurologic recovery following specific anti-mycoplasmal treatment. The patients were successfully treated with antibiotics and steroids, with the second case also requiring intravenous immunoglobulin and anti-epileptics. The clinical presentation and histopathologic findings suggested an immune-mediated pathogenesis, but acute disseminated encephalomyelitis was excluded due to extensive gray matter involvement. Disease resolution despite status epilepticus and herniation in case 2 is a novel finding of the study. Current principles of diagnosis and management of encephalitis as the presenting manifestation of mycoplasmal infection are discussed.
Teachers play an essential role in the school community, and H1N1 vaccination of teachers is critical to protect not only themselves but also adolescents they come in contact within the classroom through herd immunity. School-aged children have a greater risk of developing H1N1 disease than seasonal influenza. The goal of this study was to assess the relationship between attitudes toward H1N1 vaccination and vaccine acceptance among middle and high school teachers in rural Georgia.
School-aged children were a priority group for receipt of the pandemic (2009) H1N1 influenza vaccine. Both parental and adolescent attitudes likely influence vaccination behaviors. Data were collected from surveys distributed to middle- and high-school students and their parents in two counties in rural Georgia. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess correlates of parental acceptance of H1N1 influenza vaccination for their children and adolescents acceptance of vaccination for themselves. Concordance analyses were conducted to assess agreement between parent-adolescent dyads regarding H1N1 influenza vaccine acceptance. Parental acceptance of H1N1 influenza vaccination for their children was associated with acceptance of the vaccine for themselves and feeling motivated by the H1N1 influenza pandemic to get a seasonal influenza vaccine for their child. Adolescents acceptance was associated with receipt of a seasonal influenza vaccine in the past year, fear of getting H1N1 influenza, feeling comfortable getting the vaccine and parental acceptance of H1N1 influenza vaccine. Half (50%) of parent-adolescent pairs included both a parent and child who expressed H1N1 influenza vaccine acceptance, and 19% of pairs would not accept the vaccine. This research highlights the need for interventions that target factors associated with H1N1 influenza vaccine acceptance among both parents and adolescents.
There has long been interest in the influence of predators on prey populations, although most predator-prey studies have focused on prey species that are targets of directed predator searching. Conversely, few have addressed depredation that occurs after incidental encounters with predators. We tested two predictions stemming from the hypothesis that nest predation on two sympatric freshwater turtle species whose nests are differentially prone to opportunistic detection-painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina)-is incidental: (1) predation rates should be density independent, and (2) individual predators should not alter their foraging behavior after encountering nests. After monitoring nest survival and predator behavior following nest depredation over 2 years, we confirmed that predation by raccoons (Procyon lotor), the primary nest predators in our study area, matched both predictions. Furthermore, cryptic C. picta nests were victimized with lower frequency than more detectable C. serpentina nests, and nests of both species were more vulnerable in human-modified areas where opportunistic nest discovery is facilitated. Despite apparently being incidental, predation on nests of both species was intensive (57% for painted turtles, 84% for snapping turtles), and most depredations occurred within 1 day of nest establishment. By implication, predation need not be directed to affect prey demography, and factors influencing prey crypsis are drivers of the impact of incidental predation on prey. Our results also imply that efforts to conserve imperiled turtle populations in human-modified landscapes should include restoration of undisturbed conditions that are less likely to expose nests to incidental predators.
Whether anthropogenic mortality is additive or compensatory to natural mortality in animal populations has long been a question of theoretical and practical importance. Theoretically, under density-dependent conditions populations compensate for anthropogenic mortality through decreases in natural mortality and/or increases in productivity, but recent studies of large carnivores suggest that anthropogenic mortality can be fully additive to natural mortality and thereby constrain annual survival and population growth rate. Nevertheless, mechanisms underlying either compensatory or additive effects continue to be poorly understood. Using long-term data on a reintroduced population of the red wolf, we tested for evidence of additive vs. compensatory effects of anthropogenic mortality on annual survival and population growth rates, and the preservation and reproductive success of breeding pairs. We found that anthropogenic mortality had a strong additive effect on annual survival and population growth rate at low population density, though there was evidence for compensation in population growth at high density. When involving the death of a breeder, anthropogenic mortality was also additive to natural rates of breeding pair dissolution, resulting in a net decrease in the annual preservation of existing breeding pairs. However, though the disbanding of a pack following death of a breeder resulted in fewer recruits per litter relative to stable packs, there was no relationship between natural rates of pair dissolution and population growth rate at either high or low density. Thus we propose that short-term additive effects of anthropogenic mortality on population growth in the red wolf population at low density were primarily a result of direct mortality of adults rather than indirect socially-mediated effects resulting in reduced recruitment. Finally, we also demonstrate that per capita recruitment and the proportion of adults that became reproductive declined steeply with increasing population density, suggesting that there is potential for density-dependent compensation of anthropogenically-mediated population regulation.
Teachers, like healthcare workers, may be a strategic target for influenza immunization programs. Influenza vaccination is critical to protect both teachers and the students they come into contact with. This study assessed factors associated with seasonal and H1N1 influenza vaccine uptake among middle- and high-school teachers.
The evolutionary maintenance of cooperative breeding systems is thought to be a function of relative costs and benefits to breeders, helpers and juveniles. Beneficial effects of helpers on early-life survivorship and performance have been established in several species, but lifetime fitness benefits and/or costs of being helped remain unclear, particularly for long-lived species. We tested for effects of helpers on early- and late-life traits in a population of reintroduced red wolves (Canis rufus), while controlling for ecological variables such as home-range size and population density. We found that the presence of helpers in family groups was positively correlated with pup mass and survival at low population density, but negatively correlated with mass/size at high density, with no relation to survival. Interestingly, mass/size differences persisted into adulthood for both sexes. While the presence of helpers did not advance age at first reproduction for pups of either sex, females appeared to garner long-term fitness benefits from helpers through later age at last reproduction, longer reproductive lifespan and a greater number of lifetime reproductive events, which translated to higher lifetime reproductive success. In contrast, males with helpers exhibited diminished lifetime reproductive performance. Our findings suggest that while helper presence may have beneficial short-term effects in some ecological contexts, it may also incur long-term sex-dependent costs with critical ramifications for lifetime fitness.
Environmental perturbation can have a marked influence on abundance and trend in many animal populations, but information is scant on how numerical change relates to variability in density-dependent and density-independent processes acting on populations. Using breeding population estimates for 10 duck species from a survey area of approximately 2.2 million km2 in central North America (1955-2005), we compared population growth models and related parameters among species and across time. All duck species showed evidence of density-dependent growth, and the best-fit relationship between population growth (r(t)) and population size (N(t)) was linear or convex for all species. Density dependence and associated population parameters were not related to an index of species life history strategy. Reanalysis of segmented (1955-1979, 1980-2005) r(t) time series, where the truncation date coincided with a putative decline in wetland availability on breeding grounds, showed that density-dependent forces were weakened during the latter time segment. Additionally, in later years most populations experienced increased first-order autocorrelation in annual counts, decreased intrinsic growth rate, increased nonlinearity in the relationship between r(t) and N(t), increased equilibrium return time, and increased inter-species synchrony in numbers. Such changes were not closely related to species life history strategy or to shifts in mean population size, average trend, and estimated carrying capacity. We speculate that shifts in breeding duck habitat quality altered historical predator-prey dynamics in the system and thereby underlie observed dynamical changes. The paradoxical finding that population abundance and trend do not reveal shifts in population processes highlights the need to go beyond simple numerical assessment when evaluating population responses to environmental perturbation.
The potential role of prey refuges in stabilizing predator-prey interactions is of longstanding interest to ecologists, but mechanisms underlying a sigmoidal predator functional response remain to be fully elucidated. Authors have disagreed on whether the stabilizing effect of prey refuges is driven by prey- versus predator-centric mechanisms, but to date few studies have married predator and prey behavioural observations to distinguish between these possibilities. We used a dragonfly nymph-tadpole system to study the effect of a structural refuge (leaf litter) on the predators functional response, and paired this with behavioural observations of both predator and prey. Our study confirmed that hyperbolic (type II) functional responses were characteristic of foraging predators when structural cover was low or absent, whereas the functional response was sigmoidal (type III) when prey were provided with sufficient refuge. Prey activity and refuge use were density independent across cover treatments, thereby eliminating a prey-centric mechanism as being the genesis for density-dependent predation. In contrast, the predators pursuit length, capture success, and handling time were altered by the amount of structure implying that observed shifts in density-dependent predation likely were related to predator hunting efficiency. Our study advances current theory by revealing that despite fixed-proportion refuge use by prey, presence of a prey refuge can induce density-dependent predation through its effect on predator hunting strategy. Ultimately, responses of predator foraging decisions in response to changes in prey availability and search efficiency may be more important in producing density-dependent predation than the form of prey refuge use.
The long-standing view in ecology is that disparity in overall resource selection is the basis for identifying niche breadth patterns, with species having narrow selection being classified "specialists" and those with broader selection being "generalists". The standard model of niche breadth characterizes generalists and specialists as having comparable levels of overall total resource exploitation, with specialists exploiting resources at a higher level of performance over a narrower range of conditions. This view has gone largely unchallenged. An alternate model predicts total resource use being lower for the specialized species with both peaking at a comparable level of performance over a particular resource gradient. To reconcile the niche breadth paradigm we contrasted both models by developing range-wide species distribution models for Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis, and bobcat, Lynx rufus. Using a suite of environmental factors to define each species niche, we determined that Canada lynx demonstrated higher total performance over a restricted set of variables, specifically those related to snow and altitude, while bobcat had higher total performance across most variables. Unlike predictions generated by the standard model, bobcat level of exploitation was not compromised by the trade-off with peak performance, and Canada lynx were not restricted to exploiting a narrower range of conditions. Instead, the emergent pattern was that specialist species have a higher total resource utilization and peak performance value within a smaller number of resources or environmental axes than generalists. Our results also indicate that relative differences in niche breadth are strongly dependent on the variable under consideration, implying that the appropriate model describing niche breadth dynamics between specialists and generalists may be more complex than either the traditional heuristic or our modified version. Our results demonstrate a need to re-evaluate traditional, but largely untested, assumptions regarding resource utilization in species with broad and narrow niches.
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