The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a focal species in game management, epidemiology and ornithology, but comparably little research has focused on the ecology of the migration seasons. We studied habitat use, time-budgets, home-range sizes, habitat selection, and movements based on spatial data collected with GPS devices attached to wild mallards trapped at an autumn stopover site in the Northwest European flyway. Sixteen individuals (13 males, 3 females) were followed for 15-38 days in October to December 2010. Forty-nine percent (SD?=?8.4%) of the ducks' total time, and 85% of the day-time (SD?=?28.3%), was spent at sheltered reefs and bays on the coast. Two ducks used ponds, rather than coast, as day-roosts instead. Mallards spent most of the night (76% of total time, SD?=?15.8%) on wetlands, mainly on alvar steppe, or in various flooded areas (e.g. coastal meadows). Crop fields with maize were also selectively utilized. Movements between roosting and foraging areas mainly took place at dawn and dusk, and the home-ranges observed in our study are among the largest ever documented for mallards (mean ?=?6,859 ha; SD?=?5,872 ha). This study provides insights into relatively unknown aspects of mallard ecology. The fact that autumn-staging migratory mallards have a well-developed diel activity pattern tightly linked to the use of specific habitats has implications for wetland management, hunting and conservation, as well as for the epidemiology of diseases shared between wildlife and domestic animals.
The African protected area (PA) network has the potential to act as a set of functionally interconnected patches that conserve meta-populations of mammal species, but individual PAs are vulnerable to habitat change which may disrupt connectivity and increase extinction risk. Individual PAs have different roles in maintaining connectivity, depending on their size and location. We measured their contribution to network connectivity (irreplaceability) for carnivores and ungulates and combined it with a measure of vulnerability based on a 30-year trend in remotely sensed vegetation cover (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). Highly irreplaceable PAs occurred mainly in southern and eastern Africa. Vegetation cover change was generally faster outside than inside PAs and particularly so in southern Africa. The extent of change increased with the distance from PAs. About 5% of highly irreplaceable PAs experienced a faster vegetation cover loss than their surroundings, thus requiring particular conservation attention. Our analysis identified PAs at risk whose isolation would disrupt the connectivity of the PA network for large mammals. This is an example of how ecological spatial modelling can be combined with large-scale remote sensing data to investigate how land cover change may affect ecological processes and species conservation.
Assessing and predicting ecosystem responses to global environmental change and its impacts on human well-being are high priority targets for the scientific community. The potential for synergies between remote sensing science and ecology, especially satellite remote sensing and conservation biology, has been highlighted by many in the past. Yet, the two research communities have only recently begun to coordinate their agendas. Such synchronization is the key to improving the potential for satellite data effectively to support future environmental management decision-making processes. With this themed issue, we aim to illustrate how integrating remote sensing into ecological research promotes a better understanding of the mechanisms shaping current changes in biodiversity patterns and improves conservation efforts. Added benefits include fostering innovation, generating new research directions in both disciplines and the development of new satellite remote sensing products.
Stable isotope and fatty acid signatures of biomaterials can provide important information about the dietary niche of animals. Stable isotope and fatty acid signatures differ between aquatic and terrestrial food webs, and therefore can be used to assess the aquatic and terrestrial contributions to the diets of species. We studied faecal samples of three co-occurring bat species with known differences in feeding preferences. The aim was to assess whether stable isotope and fatty acid signatures of faeces can be used to determine feeding preferences. We used bat faeces because they can be easily and non-invasively collected. We hypothesised that faeces stable isotope and fatty acid signatures will reveal the terrestrial, aquatic and mixed feeding niches of Myotis myotis, M. daubentonii, and M. mystacinus, respectively. As predicted, the faeces of M. myotis were characterized by higher ? (13)C values and higher concentrations of linoleic acid and total ?6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are typically higher in terrestrial food webs. The faeces of M. daubentonii had higher ? (15)? values and higher concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid and total ?3 PUFAs, characteristic features of aquatic systems. Myotis mystacinus faeces had intermediate ? (15)? values and concentrations of both types of fatty acids. Our results show that analysing stable isotope and/or fatty acid signatures of faeces provides a promising, non-invasive tool to study the feeding ecology of bats and to assess aquatic-terrestrial interactions.
Conservation of phylogenetic diversity allows maximising evolutionary information preserved within fauna and flora. The "EDGE of Existence" programme is the first institutional conservation initiative that prioritises species based on phylogenetic information. Species are ranked in two ways: one according to their evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) and second, by including IUCN extinction status, their evolutionary distinctiveness and global endangerment (EDGE). Here, we describe the global patterns in the spatial distribution of priority ED and EDGE species, in order to identify conservation areas for mammalian and amphibian communities. In addition, we investigate whether environmental conditions can predict the observed spatial pattern in ED and EDGE globally.
In the face of unprecedented global biodiversity loss, conservation planning must balance between refining and deepening knowledge versus acting on current information to preserve species and communities. Phylogenetic diversity (PD), a biodiversity measure that takes into account the evolutionary relationships between species, is arguably a more meaningful measure of biodiversity than species diversity, but cannot yet be applied to conservation planning for the majority of taxa for which phylogenetic trees have not yet been developed. Here, we investigate how the quality of data on the taxonomy and/or phylogeny of species affects the results of spatial conservation planning in terms of the representation of overall mammalian PD. The results show that the better the quality of the biodiversity data the better they can serve as a basis for conservation planning. However, decisions based on incomplete data are remarkably robust across different levels of degrading quality concerning the description of new species and the availability of phylogenetic information. Thus, given the level of urgency and the need for action, conservation planning can safely make use of the best available systematic data, limited as these data may be.
Documenting and exploring the patterns of diversity of life on Earth has always been a central theme in biology. Species richness despite being the most commonly used measure of diversity in macroecological studies suffers from not considering the evolutionary and ecological differences among species. Phylogenetic diversity (PD) and functional diversity (FD) have been proposed as alternative measures to overcome this limitation. Although species richness, PD and FD are closely related, their relationships have never been investigated on a global scale. Comparing PD and FD with species richness corroborated the general assumptions of surrogacy of the different diversity measures. However, the analysis of the residual variance suggested that the mismatches between the diversity measures are influenced by environmental conditions. PD increased relative to species richness with increasing mean annual temperature, whereas FD decreased with decreasing seasonality relative to PD. We also show that the tropical areas are characterized by a FD deficit, a phenomenon, that suggests that in tropical areas more species can be packed into the ecological space. We discuss potential mechanisms that could have resulted in the gradient of spatial mismatch observed in the different biodiversity measures and draw parallels to local scale studies. We conclude that the use of multiple diversity measures on a global scale can help to elucidate the relative importance of historical and ecological processes shaping the present gradients in mammalian diversity.
Mammals have incredible biological diversity, showing extreme flexibility in eco-morphology, physiology, life history and behaviour across their evolutionary history. Undoubtedly, mammals play an important role in ecosystems by providing essential services such as regulating insect populations, seed dispersal and pollination and act as indicators of general ecosystem health. However, the macroecological and macroevolutionary processes underpinning past and present biodiversity patterns are only beginning to be explored on a global scale. It is also particularly important, in the face of the global extinction crisis, to understand these processes in order to be able to use this knowledge to prevent future biodiversity loss and loss of ecosystem services. Unfortunately, efforts to understand mammalian biodiversity have been hampered by a lack of data. New data compilations on current species distributions, ecologies and evolutionary histories now allow an integrated approach to understand this biodiversity. We review and synthesize these new studies, exploring the past and present ecology and evolution of mammalian biodiversity, and use these findings to speculate about the mammals of our future.
How migration evolved represents one of the most poignant questions in evolutionary biology. While studies on the evolution of migration in birds are well represented in the literature, migration in bats has received relatively little attention. Yet, more than 30 species of bats are known to migrate annually from breeding to non-breeding locations. Our study is the first to test hypotheses on the evolutionary history of migration in bats using a phylogenetic framework.
Group foraging has been suggested as an important factor for the evolution of sociality. However, visual cues are predominantly used to gain information about group members foraging success in diurnally foraging animals such as birds, where group foraging has been studied most intensively. By contrast, nocturnal animals, such as bats, would have to rely on other cues or signals to coordinate foraging. We investigated the role of echolocation calls as inadvertently produced cues for social foraging in the insectivorous bat Noctilio albiventris. Females of this species live in small groups, forage over water bodies for swarming insects and have an extremely short daily activity period. We predicted and confirmed that (i) free-ranging bats are attracted by playbacks of echolocation calls produced during prey capture, and that (ii) bats of the same social unit forage together to benefit from passive information transfer via the change in group members echolocation calls upon finding prey. Network analysis of high-resolution automated radio telemetry confirmed that group members flew within the predicted maximum hearing distance 94+/-6 per cent of the time. Thus, echolocation calls also serve as intraspecific communication cues. Sociality appears to allow for more effective group foraging strategies via eavesdropping on acoustical cues of group members in nocturnal mammals.
Comparative studies of brain size have a long history and contributed much to our understanding of the evolution and function of the brain and its parts. Recently, bats have been used increasingly as model organisms for such studies because of their large number of species, high diversity of life-history strategies, and a comparatively detailed knowledge of their neuroanatomy. Here, we draw attention to inherent problems of comparative brain size studies, highlighting limitations but also suggesting alternative approaches. We argue that the complexity and diversity of neurological tasks that the brain and its functional regions (subdivisions) must solve cannot be explained by a single or few variables representing selective pressures. Using an example we show that by adding a single relevant variable, morphological adaptation to foraging strategy, to a previous analysis a correlation between brain and testes mass disappears completely and changes entirely the interpretation of the study. Future studies should not only look for novel determinants of brain size but also include known correlates in order to add to our current knowledge. We believe that comparisons at more detailed anatomical, taxonomic, and geographical levels will continue to contribute to our understanding of the function and evolution of mammalian brains.
Variation in relative brain size is commonly interpreted as the result of selection on neuronal capacity. However, this approach ignores that relative brain size is also linked to another highly adaptive variable: body size. Considering that one-way tradeoff mechanisms are unlikely to provide satisfactory evolutionary explanations, we introduce an analytical framework that describes and quantifies all possible evolutionary scenarios between two traits. To investigate the effects of body mass changes on the interpretation of relative brain size evolution, we analyze three mammalian orders that are expected to be subject to different selective pressures on body size due to differences in locomotor adaptation: bats (powered flight), primates (primarily arboreal), and carnivorans (primarily terrestrial). We quantify rates of brain and body mass changes along individual branches of phylogenetic trees using an adaptive peak model of evolution. We find that the magnitude and variance of the level of integration of brain and body mass rates, and the subsequent relative influence of either brain or body size evolution on the brain-body relationship, differ significantly between orders and subgroups within orders. Importantly, we find that variation in brain-body relationships was driven primarily by variability in body mass. Our approach allows a more detailed interpretation of correlated trait evolution and variation in the underlying evolutionary pathways. Results demonstrate that a principal focus on interpreting relative brain size evolution as selection on neuronal capacity confounds the effects of body mass changes, thereby hiding important aspects that may contribute to explaining animal diversity.
The amphibian decline and extinction crisis demands urgent action to prevent further large numbers of species extinctions. Lists of priority species for conservation, based on a combination of species threat status and unique contribution to phylogenetic diversity, are one tool for the direction and catalyzation of conservation action. We describe the construction of a near-complete species-level phylogeny of 5713 amphibian species, which we use to create a list of evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species (EDGE list) for the entire class Amphibia. We present sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our priority list to uncertainty in species phylogenetic position and threat status. We find that both sources of uncertainty have only minor impacts on our top 100 list of priority species, indicating the robustness of the approach. By contrast, our analyses suggest that a large number of Data Deficient species are likely to be high priorities for conservation action from the perspective of their contribution to the evolutionary history.
Predicting the consequences of climate change is a major challenge in ecology and wildlife management. While the impact of changes in climatic conditions on distribution ranges has been documented for many organisms, the consequences of changes in resource dynamics for species overall performance have seldom been investigated. This study addresses this gap by identifying the factors shaping the reproductive synchrony of ungulates. In temporally-variable environments, reproductive phenology of individuals is a key determinant of fitness, with the timing of reproduction affecting their reproductive output and future performance. We used a satellite-based index of resource availability to explore how the level of seasonality and inter-annual variability in resource dynamics affect birth season length of ungulate populations. Contrary to what was previously thought, we found that both the degree of seasonal fluctuation in resource dynamics and inter-annual changes in resource availability influence the degree of birth synchrony within wild ungulate populations. Our results highlight how conclusions from previous interspecific analyses, which did not consider the existence of shared life-history among species, should be treated with caution. They also support the existence of a multi-faceted link between temporal variation in resource availability and breeding synchrony in terrestrial mammals, and increase our understanding of the mechanisms shaping reproductive synchrony in large herbivores, thus enhancing our ability to predict the potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
1.?The recently developed Brownian bridge movement model (BBMM) has advantages over traditional methods because it quantifies the utilization distribution of an animal based on its movement path rather than individual points and accounts for temporal autocorrelation and high data volumes. However, the BBMM assumes unrealistic homogeneous movement behaviour across all data. 2.?Accurate quantification of the utilization distribution is important for identifying the way animals use the landscape. 3.?We improve the BBMM by allowing for changes in behaviour, using likelihood statistics to determine change points along the animals movement path. 4.?This novel extension, outperforms the current BBMM as indicated by simulations and examples of a territorial mammal and a migratory bird. The unique ability of our model to work with tracks that are not sampled regularly is especially important for GPS tags that have frequent failed fixes or dynamic sampling schedules. Moreover, our model extension provides a useful one-dimensional measure of behavioural change along animal tracks. 5.?This new method provides a more accurate utilization distribution that better describes the space use of realistic, behaviourally heterogeneous tracks.
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