Displaying all 11 publications

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  1. Schöner MG, Schöner CR, Simon R, Grafe TU, Puechmaille SJ, Ji LL, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2015 Jul 20;25(14):1911-6.
    PMID: 26166777 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.054
    Mutualisms between plants and animals shape the world's ecosystems. In such interactions, achieving contact with the partner species is imperative. Plants regularly advertise themselves with signals that specifically appeal to the partner's perceptual preferences. For example, many plants have acquired traits such as brightly colored, fragrant flowers that attract pollinators with visual, olfactory, or--in the case of a few bat-pollinated flowers--even acoustic stimuli in the form of echo-reflecting structures. However, acoustic attraction in plants is rare compared to other advertisements and has never been found outside the pollination context and only in the Neotropics. We hypothesized that this phenomenon is more widespread and more diverse as plant-bat interactions also occur in the Paleotropics. In Borneo, mutualistic bats fertilize a carnivorous pitcher plant while roosting in its pitchers. The pitcher's orifice features a prolonged concave structure, which we predicted to distinctively reflect the bats' echolocation calls for a wide range of angles. This structure should facilitate the location and identification of pitchers even within highly cluttered surroundings. Pitchers lacking this structure should be less attractive for the bats. Ensonifications of the pitchers around their orifice revealed that this structure indeed acts as a multidirectional ultrasound reflector. In behavioral experiments where bats were confronted with differently modified pitchers, the reflector's presence clearly facilitated the finding and identification of pitchers. These results suggest that plants have convergently acquired reflectors in the Paleotropics and the Neotropics to acoustically attract bats, albeit for completely different ecological reasons.
  2. Hornett EA, Charlat S, Wedell N, Jiggins CD, Hurst GD
    Curr. Biol., 2009 Oct 13;19(19):1628-31.
    PMID: 19747825 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.071
    Sex ratios are subject to distortion by a range of inherited parasites. Although it has been predicted that the presence of these elements will result in spatial and temporal variation in host sex ratio, testing of this hypothesis has been constrained by availability of historical data. We here determine spatial and temporal variation in sex ratio in a interaction between a butterfly and male-killing Wolbachia bacteria by assaying infection presence in museum specimens, and from this inferring infection prevalence and phenotype in historical populations. Comparison of contemporary and museum samples revealed profound change in four of five populations examined. Two populations become extremely female biased, associated with spread of the male-killer bacterium. One evolved from extremely female biased to a sex ratio near parity, resulting from the infection losing male-killing activity. The final population fluctuated widely in sex ratio, associated with varying frequency of the male killer. We conclude that asynchronous invasion and decline of sex-ratio distorters combines with the evolution of host suppressors to produce a rapidly changing mosaic of sex ratio. As a consequence, the reproductive ecology of the host species is likely to be fundamentally altered over short time scales. Further, the study demonstrates the utility of museum specimens as "silent witnesses" of evolutionary change.
  3. Meijaard E, Sherman J, Ancrenaz M, Wich SA, Santika T, Voigt M
    Curr. Biol., 2018 11 05;28(21):R1241-R1242.
    PMID: 30399343 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.052
    A recent report, published by the Government of Indonesia with support from the Food and Agricultural Organization and Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative, states that orangutan populations (Pongo spp.) have increased by more than 10% in Indonesia from 2015 to 2017, exceeding the government target of an annual 2% population increase [1]. This assessment is in strong contrast with recent publications that showed that the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus) lost more than 100,000 individuals in the past 16 years [2] and declined by at least 25% over the past 10 years [3]. Furthermore, recent work has also demonstrated that both Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) and the recently described Tapanuli orangutan (P. tapanuliensis) lost more than 60% of their key habitats between 1985 and 2007, and ongoing land use changes are expected to result in an 11-27% decline in their populations by 2020 [4,5]. Most scientific data indicate that the survival of these species continues to be seriously threatened by deforestation and killing [4,6,7] and thus all three are Critically Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.
  4. Gopalakrishnan S, Sinding MS, Ramos-Madrigal J, Niemann J, Samaniego Castruita JA, Vieira FG, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2018 11 05;28(21):3441-3449.e5.
    PMID: 30344120 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.08.041
    The evolutionary history of the wolf-like canids of the genus Canis has been heavily debated, especially regarding the number of distinct species and their relationships at the population and species level [1-6]. We assembled a dataset of 48 resequenced genomes spanning all members of the genus Canis except the black-backed and side-striped jackals, encompassing the global diversity of seven extant canid lineages. This includes eight new genomes, including the first resequenced Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), one dhole (Cuon alpinus), two East African hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus), two Eurasian golden jackals (Canis aureus), and two Middle Eastern gray wolves (Canis lupus). The relationships between the Ethiopian wolf, African golden wolf, and golden jackal were resolved. We highlight the role of interspecific hybridization in the evolution of this charismatic group. Specifically, we find gene flow between the ancestors of the dhole and African hunting dog and admixture between the gray wolf, coyote (Canis latrans), golden jackal, and African golden wolf. Additionally, we report gene flow from gray and Ethiopian wolves to the African golden wolf, suggesting that the African golden wolf originated through hybridization between these species. Finally, we hypothesize that coyotes and gray wolves carry genetic material derived from a "ghost" basal canid lineage.
  5. Nater A, Mattle-Greminger MP, Nurcahyo A, Nowak MG, de Manuel M, Desai T, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2017 Nov 20;27(22):3487-3498.e10.
    PMID: 29103940 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.047
    Six extant species of non-human great apes are currently recognized: Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, and chimpanzees and bonobos [1]. However, large gaps remain in our knowledge of fine-scale variation in hominoid morphology, behavior, and genetics, and aspects of great ape taxonomy remain in flux. This is particularly true for orangutans (genus: Pongo), the only Asian great apes and phylogenetically our most distant relatives among extant hominids [1]. Designation of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, P. pygmaeus (Linnaeus 1760) and P. abelii (Lesson 1827), as distinct species occurred in 2001 [1, 2]. Here, we show that an isolated population from Batang Toru, at the southernmost range limit of extant Sumatran orangutans south of Lake Toba, is distinct from other northern Sumatran and Bornean populations. By comparing cranio-mandibular and dental characters of an orangutan killed in a human-animal conflict to those of 33 adult male orangutans of a similar developmental stage, we found consistent differences between the Batang Toru individual and other extant Ponginae. Our analyses of 37 orangutan genomes provided a second line of evidence. Model-based approaches revealed that the deepest split in the evolutionary history of extant orangutans occurred ∼3.38 mya between the Batang Toru population and those to the north of Lake Toba, whereas both currently recognized species separated much later, about 674 kya. Our combined analyses support a new classification of orangutans into three extant species. The new species, Pongo tapanuliensis, encompasses the Batang Toru population, of which fewer than 800 individuals survive. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
  6. Voigt M, Wich SA, Ancrenaz M, Meijaard E, Abram N, Banes GL, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2018 03 05;28(5):761-769.e5.
    PMID: 29456144 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.053
    Unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is increasingly affecting the highly biodiverse tropics [1, 2]. Although rapid developments in remote sensing technology have permitted more precise estimates of land-cover change over large spatial scales [3-5], our knowledge about the effects of these changes on wildlife is much more sparse [6, 7]. Here we use field survey data, predictive density distribution modeling, and remote sensing to investigate the impact of resource use and land-use changes on the density distribution of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Our models indicate that between 1999 and 2015, half of the orangutan population was affected by logging, deforestation, or industrialized plantations. Although land clearance caused the most dramatic rates of decline, it accounted for only a small proportion of the total loss. A much larger number of orangutans were lost in selectively logged and primary forests, where rates of decline were less precipitous, but where far more orangutans are found. This suggests that further drivers, independent of land-use change, contribute to orangutan loss. This finding is consistent with studies reporting hunting as a major cause in orangutan decline [8-10]. Our predictions of orangutan abundance loss across Borneo suggest that the population decreased by more than 100,000 individuals, corroborating recent estimates of decline [11]. Practical solutions to prevent future orangutan decline can only be realized by addressing its complex causes in a holistic manner across political and societal sectors, such as in land-use planning, resource exploitation, infrastructure development, and education, and by increasing long-term sustainability [12]. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
  7. Pinotti T, Bergström A, Geppert M, Bawn M, Ohasi D, Shi W, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2019 01 07;29(1):149-157.e3.
    PMID: 30581024 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.029
    The Americas were the last inhabitable continents to be occupied by humans, with a growing multidisciplinary consensus for entry 15-25 thousand years ago (kya) from northeast Asia via the former Beringia land bridge [1-4]. Autosomal DNA analyses have dated the separation of Native American ancestors from the Asian gene pool to 23 kya or later [5, 6] and mtDNA analyses to ∼25 kya [7], followed by isolation ("Beringian Standstill" [8, 9]) for 2.4-9 ky and then a rapid expansion throughout the Americas. Here, we present a calibrated sequence-based analysis of 222 Native American and relevant Eurasian Y chromosomes (24 new) from haplogroups Q and C [10], with four major conclusions. First, we identify three to four independent lineages as autochthonous and likely founders: the major Q-M3 and rarer Q-CTS1780 present throughout the Americas, the very rare C3-MPB373 in South America, and possibly the C3-P39/Z30536 in North America. Second, from the divergence times and Eurasian/American distribution of lineages, we estimate a Beringian Standstill duration of 2.7 ky or 4.6 ky, according to alternative models, and entry south of the ice sheet after 19.5 kya. Third, we describe the star-like expansion of Q-M848 (within Q-M3) starting at 15 kya [11] in the Americas, followed by establishment of substantial spatial structure in South America by 12 kya. Fourth, the deep branches of the Q-CTS1780 lineage present at low frequencies throughout the Americas today [12] may reflect a separate out-of-Beringia dispersal after the melting of the glaciers at the end of the Pleistocene.
  8. Roth S, Balvín O, Siva-Jothy MT, Di Iorio O, Benda P, Calva O, et al.
    Curr. Biol., 2019 Jun 03;29(11):1847-1853.e4.
    PMID: 31104934 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.04.048
    All 100+ bedbug species (Cimicidae) are obligate blood-sucking parasites [1, 2]. In general, blood sucking (hematophagy) is thought to have evolved in generalist feeders adventitiously taking blood meals [3, 4], but those cimicid taxa currently considered ancestral are putative host specialists [1, 5]. Bats are believed to be the ancestral hosts of cimicids [1], but a cimicid fossil [6] predates the oldest known bat fossil [7] by >30 million years (Ma). The bedbugs that parasitize humans [1, 8] are host generalists, so their evolution from specialist ancestors is incompatible with the "resource efficiency" hypothesis and only partially consistent with the "oscillation" hypothesis [9-16]. Because quantifying host shift frequencies of hematophagous specialists and generalists may help to predict host associations when vertebrate ranges expand by climate change [17], livestock, and pet trade in general and because of the previously proposed role of human pre-history in parasite speciation [18-20], we constructed a fossil-dated, molecular phylogeny of the Cimicidae. This phylogeny places ancestral Cimicidae to 115 mya as hematophagous specialists with lineages that later frequently populated bat and bird lineages. We also found that the clades, including the two major current urban pests, Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus, separated 47 mya, rejecting the notion that the evolutionary trajectories of Homo caused their divergence [18-21]. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
  9. Majid A, Kruspe N
    Curr. Biol., 2018 02 05;28(3):409-413.e2.
    PMID: 29358070 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.12.014
    People struggle to name odors [1-4]. This has been attributed to a diminution of olfaction in trade-off to vision [5-10]. This presumption has been challenged recently by data from the hunter-gatherer Jahai who, unlike English speakers, find odors as easy to name as colors [4]. Is the superior olfactory performance among the Jahai because of their ecology (tropical rainforest), their language family (Aslian), or because of their subsistence (they are hunter-gatherers)? We provide novel evidence from the hunter-gatherer Semaq Beri and the non-hunter-gatherer (swidden-horticulturalist) Semelai that subsistence is the critical factor. Semaq Beri and Semelai speakers-who speak closely related languages and live in the tropical rainforest of the Malay Peninsula-took part in a controlled odor- and color-naming experiment. The swidden-horticulturalist Semelai found odors much more difficult to name than colors, replicating the typical Western finding. But for the hunter-gatherer Semaq Beri odor naming was as easy as color naming, suggesting that hunter-gatherer olfactory cognition is special.
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