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Journal: Die Naturwissenschaften


Morphological symmetry is a correlate of fitness-related traits or even a direct target of mate choice in a variety of taxa. In these taxa, when females discriminate among potential mates, increased selection on males should reduce fluctuating asymmetry (FA). Hybrid populations of the swordtails Xiphophorus birchmanni and Xiphophorus malinche vary from panmictic (unstructured) to highly structured, in which reproductive isolation is maintained among hybrids and parental species. We predicted that FA in flanking vertical bars used in sexual signalling should be lower in structured populations, where non-random mating patterns are observed. FA in vertical bars was markedly lower in structured populations than in parental and unstructured hybrid populations. There was no difference in FA between parentals and hybrids, suggesting that hybridisation does not directly affect FA. Rather, variation in FA likely results from contrasting mating patterns in unstructured and structured populations.

Concepts: Natural selection, Reproduction, Gender, Sex, Asymmetry, Green swordtail, Xiphophorus, Southern platyfish


Bravoceratops polyphemus gen. et sp. nov. is a large chasmosaurine ceratopsid from the lowermost part of the Javelina Formation (early Maastrichtian) of Big Bend National Park, TX, USA. B. polyphemus has a distinctive narrow snout, a long fenestrate frill, and a fan-shaped median parietal bar with a midline epiparietal on its posterior margin, as well as a symmetrical depression on its dorsal surface at the nexus of the parietal rami. This depression is interpreted to be the attachment point for a second midline epiparietal. This parietal morphology is distinct from that exhibited by Anchiceratops or Pentaceratops. The posterior midline epiparietal in B. polyphemus and its bifurcated quadratojugal-squamosal joint are features shared with the most derived chasmosaurines, Torosaurus and Triceratops. The combination of primitive and derived traits exhibited by B. polyphemus, and its stratigraphic position, is compatible with the gradual transition from basal, to intermediate, to derived chasmosaurines observed throughout the western interior of North America, and with phylogenetic analysis, which suggests that Bravoceratops may be closely related to Coahuilaceratops.

Concepts: United States, Computational phylogenetics, Texas, Dinosaur, National Park Service, Triceratops, Ceratopsidae, Ceratopsia


Male adult butterflies of many species have characteristic odors originating from the disseminating organs known as androconia. Despite the fact that androconia exist in several species, there have been few investigations on adult scents from the lycaenid species. Celastrina argiolus ladonides (Lycaenidae) is a common species in Eurasia. We have reported that male adults of this species emit a faint odor, and the major components causing this odor have been newly found in the Insecta. By using field-caught individuals, we determined the chemical nature and location of this odor in the butterfly. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses revealed that two lactone compounds, lavender lactone and δ-decalactone, are present in the extracts of males but absent in those of the females. On an average, approximately 50 ng of each compound was found per male. Chiral GC analyses performed using enantiomerically pure standards revealed that the natural lavender lactone was a mixture of two enantiomers with an R/S ratio of 32:68, whereas the natural δ-decalactone contained only the R-enantiomer. When the analyses were conducted using different parts-forewings, hindwings, and body-of three males, the lactones were more abundantly found on the forewings and hindwings than on the body. Microscopic observation of the wings demonstrated that battledore scales known as androconia are scattered on the upper surface of both the wings of C. argiolus ladonides males. These results indicate that the specialized scales on the wings of males serve as scent-disseminating organs.

Concepts: Insect, Olfaction, Chemical compound, Odor, Lepidoptera, Aroma compound, Butterfly, Lycaenidae


Tail autotomy incurs energetic costs, and thus, a trade-off in resource allocation may lead to compromised immunity in lizards. We tested the hypothesis that tailless lizards will favor constitutive innate immunity responses over an energetically costly inflammatory response. The influence of fasting and colorful ornamentation was also investigated. We experimentally induced tail autotomy in the lizard Eutropis multifasciata and found that inflammation was suppressed by tail loss, but not further affected by fasting; the suppressive effect of colorful ornamentation was manifested only in males, but not in females. Constitutive innate immunity was not affected by any of these factors. As expected, only costly inflammation was compromised, and a less expensive constitutive innate immunity might be favored as a competent first-line defense during energetically demanding periods. After considering conventional trade-offs among tail regeneration and reproduction, further extending these studies to incorporate disease risk and how this influences escape responses to predators and future reproduction would make worthwhile studies.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Innate immune system, Lizard


Ability to discriminate familiar conspecifics is an essential competence in any group-living species, ensuring socio-spatial cohesion, but in many animals, such as mustelids, the relative importance of the different communicative modalities for discrimination is poorly understood. In otters, there is evidence of intra-specific variation in physical appearance and in feces chemical profile, but the potential for acoustic identity coding as well as for identity decoding in visual, acoustic and olfactive domains remains unexplored. We investigated the acoustic structure of contact calls in five captive groups of small-clawed otters and found that it is possible to reliably assign one particular call to a given adult male caller. Females discriminated between familiar and unfamiliar adult males based on their sound (playback) and smell (feces) but not based on their picture, suggesting abilities to memorize and use acoustic and olfactive signatures in their daily social life.

Concepts: Male, Gender, Discrimination, Racism, Otters, Adultism, Aonyx, Oriental Small-clawed Otter


Successful invaders often become established in new ranges by outcompeting native species. The “evolution of increased competitive ability” hypothesis predicts that invasive species are subjected to less predation and parasitization than sympatric native species, and thus can allocate resources from defence and immunity to growth and fecundity, thereby achieving higher fitness. In this study, we examined whether American invasive Polistes dominula paper wasps have reduced immunocompetence. To explore this scenario, we tested their susceptibility towards parasites and pathogens at both the individual (immune defence) and colony levels, i.e. hygienic behaviour (removal of diseased individuals by nestmates). First, we examined the response to the specific coevolved parasite Xenos vesparum (lost after invasion) in terms of individual host susceptibility and hygienic behaviour. Second, we explored the response against general pathogens by quantifying the bacterial clearance in individual wasps after a challenge with Escherichia coli and hygienic behaviour after a challenge with the fungus Beauveria bassiana. Our results show that American invasive P. dominula have a higher response against X. vesparum at the colony level, but at the individual level their susceptibility is not significantly different from conspecifics of the native range. On the other hand, invasive P. dominula display lower response after a challenge with general pathogens at both the individual and colony levels. While supporting the hypothesis of a reduction of immunocompetence towards general pathogens in invasive species, these findings also suggest that the response against coevolved parasites might follow different evolutionary pathways which are not always easily predictable.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Evolution, Fungus, Wasp, Polistinae, Paper wasp, Polistes


Antibacterial properties of honey largely depend on the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which is generated by glucose oxidase (GOX)-mediated conversion of glucose in diluted honey. However, honeys exhibit considerable variation in their antibacterial activity. Therefore, the aim of the study was to identify the mechanism behind the variation in this activity and in the H2O2 content in honeys associated with the role of GOX in this process. Immunoblots and in situ hybridization analyses demonstrated that gox is solely expressed in the hypopharyngeal glands of worker bees performing various tasks and not in other glands or tissues. Real-time PCR with reference genes selected for worker heads shows that the gox expression progressively increases with ageing of the youngest bees and nurses and reached the highest values in processor bees. Immunoblot analysis of honey samples revealed that GOX is a regular honey component but its content significantly varied among honeys. Neither botanical source nor geographical origin of honeys affected the level of GOX suggesting that some other factors such as honeybee nutrition and/or genetic/epigenetic factors may take part in the observed variation. A strong correlation was found between the content of GOX and the level of generated H2O2 in honeys except honeydew honeys. Total antibacterial activity of most honey samples against Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolate significantly correlated with the H2O2 content. These results demonstrate that the level of GOX can significantly affect the total antibacterial activity of honey. They also support an idea that breeding of novel honeybee lines expressing higher amounts of GOX could help to increase the antibacterial efficacy of the hypopharyngeal gland secretion that could have positive influence on a resistance of colonies against bacterial pathogens.

Concepts: Bacteria, Insect, Hydrogen peroxide, Honey bee, Beekeeping, Gland, Honey, Worker bee


Habitat fragmentation and degradation are important biodiversity change drivers worldwide. Their effects have been described for many animal groups, but little is known about marsupials. We conducted a meta-analysis aiming to evaluate the actual effects of habitat fragmentation and degradation on forest marsupials. From a literature survey, we obtained 85 case studies reporting disturbance comparisons. We found a negative overall effect, as well as a negative effect for habitat fragmentation, but not for habitat degradation. Marsupials from Oceania were negatively affected by habitat disturbance, whereas there was no effect for those from South America. Arboreal marsupials were negatively affected, whereas terrestrial marsupials did not. Species from the families Dasyuridae (Antechinus spp.) and Microbiotheriidae (Dromiciops gliroides) showed to be sensitive to habitat disturbance.

Concepts: Effect, Affect, Mammal, Habitats, Marsupial, Habitat fragmentation, Monito del Monte, Microbiotheria


Although polygamy is common in insects, its extent varies enormously among natural populations. Mating systems influence the evolution of reproductive traits and the difference in extent of polygamy between males and females may be a key factor in determining traits which come under the influence of sexual selection. Fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster are promiscuous as both males and females mate with multiple partners. Mating has severe consequences on the physiology and behaviour of flies, and it affects their activity/rest rhythm in a sex-specific manner. In this study, we attempted to discern the effects of mating with multiple partners as opposed to a single partner, or of remaining unmated, on the activity/rest rhythm of flies under cyclic semi-natural (SN) and constant dark (DD) conditions. The results revealed that while evening activity of mated flies was significantly reduced compared to virgins, polygamous males showed a more severe reduction compared to monogamous males. In contrast, though mated females showed reduction in evening activity compared to virgins, activity levels were not different between polygamous and monogamous females. Although there was no detectable effect of mating on clock period, power of the activity/rest rhythm was significantly reduced in mated females with no difference seen between polygamous and monogamous individuals. These results suggest that courtship motivation, represented by evening activity, is successively reduced in males due to mating with one or more partners, while in females, it does not depend on the number of mating partners. Based on these results we conclude that polygamy affects the activity/rest rhythm of fruit flies D. melanogaster in a sex-dependent manner.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Insect, Sexual dimorphism, Sex, Monogamy, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila


Reproduction-related behaviours are key components determining individual fitness. Many behavioural traits are linked, and such trait associations often affect fitness. Here, we combine behavioural and physiological data during two critical time points of founding queens (early and late nest-founding stage) in the claustral ant Lasius flavus to assess how these factors affect their initial productivity. We show that most behavioural traits, except brood care behaviour, are plastic during queen development and demonstrate that there are alternative behavioural pathways to achieve high productivity under standardised conditions. These results indicate that queens can utilise multiple behavioural trait combinations to maximise reproductive output at the earliest, and arguably most critical, time of colony foundation.

Concepts: Psychology, Behavior, Human behavior, Evolutionary physiology, Behavioural sciences