Recent Submissions

  • Journal Article

    Variation and conservation implications of the effectiveness of anti-bear interventions 

    Khorozyan, Igor; Waltert, Matthias
    Scientific Reports 2020; 10(1)
    Human-bear conflicts triggered by nuisance behaviour in public places and damage to livestock, crops, beehives and trees are among the main threats to bear populations globally. The effectiveness of interventions used to minimize bear-caused damage is insufficiently known and comparative reviews are lacking. We conducted a meta-analysis of 77 cases from 48 publications and used the relative risk of damage to compare the effectiveness of non-invasive interventions, invasive management (translocations) and lethal control (shooting) against bears. We show that the most effective interventions are electric fences (95% confidence interval = 79.2–100% reduction in damage), calving control (100%) and livestock replacement (99.8%), but the latter two approaches were applied in only one case each and need more testing. Deterrents varied widely in their effectiveness (13.7–79.5%) and we recommend applying these during the peak periods of damage infliction. We found shooting (− 34.2 to 100%) to have a short-term positive effect with its effectiveness decreasing significantly and linearly over time. We did not find relationships between bear density and intervention effectiveness, possibly due to differences in spatial scales at which they were measured (large scales for densities and local fine scales for effectiveness). We appeal for more effectiveness studies and their scientific publishing in regard to under-represented conflict species and regions.
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  • Journal Article

    Multiple loci linked to inversions are associated with eye size variation in species of the Drosophila virilis phylad 

    Reis, Micael; Wiegleb, Gordon; Claude, Julien; Lata, Rodrigo; Horchler, Britta; Ha, Ngoc-Thuy; Reimer, Christian; Vieira, Cristina P.; Vieira, Jorge; Posnien, Nico
    Scientific Reports 2020; 10(1)
    The size and shape of organs is tightly controlled to achieve optimal function. Natural morphological variations often represent functional adaptations to an ever-changing environment. For instance, variation in head morphology is pervasive in insects and the underlying molecular basis is starting to be revealed in the Drosophila genus for species of the melanogaster group. However, it remains unclear whether similar diversifications are governed by similar or different molecular mechanisms over longer timescales. To address this issue, we used species of the virilis phylad because they have been diverging from D. melanogaster for at least 40 million years. Our comprehensive morphological survey revealed remarkable differences in eye size and head shape among these species with D. novamexicana having the smallest eyes and southern D. americana populations having the largest eyes. We show that the genetic architecture underlying eye size variation is complex with multiple associated genetic variants located on most chromosomes. Our genome wide association study (GWAS) strongly suggests that some of the putative causative variants are associated with the presence of inversions. Indeed, northern populations of D. americana share derived inversions with D. novamexicana and they show smaller eyes compared to southern ones. Intriguingly, we observed a significant enrichment of genes involved in eye development on the 4th chromosome after intersecting chromosomal regions associated with phenotypic differences with those showing high differentiation among D. americana populations. We propose that variants associated with chromosomal inversions contribute to both intra- and interspecific variation in eye size among species of the virilis phylad.
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  • Journal Article

    Linking human male vocal parameters to perceptions, body morphology, strength and hormonal profiles in contexts of sexual selection 

    Schild, Christoph; Aung, Toe; Kordsmeyer, Tobias L.; Cardenas, Rodrigo A.; Puts, David A.; Penke, Lars
    Scientific Reports 2020; 10(1)
    Sexual selection appears to have shaped the acoustic signals of diverse species, including humans. Deep, resonant vocalizations in particular may function in attracting mates and/or intimidating same-sex competitors. Evidence for these adaptive functions in human males derives predominantly from perception studies in which vocal acoustic parameters were manipulated using specialist software. This approach affords tight experimental control but provides little ecological validity, especially when the target acoustic parameters vary naturally with other parameters. Furthermore, such experimental studies provide no information about what acoustic variables indicate about the speaker—that is, why attention to vocal cues may be favored in intrasexual and intersexual contexts. Using voice recordings with high ecological validity from 160 male speakers and biomarkers of condition, including baseline cortisol and testosterone levels, body morphology and strength, we tested a series of pre-registered hypotheses relating to both perceptions and underlying condition of the speaker. We found negative curvilinear and negative linear relationships between male fundamental frequency (fo) and female perceptions of attractiveness and male perceptions of dominance. In addition, cortisol and testosterone negatively interacted in predicting fo, and strength and measures of body size negatively predicted formant frequencies (Pf). Meta-analyses of the present results and those from two previous samples confirmed that fonegatively predicted testosterone only among men with lower cortisol levels. This research offers empirical evidence of possible evolutionary functions for attention to men’s vocal characteristics in contexts of sexual selection.
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  • Journal Article

    The WD40-protein CFAP52/WDR16 is a centrosome/basal body protein and localizes to the manchette and the flagellum in male germ cells 

    Tapia Contreras, Constanza; Hoyer-Fender, Sigrid
    Scientific Reports 2020; 10(1)
    Development of spermatozoa requires remodelling and formation of particular structures. In elongating spermatids, the transient microtubular manchette contributes to the formation of the head–tail coupling apparatus (HTCA) and the sperm tail. The HTCA derives from the centrosome in that the proximal centriole inserts into the nuclear indentation and the distal centriole gives rise to the sperm flagellum. Although impairments in the formation of HTCA and sperm tail cause male infertility their molecular constituents are only partially known. The WD40-protein CFAP52 is implicated in motile cilia, but its relevance for male germ cell differentiation is not known. Here we show that CFAP52 is widespread expressed and localizes to a subset of microtubular structures. In male germ cells, CFAP52 is a component of the transient manchette and the sperm tail. However, expression of Cfap52 is not restricted to motile cilia-bearing cells. In NIH3T3 cells, CFAP52 localizes to the centrosome, the basal body, and the mitotic spindle poles, but not to the primary cilium. Our results demonstrate that CFAP52 is not restricted to motile cilia but instead most likely functions in constituting the centrosome/basal body matrix and the sperm tail.
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  • Journal Article

    Soil bacterial community structures in relation to different oil palm management practices 

    Berkelmann, Dirk; Schneider, Dominik; Hennings, Nina; Meryandini, Anja; Daniel, Rolf
    Scientific Data 2020; 7(1)
    We provide soil bacterial 16 S rRNA gene amplicon and geochemical data derived from an oil palm plantation management experiment. The experimental design covered two different intensities of fertilizer application and weeding practices. We sampled the topsoil of 80 plots in total and extracted DNA and RNA. 16 S rRNA gene-derived and transcript-derived amplicons were generated and sequenced to analyse community composition and beta-diversity. One year after establishing the experiment, statistically significant differences of bacterial diversity or community composition between different treatments at entire (DNA-derived) and active (RNA-derived) community level were not detected. The dominant taxa belonged to Acidobacteriota and Actinobacteriota and were more abundant in the active community compared to the entire community. Similarly, the abundant genera Candidatus Solibacter and Haliangium were more abundant at active community level. Furthermore, clustering corresponding to the different sampling site locations was detected. Beta-diversity did not change among the treatments at DNA and RNA level. This dataset is of interest for related studies on the effect of altered management practices on soilborne communities.
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  • Journal Article

    Word learning from a tablet app: Toddlers perform better in a passive context 

    Ackermann, Lena; Lo, Chang Huan; Mani, Nivedita; Mayor, Julien
    PLOS ONE 2020; 15(12)
    In recent years, the popularity of tablets has skyrocketed and there has been an explosive growth in apps designed for children. Howhever, many of these apps are released without tests for their effectiveness. This is worrying given that the factors influencing children’s learning from touchscreen devices need to be examined in detail. In particular, it has been suggested that children learn less from passive video viewing relative to equivalent live interaction, which would have implications for learning from such digital tools. However, this so-called video deficit may be reduced by allowing children greater influence over their learning environment. Across two touchscreen-based experiments, we examined whether 2- to 4-year-olds benefit from actively choosing what to learn more about in a digital word learning task. We designed a tablet study in which “active” participants were allowed to choose which objects they were taught the label of, while yoked “passive” participants were presented with the objects chosen by their active peers. We then examined recognition of the learned associations across different tasks. In Experiment 1, children in the passive condition outperformed those in the active condition (n = 130). While Experiment 2 replicated these findings in a new group of Malay-speaking children (n = 32), there were no differences in children’s learning or recognition of the novel word-object associations using a more implicit looking time measure. These results suggest that there may be performance costs associated with active tasks designed as in the current study, and at the very least, there may not always be systematic benefits associated with active learning in touchscreen-based word learning tasks. The current studies add to the evidence that educational apps need to be evaluated before release: While children might benefit from interactive apps under certain conditions, task design and requirements need to consider factors that may detract from successful performance.
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  • Journal Article

    Complete Genome of Roseobacter ponti DSM 106830T 

    Hollensteiner, Jacqueline; Schneider, Dominik; Poehlein, Anja; Daniel, Rolf
    Genome Biology and Evolution 2020; 12(7) p.1013-1018
    Members of the Roseobacter group are known for their different ecologically relevant metabolic traits and high abundance in many marine environments. This includes traits like carbon monoxide oxidation, sulfur oxidation, nitrogen oxidation, DMSP demethylation, denitrification, and production of bioactive compounds. Nevertheless, their role in the marine biogeochemical cycles remains to be elucidated. Roseobacter ponti DSM 106830T, also designated strain MM-7T (=KCTC 52469T =NBRC 112431T), is a novel type strain of the Roseobacter group, which was proposed as new Roseobacter species. It was isolated from seawater of the Yellow Sea in South Korea. We report the complete genome sequence of R. ponti DSM 106830T, which belongs to the family Rhodobacteraceae. The genome of R. ponti DSM 106830T comprises a single circular chromosome (3,861,689 bp) with a GC content of 60.52% and an additional circular plasmid (p1) of 100,942 bp with a GC content of 61.51%. The genome encodes 3,812 putative genes, including 3 rRNA, 42 tRNA, 1 tmRNA, and 3 ncRNA. The genome information was used to perform a phylogenetic analysis, which confirmed that the strain represents a new species. Moreover, the genome sequence enabled the investigation of the metabolic capabilities and versatility of R. ponti DSM 106830T. Finally, it provided insight into the high niche adaptation potential of Roseobacter group members.
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  • Journal Article

    Effects of wood hydraulic properties on water use and productivity of tropical rainforest trees 

    Kotowska, Martyna M.; Link, Roman M.; Röll, Alexander; Hertel, Dietrich; Hölscher, Dirk; Waite, Pierre-André; Moser, Gerald; Tjoa, Aiyen; Leuschner, Christoph; Schuldt, Bernhard
    Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 2021; 3
    The efficiency of the water transport system in trees sets physical limits to their productivity and water use. Although the coordination of carbon assimilation and hydraulic functions has long been documented, the mutual inter-relationships between wood anatomy, water use and productivity have not yet been jointly addressed in comprehensive field studies. Based on observational data from 99 Indonesian rainforest tree species from 37 families across 22 plots, we analyzed how wood anatomy and sap flux density relate to tree size and wood density, and tested their combined influence on aboveground biomass increment (ABI) and daily water use (DWU). Results from pairwise correlations were compared to the outcome of a structural equation model (SEM). Across species, we found a strong positive correlation between ABI and DWU. Wood hydraulic anatomy was more closely related to these indicators of plant performance than wood density. According to the SEM, the common effect of average tree size and sap flux density on the average stem increment and water use of a species was sufficient to fully explain the observed correlation between these variables. Notably, after controlling for average size, only a relatively small indirect effect of wood properties on stem increment and water use remained that was mediated by sap flux density, which was significantly higher for species with lighter and hydraulically more efficient wood. We conclude that wood hydraulic traits are mechanistically linked to water use and productivity via their influence on sap flow, but large parts of these commonly observed positive relationships can be attributed to confounding size effects.
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  • Journal Article

    Repeated convergent evolution of parthenogenesis in Acariformes (Acari) 

    Pachl, Patrick; Uusitalo, Matti; Scheu, Stefan; Schaefer, Ina; Maraun, Mark
    Ecology and Evolution 2020; 11(1) p.321-337
    The existence of old species‐rich parthenogenetic taxa is a conundrum in evolutionary biology. Such taxa point to ancient parthenogenetic radiations resulting in morphologically distinct species. Ancient parthenogenetic taxa have been proposed to exist in bdelloid rotifers, darwinulid ostracods, and in several taxa of acariform mites (Acariformes, Acari), especially in oribatid mites (Oribatida, Acari). Here, we investigate the diversification of Acariformes and their ancestral mode of reproduction using 18S rRNA. Because parthenogenetic taxa tend to be more frequent in phylogenetically old taxa of Acariformes, we sequenced a wide range of members of this taxon, including early‐derivative taxa of Prostigmata, Astigmata, Endeostigmata, and Oribatida. Ancestral character state reconstruction indicated that (a) Acariformes as well as Oribatida evolved from a sexual ancestor, (b) the primary mode of reproduction during evolution of Acariformes was sexual; however, species‐rich parthenogenetic taxa radiated independently at least four times (in Brachychthonioidea (Oribatida), Enarthronota (Oribatida), and twice in Nothrina (Oribatida), (c) parthenogenesis additionally evolved frequently in species‐poor taxa, for example, Tectocepheus, Oppiella, Rostrozetes, Limnozetes, and Atropacarus, and (d) sexual reproduction likely re‐evolved at least three times from species‐rich parthenogenetic clusters, in Crotonia (Nothrina), in Mesoplophora/Apoplophora (Mesoplophoridae, Enarthronota), and in Sphaerochthonius/Prototritia (Protoplophoridae, Enarthronota). We discuss possible reasons that favored the frequent diversification of parthenogenetic taxa including the continuous long‐term availability of dead organic matter resources as well as generalist feeding of species as indicated by natural variations in stable isotope ratios.
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  • Journal Article

    Breeding system of diploid sexuals within the Ranunculus auricomus complex and its role in a geographical parthenogenesis scenario 

    Karbstein, Kevin; Rahmsdorf, Elisabeth; Tomasello, Salvatore; Hodač, Ladislav; Hörandl, Elvira
    Ecology and Evolution 2020; 10(24) p.14435-14450
    The larger distribution area of asexuals compared with their sexual relatives in geographical parthenogenesis (GP) scenarios has been widely attributed to the advantages of uniparental reproduction and polyploidy. However, potential disadvantages of sexuals due to their breeding system have received little attention so far. Here, we study the breeding system of five narrowly distributed sexual lineages of Ranunculus notabilis s.l. (R. auricomus complex) and its effects on outcrossing, inbreeding, female fitness, and heterozygosity. We performed selfing and intra‐ and interlineage crossings by bagging 481 flowers (59 garden individuals) followed by germination experiments. We compared seed set and germination rates, and related them to genetic distance and genome‐wide heterozygosity (thousands of RADseq loci). Selfings (2.5%) unveiled a significantly lower seed set compared with intra‐ (69.0%) and interlineage crossings (69.5%). Seed set of intra‐ (65%) compared to interpopulation crossings (78%) was significantly lower. In contrast, all treatments showed comparable germination rates (32%–43%). Generalized linear regressions between seed set and genetic distance revealed positive relationships in general and between lineages, and a negative one within lineages. Seed set was the main decisive factor for female fitness. Germination rates were not related to genetic distance at any level, but were positively associated with heterozygosity in interlineage crossings. Experiments confirmed full crossability and predominant outcrossing among sexual R. notabilis s.l. lineages. However, up to 5% (outliers 15%–31%) of seeds were formed by selfing, probably due to semi‐self‐compatibility in a multi‐locus gametophytic SI system. Less seed set in intrapopulation crossings, and higher seed set and germination rates from crossings of genetically more distant and heterozygous lineages (interlineage) indicate negative inbreeding and positive outbreeding effects. In GP scenarios, sexual species with small and/or isolated populations can suffer from decreased female fitness due to their breeding system. This factor, among others, probably limits range expansion of sexuals.
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  • Journal Article

    In the shadows of snow leopards and the Himalayas: density and habitat selection of blue sheep in Manang, Nepal 

    Filla, Marc; Lama, Rinzin Phunjok; Ghale, Tashi Rapte; Signer, Johannes; Filla, Tim; Aryal, Raja Ram; Heurich, Marco; Waltert, Matthias; Balkenhol, Niko; Khorozyan, Igor
    Ecology and Evolution 2020; 11(1) p.108-122
    There is a growing agreement that conservation needs to be proactive and pay increased attention to common species and to the threats they face. The blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur) plays a key ecological role in sensitive high‐altitude ecosystems of Central Asia and is among the main prey species for the globally vulnerable snow leopard (Panthera uncia). As the blue sheep has been increasingly exposed to human pressures, it is vital to estimate its population dynamics, protect the key populations, identify important habitats, and secure a balance between conservation and local livelihoods. We conducted a study in Manang, Annapurna Conservation Area (Nepal), to survey blue sheep on 60 transects in spring (127.9 km) and 61 transects in autumn (134.7 km) of 2019, estimate their minimum densities from total counts, compare these densities with previous estimates, and assess blue sheep habitat selection by the application of generalized additive models (GAMs). Total counts yielded minimum density estimates of 6.0–7.7 and 6.9–7.8 individuals/km2 in spring and autumn, respectively, which are relatively high compared to other areas. Elevation and, to a lesser extent, land cover indicated by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) strongly affected habitat selection by blue sheep, whereas the effects of anthropogenic variables were insignificant. Animals were found mainly in habitats associated with grasslands and shrublands at elevations between 4,200 and 4,700 m. We show that the blue sheep population size in Manang has been largely maintained over the past three decades, indicating the success of the integrated conservation and development efforts in this area. Considering a strong dependence of snow leopards on blue sheep, these findings give hope for the long‐term conservation of this big cat in Manang. We suggest that long‐term population monitoring and a better understanding of blue sheep–livestock interactions are crucial to maintain healthy populations of blue sheep and, as a consequence, of snow leopards.
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  • Journal Article

    Life‐history dimensions indicate non‐random assembly processes in tropical island tree communities 

    Schrader, Julian; Craven, Dylan; Sattler, Cornelia; Cámara‐Leret, Rodrigo; Moeljono, Soetjipto; Kreft, Holger
    Ecography 2020; 44(3) p.469-480
    Community assembly processes on islands are often non‐random. The mechanisms behind non‐random assembly, however, are generally difficult to disentangle. Functional diversity in combination with a null model approach that accounts for differences in species richness among islands can be used to test for non‐random assembly processes, but has been applied rarely to island communities. By linking functional diversity of trees on islands with a null model approach, we bridge this gap and test for the role of stochastic versus non‐random trait‐mediated assembly processes in shaping communities by studying functional diversity–area relationships. We measured 11 plant functional traits linked to species dispersal and resource acquisition strategies of 57 tree species on 40 tropical islands. We grouped traits into four life‐history dimensions representing 1) dispersal ability, 2) growth strategy, 3) light acquisition and 4) nutrient acquisition. To test for non‐random assembly processes, we used null models that account for differences in species richness among the islands. Our results reveal contrasting responses of the four life‐history dimensions to island area. The dispersal and the growth strategy dimensions were underdispersed on smaller islands, whereas the light acquisition dimension was overdispersed. The nutrient acquisition dimension did not deviate from null expectations. With increasing island area, shifts in the strength of non‐random assembly processes increased the diversity of dispersal and acquisition strategies in island communities. Our results suggest that smaller islands may be more difficult to colonize and provide more limited niche space compared to larger islands, whose tree communities are likely determined by stochastic processes and higher niche diversity. Our null model approach highlights that analyzing the functional diversity of different life‐history dimensions provides a powerful framework to unravel community assembly processes on islands. These complex, non‐random assembly processes are masked by measures of functional diversity that do not account for differences in species richness between islands.
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  • Journal Article

    A global view on evidence‐based effectiveness of interventions used to protect livestock from wild cats 

    Khorozyan, Igor; Waltert, Matthias
    Conservation Science and Practice 2020; 3(2)
    Rapid population declines of wild cats (family Felidae) are often related to widespread conflicts with people over the livestock depredation they are causing. In spite of increasing literature on wild felids, there is no overview on the evidence‐based effectiveness of livestock protection interventions in reducing depredation inflicted by these animals. We collected and analyzed 92 cases from 57 publications describing the percentage of damage reduction from the application of 11 interventions to 10 felid species. We found that the effectiveness of interventions differed significantly between species. Interventions tested for cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) and snow leopards (Panthera uncia) were very effective, reducing damage by 70–100% due to species shyness, good fit of interventions to these species and local conditions, and strong social involvement. The most variable and often the lowest effectiveness of interventions was found for leopard (Panthera pardus), puma (Puma concolor) and caracal (Caracal caracal), which are more common and tolerant to humans. In other felids, interventions were generally effective, but some of them reportedly failed because of local contexts and intervention performance. Much more effort is required to invigorate the research of intervention effectiveness in little studied species and regions.
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  • Journal Article

    Establishment of the monomeric yellow-green fluorescent protein mNeonGreen for life cell imaging in mycelial fungi 

    Werner, Antonia; Otte, Kolja L.; Stahlhut, Gertrud; Pöggeler, Stefanie
    AMB Express 2020; 10(1) p.1-10: Art. 222
    The engineered monomeric version of the lancelet Branchiostoma lanceolatum fluorescent protein, mNeonGreen (mNG), has several positive characteristics, such as a very bright fluorescence, high photostability and fast maturation. These features make it a good candidate for the utilization as fluorescent tool for cell biology and biochemical applications in filamentous fungi. We report the generation of plasmids for the expression of the heterologous mNG gene under the control of an inducible and a constitutive promoter in the filamentous ascomycete Sordaria macrospora and display a stable expression of mNG in the cytoplasm. To demonstrate its usefulness for labeling of organelles, the peroxisomal targeting sequence serine-lysine-leucine (SKL) was fused to mNG. Expression of this tagged version led to protein import of mNG into peroxisomes and their bright fluorescence in life cell imaging.
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  • Journal Article

    Improvement on the genetic engineering of an invasive agricultural pest insect, the cherry vinegar fly, Drosophila suzukii 

    Ahmed, Hassan M. M.; Heese, Fabienne; Wimmer, Ernst A.
    BMC Genetics. 2020 Dec 18;21(Suppl 2):139
    Background The invasive fly Drosophila suzukii has become an established fruit pest in Europe, the USA, and South America with no effective and safe pest management. Genetic engineering enables the development of transgene-based novel genetic control strategies against insect pests and disease vectors. This, however, requires the establishment of reliable germline transformation techniques. Previous studies have shown that D. suzukii is amenable to transgenesis using the transposon-based vectors piggyBac and Minos, site-specific recombination (lox/Cre), and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. Results We experienced differences in the usability of piggyBac-based germline transformation in different strains of D. suzukii: we obtained no transgenic lines in a US strain, a single rare transgenic line in an Italian strain, but observed a reliable transformation rate of 2.5 to 11% in a strain from the French Alps. This difference in efficiency was confirmed by comparative examination of these three strains. In addition, we used an attP landing site line to successfully established φC31-integrase-mediated plasmid integration at a rate of 10% and generated landing site lines with two attP sequences to effectively perform φC31-Recombinase Mediated Cassette Exchange (φC31-RMCE) with 11% efficiency. Moreover, we isolated and used the endogenous regulatory regions of Ds nanos to express φC31 integrase maternally to generate self-docking lines for φC31-RMCE. Besides, we isolated the promoter/enhancer of Ds serendipity α to drive the heterologous tetracycline-controlled transactivator (tTA) during early embryonic development and generated a testes-specific tTA driver line using the endogenous beta-2-tubulin (β2t) promoter/enhancer. Conclusion Our results provide evidence that the D. suzukii strain AM derived from the French Alps is more suitable for piggyBac germline transformation than other strains. We demonstrated the feasibility of using φC31-RMCE in the cherry vinegar fly and generated a set of lines that can be used for highly efficient integration of larger constructs. The φC31-based integration will facilitate modification and stabilization of previously generated transgenic lines that carry at least one attP site in the transgene construction. An early embryo-specific and a spermatogenesis-specific driver line were generated for future use of the binary expression system tet-off to engineer tissue- and stage-specific effector gene expression for genetic pest control strategies.
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  • Journal Article

    Predicting Tree Sap Flux and Stomatal Conductance from Drone-Recorded Surface Temperatures in a Mixed Agroforestry System—A Machine Learning Approach 

    Ellsäßer, Florian; Röll, Alexander; Ahongshangbam, Joyson; Waite, Pierre-André; Hendrayanto; Schuldt, Bernhard; Hölscher, Dirk
    Remote Sensing 2020; 12(24) p.1-20: Art. 4070
    Plant transpiration is a key element in the hydrological cycle. Widely used methods for its assessment comprise sap flux techniques for whole-plant transpiration and porometry for leaf stomatal conductance. Recently emerging approaches based on surface temperatures and a wide range of machine learning techniques offer new possibilities to quantify transpiration. The focus of this study was to predict sap flux and leaf stomatal conductance based on drone-recorded and meteorological data and compare these predictions with in-situ measured transpiration. To build the prediction models, we applied classical statistical approaches and machine learning algorithms. The field work was conducted in an oil palm agroforest in lowland Sumatra. Random forest predictions yielded the highest congruence with measured sap flux (r$^2$ = 0.87 for trees and r$^2$ = 0.58 for palms) and confidence intervals for intercept and slope of a Passing-Bablok regression suggest interchangeability of the methods. Differences in model performance are indicated when predicting different tree species. Predictions for stomatal conductance were less congruent for all prediction methods, likely due to spatial and temporal offsets of the measurements. Overall, the applied drone and modelling scheme predicts whole-plant transpiration with high accuracy. We conclude that there is large potential in machine learning approaches for ecological applications such as predicting transpiration.
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  • Journal Article

    Current State and Drivers of Arable Plant Diversity in Conventionally Managed Farmland in Northwest Germany 

    Wietzke, Alexander; van Waveren, Clara-Sophie; Bergmeier, Erwin; Meyer, Stefan; Leuschner, Christoph
    Diversity 2020; 12(12) p.1-15: Art. 469
    Agricultural intensification has led to dramatic diversity losses and impoverishment of the arable vegetation in much of Europe. We analyzed the status of farmland phytodiversity and its determinants in 2016 in northwest Germany by surveying 200 conventionally managed fields cultivated with seven crops. The study was combined with an analysis of edaphic (soil yield potential), agronomic (crop cover, fertilizer and herbicide use) and landscape factors (adjacent habitats). In total, we recorded 150 non-crop plant species, many of them nitrophilous generalist species, while species of conservation value were almost completely absent. According to a post-hoc pairwise comparison of the mixed model results, the cultivation of rapeseed positively influenced non-crop plant species richness as compared to winter cereals (wheat, barley, rye and triticale; data pooled), maize or potato. The presence of grassy strips and ditch margins adjacent to fields increased plant richness at field edges presumably through spillover effects. In the field interiors, median values of non-crop plant richness and cover were only 2 species and 0.5% cover across all crops, and at the field edges 11 species and 4% cover. Agricultural intensification has wiped out non-crop plant life nearly completely from conventionally managed farmland, except for a narrow, floristically impoverished field edge strip.
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  • Journal Article

    Infection Patterns and Fitness Effects of Rickettsia and Sodalis Symbionts in the Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea 

    Sontowski, Rebekka; Gerth, Michael; Richter, Sandy; Gruppe, Axel; Schlegel, Martin; van Dam, Nicole M.; Bleidorn, Christoph
    Insects 2020; 11(12) p.1-17: Art. 867
    Endosymbionts are widely distributed in insects and can strongly affect their host ecology. The common green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is a neuropteran insect which is widely used in biological pest control. However, their endosymbionts and their interactions with their hosts have not been very well studied. Therefore, we screened for endosymbionts in natural and laboratory populations of Ch. carnea using diagnostic PCR amplicons. We found the endosymbiont Rickettsia to be very common in all screened natural and laboratory populations, while a hitherto uncharacterized Sodalis strain was found only in laboratory populations. By establishing lacewing lines with no, single or co-infections of Sodalis and Rickettsia, we found a high vertical transmission rate for both endosymbionts (>89%). However, we were only able to estimate these numbers for co-infected lacewings. Sodalis negatively affected the reproductive success in single and co-infected Ch. carnea, while Rickettsia showed no effect. We hypothesize that the fitness costs accrued by Sodalis infections might be more tolerable in the laboratory than in natural populations, as the latter are also prone to fluctuating environmental conditions and natural enemies. The economic and ecological importance of lacewings in biological pest control warrants a more profound understanding of its biology, which might be influenced by symbionts.
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  • Journal Article

    Stress-related changes in leukocyte profiles and telomere shortening in the shortest-lived tetrapod, Furcifer labordi 

    Eckhardt, Falk; Pauliny, Angela; Rollings, Nicky; Mutschmann, Frank; Olsson, Mats; Kraus, Cornelia; Kappeler, Peter M
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 2020; 20(1) p.1-11: Art. 160
    Abstract Background Life history theory predicts that during the lifespan of an organism, resources are allocated to either growth, somatic maintenance or reproduction. Resource allocation trade-offs determine the evolution and ecology of different life history strategies and define an organisms’ position along a fast–slow continuum in interspecific comparisons. Labord’s chameleon (Furcifer labordi) from the seasonal dry forests of Madagascar is the tetrapod species with the shortest reported lifespan (4–9 months). Previous investigations revealed that their lifespan is to some degree dependent on environmental factors, such as the amount of rainfall and the length of the vegetation period. However, the intrinsic mechanisms shaping such a fast life history remain unknown. Environmental stressors are known to increase the secretion of glucocorticoids in other vertebrates, which, in turn, can shorten telomeres via oxidative stress. To investigate to what extent age-related changes in these molecular and cellular mechanisms contribute to the relatively short lifetime of F. labordi, we assessed the effects of stressors indirectly via leukocyte profiles (H/L ratio) and quantified relative telomere length from blood samples in a wild population in Kirindy Forest. We compared our findings with the sympatric, but longer-lived sister species F. cf. nicosiai, which exhibit the same annual timing of reproductive events, and with wild-caught F. labordi that were singly housed under ambient conditions. Results We found that H/L ratios were consistently higher in wild F. labordi compared to F. cf. nicosiai. Moreover, F. labordi already exhibited relatively short telomeres during the mating season when they were 3–4 months old, and telomeres further shortened during their post-reproductive lives. At the beginning of their active season, telomere length was relatively longer in F. cf. nicosiai, but undergoing rapid shortening towards the southern winter, when both species gradually die off. Captive F. labordi showed comparatively longer lifespans and lower H/L ratios than their wild counterparts. Conclusion We suggest that environmental stress and the corresponding accelerated telomere attrition have profound effects on the lifespan of F. labordi in the wild, and identify physiological mechanisms potentially driving their relatively early senescence and mortality.
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  • Journal Article

    Insulin signaling represents a gating mechanism between different memory phases in Drosophila larvae 

    Eschment, Melanie; Franz, Hanna R.; Güllü, Nazlı; Hölscher, Luis G.; Huh, Ko-Eun; Widmann, Annekathrin
    PLOS Genetics 2020; 16(10) p.1-25: Art. e1009064
    The ability to learn new skills and to store them as memory entities is one of the most impressive features of higher evolved organisms. However, not all memories are created equal; some are short-lived forms, and some are longer lasting. Formation of the latter is energetically costly and by the reason of restricted availability of food or fluctuations in energy expanses, efficient metabolic homeostasis modulating different needs like survival, growth, reproduction, or investment in longer lasting memories is crucial. Whilst equipped with cellular and molecular pre-requisites for formation of a protein synthesis dependent long-term memory (LTM), its existence in the larval stage of Drosophila remains elusive. Considering it from the viewpoint that larval brain structures are completely rebuilt during metamorphosis, and that this process depends completely on accumulated energy stores formed during the larval stage, investing in LTM represents an unnecessary expenditure. However, as an alternative, Drosophila larvae are equipped with the capacity to form a protein synthesis independent so-called larval anaesthesia resistant memory (lARM), which is consolidated in terms of being insensitive to cold-shock treatments. Motivated by the fact that LTM formation causes an increase in energy uptake in Drosophila adults, we tested the idea of whether an energy surplus can induce the formation of LTM in the larval stage. Suprisingly, increasing the metabolic state by feeding Drosophila larvae the disaccharide sucrose directly before aversive olfactory conditioning led to the formation of a protein synthesis dependent longer lasting memory. Moreover, formation of this memory component is accompanied by the suppression of lARM. We ascertained that insulin receptors (InRs) expressed in the mushroom body Kenyon cells suppresses the formation of lARM and induces the formation of a protein synthesis dependent longer lasting memory in Drosophila larvae. Given the numerical simplicity of the larval nervous system this work offers a unique prospect to study the impact of insulin signaling on the formation of protein synthesis dependent memories on a molecular level.
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