Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences - Journal Articles

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    Horizontal viewsheds of large herbivores as a function of woodland structure
    (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2023-11-09) Gresham, Amy; Healey, John R.; Eichhorn, Markus P.; Barton, Owain; Smith, Andrew R.; Shannon, Graeme; Natural Environment Research Council; Llywodraeth Cymru; European Regional Development Fund
    There is great potential for the use of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to quantify aspects of habitat structure in the study of animal ecology and behaviour. Viewsheds—the area visible from a given position—influence an animal's perception of risk and ability to respond to potential danger. The management and conservation of large herbivores and their habitats can benefit greatly from understanding how vegetation structure shapes viewsheds and influences animal activity patterns and foraging behaviour. This study aimed to identify how woodland understory structure influenced horizontal viewsheds at deer eye height. Mobile TLS was used in August 2020 to quantify horizontal visibility—in the form of Viewshed Coefficients (VC)—and understory leaf area index (LAI) of 71 circular sample plots (15-m radius) across 10 woodland sites in North Wales (UK) where fallow deer (Dama dama) are present. The plots were also surveyed in summer for woody plant size structure, stem density and bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.). Eight plots were re-scanned twice in winter to compare seasonal VC values and assess scan consistency. Sample plots with higher densities of small stems had significantly reduced VC 1 m from the ground. Other stem size classes, mean percentage bramble cover and understory LAI did not significantly affect VC. There was no difference in VC between summer and winter scans, or between repeated winter scans. The density of small stems influenced viewsheds at deer eye height and may alter behavioural responses to perceived risk. This study demonstrates how TLS technology can be applied to address questions in large herbivore ecology and conservation.
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    Infection by the castrating parasitic nematode Sphaerularia bombi changes gene expression in Bombus terrestris bumblebee queens
    (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2019-09-30) Colgan, T. J.; Carolan, J. C.; Sumner, S.; Blaxter, M. L.; Brown, M. J. F.; Science Foundation Ireland
    Parasitism can result in dramatic changes in host phenotype, which are themselves underpinned by genes and their expression. Understanding how hosts respond at the molecular level to parasites can therefore reveal the molecular architecture of an altered host phenotype. The entomoparasitic nematode Sphaerularia bombi is a parasite of bumblebee (Bombus) hosts where it induces complex behavioural changes and host castration. To examine this interaction at the molecular level, we performed genome-wide transcriptional profiling using RNA-Sequencing (RNA-Seq) of S. bombi-infected Bombus terrestris queens at two critical time-points: during and just after overwintering diapause. We found that infection by S. bombi affects the transcription of genes underlying host biological processes associated with energy usage, translation, and circadian rhythm. We also found that the parasite affects the expression of immune genes, including members of the Toll signalling pathway providing evidence for a novel interaction between the parasite and the host immune response. Taken together, our results identify host biological processes and genes affected by an entomoparasitic nematode providing the first steps towards a molecular understanding of this ecologically important host–parasite interaction.
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    Microplastics in grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) intestines: Are they associated with parasite aggregations?
    (Elsevier Ltd., 2019-06-28) Hernandez-Milian, G.; Lusher, A.; MacGabban, S.; Rogan, Emer; Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Ireland; Higher Education Authority
    Between 2012 and 2015, 13 grey seals were recovered from trammel nets targeting monkfish and rays off the south coast of Ireland. Incidence and distribution of microplastics were investigated along the intestines of bycaught seals. No macrodebris items were found, whereas microplastics were detected in all seals. A total of 363 microplastics items were identified (85% fibers, 14% fragments, 1% films). Estimation of microplastic ingestion based on prey ingestion (245 particles) was lower than the observed data. Acantocephala parasites (n = 1543) were found in 12 seals, with an average of 74.5 ± 67.7 parasites per seal. Distribution of microplastics varied between seals, although microplastics tended to accumulate in areas where more parasites were aggregated; however, there was no significant relationship between the number of parasites and microplastics was found. Seals recovered from nets appear to be a good source to monitor the incidence of microplastic pollution within the coastal food webs.
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    Artificial selection for reversal learning reveals limited repeatability and no heritability of cognitive flexibility in great tits (Parus major)
    (The Royal Society, 2023-07-19) van den Heuvel, Krista; Quinn, John L.; Kotrschal, Alexander; van Oers, Kees
    Cognitive flexibility controls how animals respond to changing environmental conditions. Individuals within species vary considerably in cognitive flexibility but the micro-evolutionary potential in animal populations remains enigmatic. One prerequisite for cognitive flexibility to be able to evolve is consistent and heritable among-individual variation. Here we determine the repeatability and heritability of cognitive flexibility among great tits (Parus major) by performing an artificial selection experiment on reversal learning performance using a spatial learning paradigm over three generations. We found low, yet significant, repeatability (R = 0.15) of reversal learning performance. Our artificial selection experiment showed no evidence for narrow-sense heritability of associative or reversal learning, while we confirmed the heritability of exploratory behaviour. We observed a phenotypic, but no genetic, correlation between associative and reversal learning, showing the importance of prior information on reversal learning. We found no correlation between cognitive and personality traits. Our findings emphasize that cognitive flexibility is a multi-faceted trait that is affected by memory and prior experience, making it challenging to retrieve reliable values of temporal consistency and assess the contribution of additive genetic variation. Future studies need to identify what cognitive components underlie variation in reversal learning and study their between-individual and additive genetic components.
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    Strike-slip tectonics and granite petrogenesis
    (American Geophysical Union, 1992-10) Hutton, D.H.W.; Reavy, R. John
    Transpression is a process that thickens the crust and therefore in obliquely convergent orogens as in normally convergent orogens there is the potential to generate granitic melts. Individual transcurrent shear zones may not only control the ascent paths, siting, and emplacement mechanisms of plutons, but they may also cause the genesis of the granitoids themselves. Two contrasting situations are examined. In the Hercynian shear zones of Iberia, thickening together with hydrous fluxing along shear zones created intracrustal wet melting of fertile Gondwanan sediments to produce syntectonic granites. In the northern part of the British Caledonides, the association of compositionally expanded granitoids with a major mantle component and transcurrent shear zones may be explained by melting of continental crust at the lower limits of crustal transpressional faults detaching into the Moho.