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  1. Abstract

    Comparative studies, across and within taxa, have made important contributions to our understanding of the evolutionary processes that promote phenotypic diversity. Trait variation along geographic gradients provides a convenient heuristic for understanding what drives and maintains diversity. Intraspecific trait variation along latitudinal gradients is well‐known, but elevational variation in the same traits is rarely documented. Trait variation along continuous elevational gradients, however, provides compelling evidence that individuals within a breeding population may experience different selective pressures.

    Our objectives were to quantify variation in a suite of traits along a continuous elevational gradient, evaluate whether individuals in the population experience different selective pressures along that gradient and quantify variation in migratory tendency along that gradient.

    We examined variation in a suite of 14 life‐history, morphological and behavioural traits, including migratory tendency, of yellow‐eyed juncos along a continuous 1000‐m elevational gradient in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona.

    Many traits we examined varied along the elevational gradient. Nest survival and nestling growth rates increased, while breeding season length, renesting propensity and adult survival declined, with increasing elevation. We documented the migratory phenotype of juncos (partial altitudinal migrants) and show that individual migratory tendency is higher among females than males and increases with breeding elevation.

    Our data support the paradigm that variation in breeding season length is a major selective pressure driving life‐history variation along elevational gradients and that individuals breeding at high elevation pursue strategies that favour offspring quality over offspring quantity. Furthermore, a negative association between adult survival and breeding elevation and a positive association between nest survival and breeding elevation help explain both the downslope and reciprocal upslope seasonal migratory movements that characterize altitudinal migration in many birds. Our results demonstrate how detailed studies of intraspecific variation in suites of traits along environmental gradients can lend new insights into the evolutionary processes that promote diversification and speciation, the causes of migratory behaviour, and how animal populations will likely respond to climate change.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Animals rely on a balance of endogenous and exogenous sources of immunity to mitigate parasite attack. Understanding how environmental context affects that balance is increasingly urgent under rapid environmental change. In herbivores, immunity is determined, in part, by phytochemistry which is plastic in response to environmental conditions. Monarch butterfliesDanaus plexippus, consistently experience infection by a virulent parasiteOphryocystis elektroscirrha, and some medicinal milkweed (Asclepias) species, with high concentrations of toxic steroids (cardenolides), provide a potent source of exogenous immunity.

    We investigated plant‐mediated influences of elevated CO2(eCO2) on endogenous immune responses of monarch larvae to infection byO. elektroscirrha. Recently, transcriptomics have revealed that infection byO. elektroscirrhadoes not alter monarch immune gene regulation in larvae, corroborating that monarchs rely more on exogenous than endogenous immunity. However, monarchs feeding on medicinal milkweed grown under eCO2lose tolerance to the parasite, associated with changes in phytochemistry. Whether changes in milkweed phytochemistry induced by eCO2alter the balance between exogenous and endogenous sources of immunity remains unknown.

    We fed monarchs two species of milkweed;A. curassavica(medicinal) andA. incarnata(non‐medicinal) grown under ambient CO2(aCO2) or eCO2. We then measured endogenous immune responses (phenoloxidase activity, haemocyte concentration and melanization strength), along with foliar chemistry, to assess mechanisms of monarch immunity under future atmospheric conditions.

    The melanization response of late‐instar larvae was reduced on medicinal milkweed in comparison to non‐medicinal milkweed. Moreover, the endogenous immune responses of early‐instar larvae to infection byO. elektroscirrhawere generally lower in larvae reared on foliage from aCO2plants and higher in larvae reared on foliage from eCO2plants. When grown under eCO2, milkweed plants exhibited lower cardenolide concentrations, lower phytochemical diversity and lower nutritional quality (higher C:N ratios). Together, these results suggest that the loss of exogenous immunity from foliage under eCO2results in increased endogenous immune function.

    Animal populations face multiple threats induced by anthropogenic environmental change. Our results suggest that shifts in the balance between exogenous and endogenous sources of immunity to parasite attack may represent an underappreciated consequence of environmental change.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Ecological studies of global warming impacts have many constraints. Organisms are often exposed to higher temperatures for short periods of time, probably underestimating their ability to acclimate or adapt relative to slower but real rates of warming. Many studies also focus on a limited number of traits and miss the multifaceted effects that warming may have on organisms, from physiology to behaviour. Organisms exhibit different movement traits, some of which are primarily driven by metabolic processes and others by decision‐making, which should influence the extent to which temperature affects them.

    We collected snails from streams that have been differentially heated by geothermal activity for decades to determine how long‐term exposure to different temperatures affected their metabolism and movement. Additionally, we collected snails from a cold stream (5°C) and measured their metabolism and movement at higher temperatures (short‐term exposure). We used respirometry to measure metabolic rates and automated in situ image‐based tracking to quantify several movement traits from 5 to 21°C.

    Long‐term exposure to higher temperatures resulted in a greater thermal sensitivity of metabolic rate compared to snails exposed for short durations, highlighting the need for caution when conducting acute temperature exposures in global warming research. Average speed, which is largely driven by metabolism, also increased more with temperature for long‐term exposure compared to short‐term exposure. Movement traits we interpret as more decision‐based, such as time spent moving and trajectory shape, were less affected by temperature. Step length increased and step angle decreased at higher temperatures for both long‐ and short‐term exposure, resulting in overall straighter trajectories. The power‐law exponent of the step length distributions and fractal dimension of trajectories were independent of temperature, however, suggesting that snails retained the same movement strategy.

    The observed changes in snail movement at higher temperatures should lead to higher encounter rates and more efficient searching, providing a behavioural mechanism for stronger plant–herbivore interactions in warmer environments. Our research is among the first to show that temperature has contrasting effects on different movement traits, which may be determined by the metabolic contribution to those behaviours.

     
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