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  1. Traits for prey acquisition form the phenotypic interface of predator–prey interactions. In venomous predators, morphological variation in venom delivery apparatus like fangs and stingers may be optimized for dispatching prey. Here, we determine how a single dimension of venom injection systems evolves in response to variation in the size, climatic conditions and dietary ecology of viperid snakes. We measured fang length in more than 1900 museum specimens representing 199 viper species (55% of recognized species). We find both phylogenetic signal and within-clade variation in relative fang length across vipers suggesting both general taxonomic trends and potential adaptive divergence in fang length. We recover positive evolutionary allometry and little static allometry in fang length. Proportionally longer fangs have evolved in larger species, which may facilitate venom injection in more voluminous prey. Finally, we leverage climatic and diet data to assess the global correlates of fang length. We find that models of fang length evolution are improved through the inclusion of both temperature and diet, particularly the extent to which diets are mammal-heavy diets. These findings demonstrate how adaptive variation can emerge among components of complex prey capture systems.
  2. Abstract

    Successful management of fire‐prone woody ecosystems is challenging and requires knowledge of the spatial arrangement of the trees and how the tree distribution patterns influence the nature and consequences of subsequent fires.

    In open tree landscapes, trees are often aggregated, and the ability of trees within the clumps to survive fires plays a significant role in determining subsequent landscape dynamics. If positive interactions exist among neighbouring trees, this will help maintain the patterns of clumped trees. However, the tree‐aggregated landscape will continue to exist only if the positive neighbour interactions persist consistently over time. In cases where disturbances are episodic, detecting these interactions is only possible through long‐term studies.

    Data reported here are from a 25‐year study involving the annual tree censusing of a large grid‐plot in a frequently burned open oak landscape dominated byQuercus macrocarpaandQuercus ellipsoidallis. The results showed that while having neighbours reduced tree growth, neighbours consistently facilitated survival, irrespective as to whether the neighbours were conspecifics or heterospecifics. Trees of all sizes in close proximity to neighbours were considerably more likely to survive fire throughout the study. This neighbour facilitation is likely the result of a reduction of both herbaceous and woody fuel within clumps.

    Synthesis. This is themore »first study to document consistent neighbour facilitation among trees experiencing repeated stressors over an extended time period. Our findings support the literature documenting positive neighbour effects among plants in stressful and highly disturbed environments, in accordance with the stress‐gradient hypothesis. While aggregated tree regeneration is typically viewed as the primary cause for the development of tree clumps in fire‐prone ecosystems, our study showed that aggregated tree survival, by itself, can also be an important driver of post‐fire tree clumping. Our results support the growing literature emphasizing the importance of landscape heterogeneity as a driver of resilience in fire‐prone tree ecosystems, and the value of maintaining or creating this heterogeneity during forest management.

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  3. Abstract

    Due to decades of fire suppression, much of the Upper Midwest savanna habitat has converted to oak woodland. In efforts to restore oak savanna habitat, fire has been re‐introduced in many of these woodlands. A primary purpose of these burns is to kill the fire‐sensitive mesophytic tree species, which had established themselves during the decades of fire suppression, reduce the number of understory trees, and preserve the larger more widely spaced oaks. It is clear from ongoing efforts that restoring oak savannas will require frequent fires over decades, but frequent fires over the long term can also threaten the desirable oaks. Long‐term demographic studies at savanna restoration sites experiencing frequent fires are necessary to determine the extent to the frequent burns are supporting and/or confounding restoration goals. Results presented here are from a twenty‐five‐year demographic study of an Upper Midwest bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) savanna/woodland experiencing frequent fire, during which both the survival and growth of more than 9000 trees were documented. Survival was assessed annually and growth every five years. In the face of frequent fires, stem survival was found to be strongly associated with tree species, stem size, and stem growth. In turn, stem growth was foundmore »to be related to tree species and stem size. Decades of frequent burning in this oak woodland have substantially reduced the abundance of unwanted trees, specifically mesophytic species andQuercus ellipsoidalis, the latter which outcompetesQ. macrocarpain the absence of fire. WhileQ. macrocarpamid‐sized (10–25 cm dbh) and large (≥25 cm dbh) trees are quite resistant to fire and now dominate the savanna landscape, they are not immune from fire‐induced mortality. It is recommended that the number and density of these trees should be re‐evaluated every few years to ensure that desirable numbers remain. If necessary, fires should be suspended for a period of time. This will give smallerQ. macrocarpatrees time to grow larger and become more fire‐resistant, thereby ensuring successive generations ofQ. macrocarpa.

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  4. Ware, Jessica (Ed.)
    Abstract Recent molecular analyses of transcriptome data from 94 species across 92 genera of North American Plecoptera identified the genus Kathroperla Banks, 1920 as sister group to Chloroperlidae + Perlodidae. Given that the genus Kathroperla has historically been included as a member of the family Chloroperlidae, this discovery indicated further investigation of the genus and the subfamily Paraperlinae was needed. Both transcriptome and genome sequencing datasets were generated from 32 species of the infraorder Systellognatha, including all described species of the Paraperlinae, to test the phylogenetic placement of these taxa. From these datasets, a large phylogenomic data matrix of 800 orthologous genes was produced, and multiple analyses were conducted, including both concatenated and coalescent analyses. Morphological comparisons were made among all Paraperlinae using light microscopy. All molecular results support a monophyletic Kathroperla, which is supported as sister taxon to the remaining Perloidea by five of six molecular analyses. Postocular head length is determined to be a distinct morphological character of this genus. Combined molecular and morphological evidence support the designation of Kathroperlidae, fam. n., as the seventeenth family of extant Plecoptera.