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  1. Infections by maternally inherited bacterial endosymbionts, especially Wolbachia, are common in insects and other invertebrates but infec- tion dynamics across species ranges are largely under studied. Specifically, we lack a broad understanding of the origin of Wolbachia infec- tions in novel hosts, and the historical and geographical dynamics of infections that are critical for identifying the factors governing their spread. We used Genotype-by-Sequencing data from previous population genomics studies for range-wide surveys of Wolbachia pres- ence and genetic diversity in North American butterflies of the genus Lycaeides. As few as one sequence read identified by assembly to a Wolbachia reference genome provided high accuracy in detecting infections in host butterflies as determined by confirmatory PCR tests, and maximum accuracy was achieved with a threshold of only 5 sequence reads per host individual. Using this threshold, we detected Wolbachia in all but 2 of the 107 sampling localities spanning the continent, with infection frequencies within populations ranging from 0% to 100% of individuals, but with most localities having high infection frequencies (mean 1⁄4 91% infection rate). Three major lineages of Wolbachia were identified as separate strains that appear to represent 3 separate invasions of Lycaeides butterflies by Wolbachia. Overall, we found extensive evidence for acquisition of Wolbachia through interspecific transfer between host lineages. Strain wLycC was confined to a single butterfly taxon, hybrid lineages derived from it, and closely adjacent populations in other taxa. While the other 2 strains were detected throughout the rest of the continent, strain wLycB almost always co-occurred with wLycA. Our demographic modeling suggests wLycB is a recent invasion. Within strain wLycA, the 2 most frequent haplotypes are confined almost exclusively to separate butterfly taxa with haplotype A1 observed largely in Lycaeides melissa and haplotype A2 observed most often in Lycaeides idas localities, consistent with either cladogenic mode of infection acquisition from a common ancestor or by hybridization and accompanying mutation. More than 1 major Wolbachia strain was observed in 15 localities. These results demonstrate the utility of using resequencing data from hosts to quan- tify Wolbachia genetic variation and infection frequency and provide evidence of multiple colonizations of novel hosts through hybridiza- tion between butterfly lineages and complex dynamics between Wolbachia strains. 
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  2. Biodiversity is in crisis, and insects are no exception. To understand insect population and community trends globally, it is necessary to identify and synthesize diverse datasets representing different taxa, regions, and habitats. The relevant literature is, however, vast and challenging to aggregate. The Entomological Global Evidence Map (EntoGEM) project is a systematic effort to search for and catalogue studies with long-term data that can be used to understand changes in insect abundance and diversity. Here, we present the overall EntoGEM framework and results of the first completed subproject of the systematic map, which compiled sources of information about changes in dragonfly and damselfly (Odonata) occurrence, abundance, biomass, distribution, and diversity. We identified 45 multi-year odonate datasets, including 10 studies with data that span more than 10 years. If data from each study could be gathered or extracted, these studies could contribute to analyses of long-term population trends of this important group of indicator insects. The methods developed to support the EntoGEM project, and its framework for synthesizing a vast literature, have the potential to be applied not only to other broad topics in ecology and conservation, but also to other areas of research where data are widely distributed. 
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  3. Abstract

    The fate of insects in the Anthropocene has been widely discussed in the scientific literature, the popular media, and in policy circles. This recent attention is justified because reductions in insect abundance and diversity have the potential to undermine the stability of terrestrial ecosystems. Reports of insect declines have also been accompanied by skepticism that is healthy and to be expected in scientific discussion. However, we are concerned about a prevalent misconception that equates reports from monitored natural areas with the global status of insects. In the vast majority of cases, areas monitored for arthropods are undeveloped and thus do not record or even necessarily reflect the masses of insects that are continuously being impacted by habitat loss to urban, suburban and agricultural expansion. We address this misconception and discuss ways in which conservation and policy can be enhanced by correctly locating results from insect monitoring programs within our broader knowledge of biodiversity loss.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Specialized plant-insect interactions are a defining feature of life on earth, yet we are only beginning to understand the factors that set limits on host ranges in herbivorous insects. To better understand the recent adoption of alfalfa as a host plant by the Melissa blue butterfly, we quantified arthropod assemblages and plant metabolites across a wide geographic region while controlling for climate and dispersal inferred from population genomic variation. The presence of the butterfly is successfully predicted by direct and indirect effects of plant traits and interactions with other species. Results are consistent with the predictions of a theoretical model of parasite host range in which specialization is an epiphenomenon of the many barriers to be overcome rather than a consequence of trade-offs in developmental physiology. 
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  5. Interactions between plants and herbivores are central in most ecosystems, but their strength is highly variable. The amount of variability within a system is thought to influence most aspects of plant-herbivore biology, from ecological stability to plant defense evolution. Our understanding of what influences variability, however, is limited by sparse data. We collected standardized surveys of herbivory for 503 plant species at 790 sites across 116° of latitude. With these data, we show that within-population variability in herbivory increases with latitude, decreases with plant size, and is phylogenetically structured. Differences in the magnitude of variability are thus central to how plant-herbivore biology varies across macroscale gradients. We argue that increased focus on interaction variability will advance understanding of patterns of life on Earth.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 10, 2024