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  1. Abstract Context

    Habitat fragmentation is a leading threat to biodiversity, yet the impacts of fragmentation on most taxa, let alone interactions among those taxa, remain largely unknown.


    We studied how three consequences of fragmentation—reduced patch connectivity, altered patch shape, and edge proximity—impact plant-dwelling mite communities and mite-plant-fungus interactions within a large-scale habitat fragmentation experiment.


    We sampled mite communities from the leaves ofQuercus nigra(a plant species that has foliar domatia which harbor fungivorous and predacious mites) near and far from edge within fragments of varying edge-to-area ratio (shape) and connectivity via corridors. We also performed a mite-exclusion experiment across these fragmentation treatments to test the effects of mite presence and fungal hyphal abundance on leaf surfaces.


    Habitat edges influenced the abundance and richness of leaf-dwelling mites; plants closer to the edge had higher mite abundance and species richness. Likewise, hyphal counts were higher on leaves near patch edges. Despite both mite and fungal abundance being higher at patch edges, leaf hyphal counts were not impacted by mite abundance on those leaves. Neither patch shape nor connectivity influenced mite abundance, mite species richness, or the influence of mites on leaf surface fungal abundance.


    Our results suggest that mites and foliar fungi may bemore »independently affected by edge-structured environmental gradients, like temperature, rather than trophic effects. We demonstrate that large-scale habitat fragmentation and particularly edge effects can have impacts on multiple levels of microscopic communities, even in the absence of cascading trophic effects.

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  2. Abstract

    Abstract.—Rates of phenotypic evolution vary markedly across the tree of life, from the accelerated evolution apparent in adaptive radiations to the remarkable evolutionary stasis exhibited by so-called “living fossils.” Such rate variation has important consequences for large-scale evolutionary dynamics, generating vast disparities in phenotypic diversity across space, time, and taxa. Despite this, most methods for estimating trait evolution rates assume rates vary deterministically with respect to some variable of interest or change infrequently during a clade’s history. These assumptions may cause underfitting of trait evolution models and mislead hypothesis testing. Here, we develop a new trait evolution model that allows rates to vary gradually and stochastically across a clade. Further, we extend this model to accommodate generally decreasing or increasing rates over time, allowing for flexible modeling of “early/late bursts” of trait evolution. We implement a Bayesian method, termed “evolving rates” (evorates for short), to efficiently fit this model to comparative data. Through simulation, we demonstrate that evorates can reliably infer both how and in which lineages trait evolution rates varied during a clade’s history. We apply this method to body size evolution in cetaceans, recovering substantial support for an overall slowdown in body size evolution over time withmore »recent bursts among some oceanic dolphins and relative stasis among beaked whales of the genus Mesoplodon. These results unify and expand on previous research, demonstrating the empirical utility of evorates. [cetacea; macroevolution; comparative methods; phenotypic diversity; disparity; early burst; late burst]

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  3. Indirect defenses are plant phenotypes that reduce damage by attracting natural enemies of plant pests and pathogens to leaves. Despite their economic and ecological importance, few studies have investigated the genetic underpinnings of indirect defense phenotypes. Here, we present a genome-wide association study of five phenotypes previously determined to increase populations of beneficial (fungivorous and predacious) mites on grape leaves (genus Vitis): leaf bristles, leaf hairs, and the size, density, and depth of leaf domatia. Using a common garden genetic panel of 399 V. vinifera cultivars, we tested for genetic associations of these phenotypes using previously obtained genotyping data from the Vitis9kSNP array. We found one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) significantly associated with domatia density. This SNP (Chr5:1160194) is near two genes of interest: Importin Alpha Isoform 1 (VIT_205s0077g01440), involved in downy mildew resistance, and GATA Transcription Factor 8 (VIT_205s0077g01450), involved in leaf shape development. Our findings are among the first to examine the genomic regions associated with ecologically important plant traits that facilitate interactions with beneficial mites, and suggest promising candidate genes for breeding and genetic editing to increase naturally occurring predator-based defenses in grapevines.
  4. Linking interspecific interactions (e.g., mutualism, competition, predation, parasitism) to macroevolution (evolutionary change on deep timescales) is a key goal in biology. The role of species interactions in shaping macroevolutionary trajectories has been studied for centuries and remains a cutting-edge topic of current research. However, despite its deep historical roots, classic and current approaches to this topic are highly diverse. Here, we combine historical and contemporary perspectives on the study of ecological interactions in macroevolution, synthesizing ideas across eras to build a zoomed-out picture of the big questions at the nexus of ecology and macroevolution. We discuss the trajectory of this important and challenging field, dividing research into work done before the 1970s, research between 1970 and 2005, and work done since 2005. We argue that in response to long-standing questions in paleobiology, evidence accumulated to date has demonstrated that biotic interactions (including mutualism) can influence lineage diversification and trait evolution over macroevolutionary timescales, and we outline major open questions for future research in the field.
  5. Abstract

    Sexual and gender minorities face considerable inequities in society, including in science. In biology, course content provides opportunities to challenge harmful preconceptions about what is “natural” while avoiding the notion that anything found in nature is inherently good (the appeal-to-nature fallacy). We provide six principles for instructors to teach sex- and gender-related topics in postsecondary biology in a more inclusive and accurate manner: highlighting biological diversity early, presenting the social and historical context of science, using inclusive language, teaching the iterative process of science, presenting students with a diversity of role models, and developing a classroom culture of respect and inclusion. To illustrate these six principles, we review the many definitions of sex and demonstrate applying the principles to three example topics: sexual reproduction, sex determination or differentiation, and sexual selection. These principles provide a tangible starting place to create more scientifically accurate, engaging, and inclusive classrooms.

  6. Textbooks shape teaching and learning in introductory biology and highlight scientists as potential role models who are responsible for significant discoveries. We explore a potential demographic mismatch between the scientists featured in textbooks and the students who use textbooks to learn core concepts in biology. We conducted a demographic analysis by extracting hundreds of human names from common biology textbooks and assessing the binary gender and race of featured scientists. We found that the most common scientists featured in textbooks are white men. However, women and scientists of colour are increasingly represented in contemporary scientific discoveries. In fact, the proportion of women highlighted in textbooks has increased in lockstep with the proportion of women in the field, indicating that textbooks are matching a changing demographic landscape. Despite these gains, the scientists portrayed in textbooks are not representative of their target audience—the student population. Overall, very few scientists of colour were highlighted, and projections suggest it could take multiple centuries at current rates before we reach inclusive representation. We call upon textbook publishers to expand upon the scientists they highlight to reflect the diverse population of learners in biology.