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  1. Abstract

    DNA barcoding based on mitochondrial (mt) nucleotide sequences is an enigma. Neutral models of mt evolution predict DNA barcoding cannot work for recently diverged taxa, and yet, mt DNA barcoding accurately delimits species for many bilaterian animals. Meanwhile, mt DNA barcoding often fails for plants and fungi. I propose that because mt gene products must cofunction with nuclear gene products, the evolution of mt genomes is best understood with full consideration of the two environments that impose selective pressure on mt genes: the external environment and the internal genomic environment. Moreover, it is critical to fully consider the potential for adaptive evolution of not just protein products of mt genes but also of mt transfer RNAs and mt ribosomal RNAs. The tight linkage of genes on mt genomes that do not engage in recombination could facilitate selective sweeps whenever there is positive selection on any element in the mt genome, leading to the purging of mt genetic diversity within a population and to the rapid fixation of novel mt DNA sequences. Accordingly, the most important factor determining whether or not mt DNA sequences diagnose species boundaries may be the extent to which the mt chromosomes engage in recombination.

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  2. Abstract

    Longevity plays a key role in the fitness of organisms, so understanding the processes that underlie variance in senescence has long been a focus of ecologists and evolutionary biologists. For decades, the performance and ultimate decline of mitochondria have been implicated in the demise of somatic tissue, but exactly why mitochondrial function declines as individual’s age has remained elusive. A possible source of decline that has been of intense debate is mutations to the mitochondrial DNA. There are two primary sources of such mutations: oxidative damage, which is widely discussed by ecologists interested in aging, and mitochondrial replication error, which is less familiar to most ecologists. The goal of this review is to introduce ecologists and evolutionary biologists to the concept of mitochondrial replication error and to review the current status of research on the relative importance of replication error in senescence. We conclude by detailing some of the gaps in our knowledge that currently make it difficult to deduce the relative importance of replication error in wild populations and encourage organismal biologists to consider this variable both when interpreting their results and as viable measure to include in their studies.

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  3. Abstract Quantifying variation in the ability to fight infection among free-living hosts is challenging and often constrained to one or a few measures of immune activity. While such measures are typically taken to reflect host resistance, they can also be shaped by pathogen effects, for example, if more virulent strains trigger more robust immune responses. Here, we test the extent to which pathogen-specific antibody levels, a commonly used measure of immunocompetence, reflect variation in host resistance versus pathogen virulence, and whether these antibodies effectively clear infection. House finches ( Haemorhous mexicanus ) from resistant and susceptible populations were inoculated with > 50 isolates of their novel Mycoplasma gallisepticum pathogen collected over a 20-year period during which virulence increased. Serum antibody levels were higher in finches from resistant populations and increased with year of pathogen sampling. Higher antibody levels, however, did not subsequently give rise to greater reductions in pathogen load. Our results show that antibody responses can be shaped by levels of host resistance and pathogen virulence, and do not necessarily signal immune clearance ability. While the generality of this novel finding remains unclear, particularly outside of mycoplasmas, it cautions against using antibody levels as implicit proxies for immunocompetence and/or host resistance. 
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  4. Dam, Hans G. (Ed.)
    The marine copepod, Tigriopus californicus , produces the red carotenoid pigment astaxanthin from yellow dietary precursors. This ‘bioconversion’ of yellow carotenoids to red is hypothesized to be linked to individual condition, possibly through shared metabolic pathways with mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Experimental inter-population crosses of lab-reared T . californicus typically produces low-fitness hybrids is due in large part to the disruption of coadapted sets nuclear and mitochondrial genes within the parental populations. These hybrid incompatibilities can increase variability in life history traits and energy production among hybrid lines. Here, we tested if production of astaxanthin was compromised in hybrid copepods and if it was linked to mitochondrial metabolism and offspring development. We observed no clear mitonuclear dysfunction in hybrids fed a limited, carotenoid-deficient diet of nutritional yeast. However, when yellow carotenoids were restored to their diet, hybrid lines produced less astaxanthin than parental lines. We observed that lines fed a yeast diet produced less ATP and had slower offspring development compared to lines fed a more complete diet of algae, suggesting the yeast-only diet may have obscured effects of mitonuclear dysfunction. Astaxanthin production was not significantly associated with development among lines fed a yeast diet but was negatively related to development in early generation hybrids fed an algal diet. In lines fed yeast, astaxanthin was negatively related to ATP synthesis, but in lines fed algae, the relationship was reversed. Although the effects of the yeast diet may have obscured evidence of hybrid dysfunction, these results suggest that astaxanthin bioconversion may still be related to mitochondrial performance and reproductive success. 
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  5. Synopsis For decades, scientists have noted connections between individual condition and carotenoid-based coloration in terrestrial and aquatic animals. Organisms that produce more vibrant carotenoid-based coloration tend to have better physiological performance and behavioral displays compared with less colorful members of the same species. Traditional explanations for this association between ornamental coloration and performance invoked the need for color displays to be costly, but evidence for such hypothesized costs is equivocal. An alternative explanation for the condition-dependence of carotenoid-based coloration, the Shared-Pathway Hypothesis (SPH), was developed in response. This hypothesis proposes that red ketocarotenoid-based coloration is tied to core cellular processes involving a shared pathway with mitochondrial energy metabolism, making the concentration of carotenoids an index of mitochondrial function. Since the presentation of this hypothesis, empirical tests of the mechanisms proposed therein have been conducted in several species. In this manuscript, we review the SPH and the growing number of studies that have investigated a connection between carotenoid-based coloration and mitochondrial function. We also discuss future strategies for assessing the SPH to more effectively disentangle evidence that may simultaneously support evidence of carotenoid-resource tradeoffs. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. null (Ed.)
  8. Abstract To produce viable offspring, organisms may assess mates via criteria that include traits, such as sex, species, age, reproductive status, population identity and individual quality. Copepods are small, ubiquitous crustaceans that live in freshwater and marine systems around the world whose patterns of mate choice have been long studied in numerous species. Herein, we synthesized decades of experiments describing sexual selection in copepods to assess the importance of mating criteria. We used formal, meta-analytical techniques and mixed modeling to quantify the likelihood of non-random mating associated with mating criteria. In our synthesis of the scientific literature, we found that copepods use several criteria when assessing mates and that these criteria are associated with different likelihood estimates. We report the strongest likelihood of non-random mating when copepods assess the reproductive status of females or when copepods select between conspecific vs. heterospecific mates. We found weak likelihood of non-random mating in studies that provide mates from different populations or that manipulate operational sex ratio. Studies that directly test assessment of individual quality are sparse in copepods when compared to equivalent studies in vertebrates, and we encourage future researchers to explore whether copepods use individual characteristics as key mating criteria. 
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