This is just a listing of papers published this week that piqued my interest (taxonomy excluded), with personal comments and further reading recommendations whenever appropriate. Interdisciplinary papers sorted according to personal opinion. Papers ordered only by their appearance in my inbox. For PDFs, e-mail me, I get most of them.
Some papers are tagged for easy finding using your browser’s find (Ctrl+F):
- [OA] is for open access papers, those you can read for free.
- [imp] is for papers that I perceive as particularly important to have.
45 papers this week, 2 special issues.
- Special Issues 
- Arthropods 
- Botany 
- Developmental 
- Ecology 
- Education 
- Evolution 
- Geology, incl. Historical Geology 
- Palaeontology 
- Zoology 
One of my favourite subjects (see this post), this special issue is all about animal intelligence. All the papers are worth saving/reading; I only skipped the AI and chimp ones.
- Effects of Long Distance Transportation on Honey Bee Physiology. [OA]
- Effects of body size and sociality on the anti-predator behaviour of foraging bees.
For a review of defensive behaviour in honeybees, see Hunt (2007).
- Phylogenetic and Transcriptomic Analysis of Chemosensory Receptors in a Pair of Divergent Ant Species Reveals Sex-Specific Signatures of Odor Coding. [OA]
It’s always nice to see just how much specificity is involved in being an ant.
- Discrimination through silk recognition: The case of the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae.
- Spermatozoa and spermiogenesis of the wolf spider Schizocosa malitiosa (Lycosidae, Araneae) and its functional and phylogenetic implications.
- Developmental and Digestive Flexibilities in the Midgut of a Polyphagous Pest, the Cotton Bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera. [OA]
- Life Table Evaluation of Survival and Reproduction of the Aphid, Sitobion avenae, Exposed to Cadmium. [OA]
This is interesting to me, since a large part of my entomology research concerns the effects of heavy metals. Although I deal exclusively with evolutionary effects ratehr than physiology, I always stress the need to look at things from all possible levels, rather than restricting myself to just one. In this case, physiology affects ecology, and ecology (in my particular scenarios) is where evolution will play out. Missing out on such research is simply careless, even if there isn’t a direct link.
- Natural History of the Neotropical Arboreal Ant, Odontomachus hastatus: Nest Sites, Foraging Schedule, and Diet. [OA]
- Molecular Phylogeny, Laboratory Rearing, and Karyotype of the Bombycid Moth, Trilocha varians. [OA]
Good info here if you want to raise moths at home/in a classroom.
For a general review of EOD, see Cohen (1995).
- Morphology and Behavior of the Early Stages of the Skipper, Urbanus esmeraldus, on Urera baccifera, an Ant—Visited Host Plant. [OA]
- Morphometric and Genetic Differentiation of Two Sibling Gossamer-Wing Damselflies, Euphaea formosa and E. yayeyamana, and Adaptive Trait Divergence in Subtropical East Asian Islands. [OA]
Another paper that gives me ideas to apply for Cyprus.
- Opsin evolution and expression in Arthropod compound Eyes and Ocelli: Insights from the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. [OA]
I’m surprised this hasn’t been researched in crickets, given that they’re model organisms for studying polarisation-sensitive vision.
- Morphology and function in the Cambrian Burgess Shale megacheiran arthropod Leanchoilia superlata and the application of a descriptive matrix. [OA]
I like this descriptive matrix approach. From personal experience, I can tell you that one the biggest problems in stem-arthropod phylogenetics, besides missing data, is that the descriptions are rather messy. A descriptive matrix does away with that by providing a standardised template. As for the arthropod redescribed herein, Leanchoilia superlata, it’s one of the more well-known ones, one of the “great appendage arthropods”.
- The proboscis extension reflex to evaluate learning and memory in honeybees (Apis mellifera): some caveats.
Everyone knows the story of Pavlov’s dog, where the dog can be conditioned to salivate when enticed by food. The hymenopteran equivalent is the proboscis extension (although it was first developed for use in blowflies in the 1940s). In nature, they extned their proboscis when landing on a flower to suck up nectar, so in the lab, proboscis extension is an easily-visible sign of conditioning, usable for studies on memory, learning, olfaction, and whatever else. This paper gives some warranted warnings about its use.
Despite being the second most important insect parasitoid taxon (the most important being the hymenopteran Parasitica), tachinids are rather understudied, so any paper on their life history is welcome.
- Procurement of exogenous ammonia by the swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polytes, for protein biosynthesis and sperm production.
- Reward and non-reward learning of flower colours in the butterfly Byasa alcinous (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae).
- Light-mimicking cockroaches indicate Tertiary origin of recent terrestrial luminescence.
I admit, I never knew there were bioluminescent cockroaches. This paper’s got pictures of a fossil one too, pretty cool.
- Diel flight behaviour and dispersal patterns of aquatic Coleoptera and Heteroptera species with special emphasis on the importance of seasons.
Interested in this because of my vernal pond work. While most of the colonisation takes place in situ from drought-resistant cysts, new arrivals can’t be discounted, and this paper is useful to have as a general reference about the dispersal times of aquatic beetles and hemipterans.
- Uncommon formation of two antiparallel sperm bundles per cyst in tenebrionid beetles (Coleoptera).
- Influence of Leaf Litter Moisture on the Efficiency of the Winkler Method for Extracting Ants. [OA]
The Winkler bag is one of the basic quantitative insect collection techniques, and one of the most useful ones in remote locations. Take a sample of litter, put it in a bag with a collecting jar at the bottom, hang the contraption from a tree, wait for a couple of days. As the litter dries out, the litter (and soil) fauna moves downward and tumbles into the jar. A speeded-up version, usable where electricity is present, is the Berlese funnel, where you add an artificial light at the top of the bag in order to speed up the drying (the active heat also drives the fauna away).
Good party trivia in here.
- Methyl Eugenol: Its Occurrence, Distribution, and Role in Nature, Especially in Relation to Insect Behavior and Pollination. [OA]
Only got this for the insect behaviour parts, I don’t know what methyl eugenol is. Apparently it’s a very good lure for tephritids (fruit flies). It’d be an interesting idea to try and use it as bait in insect traps, although this has probably been done before (I’m not good with Diptera).
Forests nowadays are often fragmented, with roads, croplands, pastures, and other anthropogenic disturbances (natural fragmentation also occurs, of course). Conditions at the edge of a forest are different than in the forest, and are generally negative and therefore undesired. The effects of edges on populations are lumped together as edge effects. This study looks at how edge effects (edges in this case are walking trails) affect ants in Jericho, USA.
For more on edge effects, see the review in Murcia (1995).
- Climate-driven regime shifts in Arctic marine benthos. [OA]
- Global environmental predictors of benthic marine biogeographic structure.
This paper was a bit surprising for me, because of my personal view of ecosystems as incredibly complex (it’s how I view all of biology; it ties into my general dislike of simplistic models in biology, or the reduction of everything to just “genes”). Anyway, the paper shows that marine benthic communities can be defined using just a few parameters, allowing even a simple model to accurately predict how those communities will be affected by changes in temperature, or salinity, or any of the other variables.
- The Impact of Environmental Factors on Diversity of Ostracoda in Freshwater Habitats of Subarctic and Temperate Europe.
- Deep-Water Benthic Polychaetes (Vigtorniella Zaikai and Protodrilus sp.) in the Black Sea as Indicators of the Hydrogen Sulfide Zone Boundary. [OA]
I wonder how applicable this is to fossil polychaetes too, although only tube-building polychaetes can realistically be found.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a wide program with biology teachers in private schools, giving their students the chance to participate in several of my projects (it’s free data and manpower for me, and a tremendously beneficial educational opportunity for the students). What my programs involve are all very field-oriented, with the only labwork being micro- and mesocosm experiments. This paper brings some new ideas for anyone who, like me, is also doing such public outreach with schools, by suggesting a complete program involving bioinformatics and genomics. It’s a bit less ahnds-on than my stuff, involving lots of documentaries, but it’s still got very good ideas that can be coopted for other, more interesting fields of biology. (Maybe “more relevant to me and my research” is a more diplomatic way of putting it.)
- Single mutation to a sex pheromone receptor provides adaptive specificity between closely related moth species. [OA]
This paper’s results are going into some of my stock evolution lectures (microevolution, speciation, mutation, natural selection). It’s nicer than the usual bacterial experiments used to demonstrate the role a single mutation can play.
There are generally two, not necessarily mutually exclusive, hypotheses for explaining the biodiversity within clades. One is that clade age determines diversity – the older a clade, the more species it has. The other is that biodiversity is determined by intrinsic diversification rate (speciation – extinction rate), as determined by intrinsic properties of the clade (ecological specialisation, geographic range, life history, population sizes…). These two hypotheses aren’t mutually exclusive, and there are papers that support and refute both classes of hypotheses, so there is still no definite answer to give. This paper is important because it’s a very large dataset, and finds that the clade age hypothesis doesn’t hold up. I’m a bit wary of the result – supertrees aren’t the best trees to be doing such analyses with – but it’s all taken into account by the authors.
When I was in school learning human geography, we were told that people willingly live in high-risk areas near active volcanoes, and I thought they were idiots. I had no firm grasp of domestic economics back then, forgive my young stupidity. But it turns out there is a huge benefit to living near a volcano: the ash and lava actually provides a very fertile soil, so farming after an eruption can be very productive. And since volcanoes have always functioned the same way, the same can be applied back in the Ordovician, and this is what this paper says: that volcanic ash provided a rich soil back in the Ordovician, giving the first land plants a fertile foothold from which they can spread all over the land.
- Links between early Holocene ice-sheet decay, sea-level rise and abrupt climate change.
- Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet responses to past climate warming.
- Hydrogen sulphide poisoning of shallow seas following the end-Triassic extinction.
Of the Big Five mass extinctions, the end-Triassic seems to be the least understood. The most likely culprit is massive volcanism, and this paper paper provides some support for that with the discovery that after the extinction event, green sulphur bacteria bloomed in the oceans, even in the photic zone. This indicates that anoxia was widespread, which is what we observe during other periods of massive volcanism (e.g. the Permian extinction).
See the summary and commentary by Wing for context.
- Abdominal Contents from Two Large Early Cretaceous Compsognathids (Dinosauria: Theropoda) Demonstrate Feeding on Confuciusornithids and Dromaeosaurids. [OA]
- Martharaptor greenriverensis, a New Theropod Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Utah. [OA]
Nematodes have simple sensillae on their head, arranged in three circular packs (2 packs have 6 sensillae, one has 4). These act as chemical or mechanical receptors. They also have a pair of organs in the cuticle behind the sensillae, the amphids, used only as chemoreceptors. The relevance to this paper is that this paper shows that the nematode chemosensory system is quite highly-adapted, being used for host recognition, with species-level differences detectable. It’s an expected result, but nice to have a paper and data to cite.
- Reverse Taxonomy for Elucidating Diversity of Insect-Associated Nematodes: A Case Study with Termites. [OA]
- The First Record of a Trans-Oceanic Sister-Group Relationship between Obligate Vertebrate Troglobites. [OA]
This is a pretty spectacular result.