After last week’s linkfest, readers wrote in saying a hybrid would be best: important papers with descriptions, and just links for papers that are of more esoteric interest.
101 papers this week, 15 open access (search for [OA]).
Must-Read Papers (unsorted):
This paper examines the impact of the K-T on terrestrial vegetation in a section in Spain, using biomarkers tot race the succession of events recorded in this particular locality. Summary: at the event, the vegetation was destroyed, and an increase of terrestrial material deposited in the anoxic oceans is recorded. Then, 10000 years later, conifers rebounded.
Part scientific autobiography, part history of research, this is a review of Rüdiger Wehner’s work, written by himself. If you don’t know who he is, read my post on ant navigation and realise that the bulk of it is derived from his work using Cataglyphis ants as a model organism.
There are several ways in which eusocial insects start a new colony. There is solitary founding, in which a single queen moves to a new nest. Pleometrosis is when several queens move together. There is social parasitism, in which a queen attempts tot ake over a foreign colony. And, finally, dependent colony foundation, in which a queen and several nestmates move together to the new nest. Each strategy has its own distinct advantages, with the main ones of DCF being that the success rate is high, that the new colony can get to work immediately, and that the colony size can be optimised by choosing how many workers to take. These are strong benefits, and this is why it’s evolved convergently in many bees and ants. This paper reviews just how many times it’s evolved and the various quirks species have added to the strategy.
Insects will inevitably be part of our diet in the future – it’s unavoidable, given that agriculture will soon be failing all around us. It’s nothing to worry about: only we weird Westerners avoid eating insects because we’re taught that they’re icky. In fact, insects have always been a staple of primate diets, including human diets. They’re very nutritious, and the only difference to chicken is that the exoskeletons are a bit crunchy. Read this review to get a broad perspective on entomophagy.
For anyone interested in an overview of evo-devo, this paper is a must-have. Besides the short historical and thematic overview, it provides many examples of fundamental evo-devo research in insects, and makes an excellent resource for any lecture on the topic.
For anyone interested in the history of entomology, get this paper, which summarises how insect systematics has changed from antiquity to today.
A review of the fossil record of ants.
It seems that pterosaurs hit on a winning evolutionary formula with their flying body plan. This paper analyses all the various phylogenetic hypotheses for early pterosaurs and finds that all of them share one thing in common: pterosaurs experienced an adaptive radiation very early on. This is most probably due to being the only large animals to fly at the time, similar to how birds are now highly-successful.
It’s quite common to see articles, both popular and scientific, citing sudden blooms of jellyfish as warning signs of a dying ocean. Try as you might though, you will find little evidence backing such an assertion up, except for local reports of increased jellyfish numbers in warmer waters near industrial discharge sites. This paper looks at the occurrence of blooms and finds that there is very little statistical support for an increase in jellyfish over time (correlated with degradation). Rather, there is a global, 20 year cycle that jelly blooms go through.
A review and many comments, all open access, on the relationship between hybridization and speciation – an important topic, given that hybridization has a chance of occurring in the short- to mid-section of speciation.
This paper is a significant experimental demonstration of the intelligence of great apes. The authors tested the innovation of all non-human great ape species, their ability to come up with modify their past solutions to new problems, and found that all but the orang-utans aced the tests. This means they’re able to think about and learn to overcome new challenges – just like humans.
I wrote about parthenogenesis here. This paper reviews thelytoky in eusocial Hymenoptera, a strange form of reproduction in which female offspring come out of unfertilised diploid eggs (usually, unfertilised eggs result in males).
The supercontinent cycle is a proposed pattern of the Earth going through cycles when the continents are joined together. Its acknowledgement is fairly significant, and this paper reviews the history of research on the matter, from its first propositions and realisation of multiple supercontinents through time, to its modern acceptance and milestone publications, to future prospects.
Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying critters and important prey in freshwater habitats. In developing countries, they’re a huge public health hazard as vectors of Plasmodium, the protozoan that causes malaria. Proposals to control them have ranged from insecticide flooding to biocontrol using parasites and prey to draining of wetlands to targeted biomolecular interventions – and none of these work by themselves. Thsi paper sets the conversation on the right track by stressing that before we can control them, we need to understand every bit of their ecology.
Adolf Remane is one of the most important modern zoologists to have lived, his most famous contribution arguably being the setting of the three critical criteria for homology. However, history has not treated him well due to the influence of Ernst Mayr, who, for some reason, found his contributions to not be so useful. This was a mistake on Mayr’s part, as this paper shows: by analysing what Remane wrote of, and analysing what Benhard Rensch (another zoologist who Mayr consistently praised) wrote of, the paper finds that the two are not really so different. I hope this promotes Remane’s work again, because while it’s somewhat outdated now, and he got some things plain wrong (e.g. he viewed palaeontology as useless for phylogenetics), he was still a significant part of the 20th century’s biology that gave birth to the Modern Synthesis. Read the rest of this entry »