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Mantellid frogs present an extensive adaptive radiation endemic to Madagascar and Comoros, being the subfamily Mantellinae the most morphologically and ecologically diverse. The Mantellinae present key innovative evolutionary traits linked to their unique reproductive behavior, including the presence of femoral glands and a derived vomeronasal organ. In addition, previous studies pointed to size differentiation in playing an important role in species’ dispersal capacities and shaping of their geographic ranges. Despite the high phenotypic variation observed in this clade, to date an exhaustive morphological analysis of their anatomy has still not been performed, much less in relation to internal structures. Here, we present a comprehensive skeletal description of a mantellid species, Blommersia transmarina, from the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, which has potentially undergone a process of moderate gigantism compared to other Blommersia species. We describe its intraspecific skeletal variation utilizing non-destructive volume renderings from μCT-scans, and characterize the presence of sexual dimorphism and size covariation in skeletal structures. Notably, we found numerous signs of hyperossification, a novel structure for mantellids: the clavicular process, and the presence of several appendicular sesamoids. Our findings suggest that skeletal phenotypic variation in this genus may be linked to biomechanical function for reproduction and locomotion.

In: Contributions to Zoology

The connectivity of groundwater aquifers is lower compared to surface waters. Consequently, groundwater species are expected to have smaller distributional ranges than their surface relatives. Molecular taxonomy, however, unveiled that many species comprise complexes of morphologically cryptic species, with geographically restricted distributional ranges in subterranean as well as in surface waters. Hence, the range sizes of surface and groundwater species might be more similar in size than hitherto thought. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the range size of surface amphipods of the genus Gammarus and subterranean amphipods of the genus Niphargus in Iran. We re-analyzed the taxonomic structure of both genera using two unilocus species delimitation methods applied to a fragment of the COI mitochondrial marker, to identify molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs), and assessed the maximum linear extent (MLE) of the ranges of MOTUs from both genera. Genus Gammarus comprised 44–58 MOTUs while genus Niphargus comprised 20–22 MOTUs. The MLEs of the two genera were not significantly different, regardless the delimitation method applied. The results remained unchanged also after exclusion of single site MOTUs. We tentatively conclude that in this case there is no evidence to consider that groundwater species are geographically more restricted than surface species.

In: Contributions to Zoology

The putative monophyly and systematic position of Merodon nigritarsis group was assessed based on morphological and molecular data of the mitochondrial COI and nuclear 28S rRNA genes. The previously reported concept of the group has been redefined, and M. crassifemoris Paramonov, 1925 is now excluded. The related M. avidus group is redefined here, including the Merodon avidus complex and M. femoratus Sack, 1913. Species delimitation of morphologically defined species of M. nigritarsis group was well supported by COI gene analysis, with the exception of M. alagoezicus Paramonov, 1925 and M. lucasi . Descriptions are given for three new species of the M. nigritarsis species group: Merodon cohurnus Vujić, Likov et Radenković sp. n., Merodon longisetus Vujić, Radenković et Likov sp. n. and Merodon obstipus Vujić, Radenković et Likov sp. n., and one new species from the M. avidus group: Merodon rutitarsis Likov, Vujić et Radenković sp. n. A lectotype is designated for M. femoratus Sack, 1913, and two new synonymies of this species were proposed: M. biarcuatus Curran, 1939 and M. elegans . Here we review 18 species from the M. nigritarsis group and six species from the M. avidus group and provide morphological diagnoses of the species groups. Additionally, diagnosis of 12 branches (groups or individual taxa) of M. avidus-nigritarsis lineage, an illustrated diagnostic key for the males, and distribution map are provided for the new species.

In: Contributions to Zoology
This book is the first comprehensive work on oriental Notodontidae (Lepidoptera) outside mainland Asia. The studied area includes also Borneo Island, the Malayan Peninsula, entire New Guinea with adjacent islands. All species are illustrated in both sexes with a total number of 1272 specimens on 51 colour plates. Genitalia photos of both sexes as well as detailed distribution maps are provided for each species.
The book deals in the first volume with 298 species and contains descriptions of 99 new notodontid taxa. A second volume will treat with the remaining 160 species and include also a comprehensive biogeographic analysis.

Abstract

Compared to the parental species, interspecific hybrids often show intermediate phenotypes which can affect their fitness directly and/or their attractiveness to potential mates. Lissotriton montandoni and Lissotriton vulgaris hybridize across their parapatric range along the Carpathian mountains. Hybrids are rare in natural hybrid zones, which may be related to strong assortative mating in parental species. In the present study, we investigated morphological male species-specific traits and their differentiation between both parental species and first generation of interspecific hybrids (F1), considering morphological variation between two L. vulgaris subspecies co-occurring with L. montandoni in nature: L. v. vulgaris and L. v. ampelensis. Male morphology of each group was assessed and compared based on species-specific and sexual secondary traits, selected based on the literature review. We confirmed that F1 hybrids of L. v. vulgaris and L. montandoni have an intermediate morphology between parental species. However, when morphological traits were compared with the level of genetic admixture of individuals in natural hybrid zones, we discovered that even early generations hybrids (i.e. F1 and/or F2 generation) can be similar to the parental species (especially L. v. ampelensis). As even early generations hybrids can be morphologically undistinguishable from L. v. ampelensis, sexual attractiveness of hybrids may be potentially less affected in direction of L. v. ampelensis backcrossing. Summarizing, morphology, especially morphology of male secondary sexual traits is not a reliable tool for the estimation of genetic admixture of an individual in natural populations within the hybrid zone.

In: Amphibia-Reptilia

Abstract

Intraspecific communication is essential for agonistic and mating behaviours. Agonistic strategy of males must change according to the sex of opponents and that of females is also dependent on their physiological state as to whether they are brooding or not. We have analysed here the agonistic encounters between pairs of male and female crayfish in various combinations to reveal the interaction between agonistic and mating behaviours. After male crayfish became dominant, they aggressively chased subordinate males with attacks, while they did not attack female opponents. Furthermore, the agonistic behaviour of males changed depending on whether females were ovigerous or not. On the other hand, two females showed intense combats despite being ovigerous or not. Crayfish discriminated the sex of opponents via chemical signals in the urine. However, the dominant and subordinate social order of crayfish had no effect on selecting mating partners.

In: Behaviour

Abstract

Analyses of stable isotope ratios are widely applied in studies on a large variety of aspects in trophic ecology. Most studies rely on a precise estimation of the relevant discrimination factor Δ (also called the fractionation factor), that reflects the fractionation or differences in isotope ratios of a certain element (mainly nitrogen N and carbon C) between an animal’s diet and its tissue and is used to identify one step in the food web. We experimentally determined ΔN and ΔC of two species of widespread amphibians in Europe, Rana temporaria and Bufo bufo, and tested for the effect of food source (cyanobacteria Spirulina vs. zooplanktonic Daphnia) on Δ and for interspecific differences. Our study shows high variation in Δ in relation to the food source, but low interspecific differences. Tadpoles that were fed with Spirulina did have considerably lower ΔN than tadpoles fed with Daphnia in both species, and lower ΔC only in R. temporaria. The range of Δ obtained here can be a useful baseline for future trophic studies on tadpoles of Rana and Bufo. The strong diet-dependency of Δ, however, argues strongly against the use of a fixed discrimination factor in future isotope studies.

In: Amphibia-Reptilia

Abstract

Hypothermic and hypoxic environments create strong selective pressure on native species by affecting, among other things, the relationship between energy intake and allocation. In order to detect the adaptation of Phrynocephalus vlangalii to such energy limitation, the morphological structure and argyrophil cells of the digestive tract of 80 individuals from two different altitudes in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau were compared using overall anatomy as well as paraffin sectioning of specific organs. Compared with the low-altitude population, the high-altitude individuals were found to have a significantly longer stomach and duodenum, longer and wider villus in the small intestine, larger surface area in duodenum and jejunum, and more argyrophilic cells in stomach and duodenum. Our results indicate that the morphological and histological change of the digestive tract may be conductive to the plateau adaptability of P. vlangalii by enhancing the efficiency of digestion and absorption. For a more general conclusion to be drawn, comparison of more populations at both altitudes is required in addition to verifying how phenotypically flexible these traits are.

In: Animal Biology

Abstract

Ecogeographical rules predict an association between specific adaptive morphological/physiological traits and latitude, elevation or cooler climates. Such ecogeographical effects are often expressed most clearly in widely distributed species due to continuous selective adaptation occurring over their geographic range. Based on 40 population sampling sites of 116 adult individuals (female, n=44; male, n=72) across an elevational range of 191–2573 m, we tested whether morphological traits accorded with predictions of Bergmann’s rule, Allen’s rule and Hesse’s rule for the South China field mouse (Apodemus draco). The effects of elevation on body size, appendage length and heart size were tested by fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models. None conformed to Bergmann’s, Allen’s or Hesse’s rule. Clines in body size opposed Bergmann’s rule, and foot and snout length ratios opposed Allen’s rule. We conclude that South China field mice, a widely distributed species, exhibit an acute thermoregulation mechanism in which in colder conditions body sizes decrease – as opposed to altering heart sizes or surface area to volume ratios – requiring less energy to regulate body temperatures. Also, there was a stronger selective pressure to increase partial appendage lengths (i.e., foot and snout) to adapt to the specific environment (e.g. longer period of snow cover, up to 2573 m) rather than on a general shortening of appendages to cope with colder conditions.

In: Animal Biology

Abstract

Biotic factors (e.g., maternal age) and abiotic factors (e.g., weather) play vital roles in reproduction. However, there is little information about the combined effects of maternal age and weather on the reproductive output of cultured Asian yellow pond turtles, Mauremys mutica. To address this issue, we surveyed and compared the reproductive output of 13-year-old and 25-year-old female turtles on non-rainy and rainy days. The results showed that older females produced larger eggs than younger females regardless of the weather conditions. Females laid larger clutch sizes (number of eggs per nest) under non-rainy conditions compared with those under rainy conditions. However, the variation in clutch frequency (number of clutches per day) was independent of maternal age and weather. There was no effect of an interaction between maternal age and weather on egg mass, clutch size or clutch frequency. Our results suggest that maternal age and weather had significant effects on egg mass and clutch size, respectively. These results imply that maternal age, together with weather conditions (mainly conditions of rain), can affect the reproductive output of M. mutica. Our results provide useful information for the artificial breeding and stock management of M. mutica.

In: Animal Biology