The molecular ecology of the extinct New Zealand Huia.
ABSTRACT: The extinct Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris) of New Zealand represents the most extreme example of beak dimorphism known in birds. We used a combination of nuclear genotyping methods, molecular sexing, and morphometric analyses of museum specimens collected in the late 19(th) and early 20(th) centuries to quantify the sexual dimorphism and population structure of this extraordinary species. We report that the classical description of Huia as having distinctive sex-linked morphologies is not universally correct. Four Huia, sexed as females had short beaks and, on this basis, were indistinguishable from males. Hence, we suggest it is likely that Huia males and females were indistinguishable as juveniles and that the well-known beak dimorphism is the result of differential beak growth rates in males and females. Furthermore, we tested the prediction that the social organisation and limited powers of flight of Huia resulted in high levels of population genetic structure. Using a suite of microsatellite DNA loci, we report high levels of genetic diversity in Huia, and we detected no significant population genetic structure. In addition, using mitochondrial hypervariable region sequences, and likely mutation rates and generation times, we estimated that the census population size of Huia was moderately high. We conclude that the social organization and limited powers of flight did not result in a highly structured population.
Project description:Background:Habitat quality is one main trigger for the persistence of butterflies. The effects of the influencing biotic and abiotic factors may be enhanced by the challenging conditions in high-alpine environments. To better our knowledge in this field, we performed a mark-release-recapture study with Boloria pales in the Southern Carpathians. Methods:We analysed population structure, movement and foraging behaviour to investigate special adaptations to the alpine environment and to reveal differences between sexes. We compared these aspects in one sector with and one sector without grazing to address the effects of grazing intensity on habitat quality. Results:We observed "soft" protandry, in which only a small number of males appeared before females, and an extended emergence of individuals over the observed flight period, dividing the population's age structure into three phases; both observations are considered adaptations to high mountain environments. Although both sexes were mostly sedentary, movement differences between them were obvious. Males flew larger distances than females and were more flight-active. This might explain the dimorphism in foraging behaviour: males preferred nectar sources of Asteraceae, females Caprifoliaceae. Transition from the grazed to the ungrazed sector was only observed for males and not for females, but the population density was higher and the flight distances of the individuals were significantly longer on the grazed sector compared with the ungrazed one. Conclusion:Soft protandry, an extended emergence of the individuals and an adapted behavioural dimorphism between sexes render to represent a good adaptation of B. pales to the harsh environmental conditions of high mountain ecosystems. However, land-use intensity apparently has severe influence on population densities and movement behaviour. To protect B. pales and other high-alpine species from the negative consequences of overgrazing, areas without or just light grazing are needed.
Project description:Within the large order of bats, sexual size dimorphism measured by forearm length and body mass is often female-biased. Several studies have explained this through the effects on load carrying during pregnancy, intrasexual competition, as well as the fecundity and thermoregulation advantages of increased female body size. We hypothesized that wing shape should differ along with size and be under variable selection pressure in a species where there are large differences in flight behaviour. We tested whether load carrying, sex differential migration, or reproductive advantages of large females affect size and wing shape dimorphism in the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula), in which females are typically larger than males and only females migrate long distances each year. We tested for univariate and multivariate size and shape dimorphism using data sets derived from wing photos and biometric data collected during pre-migratory spring captures in Switzerland. Females had forearms that are on average 1% longer than males and are 1% heavier than males after emerging from hibernation, but we found no sex differences in other size, shape, or other functional characters in any wing parameters during this pre-migratory period. Female-biased size dimorphism without wing shape differences indicates that reproductive advantages of big mothers are most likely responsible for sexual dimorphism in this species, not load compensation or shape differences favouring aerodynamic efficiency during pregnancy or migration. Despite large behavioural and ecological sex differences, morphology associated with a specialized feeding niche may limit potential dimorphism in narrow-winged bats such as common noctules and the dramatic differences in migratory behaviour may then be accomplished through plasticity in wing kinematics.
Project description:Flight morphological variations and its consequences on animal performance are common in winged insects. In the butterfly Heliconius charithonia, sex-related differences in the wing morphological design have been described resulting in differences in foraging behavior, daily flight distances and flight aerodynamics. It has been suggested that these differences should be reflected in the metabolic capacities and energetic budgets associated with flight in both sexes. In this study, we analyzed the relationship between wing morphological variation and metabolic performance, flight aerodynamics and energetic reserves in females and males of Heliconius charithonia over two years. The results confirm the presence of wing shape sexual dimorphism, but also show an unexpected sex-related annual variation in wing shape, mirrored in the metabolic condition (resting metabolic rate) of individuals. However, contrary to expectation, intersexual variations in wing shape are not related to differences between the sexes in terms of flight aerodynamics, flight metabolic rates, or energetic reserves (carbohydrates, lipids and proteins). Our results indicate a considerable plasticity in H. charithonia wing shape, which we suggest is determined by a trade-off between environmental pressures and reproductive restriction of each sex, maintaining an optimum flight design. Finally, similarities in metabolic rates between young and older males and females in both years may be a consequence of the ability of Heliconius species to feed on pollen.
Project description:Size sexual dimorphism occurs in almost all mammals. In Portuguese Water Dogs, much of the difference in skeletal size between females and males is due to the interaction between a Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) on the X-chromosome and a QTL linked to Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) on the CFA 15 autosome. In females, the haplotype of CFA 15 resulting in small size is dominant. In males, the haplotype for large size is dominant. Females, homozygous at the CHM marker on the X chromosome and homozygous for the large size CFA 15 haplotype are, on average, as large as large males. However, all females that are heterozygous at the CHM marker are small, regardless of their CFA 15 genotype. This interaction suggests a genetic mechanism that in turn leads to a scenario for the evolution of size sexual dimorphism consistent with a proposal of Lande that sexual dimorphism can evolve because females secondarily become smaller than males as a consequence of natural selection for optimal size. Our results also can explain Rensch's Rule, which states that size is often positively correlated with the level of size sexual dimorphism.
Project description:Although cockroaches (Blattodea s. str.) exhibit high proportion of species with reduced wings, the underlying evolutionary forces remain unclear. Wing reduction in insects is generally considered advantageous for females and a trade-off between investment into the flying apparatus and reproduction is predicted to explain its evolution. However, what if the wing maintenance is an important issue for males' fitness? Males raise wings during the ritualized courtship which is viewed as an unavoidable movement unveiling the tergal glands for female access. We, however, propose a novel male mating success hypothesis suggesting that male wings are essential for their successful mating. We tested these two competing, but not mutually exclusive hypotheses in the cockroach Eublaberus distanti. We found no effect of female wing loss on any of the measured fecundity characteristics despite that alatectomized females histolyzed flight muscles. On the contrary, alatectomized males did not histolyze wing muscles, but experienced a markedly decreased mating success. Our findings, therefore, provide the first evidence on the crucial mechanical role of wings on male mating success. Consequently, selection for the retention of wings in males rather than for their reduction in females can explain the evolution of sexual wing dimorphism in cockroaches and other insects.
Project description:Several expressions of sexual segregation have been described in animals, especially in those exhibiting conspicuous dimorphism. Outside the breeding season, segregation has been mostly attributed to size or age-mediated dominance or to trophic niche divergence. Regardless of the recognized implications for population dynamics, the ecological causes and consequences of sexual segregation are still poorly understood. We investigate the foraging habits of a shorebird showing reversed sexual dimorphism, the black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, during the winter season, and found extensive segregation between sexes in spatial distribution, microhabitat use and dietary composition. Males and females exhibited high site-fidelity but differed in their distributions at estuary-scale. Male godwits (shorter-billed) foraged more frequently in exposed mudflats than in patches with higher water levels, and consumed more bivalves and gastropods and fewer polychaetes than females. Females tended to be more frequently involved and to win more aggressive interactions than males. However, the number of aggressions recorded was low, suggesting that sexual dominance plays a lesser role in segregation, although its importance cannot be ruled out. Dimorphism in the feeding apparatus has been used to explain sex differences in foraging ecology and behaviour of many avian species, but few studies confirmed that morphologic characteristics drive individual differences within each sex. We found a relationship between resource use and bill size when pooling data from males and females. However, this relationship did not hold for either sex separately, suggesting that differences in foraging habits of godwits are primarily a function of sex, rather than bill size. Hence, the exact mechanisms through which this segregation operates are still unknown. The recorded differences in spatial distribution and resource use might expose male and female to distinct threats, thus affecting population dynamics through differential mortality. Therefore, population models and effective conservation strategies should increasingly take sex-specific requirements into consideration.
Project description:Sex ratio bias is common in migratory animals and can affect population structure and reproductive strategies, thereby altering population development. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms that lead to sex ratio bias in migratory insect populations. In this study, we used Cnaphalocrocis medinalis, a typical migratory pest of rice, to explore this phenomenon. A total of 1,170 moths were collected from searchlight traps during immigration periods in 2015-2018. Females were much more abundant than males each year (total females: total males?=?722:448). Sex-based differences in emergence time, take-off behaviour, flight capability and energy reserves were evaluated in a laboratory population. Females emerged 0.78 days earlier than males. In addition, the emigratory propensity and flight capability of female moths were greater than those of male moths, and female moths had more energy reserves than did male moths. These results indicate that female moths migrate earlier and can fly farther than male moths, resulting more female moths in the studied immigratory population.
Project description:Sexual dimorphism, including differences in morphology, behavior and physiology between females and males, is widespread in animals and plants and is shaped by gene expression differences between the sexes. Such expression differences may also underlie sex-specific responses of hosts to pathogen infections, most notably when pathogens induce partial sex reversal in infected hosts. The genetic changes associated with sex-specific responses to pathogen infections on the one hand, and sexual dimorphism on the other hand, remain poorly understood. The dioecious White Campion (Silene latifolia) displays sexual dimorphism in floral traits and infection with the smut fungus Micobrotryum lychnidis-dioicae induces a partial sex reversal in females. We find strong sex-specific responses to pathogen infection and reduced sexual dimorphism in infected S. latifolia. This provides a direct link between pathogen-mediated changes in sex-biased gene expression and altered sexual dimorphism in the host. Expression changes following infection affected mainly genes with male-biased expression in healthy plants. In females, these genes were up-regulated, leading to a masculinization of the transcriptome. In contrast, infection in males was associated with down-regulation of these genes, leading to a demasculinization of the transcriptome. To a lesser extent, genes with female-biased expression in healthy plants were also affected in opposite directions in the two sexes. These genes were overall down-regulated in females and up-regulated in males, causing, respectively, a defeminization in infected females and a feminization of the transcriptome in infected males. Our results reveal strong sex-specific responses to pathogen infection in a dioecious plant and provide a link between pathogen-induced changes in sex-biased gene expression and sexual dimorphism.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Host sexual dimorphism is being increasingly recognized to generate strong differences in the outcome of infectious disease, but the mechanisms underlying immunological differences between males and females remain poorly characterized. Here, we used Drosophila melanogaster to assess and dissect sexual dimorphism in the innate response to systemic bacterial infection. RESULTS:We demonstrated sexual dimorphism in susceptibility to infection by a broad spectrum of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. We found that both virgin and mated females are more susceptible than mated males to most, but not all, infections. We investigated in more detail the lower resistance of females to infection with Providencia rettgeri, a Gram-negative bacterium that naturally infects D. melanogaster. We found that females have a higher number of phagocytes than males and that ablation of hemocytes does not eliminate the dimorphism in resistance to P. rettgeri, so the observed dimorphism does not stem from differences in the cellular response. The Imd pathway is critical for the production of antimicrobial peptides in response to Gram-negative bacteria, but mutants for Imd signaling continued to exhibit dimorphism even though both sexes showed strongly reduced resistance. Instead, we found that the Toll pathway is responsible for the dimorphism in resistance. The Toll pathway is dimorphic in genome-wide constitutive gene expression and in induced response to infection. Toll signaling is dimorphic in both constitutive signaling and in induced activation in response to P. rettgeri infection. The dimorphism in pathway activation can be specifically attributed to Persephone-mediated immune stimulation, by which the Toll pathway is triggered in response to pathogen-derived virulence factors. We additionally found that, in absence of Toll signaling, males become more susceptible than females to the Gram-positive Enterococcus faecalis. This reversal in susceptibility between male and female Toll pathway mutants compared to wildtype hosts highlights the key role of the Toll pathway in D. melanogaster sexual dimorphism in resistance to infection. CONCLUSION:Altogether, our data demonstrate that Toll pathway activity differs between male and female D. melanogaster in response to bacterial infection, thus identifying innate immune signaling as a determinant of sexual immune dimorphism.
Project description:Recently, a quantitative-trait locus (QTL) for whole blood serotonin level was identified in a genomewide linkage and association study in a founder population. Because serotonin level is a sexually dimorphic trait, in the present study, we evaluated the sex-specific genetic architecture of whole blood serotonin level in the same population. Here, we use an extended homozygosity-by-descent linkage method that is suitable for large complex pedigrees. Although both males and females have high broad heritability (H2=0.99), females have a higher additive component (h2=0.63 in females; h2=0.27 in males). Furthermore, the serotonin QTL on 17q that was identified previously in this population, integrin beta 3 (ITGB3), and a novel locus on 2q influence serotonin levels only in males, whereas linkage to a region on chromosome 6q is specific to females. Both sexes contribute to linkage signals on 12q and 16p. There were, overall, more associations meeting criteria for suggestive significance in males than in females, including those of ITGB3 and the serotonin transporter gene (5HTT). This analysis is consistent with heritable sexual dimorphism in whole blood serotonin levels resulting from the effects of a combination of sex-specific and sex-independent loci.