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Variance in bee species richness: seasonal, spatial, and temporal differences

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Bee communities form the keystone of many ecosystems through their pollination services. They are dynamic and often subject to significant changes due to several different factors such as climate, urban development, and other anthropogenic disturbances. As a result, the world

Bee communities form the keystone of many ecosystems through their pollination services. They are dynamic and often subject to significant changes due to several different factors such as climate, urban development, and other anthropogenic disturbances. As a result, the world has been experiencing a decline in bee diversity and abundance, which can have detrimental effects in the ecosystems they inhabit. One of the largest factors that impacts bees in today's world is the rapid urbanization of our planet, and it impacts the bee community in mixed ways. Not very much is understood about the bee communities that exist in urban habitats, but as urbanization is inevitably going to continue, knowledge on bee communities will need to strengthen. This study aims to determine the levels of variance in bee communities, considering multiple variables that bee communities can differ in. The following three questions are posed: do bee communities that are spatially separated differ significantly? Do bee communities that are separated by seasons differ significantly? Do bee communities that are separated temporally (by year, interannually) differ significantly? The procedure to conduct this experiment consists of netting and trapping bees at two sites at various times using the same methods. The data is then statistically analyzed for differences in abundance, richness, diversity, and species composition. After performing the various statistical analyses, it has been discovered that bee communities that are spatially separated, seasonally separated, or interannually separated do not differ significantly when it comes to abundance and richness. Spatially separated bee communities and interannually separated bee communities show a moderate level of dissimilarity in their species composition, while seasonally separated bee communities show a greater level of dissimilarity in species composition. Finally, seasonally separated bee communities demonstrate the greatest disparity of bee diversity, while interannually separated bee communities show the least disparity of bee diversity. This study was conducted over the time span of two years, and while the levels of variance of an urban area between these variables were determined, further variance studies of greater length or larger areas should be conducted to increase the currently limited knowledge of bee communities in urban areas. Additional studies on precipitation amounts and their effects on bee communities should be conducted, and studies from other regions should be taken into consideration while attempting to understand what is likely the most environmentally significant group of insects.

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2017-05

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The emergence and scaling of division of labor in insect societies

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Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A core challenge in sociobiology is to explain how patterns of

Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A core challenge in sociobiology is to explain how patterns of collective organization are generated. Theoretical models propose that division of labor self-organizes, or emerges, from interactions among group members and the environment; division of labor is also predicted to scale positively with group size. I empirically investigated the emergence and scaling of division of labor in evolutionarily incipient groups of sweat bees and in eusocial colonies of harvester ants. To test whether division of labor is an emergent property of group living during early social evolution, I created de novo communal groups of the normally solitary sweat bee Lasioglossum (Ctenonomia) NDA-1. A division of labor repeatedly arose between nest excavation and guarding tasks; results were consistent with hypothesized effects of spatial organization and intrinsic behavioral variability. Moreover, an experimental increase in group size spontaneously promoted higher task specialization and division of labor. Next, I examined the influence of colony size on division of labor in larger, more integrated colonies of the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. Division of labor scaled positively with colony size in two contexts: during early colony ontogeny, as colonies grew from tens to hundreds of workers, and among same-aged colonies that varied naturally in size. However, manipulation of colony size did not elicit a short-term response, suggesting that the scaling of division of labor in P. californicus colonies is a product of functional integration and underlying developmental processes, rather than a purely emergent epiphenomenon. This research provides novel insights into the organization of work in insect societies, and raises broader questions about the role of size in sociobiology.

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2011

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Seasonal changes in cell neogenesis in the brain and pituitary gland: a study in the adult male frog, Rana catesbeiana

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Though for most of the twentieth century, dogma held that the adult brain was post-mitotic, it is now known that adult neurogenesis is widespread among vertebrates, from fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds to mammals including humans. Seasonal changes in adult

Though for most of the twentieth century, dogma held that the adult brain was post-mitotic, it is now known that adult neurogenesis is widespread among vertebrates, from fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds to mammals including humans. Seasonal changes in adult neurogenesis are well characterized in the song control system of song birds, and have been found in seasonally breeding mammals as well. In contrast to more derived vertebrates, such as mammals, where adult neurogenesis is restricted primarily to the olfactory bulb and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, neurogenesis is widespread along the ventricles of adult amphibians. I hypothesized that seasonal changes in adult amphibian brain cell proliferation and survival are a potential regulator of reproductive neuroendocrine function. Adult, male American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana; aka Lithobates catesbeianus), were maintained in captivity for up to a year under season-appropriate photoperiod. Analysis of hormone levels indicated seasonal changes in plasma testosterone concentration consistent with field studies. Using the thymidine analogue 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) as a marker for newly generated cells, two differentially regulated aspects of brain cell neogenesis were tracked; that is, proliferation and survival. Seasonal differences were found in BrdU labeling in several brain areas, including the olfactory bulb, medial pallium, nucleus accumbens and the infundibular hypothalamus. Clear seasonal differences were also found in the pars distalis region of the pituitary gland, an important component of neuroendocrine pathways. BrdU labeling was also examined in relation to two neuropeptides important for amphibian reproduction: arginine vasotocin and gonadotropin releasing hormone. No cells co-localized with BrdU and either neuropeptide, but new born cells were found in close proximity to neuropeptide-containing neurons. These data suggest that seasonal differences in brain and pituitary gland cell neogenesis are a potential neuroendocrine regulatory mechanism.

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2012

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The costs and consequences of iridescent coloration in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna)

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Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with photonic nanostructures are comparatively understudied in terms of their consequences

Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with photonic nanostructures are comparatively understudied in terms of their consequences in social contexts, their costs of production, and even the best way to measure them. Iridescent colors are some of the most brilliant and conspicuous colors in nature, and I studied the measurement, condition-dependence, and signaling role of iridescence in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna). While most animal colors are easily quantified using well-established spectrophotometric techniques, the unique characteristics of iridescent colors present challenges to measurement and opportunities to quantify novel color metrics. I designed and tested an apparatus for careful control and measurement of viewing geometry and highly repeatable measurements. These measurements could be used to accurately characterize individual variation in iridescent Anna's hummingbirds to examine their condition-dependence and signaling role. Next, I examined the literature published to date for evidence of condition-dependence of structural colors in birds. Using meta-analyses, I found that structural colors of all three types - white, ultra-violet/blue, and iridescence - are significantly condition-dependent, meaning that they can convey information about quality to conspecifics. I then investigated whether iridescent colors were condition-dependent in Anna's hummingbirds both in a field correlational study and in an experimental study. Throughout the year, I found that iridescent feathers in both male and female Anna's hummingbirds become less brilliant as they age. Color was not correlated with body condition in any age/sex group. However, iridescent coloration in male Anna's hummingbirds was significantly affected by experimental protein in the diet during feather growth, indicating that iridescent color may signal diet quality. Finally, I examined how iridescent colors were used to mediate social competitions in male and female Anna's hummingbirds. Surprisingly, males that were less colorful won significantly more contests than more colorful males, and colorful males received more aggression. Less colorful males may be attempting to drive away colorful neighbors that may be preferred mates. Female iridescent ornament size and color was highly variable, but did not influence contest outcomes or aggression.

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Date Created
2012

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Causes and consequences of queen-number variation in the California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

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Social insect colonies exhibit striking diversity in social organization. Included in this overwhelming variation in structure are differences in colony queen number. The number of queens per colony varies both intra- and interspecifically and has major impacts on the social

Social insect colonies exhibit striking diversity in social organization. Included in this overwhelming variation in structure are differences in colony queen number. The number of queens per colony varies both intra- and interspecifically and has major impacts on the social dynamics of a colony and the fitness of its members. To understand the evolutionary transition from single to multi-queen colonies, I examined a species which exhibits variation both in mode of colony founding and in the queen number of mature colonies. The California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus exhibits both variation in the number of queens that begin a colony (metrosis) and in the number of queens in adult colonies (gyny). Throughout most of its range, colonies begin with one queen (haplometrosis) but in some populations multiple queens cooperate to initiate colonies (pleometrosis). I present results that confirm co-foundresses are unrelated. I also map the geographic occurrence of pleometrotic populations and show that the phenomenon appears to be localized in southern California and Northern Baja California. Additionally, I provide genetic evidence that pleometrosis leads to primary polygyny (polygyny developing from pleometrosis) a phenomenon which has received little attention and is poorly understood. Phylogenetic and haplotype analyses utilizing mitochondrial markers reveal that populations of both behavioral types in California are closely related and have low mitochondrial diversity. Nuclear markers however, indicate strong barriers to gene flow between focal populations. I also show that intrinsic differences in queen behavior lead to the two types of populations observed. Even though populations exhibit strong tendencies on average toward haplo- or pleometrosis, within population variation exists among queens for behaviors relevant to metrosis and gyny. These results are important in understanding the dynamics and evolutionary history of a distinct form of cooperation among unrelated social insects. They also help to understand the dynamics of intraspecific variation and the conflicting forces of local adaptation and gene flow.

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Date Created
2011

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Developmental plasticity: the influence of neonatal diet and immune challenges on carotenoid-based ornamental coloration and adult immune function in mallard ducks

Description

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect current and subsequent physiology, body size, brain structure, ornamentation, and

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect current and subsequent physiology, body size, brain structure, ornamentation, and behavior. However, many of the links between developmental and adult phenotype are poorly understood. I performed a series of experiments using a common molecular currency - carotenoid pigments - to track somatic and reproductive investments through development and into adulthood. Carotenoids are red, orange, or yellow pigments that: (a) animals must acquire from their diets, (b) can be physiologically beneficial, acting as antioxidants or immunostimulants, and (c) color the sexually attractive features (e.g., feathers, scales) of many animals. I studied how carotenoid nutrition and immune challenges during ontogeny impacted ornamental coloration and immune function of adult male mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). Male mallards use carotenoids to pigment their yellow beak, and males with more beaks that are more yellow are preferred as mates, have increased immune function, and have higher quality sperm. In my dissertation work, I established a natural context for the role that carotenoids and body condition play in the formation of the adult phenotype and examined how early-life experiences, including immune challenges and dietary access to carotenoids, affect adult immune function and ornamental coloration. Evidence from mallard ducklings in the field showed that variation in circulating carotenoid levels at hatch are likely driven by maternal allocation of carotenoids, but that carotenoid physiology shifts during the subsequent few weeks to reflect individual foraging habits. In the lab, adult beak color expression and immune function were more tightly correlated with body condition during growth than body condition during subsequent stages of development or adulthood. Immune challenges during development affected adult immune function and interacted with carotenoid physiology during adulthood, but did not affect adult beak coloration. Dietary access to carotenoids during development, but not adulthood, also affected adult immune function. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of the developmental stage in shaping certain survival-related traits (i.e., immune function), and lead to further questions regarding the development of ornamental traits.

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2012

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Investigating the influence of food on reproductive physiology and gonad growth: urbanization as a natural experiment

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For animals that experience annual cycles of gonad development, the seasonal timing (phenology) of gonad growth is a major adaptation to local environmental conditions. To optimally time seasonal gonad growth, animals use environmental cues that forecast future conditions. The availability

For animals that experience annual cycles of gonad development, the seasonal timing (phenology) of gonad growth is a major adaptation to local environmental conditions. To optimally time seasonal gonad growth, animals use environmental cues that forecast future conditions. The availability of food is one such environmental cue. Although the importance of food availability has been appreciated for decades, the physiological mechanisms underlying the modulation of seasonal gonad growth by this environmental factor remain poorly understood.

Urbanization is characterized by profound environmental changes, and urban animals must adjust to an environment vastly different from that of their non-urban conspecifics. Evidence suggests that birds adjust to urban areas by advancing the timing of seasonal breeding and gonad development, compared to their non-urban conspecifics. A leading hypothesis to account for this phenomenon is that food availability is elevated in urban areas, which improves the energetic status of urban birds and enables them to initiate gonad development earlier than their non-urban conspecifics. However, this hypothesis remains largely untested.

My dissertation dovetailed comparative studies and experimental approaches conducted in field and captive settings to examine the physiological mechanisms by which food availability modulates gonad growth and to investigate whether elevated food availability in urban areas advances the phenology of gonad growth in urban birds. My captive study demonstrated that energetic status modulates reproductive hormone secretion, but not gonad growth. By contrast, free-ranging urban and non-urban birds did not differ in energetic status or plasma levels of reproductive hormones either in years in which urban birds had advanced phenology of gonad growth or in a year that had no habitat-related disparity in seasonal gonad growth. Therefore, my dissertation provides no support for the hypothesis that urban birds begin seasonal gonad growth because they are in better energetic status and increase the secretion of reproductive hormones earlier than non-urban birds. My studies do suggest, however, that the phenology of key food items and the endocrine responsiveness of the reproductive system may contribute to habitat-related disparities in the phenology of gonad growth.

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Date Created
2014

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From Alarm Propagation to Energy Metabolism: Mechanisms of Collective Colony Responses in Seed-harvester Ant Colonies, Pogonomyrmex Californicus

Description

The flexibility and robustness of social insect colonies, when they cope with challenges as integrated units, raise many questions, such as how hundreds and thousands of individual local responses are coordinated without a central controlling process. Answering such questions requires:

The flexibility and robustness of social insect colonies, when they cope with challenges as integrated units, raise many questions, such as how hundreds and thousands of individual local responses are coordinated without a central controlling process. Answering such questions requires: 1. Quantifiable collective responses of colonies under specific scenarios; 2. Decomposability of the collective colony-level response into individual responses; and 3. Mechanisms to integrate the colony- and individual-level responses. In the first part of my dissertation, I explore coordinated collective responses of colonies in during the alarm response to an alarmed nestmate (chapter 2&3). I develop a machine-learning approach to quantitatively estimate the collective and individual alarm response (chapter 2). Using this methodology, I demonstrate that colony alarm responses to the introduction of alarmed nestmates can be decomposed into immediately cascading, followed by variable dampening processes. Each of those processes are found to be modulated by variation in individual alarm responsiveness, as measured by alarm response threshold and persistence of alarm behavior. This variation is modulated in turn by environmental context, in particular with task-related social context (chapter 3). In the second part of my dissertation, I examine the mechanisms responsible for colonial changes in metabolic rate during ontogeny. Prior studies have found that larger ant colonies (as for larger organisms) have lower mass-specific metabolic rates, but the mechanisms remain unclear. In a 3.5-year study on 25 colonies, metabolic rates of colonies and colony components were measured during ontogeny (chapter 4). The scaling of metabolic rate during ontogeny was fit better by segmented regression or quadratic regression models than simple linear regression models, showing that colonies do not follow a universal power-law of metabolism during the ontogenetic development. Furthermore, I showed that the scaling of colonial metabolic rates can be primarily explained by changes in the ratio of brood to adult workers, which nonlinearly affects colonial metabolic rates. At high ratios of brood to workers, colony metabolic rates are low because the metabolic rate of larvae and pupae are much lower than adult workers. However, the high colony metabolic rates were observed in colonies with moderate brood: adult ratios, because higher ratios cause adult workers to be more active and have higher metabolic rates, presumably due to the extra work required to feed more brood.

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Date Created
2021

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Ecological drivers and reproductive consequences of queen cooperation in the California harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

Description

An important component of insect social structure is the number of queens that cohabitate in a colony. Queen number is highly variable between and within species. It can begin at colony initiation when often unrelated queens form cooperative social groups,

An important component of insect social structure is the number of queens that cohabitate in a colony. Queen number is highly variable between and within species. It can begin at colony initiation when often unrelated queens form cooperative social groups, a strategy known as primary polygyny. The non-kin cooperative groups formed by primary polygyny have profound effects on the social dynamics and inclusive fitness benefits within a colony. Despite this, the evolution of non-kin queen cooperation has been relatively overlooked in considerations of the evolution of cooperative sociality. To date, studies examining the costs and benefits of primary polygyny have focused primarily on the advantages of multiple queens during colony founding and early growth, but the impact of their presence extends to colony maturity and reproduction.

In this dissertation, I evaluate the ecological drivers and fitness consequences of non-kin queen cooperation, by comparing the reproduction of mature single-queen versus polygynous harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex californicus) colonies in the field. I captured and quantified the total number and biomass of reproductives across multiple mating seasons, comparing between populations that vary in the proportion of single queen versus polygynous colonies, to assess the fitness outcomes of queen cooperation. Colonies in a mainly polygynous site had lower reproductive investment than those in sites with predominantly single-queen colonies. The site dominated by polygyny had higher colony density and displayed evidence of resource limitation, pressures that may drive the evolution of queen cooperation.

I also used microsatellite markers to examine how polygynous queens share worker and reproductive production with nest-mate queens. The majority of queens fairly contribute to worker production and equally share reproductive output. However, there is a low frequency of queens that under-produce workers and over-produce reproductive offspring. This suggests that cheating by reproducing queens is possible, but uncommon. Competitive pressure from neighboring colonies could reduce the success of colonies that contain cheaters and maintain a low frequency of this phenotype in the population.

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Date Created
2017

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Chameleon color change communicates conquest and capitulation

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Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes of evolution. Though we have learned much about the control,

Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes of evolution. Though we have learned much about the control, function, and evolution of animal communication by studying several very common signal types, investigating rare classes of signals may provide new information about how and why animals communicate. My dissertation research focused on rapid physiological color change, a rare signal-type used by relatively few taxa. To answer longstanding questions about this rare class of signals, I employed novel methods to measure rapid color change signals of male veiled chameleons Chamaeleo calyptratus in real-time as seen by the intended conspecific receivers, as well as the associated behaviors of signalers and receivers. In the context of agonistic male-male interactions, I found that the brightness achieved by individual males and the speed of color change were the best predictors of aggression and fighting ability. Conversely, I found that rapid skin darkening serves as a signal of submission for male chameleons, reducing aggression from winners when displayed by losers. Additionally, my research revealed that the timing of maximum skin brightness and speed of brightening were the best predictors of maximum bite force and circulating testosterone levels, respectively. Together, these results indicated that different aspects of color change can communicate information about contest strategy, physiology, and performance ability. Lastly, when I experimentally manipulated the external appearance of chameleons, I found that "dishonestly" signaling individuals (i.e. those whose behavior did not match their manipulated color) received higher aggression from unpainted opponents. The increased aggression received by dishonest signalers suggests that social costs play an important role in maintaining the honesty of rapid color change signals in veiled chameleons. Though the color change abilities of chameleons have interested humans since the time of Aristotle, little was previously known about the signal content of such changes. Documenting the behavioral contexts and information content of these signals has provided an important first step in understanding the current function, underlying control mechanisms, and evolutionary origins of this rare signal type.

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Date Created
2015