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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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Ambient light environment and the evolution of brightness, chroma, and perceived chromaticity in the warning signals of butterflies

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ABSTRACT 1. Aposematic signals advertise prey distastefulness or metabolic unprofitability to potential predators and have evolved independently in many prey groups over the course of evolutionary history as a means of protection from predation. Most aposematic signals investigated to date

ABSTRACT 1. Aposematic signals advertise prey distastefulness or metabolic unprofitability to potential predators and have evolved independently in many prey groups over the course of evolutionary history as a means of protection from predation. Most aposematic signals investigated to date exhibit highly chromatic patterning; however, relatives in these toxic groups with patterns of very low chroma have been largely overlooked. 2. We propose that bright displays with low chroma arose in toxic prey species because they were more effective at deterring predation than were their chromatic counterparts, especially when viewed in relatively low light environments such as forest understories. 3. We analyzed the reflectance and radiance of color patches on the wings of 90 tropical butterfly species that belong to groups with documented toxicity that vary in their habitat preferences to test this prediction: Warning signal chroma and perceived chromaticity are expected to be higher and brightness lower in species that fly in open environments when compared to those that fly in forested environments. 4. Analyses of the reflectance and radiance of warning color patches and predator visual modeling support this prediction. Moreover, phylogenetic tests, which correct for statistical non-independence due to phylogenetic relatedness of test species, also support the hypothesis of an evolutionary correlation between perceived chromaticity of aposematic signals and the flight habits of the butterflies that exhibit these signals.

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2013

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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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Ovarian regulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging division of labor

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There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside

There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside tasks (e.g. foraging for food). This age correlated division of labor is known as temporal polyethism. Foragers demonstrate further division of labor with some bees biasing collection towards protein (pollen) and others towards carbohydrates (nectar). The Reproductive Ground-plan Hypothesis proposes that the ovary plays a regulatory role in foraging division of labor. European honey bee workers that have been selectively bred to store larger amounts of pollen (High strain) also have a higher number of ovarioles per ovary than workers from strains bred to store less pollen (Low strain). High strain bees also initiate foraging earlier than Low strain bees. The relationship between ovariole number and foraging behavior is also observed in wild-type Apis mellifera and Apis cerana: pollen-biased foragers have more ovarioles than nectar-biased foragers. In my first study, I investigated the pre-foraging behavioral patterns of the High and Low strain bees. I found that High strain bees progress through the temporal polyethism at a faster rate than Low strain bees. To ensure that the observed relationship between the ovary and foraging bias is not due to associated separate genes for ovary size and foraging behavior, I investigated foraging behavior of African-European backcross bees. The backcross breeding program was designed to break potential gene associations. The results from this study demonstrated the relationship between the ovary and foraging behavior, supporting the proposed causal linkage between reproductive development and behavioral phenotype. The final study was designed to elucidate a regulatory mechanism that links ovariole number with sucrose sensitivity, and loading decisions. I measured ovariole number, sucrose sensitivity and sucrose solution load size using a rate-controlled sucrose delivery system. I found an interaction effect between ovariole number and sucrose sensitivity for sucrose solution load size. This suggests that the ovary impacts carbohydrate collection through modulation of sucrose sensitivity. Because nectar and pollen collection are not independent, this would also impact protein collection.

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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

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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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Color and communication in Habronattus jumping spiders: tests of sexual and ecological selection

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Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding the evolution of sex differences. While many jumping spiders exhibit

Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding the evolution of sex differences. While many jumping spiders exhibit diverse and brilliant coloration, they have been notably absent from such studies. In the genus Habronattus, females are drab and cryptic while males are brilliantly colored, displaying some of these colors to females during elaborate courtship dances. Here I test multiple hypotheses for the control and function of male color. In the field, I found that Habronattus males indiscriminately court any female they encounter (including other species), so I first examined the role that colors play in species recognition. I manipulated male colors in H. pyrrithrix and found that while they are not required for species recognition, the presence of red facial coloration improves courtship success, but only if males are courting in the sun. Because light environment affects transmission of color signals, the multi-colored displays of males may facilitate communication in variable and unpredictable environments. Because these colors can be costly to produce and maintain, they also have the potential to signal reliable information about male quality to potential female mates. I found that both red facial and green leg coloration is condition dependent in H. pyrrithrix and thus has the potential to signal quality. Yet, surprisingly, this variation in male color does not appear to be important to females. Males of many Habronattus species also exhibit conspicuous markings on the dorsal surface of their abdomens that are not present in females and are oriented away from females during courtship. In the field, I found that these markings are paired with increased leg-waving behavior in a way that resembles the pattern and behavior of wasps; this may provide protection by exploiting the aversions of predators. My data also suggest that different activity levels between the sexes have placed different selection pressures on their dorsal color patterns. Overall, these findings challenge some of the traditional ways that we think about color signaling and provide novel insights into the evolution of animal coloration.

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2012

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Plasticity of the red hourglass in female western black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus): urban ecological variation, condition-dependence, and adaptive function

Description

Urbanization provides an excellent opportunity to examine the effects of human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) on natural ecosystems. Certain species can dominate in urban habitats at the expense of biodiversity. Phenotypic plasticity may be the mechanism by which these 'urban

Urbanization provides an excellent opportunity to examine the effects of human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) on natural ecosystems. Certain species can dominate in urban habitats at the expense of biodiversity. Phenotypic plasticity may be the mechanism by which these 'urban exploiters' flourish in urban areas. Color displays and condition-dependent phenotypes are known to be highly plastic. However, conspicuous color displays are perplexing in that they can be costly to produce and may increase detection by enemies. The Western black widow spider () is a superabundant pest species that forms dense aggregations throughout metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Adult female display a red hourglass on their abdomen, which is speculated to function as a conspicuous warning signal to enemies. Here, I performed field studies to identify how widow morphology and hourglass color differ between urban and desert subpopulations. I also conducted laboratory experiments to examine the dietary sensitivity of hourglass coloration and to identify its functional role in the contexts of agonism, mating, and predator defense. My field data reveal significant spatial variation across urban and desert subpopulations in ecology and color. Furthermore, hourglass coloration was significantly influenced by environmental factors unique to urban habitats. Desert spiders were found to be smaller and less colorful than urban spiders. Throughout, I observed a positive correlation between body condition and hourglass size. Laboratory diet manipulations empirically confirm the condition-dependence of hourglass size. Additionally, widows with extreme body conditions exhibited condition-dependent coloration. However, hourglass obstruction and enlargement did not produce any effects on the outcome of agonistic encounters, male courtship, or predator deterrence. This work offers important insights into the effects of urbanization on the ecology and coloration of a superabundant pest species. While the function of the hourglass remains undetermined, my findings characterize the black widow's hourglass as extremely plastic. Plastic responses to novel environmental conditions can modify the targets of natural selection and subsequently influence evolutionary outcomes. Therefore, assuming a heritable component to this plasticity, the response of hourglass plasticity to the abrupt environmental changes in urban habitats may result in the rapid evolution of this phenotype.

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Date Created
2014

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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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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