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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

The genetics of speciation in the parasitoid wasp, Nasonia

Description

Speciation is the fundamental process that has generated the vast diversity of life on earth. The hallmark of speciation is the evolution of barriers to gene flow. These barriers may reduce gene flow either by keeping incipient species from hybridizing

Speciation is the fundamental process that has generated the vast diversity of life on earth. The hallmark of speciation is the evolution of barriers to gene flow. These barriers may reduce gene flow either by keeping incipient species from hybridizing at all (pre-zygotic), or by reducing the fitness of hybrids (post-zygotic). To understand the genetic architecture of these barriers and how they evolve, I studied a genus of wasps that exhibits barriers to gene flow that act both pre- and post-zygotically. Nasonia is a genus of four species of parasitoid wasps that can be hybridized in the laboratory. When two of these species, N. vitripennis and N. giraulti are mated, their offspring suffer, depending on the generation and cross examined, up to 80% mortality during larval development due to incompatible genic interactions between their nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. These species also exhibit pre-zygotic isolation, meaning they are more likely to mate with their own species when given the choice. I examined these two species and their hybrids to determine the genetic and physiological bases of both speciation mechanisms and to understand the evolutionary forces leading to them. I present results that indicate that the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway, an essential pathway that is responsible for mitochondrial energy generation, is impaired in hybrids of these two species. These results indicate that this impairment is due to the unique evolutionary dynamics of the combined nuclear and mitochondrial origin of this pathway. I also present results showing that, as larvae, these hybrids experience retarded growth linked to the previously observed mortality and I explore possible physiological mechanisms for this. Finally, I show that the pre-mating isolation is due to a change in a single pheromone component in N. vitripennis males, that this change is under simple genetic control, and that it evolved neutrally before being co-opted as a species recognition signal. These results are an important addition to our overall understanding of the mechanisms of speciation and showcase Nasonia as an emerging model for the study of the genetics of speciation.

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2013

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The regulation of worker reproduction in the ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli

Description

The repression of reproductive competition and the enforcement of altruism are key components to the success of animal societies. Eusocial insects are defined by having a reproductive division of labor, in which reproduction is relegated to one or few individuals

The repression of reproductive competition and the enforcement of altruism are key components to the success of animal societies. Eusocial insects are defined by having a reproductive division of labor, in which reproduction is relegated to one or few individuals while the rest of the group members maintain the colony and help raise offspring. However, workers have retained the ability to reproduce in most insect societies. In the social Hymenoptera, due to haplodiploidy, workers can lay unfertilized male destined eggs without mating. Potential conflict between workers and queens can arise over male production, and policing behaviors performed by nestmate workers and queens are a means of repressing worker reproduction. This work describes the means and results of the regulation of worker reproduction in the ant species Aphaenogaster cockerelli. Through manipulative laboratory studies on mature colonies, the lack of egg policing and the presence of physical policing by both workers and queens of this species are described. Through chemical analysis and artificial chemical treatments, the role of cuticular hydrocarbons as indicators of fertility status and the informational basis of policing in this species is demonstrated. An additional queen-specific chemical signal in the Dufour's gland is discovered to be used to direct nestmate aggression towards reproductive competitors. Finally, the level of actual worker-derived males in field colonies is measured. Together, these studies demonstrate the effectiveness of policing behaviors on the suppression of worker reproduction in a social insect species, and provide an example of how punishment and the threat of punishment is a powerful force in maintaining cooperative societies.

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2011

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A practical and theoretical approach to understanding the selective mechanisms behind genetic caste determination in Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus

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Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of describing two patterns of evolutionary and social phenomena: the evolution

Gene-centric theories of evolution by natural selection have been popularized and remain generally accepted in both scientific and public paradigms. While gene-centrism is certainly parsimonious, its explanations fall short of describing two patterns of evolutionary and social phenomena: the evolution of sex and the evolution of social altruism. I review and analyze current theories on the evolution of sex. I then introduce the conflict presented to gene-centric evolution by social phenomena such as altruism and caste sterility in eusocial insects. I review gene-centric models of inclusive fitness and kin selection proposed by Hamilton and Maynard Smith. Based their assumptions, that relatedness should be equal between sterile workers and reproductives, I present several empirical examples that conflict with their models. Following that, I introduce a unique system of genetic caste determination (GCD) observed in hybrid populations of two sister-species of seed harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Pogonomyrmex barbatus. I review the evidence for GCD in those species, followed by a critique of the current gene-centric models used to explain it. In chapter two I present my own theoretical model that is both simple and extricable in nature to explain the origin, evolution, and maintenance of GCD in Pogonomyrmex. Furthermore, I use that model to fill in the gaps left behind by the contributing authors of the other GCD models. As both populations in my study system formed from inter-specific hybridization, I review modern discussions of heterosis (also called hybrid vigor) and use those to help explain the ecological competitiveness of GCD. I empirically address the inbreeding depression the lineages of GCD must overcome in order to remain ecologically stable, demonstrating that as a result of their unique system of caste determination, GCD lineages have elevated recombination frequencies. I summarize and conclude with an argument for why GCD evolved under selective mechanisms which cannot be considered gene-centric, providing evidence that natural selection can effectively operate on non-heritable genotypes appearing in groups and other social contexts.

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Date Created
2012

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Daily eclosion patterns in nymphalid butterflies and their causes

Description

The molt from pupae to adult stage, called eclosion, occurs at specific times of the day in many holometabolous insects. These events are not well studied within Lepidopteran species. It was hypothesized that the eclosion timing in a species may

The molt from pupae to adult stage, called eclosion, occurs at specific times of the day in many holometabolous insects. These events are not well studied within Lepidopteran species. It was hypothesized that the eclosion timing in a species may be shaped by strong selective pressures, such as sexual selection in the context of male-male competition. The daily timing of eclosion was measured for six species of nymphalid butterflies. This was done by rearing individuals to pupation, placing the pupa in a greenhouse, and video recording eclosion to obtain the time of day at which it occurred. Four species exhibited clustered eclosion distributions that were concentrated to within 201 minutes after sunrise and were significantly different from one another. The other two species exhibited eclosion times that were non-clustered. There were no differences between sexes within species. The data support a relationship between the timing of eclosion each day and the timing of mating activities, but other as of yet undetermined selective pressures may also influence eclosion timing.

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Date Created
2017

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Mechanistic Diversity in Long-Range Regulation of Worker Reproduction in Polydomous Ant Species

Description

Ant colonies provide numerous opportunities to study communication systems that maintain the cohesion of eusocial groups. In many ant species, workers have retained their ovaries and the ability to produce male offspring; however, they generally refrain from producing their own

Ant colonies provide numerous opportunities to study communication systems that maintain the cohesion of eusocial groups. In many ant species, workers have retained their ovaries and the ability to produce male offspring; however, they generally refrain from producing their own sons when a fertile queen is present in the colony. Although mechanisms that facilitate the communication of the presence of a fertile queen to all members of the colony have been highly studied, those studies have often overlooked the added challenge faced by polydomous species, which divide their nests across as many as one hundred satellite nests resulting in workers potentially having infrequent contact with the queen. In these polydomous contexts, regulatory phenotypes must extend beyond the immediate spatial influence of the queen.

This work investigates mechanisms that can extend the spatial reach of fertility signaling and reproductive regulation in three polydomous ant species. In Novomessor cockerelli, the presence of larvae but not eggs is shown to inhibit worker reproduction. Then, in Camponotus floridanus, 3-methylheptacosane found on the queen cuticle and queen-laid eggs is verified as a releaser pheromone sufficient to disrupt normally occurring aggressive behavior toward foreign workers. Finally, the volatile and cuticular hydrocarbon pheromones present on the cuticle of Oecophylla smaragdina queens are shown to release strong attraction response by workers; when coupled with previous work, this result suggests that these chemicals may underly both the formation of a worker retinue around the queen as well as egg-located mechanisms of reproductive regulation in distant satellite nests. Whereas most previous studies have focused on the short-range role of hydrocarbons on the cuticle of the queen, these studies demonstrate that eusocial insects may employ longer range regulatory mechanisms. Both queen volatiles and distributed brood can extend the range of queen fertility signaling, and the use of larvae for fertility signaling suggest that feeding itself may be a non-chemical mechanism for reproductive regulation. Although trail laying in mass-recruiting ants is often used as an example of complex communication, reproductive regulation in ants may be a similarly complex example of insect communication, especially in the case of large, polydomous ant colonies.

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Date Created
2020

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Heliconius in a new light: the effects of light environments on mimetic coloration, behavior, and visual systems

Description

Although mimetic animal coloration has been studied since Darwin's time, many questions on the efficacy, evolution, and function of mimicry remain unanswered. Müller (1879) hypothesized that unpalatable individuals converge on the same conspicuous coloration to reduce predation. However, there are

Although mimetic animal coloration has been studied since Darwin's time, many questions on the efficacy, evolution, and function of mimicry remain unanswered. Müller (1879) hypothesized that unpalatable individuals converge on the same conspicuous coloration to reduce predation. However, there are many cases where closely related, unpalatable species have diverged from a shared conspicuous pattern. What selection pressures have led to divergence in warning colors? Environmental factors such as ambient light have been hypothesized to affect signal transmission and efficacy in animals. Using two mimetic pairs of Heliconius butterflies, Postman and Blue-white, I tested the hypothesis that animals with divergent mimetic colors segregate by light environment to maximize conspicuousness of the aposematic warning signal under their particular environmental conditions. Each mimetic pair was found in a light environment that differed in brightness and spectral composition, which affected visual conspicuousness differently depending on mimetic color patch. I then used plasticine models in the field to test the hypothesis that mimics had higher survival in the habitat where they occurred. Although predation rates differed between the two habitats, there was no interactive effect of species by habitat type. Through choice experiments, I demonstrated that mimetic individuals preferred to spend time in the light environment where they were most often found and that their absolute visual sensitivity corresponds to the ambient lighting of their respective environment. Eye morphology was then studied to determine if differences in total corneal surface area and/or facet diameters explained the differences in visual sensitivities, but the differences found in Heliconius eye morphology did not match predictions based upon visual sensitivity. To further understand how eye morphology varies with light environments, I studied many tropical butterflies from open and closed habitats to reveal that forest understory butterflies have larger facets compared to butterflies occupying open habitats. Lastly, I tested avian perception of mimicry in a putative Heliconius mimetic assemblage and show that the perceived mimetic resemblance depends upon visual system. This dissertation reveals the importance of light environments on mimicry, coloration, behavior and visual systems of tropical butterflies.

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2016

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Conspecific Aggression in Apis Melifera: Reconsidering What Are “Desirable” and “Undesirable” Conspecifics

Description

The living world is replete with easily observed structural adaptations (e.g. teeth, claws, and stingers), but behavioral adaptations are no less impressive. Conspecific aggression can be defined as any harmful action directed by one animal at another of the same

The living world is replete with easily observed structural adaptations (e.g. teeth, claws, and stingers), but behavioral adaptations are no less impressive. Conspecific aggression can be defined as any harmful action directed by one animal at another of the same species. Because it is a potentially risky and costly behavior, aggression should be elicited only under optimal conditions. In honeybees, nestmate recognition is considered the driving factor determining whether colony guards will aggress against other honeybees attempting to gain entry to the colony. Models and empirical research support the conclusion that nestmate recognition should be favored over direct kin recognition. Thus, bees tend to use environmentally mediated cues associated with their colonies (e.g. colony odors) to recognize nestmates. The framework of nestmate recognition suggests that non-nestmates should always be aggressed against while nestmates should always be accepted. However, aggression towards nestmates and acceptance of non-nestmates are seen in a wide variety of eusocial insects, including honeybees. These are typically classified as rejection errors and acceptance errors, respectively. As such, they can be explained using signal detection theory and optimal acceptance threshold models, which postulate that recognition errors are inevitable if there is overlap in the cues used to distinguish “desirables” (fitness-enhancing) from “undesirables” (fitness-decrementing) conspecifics. In the context of social insects desirables are presumed to be nestmates and undesirables are presumed to be non-nestmates. I propose that honeybees may make more refined decisions concerning what conspecifics are desirable and undesirable, accounting for at least some of the phenomena previously reported as recognition errors. Some “errors” may be the result of guard bees responding to cues associated with threats and benefits beyond nestmate identity. I show that less threatening neighbors receive less aggression than highly threatening strangers. I show that well-fed colonies exhibit less aggression and that bees from well-fed colonies receive less aggression. I provide evidence that honeybees may decrease aggression towards nestmates and non-nestmate not involved in robbing while increasing aggression towards non-nestmate from a robber colony. Lastly, I show that pollen bearing foragers, regardless of nestmate identity, receive little to no aggression compared to non-pollen bearing foragers.

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Date Created
2021

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Personality in the City: Relationship Between Animal Behavioral Traits And Urbanization in a Fragile, Human-impacted Desert Ecosystem

Description

Human-inhabited or -disturbed areas pose many unique challenges for wildlife, including increased human exposure, novel challenges, such as finding food or nesting sites in novel structures, anthropogenic noises, and novel predators. Animals inhabiting these environments must adapt to such changes

Human-inhabited or -disturbed areas pose many unique challenges for wildlife, including increased human exposure, novel challenges, such as finding food or nesting sites in novel structures, anthropogenic noises, and novel predators. Animals inhabiting these environments must adapt to such changes by learning to exploit new resources and avoid danger. To my knowledge no study has comprehensively assessed behavioral reactions of urban and rural populations to numerous novel environmental stimuli. I tested behavioral responses of urban, suburban, and rural house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) to novel stimuli (e.g. objects, noises, food), to presentation of a native predator model (Accipiter striatus) and a human, and to two problem-solving challenges (escaping confinement and food-finding). Although I found few population-level differences in behavioral responses to novel objects, environment, and food, I found compelling differences in how finches from different sites responded to novel noise. When played a novel sound (whale call or ship horn), urban and suburban house finches approached their food source more quickly and spent more time on it than rural birds, and urban and suburban birds were more active during the whale-noise presentation. In addition, while there were no differences in response to the native predator, rural birds showed higher levels of stress behaviors when presented with a human. When I replicated this study in juveniles, I found that exposure to humans during development more accurately predicted behavioral differences than capture site. Finally, I found that urban birds were better at solving an escape problem, whereas rural birds were better at solving a food-finding challenge. These results indicate that not all anthropogenic changes affect animal populations equally and that determining the aversive natural-history conditions and challenges of taxa may help urban ecologists better understand the direction and degree to which animals respond to human-induced rapid environmental alterations.

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Date Created
2018

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Geographical Variation in Social Structure, Morphology, and Genetics of the New World Honey Ant Myrmecocystus mendax

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Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha

Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha Mountain of central Arizona contain multiple unrelated matrilines, an observation that is consistent with primary polygyny. In contrast, similar analyses suggest that colonies in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona are primarily monogynous. These interpretations are consistent with field and laboratory observations. Whereas cooperative colony founding was observed frequently among groups of Sierra Ancha foundresses, founding in the Chiricahua population was restricted to individual foundresses. Furthermore, Sierra Ancha foundresses successfully established incipient laboratory colonies without undergoing queen culling following emergence of the first workers. Multi-queen laboratory Sierra Ancha colonies also produced more workers and repletes than haplometrotic colonies, and when brood raiding was induced between colonies, queens of those with more workers had a higher survival probability.

Microsatellite analyses of additional locations within the M. mendax range suggest that polygyny is also present in some other populations, especially in central-northern Arizona, albeit at lower frequencies than that in the Sierra Anchas. In addition, analyses of multiple types of genetic data, including microsatellites, the mitochondrial barcoding region, and over 2000 nuclear ultra-conserved elements indicate that M. mendax populations within the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico are geographically structured, with strong support for the existence of two or more divergent clades as well as isolation-by-distance within clades. This structure is further shown to correlate with variation in queen number and hair length, a diagnostic taxonomic feature used to distinguish honey ant species.

Together, these findings suggest that regional ecological pressures (e.g. colony density , climate) may have acted on colony founding and social strategy to select for increasing workforce size and, along with genetic drift, have driven geographically isolated M. mendax populations to differentiate genetically and morphologically. The presence of colony fusion in the laboratory and life history traits in honey ant that are influenced by colony size, including repletism, brood raiding, and tournament, support this evolutionary scenario.

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Date Created
2018