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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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Date Created
2013

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The physiology of division of labor in the ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus

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A notable feature of advanced eusocial insect groups is a division of labor within the sterile worker caste. However, the physiological aspects underlying the differentiation of behavioral phenotypes are poorly understood in one of the most successful social taxa, the

A notable feature of advanced eusocial insect groups is a division of labor within the sterile worker caste. However, the physiological aspects underlying the differentiation of behavioral phenotypes are poorly understood in one of the most successful social taxa, the ants. By starting to understand the foundations on which social behaviors are built, it also becomes possible to better evaluate hypothetical explanations regarding the mechanisms behind the evolution of insect eusociality, such as the argument that the reproductive regulatory infrastructure of solitary ancestors was co-opted and modified to produce distinct castes. This dissertation provides new information regarding the internal factors that could underlie the division of labor observed in both founding queens and workers of Pogonomyrmex californicus ants, and shows that changes in task performance are correlated with differences in reproductive physiology in both castes. In queens and workers, foraging behavior is linked to elevated levels of the reproductively-associated juvenile hormone (JH), and, in workers, this behavioral change is accompanied by depressed levels of ecdysteroid hormones. In both castes, the transition to foraging is also associated with reduced ovarian activity. Further investigation shows that queens remain behaviorally plastic, even after worker emergence, but the association between JH and behavioral bias remains the same, suggesting that this hormone is an important component of behavioral development in these ants. In addition to these reproductive factors, treatment with an inhibitor of the nutrient-sensing pathway Target of Rapamycin (TOR) also causes queens to become biased towards foraging, suggesting an additional sensory component that could play an important role in division of labor. Overall, this work provides novel identification of the possible regulators behind ant division of labor, and suggests how reproductive physiology could play an important role in the evolution and regulation of non-reproductive social behaviors.

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Date Created
2012

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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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Three perspectives on multilevel selection: an experimental, historical, and synthetic analysis of group-level selection

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During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of debates about group-level selection and the effectiveness with which natural

During the 1960s, the long-standing idea that traits or behaviors could be

explained by natural selection acting on traits that persisted "for the good of the group" prompted a series of debates about group-level selection and the effectiveness with which natural selection could act at or across multiple levels of biological organization. For some this topic remains contentious, while others consider the debate settled, even while disagreeing about when and how resolution occurred, raising the question: "Why have these debates continued?"

Here I explore the biology, history, and philosophy of the possibility of natural selection operating at levels of biological organization other than the organism by focusing on debates about group-level selection that have occurred since the 1960s. In particular, I use experimental, historical, and synthetic methods to review how the debates have changed, and whether different uses of the same words and concepts can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data.

I begin with the results of a group-selection experiment I conducted using the parasitoid wasp Nasonia, and discuss how the interpretation depends on how one conceives of and defines a "group." Then I review the history of the group selection controversy and argue that this history is best interpreted as multiple, interrelated debates rather than a single continuous debate. Furthermore, I show how the aspects of these debates that have changed the most are related to theoretical content and empirical data, while disputes related to methods remain largely unchanged. Synthesizing this material, I distinguish four different "approaches" to the study of multilevel selection based on the questions and methods used by researchers, and I use the results of the Nasonia experiment to discuss how each approach can lead to different interpretations of the same experimental data. I argue that this realization can help to explain why debates about group and multilevel selection have persisted for nearly sixty years. Finally, the conclusions of this dissertation apply beyond evolutionary biology by providing an illustration of how key concepts can change over time, and how failing to appreciate this fact can lead to ongoing controversy within a scientific field.

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Date Created
2014

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Evolutionary Genetics of CORL Proteins

Description

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in Dpp and dActivin signaling, but the two homologous mCORL

protein functions are unknown. Conducting transgenic experiments in the adult wings,

and third instar larval brains using mCORL1, mCORL2 and dCORL are used to provide

insight into the function of these proteins. These experiments show mCORL1 has a

different function from mCORL2 and dCORL when expressed in Drosophila. mCORL2

and dCORL have functional similarities that are likely conserved. Six amino acid

substitutions between mCORL1 and mCORL2/dCORL may be the reason for the

functional difference. The evolutionary implications of this research suggest the

conservation of a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling that predates the divergence of

arthropods and vertebrates.

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Date Created
2019