Predictable evolution towards larger brains in birds colonizing oceanic islands

Sayol F., Downing P.A., Iwaniuk A.N., Maspons J., Sol D. (2018) Predictable evolution towards larger brains in birds colonizing oceanic islands. Nature Communications. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05280-8

Resum:

Theory and evidence suggest that some selective pressures are more common on islands than in adjacent mainland habitats, leading evolution to follow predictable trends. The existence of predictable evolutionary trends has nonetheless been difficult to demonstrate, mainly because of the challenge of separating in situ evolution from sorting processes derived from colonization events. Here we use brain size measurements of >1900 avian species to reveal the existence of one such trend: increased brain size in island dwellers. Based on sister-taxa comparisons and phylogenetic ancestral trait estimations, we show that species living on islands have relatively larger brains than their mainland relatives and that these differences mainly reflect in situ evolution rather than varying colonization success. Our findings reinforce the view that in some instances evolution may be predictable, and yield insight into why some animals evolve larger brains despite substantial energetic and developmental costs. © 2018, The Author(s).

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Risk-taking behavior, urbanization and the pace of life in birds

Sol D., Maspons J., Gonzalez-Voyer A., Morales-Castilla I., Garamszegi L.Z., Møller A.P. (2018) Risk-taking behavior, urbanization and the pace of life in birds. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1007/s00265-018-2463-0

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Abstract: Despite growing appreciation of the importance of considering a pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) perspective to understand how animals interact with their environment, studies relating behavior to life history under altered environmental conditions are still rare. By means of a comparative analysis of flight initiation distances (i.e., the distance at which an animal takes flight when a human being is approaching) across > 300 bird species distributed worldwide, we document here the existence of a POLS predicted by theory where slow-lived species tend to be more risk-averse than fast-lived species. This syndrome largely emerges from the influence of body mass, and is highly dependent on the environmental context. Accordingly, the POLS structure vanishes in urbanized environments due to slow-lived species adjusting their flight distances based on the perception of risk. While it is unclear whether changes in POLS reflect plastic and/or evolutionary adjustments, our findings highlight the need to integrate behavior into life history theory to fully understand how animals tolerate human-induced environmental changes. Significance statement: Animals can often respond to changing environmental conditions by adjusting their behavior. However, the degree to which different species can modify their behavior depends on their life history strategy and on the environmental context. Species-specific perception of risk is a conspicuous example of adjustable behavior tightly associated with life history strategy. While there is a general tendency of higher risk aversion in rural than city-dwelling birds, it is dependent on the species’ life history strategy. Slow-lived species are more prone to adjust their flight initiation distances based on the perception of risk, allowing humans to approach closer in urban than rural environments. Behavior must therefore be taken into account together with life history to reliably assess species’ vulnerability at the face of ongoing environmental change. © 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

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