Diversity in insect seed parasite guilds at large geographical scale: The roles of host specificity and spatial distance

Bonal R., Espelta J.M., Muñoz A., Ortego J., Aparicio J.M., Gaddis K., Sork V.L. (2016) Diversity in insect seed parasite guilds at large geographical scale: The roles of host specificity and spatial distance. Journal of Biogeography. : 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1111/jbi.12733

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Aim: Host specificity within plant-feeding insects constitutes a fascinating example of natural selection that promotes inter-specific niche segregation. If specificity is strong, composition of local plant parasitic insect guilds is largely dependent on the presence and prevalence of the preferred hosts. Alternatively, if it is weak or absent, historic and stochastic demographic processes may drive the structuring of insect communities. We assessed whether the species composition of acorn feeding insects (Curculio spp. guilds) and their genetic variation change geographically according to the local host community. Location: An 800 km transect across California, USA. Methods: We used DNA taxonomy to detect potential Curculio cryptic speciation and assessed intra-specific genetic structure among sampling sites. We monitored larval performance on different hosts, by measuring the weight of each larva upon emerging from the acorn. Our phylogenetic and spatial analyses disentangled host specificity and geographical effects on Curculio community composition and genetic structure. Results: DNA taxonomy revealed no specialized cryptic species. Californian Curculio spp. were sister taxa that did not segregate among Quercus species or, at a deeper taxonomic level, between red and white oaks. Curculio species turnover and intra-specific genetic differentiation increased with geographical distance among localities irrespective of local oak species composition. Moreover, larval performance did not differ among oak species or acorn sizes when controlling for the effect of the locality. Main conclusions: Historical processes have contributed to the structuring of acorn weevil communities across California. Trophic niche overlapped among species, indicating that ecologically similar species can co-exist. Acorn crop inter-annual variability and unpredictability in mixed oak forests may have selected against narrow specialization, and facilitated co-existence by means of an inter-specific time partitioning of the resources. Wide-scale geographical records of parasitic insects and their host plants are necessary to understand the processes underlying species diversity. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Cheiracanthium ilicis sp. n. (Araneae, Eutichuridae), a novel spider species associated with Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex)

Morano E., Bonal R. (2016) Cheiracanthium ilicis sp. n. (Araneae, Eutichuridae), a novel spider species associated with Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex). ZooKeys. 2016: 21-39.
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Doi: 10.3897/zookeys.601.8241

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We describe a novel species Cheiracanthium ilicis sp. n. (Araneae, Eutichuridae) collected in the province of Toledo (Central Spain). It was found during a systematic sampling campaign carried out in an agricultural landscape with isolated Holm oaks Quercus ilex and small forest patches. Its morphology and affinities with other species of the genus are discussed. Furthermore, one mitochondrial gene was sequenced to confirm species membership and its differentiation from other Cheiracanthium species. The molecular phylogenies based on mitochondrial and nuclear genes showed a close relationship of C. ilicis sp. n. with C. inclusum and C. mildei, with which it also shares morphological similarities. Nonetheless, the sparse sampling of the phylogeny, due to the low number of sequences available, impedes drawing any definitive conclusion about these relationships; it is first necessary to perform an extensive review of the genus worldwide and more thorough phylogenies. C. ilicis sp. n. also shares certain ecological and phenological characteristics with C. inclusum and C. mildei. Like them, C. ilicis sp. n. is an obligate tree dweller that prefers a tree canopy habitat and reproduces primarily in late spring and summer. From a conservation perspective, the present study suggests the need to preserve isolated trees in agricultural landscapes. They are not only the refuge of common forest organisms but also of novel species yet to be discovered. © Eduardo Morano, Raul Bonal.

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Wood mouse population dynamics: Interplay among seed abundance seasonality, shrub cover and wild boar interference

Sunyer P., Muñoz A., Mazerolle M.J., Bonal R., Espelta J.M. (2016) Wood mouse population dynamics: Interplay among seed abundance seasonality, shrub cover and wild boar interference. Mammalian Biology. 81: 372-379.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.mambio.2016.03.001

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Small rodents play a key role in forest ecosystems as common prey, but also as prevalent seed consumers and dispersers. Hence, there is a great interest in disentangling the factors involved in their population dynamics. We conducted an intensive 2-year field study to test the relative role of seasonality in seed abundance, shrub cover and wild boar interference on the population dynamics of wood mice, Apodemus sylvaticus, in a Mediterranean oak forest. Wood mice demographic parameters varied strongly with the seasonal variations in acorn availability on the ground. Mice survival and abundance dropped drastically during summer, the period of acorn scarcity, but rose again in autumn when acorn-fall began. Specifically, female abundance was associated with the temporal changes in acorn availability on the ground, but were randomly distributed in space whereas males showed a spatially aggregated pattern during the acorn-abundant seasons (autumn-winter). In contrast to studies conducted in sparse oak forests in drier environments, spatial variability in shrub cover and wild boar foraging activity did not affect directly the population dynamics of wood mice. This could be due to the presence of an abundant shrub layer and a closed canopy in our forest that enhance environmental conditions and provides shelter against predators and ungulates. Our study highlights that the relative importance of environmental factors and intraguild competition on rodent dynamics may be highly context-dependent, varying greatly among different sites. We suggest that the relationships between acorn dispersers and oaks are more reciprocal than previously considered. © 2016 Published by Elsevier GmbH.

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