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    ABSTRACT: Animal ears are exquisitely adapted to capture sound energy and perform signal analysis. Studying the ear of the locust, we show how frequency signal analysis can be performed solely by using the structural features of the tympanum. Incident sound waves generate mechanical vibrational waves that travel across the tympanum. These waves shoal in a tsunami-like fashion, resulting in energy localization that focuses vibrations onto the mechanosensory neurons in a frequency-dependent manner. Using finite element analysis, we demonstrate that two mechanical properties of the locust tympanum, distributed thickness and tension, are necessary and sufficient to generate frequency-dependent energy localization.
    Journal of The Royal Society Interface 01/2014; 11(90):20130857.
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    ABSTRACT: There is a growing body of evidence indicating the potential value of essential oils as control agents against a range of arthropod ectoparasites, particularly lice, mites and ticks. Toxicity has been demonstrated following immersion and physical contact with treated surfaces, as well as after exposure to the vapour of these oils; the last of these factors implies that there is a neurotoxic, rather than simply a mechanical, pathway in their mode of action. However, the volatile nature of essential oils suggests that their residual activity is likely to be short-lived. A possible advantage of essential oils over conventional ectoparasite treatments may refer to their reported ovicidal efficacy, although it is unclear whether this results from neurotoxicity or mechanical suffocation. There are many difficulties in comparing the findings of existing studies of essential oil toxicity. One major issue is the wide variation among batches in the relative concentrations of oil constituents. A second issue concerns the fact that many experimental designs make it difficult to confirm that the effect seen is attributable to the oil; in many cases inappropriate controls mean that the effects of the excipient on mortality cannot be distinguished. Hence, it is important that an excipient-only control is always included in these bioassays. Furthermore, in direct contact assays, when attempting to identify the toxicity pathway of the essential oil tested, it is important to include a hydrophobic control. Without this, it is impossible to distinguish simple mechanical effects from neurological or other cellular toxicity. The use of essential oils in the control of veterinary ectoparasites is an area which holds considerable potential for the future and research into their use is still at an early stage. More extensive field trials, the standardization of components, the standardization of extraction, the standardization of good experimental design, mammalian toxicology profiling and excipient development, as well as further investigation into the residual activities and shelf-lives of these oils are all required to allow the full realization of their potential.
    Medical and Veterinary Entomology 10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(13)01034-8 A dominant theme of acoustic communication is the partitioning of acoustic space into exclusive, species-specific niches to enable efficient information transfer. In insects, acoustic niche partitioning is achieved through auditory frequency filtering, brought about by the mechanical properties of their ears [1]. The tuning of the antennal ears of mosquitoes [2] and flies [3], however, arises from active amplification, a process similar to that at work in the mammalian cochlea [4]. Yet, the presence of active amplification in the other type of insect ears—tympanal ears—has remained uncertain [5]. Here we demonstrate the presence of active amplification and adaptive tuning in the tympanal ear of a phylogenetically basal insect, a tree cricket. We also show that the tree cricket exploits critical oscillator-like mechanics, enabling high auditory sensitivity and tuning to conspecific songs. These findings imply that sophisticated auditory mechanisms may have appeared even earlier in the evolution of hearing and acoustic communication than currently appreciated. Our findings also raise the possibility that frequency discrimination and directional hearing in tympanal systems may rely on physiological nonlinearities, in addition to mechanical properties, effectively lifting some of the physical constraints placed on insects by their small size [6] and prompting an extensive reexamination of invertebrate audition.
    Current Biology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The Convention on Biological Diversity has catalyzed worldwide awareness of threats to biological diversity and stimulated global conservation strategies. These have led to national and international legislation and have generated debate about the most effective conservation actions. Under the EU Habitats Directive, all member states are obliged to establish a system for strict protection of species listed in Annex IV(a), which includes all bats. In England, this obligation has resulted in legislation that allows for derogation from strict protection under license, provided activities are undertaken to mitigate any potential negative effects on bat numbers. We used an evidence-based approach to assess the cost-effectiveness of mitigation strategies and the English bat-derogation licensing process as a whole. We analyzed data from 389 bat derogation licenses issued in England from 2003 to 2005 relating to 1776 roosts and 15 species to determine the nature and extent of development and mitigation activities and their effects on bats. Overall the effects of licensed activities on roosts were negative. Despite the level of protection afforded to bats, the majority (68%) of roosts for which derogation licenses were issued were destroyed. There were species-specific differences in the probability of roosts being destroyed, and impacts on roosts did not reflect a species' conservation status. Information provided by licensees was inadequate and inconsistent. Most licensees (67%) failed to submit postdevelopment reports, and postdevelopment monitoring was conducted at only 19% of sites. Despite a minimum of £4.13 million spent on mitigation structures for bats from 2003 to 2005, it was unclear whether the licensing process meets EU obligations. On the basis of our results, we believe there is a need to overhaul the licensing process, to establish a comprehensive, standardized postdevelopment monitoring system, and to demonstrate that mitigation is commensurate with Britain's legal obligations. Mitigando el Efecto del Desarrollo sobre los Murciélagos en Inglaterra con Licencias de Derogación.
    Conservation Biology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: A circadian rhythm matched to the phase and period of the day-night cycle has measurable benefits for land plants. We assessed the contribution of circadian period to the phasing of cellular events with the light : dark cycle. We also investigated the plasticity of circadian period within the Arabidopsis circadian oscillator. We monitored the circadian oscillator in wild-type and circadian period mutants under light : dark cycles of varying total duration. We also investigated changes in oscillator dynamics during and after the transition from light : dark cycles to free running conditions. Under light : dark cycles, dawn and dusk were anticipated differently when the circadian period was not resonant with the environmental period ('T cycle'). Entrainment to T cycles differing from the free-running period caused a short-term alteration in oscillator period. The transient plasticity of period was described by existing mathematical models of the Arabidopsis circadian network. We conclude that a circadian period resonant with the period of the environment is particularly important for anticipation of dawn and the timing of nocturnal events; and there is short-term and transient plasticity of period of the Arabidopsis circadian network.
    New Phytologist 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Ticks are important vectors of disease in companion animals and transmit an extensive range of viral, bacterial and protozoan pathogens to dogs and cats. They may also be vectors of zoonotic pathogens which affect the health of in-contact owners. In recent years, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis have all shown signs of increased prevalence and distribution in various parts of Europe. Here, the prevalence of Anaplasma spp. and Babesia spp. pathogens in Ixodes ticks, collected from dogs in the UK in 2009, were evaluated using PCR and sequence analysis of the 16S rDNA or 18S rDNA regions respectively. Species identification was performed by alignment with existing sequences in GenBank. After sequencing, 5 out of 677 tick samples (0.74%) contained rDNA which shared 97-100%% sequence homology with Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Of these, three samples came from Ixodes ricinus and two from Ixodes hexagonus. Sixteen out of 742 ticks (2.4%) were positive for Babesia and of these 11 showed 97-100% homology with B. gibsoni. All of these 11 samples were derived from I. ricinus. One sample, again from I. ricinus, showed 99% homology for B. divergens. Four of the Babesia spp sequences were of the "venatorum" or EU1 type, three of which came from I. ricinus and one from an Ixodes canisuga. This strain has been associated with severe human cases of babeisiosis. A further 246 positive results, which appeared to show the presence of Anaplasma following PCR, were shown by sequence analysis to be derived from the bacterium Candidatus "Midichloria mitochondrii", which to date has been assumed to be non-pathogenic. The results are of interest because the presence of B. gibsoni in the UK further confirms the worldwide distribution of this piroplasm and supports the inference that I. ricinus may act as a vector for Babesia of the gibsoni-complex.
    Veterinary Parasitology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: There has been recent interest in the possibility that plant roots can show oriented collective motion, or swarming behavior. We examine the evidence supportive of root swarming and we also present new observations on this topic. Seven criteria are proposed for the definition of a swarm, whose application can help identify putative swarming behavior in plants. Examples where these criteria are fulfilled, at many levels of organization, are presented in relation to plant roots and root systems, as well as to the root-like mycelial cords (rhizomorphs) of fungi. The ideas of both an "active" swarming, directed by a signal which imposes a common vector on swarm element aggregation, and a "passive" swarming, where aggregation results from external constraint, are introduced. Active swarming is a pattern of cooperative behavior peculiar to the sporophyte generation of vascular plants and is the antithesis of the competitive behavior shown by the gametophyte generation of such plants, where passive swarming may be found. Fungal mycelial cords could serve as a model example of swarming in a multi-cellular, non-animal system.
    Communicative & integrative biology 09/2013; 6(5):e25299.
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    ABSTRACT: Most large-bodied wildlife populations in sub-Saharan Africa only survive in conservation areas, but are continuing to decline because external changes influence ecological processes within reserves, leading to a lack of functionality. However, failure to understand how landscape scale changes influence ecological processes limits our ability to manage protected areas. We used GPS movement data to calculate dry season home ranges for 14 zebra mares in the Okavango Delta and investigated the effects of a range of landscape characteristics (number of habitat patches, mean patch shape, mean index of juxtaposition, and interspersion) on home range size. Resource utilization functions (RUF) were calculated to investigate how specific landscape characteristics affected space use. Space use by all zebra was clustered. In the wetter (Central) parts of the Delta home range size was negatively correlated with the density of habitat patches, more complex patch shapes, low juxtaposition of habitats and an increased availability of floodplain and grassland habitats. In the drier (Peripheral) parts of the Delta, higher use by zebra was also associated with a greater availability of floodplain and grassland habitats, but a lower density of patches and simpler patch shapes. The most important landscape characteristic was not consistent between zebra within the same area of the Delta, suggesting that no single foraging strategy is substantially superior to others, and so animals using different foraging strategies may all thrive. The distribution and complexity of habitat patches are crucial in determining space use by zebra. The extent and duration of seasonal flooding is the principal process affecting habitat patch characteristics in the Okavango Delta, particularly the availability of floodplains, which are the habitat at greatest risk from climate change and anthropogenic disturbance to the Okavango's catchment basin. Understanding how the factors that determine habitat complexity may change in the future is critical to the conservation of large mammal populations. Our study shows the importance of maintaining flood levels in the Okavango Delta and how the loss of seasonal floodplains will be compounded by changes in habitat configuration, forcing zebra to change their relative space use and enlarge home ranges, leading to increased competition for key resources and population declines.
    Ecology and Evolution 09/2013; 3(9):2795-2805.
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    ABSTRACT: Sexually-selected exaggerated traits tend to be unusually reliable signals of individual condition, as their expression tends to be more sensitive to nutritional history and physiological circumstance than that of other phenotypes. As such, these traits are the foundation for many models of sexual selection and animal communication, such as "handicap" and "good genes" models. Exactly how expression of these traits is linked to the bearer's condition has been a central yet unresolved question, in part because the underlying physiological mechanisms regulating their development have remained largely unknown. Recent discoveries across animals as diverse as deer, beetles, and flies now implicate the widely conserved insulin-like signaling pathway, as a common physiological mechanism regulating condition-sensitive structures with extreme growth. This raises the exciting possibility that one highly conserved pathway may underlie the evolution of trait exaggeration in a multitude of sexually-selected signal traits across the animal kingdom.
    BioEssays 07/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The circadian clock is an endogenous 24 h oscillator regulating many critical biological processes in plants. One of the key characteristics of the circadian clock is that it is buffered against temperature, maintaining an approximately 24 h rhythm over a broad physiological temperature range. Here we tested temperature buffering capacity of the circadian clock across a number of Arabidopsis accessions using several circadian clock reporters: leaf movement, CCA1::LUC and LHY::LUC. We found that leaf movement was the best temperature buffered circadian output. On the other hand, when temperature increases, circadian rhythms of CCA1 and LHY transcription shorten considerably across all accessions, indicating that the clock driving expression of CCA1 and LHY is not perfectly buffered. This feature might be crucial to plants growing in a constantly changing environment, and here we provide insight into the importance of period shortening to plant growth performance and the benefits of a flexible clock.
    Plant Cell and Environment 06/2013;
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