Biological Reviews

Publisher: Cambridge Philosophical Society, Blackwell Publishing


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  • Other titles
    Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society (Online), Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Biological reviews, Biol. rev
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  • Material type
    Periodical, Internet resource
  • Document type
    Internet Resource, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

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Blackwell Publishing

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    • Some journals impose embargoes typically of 6 or 12 months, occasionally of 24 months
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    • 'Blackwell Publishing' is an imprint of 'Wiley-Blackwell'
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    ​ yellow

Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Predators appear to be less frequently specialised (i.e. adapted to restricted diet) on their prey than herbivores, parasites or parasitoids. Here, we critically evaluate contemporary evolutionary hypotheses that might be used to explain the evolution of specialised foraging in predators. We propose a unifying concept within which we define four types of trophic categories using ecological (diet breadth) and evolutionary (degree of adaptations) contexts. We use data on spiders (Araneae), the most diversified order of terrestrial predators, to assess applicability of frameworks and evolutionary concepts related to trophic specialisation. The majority of spider species are euryphagous but a few have a restricted prey range, i.e. they are stenophagous. We provide a detailed overview of specialisation on different prey types, namely spiders, crustaceans, moths, dipterans, ants, and termites. We also review the available evidence for trophic adaptations, classified into four categories: behavioural, morphological, venomic and metabolic. Finally, we discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of trophic specialisation and propose avenues for future research.
    Biological Reviews 08/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Understanding the processes that lead to species extinctions is vital for lessening pressures on biodiversity. While species diversity, presence and abundance are most commonly used to measure the effects of human pressures, demographic responses give a more proximal indication of how pressures affect population viability and contribute to extinction risk. We reviewed how demographic rates are affected by the major anthropogenic pressures, changed landscape condition caused by human land use, and climate change. We synthesized the results of 147 empirical studies to compare the relative effect size of climate and landscape condition on birth, death, immigration and emigration rates in plant and animal populations. While changed landscape condition is recognized as the major driver of species declines and losses worldwide, we found that, on average, climate variables had equally strong effects on demographic rates in plant and animal populations. This is significant given that the pressures of climate change will continue to intensify in coming decades. The effects of climate change on some populations may be underestimated because changes in climate conditions during critical windows of species life cycles may have disproportionate effects on demographic rates. The combined pressures of land-use change and climate change may result in species declines and extinctions occurring faster than otherwise predicted, particularly if their effects are multiplicative.
    Biological Reviews 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Most structures within the central nervous system (CNS) are composed of different types of neuron that vary in both number and morphology, but relatively little is known about the interplay between these two features, i.e. about the population dynamics of a given cell type. How such arrays of neurons are distributed within a structure, and how they differentiate their dendrites relative to each other, are issues that have recently drawn attention in the invertebrate nervous system, where the genetic and molecular underpinnings of these organizing principles are being revealed in exquisite detail. The retina is one of the few locations where these principles have been extensively studied in the vertebrate CNS, indeed, where the design principles of ‘mosaic regularity’ and ‘uniformity of coverage’ were first explicitly defined, quantified, and related to each other. Recent studies have revealed a number of genes that influence the formation of these histotypical features in the retina, including homologues of those invertebrate genes, although close inspection reveals that they do not always mediate comparable developmental processes nor elucidate fundamental design principles. The present review considers just how pervasive these features of ‘mosaic regularity’ and ‘uniform dendritic coverage’ are within the mammalian retina, discussing the means by which such features can be assessed in the mature and developing nervous system and examining the limitations associated with those assessments. We then address the extent to which these two design principles co-exist within different populations of neurons, and how they are achieved during development. Finally, we consider the neural phenotypes obtained in mutant nervous systems, to address whether a prospective gene of interest underlies those very design principles.
    Biological Reviews 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The history of the idea that predation rates are functions of the ratio of prey density to predator density, known as ratio dependence, is reviewed and updated. When the term was introduced in 1989, it was already known that higher predator abundance often reduced an individual predator's average intake rate of prey. However, the idea that this effect was a universally applicable inverse proportionality was new. That idea was widely criticized in many articles in the early 1990s, and many of these criticisms have never been addressed. Nevertheless, ratio dependence seems to be gaining in popularity and is the subject of a recent monograph by the originators. This article revisits the most important objections to this theory, and assesses to what extent they have been answered by the theory's proponents. In this process, several new objections are raised. The counterarguments begin with the lack of a plausible, generally applicable mechanism that could produce ratio dependence. They include the fact that ratio dependence is a special case of predator-density effects, which, in turn, are only one of many non-prey species effects that influence the consumption rate of a particular prey. The proclaimed simplicity advantage of ratio dependence is at best small and is outweighed by its disadvantages; it predicts biologically implausible phenomena, and cannot easily be extended to describe multi-species systems, trait-mediated interactions, coevolution, and a number of other important ecological phenomena. Any potential small simplicity advantage disappears with corrections to remove unrealistic low-density dynamics caused by ratio dependence. The frequent occurrence of strong predator dependence does not make ratio dependence a better ‘default’ model of predation than prey dependence, and empirical studies of the full range of non-prey species effects on the consumption rates of predators are needed.
    Biological Reviews 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Mimicry is a classical example of adaptive signal design. Here, we review the current state of research into vocal mimicry in birds. Avian vocal mimicry is a conspicuous and often spectacular form of animal communication, occurring in many distantly related species. However, the proximate and ultimate causes of vocal mimicry are poorly understood. In the first part of this review, we argue that progress has been impeded by conceptual confusion over what constitutes vocal mimicry. We propose a modified version of Vane-Wright's (1980) widely used definition of mimicry. According to our definition, a vocalisation is mimetic if the behaviour of the receiver changes after perceiving the acoustic resemblance between the mimic and the model, and the behavioural change confers a selective advantage on the mimic. Mimicry is therefore specifically a functional concept where the resemblance between heterospecific sounds is a target of selection. It is distinct from other forms of vocal resemblance including those that are the result of chance or common ancestry, and those that have emerged as a by-product of other processes such as ecological convergence and selection for large song-type repertoires. Thus, our definition provides a general and functionally coherent framework for determining what constitutes vocal mimicry, and takes account of the diversity of vocalisations that incorporate heterospecific sounds. In the second part we assess and revise hypotheses for the evolution of avian vocal mimicry in the light of our new definition. Most of the current evidence is anecdotal, but the diverse contexts and acoustic structures of putative vocal mimicry suggest that mimicry has multiple functions across and within species. There is strong experimental evidence that vocal mimicry can be deceptive, and can facilitate parasitic interactions. There is also increasing support for the use of vocal mimicry in predator defence, although the mechanisms are unclear. Less progress has been made in explaining why many birds incorporate heterospecific sounds into their sexual displays, and in determining whether these vocalisations are functionally mimetic or by-products of sexual selection for other traits such as repertoire size. Overall, this discussion reveals a more central role for vocal mimicry in the behavioural ecology of birds than has previously been appreciated. The final part of this review identifies important areas for future research. Detailed empirical data are needed on individual species, including on the structure of mimetic signals, the contexts in which mimicry is produced, how mimicry is acquired, and the ecological relationships between mimic, model and receiver. At present, there is little information and no consensus about the various costs of vocal mimicry for the protagonists in the mimicry complex. The diversity and complexity of vocal mimicry in birds raises important questions for the study of animal communication and challenges our view of the nature of mimicry itself. Therefore, a better understanding of avian vocal mimicry is essential if we are to account fully for the diversity of animal signals.
    Biological Reviews 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Phenotypes vary hierarchically among taxa and populations, among genotypes within populations, among individuals within genotypes, and also within individuals for repeatedly expressed, labile phenotypic traits. This hierarchy produces some fundamental challenges to clearly defining biological phenomena and constructing a consistent explanatory framework. We use a heuristic statistical model to explore two consequences of this hierarchy. First, although the variation existing among individuals within populations has long been of interest to evolutionary biologists, within-individual variation has been much less emphasized. Within-individual variance occurs when labile phenotypes (behaviour, physiology, and sometimes morphology) exhibit phenotypic plasticity or deviate from a norm-of-reaction within the same individual. A statistical partitioning of phenotypic variance leads us to explore an array of ideas about residual within-individual variation. We use this approach to draw attention to additional processes that may influence within-individual phenotypic variance, including interactions among environmental factors, ecological effects on the fitness consequences of plasticity, and various types of adaptive variance. Second, our framework for investigating variation in phenotypic variance reveals that interactions between levels of the hierarchy form the preconditions for the evolution of all types of plasticity, and we extend this idea to the residual level within individuals, where both adaptive plasticity in residuals and canalization-like processes (stability) can evolve. With the statistical tools now available to examine heterogeneous residual variance, an array of novel questions linking phenotype to environment can be usefully addressed.
    Biological Reviews 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The trajectory of speciation involves geographic isolation of ancestral populations followed by divergence by natural selection, genetic drift or sexual selection. Once started, the process may experience fits and starts, as sometimes diverging populations intermittently reconnect. In theory populations might cycle between stages of differentiation and never attain species status, a process we refer to as Sisyphean evolution. We argue that the six putative ground finch species (genus Geospiza) of the Galápagos Islands represent a dramatic example of Sisyphean evolution that has been confused with the standard model of speciation. The dynamic environment of the Galápagos, closely spaced islands, and frequent dispersal and introgression have prevented the completion of the speciation process. We suggest that morphological clusters represent locally adapted ecomorphs, which might mimic, and have been confused with, species, but these ecomorphs do not form separate gene pools and are ephemeral in space and time. Thus the pattern of morphological, behavioural and genetic variation supports recognition of a single species of Geospiza, which we suggest should be recognized as Darwin's ground finch (Geospiza magnirostris). We argue that instead of providing an icon of insular speciation and adaptive radiation, which is featured in nearly every textbook on evolutionary biology, Darwin's ground finch represents a potentially more interesting phenomenon, one of transient morphs trapped in an unpredictable cycle of Sisyphean evolution. Instead of revealing details of the origin of species, the mechanisms underlying the transient occurrence of ecomorphs provide one of the best illustrations of the antagonistic effects of natural selection and introgression.
    Biological Reviews 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: An increase in energy intake and/or a decrease in energy expenditure lead to fat storage, causing overweight and obesity phenotypes. The objective of this review was to analyse, for the first time using a systematic approach, all published evidence from the past 8 years regarding the molecular pathways linking non-shivering thermogenesis and obesity in mammals, focusing on mechanisms involved in brown adipose tissue development. Two major databases were scanned from 2006 to 2013 using ‘brown adipose tissue’ AND ‘uncoupling protein-1’ AND ‘mammalian thermoregulation’ AND ‘obesity’ as key words. A total of 61 articles were retrieved using the search criteria. The available research used knockout methodologies, various substances, molecules and agonist treatments, or different temperature and diet conditions, to assess the molecular pathways linking non-shivering thermogenesis and obesity. By integrating the results of the evaluated animal and human studies, our analysis identified specific molecules that enhance non-shivering thermogenesis and metabolism by: (i) stimulating ‘brite’ (brown-like) cell development in white adipose tissue; (ii) increasing uncoupling protein-1 expression in brite adipocytes; and (iii) augmenting brown and/or brite adipose tissue mass. The latter can be also increased through low temperature, hibernation and/or molecules involved in brown adipocyte differentiation. Cold stimuli and/or certain molecules activate uncoupling protein-1 in the existing brown adipocytes, thus increasing total energy expenditure by a magnitude proportional to the number of available brown adipocytes. Future research should address the interplay between body mass, brown adipose tissue mass, as well as the main molecules involved in brite cell development.
    Biological Reviews 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Dicarbonyl/l-xylulose reductase (DCXR; SDR20C1), a member of the short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) superfamily catalyzes the reduction of α-dicarbonyl compounds and monosaccharides. Its role in the metabolism of l-xylulose has been known since 1970, when essential pentosuria was found to be associated with DCXR deficiency. Despite its early discovery, our knowledge about the role of human DCXR in normal physiology and pathophysiology is still incomplete. Sporadic studies have demonstrated aberrant expression in several cancers, but their physiological significance is unknown. In reproductive medicine, where DCXR is commonly referred to as ‘sperm surface protein P34H’, it serves as marker for epididymal sperm maturation and is essential for gamete interaction and successful fertilization. DCXR exhibits a multifunctional nature, both acting as a carbonyl reductase and also performing non-catalytic functions, possibly resulting from interactions with other proteins. Recent observations associate DCXR with a role in cell adhesion, pointing to a novel function involving tumour progression and possibly metastasis. This review summarizes the current knowledge about human DCXR and its orthologs from mouse and Caenorhabditis elegans (DHS-21) with an emphasis on its multifunctional characteristics. Due to its close structural relationship with DCXR, carbonyl reductase 2 (Cbr2), a tetrameric enzyme found in several non-primate species is also discussed. Similar to human DCXR, Cbr2 from golden hamster (P26h) and cow (P25b) is essential for sperm–zona pellucida interaction and fertilization. Because of the apparent similarity of these two proteins and the inconsistent use of alternative names previously, we provide an overview of the systematic classification of DCXR and Cbr2 and a phylogenetic analysis to illustrate their ancestry.
    Biological Reviews 04/2014;

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