Biological Reviews

Publisher: Cambridge Philosophical Society, Blackwell Publishing


  • Impact factor
  • 5-year impact
  • Cited half-life
  • Immediacy index
  • Eigenfactor
  • Article influence
  • Other titles
    Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society (Online), Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Biological reviews, Biol. rev
  • ISSN
  • OCLC
  • Material type
    Periodical, Internet resource
  • Document type
    Internet Resource, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

Publisher details

Blackwell Publishing

  • Pre-print
    • Author can archive a pre-print version
  • Post-print
    • Author cannot archive a post-print version
  • Restrictions
    • Some journals impose embargoes typically of 6 or 12 months, occasionally of 24 months
    • no listing of affected journals available as yet
  • Conditions
    • See Wiley-Blackwell entry for articles after February 2007
    • Publisher's version/PDF cannot be used
    • On author's server, institutional server or subject-based server
    • Server must be non-commercial
    • Publisher copyright and source must be acknowledged with set statement ("The definitive version is available at")
    • Articles in some journals can be made Open Access on payment of additional charge
    • 'Blackwell Publishing' is an imprint of 'Wiley'
  • Classification
    ​ yellow

Publications in this journal

  • Andrew D. Gottscho
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this article is to provide an ultimate tectonic explanation for several well-studied zoogeographic boundaries along the west coast of North America, specifically, along the boundary of the North American and Pacific plates (the San Andreas Fault system). By reviewing 177 references from the plate tectonics and zoogeography literature, I demonstrate that four Great Pacific Fracture Zones (GPFZs) in the Pacific plate correspond with distributional limits and spatially concordant phylogeographic breaks for a wide variety of marine and terrestrial animals, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. These boundaries are: (1) Cape Mendocino and the North Coast Divide, (2) Point Conception and the Transverse Ranges, (3) Punta Eugenia and the Vizcaíno Desert, and (4) Cabo Corrientes and the Sierra Transvolcanica. However, discussion of the GPFZs is mostly absent from the zoogeography and phylogeography literature likely due to a disconnect between biologists and geologists. I argue that the four zoogeographic boundaries reviewed here ultimately originated via the same geological process (triple junction evolution). Finally, I suggest how a comparative phylogeographic approach can be used to test the hypothesis presented here.
    Biological Reviews 12/2014;
  • Robyn S. Hetem, Shane K. Maloney, Andrea Fuller, Duncan Mitchell
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Advances in biologging techniques over the past 20 years have allowed for the remote and continuous measurement of body temperatures in free-living mammals. While there is an abundance of literature on heterothermy in small mammals, fewer studies have investigated the daily variability of body core temperature in larger mammals. Here we review measures of heterothermy and the factors that influence heterothermy in large mammals in their natural habitats, focussing on large mammalian herbivores. The mean 24 h body core temperatures for 17 species of large mammalian herbivores (>10 kg) decreased by ∼1.3°C for each 10-fold increase in body mass, a relationship that remained significant following phylogenetic correction. The degree of heterothermy, as measured by the 24 h amplitude of body core temperature rhythm, was independent of body mass and appeared to be driven primarily by energy and water limitations. When faced with the competing demands of osmoregulation, energy acquisition and water or energy use for thermoregulation, large mammalian herbivores appear to relax the precision of thermoregulation thereby conserving body water and energy. Such relaxation may entail a cost in that an animal moves closer to its thermal limits for performance. Maintaining homeostasis requires trade-offs between regulated systems, and homeothermy apparently is not accorded the highest priority; large mammals are able to maintain optimal homeothermy only if they are well nourished, hydrated, and not compromised energetically. We propose that the amplitude of the 24 h rhythm of body core temperature provides a useful index of any compromise experienced by a free-living large mammal and may predict the performance and fitness of an animal.
    Biological Reviews 12/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Thermogenesis is one of the most important homeostatic mechanisms that evolved during vertebrate evolution. Despite its importance for the survival of the organism, the mechanistic details behind various thermogenic processes remain incompletely understood. Although heat production from muscle has long been recognized as a thermogenic mechanism, whether muscle can produce heat independently of contraction remains controversial. Studies in birds and mammals suggest that skeletal muscle can be an important site of non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) and can be recruited during cold adaptation, although unequivocal evidence is lacking. Much research on thermogenesis during the last two decades has been focused on brown adipose tissue (BAT). These studies clearly implicate BAT as an important site of NST in mammals, in particular in newborns and rodents. However, BAT is either absent, as in birds and pigs, or is only a minor component, as in adult large mammals including humans, bringing into question the BAT-centric view of thermogenesis. This review focuses on the evolution and emergence of various thermogenic mechanisms in vertebrates from fish to man. A careful analysis of the existing data reveals that muscle was the earliest facultative thermogenic organ to emerge in vertebrates, long before the appearance of BAT in eutherian mammals. Additionally, these studies suggest that muscle-based thermogenesis is the dominant mechanism of heat production in many species including birds, marsupials, and certain mammals where BAT-mediated thermogenesis is absent or limited. We discuss the relevance of our recent findings showing that uncoupling of sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) by sarcolipin (SLN), resulting in futile cycling and increased heat production, could be the basis for NST in skeletal muscle. The overall goal of this review is to highlight the role of skeletal muscle as a thermogenic organ and provide a balanced view of thermogenesis in vertebrates.
    Biological Reviews 11/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The diversity and habitat requirements of invertebrates associated with dead wood have been the subjects of hundreds of studies in recent years but we still know very little about the ecological or economic importance of these organisms. The purpose of this review is to examine whether, how and to what extent invertebrates affect wood decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Three broad conclusions can be reached from the available literature. First, wood decomposition is largely driven by microbial activity but invertebrates also play a significant role in both temperate and tropical environments. Primary mechanisms include enzymatic digestion (involving both endogenous enzymes and those produced by endo- and ectosymbionts), substrate alteration (tunnelling and fragmentation), biotic interactions and nitrogen fertilization (i.e. promoting nitrogen fixation by endosymbiotic and free-living bacteria). Second, the effects of individual invertebrate taxa or functional groups can be accelerative or inhibitory but the cumulative effect of the entire community is generally to accelerate wood decomposition, at least during the early stages of the process (most studies are limited to the first 2–3 years). Although methodological differences and design limitations preclude meta-analysis, studies aimed at quantifying the contributions of invertebrates to wood decomposition commonly attribute 10–20% of wood loss to these organisms. Finally, some taxa appear to be particularly influential with respect to promoting wood decomposition. These include large wood-boring beetles (Coleoptera) and termites (Termitoidae), especially fungus-farming macrotermitines. The presence or absence of these species may be more consequential than species richness and the influence of invertebrates is likely to vary biogeographically.
    Biological Reviews 11/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The hair follicle (HF) represents a prototypic ectodermal–mesodermal interaction system in which central questions of modern biology can be studied. A unique feature of these stem-cell-rich mini-organs is that they undergo life-long, cyclic transformations between stages of active regeneration (anagen), apoptotic involution (catagen), and relative proliferative quiescence (telogen). Due to the low proliferation rate and small size of the HF during telogen, this stage was conventionally thought of as a stage of dormancy. However, multiple lines of newly emerging evidence show that HFs during telogen are anything but dormant. Here, we emphasize that telogen is a highly energy-efficient default state of the mammalian coat, whose function centres around maintenance of the hair fibre and prompt responses to its loss. While actively retaining hair fibres with minimal energy expenditure, telogen HFs can launch a new regeneration cycle in response to a variety of stimuli originating in their autonomous micro-environment (including its stem cell niche) as well as in their external tissue macro-environment. Regenerative responses of telogen HFs change as a function of time and can be divided into two sub-stages: early ‘refractory’ and late ‘competent’ telogen. These changing activities are reflected in hundreds of dynamically regulated genes in telogen skin, possibly aimed at establishing a fast response-signalling environment to trauma and other disturbances of skin homeostasis. Furthermore, telogen is an interpreter of circadian output in the timing of anagen initiation and the key stage during which the subsequent organ regeneration (anagen) is actively prepared by suppressing molecular brakes on hair growth while activating pro-regenerative signals. Thus, telogen may serve as an excellent model system for dissecting signalling and cellular interactions that precede the active ‘regenerative mode’ of tissue remodeling. This revised understanding of telogen biology also points to intriguing new therapeutic avenues in the management of common human hair growth disorders.
    Biological Reviews 11/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The nymphal stages of Palaeozoic insects differ significantly in morphology from those of their modern counterparts. Morphological details for some previously reported species have recently been called into question. Palaeozoic insect nymphs are important, however – their study could provide key insights into the evolution of wings, and complete metamorphosis. Here we review past work on these topics and juvenile insects in the fossil record, and then present both novel and previously described nymphs, documented using new imaging methods. Our results demonstrate that some Carboniferous nymphs – those of Palaeodictyopteroidea – possessed movable wing pads and appear to have been able to perform simple flapping flight. It remains unclear whether this feature is ancestral for Pterygota or an autapomorphy of Palaeodictyopteroidea. Further characters of nymphal development which were probably in the ground pattern of Pterygota can be reconstructed. Wing development was very gradual (archimetaboly). Wing pads did not protrude from the tergum postero-laterally as in most modern nymphs, but laterally, and had well-developed venation. The modern orientation of wing pads and the delay of wing development into later developmental stages (condensation) appears to have evolved several times independently within Pterygota: in Ephemeroptera, Odonatoptera, Eumetabola, and probably several times within Polyneoptera. Selective pressure appears to have favoured a more pronounced metamorphosis between the last nymphal and adult stage, ultimately reducing exploitation competition between the two. We caution, however, that the results presented herein remain preliminary, and the reconstructed evolutionary scenario contains gaps and uncertainties. Additional comparative data need to be collected. The present study is thus seen as a starting point for this enterprise.
    Biological Reviews 11/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Throughout the evolutionary history of life, only three vertebrate lineages took to the air by acquiring a body plan suitable for powered flight: birds, bats, and pterosaurs. Because pterosaurs were the earliest vertebrate lineage capable of powered flight and included the largest volant animal in the history of the earth, understanding how they evolved their flight apparatus, the wing, is an important issue in evolutionary biology. Herein, I speculate on the potential basis of pterosaur wing evolution using recent advances in the developmental biology of flying and non-flying vertebrates. The most significant morphological features of pterosaur wings are: (i) a disproportionately elongated fourth finger, and (ii) a wing membrane called the brachiopatagium, which stretches from the posterior surface of the arm and elongated fourth finger to the anterior surface of the leg. At limb-forming stages of pterosaur embryos, the zone of polarizing activity (ZPA) cells, from which the fourth finger eventually differentiates, could up-regulate, restrict, and prolong expression of 5′-located Homeobox D (Hoxd) genes (e.g. Hoxd11, Hoxd12, and Hoxd13) around the ZPA through pterosaur-specific exploitation of sonic hedgehog (SHH) signalling. 5′Hoxd genes could then influence downstream bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signalling to facilitate chondrocyte proliferation in long bones. Potential expression of Fgf10 and Tbx3 in the primordium of the brachiopatagium formed posterior to the forelimb bud might also facilitate elongation of the phalanges of the fourth finger. To establish the flight-adapted musculoskeletal morphology shared by all volant vertebrates, pterosaurs probably underwent regulatory changes in the expression of genes controlling forelimb and pectoral girdle musculoskeletal development (e.g. Tbx5), as well as certain changes in the mode of cell–cell interactions between muscular and connective tissues in the early phase of their evolution. Developmental data now accumulating for extant vertebrate taxa could be helpful in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of body-plan evolution in extinct vertebrates as well as extant vertebrates with unique morphology whose embryonic materials are hard to obtain.
    Biological Reviews 10/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Proline is not only an essential component of proteins but it also has important roles in adaptation to osmotic and dehydration stresses, redox control, and apoptosis. Here, we review pathways of proline biosynthesis in the three domains of life. Pathway reconstruction from genome data for hundreds of eubacterial and dozens of archaeal and eukaryotic organisms revealed evolutionary conservation and variations of this pathway across different taxa. In the most prevalent pathway of proline synthesis, glutamate is phosphorylated to γ-glutamyl phosphate by γ-glutamyl kinase, reduced to γ-glutamyl semialdehyde by γ-glutamyl phosphate reductase, cyclized spontaneously to Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate and reduced to proline by Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase. In higher plants and animals the first two steps are catalysed by a bi-functional Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase. Alternative pathways of proline formation use the initial steps of the arginine biosynthetic pathway to ornithine, which can be converted to Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate by ornithine aminotransferase and then reduced to proline or converted directly to proline by ornithine cyclodeaminase. In some organisms, the latter pathways contribute to or could be fully responsible for the synthesis of proline. The conservation of proline biosynthetic enzymes and significance of specific residues for catalytic activity and allosteric regulation are analysed on the basis of protein structural data, multiple sequence alignments, and mutant studies, providing novel insights into proline biosynthesis in organisms. We also discuss the transcriptional control of the proline biosynthetic genes in bacteria and plants.
    Biological Reviews 10/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Grazing lawns are a distinct grassland community type, characterised by short-stature and with their persistence and spread promoted by grazing. In Africa, they reveal a long co-evolutionary history of grasses and large mammal grazers. The attractiveness to grazers of a low-biomass sward lies in the relatively high quality of forage, largely due to the low proportion of stem material in the sward; this encourages repeat grazing that concomitantly suppresses tall-grass growth forms that would otherwise outcompete lawn species for light. Regular grazing that prevents shading and maintains sward quality is thus the cornerstone of grazing lawn dynamics. The strong interplay between abiotic conditions and disturbance factors, which are central to grazing lawn existence, can also cause these systems to be highly dynamic. Here we identify differences in growth form among grazing lawn grass species, and assess how compositional differences among lawn types, as well as environmental variables, influence their maintenance requirements (i.e. grazing frequency) and vulnerability to degradation. We also make a clear distinction between the processes of lawn establishment and lawn maintenance. Rainfall, soil nutrient status, grazer community composition and fire regime have strong and interactive influences on both processes. However, factors that concentrate grazing pressure (e.g. nutrient hotspots and sodic sites) have more bearing on where lawns establish. Similarly, we discuss the relevance of enhanced rates of nitrogen cycling and of sodium levels to lawn maintenance. Grazer community composition and density has considerable significance to grazing lawn dynamics; not all grazers are adapted to foraging on short-grass swards, and differences in body size and relative mouth dimensions determine which species are able to convert tall-grass swards into grazing lawns under different conditions. Hence, we evaluate the roles of different grazers in lawn dynamics, as well as the benefits that grazer populations derive from having access to grazing lawns. The effects of grazing lawns can extend well beyond their borders, due to their influence on grazer densities, behaviour and movements as well as fire spread, intensity and frequency. Variation in the area and proportion of a landscape that is grazing lawn can thus have a profound impact on system dynamics. We provide a conceptual model that summarises grazing lawn dynamics, and identify a rainfall range where we predict grazing lawns to be most prevalent. We also examine the biodiversity associated with grazing lawn systems, and consider their functional contribution to the conservation of this biodiversity. Finally, we assess the utility of grazing lawns as a resource in a rangeland context.
    Biological Reviews 09/2014;