Kees van Oers

Kees van Oers
Wageningen University & Research | WUR · Department of Behavioral Ecology

Prof. Dr.

About

179
Publications
37,326
Reads
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6,680
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2011 - present
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
Position
  • Senior Researcher
January 2009 - December 2011
Wageningen University & Research
Position
  • Guest researcher
January 2006 - December 2010
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
Position
  • Researcher

Publications

Publications (179)
Article
Full-text available
Territorial animals often respond less aggressively to neighbours than strangers. This ‘dear enemy’ effect is hypothesized to be adaptive by reducing unnecessary aggressive interactions with non-threatening individuals. A key prediction of this hypothesis, that individual fitness will be affected by variation in the speed and the extent to which in...
Article
Full-text available
The field of molecular biology is advancing fast with new powerful technologies, sequencing methods and analysis software being developed constantly. Commonly used tools originally developed for research on humans and model species are now regularly used in ecological and evolutionary research. There is also a growing interest in the causes and con...
Article
Full-text available
Territorial animals often use signals to advertise territorial occupancy within their larger home ranges. Songbirds are among the best-studied territorial signaling taxa, and when competitors start singing during a territorial intrusion, residents usually show elevated spatial and vocal responses. These responses could be used by intruders and dist...
Article
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Several reduced representation bisulfite sequencing methods have been developed in recent years to determine cytosine methylation de novo in non‐model species. Here, we present epiGBS2, a laboratory protocol based on epiGBS (Gurp et al., 2016) with a revised and user‐friendly bioinformatics pipeline for a wide range of species with or without a ref...
Article
Full-text available
Globally increasing levels of artificial light at night (ALAN) are associated with shifting rhythms of behaviour in many wild species. However, it is unclear whether changes in behavioural timing are paralleled by consistent shifts in the molecular clock and its associated physiological pathways. Inconsistent shifts between behavioural and molecula...
Preprint
Different bird species have completely different parent-offspring interactions. When food is plentiful, the chicks that are begging the loudest are fed the most. When food is scarce, bird species instead feed the largest offspring. While this variation could be due to parents responding to signalling differently based on food availability, it could...
Article
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The profiling of epigenetic marks like DNA methylation has become a central aspect of studies in evolution and ecology. Bisulfite sequencing is commonly used for assessing genome‐wide DNA methylation at single nucleotide resolution but these data can also provide information on genetic variants like single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However,...
Article
Anthropogenic pollution is known to negatively influence an organism’s physiology, behaviour, and fitness. Epigenetic regulation, such as DNA methylation, has been hypothesized as a potential mechanism to mediate such effects, yet studies in wild species are lacking. We first investigated the effects of early-life exposure to the heavy metal lead (...
Article
Full-text available
Heterogeneous selection is often proposed as a key mechanism maintaining repeatable behavioral variation (“animal personality”) in wild populations. Previous studies largely focused on temporal variation in selection within single populations. The relative importance of spatial versus temporal variation remains unexplored, despite these processes h...
Article
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Pollutants, such as toxic metals, negatively influence organismal health and performance, even leading to population collapses. Studies in model organisms have shown that epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation, can be modulated by various environmental factors, including pollutants, influencing gene expression, and various organismal traits. Yet...
Article
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p>Observing interactions between others can provide important information to individuals. Male songbirds often engage in singing contests where they vary the type and timing of signals and provide eavesdropping individuals with information about their competitiveness. How this information is used and its effect on subsequent spatial behaviour and r...
Preprint
Environmental change, such as increased rates of urbanization, can induce shifts in phenotypic plasticity with some individuals adapting to city life while others are displaced. A key trait that can facilitate adaptation is the degree at which animals respond to stress. This stress response has a heritable component and exhibits intra- and inter-in...
Article
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Early developmental conditions are known to have life-long effects on an individual’s behavior, physiology and fitness. In altricial birds, a majority of these conditions, such as the number of siblings and the amount of food provisioned, are controlled by the parents. This opens up the potential for parents to adjust the behavior and physiology of...
Article
Full-text available
Species with a circannual life cycle need to match the timing of their life history events to the environment to maximize fitness. But our understanding of how circannual traits such as timing of reproduction are regulated on a molecular level remains limited. Recent studies have implicated that epigenetic mechanisms can be an important part in the...
Article
Full-text available
Background DNA methylation is likely a key mechanism regulating changes in gene transcription in traits that show temporal fluctuations in response to environmental conditions. To understand the transcriptional role of DNA methylation we need simultaneous within-individual assessment of methylation changes and gene expression changes over time. Wit...
Preprint
Full-text available
Globally increasing levels of artificial light at night (ALAN) are associated with shifts in circadian rhythms of behaviour in many wild species. However, it is still unclear whether changes in behavioural timing are underlined by parallel shifts in the molecular clock, and whether such internal shifts may differ between different tissues and physi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Pollutants, like toxic metals, negatively influence organismal health and performance, even leading to population collapses. Studies in model organisms have shown that epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation, can be modulated by various environmental factors, including pollutants, influencing gene expression and various organismal traits. Yet exp...
Article
Full-text available
1. The integration and synthesis of the data in different areas of science is drastically slowed and hindered by a lack of standards and networking programmes. Long‐term studies of individually marked animals are not an exception. These studies are especially important as instrumental for understanding evolutionary and ecological processes in the w...
Article
Full-text available
Recently, a petition was offered to the European Commission calling for an immediate ban on animal testing. Although a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of animals in science is not yet possible, there has been a push by the non-scientific community and politicians for a rapid transition to animal-free innovations. Although there are benefits for b...
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Full-text available
Synopsis The search for the hereditary mechanisms underlying quantitative traits traditionally focused on the identification of underlying genomic polymorphisms such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms. It has now become clear that epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, can consistently alter gene expression over multiple generations. It is...
Article
Quantifying the direction and strength of mate preference is essential to improve our understanding of sexual selection. Experimental designs, however, often do not consider how individuals evaluate and compare the available options, which may affect the results significantly. Preferences are often assumed to be absolute, with individuals assigning...
Preprint
Full-text available
The integration and synthesis of the data in different areas of science is drastically slowed and hindered by a lack of standards and networking programmes. Long-term studies of individually marked animals are not an exception. These studies are especially important as instrumental for understanding evolutionary and ecological processes in the wild...
Article
Recently, a petition was offered to the European Commission calling for an immediate ban on animal testing. Although a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of animals in science is not yet possible, there has been a push by the non-scientific community and politicians for a rapid transition to animal-free innovations. Although there are benefits for b...
Preprint
Full-text available
epiGBS is an existing reduced representation bisulfite sequencing method to determine cytosine methylation and genetic polymorphisms de novo. Here, we present epiGBS2, an improved epiGBS laboratory protocol and user-friendly bioinformatics pipeline for a wide range of species with or without reference genome. epiGBS2 decreases costs and time invest...
Article
Conspicuous male signals often play an important role in both attracting mates and deterring rivals. In territorial species with extrapair mating, female and male forays to other territories may be an important component underlying female choice and male mating success and might be influenced by male advertisement signals. Yet, whether off-territor...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropogenic noise levels are globally rising with profound impacts on ecosystems and the species that live in them. Masking or distraction by noise can interfere with relevant sounds and thereby impact ecological interactions between individuals of the same or different species. Predator-prey dynamics are particularly likely to be influenced by r...
Preprint
Full-text available
Climate change significantly impacts natural populations, particularly phenology traits, like the seasonal onset of reproduction in birds. This impact is mainly via plastic responses in phenology traits to changes in the environment, but the molecular mechanism mediating this plasticity remains elusive. Epigenetic modifications can mediate plastici...
Preprint
Full-text available
Anthropogenic pollution is known to negatively influence an organism's physiology, behavior and fitness. Epigenetic regulation, such as DNA methylation, has been hypothesized as one mechanism to mediate such effects, yet studies in wild species are lacking. We first investigated the effects of early-life exposure to the heavy metal lead (Pb) on DNA...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Seasonal timing of breeding is a life history trait with major fitness consequences but the genetic basis of the physiological mechanism underlying it, and how gene expression is affected by date and temperature, is not well known. In order to study this, we measured patterns of gene expression over different time points in three diffe...
Article
The timing of breeding is under selection in wild populations as a result of climate change, and understanding the underlying physiological processes mediating this timing provides insight into the potential rate of adaptation. Current knowledge on this variation in physiology is, however, mostly limited to males. We assessed whether individual dif...
Article
Full-text available
Animal personality traits are often heritable and plastic at the same time. Indeed, behaviors that reflect an individual's personality can respond to environmental factors or change with age. To date, little is known regarding personality changes during a wild animals' lifetime and even less about stability in heritability of behavior across ages....
Article
Full-text available
Seasonal timing of reproduction is an important fitness trait in many plants and animals but the underlying molecular mechanism for this trait is poorly known. DNA methylation is known to affect timing of reproduction in various organisms and is therefore a potential mechanism also in birds. Here we describe genome wide data aiming to detect tempor...
Article
Full-text available
Epigenetic mechanisms can alter gene expression without a change in the nucleotide sequence and are increasingly recognized as important mechanisms that can generate phenotypic diversity. Most of our current knowledge regarding the origin and role of epigenetic variation comes from research on plants or mammals, often in controlled rearing conditio...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Birdsong, a key model in animal communication studies, has been the focus of intensive research. Song traits are commonly considered to reflect differences in individual or territory quality. Yet, few studies have quantified the variability of song traits between versus within individuals (i.e. repeatability), and thus whether certain...
Article
Full-text available
Chromosome inversions have clear effects on genome evolution and have been associated with speciation, adaptation and the evolution of the sex chromosomes. In birds, these inversions may play an important role in hybridization of species and disassortative mating. We identified a large (≈64 Mb) inversion polymorphism in the great tit (Parus major)...
Article
Seasonal timing of reproduction is a key life-history trait, but we know little about the mechanisms underlying individual variation in female endocrine profiles associated with reproduction. In birds, 17β-oestradiol is a key reproductive hormone that links brain neuroendocrine mechanisms, involved in information processing and decision-making, to...
Article
Full-text available
Circadian rhythms are ubiquitous among taxa and are essential for coping with recurrent daily events, leading to selection on the properties of the clock underlying these rhythms. To quantify this selection in the wild, we need, however, to phenotype wild individuals, which is difficult using the standard laboratory approach for which individuals n...
Article
1.The physiological mechanisms underlying avian seasonal timing of reproduction, a life history trait with major fitness consequences, are not well understood. Comparing individuals that have been selected to differ in their timing of breeding may prove to be a promising in studying these mechanisms, making selection lines a valuable tool. 2.We cre...
Article
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Inferring adaptation and evolutionary change by combining data from field studies and genomics is an exciting new area in evolutionary biology but also presents challenges. These challenges are particularly acute when the focal trait has a polygenic architecture, because many long‐term field studies are sample‐size‐limited compared to studies of hu...
Article
Full-text available
Gathering information about the environment, such as the location and quality of food, is crucial for an animal's survival, particularly in a changing environment. An animal can collect 'personal information' by interacting with the environment itself, or it can collect 'social information' by observing the behaviour of others. The use of these two...
Article
In seasonal environments, timing of reproduction is a trait with important fitness consequences, but we know little about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the variation in this trait. Recently, several studies put forward DNA methylation as a mechanism regulating seasonal timing of reproduction in both plants and animals. To understand the in...
Preprint
Full-text available
A major aim of evolutionary biology is to understand why patterns of genomic variation vary among populations and species. Large-scale genomic studies of widespread species are useful for studying how the environment and demographic history shape patterns of genomic divergence, and with the continually decreasing cost of sequencing, such studies ar...
Article
Full-text available
Background A widely used approach in next-generation sequencing projects is the alignment of reads to a reference genome. Despite methodological and hardware improvements which have enhanced the efficiency and accuracy of alignments, a significant percentage of reads frequently remain unmapped. Usually, unmapped reads are discarded from the analysi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: A widely used approach in next-generation sequencing projects is the alignment of reads to a reference genome. A significant percentage of reads, however, frequently remain unmapped despite improvements in the methods and hardware, which have enhanced the efficiency and accuracy of alignments. Usually unmapped reads are discarded from t...
Article
Full-text available
Artificial light at night (ALAN) is increasingly recognized as a potential threat to wildlife and ecosystem health. Among the ecological effects of ALAN, changes in reproductive timing are frequently reported, but the mechanisms underlying this relationship are still poorly understood. Here, we experimentally investigated these mechanisms by assess...
Article
Understanding the causes and consequences of population phenotypic divergence is a central goal in ecology and evolution. Phenotypic divergence among populations can result from genetic divergence, phenotypic plasticity or a combination of the two. However, few studies have deciphered these mechanisms for populations geographically close and connec...
Article
Full-text available
1.Wind is an important abiotic factor that influences an array of biological processes, but it is rarely considered in studies on plant‐herbivore interactions. 2.Here, we tested whether wind exposure could directly or indirectly affect the performance of two insect herbivores, Plutella xylostella and Pieris brassicae, feeding on Brassica nigra plan...
Article
High density SNP microarrays (‘SNP chips’) are a rapid, accurate and efficient method for genotyping several hundred thousand polymorphisms in large numbers of individuals. While SNP chips are routinely used in human genetics and in animal and plant breeding, they are less widely used in evolutionary and ecological research. In this paper we descri...
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Full-text available
Background: Understanding variation in genome structure is essential to understand phenotypic differences within populations and the evolutionary history of species. A promising form of this structural variation is copy number variation (CNV). CNVs can be generated by different recombination mechanisms, such as non-allelic homologous recombination...
Article
Full-text available
Behaviour is a key interface between an animal's genome and its environment. Repeatable individual differences in behaviour have been extensively documented in animals, but the molecular underpinnings of behavioural variation among individuals within natural populations remain largely unknown. Here, we offer a critical review of when molecular tech...
Article
Individual differences in coping with potentially dangerous situations are affected by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. How genetic polymorphisms and behavioural variations are related to fitness is unknown. One of the candidate genes affecting a variety of behavioural processes, including impulsivity, anxiety and mood fluctuatio...
Article
We used extensive data from a long-term study of great tits (Parus major) in the United Kingdom and Netherlands to better understand how genetic signatures of selection translate into variation in fitness and phenotypes. We found that genomic regions under differential selection contained candidate genes for bill morphology and used genetic archite...