Mark Brown

Mark Brown
Royal Holloway, University of London | RHUL · Department of Biological Sciences

PhD in Biological Sciences, Stanford University

About

229
Publications
65,931
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Introduction
Mark Brown currently works at the Department of Biological Sciences , Royal Holloway, University of London. Mark does research in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Parasitology.
Additional affiliations
December 2008 - present
January 2003 - December 2008
Trinity College Dublin
April 1998 - December 2001
ETH Zurich
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (229)
Article
Full-text available
Antimicrobial nectar secondary metabolites can support pollinator health by preventing or reducing parasite infections. To better understand the outcome of nectar metabolite–parasite interactions in pollinators, we determined whether the antiparasitic activity was altered through chemical modification by the host or resident microbiome during gut p...
Article
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Evidence from the last few decades indicates that pollinator abundance and diversity are at risk, with many species in decline. Anthropogenic impacts have been the focus of much recent work on the causes of these declines. However, natural processes, from plant chemistry, nutrition and microbial associations to landscape and habitat change, can als...
Article
Parasites are viewed as a major threat to wild pollinator health. While this may be true for epidemics driven by parasite spillover from managed or invasive species, the picture is more complex for endemic parasites. Wild pollinator species host and share a species-rich, generalist parasite community. In contrast to the negative health impacts that...
Article
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There is clear evidence for wild insect declines globally. Habitat loss, climate change, pests, pathogens and environmental pollution have all been shown to cause detrimental effects on insects. However, interactive effects between these stressors may be the key to understanding reported declines. Here, we review the literature on pesticide and pat...
Article
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Bees are important pollinators in wild and agricultural ecosystems, and understanding the factors driving their global declines is key to maintaining these pollination services. Learning, which has been a focus of previous ecotoxicological studies in bees, may play a key role in driving colony fitness. Here we move beyond the standard single-stress...
Article
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Living in a social group increases the risks of parasitism, especially in highly-related groups. In homogenous groups, with no reproductive division of labour, the impact of parasitism is unlikely to vary with host identity. Many social systems, however, do exhibit division of reproductive labour, most famously in social insects with their reproduc...
Article
Agrochemical formulations are composed of two broad groups of chemicals: active ingredients, which confer pest control action, and ‘inert’ ingredients, which facilitate the action of the active ingredient. Most research into the effects of agrochemicals focusses on the effects of active ingredients. This reflects the assumption that ‘inert’ ingredi...
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As urban areas continue to expand globally, animal biodiversity is likely to experience altered habitat conditions, resource levels, and pathogen dynamics, with critical implications for insect pollinators. Specifically, local and regional land management may impact pollinator infectious disease prevalence, and this may be particularly relevant in...
Article
Aphidophagous hoverflies (Diptera, Syrphidae, Syrphinae) are common flower visitors and aphid predators in a range of flowering plants, including fruit crops. Here, we investigate whether aphid prey DNA can be detected in the gut contents of hoverfly larvae from a commercial strawberry field as a proof of concept that a molecular approach can be us...
Article
Neonicotinoid insecticides are the most commonly used insecticide in the world and can have significant sub-lethal impacts on beneficial insects, including bumblebees, which are important pollinators of agricultural crops and wild-flowers. This has led to bans on neonicotinoid use in the EU and has resulted in repeated calls for the agrochemical re...
Article
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Background Glyphosate is the world’s most used pesticide and it is used without the mitigation measures that could reduce the exposure of pollinators to it. However, studies are starting to suggest negative impacts of this pesticide on bees, an essential group of pollinators. Accordingly, whether glyphosate, alone or alongside other stressors, is d...
Article
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Pollinators, particularly wild bees, are suffering declines across the globe, and pesticides are thought to be drivers of these declines. Research into, and regulation of pesticides has focused on the active ingredients, and their impact on bee health. In contrast, the additional components in pesticide formulations have been overlooked as potentia...
Article
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To the Editor — Access to pesticide-use data is essential to accurately evaluate the adverse effects of pesticides on human and ecosystem health. In Europe, applicators are usually required to record the location and date of pesticide applications1. A subset of these data is periodically sampled to produce heavily aggregated estimates of pesticide...
Article
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Global concern over widely documented declines in pollinators1–3 has led to the identification of anthropogenic stressors that, individually, are detrimental to bee populations4–7. Synergistic interactions between these stressors could substantially amplify the environmental effect of these stressors and could therefore have important implications...
Preprint
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PoshBee is a 5-year funded project (2018-2023) that aims to support healthy bee populations, sustainable beekeeping, and consequently pollination for crops and wildflowers across Europe. To do this we take a range of approaches, from the laboratory to the field, from molecules to ecosystems, and from fundamental science to risk assessment. This doc...
Article
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Recent research has shown drastic reductions in the global diversity and abundance of insects. This is a major concern given the expected cascade effects on ecosystem services, such as pollination. Understanding the patterns and drivers of changes in the distribution and abundance of species in our rapidly changing environment is therefore urgent....
Article
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Commercially-reared bumblebee colonies provide pollination services to numerous crop species globally. These colonies may harbour parasites which can spill-over to wild bee species. However, the potential for parasites to spread from wild to commercial bumblebees, which could then lead to parasite spill-back, is poorly understood. To investigate th...
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Social life and isolation pose a complex suite of challenges to organisms prompting significant changes in neural state. However, plasticity in how brains respond to social challenges remains largely unexplored. The fire ants Solenopsis invicta provide an ideal scenario for examining this. Fire ant queens may found colonies individually or in group...
Article
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A range of anthropogenic factors are causing unprecedented bee declines. Among these drivers the usage of pesticides is believed to be crucial. While the use of key bee-harming insecticides, such as the neonicotinoids, has been reduced by regulatory authorities, novel, less studied substances have occupied their market niche. Understanding the thre...
Article
Emergent infectious diseases are one of the main drivers of species loss. Emergent infection with the microsporidian Nosema bombi has been implicated in the population and range declines of a suite of North American bumblebees, a group of important pollinators. Previous work has shown that phytochemicals found in pollen and nectar can negatively im...
Data
Single page summary of Vanderplank et al (2021) - contains a QR code for accessing the paper
Article
Full-text available
Current global change substantially threatens pollinators, which directly impacts the pollination services underpinning the stability, structure and functioning of ecosystems. Among these threats, many synergistic drivers such as habitat destruction and fragmentation, increasing use of agrochemicals, decreasing resource diversity as well as climate...
Article
Full-text available
Pollinators underpin global food production, but they are suffering significant declines across the world. Pesticides are thought to be important drivers of these declines. Herbicides are the most widely applied type of pesticides and are broadly considered ‘bee safe’ by regulatory bodies who explicitly allow their application directly onto foragin...
Preprint
Emergent infectious diseases are a principal driver of biodiversity loss globally. The population and range declines of a suite of North American bumblebees, a group of important pollinators, have been linked to emergent infection with the microsporidian Nosema bombi. Previous work has shown that phytochemicals in pollen and nectar can negatively i...
Article
PoshBee is a 5-year funded project (2018-2023) that aims to support healthy bee populations, sustainable beekeeping, and consequently pollination for crops and wildflowers across Europe. To do this we take a range of approaches, from the laboratory to the field, from molecules to ecosystems, and from fundamental science to risk assessment. This doc...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The Caribbean offers a unique opportunity to study evolutionary dynamics in insular mammals. However, the recent extinction of most Caribbean non-volant mammals has obstructed evolutionary studies, and poor DNA preservation associated with tropical environments means that very few ancient DNA sequences are available for extinct vertebr...
Article
The OneHealth approach aims to further our understanding of the drivers of human, animal and environmental health, and, ultimately, to improve them by combining approaches and knowledge from medicine, biology and fields beyond. Wild and managed bees are essential pollinators of crops and wild flowers. Their health thus directly impacts on human and...
Article
Sulfoxaflor is a globally important novel insecticide that can have negative impacts on the reproductive output of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies. However, it remains unclear as to which life-history stage is critically affected by exposure. One hypothesis is that sulfoxaflor exposure early in the colony's life cycle can impair larval devel...
Article
1. The ideal conditions for a parasite are typically found with its preferred host. However, prior to transmission to a naïve host and successful infection, a parasite may have to withstand extrinsic environmental conditions. Some parasites have adapted to time away from hosts, for example, by co‐opting vectors or by having drought‐resistant growth...
Article
Immune systems provide a key defence against diseases. However, they are not a panacea and so both vertebrates and invertebrates co-opt naturally occurring bioactive compounds to treat themselves against parasites and pathogens. In vertebrates this co-option is complex, with pharmacodynamics leading to differential effects of treatment at different...
Article
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Social insect males are relatively understudied, but knowledge of their biology is increasingly important for conservation of declining groups. Bumblebees are important pollinators in temperate, sub-arctic, and Alpine regions, but many species are in decline across the globe. Agri-environment schemes have been designed to support female bumblebees,...
Article
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Supplemental feeding of wildlife populations can locally increase the density of individuals, which may in turn impact disease dynamics. Flower strips are a widely used intervention in intensive agricultural systems to nutritionally support pollinators such as bees. Using a controlled experimental semi-field design, we asked how density impacts tra...
Chapter
The dramatic declines in pollinator (social and solitary bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, and moths) abundance and diversity observed in Europe and globally in recent decades have generated widespread scientific and societal concern. It is particularly important to conserve healthy populations of pollinators in arable landscapes because of...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Understanding the mechanisms by which organisms adapt to unfavourable conditions is a fundamental question in ecology and evolutionary biology. One such mechanism is diapause, a period of dormancy typically found in nematodes, fish, crustaceans and insects. This state is a key life-history event characterised by arrested development, s...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Understanding the mechanisms by which organisms adapt to unfavourable conditions is a fundamental question in ecology and evolutionary biology. One such mechanism is diapause, a period of dormancy typically found in nematodes, fish, crustaceans and insects. This state is a key life-history event characterised by arrested development, su...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Understanding the mechanisms by which organisms adapt to unfavourable conditions is a fundamental question in ecology and evolutionary biology. One such mechanism is diapause, a period of dormancy typically found in nematodes, fish, crustaceans and insects. This state is a key life-history event characterised by arrested development, su...
Article
Full-text available
Plant phytochemicals can act as natural "medicines" for animals against parasites [1-3]. Some nectar metabolites, for example, reduce parasite infections in bees [4-7]. Declining plant diversity through anthropogenic landscape change [8-11] could reduce the availability of medicinal nectar plants for pollinators, exacerbating their decline [12]. Ex...
Article
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Sulfoximine-based insecticides, such as sulfoxaflor, are of increasing global importance and have been registered for use in 81 countries, offering a potential alternative to neonicotinoid insecticides.Previous studies have demonstrated that sulfoxaflor exposure can have a negative impact on the reproductive output of bumblebee colonies, but the sp...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Understanding the mechanisms by which organisms adapt to unfavourable conditions is a fundamental question in ecology and evolutionary biology. One such mechanism is diapause, a period of dormancy typically found in nematodes, fish, crustaceans and insects. This state is a key life-history event characterised by arrested development, su...
Article
Full-text available
Both wild and managed pollinators significantly contribute to global food production by providing pollination services to crops. Colonies of commercially-reared honey bees and bumblebees are two of the largest groups of managed pollinators. Bumblebees in particular are increasingly used on soft fruit crops, such as strawberry, an economically impor...
Article
Parasitism can result in dramatic changes in host phenotype, which are themselves underpinned by genes and their expression. Understanding how hosts respond at the molecular level to parasites can therefore reveal the molecular architecture of an altered host phenotype. The entomoparasitic nematode Sphaerularia bombi is a parasite of bumblebee (Bom...
Article
Horizontal transmission of infectious diseases is strongly determined by the contact network between hosts [1]. Environmental and ecological variables that define the probability of contacts between individuals, such as food resource quality and quantity, have been largely neglected in models studying the dynamics and epidemiology of wildlife disea...
Article
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Systemic insecticides such as neonicotinoids and sulfoximines can be present in the nectar and pollen of treated crops, through which foraging bees can become acutely exposed. Research has shown that acute, field realistic dosages of neonicotinoids can negatively influence bee learning and memory, with potential consequences for bee behaviour. As l...
Article
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The use of commercial bumblebees to aid crop pollination may result in overcrowding of agricultural landscapes by pollinators. Consequently, transmission of parasites between pollinators via shared flowers may be substantial. In SW Spain, we assessed the initial infection status of commercial Bombus terrestris colonies, and then explored spatial an...
Article
In the absence of pollinating insects commercial strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) yields would fall by approximately 45%, while damage from aphids is estimated to cost growers at least 1% of annual yields in the UK alone. This combined effect could result in losses of over £100 million per year for the UK economy. We investigated whether incorporat...
Article
Full-text available
Commercially-reared bumblebee colonies contribute to the pollination of crops globally. If the efficiency of commercial colonies at providing pollination services could be increased, it would have implications for agricultural outputs. Commercial colonies are sold with an internal nectar reservoir on which bees can forage from within the nest. Nect...
Article
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Intensive agriculture currently relies on pesticides to maximize crop yield1,2. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides globally3, but increasing evidence of negative impacts on important pollinators4-9 and other non-target organisms10 has led to legislative reassessment and created demand for the development of alternative products. S...
Article
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Most insecticides are insect neurotoxins. Evidence is emerging that sublethal doses of these neurotoxins are affecting the learning and memory of both wild and managed bee colonies, exacerbating the negative effects of pesticide exposure and reducing individual foraging efficiency. Variation in methodologies and interpretation of results across stu...
Article
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Urbanization represents a rapidly growing driver of land-use change. While it is clear that urbanization impacts species abundance and diversity, direct effects of urban land use on animal reproductive success are rarely documented. Here, we show that urban land use is linked to long-term colony reproductive output in a key pollinator. We reared co...
Article
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Cooperation and aggression are ubiquitous in social groups, and the genetic mechanisms underlying these behaviours are of great interest for understanding how social group formation is regulated and how it evolves. In this study, we used a candidate gene approach to investigate the patterns of expression of key genes for cooperation and aggression...
Article
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Emerging infectious diseases arise as a result of novel interactions between populations of hosts and pathogens, and can threaten the health and wellbeing of the entire spectrum of biodiversity. Bees and their viruses are a case in point. However, detailed knowledge of the ecological factors and evolutionary forces that drive disease emergence in b...
Article
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Parasites can induce behavioural changes in their host organisms. Several parasite species are known to infect bumblebees, an important group of pollinators. Task allocation within bumblebee colonies can also cause differences in behaviour. Thus, task allocation may lead to context-dependent impacts of parasites on host behaviour. This study uses B...
Article
Corpse removal is a hygienic behaviour involved in reducing the spread of parasites and disease. It is found in social insects such as honeybees, wasps, ants and termites, insect societies that experience high populations and dense living conditions that are ideal for the spread of contagion. Previous studies on corpse removal have focused on peren...
Article
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Recent declines in wild pollinators represent a significant threat to the sustained provision of pollination services. Insect pollinators are responsible for an estimated 45% of strawberry crop yields, which equates to a market value of approximately £99 million per year in the UK alone. As an aggregate flower with unconcealed nectaries, strawberri...
Article
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Global declines of insect pollinators jeopardize the delivery of pollination services in both agricultural and natural ecosystems. The importance of infectious diseases has been documented in honeybees, but there is little information on the extent to which these diseases are shared with other pollinator orders. Here, we establish for the first tim...
Data
First detection of bee viruses in hoverfly (syrphid) pollinators: Supplementary methods & results
Article
Full-text available
In social groups, infections have the potential to spread rapidly and cause disease outbreaks. Here, we show that in a social insect, the ant Lasius neglectus, the negative consequences of fungal infections (Metarhizium brunneum) can be mitigated by employing an efficient multicomponent behaviour, termed destructive disinfection, which prevents fur...