Social, cooperative breeding behaviour is rare in spiders and generally characterized by inbreeding, skewed sex ratios and high rates of colony turnover, processes that when combined may reduce genetic variation and lower individual fitness quickly. On these grounds, social spider species have been suggested to be unstable in evolutionary time, and hence sociality a rare phenomenon in spiders. Based on a partial molecular phylogeny of the genus Stegodyphus, we address the hypothesis that social spiders in this genus are evolutionary transient. We estimate the age of the three social species, test whether they represent an ancestral or derived state and assess diversification relative to subsocial congeners. Intraspecific sequence divergence was high in all of the social species, lending no support for the idea that they are young, transient species. The age of the social lineages, constant lineage branching and the likelihood that social species are independently derived suggest that either the social species are 'caught in sociality' or they have evolved into cryptic species.
Environmental change poses challenges to many organisms. The resilience of a species to such change depends on its ability to respond adaptively. Social flexibility is such an adaptive response, whereby individuals of both sexes change their reproductive tactics facultatively in response to fluctuating environmental conditions, leading to changes in the social system. Social flexibility focuses on individual flexibility, and provides a unique opportunity to study both the ultimate and proximate causes of sociality by comparing between solitary and group-living individuals of the same population: why do animals form groups and how is group-living regulated by the environment and the neuro-endocrine system? These key questions have been studied for the past ten years in the striped mouse Rhabdomys pumilio. High population density favours philopatry and group-living, while reproductive competition favours dispersal and solitary-living. Studies of genetic parentage reveal that relative fitness of alternative reproductive tactics depends on the prevailing environment. Tactics have different fitness under constrained ecological conditions, when competitive ability is important. Under conditions with relaxed ecological constraints, alternative tactics can yield equal fitness. Both male and female striped mice display alternative reproductive tactics based on a single strategy, i.e. all individuals follow the same decision rules. These changes are regulated by endocrine mechanisms. Social flexibility is regarded as an adaptation to unpredictably changing environments, selecting for high phenotypic flexibility based on a broad reaction norm, not on genetic polymorphism for specific tactics. Social flexibilityBehavioural ecology seeks to understand how animals survive and reproduce in their natural environment. However, the environment is not static, but changes in predictable and unpredictable ways (Wingfield, 2003). Long-term field studies are needed to understand individual responses to changing environments and how these may affect the evolution of social behaviour (Clutton-Brock & Sheldon 2010). Natural environments are predicted to change faster in the future due to anthropogenic induced climate change (Friedlingstein 2008), testing the limits of behavioural adaptation and resilience of natural populations.The term social flexibility is generally used to describe modifications of individual social behaviours, but its usage differs among authors. A search in the ISI Web of Science for the term 'social flexibility' revealed 276 publications in the field of Zoology for the period 1900 to 2010. Most papers were about 'behavioural flexibility' of non-social behaviours, only 84 papers were about flexibility in social behaviour and no clear difference was made between 'social flexibility', 'intra-specific variation in social behaviour', and 'alternative reproductive tactics'. Used in such a way, the term 'social flexibility' simply means that social behaviour is flexible, which is true for nearly all social behavi...
Dissemination of vector-transmitted pathogens depend on the survival and dispersal of the vector and the vector's ability to transmit the pathogen, while the host range of vector and pathogen determine the breath of transmission possibilities. In this study, we address how the interaction between dispersal and plant fidelities of a pathogen (stolbur phytoplasma tuf-a) and its vector (Hyalesthes obsoletus: Cixiidae) affect the emergence of the pathogen. Using genetic markers, we analysed the geographic origin and range expansion of both organisms in Western Europe and, specifically, whether the pathogen's dissemination in the northern range is caused by resident vectors widening their host-plant use from field bindweed to stinging nettle, and subsequent host specialisation. We found evidence for common origins of pathogen and vector south of the European Alps. Genetic patterns in vector populations show signals of secondary range expansion in Western Europe leading to dissemination of tuf-a pathogens, which might be newly acquired and of hybrid origin. Hence, the emergence of stolbur tuf-a in the northern range was explained by secondary immigration of vectors carrying stinging nettle-specialised tuf-a, not by widening the host-plant spectrum of resident vectors with pathogen transmission from field bindweed to stinging nettle nor by primary co-migration from the resident vector's historical area of origin. The introduction of tuf-a to stinging nettle in the northern range was therefore independent of vector's host-plant specialisation but the rapid pathogen dissemination depended on the vector's host shift, whereas the general dissemination elsewhere was linked to plant specialisation of the pathogen but not of the vector.
Within the past 10 years, the yellows disease ‘bois noir’ (BN) has become one of the commercially most important diseases of grapevine [Vitis vinifera L. (Vitaceae)] in Europe. Infection pressure is caused by phytoplasmas of the stolbur 16SrXII‐A group that are transmitted by a planthopper vector, Hyalesthes obsoletus Signoret (Homoptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Infestation happens as an accidental side‐effect of the feeding behaviour of the vector, as vector and pathogen proliferation is dependent on other plants. In Germany, the increase of BN is correlated with the use of a new host plant by the vector, increase in abundance of the vector on the new host plant, and dissemination of host plant‐specific pathogen strains. In this article, we investigate geographic and host‐associated range expansion of the vector. We test whether host‐plant utilization in Germany, hence the increase in BN, is related to genetic host races of the vector and, if so, whether these have evolved locally or have immigrated from southern populations that traditionally use the new host plant. The genetic population analysis demonstrates a recent expansion and circum‐alpine invasion of H. obsoletus into German and northern French wine‐growing regions, which coincides with the emergence of BN. No H. obsoletus mitochondrial DNA haplotype host‐plant affiliation was found, implying that the ability to use alternative host plants is genetically intrinsic to H. obsoletus. However, subtle yet significant random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) genetic differentiation was found among host plant populations. When combined, these results suggest that a geographic range expansion of H. obsoletus only partly explains the increase of BN, and that interactions with host plants also occur. Further possible beneficial factors to H. obsoletus, such as temperature increase and phytoplasma interactions, are discussed.
Colony‐dwelling social spiders of the genus Stegodyphus are characterized by high colony turnover, within‐colony mating, inbreeding and skewed sex ratios. These phenomena may purge genetic variation from the entire species gene pool. Social Stegodyphus have previously been discussed as ecologically unstable and evolutionary dead ends. We investigated the distribution and age (sequence divergence) of mitochondrial DNA variation for inferences of colony propagation, colony discreteness and maintenance of genetic variation in the social spider S. dumicola. In contrast to our expectations, we found abundant mtDNA variation, consisting of 15 haplotypes belonging to four haplotype lineages. Lineage divergence ranged between 2.75 and 6% for the gene ND1. Nearly all colonies (86%) were monomorphic and even neighbour colonies showed fixed differences. Simulations show that genetic drift in multifounder colonies cannot alone explain monomorphism within colonies. Haplotypes in polymorphic colonies and from neighbouring colonies were always genealogically similar. Monomorphism and the genealogical pattern among colonies suggest ‘clonal’ colony propagation involving single matrilineages. The divergence of haplotype lineages and distribution of haplotypes imply that colony turnover is not high enough to purge genetic variation in the species gene pool, and that S. dumicola as a species is old enough to question the instability (in ecological time) of a social spider. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 76, 591–600.
Bat-swarming sites where thousands of individuals meet in late summer were recently proposed as 'hot spots' for gene flow among populations. If, due to female philopatry, nursery colonies are genetically differentiated, and if males and females of different colonies meet at swarming sites, then we would expect lower differentiation of maternally inherited genetic markers among swarming sites and higher genetic diversity within. To test these predictions, we compared genetic variance from three swarming sites to 14 nursery colonies. We analysed biparentally (five nuclear and one sex-linked microsatellite loci) and maternally (mitochondrial D-loop, 550 bp) inherited molecular markers. Three mtDNA D-loop haplolineages that were strictly separated at nursery colonies were mixed at swarming sites. As predicted by the 'extra colony-mating hypothesis', genetic variance among swarming sites (V ST ) for the D-loop drastically decreased compared to the nursery population genetic variance (V PT ) (31 and 60%, respectively), and genetic diversity increased at swarming sites. Relatedness was significant at nursery colonies but not at swarming sites, and colony relatedness of juveniles to females was positive but not so to males. This suggests a breakdown of colony borders at swarming sites. Although there is behavioural and physiological evidence for sexual interaction at swarming sites, this does not explain why mating continues throughout the winter. We therefore propose that autumn roaming bats meet at swarming sites across colonies to start mating and, in addition, to renew information about suitable hibernacula.
The widespread occurrence of Wolbachia in arthropods and nematodes suggests that this intracellular, maternally inherited endosymbiont has the ability to cross species boundaries. However, direct evidence for such a horizontal transmission of Wolbachia in nature is scarce. Here, we compare the well-characterized Wolbachia infection of the European cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis cerasi, with that of the North American eastern cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis cingulata, recently introduced to Europe. Molecular genetic analysis of Wolbachia based on multilocus sequence typing and the Wolbachia surface protein wsp showed that all R. cingulata individuals are infected with wCin2 identical to wCer2 in R. cerasi. In contrast, wCin1, a strain identical to wCer1 in R. cerasi, was present in several European populations of R. cingulata, but not in any individual from the United States. Surveys of R. cingulata from Germany and Hungary indicated that in some populations, the frequency of wCin1 increased significantly in just a few years with at least two independent horizontal transmission events. This is corroborated by the analysis of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase II gene that showed association of wCin1 with two distinct haplotypes in Germany, one of which is also infected with wCin1 in Hungary. In summary, our study provides strong evidence for a very recent inter-specific Wolbachia transmission with a subsequent spatial spread in field populations.
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