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Department of Zoology

 
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Tue 01 Nov 13:00: Tree islands enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in oil palm landscapes

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 10:22
Tree islands enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in oil palm landscapes

Entering the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, large knowledge gaps persist on how to increase biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in cash crop dominated tropical landscapes. Here, we present findings from a large-scale, five-year ecosystem restoration experiment in an oil palm landscape enriched with 52 tree islands, encompassing assessments of ten indicators of biodiversity and 19 indicators of ecosystem functioning. Tree enrichment enhanced multidiversity by 250% and ecosystem multifunctionality by 75% compared to conventional monocultures. Therein, larger tree islands led to higher multidiversity and multifunctionality gains via changes in vegetation structure. Tree enrichment did not significantly decrease landscape-scale oil palm yield. Our results demonstrate that enriching oil palm dominated landscapes with tree islands is a promising ecological restoration strategy.

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Tue 08 Nov 13:00: The evolution and assembly of a complex weapon system This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 09:06
The evolution and assembly of a complex weapon system

Sexually selected weapons show incredible shape and performance variation across taxa and even within closely related groups of animals. To understand the evolution of trait diversity, it is crucial to consider trait function. Sexually selected weapons, unlike sexually selected ornaments, are fighting structures; they have been selected to perform in physical combat. I will present projects from my research group that examine the evolution and expression of these traits while explicitly considering their functional nature. The first project uses phylogenetic comparative analyses to look across a group of insects that fight with a highly complex, multi-component weapon. We test the hypothesis that the gains and losses of weapon components, such as spines and curves, are not random. Instead, some components are more likely to arise when others are present, suggesting a coordinated function during battle. The second project dives deep into the weapons of a single species to understand how environmental variation affects their construction and to address the puzzling question of why sexually selected weapons so often break.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Sat 08 Oct 13:00: Exploring the origin of multicellularity in real time: what we've learned from 5,000 generations of laboratory evolution Online talk - email organisers for a zoom link

Sat, 08/10/2022 - 13:17
Exploring the origin of multicellularity in real time: what we've learned from 5,000 generations of laboratory evolution

The origin of multicellularity was one of the most significant innovations in the history of life. Our understanding of the evolutionary processes underlying this transition remains limited, however, mainly because extant multicellular lineages are ancient and most transitional forms have been lost to extinction. We bridge this knowledge gap by evolving novel multicellularity in the lab, using the ‘snowflake yeast’ model system. In this talk, I’ll focus on our ongoing Multicellular Long-Term Evolution Experiment (MuLTEE), in which we’ve put snowflake yeast through ~5,000 generations of selection for larger size and faster growth. We will examine key steps in the evolution of multicellularity, namely how multicellular traits arise and become heritable, how simple multicellular bodies evolve to become radically stronger and tougher, and how cells divide labor through differentiation. Overall, our approach allows us to examine how simple groups of cells can evolve to become increasingly integrated and organismal, providing novel insight into this major evolutionary transition.

Online talk - email organisers for a zoom link

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Tue 11 Oct 13:00: Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Sat, 08/10/2022 - 13:16
Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis

For many marine invertebrates, larval settlement is a key developmental transition. This process is strongly linked to the environment in that larvae must detect specific cues to determine the time and place of settlement. How environmental cues are detected and activate internal hormone signalling to regulate larval settlement is not yet clear. To better understand this, we are investigating larval settlement in the nereid polychaete Platynereis dumerilii. Behavioural assays show that Platynereis larvae have a species-specific response to biofilms composed of benthic microalgal diatoms. Platynereis larval settlement is internally regulated by the neuropeptide myoinhibitory peptide (MIP), an ortholog of insect allatostatin B neuropeptide. I will discuss recent advances in understanding the function and signalling mechanisms of MIP and assessing its link to environmental cue detection in Platynereis. Understanding how external and internal signals combine to guide the developmental transition of marine invertebrate settlement will inform our understanding of animal-microalgae interactions and the evolution of environmentally-guided animal development.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 01 Nov 13:00: Microbial Communities in an Ever-Changing World Hybrid talk - email for a zoom link

Sat, 08/10/2022 - 13:15
Microbial Communities in an Ever-Changing World

Microbes are ubiquitous and underpin ecosystem functions across the globe. Over the last decade, the expansion of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies has allowed unprecedented insights into these functionally important communities, but often in a purely descriptive (stamp-collecting) manner. This talk focuses on combining large-scale global experiments, NGS approaches, and ecoinformatics to robustly address and model how microbial communities respond to environmental change across local-to-global scales and in marine, freshwater and soil ecosystems.

Hybrid talk - email for a zoom link

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Tue 22 Nov 13:00: The hidden depths of avian genomes This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Mon, 26/09/2022 - 13:27
The hidden depths of avian genomes

The new era of reference genomes is paving the way for understanding genome evolution across a broad range of taxa. While this finally permits genome research in previously neglected or inaccessible organisms, certain genome features (e.g., transposable elements, centromeres) and unusual chromosomes (e.g., sex chromosomes, germline-restricted chromosomes) require dedicated attention for elucidating their presence/absence and sequence evolution. Here I will discuss our ongoing efforts to combine state-of-the-art multi-omics with cytogenomics to understand the depth of genome variability between as well as within individuals of songbirds, and what we can learn from these case studies for ultimately being able to identify such variability in any organism of interest.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 01 Nov 13:00: Microbial Communities in an Ever-Changing World

Fri, 23/09/2022 - 17:22
Microbial Communities in an Ever-Changing World

Microbes are ubiquitous and underpin ecosystem functions across the globe. Over the last decade, the expansion of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies has allowed unprecedented insights into these functionally important communities, but often in a purely descriptive (stamp-collecting) manner. This talk focuses on combining large-scale global experiments, NGS approaches, and ecoinformatics to robustly address and model how microbial communities respond to environmental change across local-to-global scales and in marine, freshwater and soil ecosystems.

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Tue 29 Nov 13:00: Olfactory cues in a changing world This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Thu, 22/09/2022 - 13:28
Olfactory cues in a changing world

Amongst the sensory signals organisms send and receive, chemical signals or ‘olfactory cues’ represent the oldest, yet least investigated sense. In marine systems this ‘chemical language of life’ mediates intra-and interspecific communication amongst most organisms, for many of which olfaction is the primary form of communication. In recent years the impact of changing environmental conditions upon organisms’ ability to successfully utilise chemical signals has become an increasingly debated topic. Climate change associated stressors from temperature change to increased pCO2 and with it in aquatic systems a reduction in water pH have been shown to alter animals’ responses to such ‘infochemicals’ leading to the phenomenon of ‘olfactory disruption’. Here I present our recent work on marine invertebrates we use as model systems to understand the mechanisms that underpin the observed behavioural changes, and link these to endpoints in order to evaluate potential impacts from individual to ecosystem levels. Combining multiple stressors in a changing environment we also evaluate the sub-lethal impacts of plastic derived odour compounds. Since the research group is involved in reach out linking to schools, we show how climate change research is perceived by school children.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 08 Nov 13:00: Biomechanics, trade-offs, and the diversification of animal weapons This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Wed, 14/09/2022 - 11:17
Biomechanics, trade-offs, and the diversification of animal weapons

Sexually selected ornaments are well-known for their stunning colors, complex displays, and incorporations into dances and movements. The expression of both ornaments and weapons is extremely sensitive to environmental factors, but sexually selected weapons are fundamentally different from ornaments. Weapons may serve as signals to conspecifics like ornaments do, but weapons are, by definition, fighting structures; they must be able to perform in physical combat. The biomechanics of animal weapons are crucial to study if we are to understand the evolution of these fascinating structures. Together with my research team, I address the evolutionary ecology and diversification of animal weapons using the leaf-footed cactus bug and its relatives. I will report on recent findings on the effects of dynamic natural diets on the structural integrity of weapons and trade-offs we have detected between insect weapons and their testes.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 18 Oct 13:00: The dynamics of predators in a novel world This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Thu, 08/09/2022 - 11:20
The dynamics of predators in a novel world

Non-native species are spreading rapidly throughout the planet. These species can have widespread impacts on biodiversity, particularly in situations where non-native species have novel traits that are unfamiliar to native species. Yet impacts of novel prey on the behavior, ecology, and evolution of predators remain poorly known. I will discuss long-term research on the dynamics of an endangered predator, the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), across its North American range with the invasion of a novel prey, the island apple snail (Pomacea maculata), a much larger congener of the kite’s native prey that is considered one of the world’s ‘top 100 worst invaders’. This invasion has led to sweeping, rapid changes in the behavior, ecology, and evolution of this predator. This invasive prey is challenging to consume for kites and yet it occurs in high densities in a landscape where native prey is rare. Kites have responded by increasing reproductive effort, including striking changes in breeding phenology, where breeding season length is now 18 weeks longer than prior to invasion. Both juvenile and adult survival have increased, and social behavior of this semi-colonial species has been rewired. Snail kite morphology has changed rapidly, where beak sizes have increased over time, which is driven by viability and sexual selection, as well as phenotypic plasticity. Ultimately, this invasion has saved the snail kite from imminent extinction in the short term, yet the future remains highly uncertain. These results provide insight on the remarkable consequences of novel species for long-lived predators.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 18 Oct 13:00: The dynamics of predators in a novel world This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Thu, 08/09/2022 - 09:41
The dynamics of predators in a novel world

Non-native species are spreading rapidly throughout the planet. These species can have widespread impacts on biodiversity, particularly in situations where non-native species have novel traits that are unfamiliar to native species. Yet impacts of novel prey on the behavior, ecology, and evolution of predators remain poorly known. I will discuss long-term research on the dynamics of an endangered predator, the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), across its North American range with the invasion of a novel prey, the island apple snail (Pomacea maculata), a much larger congener of the kite’s native prey that is considered one of the world’s ‘top 100 worst invaders’. This invasion has led to sweeping, rapid changes in the behavior, ecology, and evolution of this predator. This invasive prey is challenging to consume for kites and yet it occurs in high densities in a landscape where native prey is rare. Kites have responded by increasing reproductive effort, including striking changes in breeding phenology, where breeding season length is now 18 weeks longer than prior to invasion. Both juvenile and adult survival have increased, and social behavior of this semi-colonial species has been rewired. Snail kite morphology has changed rapidly, where beak sizes have increased over time, which is driven by viability and sexual selection, as well as phenotypic plasticity. Ultimately, this invasion has saved the snail kite from imminent extinction in the short term, yet the future remains highly uncertain. These results provide insight on the remarkable consequences of novel species for long-lived predators.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 11 Oct 13:00: Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

Wed, 07/09/2022 - 11:24
Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis

For many marine invertebrates, larval settlement is a key developmental transition. This process is strongly linked to the environment in that larvae must detect specific cues to determine the time and place of settlement. How environmental cues are detected and activate internal hormone signalling to regulate larval settlement is not yet clear. To better understand this, we are investigating larval settlement in the nereid polychaete Platynereis dumerilii. Behavioural assays show that Platynereis larvae have a species-specific response to biofilms composed of benthic microalgal diatoms. Platynereis larval settlement is internally regulated by the neuropeptide myoinhibitory peptide (MIP), an ortholog of insect allatostatin B neuropeptide. I will discuss recent advances in understanding the function and signalling mechanisms of MIP and assessing its link to environmental cue detection in Platynereis. Understanding how external and internal signals combine to guide the developmental transition of marine invertebrate settlement will inform our understanding of animal-microalgae interactions and the evolution of environmentally-guided animal development.

This talk is hybrid - email the organisers for a Zoom link

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Tue 11 Oct 13:00: Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis

Tue, 06/09/2022 - 11:26
Environment-neuroendocrine interactions regulating larval settlement in the marine worm Platynereis

For many marine invertebrates, larval settlement is a key developmental transition. This process is strongly linked to the environment in that larvae must detect specific cues to determine the time and place of settlement. How environmental cues are detected and activate internal hormone signalling to regulate larval settlement is not yet clear. To better understand this, we are investigating larval settlement in the nereid polychaete Platynereis dumerilii. Behavioural assays show that Platynereis larvae have a species-specific response to biofilms composed of benthic microalgal diatoms. Platynereis larval settlement is internally regulated by the neuropeptide myoinhibitory peptide (MIP), an ortholog of insect allatostatin B neuropeptide. I will discuss recent advances in understanding the function and signalling mechanisms of MIP and assessing its link to environmental cue detection in Platynereis. Understanding how external and internal signals combine to guide the developmental transition of marine invertebrate settlement will inform our understanding of animal-microalgae interactions and the evolution of environmentally-guided animal development.

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