Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Travel trip report and slide show from South Africa followed by "Evolutionary Biology for the 21th century"

Navy dropwing (Trithemis furva). Photo: Erik Svensson

Posted by Erik Svensson

During the lab-meeting next week (Tuesday April 2), I will show some nature pictures from our recent research and field work trip to eastern South Africa (from the provinces of KwaZulu Natal, Mupalanga and Limpopo) that I recently did with Anna Nordén, John Waller and Johannis Danielsen. 

After that, we will discuss a recent essay in PLoS Biology, entitled "Evolutionary Biology for the 21th Century", authored by Losos et al. This paper is published "Open Acess", and can be accessed here.

This thought-provoking essay should be an must-read for anyone interested in the future of the general research field of evolutionary biology. The paper has already sparked some interest in the bloggosphere, such as here and here. Of particular interest is their coining of a new term - "Biodiversity informatics", and what it might entail.

The more general questions, I think, are these: are the authors likely to be correct in their predictions about the future of our field, and if not, what have they missed? And where are we in this picture in our research group in relation to the rest of the evolutionary biology research community? How could we contribute?

Time: Tuesday April 2, 10.30
Place: "Argumentet", 2nd floor (Ecology Building)

Final reminder to Anna and John: could you bring fika? Also, send some of your best pictures to me well before Tuesday, so I can put them together in to our slide show.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Next lab meeting: cognitive abilities in birds

Posted by Jessica Abbott on behalf of Utku Urhan

 Bird on a branch with lichen on it. The bird has a black head with a prominent white cheek, a greenish back, a blue wing with a prominent white bar, and a yellowish belly.

Hi Everyone,

This week i have picked 2 articles about great tits and their cognitive abilities. Papers discuss individual variations and if having high cognitive abilities advantageous in every situation. I hope you will enjoy reading them. See you on Tuesday. I will bring fika.

Cognitive Ability Influences Reproductive Life History Variation in the Wild

Cognition has been studied intensively for several decades, but the evolutionary processes that shape individual variation in cognitive traits remain elusive. For instance, the strength of selection on a cognitive trait has never been estimated in a natural population, and the possibility that positive links with life history variation are mitigated by costs or confounded by ecological factors remains unexplored in the wild. We assessed novel problem-solving performance in 468 wild great tits Parus major temporarily taken into captivity and subsequently followed up their reproductive performance in the wild. Problem-solver females produced larger clutches than nonsolvers. This benefit did not arise because solvers timed their breeding better, occupied better habitats, or compromised offspring quality or their own survival. Instead, foraging range size and day length were relatively small and short, respectively, for solvers, suggesting that they were more efficient at exploiting their environment. In contaast to the positive effect on clutch size, problem solvers deserted their nests more often, leading to little or no overall selection on problem-solving performance. Our results are
consistent with the idea that variation in cognitive ability is shaped by contrasting effects on different life history traits directly linked to fitness.

Personality and problem-solving performance explain competitive ability in the wild
Abstract:Competitive ability is a major determinant of fitness, but why individuals vary so much in their competitiveness ! remains only partially understood. One increasingly prevalent view is that realized competitive ability varies because it represents alternative strategies that arise because of the costs associated with competitiveness. Here we use a population of great tits (Parus major) to explore whether individual differences incompetitive ability when foraging can be explained by two traits that have previously been linked to alternative behavioural strategies: the personality trait 'exploration behaviour' and a simple cognitive trait, 'innovative problem-solving performance'. We assayed these traits under standardized conditions in captivity and then measuredcompetitive ability at feeders with restricted access in the wildCompetitive ability was repeatable within individual males across days and correlated positively with exploration behaviour, representing the first such demonstration of a link between apersonality trait and both competitive ability and food intake in the wildCompetitiveability was also simultaneously negatively correlated with problem-solving performance; individuals who were poor competitors were good at problem-solving. Rather than being the result of variation in 'individual quality', our results support the hypothesis that individual variation in competitive ability can be explained by alte! rnative behavioural strategies.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Next lab meeting: WIPs and paper on sex role evolution

The African Jacana, a sex-role reversed bird
Hello everyone, this is Qinyang and for our next lab meeting, I picked the recently published paper on sex-role reversal among several shorebird species. They tested the recent theory and confirmed that adult sex ratio indeed play an essential role in shorebirds' parenting and mating systems.
Abstract: Sex-role reversal represents a formidable challenge for evolutionary biologists, since it is not clear which ecological, life-history or social factors facilitated conventional sex roles (female care and male-male competition for mates) to be reversed (male care and female-female competition). Classic theories suggested ecological or life-history predictors of role reversal, but most studies failed to support these hypotheses. Recent theory however predicts that sex-role reversal should be driven by male-biased adult sex ratio (ASR). Here we test this prediction for the first time using phylogenetic comparative analyses. Consistent with theory, both mating system and parental care are strongly related to ASR in shorebirds: conventional sex roles are exhibited by species with female-biased ASR, whereas sex-role reversal is associated with male-biased ASR. These results suggest that social environment has a strong influence on breeding systems and therefore revealing the causes of ASR variation in wild populations is essential for understanding sex role evolution.
Before the discussion of the paper, I’d like to use this opportunity to present the work I’ve been doing so far in testing heritability of the wing interference pattern of Drosophila Melanogaster, as well as some problems occurred. It would really help me to hear your advices. I’ll bring fika.

Time: Tuesday, Mar/19, 10:30am. 


Yuma's new life in Japan

Posted by Jessica Abbott

Yuma, Natsu, Jessica, and Jostein in the lab
Yuma Takahashi, Erik's former postdoc, recently sent some of us an email about his return to Japan.  Since I thought there might be other people who would like to know how things are going for him, I asked him if I could post his message here, which he kindly agreed to.  From Yuma:


I have successfully started new life in Sendai, Japan in which my home university is.
I had a lovely and wonderful time with you in Lund!
Everything is fine there. People, university, lab, city, architecture, weather, (winter), summer and so on...
I wanted to stay there as long as possible.

Just now, I am enjoying tea, Lunda blandning, with Höganäs tea cup! I can easily imagine the view of Lund, ekologihuset and you all.

Good News!
I got a new job, an assistant professor in Tohoku University, to which I applied with Erik's letter.
I can continue research life 5 more years (min: 1 year, MAX: 5 years)! It will start from this April.

I am planning to visit to Lund during a field season in 2014 or 2015. I am happy if I can join you again!

When you visit to Japan, please contact me!
I and Natsu can guide you. Remember that Japan is longer country than you (especially Erik) expected. South to North distance of Japan is same as that of US!

See you in Portugal.



I'm sure we're all happy to hear that things are going well for Yuma, and congratulations from EXEB on his new job!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

BLAM this week

Posted by Jessica Abbott


There will be no lab meeting this week because Tuesday and Wednesday is the Biology in Lund Annual Meeting (BLAM).  The purpose of this meeting is to give the PhD students at the Biology Department a forum to present their research to people at the department outside of their own research group or unit.  I attended last year, and found it an interesting way to get an overview of the different types of biology research that's being carried out in Lund.  I have to teach on Tuesday, but I'm planning on attending on Wednesday, so hope to see you there!

Our regular lab meeting will return on the 19th, where Qinyang will take a turn at choosing a paper to discuss.  Details will be posted before next weekend.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Next lab meeting: paper on our dental flora, plus panel interview training

Posted by Anna Runemark

Dear all, since several people found the paper by Adler and colleagues which shows how dental microbiota reflects major life style changes in humans interesting, I suggest that we go ahead and read that. Also, my parents are both dentists and would be delighted to know that I have read this. The paper is entitled "Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions", and the abstract is posted below.

Since this is a quite short read I would also like to suggest that we put the last 30 minutes of the labmeeting aside to discuss panel interviews and how to prepare for these as both Jessica Abbott and I will be attending interviews soon. Jessica will be interviewed for an ERC Junior grant and I for a Wenner-Gren Fellowshiph. I will bring some fika to stimulate discussions.

Abstract: The importance of commensal microbes for human health is increasingly recognized1, 2, 3, 4, 5, yet the impacts of evolutionary changes in human diet and culture on commensal microbiota remain almost unknown. Two of the greatest dietary shifts in human evolution involved the adoption of carbohydrate-rich Neolithic (farming) diets6, 7 (beginning ~10,000 years before the present6, 8) and the more recent advent of industrially processed flour and sugar (in ~1850)9. Here, we show that calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) on ancient teeth preserves a detailed genetic record throughout this period. Data from 34 early European skeletons indicate that the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming shifted the oral microbial community to a disease-associated configuration. The composition of oral microbiota remained unexpectedly constant between Neolithic and medieval times, after which (the now ubiquitous) cariogenic bacteria became dominant, apparently during the Industrial Revolution. Modern oral microbiotic ecosystems are markedly less diverse than historic populations, which might be contributing to chronic oral (and other) disease in postindustrial lifestyles.