The Science of Nature

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ISSN / EISSN : 0028-1042 / 1432-1904
Current Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC (10.1007)
Total articles ≅ 34,788
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Loren L. Fardell , Miguel A. Bedoya-Pérez, Christopher R. Dickman, Mathew S. Crowther, Chris R. Pavey, Edward J. Narayan
Published: 7 January 2021
The Science of Nature, Volume 108, pp 1-15; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01716-8

Understanding wild animal responses to stressors underpins effective wildlife management. In order for responses to stressors to be correctly interpreted, it is critical that measurements are taken on wild animals using minimally invasive techniques. Studies investigating wild animal responses to stressors often measure either a single physiological or behavioural variable, but whether such responses are comparable and concordant remains uncertain. We investigated this question in a pilot study that measured responses of wild-caught urban brown and black rats (Rattus norvegicus, Rattus rattus) to fur-based olfactory cues from a predator, the domestic cat (Felis catus); a novel herbivore, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus); and a familiar herbivore and competitor, the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Physiological responses, measured by assaying faecal glucocorticoid metabolites, were compared to behavioural responses observed via video recordings. We found that physiological and behavioural responses to stressors were expressed concordantly. There was no sizeable physiological response observed, and the behavioural response when considered across the night was negligible. However, the behavioural response to the predator and competitor cues changed across the observation period, with activity increasing with increasing hours of exposure. Our results indicate that responses of wild rodents to cues are nuanced, with stress responses modulated by behaviour changes that vary over time according to the severity of the perceived threat as animals gather further information. If the physiological response alone had been assessed, this moderated response may not have been evident, and in terms of wildlife management, vital information would have been lost.
Tuul Sepp , Emily Webb, Richard K. Simpson, Mathieu Giraudeau, Kevin J. McGraw, Pierce Hutton
Published: 5 January 2021
The Science of Nature, Volume 108, pp 1-10; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01715-9

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Published: 16 December 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 108, pp 1-24; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01713-x

The origins of the regenerative nature of antlers, being branched and deciduous apophyseal appendages of frontal bones of cervid artiodactyls, have long been associated with permanent evolutionary precursors. In this study, we provide novel insight into growth modes of evolutionary early antlers. We analysed a total of 34 early antlers affiliated to ten species, including the oldest known, dating from the early and middle Miocene (approx. 18 to 12 million years old) of Europe. Our findings provide empirical data from the fossil record to demonstrate that growth patterns and a regular cycle of necrosis, abscission and regeneration are consistent with data from modern antlers. The diverse histological analyses indicate that primary processes and mechanisms of the modern antler cycle were not gradually acquired during evolution, but were fundamental from the earliest record of antler evolution and, hence, explanations why deer shed antlers have to be rooted in basic histogenetic mechanisms. The previous interpretation that proximal circular protuberances, burrs, are the categorical traits for ephemerality is refuted.
Published: 11 December 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 108, pp 1-14; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01709-7

Myxodiaspory (formation of mucilage envelope around seeds and fruits) is a common adaptation to dry habitats known in many families of Angiosperms. The mucilage envelope of some seeds seems to be also a unique morphological adaptation which protects myxospermatic diaspores while passing through the bird’s digestive system. To evaluate the protective potential of mucilage, we fed the diaspores of seven plant species (representing three different mucilage types and three species of non-mucilaginous plants) to pigeons, Columba livia domestica. Twenty-four hours later, we collected the droppings of pigeons and examined a total of 18,900 non-destroyed diaspores to check for mucilage presence and germination ability. Out of all the examined diaspores, 4.5% were mucilaginous seeds. Among them, the highest number (12.2–13.5%) of viable diaspores belonged to the hemicellulosic type of mucilage (from Plantago species). Only 3.7% of germinating diaspores with pectic mucilage (Linum usitatissimum) were collected, and no seeds representing cellulosic mucilage (e.g., Ocimum basilicum). For non-mucilaginous plants, we collected only a few individual seeds (0.1% out of 8100 seeds used). We noted that the mucilaginous seeds found in the droppings were able to germinate; however, the germination ability was generally smaller in comparison to the control (i.e., not digested) seeds. Our results revealed that the presence of mucilage envelope has an impact on diaspore dispersal and survivability. With our experiments, we demonstrated for the first time that the mucilage envelope, especially of the non-cellulosic type, supports endozoochory. We also showed that non-mucilaginous seeds can be occasionally dispersed via endozoochory and are able to germinate. The results of our studies can explain the ways of plants distribution at a small, local scale as well as in long-distance dispersal, e.g., between islands or even continents.
Samuel Zschokke , Stefanie Countryman, Paula E. Cushing
Published: 3 December 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 108, pp 1-10; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01708-8

Gravity is very important for many organisms, including web-building spiders. Probably the best approach to study the relevance of gravity on organisms is to bring them to the International Space Station. Here, we describe the results of such an experiment where two juvenile Trichonephila clavipes (L.) (Araneae, Nephilidae) spiders were observed over a 2-month period in zero gravity and two control spiders under otherwise identical conditions on Earth. During that time, the spiders and their webs were photographed every 5 min. Under natural conditions, Trichonephila spiders build asymmetric webs with the hub near the upper edge of the web, and they always orient themselves downwards when sitting on the hub whilst waiting for prey. As these asymmetries are considered to be linked to gravity, we expected the spiders experiencing no gravity to build symmetric webs and to show a random orientation when sitting on the hub. We found that most, but not all, webs built in zero gravity were indeed quite symmetric. Closer analysis revealed that webs built when the lights were on were more asymmetric (with the hub near the lights) than webs built when the lights were off. In addition, spiders showed a random orientation when the lights were off but faced away from the lights when they were on. We conclude that in the absence of gravity, the direction of light can serve as an orientation guide for spiders during web building and when waiting for prey on the hub.
Yuta Miyazaki, Wataru Toki
Published: 26 November 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 107, pp 1-10; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01710-0

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Yoko Matsumura , Mohsen Jafarpour, Steven A. Ramm , Klaus Reinhold, Stanislav Gorb , H. Rajabi
Published: 25 November 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 107, pp 1-10; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01706-w

Sperm removal behaviour (SRB) is known in many animals, and male genital structures are often involved in the SRB, e.g. rubbing female genitalia vigorously. However, it remains unclear how those male genital structures function properly without severe genital damage during SRB. In the present study, we focused on the bushcricket Metaplastes ornatus and examined the biomechanics of male and female genital structures, involved in their SRB as a model case. During an initial phase of mating, males of this species thrust their subgenital plate with hook-like spurs and many microscopic spines into the female genital chamber. By moving the subgenital plate back-and-forth, males stimulate females, and this stimulation induces the ejection of sperm previously stored in females. We aimed to uncover the mechanics of the interaction between the subgenital plate and genital chamber during SRB. The genital morphology and its material composition were investigated using modern imaging and microscopy techniques. The obtained results showed a pronounced material heterogeneity in the subgenital plate and the genital chamber. The material heterogeneity was completely absent in that of a second bushcricket species, Poecilimon veluchianus, which does not exhibit SRB. Finite element simulations showed that the specific material heterogeneity can redistribute the stress in the subgenital plate of M. ornatus and, thereby, reduces stress concentration during SRB. This may explain why only a few examined males had a broken spur. We suggest that the observed structural features and material heterogeneity in M. ornatus are adaptations to their SRB.
Jhonathan O. Silva , Mário M. Espírito-Santo, Joselândio C. Santos, Priscyla M. S. Rodrigues
Published: 25 November 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 107, pp 1-10; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01711-z

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
Nicolas Roberto Chimento , Federico L. Agnolin, Takanobu Tsuihiji, Makoto Manabe, Fernando E. Novas
Published: 19 November 2020
The Science of Nature, Volume 107; doi:10.1007/s00114-020-01705-x

The publisher has not yet granted permission to display this abstract.
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