Functional Ecology

Copyright © 2014 British Ecological Society

A Journal of the British Ecological Society

Edited by: Charles Fox, Duncan Irschick, Ken Thompson and Alan Knapp

Latest Videos & podcasts

Alan Knapp talks to the 2014 Haldane Prizewinner Scott Ferrenberg about his paper, "Smooth bark surfaces can defend trees against insect attack: resurrecting a ‘slippery’ hypothesis". See the winner's Virtual Issue here:

Ken Thompson talks to Katie Field about her Virtual Issue Mycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functioning. The vast majority of land plants form mutualistic symbioses with soil-dwelling fungi known as mycorrhizas, which can link many plants through fungal hyphae in a common mycelial network. This Virtual Issue highlights three major themes in mycorrhizal research: the movement of plant-fixed carbon, reciprocal exchange of nutrients, and the wider impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function.

In this study, the authors measured song frequency content and hearing sensitivity for nine species of songbird over a broad range of frequencies. If hearing correlates to song characteristics, then open habitat bird species should have higher sensitivity to high-frequency sounds than forest species. Surprisingly, although song frequency was highest in species from open habitats and lowest in forest species (as expected), song frequency and habitat were not correlated with high-frequency hearing sensitivity.
You can read the paper free online Vélez, A., Gall, M. D., Fu, J., Lucas, J. R. (2014), Song structure, not high-frequency song content, determines high-frequency auditory sensitivity in nine species of New World sparrows. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12352 or the lay summary here.

Survival of the weakest seems an unlikely title for an ecology paper, but that is exactly what Haldane prizewinner Kyle Demes and his co-authors found in their, as Kyle Demes explains in this podcast on his paper, Demes, K. W., Pruitt, J. N., Harley, C. D.G., Carrington, E. (2013), Survival of the weakest: increased frond mechanical strength in a wave-swept kelp inhibits self-pruning and increases whole-plant mortality. Functional Ecology, 27: 439–445. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12067

In this podcast, Alan Knapp talks to Lara Reichman about the implications of her paper, now published in the latest issue of Functional Ecology.
Read the full paper online here:Reichmann, L. G., Sala, O. E. (2014), Differential sensitivities of grassland structural components to changes in precipitation mediate productivity response in a desert ecosystem. Functional Ecology, 28: 1292–1298. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12265 or the lay summary here

In this podcast, Robbie Wilson discusses a recent paper showing that long term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide ca damage bees’ ability to forage for pollen – and may be changing their choices of which flowers to visit – with co-author Nigel Raine.
Read the full paper online here:Gill, R. J., Raine, N. E. (2014), Chronic impairment of bumblebee natural foraging behaviour induced by sublethal pesticide exposure. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12292 or the lay summary here

Stag beetles are renowned for their spectacular male-male battles. In these scuffles, males fight each other with their long jaws over mates or desirable stumps of rotten wood. As a result of this, their jaw is strongly shaped by sexual selection and in some species, can become as long as their own body. How does this effect their ability to run? To investigate this, the authors made high speed video recordings of male and female stag beetles running on a miniature running track.
You can read the paper free online Goyens, J., Dirckx, J., Aerts, P. (2014), Costly sexual dimorphism in Cyclommatus metallifer stag beetles. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12294 or the lay summary here.

Cynthia Chang talks with Alan Knapp about why naturally co-occurring genotypes coexist, how genetic diversity within dominant plant species is maintained and how this can affect important ecosystem processes. Read the full paper here: Chang, C. C., Smith, M. D. (2014), Resource availability modulates above- and below-ground competitive interactions between genotypes of a dominant C4 grass. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12227

Hovering hummingbirds are rare among vertebrates in their ability to rapidly make use of ingested sugars to fuel energetically expensive hovering flight, powering up to 100% of their metabolic needs with the sugars they drink, while humans athletes max out at around 30%. Until now, we haven't understood to what extent hummingbirds can use the 50% of the sugar in their nectar meals that is glucose versus the 50% that is fructose. Our study shows that hummingbirds begin using newly ingested sugars to fuel hovering flight within minutes and can fuel as much as 100% of their intense hovering metabolism with either glucose or fructose.
You can read the paper free online Chen, C. C. W., Welch, K. C. (2013), Hummingbirds can fuel expensive hovering flight completely with either exogenous glucose or fructose. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12202 or the lay summary here.

Animals move within natural habitats in complicated ways, in response to many aspects of the environment. Advances in the technology available for recording and analysing animal movements enabled us to ask and answer questions that were inaccessible with previous methods. Our transmitters provided over 60,000 records of lizard location from 49 individuals monitored for a mean of 65 days each. Lizards primarily moved between widely scattered patches of core-habitat under fine, hot, clear weather conditions. Thus air pressure tended to predict lizard dispersal more accurately than did more commonly-analysed variables such as temperature and precipitation.
You can read the paper free online Price-Rees, S. J., Lindström, T., Brown, G. P., Shine, R. (2013), The effects of weather conditions on dispersal behaviour of free-ranging lizards (Tiliqua, Scincidae) in tropical Australia. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12189 or the lay summary here.


Now online

Callipers used for measuring. Photo provided by authors. Wilder et al Moving Beyond Body Condition Indices as an Estimate of Fitness in Ecological and Evolutionary Studies

Colony of Aphis craccivora infesting young locust tree (Robinia pseudoacaciae). Image provided by authors. Wagner et al Jack of all foods or master of one: symbiotic bacteria determine the diet of an insect pest

Multiple interactions including galling midges, aphids, and ants on a willow, Salix eriocarpa. Wurst & Ohgushi Does history matter in plant interactions?

Credits: Isabelle Maréchaux. Maréchaux et al Predicting drought tolerance for Amazonian forest trees

Female Texas field cricket. Photograph by ZRS. Stahlschmidt et al The double-edged sword of immune defence and damage control: Do food availability and immune challenge alter the balance?

Image provided by authors. Bartheld et al Darwin’s dream: a manipulative experiment for measuring natural selection in animal populations

Two split-root pea plants sit on the edges of two pots and place their roots in both pots. Thus, each plant has access to the volume of two pots, and share soil nutrients with the neighbour. Chen et al Neighbour presence reduces root allocation

The ignition of a leaf. Photo credit: S. Grootemaat. Grootemaat et al Burn or rot: leaf traits explain why flammability and decomposability are decoupled across species.

An Abert’s Towhee. Photograph by Christofer Bang. Davies et al Food availability and seasonal reproductive activation in a songbird

 Juliana Senawi with bats great and small from the study site, Krau Wildlife Reserve, Malaysia. At around 200 g, Cheiromeles torquatus or the Naked Bat is recognized as the largest insectivorous bat in the world, while Kerivoula intermedia or the Small Woolly Bat weighs a mere 3 g (less than a sheet of an A4 paper!!) and is one of the very smallest.  Photograph by Nurul Ain Elias. Senawi et al Does size really matter in predicting bite force in bats?

Cane toads present within terrestrial breeding habitats of the endangered Fijian ground frogs (Photograph by Dr Edward Narayan). Narayan et al Cane toad impacts native species reproduction

Photo of thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana associated with bacterial community of Pseudomonas spp. (taken by Simone Weidner). Weidner et al Bacterial diversity enhances plant growth

Haploops nirae, a gregarious tubiculous amphipod (crustacean) species (top picture) colonizing muddy marine sediments and engineering a unique habitat (bottom picture) while largely affecting associated species assemblages. Rigolet et al Investigating isotopic functional indices to reveal changes in the structure and functioning of benthic communities

Branch samples collected from adult trees (photo credit: Susan Cook-Patton). Cook-Patton et al Convergence of three mangrove species towards freeze-tolerant phenotypes at an expanding range edge

A sample blood smear from an adult Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) with an elevated heterophil:lymphocyte ratio consistent with an acute stress response. Image credit: J.M. Goessling. Goessling et al Stress, hormones, and blood- the devil’s in the details

Ecologists at work.  Photo provided by authors. Fraaije et al Early life stages dictate the future: plant species sorting along water availability gradients

Weddell seal, photo provided by authors.. Shero et al How Energy Allocation Influences Reproductive Success in the Southernmost Breeding Mammal, the Weddell seal

Rigid spineflower skeleton at the end of the growth season. Photo: Alejandra Martínez-Berdeja. Martínez-Berdeja et al How does a winter desert annual cope with two challenges in the desert: summer rains and winter rain unpredictability

Picture provided by authors. Marques et al Active prey mixing as an explanation for polyphagy in predatory arthropods

Photo provided by authors. Venail et al The phylogenetic diversity of grassland plants has no influence on the temporal stability of community biomass production

Photo provided by authors. Baron et al The genetics of plant-plant interactions

Male Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella). Photo credit: Robby Stoks. Debecker et al UV radiation causes darkening of the larval cuticle, at the expense of adult immune function

Dr Claire Fortunel measures leaf toughness at Nouragues Biological Station, French Guiana. Paine et al Intensity, not strategy is key for estimating trait values

Photo of the experimental evolutionary diversity and ecosystem function plots at the Koffler Scientific Reserve, Canada. Photo by M. W. Cadotte. Cadotte Rough estimates of evolutionary relatedness can offer important insights into ecosystems

A group of Neolamprologus pulcher (to the left) getting ready to defend their territory against predators (two Lepidiolamprologus elongatus and a mastacembelid eel; to the right). During the experiments, predators were confined in a plastic tube to prevent fish from harming each other. Foto: A. Jungwirth. Jungwirth et al Welcome neighbours: cooperative fish benefit from settling close to each other.

Carpinus betulus growing in the understorey of a mixed-species forest patch in Bialowieza (Poland). Photo provided by the authors. Jucker et al Diverse forests make efficient use of canopy spaceed by the authors

Plastic troughs that covered 45% of the plot area were used to exclude a fraction of the rainfall and simulate more intense drought in a piñon-juniper woodland of central New Mexico in the southwestern United States. Limousin et al Tree efficiency in resource use does not relate to tree ability to withstand drought

Dalechampia scandens blossom A) during the pollination period, and B) during seed maturation. C) Change in the colour of the bract over a period of approximately 10 days. (Photos C. Pélabon). Pélabon et al Blossom colour change decreases the costs of reproduction

Mt. Kinabalu from the southern slope of the mountain. This picture was taken from Park Headquarter of Kinabalu Park at about 1,560 m above sea level (©M. Ushio). One of our study sites (Intermediate P site) is a forest in the bottom part of the picture. Ushio et al Root and leaf strategies synchronize in tropical montane forests in Borneo

Image provided by authors. Gerhold et al Phylogeny is no proxy for community assembly (it is far better)

Image provided by authors. Miller et al Basking sharks and oceanographic fronts: quantifying associations in the north-east Atlantic

High population density of cabbage looper larvae reduces food availability and increases risk of disease transmission (photo by Michael Hrabar). Shikano et al Trade-offs between trans-generational transfer of nutritional stress tolerance and immune priming.

Field experiment in Abisko, Sweden. Photo credits: Ciska Veen. Veen et al East West Home’s Best? Drivers of plant litter decomposition do not explain home-field advantage in subarctic tundra

Various patterns of floral colour change. Photos by Kazuharu Ohashi (upper left, lower right) and Takashi Makino (upper right, lower left). Ohashi et al Evolutionary conditions for floral colour change by plants.

 Four representatives of the entire species pool: common rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus (a), red-footed falcon Falco vespertinus (b), Eurasian wryneck Jynx torquilla (c), and common kingfisher Alcedo atthis (d). Photographs by Csongor I. Vágási. Pap et al Functional morphology of flight feathers in birds.

The modified root (haustorium) of the mistletoe Muellerina euca. Scalon & Wright Revisiting old hypotheses on nitrogen, water and mimicry in mistletoes.

Lolium perenne in a magenta box. Photo by Ellen Latz. Latz et al Plant identity drives biocontrol bacterial ability

Japanese Cedar plantation (photo provided by authors). Matsushita et al A novel growth model evaluating Age-Size effect on long-term trends in tree growth.

Cocoon of the solitary parasitoid wasp, Hyposoter ebeninus, (note the head capsule of the Pieris brassicae host caterpillar which is all that is left of the host). Bottom: cocoons (yellow) and the host caterpillar after egression of the gregarious (Cotesia glomerata) parasitoid wasps. (photo credits Tibor Bukovinszky, Bugs in the Picture ©. Gols et al Fitness consequences of indirect plant defence in the annual weed, Sinapis arvensis.

Yellow-legged gull chicks at hatching (photo credit to Marco Parolini). Parolini et al Vitamin E deficiency in last-laid eggs limits growth of yellow-legged gull chicks

An American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) in mid bound about to land on his feet and jump again without stopping.   Photo credit: Steve Reilly. Reilly et al Conquering the world in leaps and bounds: hopping locomotion in toads is actually bounding

Female Eris militaris. Image provided by authors. Royauté et al An insecticide alters personality in jumping spiders.

Gregarine protozoa infect the gut of a flat grain beetle collected from a feed mill. Photo credit: Ann Tate. Tate & Graham Stored grain pest parents protect offspring from bacterial infection in both laboratory and natural populations.

A male lark bunting showing off his dapper plumage during the breeding season (Photo by Bruce Lyon). Chaine & Lyon How to package information into feather color patches.

Insect species associated with two different genotypes of coastal willow (Salix hookeriana). Barbour et al Host-plant genetics determines the composition of associated insects.

A birch tree damaged by moose (photo by Kalle Rainio). Muiruri et al Moose browsing alters tree diversity effects on birch growth and insect herbivory.

 Two sundew species with red prey-trapping leaves:  Drosera arcturi (top), Drosera spatulata (bottom). Photos: Andreas Jürgens. Jürgens et al Red is the colour: the effect of trap colour and trap-flower distance on prey and pollinator capture in carnivorous sundews.

Joe Ehrenberger making physiological measurements on a Sceloporus lizard. Buckley et al Behaviorally escaping the heat of climate change may lead to long term vulnerability.

Great tit (Parus major). Image copyright Joris Bertrand. Jacob et al Microbiome affects egg carotenoid investment, nestling development and adult oxidative costs of reproduction in Great tits.

Whiteflies feeding on tomato stems. Photo provided by authors. Su et al The whitefly-associated facultative symbiont suppresses induced plant defenses.

Close-up view of the lichens dominating biological soil crusts at the Aranjuez Experimental Station: Diploschistes diacapsis, Fulgensia subbracteata and Psora decipiens (white, yellow and pink thalli, respectively). Photograph by Fernando T. Maestre. Delgado-Baquerizo et al Biocrust-forming lichens effects on soil nutrients and microbial abundances.

Angry brown anole. Brace et al Highway to the danger zone: costs of immune system activation in an invasive lizard.

Infected snail surrounded by a cloud of cercariae. Paull et al Sustained heat waves may reduce output of a parasite that causes frog deformities.

Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and robotic heron. Photographs by Ines Fürtbauer. Fürtbauer et al Personality, plasticity, and predation: linking endocrine and behavioural reaction norms in stickleback fish.

Leaf litter from the current (left) and previous year (right) on the bottom of an intermittent stream bed in Georgia’s coastal plain. While maple, tupelo, and oak litter can be seen in freshly-fallen litter, only oak litter can be readily distinguished among the older litter. Mehring et al Leaf litter nutrient uptake in an intermittent blackwater river: Influence of tree species and associated biotic and abiotic drivers.

Lady beetles (Aiolocaria hexaspilota) search for leaf beetles (Plagiodera versicolora) using willow volatiles. Yoneya & Miki Plant aroma drives diversification of plant-herbivore-carnivore interactions.

Photo by Ari Friedlaender under NMFS Permit: #14534-2. Goldbogenet al Prey density and distribution drive the three-dimensional foraging strategies of the largest filter feeder.

Photo of brown trout. Copyright Sonya Auer. Auer et al Links between metabolic rates and growth depend on food availability.

Cane toad dispersing. Photograph by David Nelson. Brown et al Cane toads are not directional dispersers.

The evolution of a trait along a phylogeny. Münkemüller et al Phylogenetic niche conservatism – common pitfalls and ways forward.

Photo provided by authors. Nippert & Holdo Is maximum rooting depth all we need to know?

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