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

Researchers prepare an adult Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) for physiological manipulation in order to test predictions regarding individual variation in overwinter migration strategy. Photo by Xavier Bordeleau. Crossin et al Glucocorticoid manipulations in free-living animals: considerations of dose delivery, life-history context, and reproductive state

Sampling of groundwater organisms at Borne aux Cassots cave (France). Photo: Robert Le Pennec. Francois et al Evidence of trophic specialization in cave species challenges the usual prediction of generalist feeding in food-limited environments

Inside a nest of the buff-tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris), complete with marked bees. Photo credit: Andrew Bourke, 2013. Holland and Bourke How does temperature affect colonies of a pollinating bumble bee?

Carp in tank. Photo provided by authors. van Leeuwen et al Seed transport by physically active animals: farther than we think?

Image provided by authors. Anderson-Teixeira et al What can we predict about a forest based on the sizes of its trees?

 Camera system (left) within the environmental chamber used to film woodlice as they move around an experimental fragmented landscape (right, blue line indicates woodlice trajectories), also seen at the bottom of the filming chamber. Woodlice movement patterns can then be automatically tracked and analysed using automated image-based tracking software. Barnes et al Big, warm woodlice "chill out", rather than cross a habitat corridor

An old-growth tropical forest. Photo credit: Yunting Fang. Chen et al Nitrogen saturation in humid tropical forests after 6 years of nitrogen and phosphorus addition: hypothesis testing

An arboreal eyelash viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) resting on a branch in Costa Rica.  Photograph by Coleman M. Sheehy III. Sheehy et al Arboreality and associated gravitational stress on blood circulation have influenced the evolution of tail length in snakes

Wood decomposition patterns over time. Photo from Yao Chen. Chen et al How is wood decomposition affected by nutrients in a tropical forest?

Photo of the common garden at Syracuse University, Photo by Jason D. Fridley. Yin et al Xylem vessel traits tell the timing of leaf emergence and senescence in native and non-native understory species of temperate deciduous forests

Image provided by authors. Tolkkinen et al Agriculture increases temporal variability of stream ecosystem functioning

A sagrei Bimini. Image provided by authors.. Bonneaud et al Plasticity in sexual size dimorphism

Image provided by authors. Mariotte et al Subordinate plants and fungi: what happens when these minorities join the effort?

The two alternative male morphotypes of the peacock blenny: bourgeois nest-holders (front) and parasitic female mimics (back). Fagundes et al Birth date predicts alternative life history pathways in a fish with sequential reproductive tactics

Plants at their native area in South Africa (left) grow under wetter and hotter conditions than those introduced into novel regions, for example Australia (right). Differences in climate are driving a rapid evolution of this invasive species. Pictures: Eva Castells. Colomer-Ventura et al An invasive plant evolves rapidly in response to changes in climate

Image provided by authors. Bråthen and Lortie A portfolio effect of shrub canopy height on species richness along a competitive stress gradient

A male Terrestrial Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans). Neuman-Lee et al Stress, immunity, and energy use in snakes

Female song sparrow searching for nesting material. Photo credit: Sylvain Losdat. Germain et al Preferred nest-sites help female song sparrows successfully raise chicks in early spring conditions

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

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