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Age-related differences in the cloacal microbiota of a wild bird species

June 3, 2013 Comments off

Age-related differences in the cloacal microbiota of a wild bird species

Source: BMC Ecology

Our findings suggest that chick gastrointestinal tracts are colonised by many transient species and that bacterial assemblages gradually transition to a more stable adult state. Phenotypic differences between chicks and adults may lead to these strong differences in bacterial communities. These data provide the framework for future studies targeting the causes and consequences of variation in bacterial assemblages in wild birds.

See: The scoop on bird poop (EurekAlert!)

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Categories: BMC Ecology, ecology, science

Queen dominance and worker policing control reproduction in a threatened ant

October 3, 2011 Comments off

Queen dominance and worker policing control reproduction in a threatened ant
Source: BMC Ecology

We conclude that queens of L. acervorum from Spain establish rank orders by ritualized dominance interactions, such as antennal boxing. Workers may reinforce these hierarchies by preferentially feeding and grooming high ranking queens and attacking lower ranking queens. Aggressive worker policing may thus stabilize functional monogyny. Optimal skew models predict that high skew in ants is associated with high dispersal costs. In central Spain, L. acervorum is restricted to small patches at higher elevations, which presumably makes dispersal and colony founding difficult. Because of the ecological requirements of L. acervorum and the predicted large impact of global change on central Spain, the functionally monogynous populations of this ant must be considered as threatened.

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See: Vicious Queen Ants Use Mob Tactics to Reach the Top

The dynamics of social networks among female Asian elephants

July 28, 2011 Comments off

The dynamics of social networks among female Asian elephants
Source: BMC Ecology

Background
Patterns in the association of individuals can shed light on the underlying conditions and processes that shape societies. Here we characterize patterns of association in a population of wild Asian Elephants at Uda Walawe National Park in Sri Lanka. We observed 286 individually-identified adult female elephants over 20 months and examined their social dynamics at three levels of organization: pairs of individuals (dyads), small sets of direct companions (ego-networks), and the population level (complete networks).

Results
Corroborating previous studies of this and other Asian elephant populations, we find that the sizes of elephant groups observed in the field on any particular day are typically small and that rates of association are low. In contrast to earlier studies, our longitudinal observations reveal that individuals form larger social units that can be remarkably stable across years while associations among such units change across seasons. Association rates tend to peak in dry seasons as opposed to wet seasons, with some cyclicity at the level of dyads. In addition, we find that individuals vary substantially in their fidelity to companions. At the ego-network level, we find that despite these fluctuations, individuals associate with a pool of long-term companions. At the population level, social networks do not exhibit any clear seasonal structure or hierarchical stratification.

Conclusions
This detailed longitudinal study reveals different social dynamics at different levels of organization. Taken together, these results demonstrate that low association rates, seemingly small group sizes, and fission-fusion grouping behavior mask hidden stability in the extensive and fluid social affiliations in this population of Asian elephants.

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