Thematic Session 6 - Eco-Evolutionary Research

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Thematic Session 6

Eco-Evolutionary Research

Wednesday 10 February 2021 | 10:00-12:00 hrs


LINK TO ZOOM MEETING: Will Follow soon.


10:00 – 10:05 Introduction by the chair - Prof. Dries Bonte (Professor of Ecology and Evolution @ Ghent University)
10:05 – 10:20 KEYNOTE LECTURE | Patterning in Mussel Beds Explained by the Interplay of Multi-Level Selection and Spatial Self-Organization
Monique De Jager @ Animal Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Cooperation, ubiquitous in nature, is difficult to explain from an evolutionary perspective. Many modelling studies strive to resolve this challenge, but their simplifying assumptions on population and interaction structure are rarely met in ecological settings. We use a modelling approach that includes more ecological detail to investigate evolution of cooperation in spatially self-organized mussel beds. Our model demonstrates that multiple selection factors working at different spatial scales – predation of individuals and dislodgement of entire mussel clumps – combinedly determine evolution of cooperative traits and thereby result in emergence of the labyrinth-like spatial patterns that we observe in natural mussel beds.
10:20 – 10:30 Global Variation in 13 Crop Yields and Evidence for Endemic Pest and Pathogen Escape
Justin Stewart @ Systems Ecology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Inside geographic centers of origin (GCO) crops interact with co-evolved pests and pathogens that may limit productivity. Understanding the pest pressure-crop productivity relationship in a spatial context may facilitate food supply expansion while reducing of pesticide and fertilizer inputs. We hypothesize crop cultivation outside GCOs allows escape of conflicts with co-evolved pest and pathogen pressures inside GCOs. We tested this using multiple global databases combined with Random Forest regressions, hotspot analysis, and non-linear models. Four out of 12 crops showed evidence for greater yields outside GCOs and global variation correlated with fertilizer and pesticide use, climate, and economic development indices.
10:30 – 10:40 Linking Molecular Biology and Ecology: The role of plant root system architecture in local soil adaptation
Vera Hesen @ Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Plants are sessile organisms and therefore, depend on biotic and abiotic soil properties. It is assumed that root system architecture (RSA) plays an essential role in soil colonization and differs between soil properties. However, it remains unknown how RSA may evolve and which traits are important for local soil adaptation. To decipher what drives RSA evolution we study molecular model plant Arabidopsis thaliana along a well-described chronosequence of secondary succession fields. I will show that we have identified interspecific variation in RSA traits and how we will validate its evolutionary potential through CRISPR-Cas9 editing of genes imperative in RSA development.
10:40 – 10:50 Transgenerational stability of temperature-induced DNA methylation in the clonal Duckweed Lemna minor
Morgane Van Antro @ Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Epigenetic modifications are a molecular basis for phenotypic plasticity. It is often speculated that stable epigenetic variants can maintain plastic responses across generations. However, such transgenerational plasticity is constrained by epigenetic resetting in germlines. Plants that reproduce without germlines, i.e. clonal species, may show much higher stability of epigenetic responses, but this is little explored. Here, we present an analysis of DNA methylation in the clonal duckweed Lemna minor during and after high-temperature stress. We show that some stress-induced DNA methylation patterns are stable across multiple clonal generations. This suggests that epigenetic mechanisms could enable transgenerational plasticity in asexual plants.
10:50 – 11:10 Joint coffee / tea break and time to socialise within your breakout room
11:10 – 11:20 Evolving plasticity in somatic growth: the regulating effects of a growth versus reproduction trade-off
Jasper Croll @ Theoretical and Computational Ecology, University of Amsterdam

Individuals of various species differ strongly in the plasticity of their somatic growth rate. In some species the somatic growth rate strongly depends on the food availability, while for other species the somatic growth rate is largely fixed. Maintaining a fixed somatic growth rate provokes a complex trade-off between energy allocation to somatic growth and reproduction. We analysed this trade-off using a size-structured population model based on individual energy dynamics. This analysis showed that the trade-off determines the processes driving the ecological dynamics, as well as the evolutionary trajectory of the plasticity in somatic growth.
11:20 – 11:30 Sons or daughters?
Kiran Gok Lune Lee @ Komdeur Behavioural Ecology Lab, University of Groningen

Seychelles warblers breeding pairs can have subordinate helpers aiding chick provisioning and territory defence. Helpers are usually related females joining the breed group, occasionally bearing a chick themselves. Excess subordinates can reduce dominant breeding pair fitness by consuming more than they provide given limited resources within a territory. We find larger clutches of dominant mothers become male-biased and subordinate mothers consistently bear sons if they breed. This facultative sex-ratio modification may evolve to have more offspring whilst also avoiding an excess of potentially breeding daughter subordinates in subsequent years, optimizing breed group size to the resources available on the territory.
11:30 – 11:40 Parasitism, plasticity and the evolution of parental care strategies in the digger wasps
Rebecca Boulton @ Laboratory of Genetics, Wageningen University

Parental care is thought to be a precursor to the evolution of complex social traits as it leads to a prolonged association between parents and offspring. The digger wasps are a useful group to study parental care because of the diverse strategies they exhibit. Using Phylogenetic comparative methods, we show that this diversity stems from multiple independent transitions between states. We also find that the ancestral state is the most flexible strategy, which may allow rapid response to changing environmental conditions. Our results suggest that ancestral phenotypic plasticity may play an important role in the evolution of extended parental care.
11:40 – 11:55 General discussion and wrap up of the session