Bats. They’re amazing creatures. Long-lived (with relevance to their body size), echolocating (for microbats and some megabats), metabolically-resilient (apparently resilient to most virus infections) flying mammals (with heart beats up to 1200 bpm for hours during flight). There are 1,411 species of this incredible creature. But very little is known about their physiology and unique biological traits. And detailed evolutionary analysis has only just begun.
The problem is, they’re an ‘exotic’ animal (wildlife that most people do not come into contact with). Being a long-lived animal producing minimal offspring (most only have one baby per year), they’re not suited to the kind of experimental studies we do with other animals like mice. Unavoidably, some aspects of biology require the use of tissues and cells. These samples can be used for sequencing, genomics, molecular evolution studies, detailed transcriptomic analysis, functional experiments with specific cell types and much more. Some methodology is beginning to be published – such as capture techniques and wing punch/genomic isolation – but there’s been an absence of protocols for the processing of bats. This is essential for the field to maximise the potential application of each individual and for minimising non-essential specimen collection.
Movement ecology is a cross-disciplinary field. Its main aim is to quantitatively describe and understand how movement relates to individual and population-level processes for resource acquisition and, ultimately, survival. Today the study of movement ecology hinges on two 21st century advances:
Animal-borne devices/tags (biologging science, Hooker et al., 2007) and/or remote sensing technology to quantify movement and collect data from remote or otherwise challenging environments
Computational power sufficient to manipulate, process and analyse substantial volumes of data
Although datasets often involve small numbers of individuals, each individual can have thousands – sometimes even millions – of data points associated with it. Study species have tended to be large birds and mammals, due to the ease of tag attachment. However, the trend for miniaturisation of tags and the development of remote detection technologies (such as radar, e.g. Capaldi et al., 2000), have allowed researchers to track and study ever smaller animals. Continue reading →
Friday was Endangered Species Day – so this is a good time to reflect on what science and scientists can do to support conservation efforts and to reduce the rate of species extinctions. One obvious answer is that we need to study endangered species to understand their habitat requirements as well as their potential for acclimatization and adaptation to changing environmental conditions. This information is crucial to for the design of informed conservation planning. However, for most endangered species the relevant phenotypes are not known a priori, which leaves the well-intentioned scientist asking “which traits should I measure?”. Transcriptome analysis is often a good way to answer to this question.
This month’s issue contains two Applications article and one Open Access article, all of which are freely available.
– fuzzySim: Binary similarity indices are widely used in ecology. This study proposes fuzzy versions of the binary similarity indices most commonly used in ecology, so that they can be directly applied to continuous (fuzzy) rather than binary occurrence values, producing more realistic similarity assessments. fuzzySim is an open source software package which is also available for R.
–Actave.net: A freely accessible, web-based analysis tool for complex activity data, actave.net provides cloud-based and automatic computation of daily aggregates of various activity parameters based on recorded immersion data. It provides maps and graphs for data exploration, download of processed data for modelling and statistical analysis, and tools for sharing results with other users.
Anna Sturrock et al. provide this month’s Open Access article. In ‘Quantifying physiological influences on otolith microchemistry‘ the authors test relationships between otolith chemistry and environmental and physiological variables. The influence of physiological factors on otolith composition was particularly evident in Sr/Ca ratios, the most widely used elemental marker in applied otolith microchemistry studies. This paper was reported on in the media recently. You can read more about it here.
ISI has only been indexing Methods in Ecology and Evolution for a short time, but some of our papers are already accumulating an impressive number of citations. Over the next few days we’ll be highlighting our most cited papers across a broad range of fields – just in case they’ve slipped you by.
Check back tomorrow here for part 2, where we’ll be showcasing our top cited papers in plant monitoring and modelling, stable isotope ecology and community ecology, and come back on Monday for part 3, when we’ll be revealing our top papers in population monitoring, climate change, evolutionary ecology and phylogenetics.