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01 Mar 2024
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Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradient

Exploring the Impact of Urbanization on Avian Malaria Dynamics in Great Tits: Insights from a Study Across Urban and Non-Urban Environments

Recommended by based on reviews by Ana Paula Mansilla and 2 anonymous reviewers

Across the temporal expanse of history, the impact of human activities on global landscapes has manifested as a complex interplay of ecological alterations. From the advent of early agricultural practices to the successive waves of industrialization characterizing the 18th and 19th centuries, anthropogenic forces have exerted profound and enduring transformations upon Earth's ecosystems. Indeed, by 2017, more than 80% of the terrestrial biosphere was transformed by human populations and land use, and just 19% remains as wildlands (Ellis et al. 2021).
Urbanization engenders profound alterations in environmental conditions, exerting substantial impacts on biological communities. The expansion of built infrastructure, modification of land use patterns, and the introduction of impervious surfaces and habitat fragmentation are key facets of urbanization (Faeth et al. 2011). These alterations generate biodiversity loss, changes in the composition of biological communities, disruptions in access and availability of food and nutrients, and a loss of efficiency in the immune system's control of infections, etc. (Reyes et al. 2013).
In this study, Caizergues et al. (2023) investigated the prevalence and diversity of avian malaria parasites (Plasmodium/Haemoproteus sp. and Leucocytozoon sp.) in great tits (Parus major) living across an urbanization gradient. The study reveals nuanced patterns of avian malaria prevalence and lineage diversity in great tits across urban and non-urban environments. While overall parasite diversity remains consistent, there are marked differences in prevalence between life stages and habitats. They observed a high prevalence in adult birds (from 95% to 100%), yet lower prevalence in fledglings (from 0% to 38%). Notably, urban nestlings exhibit higher parasite prevalence than their non-urban counterparts, suggesting a potential link between early malaria infection and the urban heat island effect. This finding underscores the importance of considering both spatial and temporal aspects of urbanization in understanding disease dynamics. Parasite lineages were not habitat-specific. The results suggest a potential parasitic burden in more urbanized areas, with a marginal but notable effect of nest-level urbanization on Plasmodium prevalence. This challenges the common perception of lower parasitic prevalence in urban environments and highlights the need for further investigation into the factors influencing parasite prevalence at finer spatial scales.
The discussion emphasizes the significance of examining vector distributions, abundance, and diversity in urban areas, which may be influenced by ecological niches and the presence of suitable habitats such as marshes. The identification of habitat-specific Haemosporidian lineages, particularly those occurring more frequently in urban areas, raises intriguing questions about the factors influencing parasite diversity. The presence of rare lineages in urban environments, such as AFR065, DELURB4, and YWT4, suggests a potential connection between urban bird communities and specific parasite strains.
Future research should empirically demonstrate these relationships to enhance our understanding of urban parasitology. This finding has broader implications for wildlife epidemiology, especially when introducing or keeping exotic wildlife in contact with native species. The study highlights the importance of considering not only the prevalence but also the specific lineages of parasites in understanding the dynamics of avian malaria in urban and non-urban habitats. This preprint contributes valuable insights to the ongoing discourse on the intricate interplay between ecological repercussions of human-induced changes (urbanization), biological communities, and the prevalence of vector-borne diseases.

Caizergues AE, Robira B, Perrier C, Jeanneau M, Berthomieu A, Perret S, Gandon S, Charmantier A (2023) Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradient. bioRxiv, 2023.05.03.539263, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

Ellis EC, Gauthier N, Klein Goldewijk K, Bliege Bird R, Boivin N, Díaz S, Fuller DQ, Gill JL, Kaplan JO, Kingston N, Locke H, McMichael CNH, Ranco D, Rick TC, Shaw MR, Stephens L, Svenning JC, Watson JEM. People have shaped most of terrestrial nature for at least 12,000 years. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 27;118(17):e2023483118.

Faeth  SH, Bang  C, Saari  S (2011) Urban biodiversity: Patterns and mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1223:69–81.

Faeth  SH, Bang  C, Saari  S (2011) Urban biodiversity: Patterns and mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1223:69–81.

Reyes  R, Ahn  R, Thurber  K, Burke  TF (2013) Urbanization and Infectious Diseases: General Principles, Historical Perspectives, and Contemporary Challenges. Challenges Infect Dis 123.

Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradientAude E. Caizergues, Benjamin Robira, Charles Perrier, Melanie Jeanneau, Arnaud Berthomieu, Samuel Perret, Sylvain Gandon, Anne Charmantier<p style="text-align: justify;">Urbanization is a worldwide phenomenon that modifies the environment. By affecting the reservoirs of pathogens and the body and immune conditions of hosts, urbanization alters the epidemiological dynamics and divers...Epidemiology, Host-parasite interactions, Human impactAdrian DiazAnonymous, Gauthier Dobigny, Ana Paula Mansilla2023-09-11 20:24:44 View
30 May 2024
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Disentangling the effects of eutrophication and natural variability on macrobenthic communities across French coastal lagoons

Untangling Eutrophication Effects on Coastal Lagoon Ecosystems

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Kaylee P. Smit, Matthew J. Pruden and Kendyl Wright

Disentangling the effects on ecosystem structure and functioning of natural and human-induced impacts in transitional waters is a great challenge in coast ecology. This is due to the observation that the ecosystems of transitional waters are naturally dynamic systems with characteristics of stressed systems. For example, the benthic communities present low species richness and high abundance of species with a high tolerance to variations, e.g., salinity. This general observation is known as the paradigm of the “Transitional Waters Quality Paradox” (Zaldívar et al., 2008) derived from the previously described “Estuarine Quality Paradox” (Elliott and Quintino, 2007). 

In Jones et al. (2024) “Disentangling the effects of eutrophication and natural variability on macrobenthic communities across French coastal lagoons”, a great diversity of lagoons is analyzed to disentangle the effects of eutrophication from those of natural environmental variability on benthic macroinvertebrates and understanding the links between environmental variables affecting benthic macroinvertebrates. These authors use a very elegant set of numerical approaches, including correlograms, linear models and variance partitioning. They apply this suite to a dataset of macrobenthic invertebrate abundances and environmental variables from 29 Mediterranean coastal lagoons in France.

Through this suite of analyses, they demonstrate the strong complexity of the mechanisms interplaying in a situation of eutrophication on lagoon macrobenthos. The mechanisms involved are direct, like toxicity, or indirect, for example, through modifications of the sediment's biogeochemistry. Such a result on the different interactions involved is very important in the context of the search for indicators to define ecosystem status. Improving the definition of metrics is essential in environmental management decisions.


Elliott, M. and Quintino, V. (2007) The estuarine quality paradox, environmental homeostasis and the difficulty of detecting anthropogenic stress in naturally stressed areas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 54, 640–645.

Jones et al. (2024) Disentangling the effects of eutrophication and natural variability on macrobenthic communities across French coastal lagoons bioRxiv, 2022.08.18.504439, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

Zaldívar, J. (2008). Eutrophication in transitional waters: an overview.

Disentangling the effects of eutrophication and natural variability on macrobenthic communities across French coastal lagoonsAuriane G. Jones, Gauthier Schaal, Aurélien Boyé, Marie Creemers, Valérie Derolez, Nicolas Desroy, Annie Fiandrino, Théophile L. Mouton, Monique Simier, Niamh Smith, Vincent Ouisse<p style="text-align: justify;">Coastal lagoons are transitional ecosystems that host a unique diversity of species and support many ecosystem services. Owing to their position at the interface between land and sea, they are also subject to increa...Biodiversity, Community ecology, Ecosystem functioning, Marine ecologyNathalie Niquil Matthew J. Pruden2023-09-08 11:26:01 View
12 Jan 2024
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Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis

Marking invertebrates using RFID tags

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Simon Blanchet and 1 anonymous reviewer

Guiding and monitoring the efficiency of conservation efforts needs robust scientific background information, of which one key element is estimating wildlife abundance and its spatial and temporal variation. As raw counts are by nature incomplete counts of a population, correcting for detectability is required (Clobert, 1995; Turlure et al., 2018). This can be done with Capture-Mark-Recapture protocols (Iijima, 2020). Techniques for marking individuals are diverse, e.g. writing on butterfly wings, banding birds, or using natural specific patterns in the individual’s body such as leopard fur or whale tail. Advancement in technology opens new opportunities for developing marking techniques, including strategies to limit mark identification errors (Burchill & Pavlic, 2019), and for using active marks that can transmit data remotely or be read automatically.

The details of such methodological developments frequently remain unpublished, the method being briefly described in studies that use it. For a few years, there has been however a renewed interest in proper publishing of methods for ecology and evolution. This study by Folk & Mennerat (2023) fits in this context, offering a nice example of detailed description and testing of a method to mark salmon ectoparasites using RFID tags. Such tags are extremely small, yet easy to use, even with automatic recording procedure. The study provides a very good basis protocol that should help researchers working for small species, in particular invertebrates. The study is complemented by a video illustrating the placement of the tag so the reader who would like to replicate the procedure can get a very precise idea of it.


Burchill, A. T., & Pavlic, T. P. (2019). Dude, where’s my mark? Creating robust animal identification schemes informed by communication theory. Animal Behaviour, 154, 203–208.

Clobert, J. (1995). Capture-recapture and evolutionary ecology: A difficult wedding ? Journal of Applied Statistics, 22(5–6), 989–1008.

Folk, A., & Mennerat, A. (2023). Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis (p. 2023.08.31.555695). bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

Iijima, H. (2020). A Review of Wildlife Abundance Estimation Models: Comparison of Models for Correct Application. Mammal Study, 45(3), 177–188.

Turlure, C., Pe’er, G., Baguette, M., & Schtickzelle, N. (2018). A simplified mark–release–recapture protocol to improve the cost effectiveness of repeated population size quantification. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(3), 645–656.


Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse *Lepeophtheirus salmonis*Alexius Folk, Adele Mennerat<p style="text-align: justify;">Monitoring individuals within populations is a cornerstone in evolutionary ecology, yet individual tracking of invertebrates and particularly parasitic organisms remains rare. To address this gap, we describe here a...Dispersal & Migration, Evolutionary ecology, Host-parasite interactions, Marine ecology, Parasitology, Terrestrial ecology, ZoologyNicolas Schtickzelle2023-09-04 15:25:08 View
02 Jan 2024
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Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models

Useful clarity on the value of considering temporal variability in detection probability

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Dana Karelus and Ben Augustine

As so often quoted, "all models are wrong; more specifically, we always neglect potentially important factors in our models of ecological systems. We may neglect these factors because no-one has built a computational framework to include them; because including them would be computationally infeasible; or because we don't have enough data.  When considering whether to include a particular process or form of heterogeneity, the gold standard is to fit models both with and without the component, and then see whether we needed the component in the first place ​-- that is, whether including that component leads to an important difference in our conclusions. However, this approach is both tedious and endless, because there are an infinite number of components that we could consider adding to any given model.

Therefore, thoughtful exercises that evaluate the importance of particular complications under a realistic range of simulations and a representative set of case studies are extremely valuable for the field. While they cannot provide ironclad guarantees, they give researchers a general sense of when they can (probably) safely ignore some factors in their analyses. This paper by Sollmann (2024) shows that for a very wide range of scenarios, temporal and spatiotemporal variability in the probability of detection have little effect on the conclusions of spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models.  The author is thoughtful about when such variability may be important, e.g. when variation in detection and density is correlated and thus confounded, or when variation is driven by animals' behavioural responses to being captured.


Sollmann R (2024). Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models. bioRxiv, 2023.08.08.552394, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy modelsRahel Sollmann<p>State variables such as abundance and occurrence of species are central to many questions in ecology and conservation, but our ability to detect and enumerate species is imperfect and often varies across space and time. Accounting for imperfect...Euring Conference, Statistical ecologyBenjamin Bolker Dana Karelus, Ben Augustine, Ben Augustine 2023-08-10 09:18:56 View
23 Oct 2023
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The Moa the Merrier: Resolving When the Dinornithiformes Went Extinct

Are Moas ancient Lazarus species?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Tim Coulson and Richard Holdaway

Ancient human colonisation often had catastrophic consequences for native fauna. The North American Megafauna went extinct shortly after humans entered the scene and Madagascar suffered twice, before 1500 CE and around 1700 CE after the Malayan and European colonisation. Maoris colonised New Zealand by about 1300 and a century later the giant Moa birds (Dinornithiformes) sharply declined. But did they went extinct or are they an ancient example of Lazarus species, species thought to be extinct but still alive? Scattered anecdotes of late sightings of living Moas even up to the 20th century seem to suggest the latter. The quest for later survival has also a criminal aspect. Who did it, the Maoris or the white colonisers in the late 18th century?

The present work by Floe Foxon (2023) tries to settle this question. It uses a survival modelling approach and an assessment of the reliability of nearly 100 alleged sightings. The model favours the so-called overkill hypothesis, that Moas probably went extinct in the 15th century shortly after Maori colonisation. A small but still remarkable probability remained for survival up to 1770. Later sightings turned out to be highly unreliable.

The paper is important as it does not rely on subjective discussions of late sightings but on a probabilistic modelling approach with sensitivity testing prior applied to marsupials. As common in probabilistic approaches, the study does not finally settle the case. A probability of as much as 20% remained for late survival after 1450 CE. This is not improbable as New Zealand was sufficiently unexplored in those days to harbour a few refuges for late survivors. However, in this respect, it is a bit unfortunate that at the end of the discussion, the paper cites Heuvelmans, the founder of cryptozoology, and it mentions the ivory-billed woodpecker, which has recently been redetected. No Moa remains were found after 1450.


Foxon F (2023) The Moa the Merrier: Resolving When the Dinornithiformes Went Extinct. bioRxiv, 2023.08.07.552261, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

The Moa the Merrier: Resolving When the Dinornithiformes Went ExtinctFloe Foxon<p style="text-align: justify;">The Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) are an extinct group of the ratite clade from New Zealand. The overkill hypothesis asserts that the first New Zealand settlers hunted the Moa to extinction by 1450 CE, whereas the st...Conservation biology, Human impact, Statistical ecology, ZoologyWerner Ulrich Tim Coulson, Richard Holdaway2023-08-08 17:14:30 View
23 Jan 2024
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Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmland

The importance of managing linear features in agricultural landscapes for farmland birds

Recommended by based on reviews by Matthew Grainger and 1 anonymous reviewer

European farmland bird populations continue declining at an alarming rate, and some species require urgent action to avoid their demise (Silva et al. 2024). While factors such as climate change and urbanization also play an important role in driving the decline of farmland bird populations, its main driver seems to be linked with agricultural intensification (Rigal et al. 2023). Besides increased pesticide and fertilizer use, agricultural intensification often results in the homogenization of agricultural landscapes through the removal of seminatural linear features such as hedgerows, field margins, and grassy strips that can be beneficial for biodiversity. These features may be particularly important during the breeding season, when breeding farmland birds can benefit from patches of denser vegetation to conceal nests and improve breeding success. It is both important and timely to understand how landscape management can help to address the ongoing decline of farmland birds by identifying specific actions that can boost breeding success.

Perrot et al. 2023 contribute to this effort by exploring how red-legged partridges use linear features in an intensive agricultural landscape during the breeding season. Through a combination of targeted fieldwork and GPS tracking, the authors highlight patterns in home range size and habitat selection that provide insights for landscape management. Specifically, their results suggest that birds have smaller range sizes in the vicinity of traffic routes and seminatural features structured by both herbaceous and woody cover. Furthermore, they show that breeding birds tend to choose linear elements with herbaceous cover whereas non-breeders prefer linear elements with woody cover, underlining the importance of accounting for the needs of both breeding and non-breeding birds. In particular, the authors stress the importance of providing additional vegetation elements such as hedges, grassy strips or embankments in order to increase landscape heterogeneity. These landscape elements are usually found in the vicinity of linear infrastructures such as roads and tracks, but it is important they are available also in separate areas to avoid the risk of bird collision and the authors provide specific recommendations towards this end. Overall, this is an important study with clear recommendations on how to improve landscape management for these farmland birds.


Perrot, C., Séranne, L., Berceaux, A., Noel, M., Arroyo, B., & Bacon, L. (2023) "Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmland." bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.
Rigal, S., Dakos, V., Alonso, H., Auniņš, A., Benkő, Z., Brotons, L., ... & Devictor, V. (2023) "Farmland practices are driving bird population decline across Europe." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120.21: e2216573120.
Silva, J. P., Gameiro, J., Valerio, F., & Marques, A. T. (2024) "Portugal's farmland bird crisis requires action." Science 383.6679: 157-157.

Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmlandCharlotte Perrot, Antoine Berceaux, Mathias Noel, Beatriz Arroyo, Leo Bacon<p>Current agricultural practices and change are the major cause of biodiversity loss. An important change associated with the intensification of agriculture in the last 50 years is the spatial homogenization of the landscape with substantial loss...Agroecology, Behaviour & Ethology, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Habitat selectionRicardo Correia2023-08-01 10:27:33 View
19 Mar 2024
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How does dispersal shape the genetic patterns of animal populations in European cities? A simulation approach

Gene flow in the city. Unravelling the mechanisms behind the variability in urbanization effects on genetic patterns.

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Worldwide, city expansion is happening at a fast rate and at the same time, urbanists are more and more required to make place for biodiversity. Choices have to be made regarding the area and spatial arrangement of suitable spaces for non-human living organisms, that will favor the long-term survival of their populations. To guide those choices, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms driving the effects of land management on biodiversity.

Research results on the effects of urbanization on genetic diversity have been very diverse, with studies showing higher genetic diversity in rural than in urban populations (e.g. Delaney et al. 2010), the contrary (e.g. Miles et al. 2018) or no difference (e.g. Schoville et al. 2013). The same is true for studies investigating genetic differentiation. The reasons for these differences probably lie in the relative intensities of gene flow and genetic drift in each case study, which are hard to disentangle and quantify in empirical datasets.

In their paper, Savary et al. (2024) used an elegant and powerful simulation approach to better understand the diversity of observed patterns and investigate the effects of dispersal limitation on genetic patterns (diversity and differentiation). Their simulations involved the landscapes of 325 real European cities, each under three different scenarios mimicking 3 virtual urban tolerant species with different abilities to move within cities while genetic drift intensity was held constant across scenarios. The cities were chosen so that the proportion of artificial areas was held constant (20%) but their location and shape varied. This design allowed the authors to investigate the effect of connectivity and spatial configuration of habitat on the genetic responses to spatial variations in dispersal in cities. 

The main results of this simulation study demonstrate that variations in dispersal spatial patterns, for a given level of genetic drift, trigger variations in genetic patterns. Genetic diversity was lower and genetic differentiation was larger when species had more difficulties to move through the more hostile components of the urban environment. The increase of the relative importance of drift over gene flow when dispersal was spatially more constrained was visible through the associated disappearance of the pattern of isolation by resistance. Forest patches (usually located at the periphery of the cities) usually exhibited larger genetic diversity and were less differentiated than urban green spaces. But interestingly, the presence of habitat patches at the interface between forest and urban green spaces lowered those differences through the promotion of gene flow. 

One other noticeable result, from a landscape genetic method point of view, is the fact that there might be a limit to the detection of barriers to genetic clusters through clustering analyses because of the increased relative effect of genetic drift. This result needs to be confirmed, though, as genetic structure has only been investigated with a recent approach based on spatial graphs. It would be interesting to also analyze those results with the usual Bayesian genetic clustering approaches. 

Overall, this study addresses an important scientific question about the mechanisms explaining the diversity of observed genetic patterns in cities. But it also provides timely cues for connectivity conservation and restoration applied to cities.  

Delaney, K. S., Riley, S. P., and Fisher, R. N. (2010). A rapid, strong, and convergent genetic response to urban habitat fragmentation in four divergent and widespread vertebrates. PLoS ONE, 5(9):e12767.
Miles, L. S., Dyer, R. J., and Verrelli, B. C. (2018). Urban hubs of connectivity: Contrasting patterns of gene flow within and among cities in the western black widow spider. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285(1884):20181224.
Savary P., Tannier C., Foltête J.-C., Bourgeois M., Vuidel G., Khimoun A., Moal H., and Garnier S. (2024). How does dispersal shape the genetic patterns of animal populations in European cities? A simulation approach. EcoEvoRxiv, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.
Schoville, S. D., Widmer, I., Deschamps-Cottin, M., and Manel, S. (2013). Morphological clines and weak drift along an urbanization gradient in the butterfly, Pieris rapae. PLoS ONE, 8(12):e83095.

How does dispersal shape the genetic patterns of animal populations in European cities? A simulation approachPaul Savary, Cécile Tannier, Jean-Christophe Foltête, Marc Bourgeois, Gilles Vuidel, Aurélie Khimoun, Hervé Moal, Stéphane Garnier<p><em>Context and objectives</em></p> <p>Although urbanization is a major driver of biodiversity erosion, it does not affect all species equally. The neutral genetic structure of populations in a given species is affected by both genetic drift a...Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Dispersal & Migration, Eco-evolutionary dynamics, Human impact, Landscape ecology, Molecular ecology, Population ecology, Spatial ecology, Metacommunities & Metapopulations, Terrestrial ecologyAurélie Coulon2023-07-25 19:09:16 View
03 Jan 2024
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Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changes

A new approach to describe qualitative changes of complex trophic networks

Recommended by based on reviews by Tim Coulson and 1 anonymous reviewer

Modelling the temporal dynamics of trophic networks has been a key challenge for community ecologists for decades, especially when anthropogenic and natural forces drive changes in species composition, abundance, and interactions over time. So far, most modelling methods fail to incorporate the inherent complexity of such systems, and its variability, to adequately describe and predict temporal changes in the topology of trophic networks. 

Taking benefit from theoretical computer science advances, Gaucherel and colleagues (2024) propose a new methodological framework to tackle this challenge based on discrete-event Petri net methodology. To introduce the concept to naïve readers the authors provide a useful example using a simplistic predator-prey model.

The core biological system of the article is a freshwater trophic network of western France in the Charente-Maritime marshes of the French Atlantic coast. A directed graph describing this system was constructed to incorporate different functional groups (phytoplankton, zooplankton, resources, microbes, and abiotic components of the environment) and their interactions. Rules and constraints were then defined to, respectively, represent physiochemical, biological, or ecological processes linking network components, and prevent the model from simulating unrealistic trajectories. Then the full range of possible trajectories of this mechanistic and qualitative model was computed.

The model performed well enough to successfully predict a theoretical trajectory plus two trajectories of the trophic network observed in the field at two different stations, therefore validating the new methodology introduced here. The authors conclude their paper by presenting the power and drawbacks of such a new approach to qualitatively model trophic networks dynamics.


Cedric Gaucherel, Stolian Fayolle, Raphael Savelli, Olivier Philippine, Franck Pommereau, Christine Dupuy (2024) Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changes. bioRxiv 2023.06.29.547055, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.

Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changesCedric Gaucherel, Stolian Fayolle, Raphael Savelli, Olivier Philippine, Franck Pommereau, Christine Dupuy<p>Trophic interaction networks are notoriously difficult to understand and to diagnose (i.e., to identify contrasted network functioning regimes). Such ecological networks have many direct and indirect connections between species, and these conne...Community ecology, Ecosystem functioning, Food webs, Freshwater ecology, Interaction networks, Microbial ecology & microbiologyFrancis Raoul Tim Coulson2023-07-03 10:42:34 View
11 Mar 2024
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Sex differences in the relationship between maternal and neonate cortisol in a free-ranging large mammal

Stress and stress hormones’ transmission from mothers to offspring

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Individuals can respond to environmental changes that they undergo directly (within-generation plasticity) but also through transgenerational plasticity, providing lasting effects that are transmitted to the next generations (Donelson et al. 2012; Munday et al. 2013; Kuijper & Hoyle 2015; Auge et al. 2017, Tariel et al. 2020). These parental effects can affect offspring via various mechanisms, notably via maternal transmission of hormones to the eggs or growing embryos (Mousseau & Fox 1998). While the effects of environmental quality may simply carry-over to the next generation (e.g., females in stressful environments give birth to offspring in poorer condition), parental effects may also be a mechanism that adjusts offspring phenotype in response to environmental variation and predictability, and thereby match offspring's phenotype to future environmental conditions (Gluckman et al. 2005; Marshall & Uller 2007; Dey et al. 2016; Yin et al. 2019), for example by preparing their offspring to an expected stressful environment.

When females experience stress during gestation or egg formation, elevations in glucocorticoids (GC) are expected to affect offspring phenotype in many ways, from the offspring's own GC levels, to their growth and survival (Sheriff et al. 2017). This is a well established idea, but how strong is the evidence for this? A meta-analysis on birds found no clear effect of corticosterone manipulation on offspring traits (38 studies on 9 bird species for corticosterone manipulation; Podmokła et al. 2018). Another meta-analysis including 14 vertebrate species found no clear effect of prenatal stress on offspring GC (Thayer et al. 2018). Finally, a meta-analysis on wild vertebrates (23 species) found no clear effect of GC-mediated maternal effects on offspring traits (MacLeod et al. 2021). As often when facing such inconclusive results, context dependence has been suggested as one potential reason for such inconsistencies, for exemple sex specific effects (Groothuis et al. 2019, 2020). However, sex specific measures on offspring are scarce (Podmokła et al. 2018). Moreover, the literature available is still limited to a few, mostly “model” species.

With their study, Amin et al. (2024) show the way to improve our understanding on GC transmission from mother to offspring and its effects in several aspects. First they used innovative non-invasive methods (which could broaden the range of species available to study) by quantifying cortisol metabolites from faecal samples collected from pregnant females, as proxy for maternal GC level, and relating it to GC levels from hairs of their neonate offspring. Second they used a free ranging large mammal (taxa from which literature is missing): the fallow deer (Dama dama). Third, they provide sex specific measures of GC levels. And finally but importantly, they are exemplary in their transparency regarding 1) the exploratory nature of their study, 2) their statistical thinking and procedure, and 3) the study limitations (e.g., low sample size and high within individual variation of measurements). I hope this study will motivate more research (on the fallow deer, and on other species) to broaden and strengthen our understanding of sex specific effects of maternal stress and CG levels on offspring phenotype and fitness.


Amin, B., Fishman, R., Quinn, M., Matas, D., Palme, R., Koren, L., & Ciuti, S. (2024). Sex differences in the relationship between maternal and foetal glucocorticoids in a free-ranging large mammal. bioRxiv, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. 

Auge, G.A., Leverett, L.D., Edwards, B.R. & Donohue, K. (2017). Adjusting phenotypes via within-and across-generational plasticity. New Phytologist, 216, 343–349.

Dey, S., Proulx, S.R. & Teotonio, H. (2016). Adaptation to temporally fluctuating environments by the evolution of maternal effects. PLoS biology, 14, e1002388.

Donelson, J.M., Munday, P.L., McCormick, M.I. & Pitcher, C.R. (2012). Rapid transgenerational acclimation of a tropical reef fish to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2, 30.

Gluckman, P.D., Hanson, M.A. & Spencer, H.G. (2005). Predictive adaptive responses and human evolution. Trends in ecology & evolution, 20, 527–533.

Groothuis, Ton GG, Bin-Yan Hsu, Neeraj Kumar, and Barbara Tschirren. "Revisiting mechanisms and functions of prenatal hormone-mediated maternal effects using avian species as a model." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 374, no. 1770 (2019): 20180115.

Groothuis, Ton GG, Neeraj Kumar, and Bin-Yan Hsu. "Explaining discrepancies in the study of maternal effects: the role of context and embryo." Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 36 (2020): 185-192. 

Kuijper, B. & Hoyle, R.B. (2015). When to rely on maternal effects and when on phenotypic plasticity? Evolution, 69, 950–968.   

MacLeod, Kirsty J., Geoffrey M. While, and Tobias Uller. "Viviparous mothers impose stronger glucocorticoid‐mediated maternal stress effects on their offspring than oviparous mothers." Ecology and Evolution 11, no. 23 (2021): 17238-17259.

Marshall, D.J. & Uller, T. (2007). When is a maternal effect adaptive? Oikos, 116, 1957–1963.       

Mousseau, T.A. & Fox, C.W. (1998). Maternal effects as adaptations. Oxford University Press.

Munday, P.L., Warner, R.R., Monro, K., Pandolfi, J.M. & Marshall, D.J. (2013). Predicting evolutionary responses to climate change in the sea. Ecology Letters, 16, 1488–1500.

Podmokła, Edyta, Szymon M. Drobniak, and Joanna Rutkowska. "Chicken or egg? Outcomes of experimental manipulations of maternally transmitted hormones depend on administration method–a meta‐analysis." Biological Reviews 93, no. 3 (2018): 1499-1517. 

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Sex differences in the relationship between maternal and neonate cortisol in a free-ranging large mammalAmin, B., Fishman, R., Quinn, M., Matas, D., Palme, R., Koren, L., Ciuti, S.<p style="text-align: justify;">Maternal phenotypes can have long-term effects on offspring phenotypes. These maternal effects may begin during gestation, when maternal glucocorticoid (GC) levels may affect foetal GC levels, thereby having an orga...Evolutionary ecology, Maternal effects, Ontogeny, Physiology, ZoologyMatthieu Paquet2023-06-05 09:06:56 View
11 Aug 2023
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Implementing Code Review in the Scientific Workflow: Insights from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A handy “How to” review code for ecologists and evolutionary biologists

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Serena Caplins and 1 anonymous reviewer

Ivimey Cook et al. (2023) provide a concise and useful “How to” review code for researchers in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology, where the systematic review of code is not yet standard practice during the peer review of articles. Consequently, this article is full of tips for authors on how to make their code easier to review. This handy article applies not only to ecology and evolutionary biology, but to many fields that are learning how to make code more reproducible and shareable. Taking this step toward transparency is key to improving research rigor (Brito et al. 2020) and is a necessary step in helping make research trustable by the public (Rosman et al. 2022).


Brito, J. J., Li, J., Moore, J. H., Greene, C. S., Nogoy, N. A., Garmire, L. X., & Mangul, S. (2020). Recommendations to enhance rigor and reproducibility in biomedical research. GigaScience, 9(6), giaa056.

Ivimey-Cook, E. R., Pick, J. L., Bairos-Novak, K., Culina, A., Gould, E., Grainger, M., Marshall, B., Moreau, D., Paquet, M., Royauté, R., Sanchez-Tojar, A., Silva, I., Windecker, S. (2023). Implementing Code Review in the Scientific Workflow: Insights from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. EcoEvoRxiv, ver 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Ecology.

Rosman, T., Bosnjak, M., Silber, H., Koßmann, J., & Heycke, T. (2022). Open science and public trust in science: Results from two studies. Public Understanding of Science, 31(8), 1046-1062.

Implementing Code Review in the Scientific Workflow: Insights from Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyEdward Ivimey-Cook, Joel Pick, Kevin Bairos-Novak, Antica Culina, Elliot Gould, Matthew Grainger, Benjamin Marshall, David Moreau, Matthieu Paquet, Raphaël Royauté, Alfredo Sanchez-Tojar, Inês Silva, Saras Windecker<p>Code review increases reliability and improves reproducibility of research. As such, code review is an inevitable step in software development and is common in fields such as computer science. However, despite its importance, code review is not...Meta-analyses, Statistical ecologyCorina Logan2023-05-19 15:54:01 View