Experience drives innovation of new migration patterns of whooping cranes in response to global change

Animal migration patterns are changing in response to changes in climate and land use, and these changes could be important for survival of migratory species. These changes, which are adaptations to a changing environment, can happen very quickly, but so far studies have focused on evolutionary changes, which may be too slow to be effective in a rapidly changing world. We used long-term monitoring data of whooping cranes to show that migration patterns can change within an individual’s life and, further, that these changes are initiated by older, experienced birds and then spread to younger birds. This results suggests that maintaining older individuals in a population may be important for effective behavioral adaptation to changing environments.

Read the full article at https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12793

Teitelbaum, Claire S., Sarah J. Converse, William F. Fagan, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Robert B. O’Hara, Anne E. Lacy, and Thomas Mueller. “Experience Drives Innovation of New Migration Patterns of Whooping Cranes in Response to Global Change.” Nature Communications 7 (September 6, 2016): 12793. doi:10.1038/ncomms12793.

Data-driven identification of potential Zika virus vectors

Mosquito-borne diseases are emerging and spreading to new areas each year, often catching us unaware.  Zika virus, for example, although discovered in 1947, was relatively unknown until it spread to the Americas in 2014, where it caused over 100,000 cases in Brazil alone. While we now recognize the public health importance of Zika, we still know little about the ecology of the disease, including which mosquitoes are capable of transmitting it. There are hundreds of mosquito species, and testing all of them is difficult, if not impossible. To identify unknown vectors of Zika, we developed a model linking vector species and the Zika virus via vector-virus trait combinations that confer a propensity toward associations in an an ecological network connecting flaviviruses and their mosquito vectors. Our model predicts that thirty-five species may be able to transmit the virus, seven of which are found in the continental United States, including Culex quinquefasciatus and Cx. pipiens. Together, the ranges of the seven American species encompass the whole United States, suggesting Zika virus could affect a much larger area than previously anticipated. We suggest that empirical studies prioritize these species to confirm predictions of vector competence, enabling the correct identification of populations at risk for transmission within the United States.

Read the full article at http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.22053

Evans, Michelle V., Tad A. Dallas, Barbara A. Han, Courtney C. Murdock, and John M. Drake. 2017. “Data-Driven Identification of Potential Zika Virus Vectors.” eLife 6 (February): e22053. doi:10.7554/eLife.22053.