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  • Hymenopterans are haplodiploids and unlike most other Arthropods they do not possess sexual chromosomes. Sex determination typically happens via the ploidy of individuals: haploids become males and diploids become females. Arrhenotoky is believed to be the ancestral reproduction mode in Hymenopterans, with haploid males produced parthenogenetically, and diploid females produced sexually. However, a number of transitions towards thelytoky (diploid females produced parthenogenetically) have appeared in Hymenopterans, and in most cases populations or species are either totally arrhenotokous or totally thelytokous. Here we present the case of Cotesia typhae (Fernandez-Triana), a Braconidae that produces parthenogenetic females at a low frequency. The phenotyping of two laboratory strains and one natural population showed that this frequency is variable, and that this rare thelytokous phenomenon also happens in the wild. Moreover, mated females from one of the laboratory strains produce a few parthenogenetic daughters among a majority of sexual daughters. The analysis of daughters of heterozygous virgin females allowed us to show that a mechanism similar to automixis with central fusion is very likely at play in C. typhae. This mechanism allows some parts of the genome to remain heterozygous, especially at the chromosomes’ centromeres, which can be advantageous depending on the sex determination system involved. Lastly, in most species, the origin of thelytoky is either bacterial or genetic, and an antibiotic treatment as well as PCR experiments did not demonstrate a bacterial cause in C. typhae. The unusual case of low parthenogenetic frequency described in this species constitutes another example of the fascinating diversity of sex determination systems in Arthropods.

  • Increasing evidence indicates that sexual coercion is widespread. While some coercive strategies are conspicuous, such as forced copulation or sexual harassment, less is known about the ecology and evolution of intimidation, where repeated male aggression promotes future rather than immediate mating success with targeted females. Although known in humans, intimidation was recently reported in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and chacma baboons (Papio ursinus), where males are regularly violent against females. Here, we investigate the nature of male coercive strategies in wild mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx), a primate living in large polygynandrous groups where severe male aggression towards females is rare and females can form coalitions against males. Yet, we found support for all three predictions of the sexual coercion hypothesis, namely that male aggression (1) specifically targets sexually receptive females, (2) inflicts costs to these females, and (3) increases male mating success in the long-term. These results hold true when considering only non-physical threats, or only severe aggression. Finally, we show that high-ranking females are most targeted by males, probably because of their higher reproductive performances, while high-ranking males are most coercive. These results indicate that sexual intimidation is widespread in sexually dimorphic and group-living mammals, and that males and females vary in their propensities to use, and to be exposed to sexual coercion, respectively.

  • Ecology

    Dissimilarity of species interaction networks: quantifying the effect of turnover and rewiring

    10.24072/pcjournal.105 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article no. e35.

    Despite having established its usefulness in the last ten years, the decomposition of ecological networks in components allowing to measure their β-diversity retains some methodological ambiguities. Notably, how to quantify the relative effect of mechanisms tied to interaction rewiring vs. species turnover has been interpreted differently by different authors. In this contribution, I present mathematical arguments and numerical experiments that should (i) establish that the decomposition of networks as it is currently done is indeed fit for purpose, and (ii) provide guidelines to interpret the values of the components tied to turnover and rewiring.


  • Ecology

    Beating your Neighbor to the Berry Patch

    10.24072/pcjournal.133 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 2 (2022), article no. e34.

    Foragers often compete for resources that ripen (or otherwise improve) gradually. What strategy is optimal in this situation? It turns out that there is no optimal strategy. There is no evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS), and the only Nash equilibrium (NE) is unstable: strategies similar to the NE can always invade.  But in spite of this instability, the NE is predictive. If harvesting attempts are costly or there are many competitors, the process tends to remain near the unstable NE.  In this case, the resource often goes unharvested. Harvesting attempts--when they happen at all--usually occur when the resource is barely ripe enough to offset costs. The more foragers there are, the lower the chance that the resource will be harvested and the greater its mean value when harvested. This counterintuitive behavior is exhibited not only by theoretical models and computer simulations, but also by human subjects in an experimental game.

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