A study recently published in the journal Nature got me hooked! The authors decided to tackle the question of the evolutionary roots of violence towards conspecifics in Humans. To do so, they opted for a phylogenetic approach. To estimate lethal aggression in mammals, that is, the percentage of deaths caused by conspecifics, they compiled a database including the amount of conspecifics killing observed in 1024 mammal species. Fascinatingly, as illustrated by their figure, their results strongly suggest that conspecifics lethal violence in Humans is very likely to have been inherited from the common ancestors of all primates. Indeed, interpersonal lethal violence stood at 2% in humans which is similar to other living primates and to the value inferred for the ancestor of primates. Besides, this value is also equivalent to the one calculated in prehistoric tribes.
Read the original publication here.
During July-August 2016, I went to Cuba for a three-weeks holiday trip. Besides the colorful cities, the colonial architecture, and the warmth of the people, I came back home with pictures of… lizards of course. In this article, I will share some of them with their locality. As the Cuban herpetofauna does not seem to be very well known, I am having some trouble to identify some individuals. Maybe some readers will be able to help! More pictures of the Cuban herpetofauna are shown in Galerie, among other herps.
Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei – Cienfuegos, Cuba
Cuban Giant Gecko – Tarentola americana – Cienfuegos, Cuba
Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei – Trinidad, Cuba
Allisson’s Anole – Anolis allissoni – Camaguey, Cuba
Auber’s Ameiva – Pholidoscelis auberi – Camaguey, Cuba
Female Allison’s Anole – Anolis allissoni – Camaguey, Cuba
Male Allison’s Anole – Anolis allissoni – Camaguey, Cuba
Cuban White-fanned Anole – Anolis homolechis – Baracoa, Cuba
Monte Verde Curlytail Lizard – Leiocephalus macropus – Baracoa, Cuba
Cuban Green Anole – Anolis porcatus – Baracoa, Cuba
Cuban Green Anole – Anolis porcatus – Baracoa, Cuba
Guantanamo Anole – Anolis argenteolus – Baracoa, Cuba
Auber’s Ameiva – Pholidoscelis auberi – Baracoa, Cuba
Northern Curlytail Lizard – Leiocephalus carinatus – Varadero, Cuba
Cuban Curlytail Lizard – Leiocephalus cubensis – Trinidad, Cuba
Cuban Twig Anole – Anolis angusticeps – Viñales, Cuba
Cuban White-fanned Anole – Anolis homolechis – Viñales, Cuba
“A scientific and industrial suicide”
The French government just dropped a bomb in the French research community. Indeed, a new draft decree canceled 256 million euros destined to research in 2016. It represents a budget cut of ~25%, which will affect leading research organizations like inter alia the CEA (Alternatives Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), and the INRA (Agronomic Research Institution).
Eight French leading scientists (7 Nobel laureates and 1 Fields medalist) stood up to protest against this decision comparable to “a scientific and industrial suicide”. This will lead to an inevitable drop out of the French scientific research in many highly competitive domains. Moreover, the very same day, the German government announced a 75% budget increase for research over 10 years.
Let’s hope that the French government hears this call and stops this nonsense because “there is no prosperous nation without a high-quality scientific research”.
A new study about wall lizards authored by Guillem Pérez i de Lanuza, Miguel Angel Carretero, and Enrique Font just came out in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Wall lizards are ventrally polychromatic and the authors hypothesized that the differences in chromatic conspicuousness (orange > yellow > white) could be compensated behaviorally if individuals of the most conspicuous morphs adopted postures that made their color patches less visible. To test this hypothesis, they determined 4 postures typically observed in lizards (as shown in the picture). They did not detect any differences among the morphs BUT they found a strong correlation between body temperature and lizard posture. In other words, wall lizards adopt elevated postures only when they attain a body temperature high enough for an efficient escape response.
They also discuss the potential compensation for the differences in conspicuousness that could occur… or not. Very interesting!
Read the full article here!
In their last paper published in Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Guillem Pérez i de Lanuza and Enrique Font contemplate lizards colour patterns using a new approach. The authors hypothesize that selection for conspicuousness would not only act on the design of single colour patches, but also on the combination of adjacent colour patches. Indeed, lacertids lizard usually exhibit a long-wavelengths based ventral colouration (e.g. yellow or orange), while laterally they commonly display short-wavelengths colouration (e.g. UV, blue). To validate their hypothesis, they performed a comparative phylogenetic study. Their results clearly show that the contrast between these two color patterns is under selection.
These results highlight the complexity of the evolution of color patterns within a single animal and open new questions on this matter. Science will never cease to nourish our curiosity!
“Even a Nobel laureate would now be unlikely to be appointed to the science teaching faculty in many of Spain’s best universities.”
This is how begins a note recently published in the journal Nature in which Pau Carazo and Enrique Font denounce the nonsensical scheme imposed by Spanish universities. Indeed, in 2016, tenure-track positions and public fundings for PhD candidates will be “conditional on a fluency in Spanish and/or the university’s regional language”. This absurdity arises under the pretext of cultural safeguard and local languages promotion. Needless to point out that Spanish universities will be the first victims to these preposterous measures, privileging culture over excellence. It will inevitably lead off a tendency toward mediocrity, as positions will be far less competitive and granted based on non-scientific criteria.
The authors do not neglect the importance to protect the Spanish cultural heritage but science is a realm in which excellence should always have precedence over everything else. The authors propose an alternative solution, which consists in providing language tuition once a candidate has been granted a position. While the selection criteria would not be affected, local culture would be promoted and a foreign scientist would learn a new language. It is a win for everyone. Let’s hope Spanish universities hear this alarm call and show some common sense in the near future.
Our last paper finally came out in Oecologia! Here is the link.
Landscape in North Catalonia after the 2012 wildfire.
Changes in habitat structure constitute a major factor explaining responses of reptiles to fire. From spring 2012-2014, we investigated the relation between reptile-community metrics (species richness and abundance), fire history, habitat structure and extent of habitat types in a 1000-m buffer around each transect. We found contrasting responses among reptiles in terms of time since fire and those responses differed according to vegetation variables and habitat types. An unplanned fire in August 2012 provided the opportunity to compare reptile abundance values between pre-fire and the short term (1-2 years) after the fire. Most species exhibited a negative short-term response to the 2012 fire except the Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica that inhabits large rocks, as opposed to other ground-dwelling species. In the reptiles studied, contrasting responses to time since fire are consistent with the habitat-accommodation model of succession. These differences are linked to specific microhabitat preferences and suggest that functional traits can be used to predict species-specific responses to fire.