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Army ant invasion of leatherback nests in Gabon

Egg mortality is one of the main factors affecting life history and conservation of oviparous species. A massive and cryptic colonisation of many leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) eggs is presented in the most important rookery for the species in Gabon. A total of 163 nests were exhumed at Kingere beach, revealing that only 16.7% of eggs produced hatchlings. In the 59% of the nests, more than half of the eggs were dead and attacked by invertebrates and 94% had at least one egg affected by invertebrates. The rate of eggs and SAGs (yolkless eggs) affected by invertebrates within a clutch ranged from 0% to 100%, with an average proportion of 39% and 52%, respectively. The most common invertebrates interacting with the eggs were ghost crabs and insects that affected 51% and 82% of the nests, respectively. Crab and insect co-occurred in 33% of the affected nests. Ants, identified as Dorylus spininodis (Emery 1901) were found in 56% of the excavated nests. However, it was not possible to determine if the ants predated alive eggs or scavenged dead eggs. Very often, hundreds of ants were found drowned within dead eggs. Termites and other invertebrates were associated with the clutch environment and identified as opportunistic feeders, being this is the first record of interaction between termites and sea turtle eggs. An unusual ecological interaction within the leatherback clutches between termites and ants was found in 11% of the nests. The abrupt transition between the soil forest and the beach might be favouring a thriving microbial and invertebrate activity in the sand profile that colonises the nests. informacion[at] Ikaran et al (2020) Cryptic massive nest colonisation by ants and termites in the world's largest leatherback turtle rookery Ethol Ecol Evol 2020. Doi 10.1080/03949370.2020.1715487
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Sexual dichromatism in the Western Palearctic avifauna

Sexual dichromatism in the Western Palearctic avifauna

Melanins are the most common pigments providing coloration in the plumage and bare skin of birds and other vertebrates. Numerous species are dichromatic in the adult or definitive plumage, but the direction of this type of sexual dichromatism (i.e., whether one sex tends to be darker than the other ones) has not been thoroughly investigated. Using color plates, the presence of melanin-based color patches in 666 species belonging to 69 families regularly breeding in the Western Palearctic was analysed. Sexual dichromatism based on melanins in at least one part of the skin involved 205 (30.7%) species. The body parts contributing more frequently to dichromatism were the dorsal areas, head and breast, whereas the less dichromatic body parts were the belly and the exposed parts of the skin (i.e., bill and legs). Regarding the phylogenetic spread of dichromatisms, 37 (53.6%) families contained at least one species with melanin-based sexual dimorphism in the definitive adult plumage. As for the direction of the color difference, males are darker than females in a majority of species, meaning that males tend to produce more eumelanin and females tend to synthesize more pheomelanin. This survey has revealed the high prevalence of melanins in the emergence of sexual dichromatism in birds, at least in the Western Palearctic. Whether the described pattern is due to sexual selection promoting more conspicuous males or to natural selection for more cryptic females remains to be determined. Given that pheomelanin synthesis concurrently consumes the antioxidant glutathione but also reduces toxic cysteine, sex-biased physiological factors should also be given consideration in the evolution of bird plumages. informacion[at] Negro et al (2018) Melanin-based sexual dichromatism in the Western Palearctic avifauna implies darker males and lighter females. J Avian Biol doi:10.1111/jav.01657