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24 Jun 2022
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Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphid

In search of the links between environmental signals and polyphenism

Recommended by based on reviews by Antonia Monteiro and 2 anonymous reviewers

Polyphenisms offer an opportunity to study the links between phenotype, development, and environment in a controlled genomic context (Simpson, Sword, & Lo, 2011). In organisms with short generation times, individuals living and developing in different seasons encounter different environmental conditions. Adaptive plasticity allows them to express different phenotypes in response to seasonal cues, such as temperature or photoperiod. Such phenotypes can be morphological variants, for instance displaying different wing patterns as seen in butterflies (Brakefield & Larsen, 1984; Nijhout, 1991; Windig, 1999), or physiological variants, characterized for instance by direct development vs winter diapause in temperate insects (Dalin & Nylin, 2012; Lindestad, Wheat, Nylin, & Gotthard, 2019; Shearer et al., 2016). 

Many aphids display cyclical parthenogenesis, a remarkable seasonal polyphenism for reproductive mode (Tagu, Sabater-Muñoz, & Simon, 2005), also sometimes coupled with wing polyphenism (Braendle, Friebe, Caillaud, & Stern, 2005), which allows them to switch between parthenogenesis during spring and summer to sexual reproduction and the production of diapausing eggs before winter. In the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, photoperiod shortening results in the production, by parthenogenetic females, of embryos developing into the parthenogenetic mothers of sexual individuals. The link between parthenogenetic reproduction and sexual reproduction, therefore, occurs over two generations, changing from a parthenogenetic form producing parthenogenetic females (virginoparae), to a parthenogenetic form producing sexual offspring (sexuparae), and finally sexual forms producing overwintering eggs (Le Trionnaire et al., 2022).  

The molecular basis for the transduction of the environmental signal into reproductive changes is still unknown, but the dopamine pathway is an interesting candidate. Form-specific expression of certain genes in the dopamine pathway occurs downstream of the perception of the seasonal cue, notably with a marked decrease in the heads of embryos reared under short-day conditions and destined to become sexuparae. Dopamine has multiple roles during development, with one mode of action in cuticle melanization and sclerotization, and a neurological role as a synaptic neurotransmitter. Both modes of action might be envisioned to contribute functionally to the perception and transduction of environmental signals. 

In this study, Le Trionnaire and colleagues aim at clarifying this role in the pea aphid (Le Trionnaire et al., 2022). Using quantitative RT-PCR, RNA-seq, and in situ hybridization of RNA probes, they surveyed the timing and spatial patterns of expression of dopamine pathway genes during the development of different stages of embryo to larvae reared under long and short-day conditions, and destined to become virginoparae or sexuparae females, respectively. The genes involved in the synaptic release of dopamine generally did not show differences in expression between photoperiodic treatments. By contrast, pale and ddc, two genes acting upstream of dopamine production, generally tended to show a downregulation in sexuparare embryo, as well as genes involved in cuticle development and interacting with the dopamine pathway. The downregulation of dopamine pathway genes observed in the heads of sexuparare juveniles is already detectable at the embryonic stage, suggesting embryos might be sensing environmental cues leading them to differentiate into sexuparae females.

The way pale and ddc expression differences could influence environmental sensitivity is still unclear. The results suggest that a cuticle phenotype specifically in the heads of larvae could be explored, perhaps in the form of a reduction in cuticle sclerotization and melanization which might allow photoperiod shortening to be perceived and act on development. Although its causality might be either way, such a link would be exciting to investigate, yet the existence of cuticle differences between the two reproductive types is still a hypothesis to be tested. The lack of differences in the expression of synaptic release genes for dopamine might seem to indicate that the plastic response to photoperiod is not mediated via neurological roles. Yet, this does not rule out the role of decreasing levels of dopamine in mediating this response in the central nervous system of embryos, even if the genes regulating synaptic release are equally expressed. 

To test for a direct role of ddc in regulating the reproductive fate of embryos, the authors have generated CrispR-Cas9 knockout mutants. Those mutants displayed egg cuticle melanization, but with lethal effects, precluding testing the effect of ddc at later stages in development. Gene manipulation becomes feasible in the pea aphid, opening up certain avenues for understanding the roles of other genes during development.

This study adds nicely to our understanding of the intricate changes in gene expression involved in polyphenism. But it also shows the complexity of deciphering the links between environmental perception and changes in physiology, which mobilise multiple interacting gene networks. In the era of manipulative genetics, this study also stresses the importance of understanding the traits and phenotypes affected by individual genes, which now seems essential to piece the puzzle together.


Braendle C, Friebe I, Caillaud MC, Stern DL (2005) Genetic variation for an aphid wing polyphenism is genetically linked to a naturally occurring wing polymorphism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272, 657–664.

Brakefield PM, Larsen TB (1984) The evolutionary significance of dry and wet season forms in some tropical butterflies. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 22, 1–12.

Dalin P, Nylin S (2012) Host-plant quality adaptively affects the diapause threshold: evidence from leaf beetles in willow plantations. Ecological Entomology, 37, 490–499.

Le Trionnaire G, Hudaverdian S, Richard G, Tanguy S, Gleonnec F, Prunier-Leterme N, Gauthier J-P, Tagu D (2022) Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphid. bioRxiv, 2020.03.10.984989, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Lindestad O, Wheat CW, Nylin S, Gotthard K (2019) Local adaptation of photoperiodic plasticity maintains life cycle variation within latitudes in a butterfly. Ecology, 100, e02550.

Nijhout HF (1991). The development and evolution of butterfly wing patterns. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Shearer PW, West JD, Walton VM, Brown PH, Svetec N, Chiu JC (2016) Seasonal cues induce phenotypic plasticity of Drosophila suzukii to enhance winter survival. BMC Ecology, 16, 11.

Simpson SJ, Sword GA, Lo N (2011) Polyphenism in Insects. Current Biology, 21, R738–R749.

Tagu D, Sabater-Muñoz B, Simon J-C (2005) Deciphering reproductive polyphenism in aphids. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development, 48, 71–80.

Windig JJ (1999) Trade-offs between melanization, development time and adult size in Inachis io and Araschnia levana (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)? Heredity, 82, 57–68.

Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphidGaël Le Trionnaire, Sylvie Hudaverdian, Gautier Richard, Sylvie Tanguy, Florence Gleonnec, Nathalie Prunier-Leterme, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Denis Tagu<p>Aphids are major pests of most of the crops worldwide. Such a success is largely explained by the remarkable plasticity of their reproductive mode. They reproduce efficiently by viviparous parthenogenesis during spring and summer generating imp...Development, Genetics/Genomics, Insecta, Molecular biologyMathieu Joron2020-03-13 13:01:44 View
05 Jan 2021
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Do substrate roughness and gap distance impact gap-bridging strategies in arboreal chameleons?

Gap-bridging strategies in arboreal chameleons

Recommended by based on reviews by Simon Baeckens and 2 anonymous reviewers

Until now, very little is known about the tail use and functional performance in tail prehensile animals. Luger et al. (2020) are the first to provide explorative observations on trait related modulation of tail use, despite the lack of a sufficiently standardized data set to allow statistical testing. They described whether gap distance, perch diameter, and perch roughness influence tail use and overall locomotor behavior of the species Chamaeleo calyptratus.
Peterson (1984) described already the pattern how and when the tail is moved when bridging the distance from one perch to another. The study by Luger et al. (2020) further explores how this bridging distance, as well as other perch parameters modulate this behavior and the importance of tail use in it. Zippel et al. (1999) study the underlying musculoskeletal anatomy of the tail in chameleons, showing that chameleons have a strikingly different tail anatomy than other prehensile squamates. The difference is (partially) to be seen in the capacity of tail autotomy, that has been lost in chameleons.
Luger et al. (2020) describe the role the tail has in bridging a gap, and show that challenging and acrobatic movements to bridge large gaps, or when grasping on not so rough surfaces, relies heavily on a strong tail. Full body suspension with the tail can explain why tail autotomy has been lost, thus explaining the diverging tail musculature. They speculate on the role of this behavior for sexual selection for males. Sexual selection for males with a higher gripping performance could explain why male chameleons perform better for their size. In addition, boldness could have played a role. The authors state that exploring personality and its links to morphology, performance, and behaviors like grap-bridging would be a worthwhile avenue for future research on sexual selection in reptiles.


Luger, A.M., Vermeylen, V., Herrel, A. and Adriaens, D. (2020) Do substrate roughness and gap distance impact gap-bridging strategies in arboreal chameleons? bioRxiv, 2020.08.21.260596, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology. doi:
Peterson, J. A. (1984). The locomotion of Chamaeleo (Reptilia: Sauria) with particular reference to the forelimb. Journal of Zoology, 202(1), 1-42. doi:
Zippel, K. C., Glor, R. E., and Bertram, J. E. (1999). On caudal prehensility and phylogenetic constraint in lizards: the influence of ancestral anatomy on function in Corucia and Furcifer. Journal of Morphology, 239(2), 143-155. doi:;2-O

Do substrate roughness and gap distance impact gap-bridging strategies in arboreal chameleons?Allison M. Luger, Vincent Vermeylen, Anthony Herrel, Dominique Adriaens<p>Chameleons are well-equipped for an arboreal lifestyle, having ‘zygodactylous’ hands and feet as well as a fully prehensile tail. However, to what degree tail use is preferred over autopod prehension has been largely neglected. Using an indoor ...Behavior, Biology, Herpetology, Reptiles, VertebratesEllen Decaestecker2020-08-25 10:06:42 View
02 Nov 2021
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Cuckoo male bumblebees perform slower and longer flower visits than free-living male and worker bumblebees

Cuckoo bumblebee males might reduce plant fitness

Recommended by based on reviews by Patrick Lhomme, Silvio Erler and 2 anonymous reviewers

In pollinator insects, especially bees, foraging is almost exclusively performed by females due to the close linkage with brood care. They collect pollen as a protein- and lipid-rich food to feed developing larvae in solitary and social species. Bees take carbohydrate-rich nectar in small quantities to fuel their flight and carry the pollen load. To optimise the foraging flight, they tend to be flower constant, reducing the flower handling time and time among individual inflorescences (Goulson, 1999). Males of pollinator species might be found on flowers as well. As they do not collect any pollen for brood care, their foraging flights and visits to flowers might not be shaped by the selective forces that optimise the foraging flights of females. They might stay longer in individual flowers, take up nectar if needed, but might unintentionally carry pollen on their body surface (Wolf & Moritz, 2014).
Bumblebees are excellent pollinators (Goulson, 2010), and a few species are exploited commercially for their delivery of pollination services (Velthuis & van Doorn, 2006). However, a monophyletic group of socially parasitic species – cuckoo bumblebees – has evolved amongst the bumblebees, lacking a worker caste. Cuckoo bee gynes usurp nests of free-living bumblebees, kill the resident queen, and forces the host workers to rear their offspring consisting of gynes and males (Lhomme & Hines, 2019). The level of affected colonies in an area can be up to 42% (Erler & Lattorff, 2010).
The behaviour of the cuckoo bumblebees, especially that of the males, has been rarely studied. The present study by Fisogni et al. (2021) has targeted the flower-visiting behaviour of workers and males of free-living bumblebees and males of the cuckoo species. They used behavioural observations of flower-visiting insects on Gentiana lutea, a plant from south-eastern Europe with yellow flowers arranged in whorls. While all three groups of bees visited the same number of plants, males of both types visited more flowers within a whorl, but cuckoo males spent more time on flowers within a whorl and the whole plant than the free-living bumblebees.
The flower visits of bumblebee workers are optimised, aiming at collecting as much pollen as possible within a short time frame. This, in turn, has consequences for the pollination process by enhancing cross-pollination between different plants. By contrast, males and especially cuckoo bumblebee males, are not selected for an optimised foraging pattern. Instead, they spend more time on flowers, eventually resulting in higher levels of pollen transfer within a plant (geitonogamy), which might lead to reduced plant fitness. This is the first study to relate the foraging behaviour of cuckoo bumblebees to pollination and plant fitness.
Erler, S., & Lattorff, H. M. G. (2010). The degree of parasitism of the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) by cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis). Insectes sociaux, 57(4), 371-377.
Fisogni, A., Bogo, G., Massol, F., Bortolotti, L., Galloni, M. (2021). Cuckoo male bumblebees perform slower and longer flower visits than free-living male and worker bumblebees. Zenodo, 10.5281/zenodo.4489066, ver. 1.2 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology.
Goulson, D. (1999). Foraging strategies of insects for gathering nectar and pollen, and implications for plant ecology and evolution. Perspectives in plant ecology, evolution and systematics, 2(2), 185-209.
Goulson, D. (2010). Bumblebees. Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Lhomme, P., Hines, H. M. (2019). Ecology and evolution of cuckoo bumble bees. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 112, 122-140.
Velthuis, H. H. W., van Doorn, A. (2006). A century of advances in bumblebee domestication and the economic and environmental aspects of its commercialization for pollination. Apidologie, 37, 421-451.
Wolf, S., Moritz, R. F. A. (2014). The pollination potential of free-foraging bumblebee (Bombus spp.) males (Hymenoptera. Apidae). Apidologie, 45, 440-450.

Cuckoo male bumblebees perform slower and longer flower visits than free-living male and worker bumblebeesAlessandro Fisogni, Gherardo Bogo, François Massol, Laura Bortolotti, Marta Galloni<p>Cuckoo bumblebees are a monophyletic group within the genus Bombus and social parasites of free-living bumblebees, upon which they rely to rear their offspring. Cuckoo bumblebees lack the worker caste and visit flowers primarily for their own s...Behavior, Biology, Ecology, Insecta, Invertebrates, TerrestrialMichael Lattorff Patrick Lhomme, Silvio Erler, Denis Michez, 2021-02-02 01:41:35 View
25 Aug 2022
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Improving species conservation plans under IUCN's One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methods

Quantitative genetics for a more qualitative conservation

Recommended by based on reviews by Timothée Bonnet and 1 anonymous reviewer

Genetic (bio)diversity is one of three recognised levels of biodiversity, besides species and ecosystem diversity. Its importance for species survival and adaptation is increasingly highlighted and its monitoring recommended (e.g. O’Brien et al 2022). Especially the management of ex-situ populations has a long history of taking into account genetic aspects (through pedigree analysis but increasingly also by applying molecular tools). As in-situ and ex-situ efforts are nowadays often aligned (in a One-Plan-Approach), genetic management is becoming more the standard (supported by quickly developing genomic techniques). However, rarely quantitative genetic aspects are raised in this issue, while its relevance cannot be underestimated. Hence, the current manuscript by Sauve et al (2022) is a welcome contribution, in order to improve conservation efforts. The authors give a clear overview on how quantitative genetic analysis can aid the measurement, monitoring, prediction and management of adaptive genetic variation. The main tools are pedigrees (mainly of ex-situ populations) and the Animal Model. The main goal is to prevent adaption to captivity and altered genetics in general (in reintroduction projects). The confounding factors to take into account (like inbreeding, population structure, differences between facilities, sample size and parental/social effects) are well described by the authors. As such, I fully recommend this manuscript for publication, hoping increased interest in quantitative analysis will benefit the quality of species conservation management.


O'Brien D, Laikre L, Hoban S, Bruford MW et al. (2022) Bringing together approaches to reporting on within species genetic diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology, 00, 1–7. https://doi/10.1111/1365-2664.14225

Sauve D., Spero J., Steiner J., Wheeler H., Lynch C., Chabot A.A. (2022) Improving species conservation plans under IUCN’s One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methods. EcoEvoRxiv, ver. 9 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Improving species conservation plans under IUCN's One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methodsDrew Sauve, Jane Hudecki, Jessica Steiner, Hazel Wheeler, Colleen Lynch, Amy A. Chabot<p>Human activities are resulting in altered environmental conditions that are impacting the demography and evolution of species globally. If we wish to prevent anthropogenic extinction and extirpation, we need to improve our ability to restore wi...Conservation biology, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/GenomicsPeter Galbusera2022-02-21 10:45:22 View
10 Jan 2020
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Culex saltanensis and Culex interfor (Diptera: Culicidae) are susceptible and competent to transmit St. Louis encephalitis virus (Flavivirus: Flaviviridae) in central Argentina

Multiple vector species may be responsible for transmission of Saint Louis Encephalatis Virus in Argentina

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Medical and veterinary entomology is a discipline that deals with the role of insects on human and animal health. A primary objective is the identification of vectors that transmit pathogens. This is the aim of Beranek and co-authors in their study [1]. They focus on mosquito vector species responsible for transmission of St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), an arbovirus that circulates in avian species but can incidentally occur in dead end mammal hosts such as humans, inducing symptoms and sometimes fatalities. Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus is known as the most common vector, but other species are suspected to also participate in transmission. Among them Culex saltanensis and Culex interfor have been found to be infected by the virus in the context of outbreaks. The fact that field collected mosquitoes carry virus particles is not evidence for their vector competence: indeed to be a competent vector, the mosquito must not only carry the virus, but also the virus must be able to replicate within the vector, overcome multiple barriers (until the salivary glands) and be present at sufficient titre within the saliva. This paper describes the experiments implemented to evaluate the vector competence of Cx. saltanensis and Cx. interfor from ingestion of SLEV to release within the saliva. Females emerged from field-collected eggs of Cx. pipiens quinquefasciatus, Cx. saltanensis and Cx. interfor were allowed to feed on SLEV infected chicks and viral development was measured by using (i) the infection rate (presence/absence of virus in the mosquito abdomen), (ii) the dissemination rate (presence/absence of virus in mosquito legs), and (iii) the transmission rate (presence/absence of virus in mosquito saliva). The sample size for each species is limited because of difficulties for collecting, feeding and maintaining large numbers of individuals from field populations, however the results are sufficient to show that this strain of SLEV is able to disseminate and be expelled in the saliva of mosquitoes of the three species at similar viral loads. This work therefore provides evidence that Cx saltanensis and Cx interfor are competent species for SLEV to complete its life-cycle. Vector competence does not directly correlate with the ability to transmit in real life as the actual vectorial capacity also depends on the contact between the infectious vertebrate hosts, the mosquito life expectancy and the extrinsic incubation period of the viruses. The present study does not deal with these characteristics, which remain to be investigated to complete the picture of the role of Cx saltanensis and Cx interfor in SLEV transmission. However, this study provides proof of principle that that SLEV can complete it’s life-cycle in Cx saltanensis and Cx interfor. Combined with previous knowledge on their feeding preference, this highlights their potential role as bridge vectors between birds and mammals. These results have important implications for epidemiological forecasting and disease management. Public health strategies should consider the diversity of vectors in surveillance and control of SLEV.

[1] Beranek, M. D., Quaglia, A. I., Peralta, G. C., Flores, F. S., Stein, M., Diaz, L. A., Almirón, W. R. and Montigiani, M. S. (2020). Culex saltanensis and Culex interfor (Diptera: Culicidae) are susceptible and competent to transmit St. Louis encephalitis virus (Flavivirus: Flaviviridae) in central Argentina. bioRxiv 722579, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Entomology. doi: 10.1101/722579

Culex saltanensis and Culex interfor (Diptera: Culicidae) are susceptible and competent to transmit St. Louis encephalitis virus (Flavivirus: Flaviviridae) in central ArgentinaBeranek MD, Quaglia AI, Peralta GC, Flores FS, Stein M, Diaz LA, Almirón WR and Contigiani MS<p>Infectious diseases caused by mosquito-borne viruses constitute health and economic problems worldwide. St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) is endemic and autochthonous in the American continent. Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus is the primary ur...Medical entomologyAnna Cohuet2019-08-03 00:56:38 View
21 Mar 2023
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Population genetics of Glossina fuscipes fuscipes from southern Chad

Population genetics of tsetse, the vector of African Trypanosomiasis, helps informing strategies for control programs

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), or sleeping sickness, is caused by trypanosome parasites. In sub-Saharan Africa, two forms are present, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and T. b. rhodesiense, the former responsible for 95% of reported cases. The parasites are transmitted through a vector, Genus Glossina, also known as tsetse, which means fly in Tswana, a language from southern Africa. Through a blood meal, tsetse picks up the parasite from infected humans or animals (in animals, the parasite causes Animal African Trypanosomiasis or nagana disease). Through medical interventions and vector control programs, the burden of the disease has drastically reduced over the past two decades, so the WHO neglected tropical diseases road map targets the interruption of transmission (zero cases) for 2030 (WHO 2022).

Meaningful vector control programs utilize traps for the removal of animals and for surveillance, along with different methods of spraying insecticides. However, in existing HAT risk areas, it will be essential to understand the ecology of the vector species to implement control programs in a way that areas cleared from the vector will not be reinvaded from other populations. Thus, it will be crucial to understand basic population genetics parameters related to population structure and subdivision, migration frequency and distances, population sizes, and the potential for sex-biased dispersal. The authors utilize genotyping using nine highly polymorphic microsatellite markers of samples from Chad collected in differently affected regions and at different time points (Ravel et al., 2023). Two major HAT zones exist that are targeted by vector control programs, namely Madoul and Maro, while two other areas, Timbéri and Dokoutou, are free of trypanosomes. Samples were taken before vector control programs started.

The sex ratio was female-biased, most strongly in Mandoul and Maro, the zones with the lowest population density. This could be explained by resource limitation, which could be the hosts for a blood meal or the sites for larviposition. Limited resources mean that females must fly further, increasing the chance that more females are caught in traps. 

The effective population densities of Mandoul and Maro were low. However, there was a convergence of population density and trapping density, which might be explained by the higher preservation of flies in the high-density areas of Timbéri and Dokoutou after the first round of sampling, which can only be tested using a second sampling. 

The dispersal distances are the highest recorded so far, especially in Mandoul and Maro, with 20-30 km per generation. However, in Timbéri and Dokoutou, which are 50 km apart, very little exchange occurs (approx. 1-2 individuals every six months). A major contributor to this is the massive destruction of habitat that started in the early 1990s and left patchily distributed and fragmented habitats. The Mandoul zone might be safe from reinvasion after eradication, as for a successful re-establishment, either a pair of a female and male or a pregnant female are required. As the trypanosome prevalence amongst humans was 0.02 and of tsetse 0.06 (Ibrahim et al., 2021) before interventions began, medical interventions and vector control might have further reduced these levels, making a reinvasion and subsequent re-establishment of HAT very unlikely. Maro is close to the border of the Central African Republic, and the area has not been well investigated concerning refugee populations of tsetse, which could contribute to a reinvasion of the Maro zone. The higher level of genetic heterogeneity of the Maro population indicates that invasions from neighboring populations are already ongoing. This immigration could also be the reason for not detecting the bottleneck signature in the Maro population. 

The two HAT areas need different levels of attention while implementing vector eradication programs. While Madoul is relatively safe against reinvasion, Maro needs another type of attention, as frequent and persistent immigration might counteract eradication efforts. Thus, it is recommended that continuous tsetse suppression needs to be implemented in Maro.  

This study shows nicely that an in-depth knowledge of the processes within and between populations is needed to understand how these populations behave. This can be used to extrapolate, make predictions, and inform the organisations implementing vector control programs to include valuable adjustments, as in the case of Maro. Such integrative approaches can help prevent the failure of programs, potentially saving costs and preventing infections of humans and animals who might die if not treated.


Ibrahim MAM, Weber JS, Ngomtcho SCH, Signaboubo D, Berger P, Hassane HM, Kelm S (2021) Diversity of trypanosomes in humans and cattle in the HAT foci Mandoul and Maro, Southern Chad- Southern Chad-A matter of concern for zoonotic potential? PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 15, e000 323.

Ravel S, Mahamat MH, Ségard A, Argiles-Herrero R, Bouyer J, Rayaisse JB, Solano P, Mollo BG, Pèka M, Darnas J, Belem AMG, Yoni W, Noûs C, de Meeûs T (2023) Population genetics of Glossina fuscipes fuscipes from southern Chad. Zenodo, ver. 9 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology.

WHO (2022) Trypanosomiasis, human African (sleeping sickness)., retrieved 17. March 2023

Population genetics of Glossina fuscipes fuscipes from southern ChadSophie Ravel, Mahamat Hissène Mahamat, Adeline Ségard, Rafael Argiles-Herrero, Jérémy Bouyer, Jean-Baptiste Rayaisse, Philippe Solano, Brahim Guihini Mollo, Mallaye Pèka, Justin Darnas, Adrien Marie Gaston Belem, Wilfrid Yoni, Camille Noûs, Thierr...<p>In Subsaharan Africa, tsetse flies (genus Glossina) are vectors of trypanosomes causing Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) and Animal African Trypanosomosis (AAT). Some foci of HAT persist in Southern Chad, where a program of tsetse control wa...Biology, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/Genomics, Insecta, Medical entomology, Parasitology, Pest management, Veterinary entomologyMichael Lattorff Audrey Bras2022-04-22 11:25:24 View
21 Jun 2023
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Life-history traits, pace of life and dispersal among and within five species of Trichogramma wasps: a comparative analysis

The relationship between dispersal and pace-of-life at different scales

Recommended by based on reviews by Mélanie Thierry and 1 anonymous reviewer

The sorting of organisms along a fast-slow continuum through correlations between life history traits is a long-standing framework (Stearns 1983) and corresponds to the pace-of-life axis. This axis represents the variation in a continuum of life-history strategies, from fast-reproducing short-lived species to slow-reproducing long-lived species. The pace-of-life axis has been the focus of much research largely in mammals, birds, reptiles and plants but less so in invertebrates (Salguero-Gómez et al. 2016; Araya-Ajoy et al. 2018; Healy et al. 2019; Bakewell et al. 2020). Outcomes from this research have highlighted variation across taxa on this axis and mixed support for, and against, patterns expected of the pace-of-life continuum. Given this, a greater understanding of the variation of the pace-of-life across-, and within, taxa are needed. Indeed, Guicharnard et al. (2023) highlight several points regarding our broader understanding of pace-of-life. In general, invertebrates are poorly represented, the variation of pace-of-life across taxonomic scales is less well understood and the relationship between pace-of-life and dispersal, a key life history, requires more attention. Here, Guicharnard et al. (2023) provide a first attempt at addressing the relationship between dispersal and pace-of-life at different scales.

The authors, under controlled conditions, investigated how life-history traits and effective dispersal covary for 28 lines from five species of endoparasitoid wasps from the genus Trichogramma. At the species level negative correlations were found between development time and fecundity, matching pace-of-life axis predictions. Although this correlation was not found to be significant among lines, within species, a similar pattern of a negative correlation was observed. This outcome matches previous findings that consistent pace-of-life axes become more difficult to find at lower taxonomic levels. Unlike the other life-history traits measured, effective dispersal showed no evidence of differences between species or between lines. The authors also found no correlation between effective dispersal and other-life history traits which suggests no dispersal/life-history syndromes in the species investigated. One aspect that was not assessed was the impact of density dependence on pace-of-life and effective dispersal, largely as this was a first step in assessing relationship of dispersal with pace-of-life at different scales. However, the authors do acknowledge the importance of future studies incorporating density dependence and that such studies could potentially lead to more generalizable understanding of pace-of-life and dispersal within Trichogramma.

A pleasant addition was the link to potential implications for biocontrol. This addition showed an awareness by the authors of how insights into pace-of-life can have an applied component. The results of the study highlighted that selecting for specific lines of a species, to maximise a trait of interest at the cost of another, may not be as effective as selecting different species when implementing biocontrol. This is especially important as often single, established species used in biocontrol are favoured without consideration of the potential of other species which can lead to more efficient biocontrol.    


Araya-Ajoy, Y.G., Bolstad, G.H., Brommer, J., Careau, V., Dingemanse, N.J. & Wright, J. (2018). Demographic measures of an individual's "pace of life": fecundity rate, lifespan, generation time, or a composite variable? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 72, 75.
Bakewell, A.T., Davis, K.E., Freckleton, R.P., Isaac, N.J.B. & Mayhew, P.J. (2020). Comparing Life Histories across Taxonomic Groups in Multiple Dimensions: How Mammal-Like Are Insects? The American Naturalist, 195, 70-81.
Guicharnaud, C., Groussier, G., Beranger, E., Lamy, L., Vercken, E. & Dahirel, M. (2023). Life-history traits, pace of life and dispersal among and within five species of Trichogramma wasps: a comparative analysis. bioRxiv, 2023.01.24.525360, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.
Healy, K., Ezard, T.H.G., Jones, O.R., Salguero-Gómez, R. & Buckley, Y.M. (2019). Animal life history is shaped by the pace of life and the distribution of age-specific mortality and reproduction. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 1217-1224.
Salguero-Gómez, R., Jones, O.R., Jongejans, E., Blomberg, S.P., Hodgson, D.J., Mbeau-Ache, C., et al. (2016). Fast-slow continuum and reproductive strategies structure plant life-history variation worldwide. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 230-235.
Stearns, S.C. (1983). The Influence of Size and Phylogeny on Patterns of Covariation among Life-History Traits in the Mammals. Oikos, 41, 173-187.

Life-history traits, pace of life and dispersal among and within five species of *Trichogramma* wasps: a comparative analysisChloé Guicharnaud, Géraldine Groussier, Erwan Beranger, Laurent Lamy, Elodie Vercken, Maxime Dahirel<p>Major traits defining the life history of organisms are often not independent from each other, with most of their variation aligning along key axes such as the pace-of-life axis. We can define a pace-of-life axis structuring reproduction and de...Biology, Ecology, Insecta, Invertebrates, Life historiesJacques Deere2023-01-25 18:15:20 View
28 Aug 2022
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A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programs

Improved population genetics parameters through control for microsatellite stuttering

Recommended by based on reviews by Thibaut Malausa, Fabien Halkett and Thierry Rigaud

Molecular markers have drastically changed and improved our understanding of biological processes. In combination with PCR, markers revolutionized the study of all organisms, even tiny insects, and eukaryotic pathogens amongst others. Microsatellite markers were the most prominent and successful ones. Their success started in the early 1990s. They were used for population genetic studies, mapping of genes and genomes, and paternity testing and inference of relatedness. Their popularity is based on some of their characteristics as codominance, the high polymorphism information content, and their ease of isolation (Schlötterer 2004). Still, microsatellites are the marker of choice for a range of non-model organisms as next-generation sequencing technologies produce a huge amount of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), but often at expense of sample size and higher costs.
The high level of polymorphism of microsatellite markers, which consist of one to six base-pair nucleotide motifs replicated up to 10 or 20 times, results from slippage events during DNA replication. Short hairpin loops might shorten the template strand or extend the new strand. However, such slippage events might occur during PCR amplification resulting in additional bands or peaks. Such stutter alleles often appear to differ by one repeat unit and might be hard to interpret but definitively reduce automated scoring of microsatellite results.
A standalone software package available to handle stuttering is Microchecker (van Oosterhout et al., 2004, which nowadays faces incompatibilities with updated versions of different operating systems. Thus, de Meeûs and Noûs (2022), in their manuscript, tackled the stuttering issue by developing an OS-independent analysis pipeline based on standard spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Office (Excel) or Apache Open Office (Calc). The authors use simulated populations differing in the mating system (pangamic, selfing (30%), clonal) and a different number of subpopulations and individuals per subpopulation to test for differences among the null model (no stuttering), a test population with 2 out of 20 loci (10%) with stuttering, and the latter with stuttering cured. Further to this, the authors also re-analyse data from previous studies utilising organisms differing in the mating system to understand whether control of stuttering changes major parameter estimates and conclusions of those studies.
Stuttering of microsatellite loci might result in increased heterozygote deficits. The authors utilise the FIS (inbreeding coefficient) as a tool to compare the different treatments of the simulated populations. Their method detected stuttering in pangamic and selfing populations, while the detection of stuttering in clonal organisms is more difficult. The cure for stuttering resulted in FIS values similar to those populations lacking stuttering. The re-analysis of four previously published studies indicated that the new method presented here is more accurate than Microchecker (van Oosterhout et al., 2004) in a direct comparison. For the Lyme disease-transmitting tick Ixodes scapularis (De Meeûs et al., 2021), three loci showed stuttering and curing these resulted in data that are in good agreement with pangamic reproduction. In the tsetse fly Glossina palpalis palpalis (Berté et al., 2019), two out of seven loci were detected as stuttering. Curing them resulted in decreased FIS for one locus, while the other showed an increased FIS, an indication of other problems such as the occurrence of null alleles. Overall, in dioecious pangamic populations, the method works well, and the cure of stuttering improves population genetic parameter estimates, although FST and FIS might be slightly overestimated. In monoecious selfers, the detection and cure work well, if other factors such as null alleles do not interfere. In clonal organisms, only loci with extremely high FIS might need a cure to improve parameter estimates.
This spreadsheet-based method helps to automate microsatellite analysis at very low costs and thus improves the accuracy of parameter estimates. This might certainly be very useful for a range of non-model organisms, parasites, and their vectors, for which microsatellites are still the marker of choice. 

Berté D, De Meeus T, Kaba D, Séré M, Djohan V, Courtin F, N'Djetchi KM, Koffi M, Jamonneau V, Ta BTD, Solano P, N’Goran EK, Ravel S (2019) Population genetics of Glossina palpalis palpalis in sleeping sickness foci of Côte d'Ivoire before and after vector control. Infection Genetics and Evolution 75, 103963.

de Meeûs T, Chan CT, Ludwig JM, Tsao JI, Patel J, Bhagatwala J, Beati L (2021) Deceptive combined effects of short allele dominance and stuttering: an example with Ixodes scapularis, the main vector of Lyme disease in the U.S.A. Peer Community Journal 1, e40.

de Meeûs T, Noûs C (2022) A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programs. Zenodo, v5, peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology.

Schlötterer C (2004) The evolution of molecular markers - just a matter of fashion? Nature Reviews Genetics 5, 63-69.

van Oosterhout C, Hutchinson WF, Wills DPM, Shipley P (2004) MICRO-CHECKER: software for identifying and correcting genotyping errors in microsatellite data. Molecular Ecology Notes 4, 535-538.

A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programsThierry de Meeûs and Camille Noûs<p>Microsatellite are powerful markers for empirical population genetics, but may be affected by amplification problems like stuttering that produces heterozygote deficits between alleles with one repeat difference. In this paper, we present a sim...Acari, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/Genomics, Helminthology, Invertebrates, Medical entomology, Molecular biology, Parasitology, Theoretical biology, Veterinary entomologyMichael Lattorff2021-12-06 14:30:47 View
28 Apr 2021
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Inference of the worldwide invasion routes of the pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus using approximate Bayesian computation analysis

Extracting the maximum historical information on pine wood nematode worldwide invasion from genetic data

Recommended by based on reviews by Aude Gilabert and 1 anonymous reviewer

Redistribution of domesticated and non domesticated species by humans profoundly affected earth biogeography and in return human activities. This process accelerated exponentially since human expansion out of Africa, leading to the modern global, highly connected and homogenized, agriculture and trade system (Mack et al. 2000, Jaksic and Castro 2021), that threatens biological diversity and genetic resources. To accompany quarantine and control effort, the reconstruction of invasion routes provides valuable information that help identifying critical nodes and edges in the global networks (Estoup and Guillemaud 2010, Cristescu 2015). Historical records and genetic markers are the two major sources of information of this corpus of knowledge on Anthropocene historical phylogeography. With the advances of molecular genetics tools, the genealogy of these introductions events could be revisited and empowered. Due to their idiosyncrasy and intimate association with the contingency of human trades and activities, understanding the invasion and domestication routes require particular statistical tools (Fraimout et al. 2017).

Because it encompasses all these theoretical, ecological and economical implications, I am pleased to recommend the readers of PCI Zoology this article by Mallez et al. (2021) on pine wood nematode invasion route inference from genetic markers using Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) methods.

Economically and ecologically, this pest, is responsible for killing millions of pines worldwide each year. The results show these damages and the global genetic patterns are due to few events of successful introductions. The authors consider that this low probability of introductions success reinforces the idea that quarantine measures are efficient. This is illustrated in Europe where the pine-worm has been quarantined successfully in the Iberian Peninsula since 1999. Another relevant conclusion is that hybridization between invasive populations have not been observed and implied in the invasion process. Finally the present study reinforced the role of Asiatic bridgehead populations in invasion process including in Europe.

Methodologically, for the first time, ABC was applied to this species. A total of 310 individual sequences were added to the Mallez et al. (2015) microsatellite dataset. Fraimoult et al. (2017) showed the interest to apply random forest to improve scenario selection in ABC framework. This method, implemented in the DiYABC software (Collin et al. 2020) for invasion route scenario selection allows to handle more complex scenario alternatives and was used in this study. In this article by Mallez et al. (2021), you will also find a clear illustration of the step-by-step approach to select scenario using ABC techniques (Lombaert et al. 2014). The rationale is to reduce number of scenario to be tested by assuming that most recent invasions cannot be the source of the most ancient invasions and to use posterior results on most ancient routes as prior hypothesis to distinguish following invasions. The other simplification is to perform classical population genetic analysis to characterize genetic units and representative populations prior to invasion routes scenarios selection by ABC.

Yet, even when using the most advanced Bayesian inference methods, it is recognized by the authors that the method can be pushed to its statistical power limits. The method is appropriate when population show strong inter-population genetic structure. But the high number of differentiated populations in native area can be problematic since it is generally associated to incomplete sampling scheme. The hypothesis of ghost populations source allowed to bypass this difficulty, but the authors consider simulation studies are needed to assess the joint effect of genetic diversity and number of genetic markers on the inference results in such situation. Also the need to use a stepwise approach to reduce the number of scenario to test has to be considered with caution. Scenarios that are not selected but have non negligible posterior, cannot be ruled out in the constitution of next step scenarios hypotheses.

Due to its interest to understand this major facet of Anthropocene, reconstruction of invasion routes should be more considered as a guide to damper biological homogenization process.


Collin, F.-D., Durif, G., Raynal, L., Lombaert, E., Gautier, M., Vitalis, R., Marin, J.-M. and Estoup, A. (2020) Extending Approximate Bayesian Computation with Supervised Machine Learning to infer demographic history from genetic polymorphisms using DIYABC Random Forest. Authorea. doi:

Cristescu, M.E. (2015) Genetic reconstructions of invasion history. Molecular Ecology, 24, 2212–2225. doi:

Estoup, A. and Guillemaud, T., (2010) Reconstructing routes of invasion using genetic data: Why, how and so what? Molecular Ecology, 9, 4113-4130. doi:

Fraimout, A., Debat, V., Fellous, S., Hufbauer, R.A., Foucaud, J., Pudlo, P., Marin, J.M., Price, D.K., Cattel, J., Chen, X., Deprá, M., Duyck, P.F., Guedot, C., Kenis, M., Kimura, M.T., Loeb, G., Loiseau, A., Martinez-Sañudo, I., Pascual, M., Richmond, M.P., Shearer, P., Singh, N., Tamura, K., Xuéreb, A., Zhang, J., Estoup, A. and Nielsen, R. (2017) Deciphering the routes of invasion of Drosophila suzukii by Means of ABC Random Forest. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 34, 980-996. doi:

Jaksic, F.M. and Castro, S.A. (2021). Biological Invasions in the Anthropocene, in: Jaksic, F.M., Castro, S.A. (Eds.), Biological Invasions in the South American Anthropocene: Global Causes and Local Impacts. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 19-47. doi:

Lombaert, E., Guillemaud, T., Lundgren, J., Koch, R., Facon, B., Grez, A., Loomans, A., Malausa, T., Nedved, O., Rhule, E., Staverlokk, A., Steenberg, T. and Estoup, A. (2014) Complementarity of statistical treatments to reconstruct worldwide routes of invasion: The case of the Asian ladybird Harmonia axyridis. Molecular Ecology, 23, 5979-5997. doi:

Mack, R.N., Simberloff, D., Lonsdale, M.W., Evans, H., Clout, M., Bazzaz, F.A. (2000) Biotic Invasions : Causes , Epidemiology , Global Consequences , and Control. Ecological Applications, 10, 689-710. doi:[0689:BICEGC]2.0.CO;2

Mallez, S., Castagnone, C., Lombaert, E., Castagnone-Sereno, P. and Guillemaud, T. (2021) Inference of the worldwide invasion routes of the pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus using approximate Bayesian computation analysis. bioRxiv, 452326, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer community in Zoology. doi:

Inference of the worldwide invasion routes of the pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus using approximate Bayesian computation analysisSophie Mallez, Chantal Castagnone, Eric Lombaert, Philippe Castagnone-Sereno, Thomas Guillemaud<p>Population genetics have been greatly beneficial to improve knowledge about biological invasions. Model-based genetic inference methods, such as approximate Bayesian computation (ABC), have brought this improvement to a higher level and are now...Biogeography, Biological invasions, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/Genomics, Herbivores, Invertebrates, Molecular biology, NematologyStéphane Dupas2020-09-15 10:59:41 View
03 Jul 2020
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The 'Noble false widow' spider Steatoda nobilis is an emerging public health and ecological threat

How the noble false widow spider Steatoda nobilis can turn out to be a rising public health and ecological concern

Recommended by based on reviews by Michel Dugon and 2 anonymous reviewers

"The noble false widow spider Steatoda nobilis is an emerging public health and ecological threat" by Clive Hambler (2020) is an appealing article discussing important aspects of the ecology and distribution of a medically significant spider, and the health concerns it raises.
By contrast to previous studies (Dunbar et al., 2018; Warell et al., 1991; Bauer et al., 2019; BBC 2013, 2018), this article, with its extensive media and scientific literature review, shows that S. nobilis (Thorell, 1875) is now an important health concern in Britain. Indeed, the author shows that the population of this spider has significantly increased, at least since 1990, in both southern Britain and Ireland where it has remained greatly under-recorded. In these areas, S. nobilis is now often the dominant spider on and in buildings, in places in which there is a high a risk of bites, some of which are likely to be severe, in humans, with these bites largely under-recorded. According to Clive Hambler "There is thus a possibility of bites being left without adequate rapid treatment and monitoring - with a low but non-trivial risk of necrosis or sepsis".
The author points that one of the reasons for the lack of awareness of the risk is that arachnologists typically have a conflict of interest between the conservation of the species they study and raising concerns about spiders. This may lead them to understate the risk. Clive Hambler therefore calls for a closer, appropriately weighted attention to the frequency and risk of bites, based on all the information available, rather than being "dismissive of the possibilities of bites and impacts simply because many media reports contain major errors or alarmism". He also argues that the British Arachnological Society’s guidance on "false widow spiders" "needs substantive revision, both in terms of the likelihood of bites and the severity of effects."
Indeed, the author demonstrates that many inaccuracies have been published (see Table 3 of his manuscript) and, for each, he provides a correction and/or an alternative opinion. At the end of this MS (see Table 4), he provides testable speculations and hypotheses. As he rightly points out, testing is very important to fuel the debate, because "It will be very difficult to get a balanced and proportionate debate and response for such a confused and emotive issue, especially with the many misleading popular reports." He also suggests that research will require interdisciplinary collaboration between experts in many domains, including pathologists, immunologists, clinicians, ecologists, arachnologists, psychologists, physiologists, climatologists and epidemiologists.
This preprint is clearly descriptive and speculative, but well-written, interesting and certainly useful in terms of a review of the biology, ecology, potential dangerousness and distribution of S. nobilis, particularly for future studies. There is no doubt that arachnologists, the medical community and the media will be interested in this article, which is intended to sound the alarm. Naturalists in general will also be interested in this manuscript because it is an original and successful attempt to increase knowledge about a particular taxon based on diverse information sources.
The structure of the MS is a bit odd, with a certain toing-and-froing between the ecology/biology/distribution of the spider and the risks, dangerousness and venom of bites, but this is not problematic, as shown by the reviews of the manuscript - three reviews (available below) were written, two by specialists in this noble false widow (Michel Dugon and another researcher who wished to remain anonymous).
Despite the controversy surrounding certain of the statements made in this article, I therefore strongly recommend it and look forward to seeing the identified research priorities addressed.


[1] Hambler, C. (2020). The “Noble false widow” spider Steatoda nobilis is an emerging public health and ecological threat. OSF Preprints, axbd4, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology. doi: 10.31219/
[2] Dunbar J.P., Afoullouss S., Sulpice R., Dugon M.M. (2018) Envenomation by the noble false widow spider Steatoda nobilis (Thorell, 1875) - five new cases of steatodism from Ireland and Great Britain. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 56(6):433-435. doi: 10.1080/15563650.2017.1393084
[3] Warrell D.A., Shaheen J., Hillyard P.D., Jones D. (1991) Neurotoxic envenoming by an immigrant spider (Steatoda nobilis) in southern England. Toxicon. 29(10):1263-5. doi: 10.1016/0041-0101(91)90198-Z
[4] Bauer, T., Feldmeier, S., Krehenwinkel, H., Wieczorrek, C., Reiser, N. and Dreitling, R. (2019) Steatoda nobilis, a false widow on the rise: a synthesis of past and current distribution trends. NeoBiota 42: 19–43. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.42.31582
[5] BBC (2013). False widow spider bites footballer Steve Harris. Accessed 1 November 2018.
[6] BBC (2018). False widow spider infestation schools to remain shut. Accessed 19 December 2018.

The 'Noble false widow' spider Steatoda nobilis is an emerging public health and ecological threatHambler, C.<p>*Steatoda nobilis*, the 'Noble false widow' spider, has undergone massive population growth in southern Britain and Ireland, at least since 1990. It is greatly under-recorded in Britain and possibly globally. Now often the dominant spider on an...Arachnids, Behavior, Biogeography, Biological invasions, Conservation biology, Demography/population dynamics, Ecology, Medical entomology, Methodology, Pest management, Toxicology, Veterinary entomologyEtienne Bilgo2019-06-28 18:26:05 View