Submit a preprint

Latest recommendationsrsstwitter

IdTitle▲AuthorsAbstractPictureThematic fieldsRecommenderReviewersSubmission date
10 Mar 2022
article picture

Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continent

Cross-continents whitefly secondary symbiont revealed by metabarcoding

Recommended by based on reviews by François Renoz, Vincent Hervé and 1 anonymous reviewer

Whiteflies are serious global pests that feed on phloem sap of many agricultural crop plants. Like other phloem feeders, whiteflies rely on a primary-symbiont to supply their poor, sugar-based diet. Over time, the genomes of primary-symbionts become degraded, and they are either been replaced or complemented by co-hosted secondary-symbionts (McCutcheon and Moran 2012). In Bemisia tabaci species complex, the primary-symbiont is Candidatus Portiera aleyrodidarium, with seven secondary-symbionts that have been described to date. The prevalence and dynamics of these secondary-symbionts have been studied in various whitefly populations and genetic groups around the world, and certain combinations are determined under specific biotic and environmental factors (Zchori-Fein et al. 2014).

To understand the potential metabolic or other interactions of various secondary-symbionts with Ca. Portiera aleyrodidarium and the hosts, Mouton et al. used metabarcoding approach and diagnostic PCR confirmation, to describe symbiont compositions in a collection of whiteflies from eight populations with four genetic groups in Burkina Faso. They found that one of the previously recorded secondary-symbiont from Asian whitefly populations, Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus, is also found in the tested African whiteflies. The newly identified Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus forms a different strain than the ones described in Asia, and is found in high prevalence in six of the tested populations and in three genetic groups. They also showed that Portiera densities are not affected by the presence of Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus. The authors suggest that based on its high prevalence, Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus may benefit certain whitefly populations, however, there is no attempt to test this assumption or to relate it to environmental factors, or to identify the source of introduction.

Mouton et al. bring new perspectives to the study of complex hemipteran symbioses, emphasizing the need to use both unbiased approaches such as metabarcoding, together with a priori methods such as PCR, in order to receive a complete description of symbiont population structures. Their findings are awaiting future screens for this secondary-symbiont, as well as its functional genomics and experimental manipulations to clarify its role. Discoveries on whitefly-symbionts delicate interactions are required to develop alternative control strategies for this worldly devastating pest.


McCutcheon JP, Moran NA (2012) Extreme genome reduction in symbiotic bacteria. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 10, 13–26.

Mouton L, Henri H, Romba R, Belgaidi Z, Gnankiné O, Vavre F (2022) Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continent. bioRxiv, 2021.10.06.463217, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Zchori-Fein E, Lahav T, Freilich S (2014) Variations in the identity and complexity of endosymbiont combinations in whitefly hosts. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5.

Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continentLaurence Mouton, Helene Henri, Rahim Romba, Zainab Belgaidi, Olivier Gnankine, Fabrice Vavre<p style="text-align: justify;">Microbial symbionts are widespread in insects and some of them have been associated to adaptive changes. Primary symbionts (P-symbionts) have a nutritional role that allows their hosts to feed on unbalanced diets (p...Biological invasions, Pest management, SymbiosisYuval Gottlieb2021-10-11 17:45:22 View
09 Feb 2023
article picture

A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva

A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva

Recommended by based on reviews by 3 anonymous reviewers

This article [1] investigated two nematode genera, Panagrolaimus and Plectus, from the Siberian permafrost to unravel the adaptations allowing them to survive cryptobiosis; radio carbon dating showed that the individuals of Panagrolaimus had been in cryobiosis in Siberia for as long as 46,000 years! 

I was impressed by the multidisciplinary approach of this study, including morphological as well as phylogenetic and -genomic analyses to describe a new species. In triploids as some of the species studied here, it is quite challenging to assemble a novel genome. The authors furthermore not only managed to successfully reanimate the Siberian specimens but could also expose them to repeated freezing and desiccation in the lab, not an easy task.

This study reports some amazing discoveries - comparing the molecular toolkits between C. elegans and Panagrolaimus and Plectus revealed that several components were orthologues. Likewise, some of the biochemical mechanisms for surviving freezing in the lab turned out to be similar for C. elegans and the Siberian nematodes. This study thus provides strong evidence that nematodes developed specific mechanisms allowing them to stay in cryobiosis over very long times.

A surprising additional experimental result concerns the well-studied C. elegans - dauer larvae of this species can stay viable much longer after periods of animated suspension than previously thought.

I highly recommend this article as it is an important contribution to the fields of evolution and molecular biology. This study greatly advanced our understanding of how nematodes could have adapted to cryobiosis. The applied techniques could also be useful for studying similar research questions in other organisms.


[1] Shatilovich A, Gade VR, Pippel M, Hoffmeyer TT, Tchesunov AV, Stevens L, Winkler S, Hughes GM, Traikov S, Hiller M, Rivkina E, Schiffer PH, Myers EW, Kurzchalia TV (2023) A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva. bioRxiv, 2022.01.28.478251, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larvaAnastasia Shatilovich, Vamshidhar R. Gade, Martin Pippel, Tarja T. Hoffmeyer, Alexei V. Tchesunov, Lewis Stevens, Sylke Winkler, Graham M. Hughes, Sofia Traikov, Michael Hiller, Elizaveta Rivkina, Philipp H. Schiffer, Eugene W Myers, Teymuras V. K...<p style="text-align: justify;">Some organisms in nature have developed the ability to enter a state of suspended metabolism called cryptobiosis1 when environmental conditions are unfavorable. This state-transition requires the execution of comple...Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/GenomicsIsa Schon2022-05-20 14:32:02 View
30 Nov 2022
article picture

A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases.

Harnessing the full potential of iNaturalist and other databases

Recommended by based on reviews by Clive Hambler and Catherine Scott

The popularity of iNaturalist and other online biodiversity databases to which the general public and specialists alike contribute observations has skyrocketed in recent years (Dance 2022). The AI-based algorithms (computer vision) which provide the first identification of a given organism on an uploaded photograph have become very sophisticated, suggesting initial identifications often down to species level with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. The initial identifications are then confirmed or improved by feedback from the community, which works particularly well for organismal groups to which many active community members contribute, such as the birds. Hence, providing initial observations and identifying observations of others, as well as browsing the recorded biodiversity for given locales or the range of occurrences of individual taxa has become a meaningful and satisfying experience for the interested naturalist. Furthermore, several research studies have now been published relying on observations uploaded to iNaturalist (Szentivanyi and Vincze 2022). However, using the enormous amount of natural history data available on iNaturalist in a systematic way has remained challenging, since this requires not only retrieving numerous observations from the database (in the hundreds or even thousands), but also some level of transparent quality control.

Billotte (2022) provides a protocol and R scripts for the quality assessment of downloaded observations from iNaturalist, allowing an efficient and reproducible stepwise approach to prepare a high-quality data set for further analysis. First, observations with their associated metadata are downloaded from iNaturalist, along with the corresponding entries from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). In addition, a taxonomic reference list is obtained (these are available online for many taxa), which is used to assess the taxonomic consistency in the dataset. Second, the geo-tagging is assessed by comparing the iNaturalist and GBIF metadata. Lastly, the image quality is assessed using pyBRISQUE. The approach is illustrated using spiders (Araneae) as an example. Spiders are a very diverse taxon and an excellent taxonomic reference list is available (World Spider Catalogue 2022). However, spiders are not well known to most non-specialists, and it is not easy to take good pictures of spiders without using professional equipment. Therefore, the ability of iNaturalist’s computer vision to provide identifications is limited to this date and the community of specialists active on iNaturalist is comparatively small. Hence, spiders are a good taxon to demonstrate how the pipeline results in a quality-controlled dataset based on crowed-sourced data. Importantly, the software employed is free to use, although inevitably, the initial learning curve to use R scripts can be steep, depending on prior expertise with R/RStudio. Furthermore, the approach is employable with databases other than iNaturalist.

In summary, Billotte's (2022) pipeline allows researchers to use the wealth of observations on iNaturalist and other databases to produce large metadata and image datasets of high-quality in a reproducible way. This should pave the way for more studies, which could include, for example, the assessment of range expansions of invasive species or the evaluation of the presence of endangered species, potentially supporting conservation efforts.


Billotte J (2022) A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases. BiorXiv, 2022.04.29.490112, ver 5 peer reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Zoology.

Dance A (2022) Community science draws on the power of the crowd. Nature, 609, 641–643.

Szentivanyi T, Vincze O (2022) Tracking wildlife diseases using community science: an example through toad myiasis. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 68, 74.

World Spider Catalog (2022). World Spider Catalog. Version 23.5. Natural History Museum Bern, online at

A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases.Jackie Billotte<p style="text-align: justify;">Crowd-sourced biodiversity databases provide easy access to data and images for ecological education and research. One concern with using publicly sourced databases; however, is the quality of their images, taxonomi...Arachnids, Biodiversity, Biology, Conservation biology, Ecology, Insecta, InvertebratesMatthias Foellmer2022-05-03 00:18:23 View
28 Aug 2022
article picture

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
27 Apr 2023
article picture

Brood thermoregulation effectivenessis positively linked to the amount of brood but not to the number of bees in honeybee colonies

Precision and accuracy of honeybee thermoregulation

Recommended by based on reviews by Jakob Wegener and Christopher Mayack

The Western honeybee, Apis mellifera L., is one of the best-studied social insects. It shows a reproductive division of labour, cooperative brood care, and age-related polyethism. Furthermore, honeybees regulate the temperature in the hive. Although bees are invertebrates that are usually ectothermic, this is still true for individual worker bees, but the colony maintains a very narrow range of temperature, especially within the brood nest. This is quite important as the development of individuals is dependent on ambient temperature, with higher temperatures resulting in accelerated development and vice versa. In honeybees, a feedback mechanism couples developmental temperature and the foraging behaviour of the colony and the future population development (Tautz et al., 2003). Bees raised under lower temperatures are more likely to perform in-hive tasks, while bees raised under higher temperatures are better foragers. To maintain optimal levels of worker population growth and foraging rates, it is adaptive to regulate temperature to ensure optimal levels of developing brood. Moreover, this allows honeybees to decouple the internal developmental processes from ambient temperatures enhancing the ecological success of the species. 

In every system of thermoregulation, whether it is endothermic under the utilization of energetic resources as in mammals or the honeybee or ectothermic as in lower vertebrates and invertebrates through differential exposure to varying environmental temperature gradients, there is a need for precision (low variability) and accuracy (hitting the target temperature). However, in honeybees, the temperature is regulated by workers through muscle contraction and fanning of the wings and thus, a higher number of workers could be better at achieving precise and accurate temperature within the brood nest. Alternatively, the amount of brood could trigger responses with more brood available, a need for more precise and accurate temperature control. The authors aimed at testing these two important factors on the precision and accuracy of within-colony temperature regulation by monitoring 28 colonies equipped with temperature sensors for two years (Godeau et al., 2023).

They found that the number of brood cells predicted the mean temperature (accuracy of thermoregulation). Other environmental factors had a small effect. However, the model incorporating these factors was weak in predicting the temperature as it overestimated temperatures in lower ranges and underestimated temperatures in higher ranges. In contrast, the variability of the target temperature (precision of thermoregulation) was positively affected by the external temperature, while all other factors did not show a significant effect. Again, the model was weak in predicting the data. Overall colony size measured in categories of the number of workers and the number of brood cells did not show major differences in variability of the mean temperature, but a slight positive effect for the number of bees on the mean temperature. 

Unfortunately, the temperature was a poor predictor of colony size. The latter is important as the remote control of beehives using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies get more and more incorporated into beekeeping management. These IoT technologies and their success are dependent on good proxies for the control of the status of the colony. Amongst the factors to monitor, the colony size (number of bees and/or amount of brood) is extremely important, but temperature measurements alone will not allow us to predict colony sizes. Nevertheless, this study showed clearly that the number of brood cells is a crucial factor for the accuracy of thermoregulation in the beehive, while ambient temperature affects the precision of thermoregulation. In the view of climate change, the latter factor seems to be important, as more extreme environmental conditions in the future call for measures of mitigation to ensure the proper functioning of the bee colony, including the maintenance of homeostatic conditions inside of the nest to ensure the delivery of the ecosystem service of pollination.


Godeau U, Pioz M, Martin O, Rüger C, Crauser D, Le Conte Y, Henry M, Alaux C (2023) Brood thermoregulation effectiveness is positively linked to the amount of brood but not to the number of bees in honeybee colonies. EcoEvoRxiv, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology. 

Tautz J, Maier S, Claudia Groh C, Wolfgang Rössler W, Brockmann A (2003) Behavioral performance in adult honey bees is influenced by the temperature experienced during their pupal development. PNAS 100: 7343–7347.

Brood thermoregulation effectivenessis positively linked to the amount of brood but not to the number of bees in honeybee coloniesUgoline Godeau, Maryline Pioz, Olivier Martin, Charlotte Rüger, Didier Crauser, Yves Le Conte, Mickael Henry, Cédric Alaux<p style="text-align: justify;">To ensure the optimal development of brood, a honeybee colony needs to regulate its temperature within a certain range of values (thermoregulation), regardless of environmental changes in biotic and abiotic factors....Biology, Conservation biology, Demography/population dynamics, Ecology, InsectaMichael Lattorff Mauricio Daniel Beranek2022-07-06 09:20:10 View
27 Apr 2023
article picture

Climate of origin influences how a herbivorous mite responds to drought-stressed host plants

Not all spider-mites respond in the same way to drought

Recommended by and based on reviews by Bastien Castagneyrol and 2 anonymous reviewers

Biotic interactions are often shaped by abiotic factors (Liu and Gaines 2022). Although this notion is not new in ecology and evolutionary biology, we are still far from a thorough understanding of how biotic interactions change along abiotic gradients in space and time. This is particularly challenging because abiotic factors can affect organisms and their interactions in multiple – direct or indirect – ways. For example, because abiotic conditions strongly determine how energy enters biological systems via producers, their effects can propagate through entire food webs, from the bottom to the top (O’Connor 2009, Gilbert et al 2019). Understanding how biological diversity - both within and across species - is shaped by the indirect effects of environmental conditions is a timely question as climate change and anthropogenic activities have been altering temperature and water availability across different ecosystems.

Motivated by the current water crisis and severe droughts predicted for the near future worldwide (du Plessis 2019), Migeon et al. (2023) investigated how water limitation on producers scales up to affect life-history patterns of a widespread crop pest, the spider mite Tetranychus urticae. The authors sampled spider mite populations (n = 12) along a striking gradient of climatic conditions (>16 degrees of latitude) in Europe. After letting mites acclimate to lab conditions for several generations, the authors performed a common garden experiment to quantify how the life-history traits of mite populations from different locations respond to drought stress in their host plants.

Curiously, the authors found that, when reared on drought-stressed plants, mites tended to develop faster, had higher fecundity and lower dispersion rates. This response was in line with some results obtained previously with Tetranychus species (e.g. Ximénez-Embun et al 2016). Importantly, despite some experimental caveats in the experimental design, which makes it difficult to completely disentangle the specific effects of location vs. environmental noise, results suggest the climate that populations originally experienced was also an important determinant of the plastic response in these herbivores. In fact, populations from wetter and colder regions showed a steeper change in drought response, while populations from arid climates showed a shallower response. This interesting result suggests the importance of intraspecific (between-populations) variation in the response to drought, which might be explained by the climatic heterogeneity in space throughout the evolutionary history of different populations. These results become even more important in our rapidly changing world, highlighting the importance of considering genetic variation (and conditions that generate it) when predicting plastic and evolutionary responses to stressful conditions.

du Plessis, A. (2019). Current and Future Water Scarcity and Stress. In: Water as an Inescapable Risk. Springer Water. Springer, Cham.
Gibert, J.P. Temperature directly and indirectly influences food web structure. Sci Rep 9, 5312 (2019).
Liu, O. R., & Gaines, S. D. (2022). Environmental context dependency in species interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(36), e2118539119.
Migeon A., Auger P., Fossati-Gaschignard O., Hufbauer R.A, Miranda M., Zriki G., Navajas M. (2023) The response to drought-stressed host plants varies among herbivorous mite populations from a climate gradient. bioRxiv, 2021.10.21.465244, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.
O'Connor, M.I. (2009), Warming strengthens an herbivore-plant interaction. Ecology, 90: 388-398.
Ximénez-Embún, M. G., Ortego, F., & Castañera, P. (2016). Drought-stressed tomato plants trigger bottom-up effects on the invasive Tetranychus evansi. PloS one, 11(1), e0145275.

Climate of origin influences how a herbivorous mite responds to drought-stressed host plantsAlain Migeon, Philippe Auger, Odile Fossati-Gaschignard, Ruth A. Hufbauer, Maëva Miranda, Ghais Zriki, Maria Navajas<p style="text-align: justify;">Drought associated with climate change can stress plants, altering their interactions with phytophagous arthropods. Drought not only impacts cultivated plants but also their parasites, which in some cases are favore...Acari, Ecology, Life historiesInês Fragata2021-10-22 14:56:03 View
02 Nov 2021
article picture

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
10 Jan 2020
article picture

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
24 Jun 2022
article picture

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
article picture

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