Keicher, Lara


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Stable carbon isotopes in breath reveal fast metabolic incorporation rates and seasonally variable but rapid fat turnover in the common shrew (Sorex araneus)

2017-08-02, Keicher, Lara, O'Mara, Michael Teague, Voigt, Christian C., Dechmann, Dina K. N.

Small non-migratory mammals with Northern distribution ranges apply a variety of behavioural and physiological wintering strategies. A rare energy-saving strategy is Dehnel's phenomenon, involving a reduction and later regrowth of the body size, several organs and parts of the skeleton in red-toothed shrews (Soricidae). The size extremes coincide with major life stages. However, the physiological consequences for the shrew's metabolism remain poorly understood. In keeping with the energetic limitations that may induce the size changes, we hypothesised that metabolic incorporation rates should remain the same across the shrews' lifetimes. In contrast, fat turnover rates should be faster in smaller subadults than in large juveniles and regrown adults, as the metabolic activity of fat tissue increases in winter individuals (subadults). Measuring the changes in the ratio of exhaled stable carbon isotopes, we found that the baseline diet of shrews changed across the season. A diet switch experiment showed that incorporation rates were consistently rapid (t50=38.2±21.1-69.3±53.5 min) and did not change between seasons. As predicted, fat turnover rates were faster in size-reduced subadults (t50=2.1±1.3 h) compared with larger juveniles (t50=5.5±1.7 h) and regrown adults (t50=5.0±4.4 h). In all three age/size classes, all body fat was turned over after 9-24 h. These results show that high levels of nutrient uptake are independent of body size, whereas fat turnover rates are negatively correlated with body size. Thus, the shrews might be under higher pressure to save energy in winter and this may have supported the evolution of Dehnel's phenomenon.


Growth overshoot and seasonal size changes in the skulls of two weasel species

2017-01-25, LaPoint, Scott, Keicher, Lara, Wikelski, Martin, Zub, Karol, Dechmann, Dina K. N.

Ontogenetic changes in mammalian skulls are complex. For a very few species (i.e. some Sorex shrews), these also include seasonally driven, bidirectional size changes within individuals, presumably to reduce energy requirements during low resource availabilities. These patterns are poorly understood, but are likely most pronounced in high-metabolic species with limited means for energy conservation. We used generalized additive models to quantify the effect of location, Julian day, age and sex on the length and depth of 512 and 847 skulls of stoat (Mustela erminea) and weasel (M. nivalis) specimens collected throughout the northern hemisphere. Skull length of both species varies between sexes and geographically, with stoat skull length positively correlated with latitude. Both species demonstrate seasonal and ontogenetic patterns, including a rare, absolute growth overshoot in juvenile braincase depth. Standardized braincase depths of both species peak in their first summer, then decrease in their first winter, followed by a remarkable regrowth that peaks again during their second summer. This seasonal pattern varies in magnitude and timing between geographical regions and the sexes, matching predictions of Dehnel's phenomenon. This suggests implications for the evolution of over-wintering strategies in mammals, justifying further research on their mechanisms and value, with implications for applied osteology research.


The Integrated Genomic Architecture and Evolution of Dental Divergence in East African Cichlid Fishes (Haplochromis chilotes x H. nyererei)

2017, Hulsey, Christopher Darrin, Machado-Schiaffino, Gonzalo, Keicher, Lara, Ellis Soto, Diego, Henning, Frederico, Meyer, Axel

The independent evolution of the two toothed jaws of cichlid fishes is thought to have promoted their unparalleled ecological divergence and species richness. However, dental divergence in cichlids could exhibit substantial genetic covariance and this could dictate how traits like tooth numbers evolve in different African Lakes and on their two jaws. To test this hypothesis, we used a hybrid mapping cross of two trophically divergent Lake Victoria species (Haplochromis chilotes × Haplochromis nyererei) to examine genomic regions associated with cichlid tooth diversity. Surprisingly, a similar genomic region was found to be associated with oral jaw tooth numbers in cichlids from both Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria. Likewise, this same genomic location was associated with variation in pharyngeal jaw tooth numbers. Similar relationships between tooth numbers on the two jaws in both our Victoria hybrid population and across the phylogenetic diversity of Malawi cichlids additionally suggests that tooth numbers on the two jaws of haplochromine cichlids might generally coevolve owing to shared genetic underpinnings. Integrated, rather than independent, genomic architectures could be key to the incomparable evolutionary divergence and convergence in cichlid tooth numbers.