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Session Schedule & Abstracts

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Friday 1st July, 2016

Symposium: Past, Present and Future of Ecological Morphology 1

Room: Salon B   9:30 am–9:45 am

Moderator(s): L. D. McBrayer, E. J. McElroy, & R. Wilson
ECO1-1  9:30 am  Introduction to the symposium. McElroy EJ*, College of Charleston; McBrayer LD, Georgia Southern University; Wilson R, University of Queensland

ECO1-2  9:45 am  Ecomorphology: Insights into adaptation from the analysis of form-function complexes to the dynamics of species diversification. Miles DB*, Ohio University
Abstract: The discipline of ecological morphology has its origins in quantifying the adaptive significance of variation in form-function relationships. Delineating how morphological form affected function within the context of a species' environment provided evidence for the adaptive role of a trait. A key modification of ecomorphological analyses was the application of microevolutionary theory to derive an explicit statistical linkage between morphological variation, performance and fitness. The rise of new methods for estimating performance spurred the additional investigations in ecomorphology. Subsequent extensions include using an historical approach by incorporating phylogenetic information when the conducting comparisons in among-species patterns in the covariation between trait and performance. The integration of phylogenetic information into ecomorphological analyses refined our ability to recognize examples of convergence, community organization and adaptive radiations. There are a surfeit of studies illustrating the link between morphology and performance and performance with ecology, yet we have far fewer examples linking performance with fitness. Recent analyses have shifted to understanding the evolution of performance and determining how trade-off with other key traits, e.g., immunocompetence, mating behavior (courtship and territoriality) can affect physiological performance and alter patterns in ecomorphological associations. These represent promising approaches for linking performance to key components of fitness. Recent approaches in ecomorphological analyses also seek to link species diversification with morphological and functional diversification. However, new challenges are emerging in ecomorphological analyses as a result of the quest to predict how species may cope with rising temperatures and avoid extinction. The ability of species to persist in novel environments may be determined by plasticity in both morphology and physiological performance.

ECO1-3  10:00 am  Adaptations, innovations, and diversification. Wainwright P.C.*, University of California, Davis
Abstract: Innovations in functional morphology, physiology and biochemistry are thought to be a major force in shaping evolutionary patterns, with the potential to drive adaptive radiation and influence the evolutionary prospects for lineages. But the evolutionary consequences of innovation are diverse and usually do not result in adaptive radiation. What factors shape the macroevolutionary impact of innovations and can we predict what kinds of innovation will lead to diversity as opposed to those that result only in greater specialization? I discuss a framework for studying biological innovations in an evolutionary context. Innovations are discrete changes in functional mechanisms that involve novelties and enhance organismal performance. The ubiquity of trade-offs in functional systems means that enhanced performance on one axis often occurs at the expense of performance on another axis, such that many innovations result in more of an exchange of performance capabilities, rather than an expansion. Innovations may open up new resources for exploitation but their consequences on diversification depend heavily on the adaptive landscape around these novel resources. I survey innovations in labrid fishes, an exceptionally successful and ecologically diverse group of reef fishes, and explore their consequences for performance, patterns of resource use, and macroevolution. All of the innovations provide performance enhancements and result in changes in patterns of resource use. But the majority are associated with ecological specialization and only one has promoted further ecological diversification. Because selection acts on the specific performance enhancement and not on the evolutionary potential of an innovation, the enhancement of diversity may be highly serendipitous. The macroevolutionary potential of innovations depends critically on the interaction between the performance enhancement and the ecological opportunity that is exposed.

ECO1-4  10:15 am  Life-history of the multivariate performance phenotype. Lailvaux SP*, University of New Orleans
Abstract: Whole-organism performance traits are key intermediaries between the organism and the environment, as exemplified by the status of performance as the median link in the ecomorphological paradigm. This status means performance evolution is influenced by dynamic organismal factors that shape performance expression in addition to external selection pressures. Because performance traits are energetically costly to both build and maintain, performance will compete with other life-history traits over a limited pool of acquired energetic resources at any given time, potentially leading to trade-offs in performance expression. However, differential resource allocation itself is a function of the genetic architecture underlying the integrated, multivariate organismal phenotype. A proper grasp of the phenotypic relationships among performance and other fitness-related traits therefore requires understanding of the underlying genetic relationships as well. I highlight recent studies that have attempted to uncover these relationships in several animal species using methods ranging from traditional quantitative genetic breeding designs to pedigree analyses and genomics/transcriptomics. I also consider the utility of such methods for predicting performance evolution based on an explicitly multivariate, genetically-informed ecomorphological paradigm.

ECO1-5  10:30 am  Trajectories of insight in ecological morphology: phenotypic integration, speciation, and the Anthropocene. Langerhans RB*, North Carolina State University
Abstract: The study of ecological morphology is currently at a critical stage for uncovering insights in several major areas of research. This current status emerges from technological advances and recent work laying a strong foundation for current pressing questions. Focusing on ecomorphology of locomotion and feeding in animals, I review three core research areas where studies of ecological morphology seem particularly poised for breakthroughs, highlighting promising directions of current and future research in each case. First, understanding the evolution of the whole-organism phenotype is obviously a complex problem, but ecomorphological approaches offer useful means of testing hypotheses about the evolution of phenotypic integration. Recent work has uncovered complex genetic associations among disparate traits, and ecomorphological studies can provide powerful tests for whether genetic architecture largely reflects inherent constraints that bias the direction of evolution, or adaptive trait correlations shaped by correlational selection. Second, ecomorphological studies can help uncover the role of ecology in speciation, specifically by testing how both similar selection and divergent selection can lead to enhanced reproductive isolation through ecomorphological change. This work will help integrate natural and sexual selection, and unite the two contrasting patterns in ecomorphological data of parallel and nonparallel evolution across similar environmental gradients. Finally, ecomorphological studies can serve as a key tool in predicting organismal responses to a rapidly changing, human-dominated world. Ecomorphology could prove critically important for understanding and predicting trait changes in the Anthropocene, helping forge a new conservation science that uses evolutionary biology to help forecast and mitigate biodiversity change, as well as uses prescriptive evolution to guide future biodiversity in desired manners.

ECO1-6  10:45 am  Ecomorphological adaptations to an invasive predator: insights from lizards and fire ants. Langkilde T*, Pennsylvania State University; Thawley C, Pennsylvania State University
Abstract: Invasive species are notorious for wreaking ecological havoc, but provide an (almost unique) opportunity to study ecomorphological adaptations of organisms to novel environmental change. My research utilizes the invasion of one of the world's worst ant pests to study behavioral, morphological and physiological adaptations of a native lizard. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) acts as a novel predator of the eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus). Our research reveals that lizards within fire ant invaded sites have longer hind limbs than do lizards from fire ant free areas. This heritable morphological change supports behavioral adaptations that allow lizards to avoid and escape fire ant attack, as do elevated levels of stress hormones. While the benefits of these adaptations are obvious, fire ants have reversed natural latitudinal gradients in these traits, potentially mismatching animals to the natural environment. Controlled manipulations of individuals' lifetime exposure to the invader, comparisons of populations with different invasion histories, and the use of museum specimens collected from a single population over time have provided insight into the mechanisms driving the responses to fire ants, revealing that evolutionary and lifetime exposure to a threat can interact across ontogeny in complex ways to shape adaptive responses. Our ever-changing world calls for a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding how morphological adaptations interact with changes in other traits to allow population persistence.

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