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      Evolution of coprophagy and nutrient absorption in a Cave Salamander

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      Subterranean Biology

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The transition from carnivory to omnivory is poorly understood. The ability to feed at more than one trophic level theoretically increases an animal’s fitness in a novel environment. Because of the absence of light and photosynthesis, most subterranean ecosystems are characterized by very few trophic levels, such that food scarcity is a challenge in many subterranean habitats. One strategy against starvation is to expand diet breadth. Grotto Salamanders (Eurycea spelaea (Stejneger, 1892)) are known to ingest bat guano deliberately, challenging the general understanding that salamanders are strictly carnivorous. Here we tested the hypothesis that grotto salamanders have broadened their diet related to cave adaptation and found that, although coprophagous behavior is present, salamanders are unable to acquire sufficient nutrition from bat guano alone. Our results suggest that the coprophagic behavior has emerged prior to physiological or gut biome adaptations.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Explosive evolutionary radiations: decreasing speciation or increasing extinction through time?

          A common pattern in time-calibrated molecular phylogenies is a signal of rapid diversification early in the history of a radiation. Because the net rate of diversification is the difference between speciation and extinction rates, such "explosive-early" diversification could result either from temporally declining speciation rates or from increasing extinction rates through time. Distinguishing between these alternatives is challenging but important, because these processes likely result from different ecological drivers of diversification. Here we develop a method for estimating speciation and extinction rates that vary continuously through time. By applying this approach to real phylogenies with explosive-early diversification and by modeling features of lineage-accumulation curves under both declining speciation and increasing extinction scenarios, we show that a signal of explosive-early diversification in phylogenies of extant taxa cannot result from increasing extinction and can only be explained by temporally declining speciation rates. Moreover, whenever extinction rates are high, "explosive early" patterns become unobservable, because high extinction quickly erases the signature of even large declines in speciation rates. Although extinction may obscure patterns of evolutionary diversification, these results show that decreasing speciation is often distinguishable from increasing extinction in the numerous molecular phylogenies of radiations that retain a preponderance of early lineages.
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            Evolution of a behavioral shift mediated by superficial neuromasts helps cavefish find food in darkness.

            How cave animals adapt to life in darkness is a poorly understood aspect of evolutionary biology [1]. Here we identify a behavioral shift and its morphological basis in Astyanax mexicanus, a teleost with a sighted surface-dwelling form (surface fish) and various blind cave-dwelling forms (cavefish) [2-4]. Vibration attraction behavior (VAB) is the ability of fish to swim toward the source of a water disturbance in darkness. VAB was typically seen in cavefish, rarely in surface fish, and was advantageous for feeding success in the dark. The potential for showing VAB has a genetic component and is linked to the mechanosensory function of the lateral line. VAB was evoked by vibration stimuli peaking at 35 Hz, blocked by lateral line inhibitors, first detected after developmental increases in superficial neuromast (SN) number and size [5-7], and significantly reduced by bilateral ablation of SN. We conclude that VAB and SN enhancement coevolved to compensate for loss of vision and to help blind cavefish find food in darkness. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Ecology of Cave Arthropods

               F Howarth (1983)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Subterranean Biology
                SB
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-2615
                1768-1448
                November 03 2017
                November 03 2017
                : 24
                : 1-9
                Article
                10.3897/subtbiol.24.15013
                © 2017

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