New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 27 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Dung Beetles Eat Acorns to Increase Their Ovarian Development and Thermal Tolerance:

Animals eat different foods in proportions that yield a more favorable balance of nutrients. Despite known examples of these behaviors across different taxa, their ecological and physiological benefits remain unclear. We identified a surprising dietary shift that confers ecophysiological advantages in a dung beetle species. Thorectes lusitanicus, a Mediterranean ecosystem species adapted to eat semi-dry and dry dung (dung-fiber consumers) is also actively attracted to oak acorns, consuming and burying them. Acorn consumption appears to confer potential advantages over beetles that do not eat acorns: acorn-fed beetles showed important improvements in the fat body mass, hemolymph composition, and ovary development. During the reproductive period (October-December) beetles incorporating acorns into their diets should have greatly improved resistance to low-temperature conditions and improved ovarian development. In addition to enhancing the understanding of the relevance of dietary plasticity to the evolutionary biology of dung beetles, these results open the way to a more general understanding of the ecophysiological implications of differential dietary selection on the ecology and biogeography of these insects.

Potential Component Allee Effects and Their Impact on Wetland Management in the Conservation of Endangered Anurans:

Effective management of wetland quantity and quality is crucial for effective conservation of declining amphibian populations. In particular, frogs and toads that employ aggregative breeding strategies may suffer negative population impacts in response to changes in availability of aquatic breeding habitat, including overabundance of suitable habitat, if density of conspecifics attending aggregations is positively correlated with reproductive success. Here we document such a positive relationship, potentially the first example of a component Allee effect in an anuran, in the critically endangered Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis). We assessed the relationship between mean yearly chorus size and reproductive success of males at the pond level using an information theoretic model selection approach and a two-sample t-test. The chosen model contained the single variable of mean yearly chorus size to predict probability of reproduction, as selected using the Akaike Information Criterion corrected for small sample size and Akaike weight. Mean chorus sizes were significantly higher among ponds exhibiting evidence of reproduction than in those that showed no evidence of reproduction. Our results suggest that chorusing alone is a poor proxy for inference of population stability and highlight a need for reassessment of widely-used amphibian monitoring protocols. Further, amphibian conservation efforts should account for potential Allee effects in order to optimize benefits and avoid underestimating critical population thresholds, particularly in species exhibiting rapid population declines.

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