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Research in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Division

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Research highlights


  • No Synergy Needed: Ecological Constraints Favor the Evolution of Eusociality. The theoretical model by Academy Researcher Lutz Fromhage and PhD- student Piret Avila show that the sterile workers in eusocial insects can evolve even if they are relatively inefficient at rearing younger siblings — provided that the alternative option of founding their own nest involves a high risk of failure (e.g. because empty nest sites are scarce, or because searching for them is risky). Similar mechanisms have been suggested to favor temporary helping behavior in cooperatively breeding birds (where helpers are not sterile). By extending this argument to sterile workers of insects, the present study refutes a widely held view that such workers can only evolve if they make a relatively large ('synergistic') contribution to colony productivity. The American Naturalist 186:31-40. 
  • Predator mimicry, not conspicuousness, explains the efficacy of butterfly eyespots. Professor Johanna Mappes together with her colleagues answers to a question whether large conspicuous eyespots on butterfly wings are mimics of vertebrate eyes or just conspicuous markings that causes aversion by butterflies' own predators due to sensory biases, neophobia or sensory overloads. This paper directly tests which of the two hypothesis: the eye-mimicry or conspicuousness hypothesis better explains the evolution of eye-marks in butterfly wings. The paper presents very convincing support for the classic eye-mimicry hypothesis. Although this may sound intuitive, this experiment is the first one that tests this 150 year old hypothesis. Proceedings of Royal Society of London B 282: 20150202.


  • Seasonal changes in predator community switch the direction of selection for prey defences. Aposematism has typically been considered a successful antipredatory strategy once established. The results from the large field experiment by professor Johanna Mappes’s team (Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions Research) the demonstrates that naïve predators have to be educated every year anew (crypsis is favored over warning colors when fledglings are abundant) showing that the old evolutionary problem of apparent altruism of prey that educate naïve predators recurs in every generation. Poor survival of conspicuous prey in the presence of fledglings explains why less than 5% of Lepidopteran species exhibit conspicuous warning signals, as well as why aposematism occurs disproportionately often in seasons when educated individuals dominate the predator community. Nature Communications 5:5016.
  • Unmatedness Promotes the Evolution of Helping More in Diplodiploids than in Haplodiploids. A long-standing hypothesis suggests that haplodiploid sex-determination facilitates the evolution of altruistic helping and eusociality. Recent developments of this hypothesis suggest that mating failures, and their consequences to sex-ratios and inclusive fitness valuations of different classes of kin, may have promoted the evolution of altruistic helping in haplodiploids. However, Petri Rautiala and Mikael Puurtinen together with Heikki Helanterä from University of Helsinki (all members of Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions Research) show that mating failures actually promote the evolution of altruism more in diplodiploid than in haplodiploid genetic systems. This work highlights the importance of considering the interactions between ecological and genetic factors in the evolution of helping and eusociality. The American Naturalist 184: 318-325.


  • Next generation legacy of symbiosis. A group by Dr. Sandra Varga, Dr. Rocio Vega Frutis and Dr. Minna-Maarit Kytöviita show the first evidence of transgenerational mycorrhiza-mediated maternal and paternal effects in a gynodioecious species Geranium sylvaticum.  Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis affected plant fitness mainly through female functions with enduring effects on the next generation.The trangenerational effects were mainly on the quality of offspring, and these effects were fungal-species specific. New Phytologist 199: 812-821.
  • Challenges of ecological restoration: Lessons from forests in northern Europe. Ecological restoration is more and more commonly used to fight the global biodiversity loss. The questions of what biotopes, where and how to restore are in the center of massive international debate. In 2011, an international group of forest conservation specialists gathered in a meeting in Jyväskylä to discuss the lessons learned and the future challenges to overcome in boreal forest restoration. Now the results of this fruitful meeting have been published as a perspective in Biological Conservation. The group of 30 authors include representatives from ten European countries, nine of them from University of Jyväskylä. Biological Conservation 167: 248–256.
  • Adapted conservation measures are required to save the Iberian lynx in a changing climate. An international group led by Professor Miguel Araújo (University of Copehnagen, Denmark) modeled how the anticipated climate change will eventually lead to a rapid and dramatic decline of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) and probably eradicate the species within 50 years given the present-day conservation efforts. However, when carefully planned reintroduction programme, account for the effects of climate change, prey abundance and habitat connectivity, this group suggests that we could avert extinction of the lynx this century. For the first time, this research group shows why considering prey availability, climate change and their interaction in models is important when designing policies to prevent future biodiversity loss. Nature Climate Change(2013) doi:10.1038/nclimate1954.

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