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Chrosomus saylori (Laurel Dace) is an endangered fish species that exclusively inhabits 2 creeks in Rhea County, TN: Bumbee Creek and Youngs Creek. To the best of our knowledge, the behaviors that Laurel Dace exhibit both during and outside of the breeding season have not been previously documented. In this study, we recorded, analyzed, and documented behaviors that are exhibited by captive Laurel Dace during the breeding season. The behaviors that the Laurel Dace exhibited were chasing, attacking, a sigmoid display, chafing, territoriality, following behind, shoaling, biting of the cloaca, and a dance. We discuss the occurrence of these behaviors in relation to reproduction and the behaviors of relatives of the Laurel Dace.
The Blackland Prairie Ecoregion of Alabama and Mississippi, formerly a mosaic of prairie, shrubland, and forest, has undergone massive landcover change in the past 2 centuries. Even though the region is now dominated by agriculture and ranchland, disturbance-dependent birds—a guild in decline—continue to inhabit the Blackland Prairie Ecoregion. Therefore, we investigated the relationship between landscape patterns at 4 spatial scales (within 200 m, 600 m, 1000 m, and 3000 m of survey points) and occupancy for 17 species of disturbance-dependent birds. We used a Bayesian occupancy model to relate avian detections to landcover covariates and used stochastic search variable selection to identify covariates that were relevant to occupancy for each species. The amount of canopy cover was the covariate most frequently identified as relevant to occupancy. Grassland and open-country species showed a negative relationship with canopy cover, while shrubland species showed a positive relationship with canopy cover. The association between occupancy and covariates was strongest at the smaller spatial scales, though covariates at the larger spatial scales were still selected as relevant to occupancy. Our results highlight the importance for land managers to consider the landscape context prior to making on-the-ground conservation action; measures aimed to conserve grasslands, for example, will likely be ineffective if they take place in landscapes with high canopy cover.
There is substantial interest in the restoration of the Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) savannas in the southeastern US Coastal Plain, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world and also home to a diverse plant assemblage. Better understanding of the pollination ecology of these plants is necessary for their successful conservation and restoration. In this study, we assessed the rates of self-compatibility and pollen limitation in Carphephorus bellidifolius (Sandywoods Chaffhead), Liatris squarrulosa (Appalachian Blazing Star), and Aristida beyrichiana (Wiregrass)—3 perennial understory herbaceous species of conservation interest. We measured self-compatibility with a pollination-exclusion–bag experiment and pollen limitation with a pollen-supplementation experiment within South Carolina populations. We found no evidence of pollen limitation in any of these 3 species. This result is surprising given the high incidence of pollen limitation typically found in other study systems. Our pollination-exclusion bag experiment showed that Sandywoods Chaffhead likely requires out-cross pollen for successful pollination, whereas both Appalachian Blazing Star and Wiregrass appear to exhibit at least low levels of self-compatibility. Taken together, our results may indicate that the active management of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem with prescribed fire and overstory tree removal has supported sufficient pollination in these plant populations.
The late-winter ephemeral Leavenworthia exigua var. lutea (Tennessee Gladecress; Brassicaceae), has historically been known from moist limestone and dolomite cedar glades in Tennessee and Alabama. Until this study, its distribution included only 8 glades in 6 counties of the Valley and Ridge, Appalachian Plateau, and Interior Low Plateau physiographic provinces in Alabama. During early spring of 2017, 2018, and 2019, we examined 26 Alabama glades for the presence of this very rare taxon. The historic populations in Jefferson and St. Clair counties of central Alabama have been extirpated by habitat destruction from urbanization. The population of L. exigua var. lutea reported from Colbert County (northwestern Alabama) could not be relocated, while that in Lawrence County (north-central Alabama) was found to be based on misidentified specimens of L. alabamica (Alabama Gladecress) with yellow flowers. This study documents 9 new records of L. exigua var. lutea in Shelby and Sumter counties, more than doubling the known populations in Alabama and extending its distribution into the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Monitoring biodiversity over time allows for temporal comparisons of community composition and potential shifts in community resilience. We surveyed the herpetofauna assemblage at a maritime forest in Dare County, NC, during late spring and summer of 2012, which was 25 years since the last survey. Our goal was to resurvey the preserve and compare the alpha (α), beta (β), and gamma (γ) diversity values between 1987 and 2012 to quantify changes in assemblage composition using similarity indices. We found that assemblage structure became less similar temporally and spatially at the different habitats sampled but remained similar between survey years. Our study shows the importance of resurveying preserve diversity to determine shifts in assemblage and loss of biodiversity.
Alligatorweed leaf spot is a disease of invasive Alternanthera philoxeroides (Alligatorweed) in the southern US, caused by Alternaria alternantherae. However, little is known about when or where this pathogen naturally occurs. To better understand this species’ life history, we examined temporal (every 2–3 weeks) and spatial (latitudinal) patterns of A. alternantherae occurrence at sites in Louisiana for 2 y. Pathogen presence reflected clear within-year temporal and spatial patterns. Overall, the percentage of leaves infected with A. alternantherae was low during spring each year (0–20% infected) but increased throughout summer (maximum of 50% infected), and plants in northern sites had lower frequency of infection relative to southern sites until later in the year (late summer/early fall) but only in 1 of the 2 years of our study. The mean proportion of leaves infected with A. alternantherae declined with latitude both years (P = 0.01) and variability increased with latitude (P = 0.04), a pattern suggestive of range limitation in northern areas. We estimate a northern distributional limit of 34°N for A. alternantherae in Louisiana, but Alligatorweed occurs farther north. Although we did not directly examine disease impacts to Alligatorweed during the study, they may be greatest in southern areas, where the pathogen is more common early and throughout the growing season, and thus may be less likely to provide control in northern infestations of the invasive Alligatorweed.
Freshwater red algae are important components of the algal flora in streams and rivers with high water quality. The order Batrachospermales is the most species-rich portion of the red algal taxa reported throughout North America. We investigated 30 stream segments in South Carolina for the presence of freshwater red algae classified within the Batrachospermales. We collected a total of 50 specimens representing 7 genera and 9 species. We documented Batrachospermum gelatinosum, B. turfosum, Kumanoa skujana, Montagnia australis, Sheathia americana, S. heterocortica, Sirodotia suecica, Tuomeya americana, and Virescentia viride-americana. We observed M. australis and T. americana from the greatest number of streams and in multiple years from the same site. We observed V. viride-americana in 3 streams; our specimens represent the only new record for the state. We generated DNA sequence data of the rbcL gene or gleaned it from the literature for 8 of the 9 taxa identified in the study and confirmed their morphological identification. We collected stream temperature, pH, and conductivity data from sites where we collected 6 of the taxa (Batrachospermum gelatinosum, B. turfosum, M. australis, Sheathia americana, T. americana, and V. viride-americana). Our records were within previously reported ranges for these taxa, although water temperatures tended to be higher than those in previous reports. Present data for the diversity of Batrachospermales in South Carolina represent 64% of the generic/infrageneric and 20% of the species diversity known for North America. This diversity may still be an underestimation of what might be detected by future studies that target more specialized habitats; taxa that are known from neighboring states but not yet reported from South Carolina might be discovered.
Fluctuating populations of native and non-native Pomacea spp. (apple snails) pose a particular concern to managers tasked with developing recovery plans for the endangered Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus (Everglades Snail Kite) in Florida because the snails are the primary food source for the kite. The data presented herein provide observational records and quantitative evaluation of Pomacea paludosa (Florida Apple Snail) and P. maculata (Island Apple Snail) occurrences in a variety of Florida aquatic ecosystems. Qualitative observations documented Florida Apple Snail and Island Apple Snail in water depths up to 14.6 m and 8.4 m, respectively. In 1 study location, 65% of all apple snail species were in depths greater than 0.75 m. This data suggests that in areas where apple snails appear to be rare or absent from shallow habitats (<1.0 m), surveys in deeper waters should also be conducted because apple snails may be found there.
Bird population dynamics are strongly affected by the ability to successfully reproduce, and nest predation is the primary cause of reproductive failure for most birds. Efforts to understand nest predation and manage its effects on species of conservation concern require knowledge of the ecology of associated predator assemblages. Recently, studies using cameras to record events at nests have illuminated this previously under-studied avian life stage, but such studies have been largely limited to open-cup nests. Cavity nests may be depredated by a different suite of predators, and incubating or brooding females occupying such nests may be more vulnerable to predation relative to open-cup nests. Here, we used motion-activated, infrared trail cameras to record predators of artificial nest boxes in a Pinus palustris Mill. (Longleaf Pine) forest in southern Alabama. Although Glaucomys volans L. (Southern Flying Squirrel) have only rarely been captured on film preying on nests, we found them to be responsible for the vast majority (84%) of bird-nest depredations at nest boxes, and these depredations contributed to a surprisingly low overall rate of nest success (∼20%). These results may have implications for the conservation of birds that nest in artificial cavities in Longleaf Pine forests and highlight the importance of further studies on predator assemblages and their effects on nesting birds.
We report herein on novel observations of associations between 2 teleost species and a variety of shark species in the Gulf of Mexico. Using underwater video, we observed Decapterus punctatus (Round Scad) and Chloroscombrus chrysurus (Atlantic Bumper) associating with both Carcharhinus limbatus (Blacktip Shark) and Carcharhinus brevipinna (Spinner Shark). We also observed Round Scad associating with Carcharhinus acronotus (Blacknose Shark). Both Round Scad and Atlantic Bumpers schooled around and followed these sharks. We observed Round Scad in schools averaging 54 individuals that tended to stay posterior to the pectoral fins of the shark. These observations prompted a novel on-line image survey wherein we found that Round Scad were associated with 3 additional shark species. Online media platforms have not been commonly utilized for data collection, and to our knowledge, this is the first study to conduct a Google Image survey to obtain data supporting interspecific associations. This paper is also the first report of an apparent symbiosis between various shark species with Round Scad and with Atlantic Bumpers. There are few reports of associations with sharks aside from well-known examples, such as Echeneis naucrates (Sharksucker), Naucrates ductor (Pilotfish), and Labroides spp. (cleaner wrasses). These results provide additional information to the body of literature about symbioses between top predators, such as sharks, and teleosts.
Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker) has been reported drilling sap wells in more than 250 species of trees and woody vines in eastern North America. Criteria for species selection and use of geographically restricted endemics are poorly understood. Here I report drilling frequencies in Cotinus obovatus (American Smoketree), a rare endemic whose center of abundance occurs in the wintering range of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the Ozark Mountains. Horizontal bands of sap wells were present on 4.5% of specimens (DBH ≥ 7 cm; n = 402) and 12.1% of larger-diameter classes (DBH ≥ 20 cm; n = 149). Sapsuckers preferred larger trees exhibiting little cambial dieback. Latticed arrays of sap wells similar to those observed on breeding territories were present on several large specimens. This survey indicates that the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker exploits rare species that may only be encountered on their winter territories. Documentation of a yearling inspecting a preexisting array of sap wells suggests that yearlings may obtain cues for appropriate tree species selection by examining sapsucker drillings encountered on wintering grounds. Because sap wells persist for years, cultural transmission of sapping information is likely transgenerational.
On the nights of 27, 28, and 29 April 2018, we used aerial radio-telemetry to track a female Perimyotis subflavus (Tri-colored Bat) as she migrated a straight-line distance of 243 km from a cave in southern Tennessee to a roost in Peachtree City, GA. To our knowledge, this represents the longest and most detailed spring migration track recorded for this species and places the Tri-colored Bat in the category of regional migrant.
Non-consumptive effects of predators on prey populations have received increased interest in recent years. For Crassostrea virginica (Eastern Oyster), much of the focus has been on induced morphological defenses (e.g., shell thickening). Here, we provide in situ documentation of a behavioral response of Eastern Oysters (valve closure) to the threat of predation on a natural reef. This behavioral response, while intuitive, has been largely ignored in the literature despite potential impacts on individual oyster health by affecting feeding and subsequently energy assimilation, reproductive condition, and growth. In situ photographs revealed that, under natural conditions, Eastern Oysters closed during the passive presence of a crab mate-guarding pair and took ∼5 minutes to reopen to pre-predator gapes. Given that multiple oysters in our photos reacted similarly, this behavioral response may scale up to have effects on the population and the ecosystem services that Eastern Oysters provide. Ultimately, our observations open the door to a number of testable hypotheses regarding a predator's non-consumptive effects on oyster reefs.
Many species of amphibians and reptiles shed and sometimes consume all or part of the slough (dermatophagy). However, detailed accounts of these behaviors are lacking. The potential relationship between sloughing and social behavior in amphibians is largely unexplored. Herein, I describe 4 observations of shedding and 1 of dermatophagy during courtship for 2 species of lungless salamanders (Family Plethodontidae): Desmognathus valentinei (Valentine's Southern Dusky Salamander) and Desmognathus conanti (Spotted Dusky Salamander). Two of the salamanders were recently inseminated females and each lost a sperm cap during shedding. I explore multiple hypotheses for the potential relationship between courtship and shedding in lungless salamanders, including the possibility that shedding serves as a means of cryptic female choice.
Numerous vertebrate species including Pituophis spp. (pine snakes) and birds of prey have been shown to consume Geomys pinetis (Southeastern Pocket Gopher), but its full spectrum of predators remains undocumented. As a part of a larger project involving radiotracking Southeastern Pocket Gophers in southwestern Georgia, a female Pocket Gopher was consumed by a Crotalus horridus (Timber Rattlesnake) while making an aboveground movement. Timber Rattlesnakes are a previously undocumented predator for Southeastern Pocket Gophers. Our observation further demonstrates predation risks associated with aboveground movement.