16/09/2022 A new paper is out, and this one is a bit different. We conceived and designed an applied card game – Ecologist’s Career Compass – to help prospective ecologists with acquiring knowledge about the diversity of career paths that exist in ecology and related fields (e.g., conservation), and the skills they need to successfully make it in each path. It can also help academic mentors with advising their mentees and students with career development efforts. The game is free for printing Here.
We, in collaboration with bats expert Christian Voigt, studied ways to quantify the relative level of species’ “urban affinity” based on publicly available distribution records and the association between urban affinity and species traits. We explored this with a global set of bat species.
We wanted to find out the following:
1. Given a set of indices reflecting species urban affinity, does the position of species along the urban affinity gradient depends on the chosen index?
2. How does it affect our inference of how species traits are associated with urban affinity?
So we developed eigth continuous quantitative urban affinity indices (with some variations), based on cleaned GBIF data . These are reproducible & applicable to any organism. We used urban affinity scores from a recent meta-analysis (Jung and Threlfall 2018) as another index. We found that different indices resulted in somewhat different rankings of species on the urban affinity spectrum, but the meta-analysis scores produced a completely different ranking from our distribution record-based indices. Yet, all our indices produced roughly similar models of urban affinity-trait associations (but not the meta-analysis scores). As expected, we found “urban” bats tend to be smaller, produce less frequent & longer echolocation calls & are more flexible with roosting requirements. We concluded that to study the factors shaping urban affinity & compare them across taxa and regions, the simpler (easier & faster to calculate) quantitative indices are adequate, more practical, and a preferred option. Because urbanization severely contributes to recent biodiversity loss, we think that finding ways to identify and predict which species thrive in, and which disappear from urban areas, and why, is key to guide urban nature conservation and planning and out study is a step in this direction.
03/09/2021 Two new papers our out!
Those were really fun to work on!
Here we describe a genuinely fascinating finding: on Plakida – a small remote island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 86 km west of Rhodes, and 117 km SE of Crete, live only two lizard species – Podarcis erhardii and Mediodactylus oertzeni. So far, everything normal – Podarcis lacertid lizards and Mediodacylus geckos live on most Aegean islands, including very small rock-like islands. The thing is that both populations in Plakida represent inverse extreme size forms for their clades: the Podarcis there have the largest body of any insular Podarcis erhardii population (and are in the top three for the genus in the region), and the Mediodactylus population have the smallest body for their genus in the region. Why is that so, and what are the ecological implications? Based on previous indications and examination of the population densities and tail-loss rates of these populations we think that the Podarcis prey upon the geckos! This is unusual for these two alleged insectivorous competitors, and this relationship shift shows the impact insular conditions can have on resident biota. In addition, it demonstrates how similar environmental conditions can result in inverse evolutionary trajectories of species traits.
Here we (Alex Slavenko, Erez Maza and me) describe the results of the first ever herpetological survey of the few small islands off shore Israel. Yes, Israel has a few islets, and no one ever properly surveyed them, so we were very curious what lives there beside some water birds and pigeons. And it turns out they are full of reptile life, considering their really small sizes. We found several species: Ablepharus rueppellii, Acanthodactylus boskianus, Chalcides ocellatus, Hemidactylus turcicus, and even a small (dead, probably flushed to the island) Mauremys rivulata! Whether these are relict populations from the time these islets were connected to the mainland or populations resulting from introductions by humans we can’t tell. Still, these rocks in the sea maintain a nice set of reptile species.
Nature can be so surprising sometimes!
23/05/2021 A new paper is out!
We (Led by Rachel Schwarz) studied whether microhabitat preference drives divergence in functional morphology and performance at the intraspecific level. Our habitat preference and clinging ability experiments indicated that individuals of our model species, the gecko Mediodactylus kotschyi, tend to prefer trees over rocks, cling better to arboreal substrates than rocky ones, and show morphological adaptations that enhance clinging to rough surfaces (like wood) regardles of whether they originated from a habitat containing or devoid of trees. These results suggest that while they manage to prosper in both types of habitats (rendering them habitat “generalists”), they strongly tend to arboreality (implying they are more “specialist”). This study thus demonstrates that agradient, rather than a dichotomous categorization, better represents the level of generalism/specialism of species in their ecological niche. You can find the paper here: https://academic.oup.com/icb/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/icb/icab066/6278354.
08/02/2021 A new paper is out!
We (led by Shai Meiri) studied and compared the reproductive traits of amniotes (mammals, birds and reptiles) from a macroecological perspective. We found that a great deal of similarity exists among placental mammals, birds and squamates, but turtles and marsupials are strikingly different: https://jbiolres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40709-021-00134-9
I had fun talking in the IBS’s Humboldt day event (https://www.humboldtday.org/2020-events/) about island-like systems and how they biologically compare to true islands.
06/2020 Well, my website is now on-line! Woo-hoo! So here is a cool lizard (Podarcis milensis) in an urban setting (Milos Island) for the start: