Evolutionary Ecology Research Group

Budapest, Hungary

Evolutionary Ecology Research Group

Budapest, Hungary
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Keicher L.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell) | Keicher L.,University of Konstanz | Teague O'mara M.,Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell) | Teague O'mara M.,University of Konstanz | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2017

Small non-migratory mammals with Northern distribution ranges apply a variety of behavioural and physiological wintering strategies. A rare energy-saving strategy is Dehnel's phenomenon, involving a reduction and later regrowth of the body size, several organs and parts of the skeleton in red-toothed shrews (Soricidae). The size extremes coincide with major life stages. However, the physiological consequences for the shrew's metabolism remain poorly understood. In keeping with the energetic limitations that may induce the size changes, we hypothesised that metabolic incorporation rates should remain the same across the shrews' lifetimes. In contrast, fat turnover rates should be faster in smaller subadults than in large juveniles and regrown adults, as the metabolic activity of fat tissue increases in winter individuals (subadults). Measuring the changes in the ratio of exhaled stable carbon isotopes, we found that the baseline diet of shrews changed across the season. A diet switch experiment showed that incorporation rates were consistently rapid (t50=38.2±21.1-69.3± 53.5 min) and did not change between seasons. As predicted, fat turnover rates were faster in size-reduced subadults (t50=2.1±1.3 h) compared with larger juveniles (t50=5.5±1.7 h) and regrown adults (t50=5.0±4.4 h). In all three age/size classes, all body fat was turned over after 9-24 h. These results show that high levels of nutrient uptake are independent of body size, whereas fat turnover rates are negatively correlated with body size. Thus, the shrews might be under higher pressure to save energy in winter and this may have supported the evolution of Dehnel's phenomenon. © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


Szilagyi A.,Parmenides Center for Conceptual Foundations of Science | Szilagyi A.,Evolutionary Ecology Research Group | Kun A.,Parmenides Center for Conceptual Foundations of Science | Kun A.,MTA ELTEMTM Ecology Research Group | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The error threshold of replication limits the selectively maintainable genome size against recurrent deleterious mutations for most fitness landscapes. In the context of RNA replication a distinction between the genotypic and the phenotypic error threshold has been made; where the latter concerns the maintenance of secondary structure rather than sequence. RNA secondary structure is treated as a proxy for function. The phenotypic error threshold allows higher per digit mutation rates than its genotypic counterpart, and is known to increase with the frequency of neutral mutations in sequence space. Here we show that the degree of neutrality, i.e. the frequency of nearest-neighbour (one-step) neutral mutants is a remarkably accurate proxy for the overall frequency of such mutants in an experimentally verifiable formula for the phenotypic error threshold; this we achieve by the full numerical solution for the concentration of all sequences in mutation-selection balance up to length 16. We reinforce our previous result that currently known ribozymes could be selectively maintained by the accuracy known from the best available polymerase ribozymes. Furthermore, we show that in silico stabilizing selection can increase the mutational robustness of ribozymes due to the fact that they were produced by artificial directional selection in the first place. Our finding offers a better understanding of the error threshold and provides further insight into the plausibility of an ancient RNA world. © 2014 Szilagyi et al.

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