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Saunders D.A.,CSIRO | Wintle B.A.,University of Melbourne | Mawson P.R.,0 Labouchere Road | Dawson R.,Locked Bag 104
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Birds use a number of environmental cues to time their breeding season to maximise their chances of raising young when food is most abundant. Such cues include photoperiod, temperature and rainfall. In very arid regions, birds may start egg-laying with the onset of rain to allow fledging to coincide with the availability of grass seeds. However the influence of rainfall on timing of egg-laying in areas with variable, but more reliable, rainfall has not been as clear. Carnaby's Cockatoo, an endemic species of southwestern Australia, a region with a Mediterranean climate, is known colloquially as " the rainbird" as its movements to the breeding areas appear to coincide with the start of the wetter part of the year. Here we use a long-term data set on the breeding of this species (24. years of data from 1969 to 2011) to quantify the link between the timing of autumn rains and the commencement of egg-laying in this endangered cockatoo. We found a tight synchrony which indicates a strong reliance of the species on early autumn rains as a cue for breeding. We describe the conservation implications of increased variability in timing and quantity of rainfall for the long-term viability of Carnaby's Cockatoo. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Rix M.G.,University of Adelaide | Edwards D.L.,Yale University | Byrne M.,Locked Bag 104 | Harvey M.S.,Western Australian Museum | And 4 more authors.
Biological Reviews | Year: 2015

The south-western land division of Western Australia (SWWA), bordering the temperate Southern and Indian Oceans, is the only global biodiversity hotspot recognised in Australia. Renowned for its extraordinary diversity of endemic plants, and for some of the largest and most botanically significant temperate heathlands and woodlands on Earth, SWWA has long fascinated biogeographers. Its flat, highly weathered topography and the apparent absence of major geographic factors usually implicated in biotic diversification have challenged attempts to explain patterns of biogeography and mechanisms of speciation in the region. Botanical studies have always been central to understanding the biodiversity values of SWWA, although surprisingly few quantitative botanical analyses have allowed for an understanding of historical biogeographic processes in both space and time. Faunistic studies, by contrast, have played little or no role in defining hotspot concepts, despite several decades of accumulating quantitative research on the phylogeny and phylogeography of multiple lineages. In this review we critically analyse datasets with explicit supporting phylogenetic data and estimates of the time since divergence for all available elements of the terrestrial fauna, and compare these datasets to those available for plants. In situ speciation has played more of a role in shaping the south-western Australian fauna than has long been supposed, and has occurred in numerous endemic lineages of freshwater fish, frogs, reptiles, snails and less-vagile arthropods. By contrast, relatively low levels of endemism are found in birds, mammals and highly dispersive insects, and in situ speciation has played a negligible role in generating local endemism in birds and mammals. Quantitative studies provide evidence for at least four mechanisms driving patterns of endemism in south-western Australian animals, including: (i) relictualism of ancient Gondwanan or Pangaean taxa in the High Rainfall Province; (ii) vicariant isolation of lineages west of the Nullarbor divide; (iii) in situ speciation; and (iv) recent population subdivision. From dated quantitative studies we derive four testable models of historical biogeography for animal taxa in SWWA, each explicit in providing a spatial, temporal and topological perspective on patterns of speciation or divergence. For each model we also propose candidate lineages that may be worthy of further study, given what we know of their taxonomy, distributions or relationships. These models formalise four of the strongest patterns seen in many animal taxa from SWWA, although other models are clearly required to explain particular, idiosyncratic patterns. Generating numerous new datasets for suites of co-occurring lineages in SWWA will help refine our understanding of the historical biogeography of the region, highlight gaps in our knowledge, and allow us to derive general postulates from quantitative (rather than qualitative) results. For animals, this process has now begun in earnest, as has the process of taxonomically documenting many of the more diverse invertebrate lineages. The latter remains central to any attempt to appreciate holistically biogeographic patterns and processes in SWWA, and molecular phylogenetic studies should - where possible - also lead to tangible taxonomic outcomes. © 2014 Cambridge Philosophical Society.

Moir M.L.,University of Melbourne | Vesk P.A.,University of Melbourne | Poulin R.,University of Otago | Hughes L.,Macquarie University | And 4 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2012

Translocation, introduction, reintroduction, and assisted migrations are species conservation strategies that are attracting increasing attention, especially in the face of climate change. However, preventing the extinction of the suite of dependent species whose host species are threatened is seldom considered, and the effects on dependent species of moving threatened hosts are unclear. There is no published guidance on how to decide whether to move species, given this uncertainty. We examined the dependent-host system of 4 disparate taxonomic groups: insects on the feather-leaf banksia (Banksia brownii), montane banksia (B. montana), and Stirling Range beard heath (Leucopogon gnaphalioides); parasites of wild cats; mites and ticks on Duvaucel's gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) and tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus); and internal coccidian parasites of Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) and Hihi (Notiomystis cincta). We used these case studies to demonstrate a simple process for use in species- and community-level assessments of efforts to conserve dependents with their hosts. The insects dependent on Stirling Range beard heath and parasites on tigers (Panthera tigris) appeared to represent assemblages that would not be conserved by ex situ host conservation. In contrast, for the cases of dependent species we examined involving a single dependent species (internal parasites of birds and the mite Geckobia naultina on Duvaucel's gecko), ex situ conservation of the host species would also conserve the dependent species. However, moving dependent species with their hosts may be insufficient to maintain viable populations of the dependent species, and additional conservation strategies such as supplementing populations may be needed. © 2012 Society for Conservation Biology.

Saunders D.A.,CSIRO | Dawson R.,Locked Bag 104 | Nicholls A.O.,CSIRO
Nature Conservation | Year: 2015

It is important to know the age of nestling birds for many ecological and behavioural studies. Various methods have been developed for individual species; most are based on measurements of growth in wings, tarsi or heads/bills, or observations of changes in size, plumage and behaviour over time. However, techniques for aging nestlings have not been established for most avian species. This paper sets out two methods to age nestling Carnaby's cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus latirostris, an endangered species endemic to southwestern Australia. One method is based on the physical changes in size and plumage during the 10 to 11 weeks of the nestling period, and the other on the relationship between the length of the nestling's folded left wing and its age developed from data obtained from nestlings of known age. The estimated age of nestlings may be used to extrapolate egg-laying, hatching and fledging dates by taking the 29 days of incubation and the 76 days of the nestling period into account. The method of estimating nestling age based on length of folded left wing provides a more accurate estimate of nestling age than observations of changes in nestling size and plumage. However in situations where it is not possible to handle nestlings, the observation method should provide a reasonable basis for calculating the commencement and end of the breeding season, the length of egg-laying and nestling periods; important population parameters specified for monitoring under the species' recovery plan. Copyright Denis A. Saunders et al.

Kvarnemo C.,University of Stockholm | Svensson O.,Gothenburg University | Manson W.,Locked Bag 104
Journal of Fish Biology | Year: 2010

This study of the sand goby Pomatoschistus minutus, a nest-holding fish with paternal care, focused on gonadal investment among males of different sizes collected early and late in the breeding season. All males caught at the nest had breeding colour, whereas trawl-caught fish consisted of males both with and without colour. The absence or presence of breeding colour was a good predictor of testes investment. Compared to males with breeding colour, males without colour were smaller in body size but had extraordinarily large testes. In absolute terms, testes mass of males without breeding colour was on average 3·4 times greater than those of males with breeding colour. Since small colourless males are known to reproduce as sneaker males, this heavy investment in testes probably reflects that they are forced to spawn under sperm competition. Contrary to testes size, sperm-duct glands were largest among males with breeding colour. These glands produce mucins used for making sperm-containing mucous trails that males place in the nest before and during spawning. Since both sneakers and nest-holders potentially could benefit from having large glands, this result is intriguing. Yet, high mucus production may be more important for nest-holders, because it also protects developing embryos from infections. There was no significant effect of season on body size, testes or sperm-duct glands size, but colourless males tended to be less common late in the season. Possibly this may indicate that individual small colourless males develop into their more colourful counterparts within the breeding season. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.

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