All aspects of organismal ecology, evolution and diversity are based on genomic variation. The scientific community toolkit for understanding complex relationships is rapidly expanding as genomic data is more easily collected and bioinformatic and biostatistical approaches are developed to make biological inference. For example, recent studies in mammalian lineages are providing new insights about how genome evolution provides variation important for seasonal, energetic, and morphological adaptations. We are now able to characterize the speciation process and hybridization with detailed information about how genomic regions and genes are differentially influential. It is now possible, with ever-increasing resolution, to assess relationships between mammals and microbial communities, and how these relationships have co-evolved and are important for health and fitness. Seminars in this symposium highlight some of these exciting new discoveries. Presenters include: Zachary Cheviron, Jay Storz, Jeffrey Good, Taichi Suzuki, and Andrew Hope.
Global climate change (GCC) is now widely recognized as a major force influencing mammal populations worldwide. Many recent studies have shown significant changes in mammal distributions, ecology and migration patterns as a result of various stressors associated with GCC including increased temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, an intensification of extreme events, and altered plant phenology and seasonality. Small mammals are particularly sensitive to these stressors perhaps because they are typically less mobile than larger mammals, more philopatric, and more closely tied to the plant communities they inhabit. Such responses may be manifested in changes in their demography, habitat associations, and geographic ranges. The responses are not limited to those small mammals in more benign tropical/temperate or mesic communities; in fact, in many cases, they involve small mammals living in extreme conditions such as in semiarid/arid communities and at higher elevations. This symposium will provide a panoramic view of the consequences of GCC for small mammals on different continents, and bring together international experts working at different temporal and spatial scales in order to understand its impact. Presenters include: Chris Dickman, Jacob Goheen, Xavier Lambin, and Christy McCain.
The earth is currently in the midst of a prounounced warming trend that represents one of the greatest ecological challenges of our time. As a result, considerable effort has been devoted to determining how the distribution, population dynamics, and timing of life-history events of various species of mammals are affected by climate. Ecophysiological approaches have helped to shed light on the mechanisms underpinning many of the effects of climate change on mammals, both direct and indirect. Body size has a pervasive influence on numerous physiological, morphological, and behavior traits that set the limits of animal performance. Although large-bodied endotherms are more mobile and are typically able to utilize a broader range of resources than their smaller-bodied counterparts, lower surface-to-volume ratios and thicker boundary layers pose signficant problems for the efficient dissipation of body heat, which can impose important limitations on the allocation of energy to reproduction. This fact forms the central tenet of the Heat Dissipation Limit theory, which suggests that the “slower” life history of larger endotherms results from their reduced ability to dissipate the body heat associated with reproductive effort. The mechanistic insights provided by ecophysiological research suggest that direct effects of climate change on animal performance, and thus population and community dynamics, may be manifested most strongly among large-bodied mammals. This symposium will highlight the unique implications of large body size in a changing climate in the context of ecophysiology and will showcase the cutting-edge work of four individuals who use ecophysiological approaches to understand the effects of climate change on large mammals in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Presenters include: Dan Costa, Elzbieta Krol, Ryan Long, and Karyn Rode.