Imperial College London

DrJosephTobias

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Reader in Biodiversity and Ecosystems
 
 
 
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Contact

 

+44 (0)20 7594 1059j.tobias

 
 
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Location

 

KennedySilwood Park

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Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
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101 results found

Hosner PA, Tobias JA, Braun EL, Kimball RTet al., 2017, How do seemingly non-vagile clades accomplish trans-marine dispersal? Trait and dispersal evolution in the landfowl (Ayes: Galliformes), Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol: 284, ISSN: 0962-8452

Dispersal ability is a key factor in determining insular distributions and island community composition, yet non-vagile terrestrial organisms widely occur on oceanic islands. The landfowl (pheasants, partridges, grouse, turkeys, quails and relatives) are generally poor dispersers, but the Old World quail (Coturnix) are a notable exception. These birds evolved small body sizes and high-aspect-ratio wing shapes, and hence are capable of trans-continental migrations and trans-oceanic colonization. Two monotypic partridge genera, Margaroperdix of Madagascar and Anurophasis of alpine New Guinea, may represent additional examples of trans-marine dispersal in landfowl, but their body size and wing shape are typical of poorly dispersive continental species. Here, we estimate historical relationships of quail and their relatives using phylogenomics, and infer body size and wing shape evolution in relation to trans-marine dispersal events. Our results show that Margaroperdix and Anurophasis are nested within the Coturnix quail, and are each ‘island giants’ that independently evolved from dispersive, Coturnix-like ancestral populations that colonized and were subsequently isolated on Madagascar and New Guinea. This evolutionary cycle of gain and loss of dispersal ability, coupled with extinction of dispersive taxa, can result in the false appearance that non-vagile taxa somehow underwent rare oceanic dispersal.

Journal article

Fecchio A, Svensson-Coelho M, Bell J, Ellis VA, Medeiros MC, Trisos CH, Blake JG, Loiselle BA, Tobias JA, Fanti R, Coffey ED, De Faria IP, Pinho JB, Felix G, Braga EM, Anciaes M, Tkach V, Bates J, Witt C, Weckstein JD, Ricklefs RE, Farias IPet al., 2017, Host associations and turnover of haemosporidian parasites in manakins (Aves: Pipridae), Parasitology, Vol: 144, Pages: 984-993, ISSN: 0031-1820

Parasites of the genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus (Apicomplexa: Haemosporida) are a diverse group of pathogens that infect birds nearly worldwide. Despite their ubiquity, the ecological and evolutionary factors that shape the diversity and distribution of these protozoan parasites among avian communities and geographic regions are poorly understood. Based on a survey throughout the Neotropics of the haemosporidian parasites infecting manakins (Pipridae), a family of Passerine birds endemic to this region, we asked whether host relatedness, ecological similarity and geographic proximity structure parasite turnover between manakin species and local manakin assemblages. We used molecular methods to screen 1343 individuals of 30 manakin species for the presence of parasites. We found no significant correlations between manakin parasite lineage turnover and both manakin species turnover and geographic distance. Climate differences, species turnover in the larger bird community and parasite lineage turnover in non-manakin hosts did not correlate with manakin parasite lineage turnover. We also found no evidence that manakin parasite lineage turnover among host species correlates with range overlap and genetic divergence among hosts. Our analyses indicate that host switching (turnover among host species) and dispersal (turnover among locations) of haemosporidian parasites in manakins are not constrained at this scale.

Journal article

Mason NA, Burns KJ, Tobias JA, Claramunt S, Seddon N, Derryberry EPet al., 2017, Song evolution, speciation, and vocal learning in passerine birds, Evolution, Vol: 71, Pages: 786-796, ISSN: 0014-3820

Phenotypic divergence can promote reproductive isolation and speciation, suggesting a possible link between rates of phenotypic evolution and the tempo of speciation at multiple evolutionary scales. To date, most macroevolutionary studies of diversification have focused on morphological traits, whereas behavioral traits─including vocal signals─are rarely considered. Thus, although behavioral traits often mediate mate choice and gene flow, we have a limited understanding of how behavioral evolution contributes to diversification. Furthermore, the developmental mode by which behavioral traits are acquired may affect rates of behavioral evolution, although this hypothesis is seldom tested in a phylogenetic framework. Here, we examine evidence for rate shifts in vocal evolution and speciation across two major radiations of codistributed passerines: one oscine clade with learned songs (Thraupidae) and one suboscine clade with innate songs (Furnariidae). We find that evolutionary bursts in rates of speciation and song evolution are coincident in both thraupids and furnariids. Further, overall rates of vocal evolution are higher among taxa with learned rather than innate songs. Taken together, these findings suggest an association between macroevolutionary bursts in speciation and vocal evolution, and that the tempo of behavioral evolution can be influenced by variation in developmental modes among lineages.

Journal article

Bregman TP, Lees AC, MacGregor HEA, Darski B, de Moura NG, Aleixo A, Barlow J, Tobias JA, Bregman TP, Lees AC, MacGregor HEA, Darski B, de Moura NG, Aleixo A, Barlow J, Tobias JAet al., 2016, Using avian functional traits to assess the impact of land-cover change on ecosystem processes linked to resilience in tropical forests., Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol: 283, ISSN: 0962-8452

Vertebrates perform key roles in ecosystem processes via trophic interactions with plants and insects, but the response of these interactions to environmental change is difficult to quantify in complex systems, such as tropical forests. Here, we use the functional trait structure of Amazonian forest bird assemblages to explore the impacts of land-cover change on two ecosystem processes: seed dispersal and insect predation. We show that trait structure in assemblages of frugivorous and insectivorous birds remained stable after primary forests were subjected to logging and fire events, but that further intensification of human land use substantially reduced the functional diversity and dispersion of traits, and resulted in communities that occupied a different region of trait space. These effects were only partially reversed in regenerating secondary forests. Our findings suggest that local extinctions caused by the loss and degradation of tropical forest are non-random with respect to functional traits, thus disrupting the network of trophic interactions regulating seed dispersal by forest birds and herbivory by insects, with important implications for the structure and resilience of human-modified tropical forests. Furthermore, our results illustrate how quantitative functional traits for specific guilds can provide a range of metrics for estimating the contribution of biodiversity to ecosystem processes, and the response of such processes to land-cover change.

Journal article

Pigot AL, Bregman T, Sheard C, Daly B, Etienne RS, Tobias JAet al., 2016, Quantifying species contributions to ecosystem processes: a global assessment of functional trait and phylogenetic metrics across avian seed-dispersal networks, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol: 283, ISSN: 0962-8452

Quantifying the role of biodiversity in ecosystems not only requires understanding the links between species and the ecological functions and services they provide, but also how these factors relate to measurable indices, such as functional traits and phylogenetic diversity. However, these relationships remain poorly understood, especially for heterotrophic organisms within complex ecological networks. Here, we assemble data on avian traits across a global sample of mutualistic plant–frugivore networks to critically assess how the functional roles of frugivores are associated with their intrinsic traits, as well as their evolutionary and functional distinctiveness. We find strong evidence for niche complementarity, with phenotypically and phylogenetically distinct birds interacting with more unique sets of plants. However, interaction strengths—the number of plant species dependent on a frugivore—were unrelated to evolutionary or functional distinctiveness, largely because distinct frugivores tend to be locally rare, and thus have fewer connections across the network. Instead, interaction strengths were better predicted by intrinsic traits, including body size, gape width and dietary specialization. Our analysis provides general support for the use of traits in quantifying species ecological functions, but also highlights the need to go beyond simple metrics of functional or phylogenetic diversity to consider the multiple pathways through which traits may determine ecological processes.

Journal article

Seddon N, Mace GM, Naeem S, Tobias JA, Pigot AL, Cavanagh R, Mouillot D, Vause J, Walpole Met al., 2016, Biodiversity in the Anthropocene: prospects and policy, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol: 283, ISSN: 0962-8452

Meeting the ever-increasing needs of the Earth’s human population without excessively reducing biological diversity is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, suggesting that new approaches to biodiversity conservation are required. One idea rapidly gaining momentum—as well as opposition—is to incorporate the values of biodiversity into decision-making using economic methods. Here, we develop several lines of argument for how biodiversity might be valued, building on recent developments in natural science, economics and science-policy processes. Then we provide a synoptic guide to the papers in this special feature, summarizing recent research advances relevant to biodiversity valuation and management. Current evidence suggests that more biodiverse systems have greater stability and resilience, and that by maximizing key components of biodiversity we maximize an ecosystem’s long-term value. Moreover, many services and values arising from biodiversity are interdependent, and often poorly captured by standard economic models. We conclude that economic valuation approaches to biodiversity conservation should (i) account for interdependency and (ii) complement rather than replace traditional approaches. To identify possible solutions, we present a framework for understanding the foundational role of hard-to-quantify ‘biodiversity services’ in sustaining the value of ecosystems to humanity, and then use this framework to highlight new directions for pure and applied research. In most cases, clarifying the links between biodiversity and ecosystem services, and developing effective policy and practice for managing biodiversity, will require a genuinely interdisciplinary approach.

Journal article

Ulrich W, Lens L, Tobias JA, Habel JCet al., 2016, Contrasting patterns of species richness and functional diversity in bird communities of East African cloud forest fragments, PLOS One, Vol: 11, ISSN: 1932-6203

Rapid fragmentation and degradation of large undisturbed habitats constitute major threats to biodiversity. Several studies have shown that populations in small and highly isolated habitat patches are prone to strong environmental and demographic stochasticity and increased risk of extinction. Based on community assembly theory, we predict recent rapid forest fragmentation to cause a decline in species and functional guild richness of forest birds combined with a high species turnover among habitat patches, and well defined dominance structures, if competition is the major driver of community assembly. To test these predictions, we analysed species co-occurrence, nestedness, and competitive strength to infer effects of interspecific competition, habitat structure, and species′ traits on the assembly of bird species communities from 12 cloud forest fragments in southern Kenya. Our results do not point to a single ecological driver of variation in species composition. Interspecific competition does not appear to be a major driver of species segregation in small forest patches, while its relative importance appears to be higher in larger ones, which may be indicative for a generic shift from competition-dominated to colonisation-driven community structure with decreasing fragment size. Functional trait diversity was independent of fragment size after controlling for species richness. As fragmentation effects vary among feeding guilds and habitat generalists, in particular, tend to decline in low quality forest patches, we plead for taking species ecology fully into account when predicting tropical community responses to habitat change.

Journal article

Tobias JA, Sheard C, Seddon N, Meade A, Cotton AJ, Nakagawa Set al., 2016, Territoriality, Social Bonds, and the Evolution of Communal Signaling in Birds, FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, Vol: 4, ISSN: 2296-701X

Journal article

Cooney CR, Seddon N, Tobias JA, 2016, Widespread correlations between climatic niche evolution and species diversification in birds, Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol: 85, Pages: 869-878, ISSN: 1365-2656

1.The adaptability of species' climatic niches can influence the dynamics of colonisation and gene flow across climatic gradients, potentially increasing the likelihood of speciation, or reducing extinction in the face of environmental change. However, previous comparative studies have tested these ideas using geographically, taxonomically and ecologically restricted samples, yielding mixed results, and thus the processes linking climatic niche evolution with diversification remain poorly understood. 2.Focusing on birds, the largest and most widespread class of terrestrial vertebrates, we test whether variation in species diversification among clades is correlated with rates of climatic niche evolution, and the extent to which these patterns are modified by underlying gradients in biogeography and species' ecology. 3.We quantified climatic niches, latitudinal distribution and ecological traits for 7657 (~75%) bird species based on geographical range polygons, and then used Bayesian phylogenetic analyses to test whether niche evolution was related to species richness and rates of diversification across genus and family-level clades. 4.We found that the rate of climatic niche evolution has a positive linear relationship with both species richness and diversification rate at two different taxonomic levels (genus and family). Furthermore, this positive association between labile climatic niches and diversification was detected regardless of variation in clade latitude or key ecological traits. 5.Our findings suggest either that rapid adaptation to unoccupied areas of climatic niche space promotes avian diversification, or that diversification promotes adaptation. Either way, we propose that climatic niche evolution is a fundamental process regulating the link between climate and biodiversity at global scales, irrespective of the geographical and ecological context of speciation and extinction. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Journal article

Pigot AL, Tobias JA, Jetz W, 2016, Energetic Constraints on Species Coexistence in Birds, PLoS Biology, Vol: 14, ISSN: 1544-9173

© 2016 Pigot et al. The association between species richness and ecosystem energy availability is one of the major geographic trends in biodiversity. It is often explained in terms of energetic constraints, such that coexistence among competing species is limited in low productivity environments. However, it has proven challenging to reject alternative views, including the null hypothesis that species richness has simply had more time to accumulate in productive regions, and thus the role of energetic constraints in limiting coexistence remains largely unknown. We use the phylogenetic relationships and geographic ranges of sister species (pairs of lineages who are each other’s closest extant relatives) to examine the association between energy availability and coexistence across an entire vertebrate class (Aves). We show that the incidence of coexistence among sister species increases with overall species richness and is elevated in more productive ecosystems, even when accounting for differences in the evolutionary time available for coexistence to occur. Our results indicate that energy availability promotes species coexistence in closely related lineages, providing a key step toward a more mechanistic understanding of the productivity–richness relationship underlying global gradients in biodiversity.

Journal article

Collar NJ, Fishpool LDC, del Hoyo J, Pilgrim JD, Seddon N, Spottiswoode CN, Tobias JAet al., 2016, Toward a scoring system for species delimitation: a response to Remsen, Journal of Field Ornithology, Vol: 87, Pages: 104-115, ISSN: 1557-9263

Journal article

Pigot AL, Trisos CH, Tobias JA, 2016, Functional traits reveal the expansion and packing of ecological niche space underlying an elevational diversity gradient in passerine birds, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 283, ISSN: 0962-8452

Journal article

Bregman TP, Lees AC, Seddon N, MacGregor HEA, Darski B, Aleixo A, Bonsall MB, Tobias JAet al., 2015, Species interactions regulate the collapse of biodiversity and ecosystem function in tropical forest fragments, Ecology, Vol: 96, Pages: 2692-2704, ISSN: 1939-9170

Competitive interactions among species with similar ecological niches are known to regulate the assembly of biological communities. However, it is not clear whether such forms of competition can predict the collapse of communities and associated shifts in ecosystem function in the face of environmental change. Here, we use phylogenetic and functional trait data to test whether communities of two ecologically important guilds of tropical birds (frugivores and insectivores) are structured by species interactions in a fragmented Amazonian forest landscape. In both guilds, we found that forest patch size, quality, and degree of isolation influence the phylogenetic and functional trait structure of communities, with small, degraded, or isolated forest patches having an increased signature of competition (i.e., phylogenetic and functional trait overdispersion in relation to null models). These results suggest that local extinctions in the context of fragmentation are nonrandom, with a consistent bias toward more densely occupied regions of niche space. We conclude that the loss of biodiversity in fragmented landscapes is mediated by niche-based competitive interactions among species, with potentially far-reaching implications for key ecosystem processes, including seed dispersal and plant damage by phytophagous insects.

Journal article

Tobias JA, 2015, BIODIVERSITY Hidden impacts of logging, NATURE, Vol: 523, Pages: 163-164, ISSN: 0028-0836

Journal article

Matthews TJ, Sheard C, -Jones HEWC, Bregman TP, Tobias JA, Whittaker RJet al., 2015, Ecological traits reveal functional nestedness of bird communities in habitat islands: a global survey, OIKOS, Vol: 124, Pages: 817-826, ISSN: 0030-1299

Journal article

Bath E, Wigby S, Vincent C, Tobias JA, Seddon Net al., 2015, Condition, not eyespan, predicts contest outcome in female stalk-eyed flies, Teleopsis dalmanni, Ecology and Evolution, Vol: 5, Pages: 1826-1836, ISSN: 2045-7758

In contests among males, body condition is often the key determinant of a successful outcome, with fighting ability signaled by so-called armaments, that is, exaggerated, condition-dependent traits. However, it is not known whether condition and exaggerated traits function in the same way in females. Here, we manipulated adult condition by varying larval nutrition in the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni, a species in which eyespan is exaggerated in both sexes, and we measured the outcome of contests between females of similar or different body condition and relative eyespan. We found that females in higher condition, with both larger bodies and eyespan, won a higher proportion of encounters when competing against rivals of lower condition. However, when females were of equal condition, neither eyespan nor body length had an effect on the outcome of a contest. An analysis of previously published data revealed a similar pattern in males: individuals with large relative eyespan did not win significantly more encounters when competing with individuals of a similar body size. Contrary to expectations, and to previous findings in males, there was no clear effect of differences in body size or eyespan affecting contest duration in females. Taken together, our findings suggest that although eyespan can provide an honest indicator of condition, large eyespans provide no additional benefit to either sex in intrasexual aggressive encounters; body size is instead the most important factor.

Journal article

Pigot AL, Tobias JA, 2015, Dispersal and the transition to sympatry in vertebrates, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 282, ISSN: 0962-8452

Journal article

Trisos CH, Petchey OL, Tobias JA, 2014, Unraveling the Interplay of Community Assembly Processes Acting on Multiple Niche Axes across Spatial Scales, AMERICAN NATURALIST, Vol: 184, Pages: 593-608, ISSN: 0003-0147

Journal article

Edwards DP, Tobias JA, Sheil D, Meijaard E, Laurance WFet al., 2014, Maintaining ecosystem function and services in logged tropical forests, TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION, Vol: 29, Pages: 511-520, ISSN: 0169-5347

Journal article

Fayet AL, Tobias JA, Hintzen RE, Seddon Net al., 2014, Immigration and dispersal are key determinants of cultural diversity in a songbird population, BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, Vol: 25, Pages: 744-753, ISSN: 1045-2249

Journal article

Touchton JM, Seddon N, Tobias JA, 2014, Captive Rearing Experiments Confirm Song Development without Learning in a Tracheophone Suboscine Bird, PLOS One, Vol: 9, ISSN: 1932-6203

The origin of vocal learning in animals has long been the subject of debate, but progress has been limited by uncertainty regarding the distribution of learning mechanisms across the tree of life, even for model systems such as birdsong. In particular, the importance of learning is well known in oscine songbirds, but disputed in suboscines. Members of this diverse group (∼1150 species) are generally assumed not to learn their songs, but empirical evidence is scarce, with previous studies restricted to the bronchophone (non-tracheophone) clade. Here, we conduct the first experimental study of song development in a tracheophone suboscine bird by rearing spotted antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) chicks in soundproofed aviaries. Individuals were raised either in silence with no tutor or exposed to standardized playback of a heterospecific tutor. All individuals surviving to maturity took a minimum of 79 days to produce a crystallized version of adult song, which in all cases was indistinguishable from wild song types of their own species. These first insights into song development in tracheophone suboscines suggest that adult songs are innate rather than learnt. Given that empirical evidence for song learning in suboscines is restricted to polygamous and lek-mating species, whereas tracheophone suboscines are mainly monogamous with long-term social bonds, our results are consistent with the view that sexual selection promotes song learning in birds.

Journal article

Tobias JA, Cornwallis CK, Derryberry EP, Claramunt S, Brumfield RT, Seddon Net al., 2014, Species coexistence and the dynamics of phenotypic evolution in adaptive radiation, NATURE, Vol: 506, Pages: 359-+, ISSN: 0028-0836

Journal article

Tobias JA, Planque R, Cram DL, Seddon Net al., 2014, Species interactions and the structure of complex communication networks, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Vol: 111, Pages: 1020-1025, ISSN: 0027-8424

Journal article

Bregman TP, Sekercioglu CH, Tobias JA, 2014, Global patterns and predictors of bird species responses to forest fragmentation: Implications for ecosystem function and conservation, BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION, Vol: 169, Pages: 372-383, ISSN: 0006-3207

Journal article

Gonzalez J-CT, Sheldon BC, Tobias JA, 2013, Environmental stability and the evolution of cooperative breeding in hornbills, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 280, ISSN: 0962-8452

Journal article

Gonzalez J-CT, Sheldon BC, Collar NJ, Tobias JAet al., 2013, A comprehensive molecular phylogeny for the hornbills (Aves: Bucerotidae) (vol 67, pg 468, 2013), MOLECULAR PHYLOGENETICS AND EVOLUTION, Vol: 68, Pages: 715-715, ISSN: 1055-7903

Journal article

Seddon N, Botero CA, Tobias JA, Dunn PO, Macgregor HE, Rubenstein DR, Uy JA, Weir JT, Whittingham LA, Safran RJet al., 2013, Sexual selection accelerates signal evolution during speciation in birds, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol: 280, ISSN: 0962-8452

Sexual selection is proposed to be an important driver of diversification in animal systems, yet previous tests of this hypothesis have produced mixed results and the mechanisms involved remain unclear. Here, we use a novel phylogenetic approach to assess the influence of sexual selection on patterns of evolutionary change during 84 recent speciation events across 23 passerine bird families. We show that elevated levels of sexual selection are associated with more rapid phenotypic divergence between related lineages, and that this effect is restricted to male plumage traits proposed to function in mate choice and species recognition. Conversely, we found no evidence that sexual selection promoted divergence in female plumage traits, or in male traits related to foraging and locomotion. These results provide strong evidence that female choice and male-male competition are dominant mechanisms driving divergence during speciation in birds, potentially linking sexual selection to the accelerated evolution of pre-mating reproductive isolation.

Journal article

Gonzalez J-CT, Sheldon BC, Collar NJ, Tobias JAet al., 2013, A comprehensive molecular phylogeny for the hornbills (Ayes: Bucerotidae), MOLECULAR PHYLOGENETICS AND EVOLUTION, Vol: 67, Pages: 468-483, ISSN: 1055-7903

Journal article

Pigot AL, Tobias JA, 2013, Species interactions constrain geographic range expansion over evolutionary time, ECOLOGY LETTERS, Vol: 16, Pages: 330-338, ISSN: 1461-023X

Journal article

Tobias JA, Şekercioǧlu CH, Vargas HF, 2013, Bird conservation in tropical ecosystems: challenges and opportunities, Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2, Pages: 258-276, ISBN: 9780470658765

Bird conservation is a global mission but most of the key battles are being played out in the tropics. This chapter summarizes the key attributes of tropical ecosystems and implications for bird conservation. First, it outlines threats to key tropical environments. Then it argues that tropical species often differ from their temperate-zone counterparts in ways that pose novel challenges for conservation. The chapter concludes that sustainable conservation of tropical birds and the ecosystem services they provide will be achieved only if attention is focused on biotic processes and interactions operating at larger spatial and temporal scales. The strategies proposed by the authors have broad relevance for the management of tropical diversity because birds have long been viewed as a model system for assessing conservation priorities, and act as flagships for numerous conservation programmes. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Book chapter

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