Iwaniuk, Andrew

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    Landscape effects on the contemporary genetic structure of Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) populations
    (Wiley, 2019) Jensen, Ashley M.; O'Neil, Nicholas P.; Iwaniuk, Andrew N.; Burg, Theresa M.
    The amount of dispersal that occurs among populations can be limited by landscape heterogeneity, which is often due to both natural processes and anthropogenic activity leading to habitat loss or fragmentation. Understanding how populations are structured and mapping existing dispersal corridors among populations is imperative to both determining contemporary forces mediating population connectivity, and informing proper management of species with fragmented populations. Furthermore, the contemporary processes mediating gene flow across heterogeneous landscapes on a large scale are understudied, particularly with respect to widespread species. This study focuses on a widespread game bird, the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), for which we analyzed samples from the western extent of the range. Using three types of genetic markers, we uncovered multiple factors acting in concert that are responsible for mediating contemporary population connectivity in this species. Multiple genetically distinct groups were detected; microsatellite markers revealed six groups, and a mitochondrial marker revealed four. Many populations of Ruffed Grouse are genetically isolated, likely by macrogeographic barriers. Furthermore, the addition of landscape genetic methods not only corroborated genetic structure results, but also uncovered compelling evidence that dispersal resistance created by areas of unsuitable habitat is the most important factor mediating population connectivity among the sampled populations. This research has important implications for both our study species and other inhabitants of the early successional forest habitat preferred by Ruffed Grouse. Moreover, it adds to a growing body of evidence that isolation by resistance is more prevalent in shaping population structure of widespread species than previously thought.
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    Integrating brain, behavior, and phylogeny to understand the evolution of sensory systems in birds
    (Frontiers Media, 2015) Wylie, Douglas R.; Gutierrez-Ibanez, Cristian I.; Iwaniuk, Andrew N.
    The comparative anatomy of sensory systems has played a major role in developing theories and principles central to evolutionary neuroscience. This includes the central tenet of many comparativestudies, the principle of proper mass, which states that the size of a neural structure reflects its processing capacity. The size of structures within the sensory system is not, however, the only salient variable in sensory evolution. Further, the evolution of the brain and behavior are intimately tied to phylgenetic history, requiring studies to integrate neuroanatomy with behavior and phylogeny to gain a more holistic view of brain evolution. Birds have proven to be a useful group for theses tudies because of widespread interest in their phylogenetic relationships and a wealth of information on the functional organization of most of their sensory pathways. In this review, we examine the principle of proper mass in relation differences in the sensory capabilities among birds. We discuss how neuroanatomy, behavior, and phylogeny can be integrated to understand the evolution of sensory systems in birds providing evidence from visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems. We also consider the concept of a “trade-off,” where by one sensory system (or subpathway within a sensory system), may be expanded in size, at the expense of others, which are reduced in size.
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    Diversity in olfactory bulb size in birds reflects allometry, ecology and phylogeny
    (Frontiers Media, 2015) Corfield, Jeremy R.; Price, Kasandra; Iwaniuk, Andrew N.; Gutierrez-Ibanez, Cristian I.; Birkhead, Tim R.; Wylie, Douglas R.
    The relative size of olfactory bulbs (OBs) is correlated with olfactory capabilities across vertebrates and is widely used to assess the relative importance of olfaction to a species’ ecology. In birds, variations in the relative size of OBs are correlated with some behaviors; however, the factors that have led to the high level of diversity seen in OB sizes across birds are still not well understood. In this study, we use the relative size of OBs as a neuroanatomical proxy for olfactory capabilities in135 species of birds, representing 21 orders. We examine the scaling of OBs with brain size across avian orders,determine likely ancestral states and test for correlations between OB sizes and habitat, ecology, and behavior. The size of avianOBs varied with the size of the brain and this allometric relationship was for the most part isometric, although species did deviate from this trend. Large OBs were characteristic of more basal species and in more recently derived species the OBs were small. Living and foraging in a semi-aquatic environment was the strongest variable driving the evolution of large OBs in birds; olfactionmay provide cues for navigation and foraging in this otherwise feature less environment. Some of the diversity in OB sizes was also undoubtedly due to differences in migratory behavior, foraging strategies and socia lstructure. In summary, relative OB size in birds reflect allometry, phylogeny and behavior in ways that parallel that of other vertebrate classes. This provides comparative evidence that supports recent experimental studies into avian olfaction and suggests that olfaction is an important sensory modality for all avian species.
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    Avian cerebellar floccular fossa size is not a proxy for flying ability in birds
    (Public Library of Science, 2013) Walsh, Stig A.; Iwaniuk, Andrew N.; Knoll, Monja A.; Bourdon, Estelle; Barrett, Paul M.; Milner, Angela C.; Nudds, Robert L.; Abel, Richard L.; Sterpaio, Patricia Dello
    Extinct animal behavior has often been inferred from qualitative assessments of relative brain region size in fossil endocranial casts. For instance, flight capability in pterosaurs and early birds has been inferred from the relative size of the cerebellar flocculus, which in life protrudes from the lateral surface of the cerebellum. A primary role of the flocculus is to integrate sensory information about head rotation and translation to stabilize visual gaze via the vestibulo-occular reflex (VOR). Because gaze stabilization is a critical aspect of flight, some authors have suggested that the flocculus is enlarged in flying species. Whether this can be further extended to a floccular expansion in highly maneuverable flying species or floccular reduction in flightless species is unknown. Here, we used micro computed-tomography to reconstruct ‘‘virtual’’ endocranial casts of 60 extant bird species, to extract the same level of anatomical information offered by fossils. Volumes of the floccular fossa and entire brain cavity were measured and these values correlated with four indices of flying behavior. Although a weak positive relationship was found between floccular fossa size and brachial index, no significant relationship was found between floccular fossa size and any other flight mode classification. These findings could be the result of the bony endocranium inaccurately reflecting the size of the neural flocculus, but might also reflect the importance of the flocculus for all modes of locomotion in birds. We therefore conclude that the relative size of the flocculus of endocranial casts is an unreliable predictor of locomotor behavior in extinct birds, and probably also pterosaurs and non-avian dinosaurs.
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    Evolutionary divergence in brain size between migratory and resident birds
    (Public Library of Science, 2010) Sol, Daniel; Garcia, Nuria; Iwaniuk, Andrew N.; Davis, Katie; Meade, Andrew; Boyle, W. Alice; Szekely, Tamas
    Despite important recent progress in our understanding of brain evolution, controversy remains regarding the evolutionary forces that have driven its enormous diversification in size. Here, we report that in passerine birds, migratory species tend to have brains that are substantially smaller (relative to body size) than those of resident species, confirming and generalizing previous studies. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on Bayesian Markov chain methods suggest an evolutionary scenario in which some large brained tropical passerines that invaded more seasonal regions evolved migratory behavior and migration itself selected for smaller brain size. Selection for smaller brains in migratory birds may arise from the energetic and developmental costs associated with a highly mobile life cycle, a possibility that is supported by a path analysis. Nevertheless, an important fraction (over 68%) of the correlation between brain mass and migratory distance comes from a direct effect of migration on brain size, perhaps reflecting costs associated with cognitive functions that have become less necessary in migratory species. Overall, our results highlight the importance of retrospective analyses in identifying selective pressures that have shaped brain evolution, and indicate that when it comes to the brain, larger is not always better.