Our recent paper published in Bird Conservation International is the first attempt to estimate the size of the Polish breeding population of the highly vulnerable farmland raptor: the Montagu’s Harrier. By combining multiple sources of data we estimated the Polish Montagu’s Harrier population at almost 3,400 breeding pairs, thus constituting 20% of the European Union population. Furthermore, we showed that public-gathered data obtained by volunteer-based citizen-science projects offer great potential for regular surveys to obtain large-scale estimates of population size.

The paper is part of Natalia’s PhD thesis. Congratulations!

More info:

Królikowska N., Krupiński D., Kuczyński L. 2018. Combining data from multiple sources to design a raptor census – the first national survey of the Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus in Poland. Bird Conservation International, 28(3): 350-362.


The article about genetic and host differentiation within the complex of phytophagous species belonging to Abacarus genus, authored by members of our Lab, was published in Experimental and Applied Acarology. The molecular analyses indicate that there may be at least several new species within the complex, that are awaiting formal description. One of them, Abacarus plumiger inhabiting smooth brome, has been described in this article.

More info: Laska A., Majer A., Szydło W., Karpicka-Ignatowska K., Hornyák M., Labrzycka A., Skoracka A. 2018. Cryptic diversity within grass-associated Abacarus species complex (Acariformes: Eriophyidae), with the description of a new species, Abacarus plumiger n. sp. Experimental and Applied Acarology, 1-28. doi.org/10.1007/s10493-018-0291-6

An article co-authored by Anna Skoracka, Lechosław Kuczyński, Agnieszka Majer and Wiktoria Szydło, about the genetic structure within species complex of phytophagous mite, Aceria tosichella, was published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Mites belonging to the complex Aceria tosichella (wheat curl mite, WCM) are major pests of the world’s grain industry and our aim was to identify the factors behind its extensive diversification. We demonstrated unusually deep lineage diversification within the taxon. Using time-calibrated phylogenetic reconstruction we showed that lineage diversification pre-dates the influence of agricultural practices, and lineages started to radiate in the mid‑Miocene when major radiation of C4 grasses is known to have occurred. Furthermore, we showed that host generalization coincided with the expansion of the world’s grasslands in Pliocene. The genetic structure and evolutionary history of WCM lineages indicate their great colonization potential.

The study was done in cooperation with the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and University of Deakin (Australia).

More info:

Skoracka A., Lopes L. F., Alves M. J., Miller A., Lewandowski M., Szydło W., Majer A., Różańska E. i Kuczyński L. 2018. Genetics of lineage diversification and the evolution of host usage in the economically important wheat curl mite, Aceria tosichella Keifer, 1969. BMC Evolutionary Biology 18: 122, doi.org/10.1186/s12862-018-1234-x

Review papers, co-authored by Anna Skoracka, about relationships between the mite Aceria tosichella, its main host: wheat, and the viruses that the mite transmits were published in Molecular Plant Pathology and Frontiers in Plant Science

The mite Aceria tosichella (wheat curl mite, WCM) in the interaction with the virus causes considerable yield losses worldwide. The challenge of effectively managing this pest-virus complex is exacerbated by the existence of divergent WCM lineages that differ in host colonization and virus transmission abilities. In these publications, there is highlighted research progress in mite ecology and virus epidemiology that affects management and development of cereal cultivars with WCM- and virus-resistance genes. The potential application of molecular methods (e.g., transcriptomics, epigenetics, and whole-genome sequencing) are proposed to understand the chemical and cellular interface between the wheat plant and WCM-viruses complexes.

The publications were prepared in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA and Crop Research Institute, Czech Republic.

More info:

Skoracka A., Rector B. G., Hein G., L. 2018. The interface between wheat and the wheat curl mite, Aceria tosichella, the primary vector of globally important viral diseases. Frontiers in Plant Science 9 (1098), 1-8; DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01098

Singh K., Wegulo S. N., Skoracka A., Kundu J. K. Wheat streak mosaic virus: a century-old virus with rising importance worldwide. Molecular Plant Pathology 19(9): 2193-2206; DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12683

An article, co-authored by Lechosław Kuczyński, was published in the latest issue of Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Photo: Cezary Korkosz

Using data collected in a secondary contact zone of two hybridizing songbirds: the Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and the Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), we looked for associations between habitat use and bill morphology. In line with our previous results (https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12808), we found that the two nightingale species differ in habitat use in allotopic but not in syntopic sites. Moreover, birds from allotopic sites showed higher interspecific divergence in relative bill size compared to birds from syntopic sites. Our results are consistent with the view that interspecific competition in nightingales has resulted in partial habitat segregation in sympatry and that the habitat‐specific food supply has in turn very likely led to bill size divergence.

The study was done in cooperation with the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

More info:

Sottas C. , Reif J. , Kuczyński L. and Reifová R. 2018. Interspecific competition promotes habitat and morphological divergence in a secondary contact zone between two hybridizing songbirds. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 31: 914-923, DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13275

Our recent paper published in the Journal of Animal Ecology shows how birds avoid their sibling-species competitors.

Photo: Cezary Korkosz

We used data on abundance of two closely related passerine species, the Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and the Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), collected across their syntopy, allotopy and allopatry. We found that interspecific competition gave marked imprints on patterns in habitat preferences of these two species. Whereas they preferred the same habitats in allopatry, their preferences became strikingly different in allotopy within sympatry where the abundance of the Common Nightingale increased towards dry and warm sites with low coverage of pastures, while the abundance of the Thrush Nightingale showed exactly opposite trends. It seems that both species “escape” from competition to allotopic sites covered by habitats avoided by the competitor. Therefore, we argue that the interspecific competition is an important driver of species’ distribution and habitat preference is variable across space and depends on the context created by biotic interactions.

The study was done in cooperation with the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Bird data were collected by skilled volunteers within the Common Breeding Bird Survey in Poland.

More info:



Article written by Alicja Laska, Lechosław Kuczyński and Anna Skoracka from our team in collaboration with Brian Rector from GBRR, USDA-ARS, was published in the latest issue of Experimental and Applied Acarology.

In this study, we showed that protogyne females of two Abacarus species had a larger overall body size in winter than in either spring or summer. The results are consistent with our hypothesis that mites of these species, for which deutogyny has not been observed, undergo physiological changes such as accumulation of nutritional reserves, that enable them to withstand adverse environmental conditions.

The full article available here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10493-017-0159-1



Recent Ecology paper co-authored by Jakub Szymkowiak from Pop Ecol Lab on system-specific roles of weather and pollination dynamics in driving seed production in European trees is now available online!

Using a 19-year data set from three sites in Poland, the authors investigated the relationship between weather, airborn pollen, and seed production in two oak species (Quercus petraea and Q. robur) and beech (Fagus sylvatica). They found that for oaks and beech, the warm summers preceding flowering correlated with high pollen abundance and warm springs resulted in high flowering synchrony (short pollen seasons). However, in beech the best predictor of seed crops was pollen abundance, while large seed crops in oaks correlated with short pollen seasons. These findings suggest that fundamentally different proximate mechanisms may drive masting in oaks and beech.

You can read the paper here and on ResearchGate. Read also what Jakub Szymkowiak wrote about this study on his page.


## JSz


Our recent article published in Scientific Reports is available online!

In this study, we investigated behavioral responses of two passively dispersing cereal-feeding eriophyoid mites: wheat curl mite (WCM, Aceria tosichella) and cereal rust mite (CRM, Abacarus hystrix) to potential dispersal cues. We found that wind was the most important cue influencing the mites’ behavior, what may facilitate long-distance dispersal and suggests high invasive potential.  WCM significantly increased its ‘standing erect’ position when exposed to air currents. However, the proportion of potential dispersers was low, what may suggest that there are predisposed dispersers and residents in the population. WCM was generally more active than CRM which may be related to its high invasive potential.

The study was done in cooperation with the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Canada and the Department of Applied Entomology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences.

The manuscript is part of Agnieszka Kiedrowicz’s PhD thesis. Congratulations!

The full article available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04372-7

## LK