Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Huber, B. A., G. Meng, J. Král, I. M. Ávila Herrera, M. A. Izquierdo, and L. S. Carvalho. 2023. High and dry: integrative taxonomy of the Andean spider genus Nerudia (Araneae: Pholcidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Abstract Ninetinae are a group of poorly known spiders that do not fit the image of ‘daddy long-legs spiders’ (Pholcidae), the family to which they belong. They are mostly short-legged, tiny and live in arid environments. The previously monotypic Andean genus Nerudia exemplifies our poor knowledge of Ninetinae: only seven adult specimens from two localities in Chile and Argentina have been reported in the literature. We found representatives of Nerudia at 24 of 52 localities visited in 2019, mostly under rocks in arid habitats, up to 4450 m a.s.l., the highest known record for Pholcidae. With now more than 400 adult specimens, we revise the genus, describing ten new species based on morphology (including SEM) and COI barcodes. We present the first karyotype data for Nerudia and for its putative sister-genus Gertschiola. These two southern South American genera share a X1X2X3Y sex chromosome system. We model the distribution of Nerudia, showing that the genus is expected to occur in the Atacama biogeographic province (no record so far) and that its environmental niche is phylogenetically conserved. This is the first comprehensive revision of any Ninetinae genus. It suggests that focused collecting may uncover a considerable diversity of these enigmatic spiders.

Youngblood, J. P., A. J. Cease, S. Talal, F. Copa, H. E. Medina, J. E. Rojas, E. V. Trumper, et al. 2022. Climate change expected to improve digestive rate and trigger range expansion in outbreaking locusts. Ecological Monographs.

Global climate change will likely exacerbate crop losses from insect pests, reducing agricultural production and threatening food security. To predict where crop losses will occur, scientists have mainly used correlative models of species’ distributions, but such models are unreliable when extrapolated to future environments. To minimize extrapolation, we developed mechanistic and hybrid models that explicitly capture range‐limiting processes, and we explored how incorporating mechanisms altered the projected impacts of climate change for an agricultural pest, the South American locust (Schistocerca cancellata). Because locusts are generalist herbivores surrounded by food, their population growth may be limited by thermal effects on digestion more than food availability. To incorporate this mechanism into a distribution model, we measured thermal effects on the consumption and defecation of field‐captured locusts and used these data to model energy gain in current and future climates. We then created hybrid models by using outputs of the mechanistic model as predictor variables in correlative models, estimating the potential distribution of gregarious outbreaking locusts based on multiple predictor sets, modeling algorithms, and climate scenarios. Based on the mechanistic model, locusts can assimilate relatively high amounts of energy throughout temperate and tropical South America; however, correlative and hybrid modeling revealed that most tropical areas are unsuitable for locusts. When estimating current distributions, the top‐ranked model was always the one fit with mechanistic predictors (i.e., the hybrid model). When projected to future climates, top‐ranked hybrid models projected range expansions that were 23‐30 percentage points smaller than those projected by correlative models. Therefore, combining the correlative and mechanistic approaches bracketed the potential outcomes of climate change and enhanced confidence where model projections agreed. Because all models projected a poleward range expansion under climate change, agriculturists should consider enhanced monitoring and management of locusts near the southern margin of the range.