Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Lizardo, V., F. Escobar, E. Martínez‐Meyer, and J. J. Morrone. 2024. Adaptive shifts in Phanaeini dung beetles of the Mexican plateau cenocron in the Mexican transition zone. Zoologica Scripta.

The Mexican Transition Zone is a biogeographically complex area where old and new lineages of Neotropical and Nearctic affinities overlap. Its biota was assembled by successive dispersal events of cenocrons, which are sets of taxa that dispersed during a given time interval from both North and South America and then diversified in the area. The Mexican Plateau cenocron, with Neotropical affinities, is found in temperate and dry climates in the Nearctic region. We hypothesised that it underwent an adaptive shift in environmental niche. We tested this hypothesis using a phylogenetic comparative framework, measuring phylogenetic signal and fitting to single optima macroevolutionary models, and an Ornstein‐Uhlenbeck macroevolutionary model with multiple optima. We used phylogenetic and distributional information of the tribe Phanaeini to assess whether there exists a distinction in conservatism between the earliest (Mexican Plateau) and most recent (Typical Neotropical) cenocrons within the Mexican Transition Zone (MTZ) as this tribe stands as a classic example of the dispersal and diversification patterns of cenocrons originating in the Neotropics. We identified different shifts in environmental requirements that match the niche description of the Mexican Plateau cenocron, suggesting that it was established through multiple adaptive shifts in the Mexican Transition Zone.

Belotti López de Medina, C. R. 2024. Diet breadth and biodiversity in the pre-hispanic South-Central Andes (Western South America) during the Holocene: An exploratory analysis and review. The Holocene.

This paper presents an exploratory study on the taxonomic diversity of pre-Hispanic archaeofaunas in the South-Central Andes (SCA; western South America) from the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary to the Late-Holocene. The SCA is a complex of diverse environments and has undergone distinct climate events for the last 13,000 years, such as the occurrence of warmer and drier conditions in the Middle-Holocene. The South-Central Andean area was part of the larger Andes interaction area, which was a primary center for animal and plant domestication and the emergence of agro-pastoralist economies. Since subsistence was key to these processes, the SCA provides a relevant case study on the interactions among environment, foodways and sociocultural evolution. Taxonomic diversity was used here as a proxy for diet breadth. A total of 268 archaeofaunal assemblages were sampled from the zooarchaeological literature. Reviewed variables included the cultural chronology and spatial coordinates of the assemblages, as well as the presence and abundance of taxa at the family rank. Taxonomic diversity covered two dimensions: composition (families present in each assemblage) and structure (quantitative relationships among taxa), which was measured through richness (NTAXA), ubiquity and relative abundance (NISP based rank-order). Despite the uneven distribution of samples, the analyses revealed the following trends: (1) a moderate relationship between NTAXA and distance from coastline for most of the Holocene; (2) a potential decrease in assemblage richness for coastal ecoregions during the Late-Holocene; and (3) a generalized increase in the relative abundance of Camelidae.

Munna, A. H., N. A. Amuri, P. Hieronimo, and D. A. Woiso. 2023. Modelling ecological niches of Sclerocarya birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Silva Fennica 57.

The information on ecological niches of the Marula tree, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Horchst. subspecies are needed for sustainable management of this tree, considering its nutritional, economic, and ecological benefits. However, despite Tanzania being regarded as a global genetic center of diversity of S. birrea, information on the subspecies ecological niches is lacking. We aimed to model ecological niches of S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Ecological niches under the current climate were modelled by using ecological niche models in MaxEnt using climatic, edaphic, and topographical variables, and subspecies occurrence data. The Hadley Climate Center and National Center for Atmospheric Research's Earth System Models were used to predict ecological niches under the medium and high greenhouse gases emission scenarios for the years 2050 and 2080. Area under the curves (AUCs) were used to assess the accuracy of the models. The results show that the models were robust, with AUCs of 0.85–0.95. Annual and seasonal precipitation, elevation, and soil cation exchange capacity are the key environmental factors that define the ecological niches of the S. birrea subspecies. Ecological niches of subsp. caffra, multifoliata, and birrea are currently found in 30, 22, and 21 regions, and occupy 184 814 km2, 139 918 km2, and 28 446 km2 of Tanzania's land area respectively, which will contract by 0.4–44% due to climate change. Currently, 31–51% of ecological niches are under Tanzania’s protected areas network. The findings are important in guiding the development of conservation and domestication strategies for the S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania.

Morales‐Alba, A. F., and J. E. Carvajal‐Cogollo. 2023. Quantifying the distribution and morphological variation of the beetles Homocopris achamas and Uroxys coarctatus in Andean ecosystems of Colombia. Austral Ecology.

AbstractInsects that inhabit high‐altitude ecosystems are an ecologically specialized group whose distribution is restricted by the presence of biogeographical barriers. These biogeographical constraints are thought to mould the shape of some insect structures because of environmental pressures that may produce better adaptations in extreme environments. We evaluated the potential distribution of Homocopris achamas and Uroxys coarctatus in two life regions (the Andean region and the Páramo region) found in the Andes of Colombia, and we determined if there were differences in their morphology along an elevational gradient. To determine the potential distribution of the species, we obtained geographical data through the systematic search of databases and entomological collections that we modelled under the maximum entropy model. We then evaluated the morphological variations by measuring geometric structures such as the clypeus (MC), the eye (ME) and the area of the anterior tibia (TA). We found that both species along the entire gradient exhibited the following characteristics: H. achamas was dominant in the Páramo region and showed two population nuclei separated by a wide biogeographic barrier, while U. coarctatus was more dominant in the Andean region and was distributed only in the northern Andes. Both were always linked to ecosystems with open vegetation that was both natural or intervened. H. achamas did not show changes in the shape of the structures while U. coarctatus showed differences in MC and ME. We suggested that livestock activity could act as an engine for breaking down biogeographical barriers allowing the distribution of a species to expand, and with this distributional expansion changes in the morphological structures of some species linked to their phenotypic plasticity could be promoted.

Luza, A. L., A. V. Rodrigues, L. Mamalis, and V. Zulian. 2023. Spatial distribution of the greater rhea, Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758), in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil: citizen-science data, probabilistic mapping, and comparison with expert knowledge. Ornithology Research.

The popularization of citizen-science platforms has increased the amount of data available in a fine spatial and temporal resolution, which can be used to fill distribution knowledge gaps through probabilistic maps. In this study, we gathered expert-based information and used species distribution models to produce two independent maps of the greater rhea ( Rhea americana , Rheiformes, Rheidae) distribution in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. We integrated municipality level detection/non-detection data from five citizen-science datasets into a Bayesian site occupancy model, accounting for false negatives, sampling effort, habitat covariates, and spatial autocorrelation. We addressed whether habitat (grassland and crop field cover, number of rural properties) and spatial autocorrelation explains the realized occurrence of the species and compared model-based and expert-based occurrence maps. The mean estimated percentage of occupied municipalities was 48% (239 out of 497 municipalities), whereas experts declared 21% of the municipalities (103) as occupied by the species. While both mapping approaches showed greater rhea presence in most municipalities of the Pampa biome, they disagreed in the majority of the municipalities in the Atlantic Forest, where more fieldwork must be undertaken. The greater rhea distribution was exclusively explained by the spatial autocorrelation component, suggesting that the species expanded its distribution towards the north of the state, reaching the Atlantic Forest, following deforestation and agriculture expansion.

Hamer, M., M. Kgatla, and B. Petersen. 2023. An assessment of collection specimen data for South African mountain plants and invertebrates. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 1–19.

South Africa is considered a megadiverse country, with exceptionally high plant and relatively high animal species richness and endemism. The country’s species have been surveyed and studied for over 200 years, resulting in extensive natural science collections and a vast number of scientific papers and books. This study assessed whether existing data portals provide access to occurrence data and investigated the extent of the data in Global Biodiversity Information Facility and its completeness for plants and selected invertebrate taxa. The main focus was preserved specimen data, but some observation data from iNaturalist were also considered for selected analyses. Records that include species-level identification and co-ordinates were mapped in QGIS to show the coverage of collection localities across the country. The records that fall within the mountain range spatial layer were then extracted and counted to identify density of records per mountain range for various taxa. Forty percent of plant records are from mountain localities, and the Atlantic Cape Fold Mountains had the highest density of records. Table Mountain has been extensively collected for plants and invertebrates. A large proportion of the records for invertebrates lacked species-level identification and co-ordinates, resulting in a low number of records for analyses. The accessible data are only a relatively small subset of existing collections, and digitisation and data upgrading is considered a high priority before collecting gaps can be addressed by targeted surveys.

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.

Nolasco-Soto, J., J. González-Astorga, A. Espinosa de los Monteros, and M. E. Favila. 2023. Evolutionary history and diversity in the ball roller beetle Canthon cyanellus. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.

To understand the evolutionary history of species, it is necessary to know the mechanisms for reproductive isolation, divergence-time between populations, and the relative action of the evolutionary forces (e.g., mutation, genetic drift, gene flow) within and between populations of the same, or closely related species. Although Canthon is one of the more diverse genera of neotropical beetles, insufficient research has been done to comprehend the divergent patterns that explain its speciation process. The absence of diagnostic morphological characters and the wide geographic variation of qualitative traits in Scarabaeinae obscures species delimitation, genealogical limits between populations, and its taxonomy. Canthon cyanellus is one of the best-known species in ecological and evolutionary aspects. It is a widely distributed species in the tropical forests of America. Also, the current deforestation has facilitated its incursion into open areas. Individuals from different populations have similar morphological characters but show wide variation in body color throughout their distribution, which makes it difficult to delimit the subspecies that comprise it. Recently, studies have been carried out to elucidate the pre-and postzygotic isolation mechanisms between populations and the historical biogeographical processes favoring cladogenesis events during the Pleistocene. Morphological variation of the male genitalia does not correspond to the phylogeographic structure. However, the morphological differences in one of the pieces of the endophallic sclerites have allowed a preliminary delimitation of some genetically differentiated clades. Finally, we consider that the joint analysis of traditional morphological taxonomy and phylogeography is important to understand the speciation process in the C. cyanellus complex.

Bento, M., H. Niza, A. Cartaxana, S. Bandeira, J. Paula, and A. M. Correia. 2023. Mind the Gaps: Taxonomic, Geographic and Temporal Data of Marine Invertebrate Databases from Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. Diversity 15: 70.

One of the best ways to share and disseminate biodiversity information is through the digitization of data and making it available via online databases. The rapid growth of publicly available biodiversity data is not without problems which may decrease the utility of online databases. In this study we analyze taxonomic, geographic and temporal data gaps, and bias related to existing data on selected marine invertebrate occurrences along the coastline of two African countries, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. The final marine invertebrate dataset comprises of 19.910 occurrences, but 32% of the original dataset occurrences were excluded due to data gaps. Most marine invertebrates in Mozambique were collected in seagrasses, whereas in São Tomé and Príncipe they were mostly collected offshore. The dataset has a temporal coverage from 1816 to 2019, with most occurrences collected in the last two decades. This study provides baseline information relevant to a better understanding of marine invertebrate biodiversity data gaps and bias in these habitats along the coasts of these countries. The information can be further applied to complete marine invertebrate data gaps contributing to design informed sampling strategies and advancing refined datasets that can be used in management and conservation plans in both countries.

LIZARDO, V., V. MOCTEZUMA, and F. ESCOBAR. 2022. Distribution, Regionalization, and Diversity of the dung beetle genus Phanaeus MacLeay (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) using Species Distribution Models. Zootaxa 5213: 546–568.

The genus Phanaeus is a well-known group whose taxonomy has been described multiple times. Its distribution was previously classified into 11 ecogeographic groups that are equivalent to areas of endemism. Here we use Species Distribution Models to describe species richness patterns. We measured beta-diversity and regionalized its distribution into one region and one transition zone, both with three dominions: Mexican Transition Zone (North American, Mexican, and Mesoamerican dominions) and Neotropical region (Pacific, Brazilian, and Atlantic Forest dominions). We also present a species checklist and updated the distribution maps for 73 of 81 species described so far that reflects all the taxonomical updates. We include a list of all the recorded locations (by country, state, and province), list the recorded habitats and biomes, and describe the modelled environmental conditions for each species.