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.

Brunner, A., J. R. G. Márquez, and S. Domisch. 2024. Downscaling future land cover scenarios for freshwater fish distribution models under climate change. Limnologica 104: 126139.

The decreasing freshwater biodiversity trend can be attributed to anthropogenic impacts in terms of climate and land cover change. For targeted conservation efforts, mapping and understanding the distribution of freshwater organisms consists of an important knowledge gap. Spatial modelling approaches offer valuable insights into present-day biodiversity patterns and potential future trajectories, however methodological constraints still hamper the applicability of addressing future climate and land cover change concurrently in one modelling workflow. Compared to climate-only projections, spatially explicit and high-resolution land cover projections have seen less attention, and the lack of such data challenges modelling efforts to predict the possible future effects of land cover change especially on freshwater organisms. Here we demonstrate a workflow where we downscale future land cover projection data from the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) scenarios for South America at 1 km2 spatial resolution, to then predict the future habitat suitability patterns of the Colombian fish fauna. Specifically, we show how the land cover data can be converted from plain numbers into a spatially explicit representation for multiple SSP scenarios and at high spatial resolution, employing freshwater-specific downscaling aspects when spatially allocating the land cover category grid cells, and how it can be fitted into an ensemble species distribution modelling approach of 1209 fish species. Our toolbox consists of a suite of open-source tools, including Dinamica EGO, R, GRASS GIS and GDAL, and we provide the code and necessary steps to reproduce the workflow for other study areas. We highlight the feasibility of the downscaling, but also underline the potential challenges regarding the spatial scale and the size of the spatial units of analysis.

Jin, D., Q. Yuan, X. Dai, G. Kozlowski, and Y. Song. 2023. Enhanced precipitation has driven the evolution of subtropical evergreen broad‐leaved forests in eastern China since the early Miocene: Evidence from ring‐cupped oaks. Journal of Systematics and Evolution.

Subtropical evergreen broad‐leaved forest (EBLF) is the predominant vegetation type in eastern China. However, the majority of the region it covers in eastern China was an arid area during the Paleogene. The temporal history and essential factors involved in the evolution of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China remain enigmatic. Here we report on the niche evolution of Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis, which appeared in south China and Japan during the Eocene and became a dominant component of subtropical EBLFs since the Miocene in eastern Asia, using integrative analysis of occurrences, climate data and a dated phylogeny of 35 species in Cyclobalanopsis. Species within clades Cyclobalanoides, Lamellosa, and Helferiana mainly exist in the Himalaya–Hengduan region, adapting to a plateau climate, while species within the other clades mainly live in eastern China under the control of the East Asian monsoon. Reconstructed history showed that significant divergence of climatic tolerance in Cyclobalanopsis began around 19 million years ago (Ma) in the early Miocene. Simultaneously, disparities in precipitation of wettest/warmest quarter and annual precipitation were markedly enhanced in Cyclobalanopsis, especially in the recent eastern clades. During the Miocene, the marked radiation of Cyclobalanopsis and many other dominant taxa of subtropical EBLFs strongly suggest the rapid formation and expansion of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China. Our research highlights that the intensification of the East Asian monsoon and subsequent occupation of new niches by the ancient clades already present in the south may have jointly promoted the formation of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China since the early Miocene.

Kor, L., and M. Diazgranados. 2023. Identifying important plant areas for useful plant species in Colombia. Biological Conservation 284: 110187.

While area-based approaches continue to dominate biodiversity conservation, there is growing recognition of the importance of the human dimensions of biodiversity. We applied the Important Plant Areas (IPA) approach in Colombia to identify key sites for the conservation of plant species with reported human uses. Drawing on the Checklist of Useful Plants of Colombia, we collated 1,045,889 clean occurrence records for 5400 native species from global data repositories and digitized herbaria. Through analysis based on regionalized grid cells, we identified 980 sites meeting IPA thresholds. These are primarily located in forest habitats, with only 19.8 % within existing national natural parks or internationally designated conservation areas. Grid cells were transformed to polygons based on overlapping ecosystems and administrative boundaries to form more meaningful site boundaries. A subsequent two-stage ranking procedure based on conservation value and richness found 46 sites to be of high priority, with 10 selected as top priorities for further investigation and conservation action. These 10 sites support significant populations of 33 threatened useful plant species and represent six of the 13 bioregions of Colombia in just 0.27 % of its land area. To progress from potential to confirmed IPAs, targeted fieldwork is required alongside stakeholder engagement and consultation, crucially involving local resource users. As a megadiverse country ranked second in the world for its botanical richness, effective IPA management would not only contribute to Colombian targets for sustainable development and conservation but would also support global targets to recover biodiversity for both planet and people.

Bharti, D. K., P. Y. Pawar, G. D. Edgecombe, and J. Joshi. 2023. Genetic diversity varies with species traits and latitude in predatory soil arthropods (Myriapoda: Chilopoda). Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim To investigate the drivers of intra-specific genetic diversity in centipedes, a group of ancient predatory soil arthropods. Location Asia, Australasia and Europe. Time Period Present. Major Taxa Studied Centipedes (Class: Chilopoda). Methods We assembled a database of 1245 mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I sequences representing 128 centipede species from all five orders of Chilopoda. This sequence dataset was used to estimate genetic diversity for centipede species and compare its distribution with estimates from other arthropod groups. We studied the variation in centipede genetic diversity with species traits and biogeography using a beta regression framework, controlling for the effect of shared evolutionary history within a family. Results A wide variation in genetic diversity across centipede species (0–0.1713) falls towards the higher end of values among arthropods. Overall, 27.57% of the variation in mitochondrial COI genetic diversity in centipedes was explained by a combination of predictors related to life history and biogeography. Genetic diversity decreased with body size and latitudinal position of sampled localities, was greater in species showing maternal care and increased with geographic distance among conspecifics. Main Conclusions Centipedes fall towards the higher end of genetic diversity among arthropods, which may be related to their long evolutionary history and low dispersal ability. In centipedes, the negative association of body size with genetic diversity may be mediated by its influence on local abundance or the influence of ecological strategy on long-term population history. Species with maternal care had higher genetic diversity, which goes against expectations and needs further scrutiny. Hemispheric differences in genetic diversity can be due to historic climatic stability and lower seasonality in the southern hemisphere. Overall, we find that despite the differences in mean genetic diversity among animals, similar processes related to life-history strategy and biogeography are associated with the variation within them.

Jiménez-López, D. A., M. J. Carmona-Higuita, G. Mendieta-Leiva, R. Martínez-Camilo, A. Espejo-Serna, T. Krömer, N. Martínez-Meléndez, and N. Ramírez-Marcial. 2023. Linking different resources to recognize vascular epiphyte richness and distribution in a mountain system in southeastern Mexico. Flora: 152261.

Mesoamerican mountains are important centers of endemism and diversity of epiphytes. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico is a mountainous region of great ecological interest due to its high biological richness. We present the first checklist of epiphytes for this region based on a compilation of various information sources. In addition, we determined the conservation status for each species based on the Mexican Official Standard (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), endemism based on geopolitical boundaries, spatial completeness with inventory completeness index, richness distribution with range maps, and the relationship between climatic variables (temperature and rainfall) with species richness using generalized additive models. Our dataset includes 9,799 records collected between 1896-2017. Our checklist includes 708 epiphytes within 160 genera and 26 families; the most species-rich family was Orchidaceae (355 species), followed by Bromeliaceae (82) and Polypodiaceae (79). There were 74 species within a category of risk and 59 species considered endemic. Completeness of epiphyte richness suggests that sampling is still largely incomplete, particularly in the lower parts of the mountain system. Species and family range maps show the highest richness at high elevations, while geographically richness increases towards the southeast. Epiphyte richness increases with increased rainfall, although a unimodal pattern was observed along the temperature gradient with a species richness peak between 16-20 C°. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas forms a refuge to more than 40% of all epiphytes reported for Mexico and its existing network of protected areas overlaps with the greatest epiphyte richness.

Grigoropoulou, A., S. A. Hamid, R. Acosta, E. O. Akindele, S. A. Al‐Shami, F. Altermatt, G. Amatulli, et al. 2023. The global EPTO database: Worldwide occurrences of aquatic insects. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Motivation Aquatic insects comprise 64% of freshwater animal diversity and are widely used as bioindicators to assess water quality impairment and freshwater ecosystem health, as well as to test ecological hypotheses. Despite their importance, a comprehensive, global database of aquatic insect occurrences for mapping freshwater biodiversity in macroecological studies and applied freshwater research is missing. We aim to fill this gap and present the Global EPTO Database, which includes worldwide geo-referenced aquatic insect occurrence records for four major taxa groups: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata (EPTO). Main type of variables contained A total of 8,368,467 occurrence records globally, of which 8,319,689 (99%) are publicly available. The records are attributed to the corresponding drainage basin and sub-catchment based on the Hydrography90m dataset and are accompanied by the elevation value, the freshwater ecoregion and the protection status of their location. Spatial location and grain The database covers the global extent, with 86% of the observation records having coordinates with at least four decimal digits (11.1 m precision at the equator) in the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) coordinate reference system. Time period and grain Sampling years span from 1951 to 2021. Ninety-nine percent of the records have information on the year of the observation, 95% on the year and month, while 94% have a complete date. In the case of seven sub-datasets, exact dates can be retrieved upon communication with the data contributors. Major taxa and level of measurement Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata, standardized at the genus taxonomic level. We provide species names for 7,727,980 (93%) records without further taxonomic verification. Software format The entire tab-separated value (.csv) database can be downloaded and visualized at Fifty individual datasets are also available at, while six datasets have restricted access. For the latter, we share metadata and the contact details of the authors.

Reichgelt, T., A. Baumgartner, R. Feng, and D. A. Willard. 2023. Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA. Global and Planetary Change 222: 104073.

Paleoclimate reconstructions can provide a window into the environmental conditions in Earth history when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than today. In the eastern USA, paleoclimate reconstructions are sparse, because terrestrial sedimentary deposits are rare. Despite this, the eastern USA has the largest population and population density in North America, and understanding the effects of current and future climate change is of vital importance. Here, we provide terrestrial paleoclimate reconstructions of the eastern USA from Miocene fossil floras. Additionally, we compare proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from the warmest period in the Miocene, the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO), to those of an MCO Earth System Model. Reconstructed Miocene temperatures and precipitation north of 35°N are higher than modern. In contrast, south of 35°N, temperatures and precipitation are similar to today, suggesting a poleward amplification effect in eastern North America. Reconstructed Miocene rainfall seasonality was predominantly higher than modern, regardless of latitude, indicating greater variability in intra-annual moisture transport. Reconstructed climates are almost uniformly in the temperate seasonal forest biome, but heterogeneity of specific forest types is evident. Reconstructed Miocene terrestrial temperatures from the eastern USA are lower than modeled temperatures and coeval Atlantic sea surface temperatures. However, reconstructed rainfall is consistent with modeled rainfall. Our results show that during the Miocene, climate was most different from modern in the northeastern states, and may suggest a drastic reduction in the meridional temperature gradient along the North American east coast compared to today.

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.

Liu, S., S. Xia, D. Wu, J. E. Behm, Y. Meng, H. Yuan, P. Wen, et al. 2022. Understanding global and regional patterns of termite diversity and regional functional traits. iScience: 105538.

Our understanding of broad-scale biodiversity and functional trait patterns is largely based on plants, and relatively little information is available on soil arthropods. Here, we investigated the distribution of termite diversity globally and morphological traits and diversity across China. Our analyses showed increasing termite species richness with decreasing latitude at both the globally, and within-China. Additionally, we detected obvious latitudinal trends in the mean community value of termite morphological traits on average, with body size and leg length decreasing with increasing latitude. Furthermore, temperature, NDVI and water variables were the most important drivers controlling the variation in termite richness, and temperature and soil properties were key drivers of the geographic distribution of termite morphological traits. Our global termite richness map is one of the first high resolution maps for any arthropod group and especially given the functional importance of termites, our work provides a useful baseline for further ecological analysis.