Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Lilly, L. E., I. M. Suthers, J. D. Everett, and A. J. Richardson. 2023. A global review of pyrosomes: Shedding light on the ocean’s elusive gelatinous “fire‐bodies”. Limnology and Oceanography Letters.

Pyrosomes are colonial tunicates that form gelatinous tubes and occasionally produce bioluminescent swarms. The rapid “bloom‐bust” dynamics of pyrosomes have the potential to outcompete other zooplankton, restructure marine food webs, enhance carbon export, and interfere with human activities. Pyrosomes have been recorded for at least two centuries, yet much remains unknown about their physiology, bloom mechanisms, and ecosystem impacts. Recent bloom reports prompt the question of whether frequencies or densities are increasing, and whether potential population changes are caused by ocean change. This review clarifies current information on pyrosome biology and ecology and explores apparent contradictions in habitat preferences and diel vertical migration (DVM). We posit that the dominant species, Pyrosoma atlanticum, may preferentially inhabit waters below 18°C and alter its DVM activity to maintain overall body temperature near this threshold. Expanding our knowledge of pyrosomes is needed to facilitate their inclusion in ecosystem models and forecasts of future population distributions.

Montana, K. O., V. Ramírez-Castañeda, and R. D. Tarvin. 2023. Are Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) Resistant to Tetrodotoxin (TTX)? Characterizing Potential TTX Exposure and Resistance in an Ecological Associate of Pacific Newts (Taricha). Journal of Herpetology 57.

Animals that frequently encounter toxins often develop mechanisms of toxin resistance over evolutionary time. Both predators that consume toxic prey and organisms in physical contact with a toxin in their environment may experience natural selection for resistance. Based on observations that Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) sometimes eat and mistakenly amplect tetrodotoxin (TTX)-defended Taricha newts, we predicted that P. regilla may possess TTX resistance. We compared amino acid sequences of domain IV of the muscle voltage-gated sodium channel gene SCN4A (NaV1.4) in populations of P. regilla that are sympatric and allopatric with Taricha. We identified a single substitution in NaV1.4 of P. regilla at a conserved site in the pore loop where TTX binds. Although the role of this site in TTX resistance has not been functionally assessed, both allopatric and sympatric P. regilla had this substitution, along with several other reptiles and amphibians, suggesting that it may be unrelated to TTX exposure from Taricha. Thus, there is no conclusive evidence that P. regilla possesses TTX resistance encoded by amino acid substitutions in this domain. California occurrence data from the last 50 yr indicate that Taricha activity peaks in January while the activity of P. regilla peaks in April, with times where the species may come into contact. However, P. regilla may not be exposed to levels of TTX from Taricha high enough to select for mutations in NaV1.4. Other unidentified mechanisms of TTX resistance could be present in P. regilla and other species sympatric with toxic newts.

Di Febbraro, M., L. Bosso, M. Fasola, F. Santicchia, G. Aloise, S. Lioy, E. Tricarico, et al. 2023. Different facets of the same niche: Integrating citizen science and scientific survey data to predict biological invasion risk under multiple global change drivers. Global Change Biology.

Citizen science initiatives have been increasingly used by researchers as a source of occurrence data to model the distribution of alien species. Since citizen science presence‐only data suffer from some fundamental issues, efforts have been made to combine these data with those provided by scientifically structured surveys. Surprisingly, only a few studies proposing data integration evaluated the contribution of this process to the effective sampling of species' environmental niches and, consequently, its effect on model predictions on new time intervals. We relied on niche overlap analyses, machine learning classification algorithms and ecological niche models to compare the ability of data from citizen science and scientific surveys, along with their integration, in capturing the realized niche of 13 invasive alien species in Italy. Moreover, we assessed differences in current and future invasion risk predicted by each data set under multiple global change scenarios. We showed that data from citizen science and scientific surveys captured similar species niches though highlighting exclusive portions associated with clearly identifiable environmental conditions. In terrestrial species, citizen science data granted the highest gain in environmental space to the pooled niches, determining an increased future biological invasion risk. A few aquatic species modelled at the regional scale reported a net loss in the pooled niches compared to their scientific survey niches, suggesting that citizen science data may also lead to contraction in pooled niches. For these species, models predicted a lower future biological invasion risk. These findings indicate that citizen science data may represent a valuable contribution to predicting future spread of invasive alien species, especially within national‐scale programmes. At the same time, citizen science data collected on species poorly known to citizen scientists, or in strictly local contexts, may strongly affect the niche quantification of these taxa and the prediction of their future biological invasion risk.

Zhang, W., Z. Liao, Q. Xiao, J. Zhou, X. Shi, C. Li, Y. Chen, and W. Xu. 2023. Habitat-specific conservation priorities of multidimensional diversity patterns of amphibians in China effectively contribute to the ‘3030’ target. Science of The Total Environment 901: 165959.

Amphibia is the most threatened animal group among all land vertebrates in the context of anthropogenic global change. Filling the conservation gaps for this taxonomic group could help achieve the ambitious target of covering 30 % of the land by 2030 (‘3030’ target) set by the 15-th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15). In this study, we compiled the most up-to-date occurrence records and corresponding species-specific traits and phylogenies of amphibians in China (particularly those newly described in the past decade) to explore the spatial distribution patterns of multidimensional diversity (including taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic) for different species groups (including all, endemic and threatened). Additionally, a new conservation gap index (CGI) was proposed and applied to the analysis of multi-objective conservation strategies. The results showed that the spatial distribution of taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of amphibians in China is markedly geographically diverse, with common hotspots for all three concentrated in the humid mountainous regions of southern China. The CGI, which is independent of arbitrary threshold selection and grid cell size, showed that the conservation gap for amphibians in China is largest in biomes such as tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. The multi-objective conservation analysis revealed that the Yangtze River basin, Pearl River basin and Southeast Basin in China have pivotal roles in achieving the ‘3030’ target due to their high taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity, relatively high proportion of threatened and endemic species, and low coverage of existing nature reserves. Notably, sustainable management of less-protected habitats, including farmlands and grasslands, can reduce the area requirement of strict protection for reaching the ‘3030’ conservation goal. This study provides practical strategies for guiding amphibian conservation by systematically integrating multidimensional biodiversity information, habitat features and the spatial distributions of the existing natural reserves.

Long, J. M., and L. Seguy. 2023. Global Status of Non-Native Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmoides, Centrachidae) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus Dolomieu, Centrarchidae): Disparate Views as Beloved Sportfish and Feared Invader. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture: 1–18.

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides, LMB) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu, SMB) are among the most highly invasive species across the globe, but are simultaneously among the most highly sought-after game fish. To explain these disparate views, data on invasive status and angling participation of these two species were compiled at the country level. Largemouth Bass were found established in 62 countries on five continents, whereas SMB were found established in only nine countries on the same five continents. Invasive risk assessments were disparate between the species, with more for SMB (N = 29) than LMB (N = 27). In every instance save one (Finland), SMB were considered “invasive” compared to LMB, which were “invasive” in only 74% of assessments. Twenty-eight countries with non-native black bass have groups that participate in high-profile fishing tournament such the Black Bass World Championship, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsmans Society) Nation, and Major League Fishing. Most countries with fishing tournaments occur in countries with established LMB populations than in countries with established SMB populations, suggesting a greater economic importance on LMB fishing. The struggle between conserving biodiversity and relying upon economic benefits from fishing for introduced species is a wicked problem likely to continue into the future.

Vázquez-Rueda, E., A. P. Cuervo-Robayo, and J. Ayala-Berdon. 2023. Forest dependency could be more important than dispersal capacity for habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats inhabiting a highly anthropized region in central Mexico. Mammal Research.

The maintenance, restoration, and improvement of habitat structure are critical for biodiversity conservation. Under this context, studies assessing habitat connectivity become essential, especially those focused on anthropized regions holding high species richness. We calculated the habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats with different dispersal capacity and habitat preferences in a highly anthropized region in central Mexico, Idionycteris phyllotis and Myotis thysanodes , with a high dispersal capacity and forest-dependency, and Eptesicus fuscus with a low dispersal capacity, and Tadarida brasiliensis with a high dispersal capacity, as the more tolerant bat species to anthropogenic disturbance. We developed niche-based species distribution models to identify suitable habitat patches for each species. We then assessed habitat connectivity and the importance of suitable habitat patches for maintaining connectivity using a graph theory approach. Our results showed that forest dependency was most important than dispersal capacity for connectivity. We also found that the Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl mountain, a National Park comprising 4.2% of natural vegetation in the study area, was the most critical patch for maintaining connectivity for most of the study species. Our study demonstrates the importance of conserving the remnants of natural vegetation for maintaining habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape and demonstrates the importance of conserving protected areas as well as other remnants of vegetation for the maintenance of habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape.

Cruz, J. A., J. A. Velasco, J. Arroyo-Cabrales, and E. Johnson. 2023. Paleoclimatic Reconstruction Based on the Late Pleistocene San Josecito Cave Stratum 720 Fauna Using Fossil Mammals, Reptiles, and Birds. Diversity 15: 881.

Advances in technology have equipped paleobiologists with new analytical tools to assess the fossil record. The functional traits of vertebrates have been used to infer paleoenvironmental conditions. In Quaternary deposits, birds are the second-most-studied group after mammals. They are considered a poor paleoambiental proxy because their high vagility and phenotypic plasticity allow them to respond more effectively to climate change. Investigating multiple groups is important, but it is not often attempted. Biogeographical and climatic niche information concerning small mammals, reptiles, and birds have been used to infer the paleoclimatic conditions present during the Late Pleistocene at San Josecito Cave (~28,000 14C years BP), Mexico. Warmer and dryer conditions are inferred with respect to the present. The use of all of the groups of small vertebrates is recommended because they represent an assemblage of species that have gone through a series of environmental filters in the past. Individually, different vertebrate groups provide different paleoclimatic information. Birds are a good proxy for inferring paleoprecipitation but not paleotemperature. Together, reptiles and small mammals are a good proxy for inferring paleoprecipitation and paleotemperature, but reptiles alone are a bad proxy, and mammals alone are a good proxy for inferring paleotemperature and precipitation. The current paleoclimatic results coupled with those of a previous vegetation structure analysis indicate the presence of non-analog paleoenvironmental conditions during the Late Pleistocene in the San Josecito Cave area. This situation would explain the presence of a disharmonious fauna and the extinction of several taxa when these conditions later disappeared and do not reappear again.

Ghazali, S. Z., S. Lavoué, T. Sukmono, A. Habib, M. P. Tan, and S. A. M. Nor. 2023. Cenozoic colonisation of the Indian Ocean region by the Australian freshwater-originating glassperch family Ambassidae (Teleostei). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 186: 107832.

We examined the phylogeny and biogeography of the glassperch family Ambassidae (Teleostei), which is widely distributed in the freshwater, brackish and marine coastal habitats across the Indo-West Pacific region. We first built a comprehensive time-calibrated phylogeny of Ambassidae using five genes. We then used this tree to reconstruct the evolution of the salinity preference and ancestral areas. Our results indicate that the two largest genera of Ambassidae, Ambassis and Parambassis, are each not monophyletic. The most recent common ancestor of Ambassidae was freshwater adapted and lived in Australia about 56 million years ago. Three independent freshwater-to-marine transitions are inferred, but no marine-to-freshwater ones. To explain the distribution of ambassids, we hypothesise two long-distance marine dispersal events from Australia. A first event was towards Southeast Asia during the early Cenozoic, followed by a second one towards Africa during mid-Cenozoic. The phylogenetic signal associated with the salinity adaptation of these events was not detected, possibly because of the selective extinction of intermediate marine lineages. The Ambassidae shares two characteristics with other freshwater fish groups distributed in continental regions surrounding the Indian Ocean: They are too young to support the hypothesis that their distribution is the result of the fragmentation of Gondwana, but they did not retain the phylogenetic signal of their marine dispersal.

Hedrick, B. P., A. Estrada, C. Sutherland, and A. M. Barbosa. 2023. Projected northward shifts in eastern red‐backed salamanders due to changing climate. Ecology and Evolution 13.

Many species' distributions are being impacted by the acceleration of climate change. Amphibians in particular serve numerous ecosystem functions and are useful indicators of environmental change. Understanding how their distributions have been impacted by climate change and will continue to be impacted is thus important to overall ecosystem health. Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red‐Backed Salamander) is a widespread species of lungless salamander (Plethodontidae) that ranges across northeastern North America. To better understand future potential lungless salamander range shifts, we quantify environmental favorability, the likelihood of membership in a set of sites where environmental conditions are favorable for a species, for P. cinereus in multiple time periods, and examine shifts in the species' distribution. First, utilizing a large data set of georeferenced records, we assessed which bioclimatic variables were associated with environmental favorability in P. cinereus. We then used species distribution modeling for two time periods (1961–1980 and 2001–2020) to determine whether there was a regional shift in environmental favorability in the past 60 years. Models were then used to project future distributions under eight climate change scenarios to quantify potential range shifts. Shifts were assessed using fuzzy logic, avoiding thresholds that oversimplify model predictions into artificial binary outputs. We found that P. cinereus presence is strongly associated with environmental stability. There has been a substantial northward shift in environmental favorability for P. cinereus between 1961–1980 and 2001–2020. This shift is predicted to continue by 2070, with larger shifts under higher greenhouse gas emission scenarios. As climate change accelerates, it is differentially impacting species but has especially strong impacts on dispersal‐limited species. Our results show substantial northward shifts in climatic favorability in the last 60 years for P. cinereus, which are likely to be exacerbated by ongoing climate change. Since P. cinereus is dispersal‐limited, these models may imply local extirpations along the southern modern range with limited northward dispersal. Continued monitoring of amphibians in the field will reveal microclimatic effects associated with climate change and the accuracy of the model predictions presented here.

Garrido-Priego, M., D. Aragonés, H. C. Liedtke, A. Whitworth, and I. Gomez-Mestre. 2023. Remote sensing and citizen science to characterize the ecological niche of an endemic and endangered Costa Rican poison frog. Amphibia-Reptilia: 1–16.

Abstract Habitat encroachment can have devastating effects upon biodiversity, especially amphibians. Phyllobates vittatus is an endemic frog from Costa Rica, where land cover has seen significant changes over recent decades. Here we use remote sensing to create a land cover map of the region and carry out ecological niche modelling to identify the main abiotic factors associated to the distribution of this species. We have informed our models based on our own field observations, those from other researchers, and citizen science participants to obtain a comprehensive database of P. vittatus occurrences. Elevation, forest percentage, distance to lakes and rivers, annual temperature range and precipitation variables were found to shape the ecological niche of P. vittatus, which is mostly located within protected areas. Prior knowledge of the habitat of the species was key to interpret the model output. We identify populations that might be isolated, and areas where presence has not yet been verified or that have not been occupied by the species, thus, identifying potential areas for reintroductions. We also calculated the area of occupancy and recommend that P. vittatus’ status be adjusted to “Endangered”. Future surveys and evaluation of population health and connectivity would help to better ensure the protection of the species in the long-term.