Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.09.005

Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.

Zhang, X., X. Ci, J. Hu, Y. Bai, A. H. Thornhill, J. G. Conran, and J. Li. 2022. Riparian areas as a conservation priority under climate change. Science of The Total Environment: 159879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159879

Identifying climatic refugia is important for long-term conservation planning under climate change. Riparian areas have the potential to provide climatic refugia for wildlife, but literature remains limited, especially for plants. This study was conducted with the purpose of identifying climatic refugia of plant biodiversity in the portion of the Mekong River Basin located in Xishuangbanna, China. We first predicted the current and future (2050s and 2070s) potential distribution of 50 threatened woody species in Xishuangbanna by using an ensemble of small models, then stacked the predictions for individual species to derive spatial biodiversity patterns within each 10 × 10 km grid cell. We then identified the top 17 % of the areas for spatial biodiversity patterns as biodiversity hotspots, with climatic refugia defined as areas that remained as biodiversity hotspots over time. Stepwise regression and linear correlation were applied to analyze the environmental correlations with spatial biodiversity patterns and the relationships between climatic refugia and river distribution, respectively. Our results showed potential upward and northward shifts in threatened woody species, with range contractions and expansions predicted. The spatial biodiversity patterns shift from southeast to northwest, and were influenced by temperature, precipitation, and elevation heterogeneity. Climatic refugia under climate change were related closely to river distribution in Xishuangbanna, with riparian areas identified that could provide climatic refugia. These refugial zones are recommended as priority conservation areas for mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Our study confirmed that riparian areas could act as climatic refugia for plants and emphasizes the conservation prioritization of riparian areas within river basins for protecting biodiversity under climate change.

Bochorny, T., L. F. Bacci, M. Reginato, T. Vasconcelos, F. A. Michelangeli, and R. Goldenberg. 2022. Similar diversification patterns in “sky islands”: a comparative approach in lineages from campo rupestre and campo de altitude. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 125700. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2022.125700

Campo rupestre and campo de altitude are two highly diverse plant formations that are found in montane areas in eastern Brazil. These formations are associated with landscapes having different geological histories and are part of different phytogeographic domains under different climatic conditions. It is unclear however, whether lineages in each area have different diversification dynamics and climatic niche evolution. Here we analyze biogeographical history, climatic niche evolution and diversification dynamics of the Cambessedesieae (Melastomataceae), a clade with many endemics in each formation. We use a time-calibrated phylogenetic tree alongside carefully curated distribution points to estimate ancestral ranges and compare diversification dynamics and climatic niche evolution across the group, using models of geographical range evolution (BioGeoBEARS), diversification dynamics (BAMM, GeoSSE) and trait-evolution (l1ou). Our results show that Cambessedesieae is a relatively old (Early Eocene, 48 Mya) clade in comparison to other lineages of similar distribution. An initial split between lineages that are mainly endemic to either formation happened earlier, but, surprisingly, these two lineages have similar diversification dynamics and climatic niche evolution. Shifts in climatic regimes in extant lineages occurred more recently and are not associated with changes in diversification rates. Overall, we show that lineages endemic to montane areas and having different geological histories and in different climatic and phytogeographic contexts can have similar diversification patterns.

Castillo, C. C., B. Fahy, and D. Q. Fuller. 2022. Star anise from a fifteenth century Indonesian shipwreck. Archaeology in Oceania. https://doi.org/10.1002/arco.5275

Maritime trade routes in Southeast Asia date to at least the last millennium BC evidenced by excavations of port‐cities, entrepôts and early coastal polities in Peninsular Thailand, the Mekong Delta and Island Southeast Asia. This trade network intensified over the next millennium and by the fifteenth century, the number of trade goods throughout Medieval Southeast Asia was prolific. The bulk of studied material comprises trade ceramics, particularly in archaeological investigations of shipwreck cargoes which provide information on regional trading patterns. Although ceramic assemblages constitute the bulk of shipwreck cargo, other types of material have also been found, including the spice star anise. In this paper, we focus on the organic contents from two jars found in the Bakau shipwreck dating to the early fifteenth century AD. The finds are significant as this spice (star anise, Illicium verum) is being transported together with items of high value for trade.

Fungjanthuek, J., M.-J. Huang, A. C. Hughes, J.-F. Huang, H.-H. Chen, J. Gao, and Y.-Q. Peng. 2022. Ecological Niche Overlap and Prediction of the Potential Distribution of Two Sympatric Ficus (Moraceae) Species in the Indo-Burma Region. Forests 13: 1420. https://doi.org/10.3390/f13091420

Climate change is a major factor influencing the species distribution and population diversity of living creatures. In this study, the ecological niche model (ENM) MaxEnt was used to evaluate habitat suitability and predict potential habitats of two sympatric fig species, i.e., Ficus squamosa and F. heterostyla, in the Xishuangbanna region of China. Results indicated that mean diurnal range, isothermality, cation exchange capacity (at pH 7), and temperature seasonality were key variables influencing habitat suitability for F. squamosa. However, temperature seasonality and precipitation of the driest quarter showed the greatest contributions to F. heterostyla distribution. During the current period, the habitat suitability distributions of both Ficus species were considerably higher than known occurrences. In the future, potentially suitable distribution areas for both species will reduce overall across the whole study area, although some expansion may occur by 2070. Niche overlap of suitable areas for both species was initially high and then declined in the current period and future epochs in the RCP 2.6 scenario, but increased in the RCP 8.5 scenario. In short, the responses of both Ficus species to climate change differed. Thus, specific actions such as ex situ conservation and assisted migration may be needed to conserve both species.

Testo, W. L., A. L. de Gasper, S. Molino, J. M. G. y Galán, A. Salino, V. A. de O. Dittrich, and E. B. Sessa. 2022. Deep vicariance and frequent transoceanic dispersal shape the evolutionary history of a globally distributed fern family. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16062

Premise Historical biogeography of ferns is typically expected to be dominated by long-distance dispersal, due to their minuscule spores. However, few studies have inferred the historical biogeography of a large and widely distributed group of ferns to test this hypothesis. Our aims are to determine the extent to which long-distance dispersal vs. vicariance have shaped the history of the fern family Blechnaceae, to explore ecological correlates of dispersal and diversification, and to determine whether these patterns differ between the northern and southern hemispheres. Methods We used sequence data for three chloroplast loci to infer a time-calibrated phylogeny for 154 out of 265 species of Blechnaceae, including representatives of all genera in the family. This tree was used to conduct ancestral range reconstruction and stochastic character mapping, estimate diversification rates, and identify ecological correlates of diversification. Key results Blechnaceae originated in Eurasia and began diversifying in the late Cretaceous. A lineage comprising most extant diversity diversified principally in the austral Pacific region around the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Land connections that existed near the poles during periods of warm climates likely facilitated migration of several lineages, with subsequent climate-mediated vicariance shaping current distributions. Long-distance dispersal is frequent and asymmetrical, with New Zealand/Pacific Islands, Australia, and tropical America being major source areas. Conclusions Ancient vicariance and extensive long-distance dispersal have shaped the history of Blechnaceae in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The exceptional diversity in austral regions appears to reflect rapid speciation in these areas; mechanisms underlying this evolutionary success remain uncertain.

Lu, L.-L., B.-H. Jiao, F. Qin, G. Xie, K.-Q. Lu, J.-F. Li, B. Sun, et al. 2022. Artemisia pollen dataset for exploring the potential ecological indicators in deep time. Earth System Science Data 14: 3961–3995. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-14-3961-2022

Abstract. Artemisia, along with Chenopodiaceae, is the dominant component growing in the desert and dry grassland of the Northern Hemisphere. Artemisia pollen with its high productivity, wide distribution, and easy identification is usually regarded as an eco-indicator for assessing aridity and distinguishing grassland from desert vegetation in terms of the pollen relative abundance ratio of Chenopodiaceae/Artemisia (C/A). Nevertheless, divergent opinions on the degree of aridity evaluated by Artemisia pollen have been circulating in the palynological community for a long time. To solve the confusion, we first selected 36 species from nine clades and three outgroups of Artemisia based on the phylogenetic framework, which attempts to cover the maximum range of pollen morphological variation. Then, sampling, experiments, photography, and measurements were taken using standard methods. Here, we present pollen datasets containing 4018 original pollen photographs, 9360 pollen morphological trait measurements, information on 30 858 source plant occurrences, and corresponding environmental factors. Hierarchical cluster analysis on pollen morphological traits was carried out to subdivide Artemisia pollen into three types. When plotting the three pollen types of Artemisia onto the global terrestrial biomes, different pollen types of Artemisia were found to have different habitat ranges. These findings change the traditional concept of Artemisia being restricted to arid and semi-arid environments. The data framework that we designed is open and expandable for new pollen data of Artemisia worldwide. In the future, linking pollen morphology with habitat via these pollen datasets will create additional knowledge that will increase the resolution of the ecological environment in the geological past. The Artemisia pollen datasets are freely available at Zenodo (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6900308; Lu et al., 2022).

Coca‐de‐la‐Iglesia, M., N. G. Medina, J. Wen, and V. Valcárcel. 2022. Evaluation of the tropical‐temperate transitions: An example of climatic characterization in the Asian Palmate group of Araliaceae. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16059

(no abstract available)

Lannuzel, G., L. Pouget, D. Bruy, V. Hequet, S. Meyer, J. Munzinger, and G. Gâteblé. 2022. Mining rare Earth elements: Identifying the plant species most threatened by ore extraction in an insular hotspot. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.952439

Conservation efforts in global biodiversity hotspots often face a common predicament: an urgent need for conservation action hampered by a significant lack of knowledge about that biodiversity. In recent decades, the computerisation of primary biodiversity data worldwide has provided the scientific community with raw material to increase our understanding of the shared natural heritage. These datasets, however, suffer from a lot of geographical and taxonomic inaccuracies. Automated tools developed to enhance their reliability have shown that detailed expert examination remains the best way to achieve robust and exhaustive datasets. In New Caledonia, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots worldwide, the plant diversity inventory is still underway, and most taxa awaiting formal description are narrow endemics, hence by definition hard to discern in the datasets. In the meantime, anthropogenic pressures, such as nickel-ore mining, are threatening the unique ultramafic ecosystems at an increasing rate. The conservation challenge is therefore a race against time, as the rarest species must be identified and protected before they vanish. In this study, based on all available datasets and resources, we applied a workflow capable of highlighting the lesser known taxa. The main challenges addressed were to aggregate all data available worldwide, and tackle the geographical and taxonomic biases, avoiding the data loss resulting from automated filtering. Every doubtful specimen went through a careful taxonomic analysis by a local and international taxonomist panel. Geolocation of the whole dataset was achieved through dataset cross-checking, local botanists’ field knowledge, and historical material examination. Field studies were also conducted to clarify the most unresolved taxa. With the help of this method and by analysing over 85,000 data, we were able to double the number of known narrow endemic taxa, elucidate 68 putative new species, and update our knowledge of the rarest species’ distributions so as to promote conservation measures.

Couvreur, T. L. P., X. Cornejo, J. N. Zapata, and A. Loor. 2022. Two new magnoliid (Annonaceae, Lauraceae) tree species from Manabí, western Ecuador. Blumea - Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants. https://doi.org/10.3767/blumea.2022.67.02.02

Western Ecuador harbours high plant diversity and endemism. The region of Manabí has known intense deforestation over the last decades, but lowland rain forests persist in a network of small forest fragment patches. Here, we describe two new magnoliid tree species from a small privately owned forest fragment known as La Esperanza reserve, in the El Carmen canton (Manabí): Aniba ecuadorica (Lauraceae) and Guatteria esperanzae (Annonaceae). For both species a detailed morphological description, a preliminary conservation status following IUCN criteria, distribution maps and high quality photographs are provided. This represents the second species of Aniba known to occur in western Ecuador, while there are 14 species of Guatteria documented for Ecuador west of the Andes. Aniba ecuadorica is only known from two localities and has a preliminary IUCN conservation status of Critically Endangered, while Guatteria esperanzae is known from six localities and is suggested to be Endangered. Finally, we provide a quick overview of Guatteria species in western Ecuador with a key to the species in the region. The description of these two new tree species underlines the important need of prospection and conservation of the remnant forests in the Manabí region of western Ecuador. We also stress the importance of privately owned forest fragments for biodiversity conservation.