Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Luna-Aranguré, C., and E. Vázquez-Domínguez. 2024. Bears into the Niche-Space: Phylogeography and Phyloclimatic Model of the Family Ursidae. Diversity 16: 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/d16040223

Assessing niche evolution remains an open question and an actively developing area of study. The family Ursidae consists of eight extant species for which, despite being the most studied family of carnivores, little is known about the influence of climate on their evolutionary history and diversification. We evaluated their evolutionary patterns based on a combined phylogeography and niche modeling approach. We used complete mitogenomes, estimated divergence times, generated ecological niche models and applied a phyloclimatic model to determine the species evolutionary and diversification patterns associated with their respective environmental niches. We inferred the family evolutionary path along the environmental conditions of maximum temperature and minimum precipitation, from around 20 million years ago to the present. Our findings show that the phyloclimatic niches of the bear species occupy most of the environmental space available on the planet, except for the most extreme warm conditions, in accordance with the wide geographic distribution of Ursidae. Moreover, some species exhibit broader environmental niches than others, and in some cases, they explore precipitation axes more extensively than temperature axes or vice versa, suggesting that not all species are equally adaptable to these variables. We were able to elucidate potential patterns of niche conservatism and evolution, as well as niche overlapping, suggesting interspecific competitive exclusion between some of the bear species. We present valuable insights into the ecological and evolutionary processes driving the diversification and distribution of the Ursidae. Our approach also provides essential information for guiding effective conservation strategies, particularly in terms of distribution limits in the face of climate change.

Zachos, L. G., and A. Ziegler. 2024. Selective concentration of iron, titanium, and zirconium substrate minerals within Gregory’s diverticulum, an organ unique to derived sand dollars (Echinoidea: Scutelliformes). PeerJ 12: e17178. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.17178

Gregory’s diverticulum, a digestive tract structure unique to a derived group of sand dollars (Echinoidea: Scutelliformes), is filled with sand grains obtained from the substrate the animals inhabit. The simple methods of shining a bright light through a specimen or testing response to a magnet can reveal the presence of a mineral-filled diverticulum. Heavy minerals with a specific gravity of >2.9 g/cm3 are selectively concentrated inside the organ, usually at concentrations one order of magnitude, or more, greater than found in the substrate. Analyses of diverticulum content for thirteen species from nine genera, using optical mineralogy, powder X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, as well as micro-computed tomography shows the preference for selection of five major heavy minerals: magnetite (Fe3O4), hematite (Fe2O3), ilmenite (FeTiO3), rutile (TiO2), and zircon (ZrSiO4). Minor amounts of heavy or marginally heavy amphibole, pyroxene and garnet mineral grains may also be incorporated. In general, the animals exhibit a preference for mineral grains with a specific gravity of >4.0 g/cm3, although the choice is opportunistic and the actual mix of mineral species depends on the mineral composition of the substrate. The animals also select for grain size, with mineral grains generally in the range of 50 to 150 μm, and do not appear to alter this preference during ontogeny. A comparison of analytical methods demonstrates that X-ray attenuation measured using micro-computed tomography is a reliable non-destructive method for heavy mineral quantification when supported by associated analyses of mineral grains extracted destructively from specimens or from substrate collected together with the specimens. Commonalities in the electro-chemical surface properties of the ingested minerals suggest that such characteristics play an important role in the selection process.

Tang, T., Y. Zhu, Y.-Y. Zhang, J.-J. Chen, J.-B. Tian, Q. Xu, B.-G. Jiang, et al. 2024. The global distribution and the risk prediction of relapsing fever group Borrelia: a data review with modelling analysis. The Lancet Microbe. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2666-5247(23)00396-8

Background The recent discovery of emerging relapsing fever group Borrelia (RFGB) species, such as Borrelia miyamotoi, poses a growing threat to public health. However, the global distribution and associated risk burden of these species remain uncertain. We aimed to map the diversity, distribution, and potential infection risk of RFGB.MethodsWe searched PubMed, Web of Science, GenBank, CNKI, and eLibrary from Jan 1, 1874, to Dec 31, 2022, for published articles without language restriction to extract distribution data for RFGB detection in vectors, animals, and humans, and clinical information about human patients. Only articles documenting RFGB infection events were included in this study, and data for RFGB detection in vectors, animals, or humans were composed into a dataset. We used three machine learning algorithms (boosted regression trees, random forest, and least absolute shrinkage and selection operator logistic regression) to assess the environmental, ecoclimatic, biological, and socioeconomic factors associated with the occurrence of four major RFGB species: Borrelia miyamotoi, Borrelia lonestari, Borrelia crocidurae, and Borrelia hermsii; and mapped their worldwide risk level.FindingsWe retrieved 13 959 unique studies, among which 697 met the selection criteria and were used for data extraction. 29 RFGB species have been recorded worldwide, of which 27 have been identified from 63 tick species, 12 from 61 wild animals, and ten from domestic animals. 16 RFGB species caused human infection, with a cumulative count of 26 583 cases reported from Jan 1, 1874, to Dec 31, 2022. Borrelia recurrentis (17 084 cases) and Borrelia persica (2045 cases) accounted for the highest proportion of human infection. B miyamotoi showed the widest distribution among all RFGB, with a predicted environmentally suitable area of 6·92 million km2, followed by B lonestari (1·69 million km2), B crocidurae (1·67 million km2), and B hermsii (1·48 million km2). The habitat suitability index of vector ticks and climatic factors, such as the annual mean temperature, have the most significant effect among all predictive models for the geographical distribution of the four major RFGB species.InterpretationThe predicted high-risk regions are considerably larger than in previous reports. Identification, surveillance, and diagnosis of RFGB infections should be prioritised in high-risk areas, especially within low-income regions.FundingNational Key Research and Development Program of China.

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. https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836241231446

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.

Pereira, W. G., A. C. de Almeida, S. de P. Barros-Alves, and D. F. R. Alves. 2024. Species distribution models to predict the impacts of environmental disasters on shrimp species of economic interest. Marine Pollution Bulletin 201: 116162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2024.116162

Here, we used distribution models to predict the size of the environmentally suitable area for shrimps of fishing interest that were impacted by the tailing plume from the collapse of the Fundão Dam, one of the largest ecological disasters ever to occur in Brazil. Species distribution models (SDMs) were generated for nine species of penaeid shrimp that occurred in the impacted region. Average temperature showed the highest percentage of contribution for SDMs. The environmental suitability of penaeids varied significantly in relation to the distance to the coast and mouth river. The area of environmental suitability of shrimps impacted by tailings plumes ranged from 27 to 47 %. Notably, three protected areas displayed suitable conditions, before the disaster, for until eight species. The results obtained by the SDMs approach provide crucial information for conservation and restoration efforts of coastal biodiversity in an impacted region with limited prior knowledge about biodiversity distribution.

Deeks, E., P. Kratina, I. Normande, A. Da Silva Cerqueira, and T. Dawson. 2024. Proximity to freshwater and seagrass availability mediate the impacts of climate change on the distribution of the West Indian manatee. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals. https://doi.org/10.5597/lajam00321

How climate change alters persistence and distribution of endangered species is an urgent question in current ecological research. However, many species distribution models do not consider consumers in the context of their resources. The distribution and survival of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List, critically depend on seagrass resources and freshwater sources for drinking. We parameterized Maxent models with Bio-ORACLE environmental layers, freshwater proximity data, and modelled seagrass distance layers, to determine manatee and seagrass distributions under future climate change scenarios. We used two plausible IPCC Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP45 and RCP26, respectively) for the year 2050. The model fits had high accuracies and predicted a marked decline in seagrass coverage (RCP26: -1.9%, RCP45: -6%), coinciding with declines in manatee ranges (RCP26: -9%, RCP45: -11.8%). We also found that over 94% of the projected manatee distribution for all scenarios fell within the seagrass distribution. The analysis showed a decline in seagrass coverage to significantly impact manatee distributions, since the distance to seagrass ecological layer contributed significantly to manatee distributions, along with distance to freshwater sources. Our findings suggest that manatees will lose substantial range due to future climate change, but the extent and direction of this change will be mediated by the degree of warming and its impact on the resources manatees depend on.

Elkins, L. C., M. R. Acre, M. G. Bean, S. M. Robertson, R. Smith, and J. S. Perkin. 2024. A multiscale perspective for improving conservation of Conchos pupfish. Animal Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12930

Desert spring systems of the American southwest hold high local fish endemism and are ranked among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The prioritization of conservation resources to protect species living within these arid landscapes requires knowledge of species abundance and distribution. The plight of Conchos pupfish (Cyprinodon eximius) is representative of freshwater fishes the world over, including population extirpations caused by human poisoning of streams and reservoir construction, to the extent that the species was once considered extinct in the USA. We developed a distance‐sampling framework to monitor Conchos pupfish abundance and coupled this approach with species distribution modeling to guide conservation actions. Our multiscale approach included surveying abundances within 5‐m transects at three reaches of the Devils River, where the last known USA populations persist. We combined this fine‐scale analysis with species distribution modeling for stream segments across the range of the species in Mexico and USA. Modeling revealed Conchos pupfish abundance among transects was negatively correlated with current velocity and detection was negatively correlated with water depth. Estimated abundance at a reach where the species was previously reintroduced was greater than other reaches combined in November 2019, lowest in March 2021 when reach water levels were very low, then equivalent with other reaches by October 2021 after water returned to the reach. Modeled Conchos pupfish distribution illustrated a high probability of occurrence on the periphery of the species' overall range within Texas, USA and broadly across Chihuahua, Mexico, where proposed protected areas might benefit the species. Our study provides conservation guidance by establishing (1) baseline and trajectory values for abundance, (2) transect locations where abundances might be managed within existing protected areas, (3) reaches where high abundances could be used for future repatriation, and (4) stream segments where future surveys might be conducted to assess conservation opportunities.

Gherghel, I., and R. A. Martin. 2024. Biotic interactions vary across species’ ranges and are likely conserved through geological time. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14794

Aim The evolutionary interactions between western spadefoot toads (genus Spea) represent a textbook example of character displacement, facilitated by dietary specialization of one Spea species on fairy shrimp (Anostraca) when all three co‐occur. The aim of this study is to understand the covariation between predator (Spea) and prey (Anostraca) range shifts in response to climate change oscillations, and whether biotic interactions can be used to project species distribution models on different time scales when studying species with dietary specialization. Taxon: Amphibia: Spea spp. and Crustacea: Anostraca.LocationNorth America.MethodsUsing multiple modelling techniques, we first estimated the potential distribution of central and western North American fairy shrimp species (Crustacea: Anostraca) and two western spadefoot toad species (Spea bombifrons and Spea multiplicata). We then created a shrimp species richness map by aggregating individual species estimates. Third, we studied the relationship between the probability of spadefoot toad presence and fairy shrimp species richness during the present and Last Glacial Maximum conditions. Finally, we estimated the strength and direction of the co‐occurrence between spadefoot toads and fairy shrimp sampled at the level of entire predicted range and at the regional level (allopatric and sympatric).ResultsFirst, the same abiotic environmental variables shape spadefoot toad and fairy shrimp species' distributions in central and western North America across time. Second, areas of sympatry of Spea bombifrons and Spea multiplicata correspond with dry conditions and higher shrimp richness. Finally, the spatial patterns of predator–prey co‐occurrence are highly variable across geography, forming a spatial mosaic over the species' ranges.Main ConclusionPredator–prey relationships form a spatial mosaic across geography and species ranges. Including biotic interactions into species distribution estimates for organisms with dietary specialization is highly recommended. Biotic interactions can be projected across different time frames for organisms with dietary specialization as they are likely conserved.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.limno.2023.126139

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.

Ortiz-Acosta, M. Á., J. Galindo-González, A. A. Castro-Luna, and C. Mota-Vargas. 2023. Potential distribution of marsupials (Didelphimorphia: Didelphidae) in Mexico under 2 climate change scenarios M. Vieira [ed.],. Journal of Mammalogy. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyad101

Climate change is one of the main threats to biodiversity in the 21st century. However, the effects that it may have on different mammal species are unknown, making it difficult to implement conservation strategies. In this paper, we used species distribution models (SDM) to assess the effect of global climate change on the potential distribution of the 8 of the 9 marsupial species in Mexico, and analyzed their distribution in the current system of natural protected areas (NPAs). We used presence records for each species and bioclimatic variables from the present and the future (2050 and 2080) with 2 contrasting possible scenarios (representative concentration pathways RCP 4.5 and 8.5). We found that Tlacuatzin canescens would have the most stable potential range under any climate change scenario, while the remaining species (Caluromys derbianus, Chironectes minimus, Didelphis marsupialis, D. virginiana, Philander opossum, Marmosa mexicana, and Metachirus nudicaudatus) would undergo notable range losses in the future, though there would not only be losses—according to our SDMs, for all species there would be some range gain under the different climate scenarios, assuming the vegetation cover remained. The current system of NPAs in Mexico currently protects and under the 2 future scenarios would protect less than 20% of the potential range of marsupials, so a reevaluation of their areas beyond the NPAs is highly recommended for the long-term conservation of this group. Our results provide relevant information on the estimated effects of global climate change on marsupials, allowing us to design more effective methodologies for the protection of this portion of the mammalian fauna in Mexico.