Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Whipple, S., and S. Moss. 2024. Leveraging virtual datasets to investigate the interplay of pollinators, protected areas, and SDG 15. Sustainable Earth Reviews 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42055-024-00084-9

Biodiversity loss amplifies the need for taxonomic understanding at global, regional, and local scales. The United Nations Environmental Programme Sustainable Development Goals are explicit in their demand for greater accountability with respect to ecosystem management, and Sustainable Development Goal 15, Life on Land, specifically calls for a halt to biodiversity loss. Pollinators (bees and butterflies) are two functional groups with public attention for protection, yet little long-term data availability. National Parks, including those in the United States, act as optimal sites to study biodiversity loss, but historic data tends to vary in availability. This study addresses systematic taxonomic and digitalization biases present within historic (museum), modern (citizen science), and non-digitized (private collection) datasets for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks from 1900 to 2021. We find that, although database record availability is representative of butterfly and bumble bee groups known for the area, categories such as data rescue, digitalization/availability, and management/archiving vary across database types. These findings on virtual datasets offer opportunities for conservationists to understand the efficacy of digitized collections in addressing questions of species loss over time, including the strengths and pitfalls of digitized data repositories. Additionally, virtual datasets can be utilized to monitor biodiversity under Sustainable Development Goal 15 targets while also promoting broader access to resources such as museum collections for educational purposes. Natural history collections (NHCs) work to preserve biodiversity but tend to hold taxonomic biases. The rapid digitalization of species occurrence data works to improve biodiversity understanding. Pollinator NHCs can inform conservation targets like SDG 15, but only for a subset of species. Additional funding towards data digitalization will broaden the understanding of lesser-known taxa. Virtual museum resources should become more readily accessible to educate and engage the public in species conservation work; citizen science applications can act as an additional educational tool to promote public conservation interest. International biodiversity sampling efforts should be encouraged to document species decline.

Owen, E., M. Zuliani, M. Goldgisser, and C. Lortie. 2024. The importance of native shrubs on the distribution and diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the central drylands of Southwestern USA. Biodiversity and Conservation 33: 2131–2151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-024-02851-8

Conservation and management of drylands is a global challenge. Key attributes of these ecosystems, such as dominant vegetation including shrubs, can provide a crucial mechanism to inform conservation strategies. The shrub species Ephedra californica and Larrea tridentata are common native shrub species within the deserts of California and frequently benefit other plant and animal species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that shrubs support reptile and amphibian communities through relative increases in available habitat, estimated through increasing shrub densities at the site level. Reported occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and high-resolution satellite images were used to test for local-to-regional patterns in reptile and amphibian distribution and diversity by shrub densities at sites. At 43 distinct sites, the relationship between shrub density and reported reptile and amphibian communities was also tested. A total of 71 reptile and amphibian species were reported regionally. Increases in shrub density across sites positively influenced the relative abundance and richness of reptiles and amphibians observed. Moreover, increasing shrub density also had a positive influence on species evenness. Aridity differences between sites did not significantly influence the relationship between shrub density and reptiles and amphibians suggesting that the relationship was robust. This study highlights the importance of foundational shrub species in supporting reptile and amphibian communities in arid and semi-arid regions. Large-scale patterns of biodiversity in deserts can be supported by positive plant-animal interactions including small islands of fertility and resources for animals in the context of a warming climate.

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.

DuBose, T. P., V. Catalan, C. E. Moore, V. R. Farallo, A. L. Benson, J. L. Dade, W. A. Hopkins, and M. C. Mims. 2024. Thermal Traits of Anurans Database for the Southeastern United States (TRAD): A Database of Thermal Trait Values for 40 Anuran Species. Ichthyology & Herpetology 112. https://doi.org/10.1643/h2022102

Thermal traits, or how an animal responds to changing temperatures, impacts species persistence and thus biodiversity. Trait databases, as repositories of consolidated, measured organismal attributes, allow researchers to link study species with specific trait values, enabling comparisons within and among species. Trait databases also help lay the groundwork to build mechanistic linkages between organisms and the environment. However, missing or hidden physiological trait data preclude building mechanistic estimates of climate change vulnerability for many species. Thus, physiologically focused trait databases present an opportunity to consolidate data and enable species-specific or multispecies, mechanistic evaluations of climate change vulnerability. Here, we present TRAD: thermal traits of anurans database for the southeastern United States, a database of thermal trait values related to physiological thermoregulation (critical thermal minima and maxima, preferred temperature), behavioral thermoregulation (activity period, retreat emergence temperature, basking temperature, minimum and maximum foraging temperatures), and body mass for 37 anuran species found within the southeastern United States. In total, TRAD contains 858 reported trait values for 37 of 40 species found in the region from 267 peer-reviewed papers, dissertations, or theses and is easily linked with trait data available in ATraiU, an ecological trait database for anurans in the United States. TRAD contains trait values for multiple life stages and a summarization of interspecific adult trait values. Availability of trait data varied widely among traits and species. Estimates of mass were the most common trait values reported, with values available for 32 species. Behavioral trait values comprised 23% of our database, with activity period available for 34 species. We found the most trait values for Cope's Gray Treefrog (Dryophytes chrysoscelis), with at least one trait value for eight traits in the database. Conversely, species in the genus Pseudacris generally had the fewest trait values available. Species with the largest geographic range sizes also had the greatest coverage of data across traits (rho 5 0.75, P , 0.001). TRAD can aid studies of anuran response to changing temperatures, physiological niche space and limitations, and potential drivers of anuran geographic range limits, influencing our understanding of other ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes and enabling multispecies comparisons of potential risk and resilience in the face of climate change.

Scarpetta, S. G. 2024. A Palaeogene stem crotaphytid ( Aciprion formosum ) and the phylogenetic affinities of early fossil pleurodontan iguanians. Royal Society Open Science 11. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.221139

Pleurodonta is an ancient, diverse clade of iguanian lizard distributed primarily in the Western Hemisphere. Although the clade is a frequent subject of systematic research, phylogenetic resolution among the major pleurodontan clades is elusive. That uncertainty has complicated the interpretations of many fossil pleurodontans. I describe a fossil skull of a pleurodontan lizard from the Palaeogene of Wyoming that was previously allocated to the puzzling taxon Aciprion formosum , and provide an updated morphological matrix for iguanian lizards. Phylogenetic analyses using Bayesian inference demonstrate that the fossil skull is the oldest and first definitive stem member of Crotaphytidae (collared and leopard lizards), establishing the presence of that clade in North America during the Palaeogene. I also discuss new or revised hypotheses for the relationships of several early pleurodontans. In particular, I examine potential evidence for crown-Pleurodonta in the Cretaceous of Mongolia ( Polrussia ), stem Pleurodonta in the Cretaceous of North America ( Magnuviator ) and a stem anole in the Eocene of North America ( Afairiguana ). I suggest that the placement of the fossil crotaphytid is stable to the uncertain phylogeny of Pleurodonta, but recognize the dynamic nature of fossil diagnosis and the potential for updated systematic hypotheses for the other fossils analysed here.

Grether, G. F., A. E. Finneran, and J. P. Drury. 2023. Niche differentiation, reproductive interference, and range expansion. Ecology Letters. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.14350

Understanding species distributions and predicting future range shifts requires considering all relevant abiotic factors and biotic interactions. Resource competition has received the most attention, but reproductive interference is another widespread biotic interaction that could influence species ranges. Rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina spp.) exhibit a biogeographic pattern consistent with the hypothesis that reproductive interference has limited range expansion. Here, we use ecological niche models to evaluate whether this pattern could have instead been caused by niche differentiation. We found evidence for climatic niche differentiation, but the species that encounters the least reproductive interference has one of the narrowest and most peripheral niches. These findings strengthen the case that reproductive interference has limited range expansion and also provide a counterexample to the idea that release from negative species interactions triggers niche expansion. We propose that release from reproductive interference enables species to expand in range while specializing on the habitats most suitable for breeding.

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. https://doi.org/10.1670/22-002

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.

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/d15070881

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.

Lopes, D., E. de Andrade, A. Egartner, F. Beitia, M. Rot, C. Chireceanu, V. Balmés, et al. 2023. FRUITFLYRISKMANAGE: A Euphresco project for Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann (Diptera: Tephritidae) risk management applied in some European countries. EPPO Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1111/epp.12922

Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), the Mediterranean fruit fly or medfly, is one of the world's most serious threats to fresh fruits. It is highly polyphagous (recorded from over 300 hosts) and capable of adapting to a wide range of climates. This pest has spread to the EPPO region and is mainly present in the southern part, damaging Citrus and Prunus. In Northern and Central Europe records refer to interceptions or short‐lived adventive populations only. Sustainable programs for surveillance, spread assessment using models and control strategies for pests such as C. capitata represent a major plant health challenge for all countries in Europe. This article includes a review of pest distribution and monitoring techniques in 11 countries of the EPPO region. This work compiles information that was crucial for a better understanding of pest occurrence and contributes to identifying areas susceptible to potential invasion and establishment. The key outputs and results obtained in the Euphresco project included knowledge transfer about early detection tools and methods used in different countries for pest monitoring. A MaxEnt software model resulted in risk maps for C. capitata in different climatic regions. This is an important tool to help decision making and to develop actions against this pest in the different partner countries.

Wang, Y., J. Wang, T. A. Garran, H. Liu, H. Lin, J. Luo, Q. Yuan, et al. 2023. Genetic diversity and population divergence of Leonurus japonicus and its distribution dynamic changes from the last interglacial to the present in China. BMC Plant Biology 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-023-04284-x

Background Leonurus japonicus , a significant medicinal plant known for its therapeutic effects on gynecological and cardiovascular diseases, has genetic diversity that forms the basis for germplasm preservation and utilization in medicine. Despite its economic value, limited research has focused on its genetic diversity and divergence. Results The avg. nucleotide diversity of 59 accessions from China were 0.00029 and hotspot regions in petN-psbM and rpl32-trnL (UAG) spacers, which can be used for genotype discrimination. These accessions divided into four clades with significant divergence. The four subclades, which split at approximately 7.36 Ma, were likely influenced by the Hengduan Mountains uplift and global temperature drop. The initial divergence gave rise to Clade D, with a crown age estimated at 4.27 Ma, followed by Clade C, with a crown age estimated at 3.39 Ma. The four clades were not showed a clear spatial distribution. Suitable climatic conditions for the species were identified, including warmest quarter precipitation 433.20 mm ~ 1,524.07 mm, driest month precipitation > 12.06 mm, and coldest month min temp > -4.34 °C. The high suitability distribution showed contraction in LIG to LGM, followed by expansion from LGM to present. The Hengduan Mountains acted as a glacial refuge for the species during climate changes. Conclusions Our findings reflected a clear phylogenetic relationships and divergence within species L. japonicus and the identified hotspot regions could facilitate the genotype discrimination. The divergence time estimation and suitable area simulation revealed evolution dynamics of this species and may propose conservation suggestions and exploitation approaches in the future.