Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Ramírez-Barahona, S. 2024. Incorporating fossils into the joint inference of phylogeny and biogeography of the tree fern order Cyatheales R. Warnock, and M. Zelditch [eds.],. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpae034

Present-day geographic and phylogenetic patterns often reflect the geological and climatic history of the planet. Neontological distribution data are often sufficient to unravel a lineage’s biogeographic history, yet ancestral range inferences can be at odds with fossil evidence. Here, I use the fossilized birth–death process and the dispersal–extinction cladogenesis model to jointly infer the dated phylogeny and range evolution of the tree fern order Cyatheales. I use data for 101 fossil and 442 extant tree ferns to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the group over the last 220 million years. Fossil-aware reconstructions evince a prolonged occupancy of Laurasia over the Triassic–Cretaceous by Cyathealean tree ferns, which is evident in the fossil record but hidden from analyses relying on neontological data alone. Nonetheless, fossil-aware reconstructions are affected by uncertainty in fossils’ phylogenetic placement, taphonomic biases, and specimen sampling and are sensitive to interpretation of paleodistributions and how these are scored. The present results highlight the need and challenges of incorporating fossils into joint inferences of phylogeny and biogeography to improve the reliability of ancestral geographic range estimation.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01649-4

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Prochazka, L. S., S. Alcantara, J. G. Rando, T. Vasconcelos, R. C. Pizzardo, and A. Nogueira. 2024. Resource availability and disturbance frequency shape evolution of plant life forms in Neotropical habitats. New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.19601

Organisms use diverse strategies to thrive in varying habitats. While life history theory partly explains these relationships, the combined impact of resource availability and disturbance frequency on life form strategy evolution has received limited attention.We use Chamaecrista species, a legume plant lineage with a high diversity of plant life forms in the Neotropics, and employ ecological niche modeling and comparative phylogenetic methods to examine the correlated evolution of plant life forms and environmental niches.Chamaephytes and phanerophytes have optima in environments characterized by moderate water and nutrient availability coupled with infrequent fire disturbances. By contrast, annual plants thrive in environments with scarce water and nutrients, alongside frequent fire disturbances. Similarly, geophyte species also show increased resistance to frequent fire disturbances, although they thrive in resource‐rich environments.Our findings shed light on the evolution of plant strategies along environmental gradients, highlighting that annuals and geophytes respond differently to high incidences of fire disturbances, with one enduring it as seeds in a resource‐limited habitat and the other relying on reserves and root resprouting systems in resource‐abundant habitats. Furthermore, it deepens our understanding of how organisms evolve associated with their habitats, emphasizing a constraint posed by low‐resource and high‐disturbance environments.

Rautela, K., A. Kumar, S. K. Rana, A. Jugran, and I. D. Bhatt. 2024. Distribution, Chemical Constituents and Biological Properties of Genus Malaxis. Chemistry & Biodiversity. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbdv.202301830

The genus Malaxis (family Orchidaceae), comprises nearly 183 species available across the globe. The plants of this genus have long been employed in traditional medical practices because of their numerous biological properties, like the treatment of infertility, hemostasis, burning sensation, bleeding diathesis, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, febrifuge, tuberculosis, etc. Various reports highlight their phytochemical composition and biological activities. However, there is a lack of systematic review on the distribution, phytochemistry, and biological properties of this genus. Hence, this study aims to conduct a thorough and critical review of Malaxis species, covering data published from 1965 to 2022 with nearly 90 articles. Also, it examines different bioactive compounds, their chemistry, and pharmacotherapeutics as well as their traditional uses. A total of 191 unique compounds, including the oil constituents were recorded from Malaxis species. The highest active ingredients were obtained from Malaxis acuminata (103) followed by Malaxis muscifera (50) and Malaxis rheedei (33). In conclusion, this review offers an overview of the current state of knowledge on Malaxis species and highlights prospects for future research projects on them. Additionally, it recommends the promotion of domestication studies for rare medicinal orchids like Malaxis and the prompt implementation of conservation measures.

Noori, S., A. Hofmann, D. Rödder, M. Husemann, and H. Rajaei. 2024. A window to the future: effects of climate change on the distribution patterns of Iranian Zygaenidae and their host plants. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-023-02760-2

Climate change has been suggested as an important human-induced driver for the ongoing sixth mass extinction. As a common response to climate change, and particularly global warming, species move toward higher latitudes or shift uphill. Furthermore, rapid climate change impacts the biotic interactions of species, particularly in the case of Zygaenid moths which exhibit high specialization in both habitat and host plant preferences. Iranian Zygaenidae are relatively well-known and represent a unique fauna with a high endemism rate (46%) in the whole Palearctic; as such they are a good model group to study the impact of climate change on future distributions. In this study, we used species distribution models (SDMs) and ensembles of small models (ESMs) to investigate the impact of climate change on the future distribution of endemic and non-endemic species of zygaenids, as well as their larval host plants. Three different climate scenarios were applied to forecast the probable responses of the species to different climate change intensities. Our results suggest that the central and southern parts of the country will be impacted profoundly by climate change compared to the northern regions. Beyond this, most endemic species will experience an altitudinal shift from their current range, while non-endemic species may move towards higher latitudes. Considering that the regions with higher diversity of zygaenids are limited to mountainous areas, mainly within the Irano-Anatolian biodiversity hotspot, the identification of their local high diversity regions for conservation practices has a high priority.

Xiao, S., S. Li, J. Huang, X. Wang, M. Wu, R. Karim, W. Deng, and T. Su. 2024. Influence of climate factors on the global dynamic distribution of Tsuga (Pinaceae). Ecological Indicators 158: 111533. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2023.111533

Throughout the Quaternary period, climate change has significantly influenced plant distribution, particularly affecting species within the genus Tsuga (Endl.) Carrière. This climatic impact ultimately led to the extinction of all Tsuga species in Europe. Today, there are ten recognized species of Tsuga worldwide, one of listed as a vulnerable species and four as near-threatened species. The genus Tsuga exhibits a disjunctive distribution in East Asia (EA), eastern North America (ENA), and western North America (WNA). It is crucial to comprehend the mechanisms underlying these distributional changes and to identify key climate variables to develop effective conservation strategies for Tsuga under future climate scenarios. In this study, we applied the maximum entropy (MaxEnt) model by combining distribution data for Tsuga with abundant pollen fossil data. Our objective was to investigate the climate factors that shape the distribution of Tsuga, identify climate thresholds, and elucidate distribution dynamics in the context of significant climate changes over the past 1070 thousand years (ka). Our findings highlight the pivotal role of precipitation as the key climate factor affecting the distribution of Tsuga. Specifically, in EA, summer precipitation was the key driver, while in North America (NA), winter precipitation exerted greater importance. Moreover, we observed similarities in climatic requirements between Tsuga species in Europe and EA, and declines in summer precipitation and winter temperature were major factors contributing to the extinction of Tsuga species in Europe. Quaternary glacial and interglacial fluctuations exerted substantial impacts on Tsuga distribution dynamics. The disappearance of Tsuga species in the Korean Peninsula may have occurred during the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum). The potential suitable area for Tsuga species in EA expanded during the cold periods, while in NA, it contracted. In the future, climate change may result Tsuga distribution area contraction in both the EA and NA. Our study has identified distinct response patterns of Tsuga in various geographic regions to Quaternary climate change and offers corresponding suggestions for Tsuga conservation. In the future, it will be imperative to prioritize the conservation of natural Tsuga distributions in EA and NA, with a focus on the impacts of precipitation fluctuation on the dynamic distribution of this genus.

Putra, A. R., K. A. Hodgins, and A. Fournier‐Level. 2023. Assessing the invasive potential of different source populations of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) through genomically informed species distribution modelling. Evolutionary Applications. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.13632

The genetic composition of founding populations is likely to play a key role in determining invasion success. Individual genotypes may differ in habitat preference and environmental tolerance, so their ability to colonize novel environments can be highly variable. Despite the importance of genetic variation on invasion success, its influence on the potential distribution of invaders is rarely investigated. Here, we integrate population genomics and ecological niche models (ENMs) into a single framework to predict the distribution of globally invasive common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) in Australia. We identified three genetic clusters for ragweed and used these to construct cluster‐specific ENMs and characterize within‐species niche differentiation. The potential range of ragweed in Australia depended on the genetic composition and continent of origin of the introduced population. Invaders originating from warmer, wetter climates had a broader potential distribution than those from cooler, drier ones. By quantifying this change, we identified source populations most likely to expand the ragweed distribution. As prevention remains the most effective method of invasive species management, our work provides a valuable way of ranking the threat posed by different populations to better inform management decisions.

SILVA, I. M. D., J. E. SERRÃO, M. M. D. SANTOS, R. S. D. SILVA, A. G. D. CARVALHO, E. M. PIRES, J. C. ZANUNCIO, and M. A. SOARES. 2023. Insecticidal plants as trade opportunities and use by small vegetable producers: an example using essential oils to control Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 95. https://doi.org/10.1590/0001-3765202320191305

Production and sale of botanical insecticides depend on knowing the potential opportunities for these products. Essential oils from plants secondary metabolism can control pests, especially in agricultural systems where synthetic insecticides are limited, as in organic agriculture. The objective of this study was to evaluate the toxicity of essential oils to Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) and to show regions with the potential to use Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Citrus sinensis, and Syzygium aromaticum in the formulation and commercialization of insecticides to control this insect. The C. zeylanicum oil was more toxic to larvae and pupae and the S. aromaticum to eggs of D. hyalinata. Essential oils are an alternative for the management of D. hyalinata. The production of pesticides from essential oils of C. zeylanicum, C. sinensis, and S. aromaticum to control D. hyalinata has high potential in America. Also, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia can extract these plants to formulate insecticide molecules for the America countries.

Qin, F., T. Xue, X. Zhang, X. Yang, J. Yu, S. R. Gadagkar, and S. Yu. 2023. Past climate cooling and orogenesis of the Hengduan Mountains have influenced the evolution of Impatiens sect. Impatiens (Balsaminaceae) in the Northern Hemisphere. BMC Plant Biology 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-023-04625-w

Background Impatiens sect. Impatiens is distributed across the Northern Hemisphere and has diversified considerably, particularly within the Hengduan Mountains (HDM) in southwest China. Yet, the infra-sectional phylogenetic relationships are not well resolved, largely due to limited taxon sampling and an insufficient number of molecular markers. The evolutionary history of its diversification is also poorly understood. In this study, plastome data and the most complete sampling to date were used to reconstruct a robust phylogenetic framework for this section. The phylogeny was then used to investigate its biogeographical history and diversification patterns, specifically with the aim of understanding the role played by the HDM and past climatic changes in its diversification. Results A stable phylogeny was reconstructed that strongly supported both the monophyly of the section and its division into seven major clades (Clades I-VII). Molecular dating and ancestral area reconstruction suggest that sect. Impatiens originated in the HDM and Southeast China around 11.76 Ma, after which different lineages dispersed to Northwest China, temperate Eurasia, and North America, mainly during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. An intercontinental dispersal event from East Asia to western North America may have occurred via the Bering Land Bridge or Aleutian Islands. The diversification rate was high during its early history, especially with the HDM, but gradually decreased over time both within and outside the HDM. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that the distribution pattern of species richness was strongly associated with elevation range, elevation, and mean annual temperature. Finally, ancestral niche analysis indicated that sect. Impatiens originated in a relatively cool, middle-elevation area. Conclusions We inferred the evolutionary history of sect. Impatiens based on a solid phylogenetic framework. The HDM was the primary source or pump of its diversity in the Northern Hemisphere. Orogeny and climate change may have also shaped its diversification rates, as a steady decrease in the diversification rate coincided with the uplift of the HDM and climate cooling. These findings provide insights into the distribution pattern of sect. Impatiens and other plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

Zhang, H., W. Guo, and W. Wang. 2023. The dimensionality reductions of environmental variables have a significant effect on the performance of species distribution models. Ecology and Evolution 13. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10747

How to effectively obtain species‐related low‐dimensional data from massive environmental variables has become an urgent problem for species distribution models (SDMs). In this study, we will explore whether dimensionality reduction on environmental variables can improve the predictive performance of SDMs. We first used two linear (i.e., principal component analysis (PCA) and independent components analysis) and two nonlinear (i.e., kernel principal component analysis (KPCA) and uniform manifold approximation and projection) dimensionality reduction techniques (DRTs) to reduce the dimensionality of high‐dimensional environmental data. Then, we established five SDMs based on the environmental variables of dimensionality reduction for 23 real plant species and nine virtual species, and compared the predictive performance of those with the SDMs based on the selected environmental variables through Pearson's correlation coefficient (PCC). In addition, we studied the effects of DRTs, model complexity, and sample size on the predictive performance of SDMs. The predictive performance of SDMs under DRTs other than KPCA is better than using PCC. And the predictive performance of SDMs using linear DRTs is better than using nonlinear DRTs. In addition, using DRTs to deal with environmental variables has no less impact on the predictive performance of SDMs than model complexity and sample size. When the model complexity is at the complex level, PCA can improve the predictive performance of SDMs the most by 2.55% compared with PCC. At the middle level of sample size, the PCA improved the predictive performance of SDMs by 2.68% compared with the PCC. Our study demonstrates that DRTs have a significant effect on the predictive performance of SDMs. Specifically, linear DRTs, especially PCA, are more effective at improving model predictive performance under relatively complex model complexity or large sample sizes.