Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Jablonski, D., K. Mebert, R. Masroor, E. Simonov, O. Kukushkin, T. Abduraupov, and S. Hofmann. 2023. The Silk roads: Phylogeography of Central Asian dice snakes (Serpentes: Natricidae) shaped by rivers in deserts and mountain valleys. Current Zoology.

Influenced by rapid changes in climate and landscape features since the Miocene, widely distributed species provide suitable models to study the environmental impact on their evolution and current genetic diversity. The dice snake Natrix tessellata, widely distributed in the western Palearctic is one such species. We aimed to resolve a detailed phylogeography of N. tessellata with a focus on the Central Asian clade with four and Anatolia clade with three mitochondrial lineages, trace their origin, and correlate the environmental changes that affected their distribution through time. The expected time of divergence of both clades began at 3.7 Mya in the Pliocene, reaching lineage differentiation approximately one million years later. The genetic diversity in both clades is rich, suggesting different ancestral areas, glacial refugia, demographic changes, and colonization routes. The Caspian lineage is the most widespread lineage in Central Asia, distributed around the Caspian Sea and reaching the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan, and eastern European lowlands in the west. Its distribution is limited by deserts, mountains, and cold steppe environments. Similarly, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan lineages followed the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya river systems in Central Asia, with ranges delimited by the large Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts. On the western side, there are several lineages within the Anatolia clade that converged in the central part of the peninsula with two being endemic to western Asia. The distribution of both main clades was affected by expansion from their Pleistocene glacial refugia around the Caspian Sea and in the valleys of Central Asia and by environmental changes, mostly through aridification.

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation.

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Rahman, D. A., Y. Santosa, I. Purnamasari, and A. A. Condro. 2022. Drivers of Three Most Charismatic Mammalian Species Distribution across a Multiple-Use Tropical Forest Landscape of Sumatra, Indonesia. Animals 12: 2722.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage sites of Sumatra are some of the most irreplaceable landscapes in the world for biodiversity conservation. These landscapes harbor many endangered Asiatic mammals all suffering multifaceted threats due to anthropogenic activities. Three charismatic mammals in Sumatra: Elephas maximus sumatranus, Pongo abelii, and Panthera tigris sumatrae are protected and listed as Critically Endangered (CR) within the IUCN Red List. Nevertheless, their current geographic distribution remains unclear, and the impact of environmental factors on these species are mostly unknown. This study predicts the potential range of those species on the island of Sumatra using anthropogenic, biophysical, topographic, and climatic parameters based on the ensemble machine learning algorithms. We also investigated the effects of habitat loss from current land use, ecosystem availability, and importance of Indonesian protected areas. Our predictive model had relatively excellent performance (Sørensen: 0.81–0.94) and can enhance knowledge on the current species distributions. The most critical environmental predictors for the distribution of the three species are conservation status and temperature seasonality. This study revealed that more than half of the species distributions occurred in non-protected areas, with proportional coverage being 83%, 72%, and 54% for E.m. sumatranus, P. abelii, and P.t. sumatrae, respectively. Our study further provides reliable information on places where conservation efforts must be prioritized, both inside and outside of the protected area networks, to safeguard the ongoing survival of these Indonesian large charismatic mammals.

Cunze, S., and S. Klimpel. 2022. From the Balkan towards Western Europe: Range expansion of the golden jackal ( Canis aureus )—A climatic niche modeling approach. Ecology and Evolution 12.

In recent decades, a rapid range expansion of the golden jackal (Canis aureus) towards Northern and Western Europe has been observed. The golden jackal is a medium‐sized canid, with a broad and flexible diet. Almost 200 different parasite species have been reported worldwide from C. aureus, including many parasites that are shared with dogs and cats and parasite species of public health concern. As parasites may follow the range shifts of their host, the range expansion of the golden jackal could be accompanied by changes in the parasite fauna in the new ecosystems. In the new distribution area, the golden jackal could affect ecosystem equilibrium, e.g., through changed competition situations or predation pressure. In a niche modeling approach, we project the future climatic habitat suitability of the golden jackal in Europe in the context of whether climatic changes promote range expansion. We use an ensemble forecast based on six presence‐absence algorithms to estimate the climatic suitability of C. aureus for different time periods up to the year 2100 considering different IPCC scenarios on future development. As predictor variables, we used six bioclimatic variables provided by worldclim. Our results clearly indicate that areas with climatic conditions analogous to those of the current core distribution area of the golden jackal in Europe will strongly expand towards the north and the west in future decades. Thus, the observed range expansion may be favored by climate change. The occurrence of stable populations can be expected in Central Europe. With regard to biodiversity and public health concerns, the population and range dynamics of the golden jackal should be surveyed. Correlative niche models provide a useful and frequently applied tool for this purpose. The results can help to make monitoring more efficient by identifying areas with suitable habitat and thus a higher probability of occurrence.

Jablonski, D., R. Masroor, and S. Hofmann. 2022. On the edge of the Shivaliks: An insight into the origin and taxonomic position of Pakistani toads from the Duttaphrynus melanostictus complex (Amphibia, Bufonidae). Zoosystematics and Evolution 98: 275–284.

AbstractThe common Asian toad Duttaphrynusmelanostictus (Schneider, 1799) complex has a wide distribution ranging from western foothills of the Himalaya to the easternmost range of the Wallacea, with the evidence of human-mediated introductions to some other areas. In the entire distribution range, the complex is formed by several evolutionary clades, distributed mostly in South-East Asia with unresolved taxonomy. In the northwestern edge of its distribution (Pakistan), the name D.melanostictushazarensis (Khan, 2001) has been assigned to local populations but its biological basis remained, so far, understudied and unvalidated. Therefore, we re-evaluated the available genetic data (mitochondrial and nuclear) to show the relationships between Pakistani populations (including the type locality of D.m.hazarensis) and others from across the range. Our results showed that Pakistani populations are associated with one, deeply diverged, well-supported and widely distributed clade (so-called Duttaphrynus sp. 1 according to 16S, or clade B based on tRNAGly-ND3), that has already been detected in previous studies. This clade is further distributed in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and is characterized by a low level of genetic variability. This further suggests that both natural, as well as potential human-mediated dispersal, might have played an important role in setting up the current phylogeographic and distribution pattern of this clade. The clade is deeply divergent from other clades of the complex and represents a taxonomically unresolved entity. We here argue that the clade Duttaphrynus sp. 1/B represents a distinct species for which the name Duttaphrynusbengalensis (Daudin, 1802) comb. nov. is applicable, while the description of D.m.hazarensis does not satisfy the rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

Barends, J. M., and B. Maritz. 2022. Dietary Specialization and Habitat Shifts in a Clade of Afro-Asian Colubrid Snakes (Colubridae: Colubrinae). Ichthyology & Herpetology 110.

Speciation through niche divergence often occurs as lineages of organisms colonize and adapt to new environments with novel ecological opportunities that facilitate the evolution of ecologically different phenotypes. In snakes, adaptive diversification may be driven by the evolution of traits relating to changes in their diets. Accordingly, habitatmediated differences in prey available to ancestral snakes as they colonized and occupied novel dynamic landscapes are likely to have been a strong selective agent behind the divergence and radiation of snakes across the globe. Using an ancestral reconstruction approach that considers the multivariate nature of ecological phenotypes while accounting for sampling variation between taxa, we explored how diet and macro-habitat use coevolved across a phylogeny of 67 species of Afro-Asian colubrine snakes. Our results show that the most recent common ancestor of this clade was likely a dietary generalist that occupied tropical forests in Asia. Deviations from this generalist diet to a variety of specialist diets each dominated by the utilization of single prey types repeatedly occurred as ancestral colubrines shifted from tropical forests to savanna and grassland habitats across Africa. We additionally found that dietary specialist species were on average smaller in maximum length than dietary generalists, congruent with established predator-size, preydiversity dynamics in snakes. We speculate that adaptive divergence in ancestral colubrines arose as a result of a selective regime that favored diets comprised of terrestrial prey, and that partitioning of different prey types led to the various forms of dietary specialization evident in these lineages today. Our findings provide new insights into the ecological correlates associated with the evolution of diet in snakes, thereby furthering our understanding of the driving forces behind patterns of snake diversification.

Li, L., X. Xu, H. Qian, X. Huang, P. Liu, J. B. Landis, Q. Fu, et al. 2022. Elevational patterns of phylogenetic structure of angiosperms in a biodiversity hotspot in eastern Himalaya Y. Qu [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions.

Aims The tropical niche conservatism (TNC) hypothesis and the out of the tropics (OTT) hypothesis propose mechanisms generating patterns of species diversity across warm-to-cold thermal gradients at large spatial scales. These two hypotheses both integrate ecological and biogeography-related evoluti…

Mantintsilili, A., N. Shivambu, T. C. Shivambu, and C. T. Downs. 2022. Online and pet stores as sources of trade for reptiles in South Africa. Journal for Nature Conservation 67: 126154.

The ever-increasing human population, globalisation, and desire to keep pets have resulted in the translocation of many species into non-native environments. As a result, some of the non-native reptile species have been introduced to South Africa through the pet trade. However, little is known about…

Sudo, K., S. Maehara, M. Nakaoka, and M. Fujii. 2022. Predicting Future Shifts in the Distribution of Tropicalization Indicator Fish that Affect Coastal Ecosystem Services of Japan. Frontiers in Built Environment 7.

Tropicalization characterized by an increase in marine species originating from the tropical waters affects human society in various ways. An increase in toxic harmful species negatively affects fisheries and leisure use, and an increase in herbivorous fish affects fisheries and carbon sink capacity…

Martín, G., J. Erinjery, R. Gumbs, R. Somaweera, D. Ediriweera, P. J. Diggle, A. Kasturiratne, et al. 2021. Integrating snake distribution, abundance and expert‐derived behavioural traits predicts snakebite risk. Journal of Applied Ecology 59: 611–623.

Despite important implications for human health, distribution, abundance and behaviour of most medically relevant snakes remain poorly understood. Such data deficiencies hamper efforts to characterise the causal pathways of snakebite envenoming and to prioritise management options in the areas at gr…