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Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Aguirre-Dugua, X., and A. Casas. 2023. Mesoamerica in a Bowl. Current Anthropology 64: 528–549. https://doi.org/10.1086/727484

Trees of the Neotropical genus Crescentia produce hard-shelled fruits used to manufacture bowls. In this work we analyze the role played by these vessels in the material culture of Mesoamerican peoples through archaeological, ethnohistorical (including 19 works and three tribute lists), and linguistic evidence (including 40 native languages). The earliest archaeobotanical record of Crescentia was found in Belize, estimated at least 2400 BP, whereas the first European description was made by Fernández de Oviedo in 1526. Historical texts written from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries tell that the main use of these vessels was as drinking cups (especially for cacao). Current ethnographic evidence reveals the validity of a close association between Crescentia bowls and traditional beverages based on cacao. Terms for designating these trees in 29 indigenous languages from eight linguistic families, with the oldest ones from the Amuzgo-Mixtec and Mixe-Zoquean lineages, confirm that Crescentia vessels constitute an entity clearly distinguishable from Lagenaria. New areas of ethnobotanical, ethnographic, and archaeological research are highlighted for understanding the role played by these vessels in utilitarian and symbolic aspects and the factors that support their persistence among Mesoamerican peoples up to the present.

Kolanowska, M. 2023. Future distribution of the epiphytic leafless orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), its pollinators and phorophytes evaluated using niche modelling and three different climate change projections. Scientific Reports 13. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42573-5

The identification of future refugia for endangered species from the effects of global warming is crucial for improving their conservation. Because climate-driven shifts in ranges and local extinctions can result in a spatial mismatch with their symbiotic organisms, however, it is important to incorporate in niche modelling the ecological partners of the species studied. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of climate change on the distribution of suitable niches for the ghost orchid ( Dendrophylax lindenii ) and its phorophytes and pollinators. Thus, its five species of host trees and three pollen vectors were included in the analysis. Climatic preferences of all the species studied were evaluated. The modelling was based on three different climate change projections and four Shared Socio-economic Pathway trajectories. All the species analysed are characterized by narrow temperature tolerances, which with global warming are likely to result in local extinctions and range shifts. D. lindenii is likely to be subjected to a significant loss of suitable niches, but within a reduced geographical range, both host trees and pollen vectors will be available in the future. Future conservation of this orchid should focus on areas that are likely be suitable for it and its ecological partners.

Rodríguez-Merino, A. 2023. Identifying and Managing Areas under Threat in the Iberian Peninsula: An Invasion Risk Atlas for Non-Native Aquatic Plant Species as a Potential Tool. Plants 12: 3069. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12173069

Predicting the likelihood that non-native species will be introduced into new areas remains one of conservation’s greatest challenges and, consequently, it is necessary to adopt adequate management measures to mitigate the effects of future biological invasions. At present, not much information is available on the areas in which non-native aquatic plant species could establish themselves in the Iberian Peninsula. Species distribution models were used to predict the potential invasion risk of (1) non-native aquatic plant species already established in the peninsula (32 species) and (2) those with the potential to invade the peninsula (40 species). The results revealed that the Iberian Peninsula contains a number of areas capable of hosting non-native aquatic plant species. Areas under anthropogenic pressure are at the greatest risk of invasion, and the variable most related to invasion risk is temperature. The results of this work were used to create the Invasion Risk Atlas for Alien Aquatic Plants in the Iberian Peninsula, a novel online resource that provides information about the potential distribution of non-native aquatic plant species. The atlas and this article are intended to serve as reference tools for the development of public policies, management regimes, and control strategies aimed at the prevention, mitigation, and eradication of non-native aquatic plant species.

Calvente, A., A. P. Alves da Silva, D. Edler, F. A. Carvalho, M. R. Fantinati, A. Zizka, and A. Antonelli. 2023. Spiny but photogenic: amateur sightings complement herbarium specimens to reveal the bioregions of cacti. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16235

Premise: Cacti are characteristic elements of the Neotropical flora and of major interest for biogeographic, evolutionary, and ecological studies. Here we test global biogeographic boundaries for Neotropical Cactaceae using specimen‐based occurrences coupled with data from visual observations, as a means to tackle the known collection biases in the family.MethodsSpecies richness and record density were assessed for preserved specimens and human observations and a bioregional scheme tailored to Cactaceae was produced using the interactive web application Infomap Bioregions based on data from 261,272 point records cleaned through automated and manual steps.Key ResultsWe find that areas in Mexico and southwestern USA, Eastern Brazil and along the Andean region have the greatest density of records and the highest species richness. Human observations complement information from preserved specimens substantially, especially along the Andes. We propose 24 cacti bioregions, among which the most species‐rich are: northern Mexico/southwestern USA, central Mexico, southern central Mexico, Central America, Mexican Pacific coast, central and southern Andes, northwestern Mexico/extreme southwestern USA, southwestern Bolivia, northeastern Brazil, Mexico/Baja California.ConclusionsThe bioregionalization proposed shows biogeographical boundaries specific to cacti, and can thereby aid further evolutionary, biogeographic, and ecological studies by providing a validated framework for further analyses. This classification builds upon, and is distinctive from, other expert‐derived regionalization schemes for other taxa. Our results showcase how observation data, including citizen‐science records, can complement traditional specimen‐based data for biogeographic research, particularly for taxa with specific specimen collection and preservation challenges and those that are threatened or internationally protected.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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.

Graham, C. D. K., E. J. Forrestel, A. L. Schilmiller, A. T. Zemenick, and M. G. Weber. 2023. Evolutionary signatures of a trade-off in direct and indirect defenses across the wild grape genus Vitis. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpad140

Evolutionary correlations between chemical defense and protection by mutualist bodyguards have been long predicted, but tests of these pattern remain rare. We use a phylogenetic framework to test for evolutionary correlations indicative of trade-offs or synergisms between direct defense in the form of plant secondary metabolism, and indirect defense in the form of leaf domatia, across 33 species in the wild grape genus, Vitis. We also performed a bioassay with a generalist herbivore to associate our chemical phenotypes with herbivore palatability. Finally, we tested whether defensive traits correlate with the average abiotic characteristics of each species’ contemporary range and whether these correlations were consistent with plant defense theory. We found a negative evolutionary correlation between domatia size and the diversity of secondary metabolites in Vitis leaf tissue across the genus, and also that leaves with a higher diversity and richness of secondary metabolites were less palatable to a generalist herbivore, consistent with a trade-off in chemical and mutualistic defense investment. Predictions from plant defense theory were not supported by associations between investment in defense phenotypes and abiotic variables. Our work demonstrates an evolutionary pattern indicative of a trade-off between indirect and direct defense strategies across the Vitis genus.

Geier, C., J. M. Bouchal, S. Ulrich, D. Uhl, T. Wappler, S. Wedmann, R. Zetter, et al. 2023. Potential pollinators and paleoecological aspects of Eocene Ludwigia (Onagraceae) from Eckfeld, Germany. Palaeoworld. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palwor.2023.07.003

Paleogene flower-insect interactions and paleo-pollination processes are, in general, poorly understood and fossil evidence for such floral and faunal interactions are rarely reported. To shed light on angiosperm flower-insect interactions, we investigated several hundred fossil flowers and insects from the middle Eocene Fossil Lagerstätte of Eckfeld, Germany. During our work, we discovered a unique fossil Ludwigia flower (bud) with in situ pollen. The ecological preferences (climate, biome, habitat, etc.) of extant Ludwigia and the paleoecological configurations of the fossil plant assemblage support the taxonomic affiliation of the flower bud and an Eocene presence of Ludwigia in the vicinity of the former Lake Eckfeld. Today’s Ludwigia are mostly pollinated by Hymenoptera (bees). Therefore, we screened all currently known hymenopteran fossils from Eckfeld but found no Ludwigia pollen adhering to any of the specimens. On the contrary, we discovered Ludwigia pollen adhering to two different groups of Coleoptera (beetles). Our study suggests that during the Eocene of Europe, Ludwigia flowers were visited and probably pollinated by beetles and over time there was a shift in primary flower visitors/pollinators, from beetles to bees, sometime during the late Paleogene to Neogene.

Maurin, O., A. Anest, F. Forest, I. Turner, R. L. Barrett, R. C. Cowan, L. Wang, et al. 2023. Drift in the tropics: Phylogenetics and biogeographical patterns in Combretaceae. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13737

Aim The aim of this study was to further advance our understanding of the species-rich, and ecologically important angiosperm family Combretaceae to provide new insights into their evolutionary history. We assessed phylogenetic relationships in the family using target capture data and produced a dated phylogenetic tree to assess fruit dispersal modes and patterns of distribution. Location Tropical and subtropical regions. Time Period Cretaceous to present. Major Taxa Studied Family Combretaceae is a member of the rosid clade and comprises 10 genera and more than 500 species, predominantly assigned to genera Combretum and Terminalia, and occurring on all continents and in a wide range of ecosystems. Methods We use a target capture approach and the Angiosperms353 universal probes to reconstruct a robust dated phylogenetic tree for the family. This phylogenetic framework, combined with seed dispersal traits, biome data and biogeographic ranges, allows the reconstruction of the biogeographical history of the group. Results Ancestral range reconstructions suggest a Gondwanan origin (Africa/South America), with several intercontinental dispersals within the family and few transitions between biomes. Relative abundance of fruit dispersal types differed by both continent and biome. However, intercontinental colonizations were only significantly enhanced by water dispersal (drift fruit), and there was no evidence that seed dispersal modes influenced biome shifts. Main Conclusions Our analysis reveals a paradox as drift fruit greatly enhanced dispersal distances at intercontinental scale but did not affect the strong biome conservatism observed.

Quillfeldt, P., Y. Bedolla-Guzmán, M. M. Libertelli, Y. Cherel, M. Massaro, and P. Bustamante. 2023. Mercury in Ten Storm-Petrel Populations from the Antarctic to the Subtropics. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-023-01011-3

The oceans become increasingly contaminated as a result of global industrial production and consumer behaviour, and this affects wildlife in areas far removed from sources of pollution. Migratory seabirds such as storm-petrels may forage in areas with different contaminant levels throughout the annual cycle and may show a carry-over of mercury from the winter quarters to the breeding sites. In this study, we compared mercury levels among seven species of storm-petrels breeding on the Antarctic South Shetlands and subantarctic Kerguelen Islands, in temperate waters of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, and in temperate waters of the Pacific off Mexico. We tested for differences in the level of contamination associated with breeding and inter-breeding distribution and trophic position. We collected inert body feathers and metabolically active blood samples in ten colonies, reflecting long-term (feathers) and short-term (blood) exposures during different periods ranging from early non-breeding (moult) to late breeding. Feathers represent mercury accumulated over the annual cycle between two successive moults. Mercury concentrations in feathers ranged over more than an order of magnitude among species, being lowest in subantarctic Grey-backed Storm-petrels (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in subtropical Leach’s Storm-petrels (7.6 μg g −1 dw, i.e. posing a moderate toxicological risk). Among Antarctic Storm-petrels, Black-bellied Storm-petrels had threefold higher values than Wilson’s Storm-petrels, and in both species, birds from the South Shetlands (Antarctica) had threefold higher values than birds from Kerguelen (subantarctic Indian Ocean). Blood represents mercury taken up over several weeks, and showed similar trends, being lowest in Grey-backed Storm-petrels from Kerguelen (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in Leach’s Storm-petrels (3.6 μg g −1 dw). Among Antarctic storm-petrels, species differences in the blood samples were similar to those in feathers, but site differences were less consistent. Over the breeding season, mercury decreased in blood samples of Antarctic Wilson’s Storm-petrels, but did not change in Wilson’s Storm-petrels from Kerguelen or in Antarctic Black-bellied Storm-petrels. In summary, we found that mercury concentrations in storm-petrels varied due to the distribution of species and differences in prey choice. Depending on prey choices, Antarctic storm-petrels can have similar mercury concentrations as temperate species. The lowest contamination was observed in subantarctic species and populations. The study shows how seabirds, which accumulate dietary pollutants in their tissues in the breeding and non-breeding seasons, can be used to survey marine pollution. Storm-petrels with their wide distributions and relatively low trophic levels may be especially useful, but more detailed knowledge on their prey choice and distributions is needed.

Kor, L., and M. Diazgranados. 2023. Identifying important plant areas for useful plant species in Colombia. Biological Conservation 284: 110187. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2023.110187

While area-based approaches continue to dominate biodiversity conservation, there is growing recognition of the importance of the human dimensions of biodiversity. We applied the Important Plant Areas (IPA) approach in Colombia to identify key sites for the conservation of plant species with reported human uses. Drawing on the Checklist of Useful Plants of Colombia, we collated 1,045,889 clean occurrence records for 5400 native species from global data repositories and digitized herbaria. Through analysis based on regionalized grid cells, we identified 980 sites meeting IPA thresholds. These are primarily located in forest habitats, with only 19.8 % within existing national natural parks or internationally designated conservation areas. Grid cells were transformed to polygons based on overlapping ecosystems and administrative boundaries to form more meaningful site boundaries. A subsequent two-stage ranking procedure based on conservation value and richness found 46 sites to be of high priority, with 10 selected as top priorities for further investigation and conservation action. These 10 sites support significant populations of 33 threatened useful plant species and represent six of the 13 bioregions of Colombia in just 0.27 % of its land area. To progress from potential to confirmed IPAs, targeted fieldwork is required alongside stakeholder engagement and consultation, crucially involving local resource users. As a megadiverse country ranked second in the world for its botanical richness, effective IPA management would not only contribute to Colombian targets for sustainable development and conservation but would also support global targets to recover biodiversity for both planet and people.