Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Borges, C., A. Bertassoni, L. F. Liévano‐Latorre, T. A. F. Dória, R. Santos‐Silva, F. Miranda, and E. Barreto. 2022. Safeguarding sloths and anteaters in the future: Priority areas for conservation under climate change. Biotropica. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.13185

Sloths and anteaters form the monophyletic order Pilosa, which is currently represented by only 16 extant species distributed exclusively in the Neotropics. This present‐day low species richness is an inheritance of the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, where over 65 Pilosa species known from the fossil record went extinct. The large number of species lost in the recent past suggests that this group is greatly vulnerable to extinction. Here, we propose long‐term priority conservation areas for the order Pilosa, considering different future climate change scenarios, biotic stability, and the multiple dimensions of the group's biodiversity, such as species richness, species endemism, and phylogenetic diversity. Projections of species distribution for future scenarios show increased fragmentation and clear habitat loss as the Amazon Forest is replaced by savanna‐like habitats. Conservation solutions were highly congruent for the different dimensions of biodiversity, with priority areas emerging mainly in the Atlantic Forest, Amazonian wetlands, highlands of Ecuador, and the Central American isthmus. Expanding the currently protected areas network by 6% with the proposed priority areas, independently of which future climatic scenario is considered, can increase sloths and anteaters' coverage in the future by 12%. As a group of high phylogenetic and ecological importance, future conservation planning should deliberately aim to protect areas favorable to Pilosa, especially given the current scenario of environmental dismantling and neglect of critical Neotropical biomes.

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02497-4

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.

Lal, M. M., K. T. Brown, P. Chand, and T. D. Pickering. 2022. An assessment of the aquaculture potential of indigenous freshwater food fish of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga as alternatives to farming of tilapia. Reviews in Aquaculture. https://doi.org/10.1111/raq.12749

An important driver behind introductions for aquaculture of alien fish species into Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) is a lack of knowledge about domestication suitability and specific culture requirements of indigenous taxa. Introductions may be appropriate in some circumstances, but in other circumstances, the associated risks may outweigh the benefits, so greater understanding of indigenous species' aquaculture potential is important. This review summarises literature for indigenous freshwater food fish species from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga, and evaluates their aquaculture potential for food security and/or small‐scale livelihoods. A species selection criteria incorporating economic, social, biological and environmental spheres was used to score 62 candidate species. Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and O. niloticus) now established in PICTs were evaluated for comparison. Results show that 13 species belonging to the families Mugilidae (Mullets), Terapontidae (Grunters), Kuhliidae (Flagtails) and Scatophagidae (Scats) have the highest culture potential according to selection criteria. These feed at a relatively low trophic level (are herbivores/detritivores), have comparatively fast growth rates and overall possess characteristics most amenable for small‐scale, inland aquaculture. The four top‐ranked candidates are all mountain mullets Cestraeus spp., followed by Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Lower ranked candidates include three other mullets (Planiliza melinoptera, P. subviridis and Mugil cephalus) and rock flagtail Kuhlia rupestris. Importantly, many species remain data deficient in aspects of their reproductive biology or culture performance. Species profiles and ranked priority species by country are provided with logistical, technological and environmental assessments of country capacities to culture each species.

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12192722

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.

Daniels, S. R., A. Barnes, N. Peer, V. T. Egan, R. Taylor, R. W. Taylor, and D. van der Colff. 2022. iNaturalist is useful at enhancing biodiversity studies as evident from southern African freshwater crabs (Decapoda: Brachyura: Potamonautidae). Journal of Crustacean Biology 42. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcbiol/ruac042

Abstract The value of the citizen science platform iNaturalist was explored using photographic observations of southern African freshwater crabs (Potamonautidae Bott, 1970, among two genera Potamonautes sensu stricto MacLeay, 1838 and MartimonautesCumberlidge & Daniels, 2022) in combination with specimen data deposited in the South African Museum (Iziko Museums of Cape Town, South Africa). Species identification of photographic observations were assessed, and the identification of taxa corrected where necessary. From these records, the habitat type and distribution of the species were noted. The area of occupancy (AOO) and the extent of occurrence (EOO) were calculated where range extensions for species were observed. The results demonstrate that riverine/mountain stream freshwater crabs are over-represented in their frequency but species occurring in swamps/forests were under-represented. Using iNaturalist spatial data for South Africa we can identify several unsampled gaps in the country which included the Free State and North West, Gauteng and the Northern Cape, followed by Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape provinces. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of freshwater crab records on iNaturalist. The remaining southern African countries, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, have few iNaturalist records. Range extensions were observed in four South African species based on iNaturalist records (P. clarusGouws, Stewart & Coke, 2000, P. flavusjoDaniels, Phiri, & Bayliss, 2014, P. isimangaliso Peer & Gouws, 2015, and P. mariepskoppieDaniels, Barnes, Marais & Gouws, 2021) with increases in AOO and EOO. We also observed a new undescribed freshwater crab on iNaturalist and corroborated this observation by sequencing these specimens for the cytochrome oxidase one subunit (COI) locus. Photographic quality is critical for taxonomic inference. Citizen science ­platforms such as iNaturalist can be invaluable for the discovery and documentation of biodiversity and provide new spatial data for species distributions that in turn can aid conservation tools.

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. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9141

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. https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.98.79213

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.

Monroy-Gamboa, A. G. 2022. Differences between Northern and Southern Female Coyotes. Western North American Naturalist 82. https://doi.org/10.3398/064.082.0119

The coyote (Canis latrans) has a wide distribution range, spanning boreal forests from the north of the continent to tropical environments in Central America, showing great adaptation and plasticity. Bergmann's rule states that individuals inhabiting colder climates are larger than those in warmer climates. It is suggested that in carnivore species, litter size is influenced by allometric constraints such as maternal body size. The aim of this study is to analyze the relations using correlation between female coyote mass, latitude, and litter size. Using data compiled from the literature, I carried out statistical analyses to correlate female body size, litter size, and latitude for coyotes across their distribution range. The results indicated a soft significant correlation between female body size and latitude, confirming Bergmann's rule. However, no significant correlation was found between litter size and latitude or between litter size and female body size; litter size in coyotes remains roughly uniform across their distribution range.

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. https://doi.org/10.1643/h2021058

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.

Sweet, F. S. T., B. Apfelbeck, M. Hanusch, C. Garland Monteagudo, and W. W. Weisser. 2022. Data from public and governmental databases show that a large proportion of the regional animal species pool occur in cities in Germany. Journal of Urban Ecology 8. https://doi.org/10.1093/jue/juac002

Cities have been shown to be biodiverse, but it is unclear what fraction of a regional species pool can live within city borders and how this differs between taxa. Among animals, most research has focused on a few well-studied taxa, such as birds or butterflies. For other species, progress is limite…