Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Khlyap, L. A., A. A. Warshavsky, N. N. Dergunova, F. A. Osipov, and V. G. Petrosyan. 2023. The Most Dangerous Invasive Near-Water Mammals in Russia: Ensemble Models of Spatial Distribution. Russian Journal of Biological Invasions 14: 457–483.

Abstract The potential ranges of three near-water (hereafter, semiaquatic) mammals included in the list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species of Russia (Сanadian beaver, muskrat, American mink) are presented. Maps of suitable habitats of species were created by ensemble modeling of spatial distribution of species (eSDM) on the basis of global species occurrence records in the native and invasive range and bioclimatic variables characterizing the current climate. An estimate of the effectiveness of constructing ensemble models in comparison with individual models (iSDM) is given. The results of analysis of consequences of invasions of semiaquatic mammals are presented and the features of control of number and limitation of their distribution in the future on the territory of Russia are considered. The patterns of formation of the invasive part of the range of alien semiaquatic mammals are summarized and suitable regions for their future invasions are predicted.

Lim, J.-C., J.-E. Yang, G.-Y. Lee, and B.-K. Choi. 2023. An in-depth characterization of the Habitat of Thelypteris interrupta in South Korea. Journal of Coastal Conservation 27.

Purpose The Deonggae coast on Jeju Island is a unique habitat that has not yet been studied from an ecological management or conservation perspective, despite its importance as the northernmost habitat of subtropical plants in Asia and the sole habitat of an endangered fern, Thelypteris interrupta , in Korea. To provide insights into this habitat’s systematic management, we comprehensively characterized its abiotic and biotic components. Methods Our study found two distinct plant communities ( Persicaria japonica - Thelypteris interrupta and Thelypteris interrupta - Phragmites australis ), driven by their respective microhabitats and influenced by soil inundation frequency, water depth, and salinity. We examined the phytosociological similarities and habitat characteristics of these two communities. Results Thelypteris interrupta could be distributed in the northernmost part of the Deonggae coast due to its greater heat preference. However, this limits its spread toward polar regions. We suggested minimizing the transformation of wetlands into terrestrial habitats by reducing the introduction of external soils and establishing ecological continuity with neighboring ecosystems while educating visitors about the area’s ecology as two habitat conservation practices. Conclusion The Deonggae coast is a natural wetland with a high conservation value as a habitat for endangered wildlife and a refuge for opportunistic species under the influence of climate change.

Vázquez-Rueda, E., A. P. Cuervo-Robayo, and J. Ayala-Berdon. 2023. Forest dependency could be more important than dispersal capacity for habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats inhabiting a highly anthropized region in central Mexico. Mammal Research.

The maintenance, restoration, and improvement of habitat structure are critical for biodiversity conservation. Under this context, studies assessing habitat connectivity become essential, especially those focused on anthropized regions holding high species richness. We calculated the habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats with different dispersal capacity and habitat preferences in a highly anthropized region in central Mexico, Idionycteris phyllotis and Myotis thysanodes , with a high dispersal capacity and forest-dependency, and Eptesicus fuscus with a low dispersal capacity, and Tadarida brasiliensis with a high dispersal capacity, as the more tolerant bat species to anthropogenic disturbance. We developed niche-based species distribution models to identify suitable habitat patches for each species. We then assessed habitat connectivity and the importance of suitable habitat patches for maintaining connectivity using a graph theory approach. Our results showed that forest dependency was most important than dispersal capacity for connectivity. We also found that the Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl mountain, a National Park comprising 4.2% of natural vegetation in the study area, was the most critical patch for maintaining connectivity for most of the study species. Our study demonstrates the importance of conserving the remnants of natural vegetation for maintaining habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape and demonstrates the importance of conserving protected areas as well as other remnants of vegetation for the maintenance of habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape.

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.

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.

Hill, A., M. F. T. Jiménez, N. Chazot, C. Cássia‐Silva, S. Faurby, L. Herrera‐Alsina, and C. D. Bacon. 2023. Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser. Location Global. Time Period Contemporary (or present). Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae). Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models. Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates. Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.

Cunze, S., S. Klimpel, and J. Kochmann. 2023. Land cover and climatic conditions as potential drivers of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) distribution in North America and Europe. European Journal of Wildlife Research 69.

The raccoon is listed among the invasive alien species of EU concern requiring management actions. Projections of its global distribution have been mainly based on climatic variables so far. In this study, we aim to address the impact of land cover (LC) on the raccoon distribution in North America and Europe. First, we identified the LC types in which the observation sites are predominantly located to derive preferred LC types. Second, we used an ecological niche modelling (ENM) approach to evaluate the predictive power of climatic and LC information on the current distribution patterns of raccoons in both ranges. Raccoons seem to be more often associated to forested areas and mixed landscapes, including cropland and urban areas, but underrepresented in vegetation-poor areas, with patterns largely coinciding in both ranges. In order to compare the predictive power of climate variables and land cover variables, we conducted principal component analyses of all variables in the respective variable sets (climate variables and land cover variables) and used all PC variables that together explain 90% of the total variance in the respective set as predictors. Land cover only models resulted in patchy patterns in the projected habitat suitabilities and showed a higher performance compared to the climate only models in both ranges. In Europe, the land cover habitat suitability seems to exceed the current observed occurrences, which could indicate a further spread potential of the raccoon in Europe. We conclude that information on land cover types are important drivers, which explain well the spatial patterns of the raccoon. Consideration of land cover could benefit efforts to control invasive carnivores and contribute to better management of biodiversity, but also human and animal health.

Moore, M. P., and F. Khan. 2023. Relatively large wings facilitate life at higher elevations among Nearctic dragonflies. Journal of Animal Ecology.

Determining which traits allow species to live at higher elevations is essential to understanding the forces that shape montane biodiversity.For the many animals that rely on flight for locomotion, a long‐standing hypothesis is that species with relatively large wings should better persist in high‐elevation environments because wings that are large relative to the body generate more lift and decrease the aerobic costs of remaining aloft. Although these biomechanical and physiological predictions have received some support in birds, other flying taxa often possess smaller wings at high elevations or no wings at all.To test if predictions about the requirements for relative wing size at high elevations are generalizable beyond birds, we conducted macroecological analyses on the altitudinal characteristics of 302 Nearctic dragonfly species.Consistent with the biomechanical and aerobic hypotheses, species with relatively larger wings live at higher elevations and have wider elevation breadths—even after controlling for a species' body size, mean thermal conditions, and range size. Moreover, a species' relative wing size had nearly as large of an impact on its maximum elevation as being adapted to the cold.Relatively large wings may be essential to high‐elevation life in species that completely depend on flight for locomotion, like dragonflies or birds. With climate change forcing taxa to disperse upslope, our findings further suggest that relatively large wings could be a requirement for completely volant taxa to persist in montane habitats.

Fell, H. G., M. Jones, S. Atkinson, N. C. Stenseth, and A. C. Algar. 2023. The role of reservoir species in mediating plague’s dynamic response to climate. Royal Society Open Science 10.

The distribution and transmission of Yersinia pestis , the bacterial agent of plague, responds dynamically to climate, both within wildlife reservoirs and human populations. The exact mechanisms mediating plague's response to climate are still poorly understood, particularly across large environmentally heterogeneous regions encompassing several reservoir species. A heterogeneous response to precipitation was observed in plague intensity across northern and southern China during the Third Pandemic. This has been attributed to the response of reservoir species in each region. We use environmental niche modelling and hindcasting methods to test the response of a broad range of reservoir species to precipitation. We find little support for the hypothesis that the response of reservoir species to precipitation mediated the impact of precipitation on plague intensity. We instead observed that precipitation variables were of limited importance in defining species niches and rarely showed the expected response to precipitation across northern and southern China. These findings do not suggest that precipitation–reservoir species dynamics never influence plague intensity but that instead, the response of reservoir species to precipitation across a single biome cannot be assumed and that limited numbers of reservoir species may have a disproportional impact upon plague intensity.

Garrido-Garduño, T., E. Vázquez-Domínguez, P. Dávila-Aranda, R. Lira-Saade, M. Arenas-Navarro, and O. Téllez-Valdés. 2022. Defining environmentally heterogeneous sites when faced with conservation urgency and scarce in situ data. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 93: e934132.

We apply an environmental domains approach to identify environmentally heterogeneous characteristics defining a landscape matrix. We built environmental layers for national, regional, and local scales, considering the different scales studies can have. We used a numerical classification of explicit spatial layers and performed a multivariate classification. Based on the domains obtained, we mapped the landscape’s climatic heterogeneity and identified a comprehensive set of environmental variables that defined the landscape matrix at each scale. We specifically tested our approach for its suitability to define a sampling strategy for a landscape genetics study, using as focal species the rodent Heteromys pictus. Namely, from the domains obtained at the local scale, we selected sampling localities that comprised the broadest habitat heterogeneity, which we corroborated in the field. The landscape matrix thus generated was used with genetic data previously obtained for H. pictus. Our approach allowed identification of environmental variables significantly associated with dispersal (gene flow) of H. pictus individuals in their natural habitat. We demonstrate its adequacy to efficiently determine sampling localities —or landscape sites— that encompass the highest environmental heterogeneity, in explored and unexplored landscapes, enabling rapid identification of localities and their environmental characteristics where in situ information is scarce.

Simons, D., L. A. Attfield, K. E. Jones, D. Watson-Jones, and R. Kock. 2023. Rodent trapping studies as an overlooked information source for understanding endemic and novel zoonotic spillover R. A. Bowen [ed.],. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 17: e0010772.

Rodents, a diverse, globally distributed and ecologically important order of mammals are nevertheless important reservoirs of known and novel zoonotic pathogens. Ongoing anthropogenic land use change is altering these species’ abundance and distribution, which among zoonotic host species may increase the risk of zoonoses spillover events. A better understanding of the current distribution of rodent species is required to guide attempts to mitigate against potentially increased zoonotic disease hazard and risk. However, available species distribution and host-pathogen association datasets (e.g. IUCN, GBIF, CLOVER) are often taxonomically and spatially biased. Here, we synthesise data from West Africa from 127 rodent trapping studies, published between 1964–2022, as an additional source of information to characterise the range and presence of rodent species and identify the subgroup of species that are potential or known pathogen hosts. We identify that these rodent trapping studies, although biased towards human dominated landscapes across West Africa, can usefully complement current rodent species distribution datasets and we calculate the discrepancies between these datasets. For five regionally important zoonotic pathogens (Arenaviridae spp., Borrelia spp., Lassa mammarenavirus, Leptospira spp. and Toxoplasma gondii), we identify host-pathogen associations that have not been previously reported in host-association datasets. Finally, for these five pathogen groups, we find that the proportion of a rodent hosts range that have been sampled remains small with geographic clustering. A priority should be to sample rodent hosts across a greater geographic range to better characterise current and future risk of zoonotic spillover events. In the interim, studies of spatial pathogen risk informed by rodent distributions must incorporate a measure of the current sampling biases. The current synthesis of contextually rich rodent trapping data enriches available information from IUCN, GBIF and CLOVER which can support a more complete understanding of the hazard of zoonotic spillover events.