Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Owen, E., M. Zuliani, M. Goldgisser, and C. Lortie. 2024. The importance of native shrubs on the distribution and diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the central drylands of Southwestern USA. Biodiversity and Conservation 33: 2131–2151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-024-02851-8

Conservation and management of drylands is a global challenge. Key attributes of these ecosystems, such as dominant vegetation including shrubs, can provide a crucial mechanism to inform conservation strategies. The shrub species Ephedra californica and Larrea tridentata are common native shrub species within the deserts of California and frequently benefit other plant and animal species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that shrubs support reptile and amphibian communities through relative increases in available habitat, estimated through increasing shrub densities at the site level. Reported occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and high-resolution satellite images were used to test for local-to-regional patterns in reptile and amphibian distribution and diversity by shrub densities at sites. At 43 distinct sites, the relationship between shrub density and reported reptile and amphibian communities was also tested. A total of 71 reptile and amphibian species were reported regionally. Increases in shrub density across sites positively influenced the relative abundance and richness of reptiles and amphibians observed. Moreover, increasing shrub density also had a positive influence on species evenness. Aridity differences between sites did not significantly influence the relationship between shrub density and reptiles and amphibians suggesting that the relationship was robust. This study highlights the importance of foundational shrub species in supporting reptile and amphibian communities in arid and semi-arid regions. Large-scale patterns of biodiversity in deserts can be supported by positive plant-animal interactions including small islands of fertility and resources for animals in the context of a warming climate.

Ke, Z., M. Mao, B. Steve Bamisile, Z. Li, and Y. Xu. 2024. Predicting the potential distribution of the Pheidole megacephala in light of present and future climate variations H. Puche [ed.],. Journal of Economic Entomology 117: 457–469. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toae013

The big-headed ant, Pheidole megacephala (Fabricius), has a widespread distribution across numerous regions globally. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified it as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species worldwide, given the severe ecological and economic harm it causes in invaded areas. In this study, we predicted the present and future global distribution of P. megacephala, taking into account known distribution points and bioclimatic factors. Our results indicated that temperature is the primary factor affecting the distribution of P. megacephala, with potential suitable areas currently found mainly in South America, Southern North America, Western Europe, Coastal areas of the Mediterranean and Red Seas, Southern Africa, Southern Asia, Islands in Southeast Asia, and coastal regions of Australia. The total suitable area spans 3,352.48 × 104 km2. In China, the potential suitable area for P. megacephala is 109.02 × 104 km2, representing 11.36% of China’s land area. In the future, based on different climatic conditions, the suitable area of P. megacephala generally showed a declining trend, but some newly added suitable areas showed that it had a tendency to expand to higher latitudes. Relevant agencies should implement effective measures to control P. megacephala populations to mitigate damage in invaded areas and slow down or prevent the spread of big-headed ants into noninvaded regions.

López‐Aguilar, T. P., J. Montalva, B. Vilela, M. P. Arbetman, M. A. Aizen, C. L. Morales, and D. de P. Silva. 2024. Niche analyses and the potential distribution of four invasive bumblebees worldwide. Ecology and Evolution 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11200

The introduction of bees for agricultural production in distinct parts of the world and poor management have led to invasion processes that affect biodiversity, significantly impacting native species. Different Bombus species with invasive potential have been recorded spreading in different regions worldwide, generating ecological and economic losses. We applied environmental niche and potential distribution analyses to four species of the genus Bombus to evaluate the similarities and differences between their native and invaded ranges. We found that B. impatiens has an extended environmental niche, going from dry environmental conditions in the native range to warmer and wetter conditions in the invaded range. Bombus ruderatus also exhibited an extended environmental niche with drier and warmer conditions in the invaded range than in its native range. Bombus subterraneus expanded its environmental niche from cooler and wetter conditions in the native range to drier and warmer conditions in the invaded range. Finally, B. terrestris showed the most significant variation in the environmental niche, extending to areas with similar and different environmental conditions from its native range. The distribution models agreed with the known distributions for the four Bombus species, presenting geographic areas known to be occupied by each species in different regions worldwide. The niche analysis indicate shifts in the niches from the native to the invaded distribution area of the bee species. Still, niche similarities were observed in the areas of greatest suitability in the potential distribution for B. ruderatus, B. subterraneus, and B. terrestris, and to a lesser degree in the same areas with B. impatiens. These species require similar environmental conditions as in their native ranges to be established in their introduced ranges. Still, they can adapt to changes in temperature and humidity, allowing them to expand their ranges into new climatic conditions.

Li, D., X. Wang, K. Jiang, R. An, Y. Li, and D. Liu. 2024. The impact of climate change and the conservation of the keystone Asian honeybee using niche models and systematic prioritization C. Bahlai [ed.],. Journal of Economic Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toae018

Global warming has seriously disturbed the Earth’s ecosystems, and in this context, Asian honeybee (Apis cerana) has experienced a dramatic decline in recent decades. Here, we examined both direct and indirect effects of climate change on A. cerana through ecological niche modeling of A. cerana, and its disease pathogens (i.e., Chinese sacbrood virus and Melissococcus plutonius) and enemies (i.e., Galleria mellonella and Vespa mandarinia). Ecological niche modeling predicts that climate change will increase the potential suitability of A. cerana, but it will also cause some of the original habitat areas to become unsuitable. Outbreak risks of Chinese sacbrood disease and European Foulbrood will increase dramatically, while those of G. mellonella and V. mandarinia will decrease only slightly. Thus, climate change will produce an unfavorable situation for even maintaining some A. cerana populations in China in the future. Genetic structure analyses showed that the A. cerana population from Hainan Island had significant genetic differentiation from that of the mainland, and there was almost no gene flow between the 2, suggesting that urgent measures are needed to protect the unique genetic resources there. Through taking an integrated planning technique with the Marxan approach, we optimized conservation planning, and identified potential nature reserves (mainly in western Sichuan and southern Tibet) for conservation of A. cerana populations. Our results can provide insights into the potential impact of climate change on A. cerana, and will help to promote the conservation of the keystone honeybee in China and the long-term sustainability of its ecosystem services.

Belotti López de Medina, C. R. 2024. Diet breadth and biodiversity in the pre-hispanic South-Central Andes (Western South America) during the Holocene: An exploratory analysis and review. The Holocene. https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836241231446

This paper presents an exploratory study on the taxonomic diversity of pre-Hispanic archaeofaunas in the South-Central Andes (SCA; western South America) from the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary to the Late-Holocene. The SCA is a complex of diverse environments and has undergone distinct climate events for the last 13,000 years, such as the occurrence of warmer and drier conditions in the Middle-Holocene. The South-Central Andean area was part of the larger Andes interaction area, which was a primary center for animal and plant domestication and the emergence of agro-pastoralist economies. Since subsistence was key to these processes, the SCA provides a relevant case study on the interactions among environment, foodways and sociocultural evolution. Taxonomic diversity was used here as a proxy for diet breadth. A total of 268 archaeofaunal assemblages were sampled from the zooarchaeological literature. Reviewed variables included the cultural chronology and spatial coordinates of the assemblages, as well as the presence and abundance of taxa at the family rank. Taxonomic diversity covered two dimensions: composition (families present in each assemblage) and structure (quantitative relationships among taxa), which was measured through richness (NTAXA), ubiquity and relative abundance (NISP based rank-order). Despite the uneven distribution of samples, the analyses revealed the following trends: (1) a moderate relationship between NTAXA and distance from coastline for most of the Holocene; (2) a potential decrease in assemblage richness for coastal ecoregions during the Late-Holocene; and (3) a generalized increase in the relative abundance of Camelidae.

Melin, A., C. M. Beale, J. C. Manning, and J. F. Colville. 2024. Fine‐scale bee species distribution models: Hotspots of richness and endemism in South Africa with species‐area comparisons. Insect Conservation and Diversity. https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12715

While global patterns of bee diversity have been modelled, our understanding of fine‐scale regional patterns is more limited, particularly for under‐sampled regions such as Africa. South Africa is among the exceptions on the African continent; its bee fauna (ca. 1253 species) has been well collected and documented, including mass digitising of its natural history collections. It is a region with high floral diversity, high habitat heterogeneity and variable rainfall seasonality.Here, we combine a South African bee species distributional database (877 bee species) with a geospatial modelling approach to determine fine‐scale (~11 × 11 km grid cell resolution) hotspots of bee species richness, endemism and range‐restricted species.Our analyses, based on the probabilities of occurrence surfaces for each species across 108,803 two‐minute grid cells, reveal three bee hotspots of richness: Winter rainfall, Aseasonal rainfall and Early‐to‐late summer rainfall. These hotspots contain large numbers of endemic and geographically restricted taxa. Hotspots with particularly high bee diversity include the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Desert biomes; the latter showing 6–20 times more species per unit area than other biomes. Our results conform with global species‐area patterns: areas of higher‐than‐expected bee density are largely concentrated in Mediterranean and arid habitats.This study further enhances our knowledge in identifying regional and global hotspots of richness and endemism for a keystone group of insects and enabling these to be accounted for when setting conservation priorities.

Hebets, E. A., M. Oviedo-Diego, F. Cargnelutti, F. Bollatti, L. Calbacho-Rosa, C. I. Mattoni, P. Olivero, et al. 2023. A scientist’s guide to Solifugae: how solifuges could advance research in ecology, evolution, and behaviour. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlad174

Despite having >1200 described species and despite their nearly worldwide distribution and prevalence in many xeric ecosystems, relative to many other arachnid groups, we know little about the natural history and behaviour of animals in the order Solifugae (camel spiders, sun spiders, sun scorpions, etc.). Here, we review the current solifuge literature through the lens of conceptual research areas in ecology, evolution, and behaviour and propose ways in which solifuges can contribute to research in specific subfields, as follows: (i) ecology: community and trophic dynamics; connecting food webs; habitat specialization; and biodiversity and conservation; (ii) evolution: speciation and diversification; activity cycles and associated traits; adaptations for speed; and living in extreme environments; and (iii) behaviour and sensory systems: sleep, quiescence, and diapause; sensory systems and sensory ecology; learning and cognition; and mating systems, sexual selection, and sexual conflict. This resource can provide a starting point for identifying research programmes that will simultaneously contribute basic natural history information about this under-studied group and provide a broader understanding of fundamental concepts and theories across the life sciences. We hope that scientists will take this review as a challenge to develop creative ways of leveraging the unique features of solifuges to advance scientific knowledge and understanding.

Ranjbaran, Y., D. Rödder, R. Saberi-Pirooz, and F. Ahmadzadeh. 2024. What happens in ice age, does not stay in ice age: Phylogeography of Bombus terrestris revealed a low genetic diversity amongst the Eurasian populations. Global Ecology and Conservation 49: e02775. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2023.e02775

The objective of this research was to assess the genetic diversity and phylogeography of Bombus terrestris and examine the historical events that shaped its contemporary genetic structures using the COI mitochondrial marker. Specimens of the species were collected from its distribution range alongside the Alborz Mountain range, and GenBank sequences from the Eurasian distribution range were incorporated into the dataset. The COI sequences were employed in Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analyses to generate phylogenetic trees for the species populations and to investigate the evolutionary history of the species. Additionally, species occurrence points and climate data were utilized in Species Distribution Modeling (SDM) analyses to reconstruct the species range under past, present, and future climate conditions. The ML and BI trees yielded similar topologies, indicating extremely low genetic diversity and a homogeneous structure in the species population distribution range in Eurasia. Demographic analyses suggested that the species may have experienced a bottleneck during the last glacial maximum in Eurasia, followed by a recent expansion. The SDM analyses revealed significant fluctuations in the species range in the past and expansion under present conditions. Given the high dispersal ability of the species, the population expansion rate has surpassed the rate of developing new genetic diversity, and the estimated polymorphic sites for the species are likely relatively recent. This low level of genetic variation can also be attributed to the absence of geographical barriers and the excellent flying ability of the queen bee, leading to sustained gene flow throughout the entire continent. Despite the general correlation between larger populations and higher genetic diversity, bumblebees can expand their population size without increasing genetic diversity when residing in resourceful habitats.

Feuerborn, C., G. Quinlan, R. Shippee, T. L. Strausser, T. Terranova, C. M. Grozinger, and H. M. Hines. 2023. Variance in heat tolerance in bumble bees correlates with species geographic range and is associated with several environmental and biological factors. Ecology and Evolution 13. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10730

Globally, insects have been impacted by climate change, with bumble bees in particular showing range shifts and declining species diversity with global warming. This suggests heat tolerance is a likely factor limiting the distribution and success of these bees. Studies have shown high intraspecific variance in bumble bee thermal tolerance, suggesting biological and environmental factors may be impacting heat resilience. Understanding these factors is important for assessing vulnerability and finding environmental solutions to mitigate effects of climate change. In this study, we assess whether geographic range variation in bumble bees in the eastern United States is associated with heat tolerance and further dissect which other biological and environmental factors explain variation in heat sensitivity in these bees. We examine heat tolerance by caste, sex, and rearing condition (wild/lab) across six eastern US bumble bee species, and assess the role of age, reproductive status, body size, and interactive effects of humidity and temperature on thermal tolerance in Bombus impatiens. We found marked differences in heat tolerance by species that correlate with each species' latitudinal range, habitat, and climatic niche, and we found significant variation in thermal sensitivity by caste and sex. Queens had considerably lower heat tolerance than workers and males, with greater tolerance when queens would first be leaving their natal nest, and lower tolerance after ovary activation. Wild bees tended to have higher heat tolerance than lab reared bees, and body size was associated with heat tolerance only in wild‐caught foragers. Humidity showed a strong interaction with heat effects, pointing to the need to regulate relative humidity in thermal assays and consider its role in nature. Altogether, we found most tested biological conditions impact thermal tolerance and highlight the stages of these bees that will be most sensitive to future climate change.

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.