Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Serra‐Diaz, J. M., J. Borderieux, B. Maitner, C. C. F. Boonman, D. Park, W. Guo, A. Callebaut, et al. 2024. occTest: An integrated approach for quality control of species occurrence data. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13847

Aim Species occurrence data are valuable information that enables one to estimate geographical distributions, characterize niches and their evolution, and guide spatial conservation planning. Rapid increases in species occurrence data stem from increasing digitization and aggregation efforts, and citizen science initiatives. However, persistent quality issues in occurrence data can impact the accuracy of scientific findings, underscoring the importance of filtering erroneous occurrence records in biodiversity analyses.InnovationWe introduce an R package, occTest, that synthesizes a growing open‐source ecosystem of biodiversity cleaning workflows to prepare occurrence data for different modelling applications. It offers a structured set of algorithms to identify potential problems with species occurrence records by employing a hierarchical organization of multiple tests. The workflow has a hierarchical structure organized in testPhases (i.e. cleaning vs. testing) that encompass different testBlocks grouping different testTypes (e.g. environmental outlier detection), which may use different testMethods (e.g. Rosner test, jacknife,etc.). Four different testBlocks characterize potential problems in geographic, environmental, human influence and temporal dimensions. Filtering and plotting functions are incorporated to facilitate the interpretation of tests. We provide examples with different data sources, with default and user‐defined parameters. Compared to other available tools and workflows, occTest offers a comprehensive suite of integrated tests, and allows multiple methods associated with each test to explore consensus among data cleaning methods. It uniquely incorporates both coordinate accuracy analysis and environmental analysis of occurrence records. Furthermore, it provides a hierarchical structure to incorporate future tests yet to be developed.Main conclusionsoccTest will help users understand the quality and quantity of data available before the start of data analysis, while also enabling users to filter data using either predefined rules or custom‐built rules. As a result, occTest can better assess each record's appropriateness for its intended application.

Ferreira, G. E., J. L. Clark, L. Clavijo, A. Zuluaga, A. Chautems, M. J. G. Hopkins, A. O. Araujo, and M. Perret. 2024. Phylogenetics, character evolution, and historical biogeography of the Neotropical genus Besleria (Gesneriaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boae007

Besleria, a genus of perennial herbs, shrubs, or small trees growing in the understorey of rainforests, is one of the largest genera of neotropical Gesneriaceae, with over 165 species. Despite the ecological importance and ubiquity of Besleria in rainforest ecosystems, taxonomic and evolutionary studies of Besleria are limited. Here, we generated a phylogenetic analysis of Besleria using four nuclear and chloroplast DNA regions (ITS, matK, rps16, and trnL-trnF) covering more than 50% of the recognized species, along with two secondary calibration points to infer divergence times. Our results support the monophyly of Besleria and allowed us to revise the infrageneric classification and biogeographical history of the genus. We identified five major clades that do not correspond to sections or subsections in previous classifications. These clades are well circumscribed geographically but remain difficult to characterize using previously hypothesized morphological characters. Biogeographical reconstructions indicate an origin in the northern Andes during the Middle Miocene (ca. 15 Mya). The current distribution patterns of this plant group have been significantly shaped by geological and climatic events, particularly Andean uplift and the formation of the Panama Isthmus.

Ramírez-Barahona, S. 2024. Incorporating fossils into the joint inference of phylogeny and biogeography of the tree fern order Cyatheales R. Warnock, and M. Zelditch [eds.],. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpae034

Present-day geographic and phylogenetic patterns often reflect the geological and climatic history of the planet. Neontological distribution data are often sufficient to unravel a lineage’s biogeographic history, yet ancestral range inferences can be at odds with fossil evidence. Here, I use the fossilized birth–death process and the dispersal–extinction cladogenesis model to jointly infer the dated phylogeny and range evolution of the tree fern order Cyatheales. I use data for 101 fossil and 442 extant tree ferns to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the group over the last 220 million years. Fossil-aware reconstructions evince a prolonged occupancy of Laurasia over the Triassic–Cretaceous by Cyathealean tree ferns, which is evident in the fossil record but hidden from analyses relying on neontological data alone. Nonetheless, fossil-aware reconstructions are affected by uncertainty in fossils’ phylogenetic placement, taphonomic biases, and specimen sampling and are sensitive to interpretation of paleodistributions and how these are scored. The present results highlight the need and challenges of incorporating fossils into joint inferences of phylogeny and biogeography to improve the reliability of ancestral geographic range estimation.

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.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01649-4

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Prochazka, L. S., S. Alcantara, J. G. Rando, T. Vasconcelos, R. C. Pizzardo, and A. Nogueira. 2024. Resource availability and disturbance frequency shape evolution of plant life forms in Neotropical habitats. New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.19601

Organisms use diverse strategies to thrive in varying habitats. While life history theory partly explains these relationships, the combined impact of resource availability and disturbance frequency on life form strategy evolution has received limited attention.We use Chamaecrista species, a legume plant lineage with a high diversity of plant life forms in the Neotropics, and employ ecological niche modeling and comparative phylogenetic methods to examine the correlated evolution of plant life forms and environmental niches.Chamaephytes and phanerophytes have optima in environments characterized by moderate water and nutrient availability coupled with infrequent fire disturbances. By contrast, annual plants thrive in environments with scarce water and nutrients, alongside frequent fire disturbances. Similarly, geophyte species also show increased resistance to frequent fire disturbances, although they thrive in resource‐rich environments.Our findings shed light on the evolution of plant strategies along environmental gradients, highlighting that annuals and geophytes respond differently to high incidences of fire disturbances, with one enduring it as seeds in a resource‐limited habitat and the other relying on reserves and root resprouting systems in resource‐abundant habitats. Furthermore, it deepens our understanding of how organisms evolve associated with their habitats, emphasizing a constraint posed by low‐resource and high‐disturbance environments.

Minghetti, E., P. M. Dellapé, M. Maestro, and S. I. Montemayor. 2024. Evaluating the climatic suitability of Engytatus passionarius Minghetti et al. (Heteroptera, Miridae) as a biological control agent of the invasive stinking passion flower Passiflora foetida L. in Australia through ecological niche models. Biological Control 191: 105461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2024.105461

Passiflora foetida is a climbing vine, native to the Neotropical Region that is causing major economic and ecological damage in Australia, where it is rapidly spreading. Traditional control options, such as cutting, manual uprooting, and herbicide applications are only effective for local management. Currently, the plant bug Engytatus passionarius is the most promising biological control agent. Specificity tests performed in its native range in Argentina suggest it is highly specific to the plant, and it has not been observed in the field associated with other plants. As climate determines the establishment of insects, knowing if the environmental conditions suit their requirements is key to introducing a species in a region. Also, an overlap between the climatic niches of species is an indicator of similar requirements. To explore the possibilities of a successful establishment of E. passionarius in Australia, ecological niche models (ENM) were built for the plant bug and for the vine and their overlap was measured. The ENM projected to Australia recognized suitable environmental conditions for the establishment of E. passionarius in several regions where P. foetida is present, both for current and future scenarios. Moreover, the niche of the plant bug is almost completely overlapped with that of the vine. All the aforementioned evidence seems to indicate that E. passionarius has a good chance to become an effective biological control agent of P. foetida.

SILVA, I. M. D., J. E. SERRÃO, M. M. D. SANTOS, R. S. D. SILVA, A. G. D. CARVALHO, E. M. PIRES, J. C. ZANUNCIO, and M. A. SOARES. 2023. Insecticidal plants as trade opportunities and use by small vegetable producers: an example using essential oils to control Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 95. https://doi.org/10.1590/0001-3765202320191305

Production and sale of botanical insecticides depend on knowing the potential opportunities for these products. Essential oils from plants secondary metabolism can control pests, especially in agricultural systems where synthetic insecticides are limited, as in organic agriculture. The objective of this study was to evaluate the toxicity of essential oils to Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) and to show regions with the potential to use Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Citrus sinensis, and Syzygium aromaticum in the formulation and commercialization of insecticides to control this insect. The C. zeylanicum oil was more toxic to larvae and pupae and the S. aromaticum to eggs of D. hyalinata. Essential oils are an alternative for the management of D. hyalinata. The production of pesticides from essential oils of C. zeylanicum, C. sinensis, and S. aromaticum to control D. hyalinata has high potential in America. Also, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia can extract these plants to formulate insecticide molecules for the America countries.

Angulo, J. C., J. M. Burke, and F. A. Michelangeli. 2023. Characterizing the frequency, morphological gradient, and distribution of dioecy in Miconia (Melastomataceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1086/729063

Dioecy has evolved many times independently within the angiosperms. The distribution, frequency of occurrence, and floral morphology of dioecious angiosperms constitute the foundations for comparative studies of dioecy, yet for many groups they are still poorly characterized. We assessed species of Miconia for the presence of dioecious reproductive system, characterized the floral morphology for staminate and pistillate flowers, and used herbarium records to analyze patterns of distribution and elevational range. We find that dioecious Miconia represent an uncommon case of mismatched stage of organ abortion between staminate and pistillate flowers, with functionally pistillate flower morphology largely consistent across species, and morphological expression in functionally staminate flowers varying from near absent to slight reductions in gynoecia. We identify 58 dioecious species and 15 putatively dioecious species within Miconia that are distributed primarily in montane habitats between 1000 m – 3500 m in the Andes, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean. Our results double the last known count of dioecy in Miconia and highlight the gradient of vestigial morphology in staminate flowers. Lastly, we provide discussion on the significance of dioecy in relation to floral development, pollination, and ecology in Miconia.

Qin, F., T. Xue, X. Zhang, X. Yang, J. Yu, S. R. Gadagkar, and S. Yu. 2023. Past climate cooling and orogenesis of the Hengduan Mountains have influenced the evolution of Impatiens sect. Impatiens (Balsaminaceae) in the Northern Hemisphere. BMC Plant Biology 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-023-04625-w

Background Impatiens sect. Impatiens is distributed across the Northern Hemisphere and has diversified considerably, particularly within the Hengduan Mountains (HDM) in southwest China. Yet, the infra-sectional phylogenetic relationships are not well resolved, largely due to limited taxon sampling and an insufficient number of molecular markers. The evolutionary history of its diversification is also poorly understood. In this study, plastome data and the most complete sampling to date were used to reconstruct a robust phylogenetic framework for this section. The phylogeny was then used to investigate its biogeographical history and diversification patterns, specifically with the aim of understanding the role played by the HDM and past climatic changes in its diversification. Results A stable phylogeny was reconstructed that strongly supported both the monophyly of the section and its division into seven major clades (Clades I-VII). Molecular dating and ancestral area reconstruction suggest that sect. Impatiens originated in the HDM and Southeast China around 11.76 Ma, after which different lineages dispersed to Northwest China, temperate Eurasia, and North America, mainly during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. An intercontinental dispersal event from East Asia to western North America may have occurred via the Bering Land Bridge or Aleutian Islands. The diversification rate was high during its early history, especially with the HDM, but gradually decreased over time both within and outside the HDM. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that the distribution pattern of species richness was strongly associated with elevation range, elevation, and mean annual temperature. Finally, ancestral niche analysis indicated that sect. Impatiens originated in a relatively cool, middle-elevation area. Conclusions We inferred the evolutionary history of sect. Impatiens based on a solid phylogenetic framework. The HDM was the primary source or pump of its diversity in the Northern Hemisphere. Orogeny and climate change may have also shaped its diversification rates, as a steady decrease in the diversification rate coincided with the uplift of the HDM and climate cooling. These findings provide insights into the distribution pattern of sect. Impatiens and other plants in the Northern Hemisphere.