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The Natural History Museum is an international leader in the study of the natural world. Our science describes the diversity of nature, promotes an understanding of its past, and supports the anticipation and management of the impact of human activity on the environment.
The Museum's repository provides free access to publications produced by more than 300 scientists working here. Researchers at the Museum study a diverse range of issues, including threats to Earth's biodiversity, the maintenance of delicate ecosystems, environmental pollution and disease. The accessible repository showcases this broad research output.
The repository was launched in 2016 with an initially modest number of journal publications in its database. It now includes book chapters and blogs from Museum scientists.
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Ancient mitogenomics clarifies radiation of extinct Mascarene giant tortoises (Cylindraspis spp.)The five extinct giant tortoises of the genus Cylindraspis belong to the most iconic species of the enigmatic fauna of the Mascarene Islands that went largely extinct after the discovery of the islands. To resolve the phylogeny and biogeography of Cylindraspis, we analysed a data set of 45 mitogenomes that includes all lineages of extant tortoises and eight near-complete sequences of all Mascarene species extracted from historic and subfossil material. Cylindraspis is an ancient lineage that diverged as early as the late Eocene. Diversification of Cylindraspis commenced in the mid-Oligocene, long before the formation of the Mascarene Islands. This rejects any notion suggesting that the group either arrived from nearby or distant continents over the course of the last millions of years or had even been translocated to the islands by humans. Instead, Cylindraspis likely originated on now submerged islands of the Réunion Hotspot and utilized these to island hop to reach the Mascarenes. The final diversification took place both before and after the arrival on the Mascarenes. With Cylindraspis a deeply divergent clade of tortoises became extinct that evolved long before the dodo or the Rodrigues solitaire, two other charismatic species of the lost Mascarene fauna.
The utility of micro-computed tomography for the non-destructive study of eye microstructure in snailsMolluscan eyes exhibit an enormous range of morphological variation, ranging from tiny pigment-cup eyes in limpets, compound eyes in ark clams and pinhole eyes in Nautilus, through to concave mirror eyes in scallops and the large camera-type eyes of the more derived cephalopods. Here we assess the potential of non-destructive micro-computed tomography (µ-CT) for investigating the anatomy of molluscan eyes in three species of the family Solariellidae, a group of small, deep-sea gastropods. We compare our results directly with those from traditional histological methods applied to the same specimens, and show not only that eye microstructure can be visualised in sufficient detail for meaningful comparison even in very small animals, but also that μ-CT can provide additional insight into gross neuroanatomy without damaging rare and precious specimens. Data from μ-CT scans also show that neurological innervation of eyes is reduced in dark-adapted snails when compared with the innervation of cephalic tentacles, which are involved in mechanoreception and possibly chemoreception. Molecular tests also show that the use of µ-CT and phosphotungstic acid stain do not prevent successful downstream DNA extraction, PCR amplification or sequencing. The use of µ-CT methods is therefore highly recommended for the investigation of difficult-to-collect or unique specimens.
Training needs and recommendations for Citizen Science participants, facilitators and designersIn this report, we aimed to systematise and elaborate on the ideas discussed during the COST Action WG2 workshop “Systematic review on training requirements and recommendations for Citizen Science” that took place in Riga on 12-13th November 2018. Building on the input from the workshop participants’ broad range of different perspectives and expertise in citizen science and education, we compiled a list of training needs for project participants, project facilitators and project designers in citizen science and categorised them into core, operational and engagement needs. Based on our experience we discussed challenges that may need to be considered when designing training in citizen science. We then addressed the needs by formulating recommendations and pointing out available resources that have been proven to be useful in our own citizen science research and practice. While we acknowledge that these training needs and training recommendations may not be complete, we believe that our approach from needs to recommendations can act as a helpful working model when designing training and the list of resources provides a starting point to delve deeper into the topic and good training examples to build on. We invite the community to provide further insights into training needs and recommendations and to contribute further resources to the list
Designation of a new family group name, Tonzidae fam. nov., for the genus Tonza (Lepidoptera, Yponomeutoidea), based on immature stages of Tonza citrorrhoaThe systematic position of Tonza Walker, 1864 is re-evaluated, based on the characteristics of immature stages and DNA barcodes. Larvae and pupae of Tonza citrorrhoa Meyrick, 1905 are described and illustrated for the first time. Larvae of this species form a loose web among the leaves and branches of the host plant, Putranjiva matsumurae Koidz. (Putranjivaceae Endl.). The immature stages of Tonza exhibit four unique apomorphies including: in the larva, the prolegs on A5 and A6 absent, and the seta L2 on the A1–A8 very small; in the pupa, four minute knobs are positioned in the middle portion on abdominal segments V and VI; while its caudal processes possess a W-shaped spine with numerous minute spines. These characteristics clearly distinguish Tonza from other yponomeutoid families and hence, we propose a new family group name, Tonzidae Kobayashi & Sohn fam. nov., for the genus Tonza. Existing DNA barcode data suggest a relationship with Glyphipterigidae Stainton, 1854. The family level status of Tonzidae fam. nov. provides a hypothesis that needs to be tested with larger molecular data.
Molecular characterization and distribution of Schistosoma cercariae collected from naturally infected bulinid snails in northern and central Côte d’IvoireAccurate identification of schistosome species infecting intermediate host snails is important for understanding parasite transmission, schistosomiasis control and elimination. Cercariae emerging from infected snails cannot be precisely identified morphologically to the species level. We used molecular tools to clarify the distribution of the Schistosoma haematobium group species infecting bulinid snails in a large part of Côte d’Ivoire and confirmed the presence of interspecific hybrid schistosomes. Methods Between June 2016 and March 2017, Bulinus snails were sampled in 164 human-water contact sites from 22 villages of the northern and central parts of Côte d’Ivoire. Multi-locus genetic analysis (mitochondrial cox1 and nuclear ITS) was performed on individual schistosome cercariae shed from snails, in the morning and in the afternoon, for species and hybrid identification. Results Overall, 1923 Bulinus truncatus, 255 Bulinus globosus and 1424 Bulinus forskalii were obtained. Among 2417 Bulinus screened, 25 specimens (18 B. truncatus and seven B. globosus) shed schistosomes, with up to 14% infection prevalence per site and time point. Globally, infection rates per time point ranged between 0.6 and 4%. Schistosoma bovis, S. haematobium and S. bovis × S. haematobium hybrids infected 0.5%, 0.2% and 0.4% of the snails screened, respectively. Schistosoma bovis and hybrids were more prevalent in B. truncatus, whereas S. haematobium and hybrid infections were more prevalent in B. globosus. Schistosoma bovis-infected Bulinus were predominantly found in northern sites, while S. haematobium and hybrid infected snails were mainly found in central parts of Côte d’Ivoire. Conclusions The data highlight the necessity of using molecular tools to identify and understand which schistosome species are transmitted by specific intermediate host snails. The study deepens our understanding of the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of S. haematobium and S. bovis in Côte d’Ivoire and provides the first conclusive evidence for the transmission of S. haematobium × S. bovis hybrids in this West African country. Trial registration ISRCTN, ISRCTN10926858. Registered 21 December 2016; retrospectively registered (see: http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN10926858)