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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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Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibre ingestion by mesopelagic fishes from Tristan da Cuhna and St Helena, South AtlanticAs part of the Blue Belt Programme, a marine survey of British Overseas Territories funded by the UK Government, RRS Discovery trawled at depths of between the surface and 1000m around Tristan da Cuhna and St Helena. Fishes were examined for microplastic ingestion. This work was supported by the National Environmental Research Council [grant number NE/L002485/1] with co-sponsorship from a Fishmongers' Company Fisheries Charity Trust CASE Partnership. Specimens were collected onboard RRS Discover as part of the Blue Belt Programme, which is funded by the UK Government in collaboration with CEFAS and BAS.
Extended Pelagic Life in a Bathybenthic OctopusPlanktonic stages of benthic octopuses can reach relatively large sizes in some species, usually in oceanic, epipelagic waters while living as part of the macroplankton. These young octopuses appear to delay settlement on the seabed for an undetermined period of time that is probably longer than for those octopus paralarvae living in coastal, neritic waters. The reason for this delay is unknown and existing information about their biology is very scarce. Here we report on the presence of juvenile and subadult forms of the bathybenthic octopus Pteroctopus tetracirrhus in oceanic waters of the South and North Atlantic and its association with the pyrosomid species Pyrosoma atlanticum, apparently used by the octopus as a refuge or shelter. The relatively large size of the P. tetracirrhus living in oceanic waters as the individuals reported here, together with the morphological characteristics of this bathybenthic species including its gelatinous body, minute suckers embedded in swollen skin and the deep interbrachial web, indicates that P. tetracirrhus may be considered a model of a transitional octopus species that is colonizing the pelagic environment by avoiding descending to the bathyal benthos. This process seems to occur in the same way as in the supposed origin of the ctenoglossan holopelagic octopods of the families Amphitretidae, Bolitaenidae, and Vitreledonellidae, which have arisen via neoteny from the planktonic paralarval stages of benthic octopuses.
A molecular palaeobiological exploration of arthropod terrestrializationUnderstanding animal terrestrialization, the process through which animals colonized the land, is crucial to clarify extant biodiversity and biological adaptation. Arthropoda (insects, spiders, centipedes and their allies) represent the largest majority of terrestrial biodiversity. Here we implemented a molecular palaeobiological approach, merging molecular and fossil evidence, to elucidate the deepest history of the terrestrial arthropods. We focused on the three independent, Palaeozoic arthropod terrestrialization events (those of Myriapoda, Hexapoda and Arachnida) and showed that a marine route to the colonization of land is the most likely scenario. Molecular clock analyses confirmed an origin for the three terrestrial lineages bracketed between the Cambrian and the Silurian. While molecular divergence times for Arachnida are consistent with the fossil record, Myriapoda are inferred to have colonized land earlier, substantially predating trace or body fossil evidence. An estimated origin of myriapods by the Early Cambrian precedes the appearance of embryophytes and perhaps even terrestrial fungi, raising the possibility that terrestrialization had independent origins in crown-group myriapod lineages, consistent with morphological arguments for convergence in tracheal systems. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Dating species divergences using rocks and clocks’.
The first next-generation sequencing approach to the mitochondrial phylogeny of African monogenean parasites (Platyhelminthes: Gyrodactylidae and Dactylogyridae)BACKGROUND:Monogenean flatworms are the main ectoparasites of fishes. Representatives of the species-rich families Gyrodactylidae and Dactylogyridae, especially those infecting cichlid fishes and clariid catfishes, are important parasites in African aquaculture, even more so due to the massive anthropogenic translocation of their hosts worldwide. Several questions on their evolution, such as the phylogenetic position of Macrogyrodactylus and the highly speciose Gyrodactylus, remain unresolved with available molecular markers. Also, diagnostics and population-level research would benefit from the development of higher-resolution genetic markers. We aim to offer genetic resources for work on African monogeneans by providing mitogenomic data of four species (two belonging to Gyrodactylidae, two to Dactylogyridae), and analysing their gene sequences and gene order from a phylogenetic perspective. RESULTS:Using Illumina technology, the first four mitochondrial genomes of African monogeneans were assembled and annotated for the cichlid parasites Gyrodactylus nyanzae, Cichlidogyrus halli, Cichlidogyrus mbirizei (near-complete mitogenome) and the catfish parasite Macrogyrodactylus karibae (near-complete mitogenome). Complete nuclear ribosomal operons were also retrieved, as molecular vouchers. The start codon TTG is new for Gyrodactylus and for Dactylogyridae, as is the incomplete stop codon TA for Dactylogyridae. Especially the nad2 gene is promising for primer development. Gene order was identical for protein-coding genes and differed between the African representatives of these families only in a tRNA gene transposition. A mitochondrial phylogeny based on an alignment of nearly 12,500 bp including 12 protein-coding and two ribosomal RNA genes confirms that the Neotropical oviparous Aglaiogyrodactylus forficulatus takes a sister group position with respect to the other gyrodactylids, instead of the supposedly 'primitive' African Macrogyrodactylus. Inclusion of the African Gyrodactylus nyanzae confirms the paraphyly of Gyrodactylus. The position of the African dactylogyrid Cichlidogyrus is unresolved, although gene order suggests it is closely related to marine ancyrocephalines. CONCLUSIONS:The amount of mitogenomic data available for gyrodactylids and dactylogyrids is increased by roughly one-third. Our study underscores the potential of mitochondrial genes and gene order in flatworm phylogenetics, and of next-generation sequencing for marker development for these non-model helminths for which few primers are available.
The Genomic Footprints of the Fall and Recovery of the Crested IbisHuman-induced environmental change and habitat fragmentation pose major threats to biodiversity and require active conservation efforts to mitigate their consequences. Genetic rescue through translocation and the introduction of variation into imperiled populations has been argued as a powerful means to preserve, or even increase, the genetic diversity and evolutionary potential of endangered species [1-4]. However, factors such as outbreeding depression [5, 6] and a reduction in available genetic diversity render the success of such approaches uncertain. An improved evaluation of the consequence of genetic restoration requires knowledge of temporal changes to genetic diversity before and after the advent of management programs. To provide such information, a growing number of studies have included small numbers of genomic loci extracted from historic and even ancient specimens [7, 8]. We extend this approach to its natural conclusion, by characterizing the complete genomic sequences of modern and historic population samples of the crested ibis (Nipponia nippon), an endangered bird that is perhaps the most successful example of how conservation effort has brought a species back from the brink of extinction. Though its once tiny population has today recovered to >2,000 individuals , this process was accompanied by almost half of ancestral loss of genetic variation and high deleterious mutation load. We furthermore show how genetic drift coupled to inbreeding following the population bottleneck has largely purged the ancient polymorphisms from the current population. In conclusion, we demonstrate the unique promise of exploiting genomic information held within museum samples for conservation and ecological research.