• Various Gallus varius hybrids: variation in junglefowl hybrids and Darwin's interest in them

      van Grouw, Hein; Dekkers, W (British Ornithologists' Club, 2019-12-16)
      Hybrids between Green Junglefowl Gallus varius and domestic fowl G. gallus domesticus confused several 19th-century ornithologists. The plumage of these hybrids is so unlike the colours and patterns of either of the parent species that they were considered to be distinct species: G. aeneusTemminck, 1825; G. temminckiiGray, 1849; and G. violaceusKelsall, 1891. Darwin wanted to understand if G. aeneus and G. temminckii were hybrids or species, as part of his research on the origin of the domestic chicken. His view was that all domesticated fowl have a single wild ancestor, Red Junglefowl G. gallus (formerly G. bankiva). A hybrid specimen now present in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring played an important role in Darwin's reasoning and, although the conclusions he drew from this specimen were incorrect, his single-ancestor origin theory for domesticated fowl stands. ‘These hybrids were at one time thought to be specifically distinct, and were named G. aeneus. Mr. Blyth and others believe that the G. Temminckii is a similar hybrid' (Darwin 1868a: 234–235).
    • Monitoring nest incorporation of anthropogenic debris by Northern Gannets across their range

      O'Hanlon, NJ; Bond, AL; Lavers, JL; Masden, EA; James, NA (Elsevier BV, 2019-09-06)
      Anthropogenic marine debris is a recognised global issue, which can impact a wide range of organisms. This has led to a rise in research focused on plastic ingestion, but quantitative data on entanglement are still limited, especially regarding seabirds, due to challenges associated with monitoring entanglement in the marine environment. However, for seabird species that build substantial surface nests there is the opportunity to monitor nest incorporation of debris that individuals collect as nesting material. Here, we monitored nest incorporation of anthropogenic marine debris by Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) from 29 colonies across the species' range to determine a) the frequency of occurrence of incorporated debris and b) whether the Northern Gannet is a suitable indicator species for monitoring anthropogenic debris in the marine environment within their range. Using data obtained from visual observations, digital photography and published literature, we recorded incorporated debris in 46% of 7280 Northern Gannet nests, from all but one of 29 colonies monitored. Significant spatial variation was observed in the frequency of occurrence of debris incorporated into nests among colonies, partly attributed to when the colony was established and local fishing intensity. Threadlike plastics, most likely from fishing activities, was most frequently recorded in nests, being present in 45% of 5842 nests, in colonies where debris type was identified. Comparisons with local beach debris indicate a preference for threadlike plastics by Northern Gannets. Recording debris in gannet nests provides an efficient and non-invasive method for monitoring the effectiveness of actions introduced to reduce debris pollution from fishing activities in the marine environment.
    • Sexual and geographic dimorphism in northern rockhopper penguins breeding in the South Atlantic Ocean

      Steinfurth, A; Booth, JM; White, J; Bond, AL; McQuaid, CD (Inter-Research Science Center, 2019-08-22)
      The Endangered northern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes moseleyi, like all penguins, is monomorphic, making sex determination of individuals in the field challenging. We examined the degree of sexual size dimorphism of adult birds across the species’ breeding range in the Atlantic Ocean and developed discriminant functions (DF) to predict individuals’ sex using morphometric measurements. We found significant site-specific differences in both bill length and bill depth, with males being the larger sex on each island. Across all islands, bill length contributed 78% to dissimilarity between sexes. Penguins on Gough Island had significantly longer bills, whilst those from Tristan da Cunha had the deepest. Island-specific DFs correctly classified 82-94% of individuals, and all functions performed significantly better than chance. The model for Nightingale Island correctly classified the greatest proportion of individuals (94-95%), while that for Tristan da Cunha performed the poorest (80-82%). A discriminant function derived from all sites accurately sexed 86-88% of northern rockhopper penguins achieving similar accuracy to island-specific functions. While molecular techniques conclusively determine an individual’s sex, morphometric measurements can provide a reliable estimate with close to 90% accuracy using a method that is less invasive and requires little technical expertise. Sexing is an important tool for meaningful interpretation of ecological data. Consideration of sex-specific differences in future studies will aid investigation of a potential sex-dependent vulnerability in this Endangered species.
    • Moths: Their biology, diversity and evolution

      Lees, David; Zilli, Alberto (Natural History Museum, LondonLondon, 2019-10-29)
      Moths is an accessible introduction to the stunning diversity, life habits and evolution of moths. This iconic insect group encompasses 128 of the 135 families of the scaly winged insects (Lepidoptera), with some 140,000 known species. Moths are among the most successful of the Earth’s inhabitants, with an ancient history, some fossils being dated to 190 million years old. This book traces the structure and development of these winged insects and reveals some of their extraordinary adaptations, such as caterpillars that communicate with ants, as well as their ruthless survival tactics – including blood-sucking, feeding on the tears of sleeping birds, and cannibalism of their own mothers. It also exposes their essential roles in ecosystems and manifold interactions with humans. Often considered denizens of the night, hopelessly allured by lamps and mean to fabrics, the book shines a spotlight on moths, illuminating the bright side of their astonishing diversity.
    • Elevational richness patterns of sphingid moths support area effects over climatic drivers in a near‐global analysis

      Bärtschi, F; McCain, CM; Ballesteros‐Mejia, L; Kitching, I; Beerli, N; Beck, J (Wiley, 2019-03-03)
      Aim We test hypotheses on the environmental control of elevational richness patterns of sphingid moths for their global applicability and generality. Specifically, we compare effects of area with climate‐related drivers, such as primary productivity and temperature, while also considering direct effects of precipitation. Major taxa Sphingid moths (Lepidoptera). Location Eighty‐six mountain ranges of the Old World and the Australia/Pacific region, from Scandinavia and Siberia through the African and Australasian tropics to South Africa and Southern Australia. Methods We used a large compilation of point locality records for 744 species, in addition to fine‐grained range maps derived from species distribution modelling of these records, to characterize the elevational pattern of species richness in 86 custom‐delineated mountain regions. For both types of data, we compared the effects of environmental drivers on richness by comparing standardized coefficients of multivariate models for pooled data after accounting for between‐region variation in richness. Results We observed varying patterns of elevational richness across the research region, with a higher prevalence of midpeaks in arid regions. We found overwhelming support for area as a main determinant of richness, modulated by temperature and productivity, whereas we detected no effect of precipitation. Main conclusions Area, productivity and temperature are the main environmental predictors explaining a large proportion of variability in sphingid richness. This is consistent not only with other elevational studies, but also with empirical and theoretical biodiversity research in a non‐elevational context (with the caveat of some unresolved issues in elevational area effects). However, distinct differences in elevational patterns remain even within the same mountain ranges when comparing with other Lepidoptera, that is, geometrid moths, which highlights the importance of understanding higher clade differentiation in ecological responses, within insects and in other groups.
    • The Yamato-type (CY) carbonaceous chondrite group: Analogues for the surface of asteroid Ryugu?

      King, A; Bates, HC; Krietsch, D; Busemann, H; Clay, PL; Schofield, PF; Russell, Sara (Elsevier BV, 2019-08-20)
      We report new mineralogical, petrographic and noble gas analyses of the carbonaceous chondrite meteorites Y-82162 (C1/2ung), Y-980115 (CI1), Y-86029 (CI1), Y-86720 (C2ung), Y-86789 (C2ung), and B-7904 (C2ung). Combining our results with literature data we show that these meteorites experienced varying degrees of aqueous alteration followed by short-lived thermal metamorphism at temperatures of >500 °C. These meteorites have similar mineralogy, textures and chemical characteristics suggesting that they are genetically related, and we strongly support the conclusion of Ikeda (1992) that they form a distinct group, the CYs (“Yamato-type”). The CY chondrites have the heaviest oxygen isotopic compositions (δ17O ˜12‰, δ18O ˜22‰) of any meteorite group, high abundances of Fe-sulphides (˜10 ‒ 30 vol%) and phosphates, and contain large grains of periclase and unusual objects of secondary minerals not reported in other carbonaceous chondrites. These features cannot be attributed to parent body processes alone, and indicate that the CYs had a different starting mineralogy and/or alteration history to other chondrite groups, perhaps because they formed in a different region of the protoplanetary disk. The short cosmic-ray exposure ages (≤1.3 Ma) of the CY chondrites suggest that they are derived from a near-Earth source, with recent observations by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft highlighting a possible link to the rubble-pile asteroid Ryugu.
    • Mitogenomics of historical type specimens of Australasian turtles: clarification of taxonomic confusion and old mitochondrial introgression

      Kehlmaier, C; Zhang, X; Georges, A; Campbell, P; Thomson, S; Fritz, U (Springer Nature, 2019-04-09)
      Diagnosability is central to taxonomy as are type specimens which define taxa. New advances in technologies and the discovery of new informative traits must be matched with previous taxonomic decisions based on name-bearing type specimens. Consequently, the challenge of sequencing highly degraded DNA from historical types becomes an inevitability to resolve the very many taxonomic issues arising from, by modern standards, poor historical species descriptions leading to difficulties to assign names to genetic clusters identified from fresh material. Here we apply high-throughput parallel sequencing and sequence baiting to reconstruct the mitogenomes from 18 type specimens of Australasian side-necked turtles (Chelidae). We resolve a number of important issues that have confused the taxonomy of this family, and analyse the mitogenomes of the types and those of fresh material to improve our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships of this morphologically conservative group. Together with previously published nuclear genomic data, our study provides evidence for multiple old mitochondrial introgressions.
    • Geographic range extension of Speke's Hinge-back Tortoise Kinixys spekii Gray, 1863

      Ihlow, F; Farooq, H; Qvozdik, V; Hofmeyr, M; Conradie, W; Harvey, J; Campbell, P; Verburgt, L; Fritz, U (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, 2019-11-06)
      Kinixys spekii has a wide distribution range across sub-Saharan Africa, having been reported from Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eSwatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Kinixys spekii inhabits savannah and dry bushveld habitats and was previously considered an inland species. However, recent records suggest a more extensive geographical distribution. Here, we provide genetically verifed records for Angola, South Africa, and Mozambique, and discuss reliable sightings for Rwanda. These new records extend the range signifcantly to the east and west, and provide evidence for the occurrence of this species along the coast of the Indian Ocean in South Africa and Mozambique.
    • The first global deep-sea stable isotope assessment reveals the unique trophic ecology of Vampire Squid Vampyroteuthis infernalis (Cephalopoda)

      Golikov, A; Ceia, F; Sabirov, R; Ablett, J; Gleadall, I; Gudmundsson, G; Hoving, H; Heather, J; Pálsson, J; Reid, AL; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2019-12-13)
      Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun, 1903, is a widely distributed deepwater cephalopod with unique morphology and phylogenetic position. We assessed its habitat and trophic ecology on a global scale via stable isotope analyses of a unique collection of beaks from 104 specimens from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Cephalopods typically are active predators occupying a high trophic level (TL) and exhibit an ontogenetic increase in δ15N and TL. Our results, presenting the first global comparison for a deep-sea invertebrate, demonstrate that V. infernalis has an ontogenetic decrease in δ15N and TL, coupled with niche broadening. Juveniles are mobile zooplanktivores, while larger Vampyroteuthis are slow-swimming opportunistic consumers and ingest particulate organic matter. Vampyroteuthis infernalis occupies the same TL (3.0–4.3) over its global range and has a unique niche in deep-sea ecosystems. These traits have enabled the success and abundance of this relict species inhabiting the largest ecological realm on the planet.
    • A global catalog of primary reptile type specimens

      Campbell, P; Uetz, P; CHERIKH, SAMI; Shea, G; Ineich, I; Doronin, I; ROSADO, J; WYNN, A; TIGHE, KA; MCDIARMID, R; et al. (Magnolia Press, 2019-11-12)
      We present information on primary type specimens for 13,282 species and subspecies of reptiles compiled in the Reptile Database, that is, holotypes, neotypes, lectotypes, and syntypes. These represent 99.4% of all 13,361 currently recognized taxa (11,050 species and 2311 subspecies). Type specimens of 653 taxa (4.9%) are either lost or not located, were never designated, or we did not find any information about them. 51 species are based on iconotypes. To map all types to physical GLOBAL TYPE CATALOG OF REPTILES Zootaxa 4695 (5) © 2019 Magnolia Press · 439collections we have consolidated all synonymous and ambiguous collection acronyms into an unambiguous list of 364 collections holding these primary types. The 10 largest collections possess more than 50% of all (primary) reptile types, the 36 largest collections possess more than 10,000 types and the largest 73 collections possess over 90% of all types. Of the 364 collections, 107 hold type specimens of only 1 species or subspecies. Dozens of types are still in private collections. In order to increase their utility, we recommend that the description of type specimens be supplemented with data from high-resolution images and CT-scans, and clear links to tissue samples and DNA sequence data (when available). We request members of the herpetological community provide us with any missing type information to complete the list.
    • Pooling as a strategy for the timely diagnosis of soil-transmitted helminths in stool: value and reproducibility

      PAPAIAKOVOU, MARINA; Wright, J; Pilotte, N; Chooneea, D; Schär, F; Truscott, JE; Dunn, JC; Gardiner, I; Walson, JL; Williams, SA; et al. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-09-16)
      Background The strategy of pooling stool specimens has been extensively used in the field of parasitology in order to facilitate the screening of large numbers of samples whilst minimizing the prohibitive cost of single sample analysis. The aim of this study was to develop a standardized reproducible pooling protocol for stool samples, validated between two different laboratories, without jeopardizing the sensitivity of the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays employed for the detection of soil-transmitted helminths (STHs). Two distinct experimental phases were recruited. First, the sensitivity and specificity of the established protocol was assessed by real-time PCR for each one of the STHs. Secondly, agreement and reproducibility of the protocol between the two different laboratories were tested. The need for multiple stool sampling to avoid false negative results was also assessed. Finally, a cost exercise was conducted which included labour cost in low- and high-wage settings, consumable cost, prevalence of a single STH species, and a simple distribution pattern of the positive samples in pools to estimate time and money savings suggested by the strategy. Results The sensitivity of the pooling method was variable among the STH species but consistent between the two laboratories. Estimates of specificity indicate a ‘pooling approach’ can yield a low frequency of ‘missed’ infections. There were no significant differences regarding the execution of the protocol and the subsequent STH detection between the two laboratories, which suggests in most cases the protocol is reproducible by adequately trained staff. Finally, given the high degree of agreement, there appears to be little or no need for multiple sampling of either individuals or pools. Conclusions Our results suggest that the pooling protocol developed herein is a robust and efficient strategy for the detection of STHs in ‘pools-of-five’. There is notable complexity of the pool preparation to ensure even distribution of helminth DNA throughout. Therefore, at a given setting, cost of labour among other logistical and epidemiological factors, is the more concerning and determining factor when choosing pooling strategies, rather than losing sensitivity and/or specificity of the molecular assay or the method.
    • Taxonomy and phylogeny of mud owls (Annelida: Sternaspidae), including a new synonymy and new records from the Southern Ocean, North East Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean: challenges in morphological delimitation

      Drennan, R; Wiklund, H; Rouse, GW; Georgieva, MN; Wu, X; Kobayashi, G; Yoshino, K; Glover, AG (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-09-04)
      Species delimitation in sternaspid polychaetes is currently based on the morphology of a limited suite of characters, namely characters of the ventro-caudal shield—a unique feature of the family. Sternaspid species description has increased rapidly in recent years; however, the validity of the shield as a diagnostic character has not been assessed through molecular means. This study performs the largest molecular taxonomy of Sternaspidae to date, using the nuclear gene 18S, and the mitochondrial genes 16S and cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) to assess phylogenetic relationships within the family, to reassess the placement of Sternaspidae within the wider polychaete tree and to investigate the effectiveness of the shield as a diagnostic morphological character. This study includes many new records and reports Sternaspis affinis Stimpson, 1864 from USA Pacific coastline and genetic connectivity between specimens identified as Sternaspis cf. annenkovae Salazar-Vallejo & Buzhinskaja, 2013 from off southeastern Australia and specimens identified as Sternaspis cf. williamsae Salazar-Vallejo & Buzhinskaja, 2013 from the northwestern Pacific. In addition, we investigate material identified as Sternaspis cf. scutata (Ranzani, 1817) in the English Channel and compare with S. scutata through both molecular and morphological means. We further perform a detailed morphological and molecular investigation of new sternaspid material collected from the Southern Ocean and Antarctic Peninsula and regard Sternaspis monroi Salazar-Vallejo, 2014 syn. n. as a junior synonym of Sternaspis sendalli Salazar-Vallejo, 2014, two species recently described from the region, raising questions concerning the validity of current morphological delimitation.
    • Ancient mitogenomics clarifies radiation of extinct Mascarene giant tortoises (Cylindraspis spp.)

      Kehlmaier, C; Graciá, E; Campbell, P; Hofmeyr, MD; SCHWEIGER, S; Martínez-Silvestre, A; Joyce, W; Fritz, U (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-11-25)
      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 snails

      Sumner-Rooney, L; Kenny, Nathan; Ahmed, F; Williams, ST (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-10-28)
      Molluscan 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 designers

      Lorke, Julia; Golumbic, YN; Ramjan, C; Atias, O (COST Action 15212, 2019-11-15)
      In 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 citrorrhoa

      Kobayashi, S; Matsuoka, H; Kimura, M; Sohn, J-C; Yoshiyasu, Y; Lees, David (European Journal of Taxonomy, 2018-06-12)
      The 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’Ivoire

      Tian-Bi, Y-NT; Webster, BL; Konan, CK; Allan, F; Diakité, NR; Ouattara, M; Salia, D; Koné, A; Kakou, AK; Rabone, M; et al. (Springer Nature, 2019-03-19)
      Accurate 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)
    • Sex biases in bird and mammal natural history collections.

      Cooper, N; Bond, AL; Davis, JL; Portela Miguez, R; Tomsett, L; Helgen, Kristofer (Royal Society, 2019-10-23)
      Natural history specimens are widely used across ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation. Although biological sex may influence all of these areas, it is often overlooked in large-scale studies using museum specimens. If collections are biased towards one sex, studies may not be representative of the species. Here, we investigate sex ratios in over two million bird and mammal specimen records from five large international museums. We found a slight bias towards males in birds (40% females) and mammals (48% females), but this varied among orders. The proportion of female specimens has not significantly changed in 130 years, but has decreased in species with showy male traits like colourful plumage and horns. Body size had little effect. Male bias was strongest in name-bearing types; only 27% of bird and 39% of mammal types were female. These results imply that previous studies may be impacted by undetected male bias, and vigilance is required when using specimen data, collecting new specimens and designating types.
    • Combining simulation modeling and stable isotope analyses to reconstruct the last known movements of one of Nature’s giants

      Trueman, C; Jackson, A; Chadwick, K; Coombs, Ellen J; Feyrer, L; Magozzi, S; Sabin, R; Cooper, N (PeerJ Inc., 2019-10-18)
      The spatial ecology of rare, migratory oceanic animals is difficult to study directly. Where incremental tissues are available, their chemical composition can provide valuable indirect observations of movement and diet. Interpreting the chemical record in incremental tissues can be highly uncertain, however, as multiple mechanisms interact to produce the observed data. Simulation modeling is one approach for considering alternative hypotheses in ecology and can be used to consider the relative likelihood of obtaining an observed record under different combinations of ecological and environmental processes. Here we show how a simulation modeling approach can help to infer movement behaviour based on stable carbon isotope profiles measured in incremental baleen tissues of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). The life history of this particular specimen, which stranded in 1891 in the UK, was selected as a case study due to its cultural significance as part of a permanent display at the Natural History Museum, London. We specifically tested whether measured variations in stable isotope compositions across the analysed baleen plate were more consistent with residency or latitudinal migrations. The measured isotopic record was most closely reproduced with a period of residency in sub-tropical waters for at least a full year followed by three repeated annual migrations between sub-tropical and high latitude regions. The latitudinal migration cycle was interrupted in the year prior to stranding, potentially implying pregnancy and weaning, but isotopic data alone cannot test this hypothesis. Simulation methods can help reveal movement information coded in the biochemical compositions of incremental tissues such as those archived in historic collections, and provides context and inferences that are useful for retrospective studies of animal movement, especially where other sources of individual movement data are sparse or challenging to validate.
    • Cryptic diversity of limestone karst inhabiting land snails (Cyclophorus spp.) in northern Vietnam, their evolutionary history and the description of four new species

      von Oheimb, Katharina C. M.; von Oheimb, Parm Viktor; Hirano, T; Do, TV; Ablett, J; Luong, HV; Pham, SV; Naggs, F (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-10-23)
      Limestone karsts can form terrestrial habitat islands for calcium-dependent organisms. In Vietnam, many karst habitats are threatened, while their rich biodiversity is still far from being thoroughly explored. Given that conservation of karst biota strongly relies on correct species identification, the presence of undetected cryptic species can pose severe problems. The present study focuses on cryptic diversity among karst-inhabiting land snails of the genus Cyclophorus in northern Vietnam, where specimens with a similar shell morphology have been reported from various regions. In order to examine the diversity and evolutionary history of this “widespread morphotype”, we generated a Bayesian phylogeny based on DNA sequence data. Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery (ABGD) and the Bayesian implementation of the Poisson tree processes model (bPTP) contributed to species delimitation and analyses of shell shape and size aided the morphological characterisation of individual species. We found that the examined specimens of the widespread morphotype did not form a single monophyletic group in the phylogeny but clustered into several different clades. We delimited nine different species that develop the widespread morphotype and described four of them as new. Processes of convergent evolution were probably involved in the origin of the delimited species, while their generally allopatric distribution could result from interspecific competition. Our findings indicate ongoing processes of speciation and a potential case of morphological character displacement. The high degree of morphological overlap found among the species underlines the importance of DNA sequence data for species delimitation and description in the genus Cyclophorus. Given the findings of the present study and the high potential that as yet undiscovered cryptic taxa have also evolved in other groups of karst-inhabiting organisms, we argue for a systematic and efficient detection and description of Vietnam’s karst biodiversity to provide a solid basis for future conservation planning.