• A juvenile Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) on land at the Crozet Islands

      Bond, AL; Taylor, Christopher; Kinchin-Smith, David; Fox, Derren; Witcutt, Emma; Ryan, Peter G; Loader, Simon P; Weimerskirch, Henri (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-12-19)
      Abstract: Albatrosses and other seabirds are generally highly philopatric, returning to natal colonies when they achieve breeding age. This is not universal, however, and cases of extraordinary vagrancy are rare. The Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) breeds on Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, with a small population on Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha, ca 380 km away. In 2015, we observed an adult male albatross in Gonydale, Gough Island, which had been ringed on Ile de la Possession, Crozet Islands in 2009 when it was assumed to be an immature Wandering Albatross (D. exulans). We sequenced 1109 bp of the cytochrome b mitochondrial gene from this bird, and confirmed it to be a Tristan Albatross, meaning its presence on Crozet 6 years previous, and nearly 5000 km away, was a case of prospecting behaviour in a heterospecific colony. Given the challenges in identifying immature Diomedea albatrosses, such dispersal events may be more common than thought previously.
    • Female aristocrats in the natural history world before the establishment of the Geological Society of London

      Sendino, Consuelo; Porter, Julian (Geological Society of London, 2020-12-07)
      A fascination with natural history does not recognize class, as is shown through the activities of female aristocrats who, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, contributed significantly by increasing the number of collections at natural history museums. These women were not members of the Geological Society of London because, at that time, women were not even allowed to be members, but they still left their impressive legacy in museums. This paper will focus on three women who made extensive collections that are now incorporated into British museums. The first of these, the Duchess of Portland, made one of the finest collections in England and, possibly, the best collection of shells and fossils in Europe of her time, which was later acquired by the Natural History Museum, London. She was followed by the Countess of Aylesford who made one of the most important mineral collections of her time, which is now at the Natural History Museum, London. Finally, Baroness Brassey collected geological samples during her trips that were used to establish the Brassey Institute in Hastings. These three women used their own income and influence to build collections.
    • The Natural History Museum Fossil Porifera Collection

      Sendino, Consuelo (SAGE Publications, 2020-12-02)
      This article provides updated information about the Porifera Collection at The Natural History Museum (NHM), London. With very little information available regarding fossil sponge digitization or any similar initiative, this paper covers the type and figured specimens and drawer label content data of the Porifera Collection and also describes the collection and its research potential. With approximately 71,000 specimens, of which more than 60% are Mesozoic, the NHM holdings offer the best Mesozoic sponge collection in the world and one of the most important due to its breadth and depth. The Porifera Collection covers all stratigraphic periods and all taxonomic groups and includes almost 3000 cited and figured specimens including types. Although most of the specimens come from the British Isles, worldwide samples are also present, with abundant specimens from other Commonwealth countries and from Antarctica.
    • Disparate compound eyes of Cambrian radiodonts reveal their developmental growth mode and diverse visual ecology

      Paterson, John R; Edgecombe, GD; García-Bellido, Diego C (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2020-12)
      Radiodonts are nektonic stem-group euarthropods that played various trophic roles in Paleozoic marine ecosystems, but information on their vision is limited. Optical details exist only in one species from the Cambrian Emu Bay Shale of Australia, here assigned to Anomalocaris aff. canadensis. We identify another type of radiodont compound eye from this deposit, belonging to ‘Anomalocaris’ briggsi. This ≤4-cm sessile eye has >13,000 lenses and a dorsally oriented acute zone. In both taxa, lenses were added marginally and increased in size and number throughout development, as in many crown-group euarthropods. Both species’ eyes conform to their inferred lifestyles: The macrophagous predator A. aff. canadensis has acute stalked eyes (>24,000 lenses each) adapted for hunting in well-lit waters, whereas the suspension-feeding ‘A.’ briggsi could detect plankton in dim down-welling light. Radiodont eyes further demonstrate the group’s anatomical and ecological diversity and reinforce the crucial role of vision in early animal ecosystems.
    • Cooling and exhumation of the Late Paleozoic Tulasu epithermal gold system, Western Tianshan, NW China: implications for preservation of Pre-Mesozoic epithermal deposits

      Zhao, Xiao-Bo; Xue, Chun-Ji; Zhao, Wei-Ce; Seltmann, Reimar; Symons, David T.A.; Dolgopolova, Alla; Zhang, Yong (Geological Society of London, 2020-11-22)
      Epithermal gold deposits are rarely well preserved in pre-Mesozoic terranes because their low-temperature mineralization in shallow crust levels, and easily destroyed by subsequent erosion or depleted by tectonic events. However, several significant late Paleozoic epithermal gold deposits have been found in the Tulasu volcanic basin in NW China, forming one of the largest gold districts in the western Tianshan orogen. Here, we report new 40Ar/39Ar age from a monzonite porphyry enclave hosted in andesite and apatite fission track (AFT) data for 10 volcanic rocks from the Tulasu basin. These data, combined with the previous dataset, are used to perform inverse thermal modelling to quantify the district's cooling and exhumation history. Our modelling indicates a phase of burial reheating during late Paleozoic sedimentation following the mineralization, and subsequent a rapid exhumation in the Jurassic to Early Cretaceous (∼196–128 Ma), and a slow exhumation until to present. The Mesozoic exhumation is likely related to the far-field effects of the Cimmerian orogeny along the southern Eurasian margin. Therefore, we suggest that the quick burial by thick sediments and the slow protracted exhumation after mineralization were crucial for the preservation of the Paleozoic epithermal gold system at Tulasu.
    • The cranial morphology of Tanystropheus hydroides (Tanystropheidae, Archosauromorpha) as revealed by synchrotron microtomography

      Spiekman, Stephan NF; Neenan, James M; Fraser, Nicholas C; Fernandez, Vincent; Rieppel, Olivier; Nosotti, Stefania; Scheyer, Torsten M (PeerJ, 2020-11-20)
      The postcranial morphology of the extremely long-necked Tanystropheus hydroides is well-known, but observations of skull morphology were previously limited due to compression of the known specimens. Here we provide a detailed description of the skull of PIMUZ T 2790, including a partial endocast and endosseous labyrinth, based on synchrotron microtomographic data, and compare its morphology to that of other early Archosauromorpha. In many features, such as the wide and flattened snout and the configuration of the temporal and palatal regions, Tanystropheus hydroides differs strongly from other early archosauromorphs. The braincase possesses a combination of derived archosaur traits, such as the presence of a laterosphenoid and the ossification of the lateral wall of the braincase, but also differs from archosauriforms in the morphology of the ventral ramus of the opisthotic, the horizontal orientation of the parabasisphenoid, and the absence of a clearly defined crista prootica. Tanystropheus hydroides was a ram-feeder that likely caught its prey through a laterally directed snapping bite. Although the cranial morphology of other archosauromorph lineages is relatively well-represented, the skulls of most tanystropheid taxa remain poorly understood due to compressed and often fragmentary specimens. The recent descriptions of the skulls of Macrocnemus bassanii and now Tanystropheus hydroides reveal a large cranial disparity in the clade, reflecting wide ecological diversity, and highlighting the importance of non-archosauriform Archosauromorpha to both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems during the Triassic.
    • Extended Pelagic Life in a Bathybenthic Octopus

      Villanueva, Roger; Laptikhovsky, Vladimir V; Piertney, Stuart B; Fernández-Álvarez, Fernando Ángel; Collins, Martin A; Ablett, J; Escánez, Alejandro (Frontiers Media SA, 2020-11-20)
      Planktonic 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.
    • Dinosaur diversification rates were not in decline prior to the K-Pg boundary

      Bonsor, Joseph; Barrett, PM; Raven, Tom; Cooper, N (The Royal Society, 2020-11-18)
      Determining the tempo and mode of non-avian dinosaur extinction is one of the most contentious issues in palaeobiology. Extensive disagreements remain over whether their extinction was catastrophic and geologically instantaneous or the culmination of long-term evolutionary trends. These conflicts have arisen due to numerous hierarchical sampling biases in the fossil record and differences in analytical methodology, with some studies identifying long-term declines in dinosaur richness prior to the Cretaceous–Palaeogene (K-Pg) boundary and others proposing continued diversification. Here, we use Bayesian phylogenetic generalized linear mixed models to assess the fit of 12 dinosaur phylogenies to three speciation models (null, slowdown to asymptote, downturn). We do not find strong support for the downturn model in our analyses, which suggests that dinosaur speciation rates were not in terminal decline prior to the K-Pg boundary and that the clade was still capable of generating new taxa. Nevertheless, we advocate caution in interpreting the results of such models, as they may not accurately reflect the complexities of the underlying data. Indeed, current phylogenetic methods may not provide the best test for hypotheses of dinosaur extinction; the collection of more dinosaur occurrence data will be essential to test these ideas further.
    • Evolutionary history of the Galápagos Rail revealed by ancient mitogenomes and modern samples

      Chaves, Jaime A; Martinez-Torres, Pedro J; Depino, Emiliano A; Espinoza-Ulloa, Sebastian; García-Loor, Jefferson; Beichman, Annabel; Stervander, Martin (MDPI, 2020-11-12)
      The biotas of the Galápagos Islands are one of the best studied island systems and have provided a broad model for insular species’ origins and evolution. Nevertheless, some locally endemic taxa, such as the Galápagos Rail Laterallus spilonota, remain poorly characterized. Owing to its elusive behavior, cryptic plumage, and restricted distribution, the Galápagos Rail is one of the least studied endemic vertebrates of the Galapagos Islands. To date, there is no genetic data for this species, leaving its origins, relationships to other taxa, and levels of genetic diversity uncharacterized. This lack of information is critical given the adverse fate of island rail species around the world in the recent past. Here, we examine the genetics of Galápagos Rails using a combination of mitogenome de novo assembly with multilocus nuclear and mitochondrial sequencing from both modern and historical samples. We show that the Galápagos Rail is part of the “American black rail clade”, sister to the Black Rail L. jamaicensis, with a colonization of Galápagos dated to 1.2 million years ago. A separate analysis of one nuclear and two mitochondrial markers in the larger population samples demonstrates a shallow population structure across the islands, possibly due to elevated island connectivity. Additionally, birds from the island Pinta possessed the lowest levels of genetic diversity, possibly reflecting past population bottlenecks associated with overgrazing of their habitat by invasive goats. The modern and historical data presented here highlight the low genetic diversity in this endemic rail species and provide useful information to guide conservation efforts.
    • An overlooked contributor to palaeontology—the preparator Richard Hall (b. 1839) and his work on an armoured dinosaur and a giant sea dragon

      Graham, M; Radley, Jonathan; Lomax, Dean; Brewer, Pip (Geological Curator, 2020-11-12)
      The work of Richard Hall, a fossil preparator at the British Museum (Natural History) in the late 19th century, has been largely unrecorded. It included the excavation, preparation and restoration of two important specimens: the dinosaur Polacanthus foxii and the ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus platyodon. The painstaking reconstruction of the dorsal shield of Polacanthus took seven years to complete and enabled a supplemental note redescribing the specimen to be published in 1887. The significance of the discovery in 1898 of the Temnodontosaurus to the town of Stockton in Warwickshire was such that it featured in an article in Nature. It has entered the local folklore and remains celebrated on the town’s road signage and features as the logo of Stockton Primary School.
    • The influence of fractionation of REE-enriched minerals on the zircon partition coefficients

      Zhong, Shihua; Li, Sanzhong; Seltmann, Reimar; Lai, Zhiqing; Zhou, Jie (Elsevier, 2020-11-05)
      Zircon is widely used to simulate melt generation, migration and evolution within the crust and mantle. The achievable performance of melt modelling generally depends on the availability of reliable trace element partition coefficients (D). However, a large range of DREE values for zircon from natural samples and experimental studies has been reported, with values spanning up to 3 orders of magnitude. Unfortunately, a gap of knowledge on this variability is evident. In this study we model the crystallization processes of common REE-bearing minerals from granitic melts and show that the measured zircon DREE would be elevated if there is crystallization of REE-enriched minerals subsequent to zircon. Nevertheless, compared to zircon DREE values measured from experimental studies, this mechanism appears to have a less significant influence on those from natural granite samples since the quantity of crystallized REE-enriched minerals is very low in natural magmatic systems and/or most of them crystallize prior to zircon. Combined with recently published studies, this work supports that analysis of natural zircon/host groundmass pairs provides more robust DREE values applicable to natural systems than those measured from experimental studies, which can be used to constrain the provenance of detrital zircons.
    • Phylogeny of Lithobiidae Newport, 1844, with emphasis on the megadiverse genus Lithobius Leach, 1814 (Myriapoda, Chilopoda)

      Ganske, Anne‐Sarah; Vahtera, Varpu; Dányi, László; Edgecombe, GD; Akkari, Nesrine (Wiley, 2020-11-04)
      Phylogenetic analyses based on molecular and morphological data were conducted to shed light on relationships within the mostly Palaearctic/Oriental centipede family Lithobiidae, with a particular focus on the Palaearctic genus Lithobius Leach, 1814 (Lithobiidae, Lithobiomorpha), which contains >500 species and subspecies. Previous studies based on morphological data resolved Lithobius as nonmonophyletic, but molecular-based phylogenetic analyses have until now sampled few species. To elucidate species inter-relationships of the genus, test the validity of its classification into subgenera, and infer its relationships with other Lithobiidae, we obtained molecular data (nuclear markers: 18S rRNA, 28S rRNA; mitochondrial markers: 16S rRNA, COI) and 61 morphological characters for 44 species of Lithobius representing four of its eight subgenera and nine other representatives of Lithobiidae. The data were analyzed phylogenetically using maximum-likelihood, parsimony and Bayesian inference. This study suggests that (i) a close relationship between L. giganteus and the pterygotergine Disphaerobius loricatus highlighted in recent morphological analyses is also strongly supported by molecular data, and Pterygoterginae is formally synonymized with Lithobiinae; (ii) the Oriental/Australian genus Australobius is consistently resolved as sister group to all other sampled Lithobiidae by the molecular and combined data; (iii) the subfamily Ethopolyinae may be paraphyletic; (iv) the genus Lithobius is nonmonophyletic; (v) the subgenera Lithobius, Sigibius and Monotarsobius are nonmonophyletic and should not be used in future taxonomic studies; and (vi) there are instances of cryptic species and cases in which subspecies should be elevated to full species status, as identified for some European taxa within Lithobius.
    • A proposed solution to a lengthy dispute: what is Leptinaria (uni)lamellata (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Achatinidae)?

      Breure, ASH; Ablett, J; Audibert, C (Cernuelle, 2020-11-01)
      The taxonomic position and the publication dates of both Achatina lamellata Potiez & Michaud, 1835 and Helix unilamellata d’Orbigny, 1835 are discussed. The dispute concerning the correct publication date of Potiez & Michaud is analysed and a collation of their Atlas is compared to the sheets of their main text, leading to the most likely scenario that the name Achatina lamellata became available in October 1838. The discovery of material ex auctore of this taxon enables us to establish it as a junior synonym of d’Orbigny’s taxon, which was published in March 1838. The correct name is thus Leptinaria unilamellata (d’Orbigny, 1838).
    • Flying too close to the Sun – The viability of perihelion-induced aqueous alteration on periodic comets

      Suttle, Martin; Folco, L; Genge, MJ; Russell, SS (Elsevier BV, 2020-11)
      Comets are typically considered to be pristine remnants of the early solar system. However, by definition they evolve significantly over their lifetimes through evaporation, sublimation, degassing and dust release. This occurs once they enter the inner solar system and are heated by the Sun. Some comets (e.g. 1P/Halley, 9P/Tempel and Hale-Bopp) as well as chondritic porous cosmic dust – released from comets – show evidence of minor aqueous alteration resulting in the formation of phyllosilicates, carbonates or other secondary phases (e.g. Cu-sulphides, amphibole and magnetite). These observations suggest that (at least some) comets experienced limited interaction with liquid water under conditions distinct from the alteration histories of hydrated chondritic asteroids (e.g. the CM and CR chondrites). This synthesis paper explores the viability of perihelion-induced heating as a mechanism for the generation of highly localised subsurface liquid water and thus mild aqueous alteration in periodic comets. We draw constraints from experimental laboratory studies, numerical modelling, spacecraft observations and microanalysis studies of cometary micrometeorites. Both temperature and pressure conditions necessary for the generation and short-term (hour-long) survival of liquid water are plausible within the immediate subsurface (<0.5m depth) of periodic comets with small perihelia (<1.5 A.U.), low surface permeabilities and favourable rotational states (e.g. high obliquities and/or slow rotational periods). We estimate that solar radiant heating may generate liquid water and perform aqueous alteration reactions in 3-9% of periodic comets. An example of an ideal candidate is 2P/Encke which has a small perihelion (0.33 A.U.), a high obliquity and a short orbital period. This comet should therefore be considered a high priority candidate in future spectroscopic studies of comet surfaces. Small quantities of phyllosilicate generated by aqueous alteration may be important in cementing together grains in the subsurface of older dormant comets, thereby explaining observations of unexpectedly high tensile strength in some bodies. Most periodic comets which currently pass close to the Sun are dormant, having experienced surface heating, significant cometary activity and dust release in the past. These bodies may be responsible for the partially hydrated cometary micrometeorites we find at the Earth’s surface and their aqueous alteration histories may have been produced by perihelion-induced subsurface heating. This is in contrast to radiogenic and impact heating that operated during the early solar system on asteroids. This study has implications for the alteration history of the active asteroid Phaethon, the target of JAXA’s DESTINY+ mission.
    • An urban Blitz with a twist: rapid biodiversity assessment using aquatic environmental DNA

      Hupało, K; Majaneva, M; Czachur, MV; Sire, L; Marquina, D; Lijtmaer, DA; Ivanov, V; Leidenberger, S; Čiampor, F; Čiamporová‐Zaťovičová, Z; et al. (Wiley, 2020-10-24)
      As global biodiversity declines, there is an increasing need to create an educated and engaged society. Having people of all ages participate in measuring biodiversity where they live helps to create awareness. Recently, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for biodiversity surveys has gained momentum. Here, we explore whether sampling eDNA and sequencing it can be used as a means of rapidly surveying urban biodiversity for educational purposes. We sampled 2 × 1 L of water from each of 15 locations in the city of Trondheim, Norway, including a variety of freshwater, marine, and brackish habitats. DNA was extracted, amplified in triplicate targeting the barcoding fragment of COI gene, and sequenced. The obtained data were analyzed on the novel mBRAVE platform, an online open‐access software and computing resource. The water samples were collected in 2 days by two people, and the laboratory analysis was completed in 5 days by one person. Overall, we detected the presence of 506 BINs identified as belonging to 435 taxa, representing at least 265 putative species. On average, only 5.4% of the taxa were shared among six replicates per site. Based on the observed diversity, three distinct clusters were detected and related to the geographic distribution of sites. There were some taxa shared between the habitats, with a substantial presence of terrestrial biota. Here we propose a new form of BioBlitz, where with noninvasive sampling effort combined with swift processing and straightforward online analyses, hundreds of species can be detected. Thus, using eDNA analysis of water is useful for rapid biodiversity surveys and valuable for educational purposes. We show that rapid eDNA surveys, combined with openly available services and software, can be used as an educational tool to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity.
    • A revision of the Maechidiini Burmeister, 1855 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae) from the Indo-Australian transition zone, and the first record of the tribe west of Wallace’s Line

      Telnov, Dmitry (2020-10-19)
      Features of the Maechidiini (Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae) genera Maechidius Macleay, 1819, Epholcis Waterhouse, 1875 and Paramaechidius Frey, 1969 are critically revised and a new synonymy is proposed: Maechidius = Epholcis syn. nov. = Paramaechidius syn. nov. A key to and an annotated checklist of Maechidiini from the Indo-Australian transition zone are presented for the first time. Thirty-five new species are described, namely Maechidius aiyura sp. nov., M. alesbezdeki sp. nov., M. awu sp. nov., M. babyrousa sp. nov., M. bintang sp. nov., M. boessnecki sp. nov., M. brocki sp. nov., M. caperatus sp. nov., M. ciliatus sp. nov., M. crypticus sp. nov., M. dani sp. nov., M. deltouri sp. nov., M. dendrolagus sp. nov., M. hamatus sp. nov., M. kazantsevi sp. nov., M. konjo sp. nov., M. lapsus sp. nov., M. legalovi sp. nov., M. leucopsar sp. nov., M. longipes sp. nov., M. mailu sp. nov., M. maleo sp. nov., M. merdeka sp. nov., M. miklouhomaclayi sp. nov., M. nepenthephilus sp. nov., M. owenstanleyi sp. nov., M. riedeli sp. nov., M. similis sp. nov., M. skalei sp. nov., M. sougb sp. nov., M. suwawa sp. nov., M. trivialis sp. nov., M. ursus sp. nov., M. weigeli sp. nov. and M. yamdena sp. nov. Six new synonyms are proposed: Maechidius Macleay, 1819 = Epholcis Waterhouse, 1875 syn. nov. = Paramaechidius Frey, 1969 syn. nov., Maechidius esau Heller, 1914 = M. setosus Moser, 1920 syn. nov. = M. setosellus Frey, 1969 syn. nov., Maechidius heterosquamosus Heller, 1910 comb. rest. = Paramaechidius clypeatus Frey, 1969 syn. nov. and Maechidius paupianus Heller, 1910 = M. arrowi Frey, 1969 syn. nov. The first records of Maechidiini from the Tanimbar Islands (Yamdena), Sangihe Islands (Sangir) and Lesser Sunda Islands (Bali) are documented, of which the latter two are the northern- and westernmost known records of Maechidius and of the tribe Maechidiini. Lectotypes are designated for 23 species. Fifteen new combinations are proposed and the original combination to Maechidius is restored for four species. Ecological data are presented for the first time for selected Papuan and Wallacean species. Type material of Wallacean and Papuan Maechidiini is depicted for the first time. A key to species is given. In total, 78 species of Maechidiini are confirmed for the Indo-Australian transition zone.
    • Reptile-like physiology in Early Jurassic stem-mammals

      Newham, E; Gill, Pamela; Brewer, Philippa; Benton, MJ; Fernandez, Vincent; Gostling, NJ; Haberthür, D; Jernvall, J; Kankaanpää, T; Kallonen, A; et al. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-10-12)
      Despite considerable advances in knowledge of the anatomy, ecology and evolution of early mammals, far less is known about their physiology. Evidence is contradictory concerning the timing and fossil groups in which mammalian endothermy arose. To determine the state of metabolic evolution in two of the earliest stem-mammals, the Early Jurassic Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium, we use separate proxies for basal and maximum metabolic rate. Here we report, using synchrotron X-ray tomographic imaging of incremental tooth cementum, that they had maximum lifespans considerably longer than comparably sized living mammals, but similar to those of reptiles, and so they likely had reptilian-level basal metabolic rates. Measurements of femoral nutrient foramina show Morganucodon had blood flow rates intermediate between living mammals and reptiles, suggesting maximum metabolic rates increased evolutionarily before basal metabolic rates. Stem mammals lacked the elevated endothermic metabolism of living mammals, highlighting the mosaic nature of mammalian physiological evolution.
    • Climatic oscillations in Quaternary have shaped the co‑evolutionary patterns between the Norway spruce and its host‑associated herbivore

      Jakub, G; Andrzej, O; Robert, R; Igor, C; Katarzyna, M; Radosław, P; Matti, L; Mauro, G; Gernot, H; Vytautas, T; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-10-05)
      During the Last Glacial Maximum in the Northern Hemisphere, expanding ice sheets forced a large number of plants, including trees, to retreat from their primary distribution areas. Many host-associated herbivores migrated along with their host plants. Long-lasting geographic isolation between glacial refugia could have been led to the allopatric speciation in separated populations. Here, we have studied whether the migration history of the Norway spruce Picea abies in Quaternary has affected its host-associated herbivorous beetle—Monochamus sartor. By using microsatellite markers accompanied by the geometric morphometrics analysis of wing venation, we have revealed the clear geographic structure of M. sartor in Eurasia, encompassing two main clusters: southern (Alpine–Carpathian) and eastern (including northeastern Europe and Asia), which reflects the northern and southern ecotypes of its host. The two beetles’ lineages probably diverged during the Pleniglacial (57,000—15,000 BC) when their host tree species was undergoing significant range fragmentation and experienced secondary contact during post-glacial recolonization of spruce in the Holocene. A secondary contact of divergent lineages of M. sartor has resulted in the formation of the hybrid zone in northeastern Europe. Our findings suggest that the climatic oscillations during the Pleistocene have driven an insect-plant co-evolutionary process, and have contributed to the formation of the unique biodiversity of Europe.
    • “Hope” is the thing with feathers: how useful are cyclomethicones when cleaning taxidermy?

      Allington-Jones, L (NatSCA, 2020-10-01)
      Silicone solvents have extreme hydrophobicity so they can be used as a temporary barrier to aqueous cleaning solutions. They are characterised as having low odour, moderately low toxicity, low polarity and surface tension. They are 100% volatile so will leave no trace behind. Silicone solvents could potentially be used to flood the skin of taxidermy specimens, to provide a barrier whilst fur or feathers are cleaned, and even permit the use of heat treatments without causing damage to the skin. They will not cause drying or swelling and will not dissolve or mobilise any skin components such as dyes or fats, which would normally be adversely affected by water or other solvents. They are also, in theory, safe to use on skin which has suffered so much deterioration that the shrinkage temperature is close to room temperature. Different classes of silicone solvents have different working times and this article explores 3 of these, and their practical applicability when cleaning taxidermy.
    • Evaluation of DNA barcode libraries used in the UK and developing an action plan to fill priority gaps

      Price, BW; Briscoe, AG; Misra, Raju; Broad, G (Natural England, 2020-10)
      There are approximately 76,000 eukaryote species recognised in the UK, and while we know some of them in great detail, the majority of these species are poorly known, and hundreds of new species are discovered each year. DNA barcoding uses a short, standardised segment of an organism’s genome for identification by comparison to a reference library; however, the UK lags behind several countries in Europe and North America in that we lack trusted, reliable and openly accessible reference sequences for key UK taxa. This report is the first step in rectifying this by engaging diverse stakeholders to facilitate collaboration and coordination; providing robust stakeholder-based and independent assessment of the current state of reference libraries available for all known UK taxa; and prioritising key taxa. A survey was developed and shared with the UK research and end user community, receiving 80 responses from a wide range of stakeholders and covering the focal taxa / assemblages and habitats; the DNA reference libraries in use, their quality assurance and perceived coverage. A formal gap analysis of the public DNA data in major DNA reference libraries highlighted that an estimated 52% of UK species have publicly available DNA data of some sort; however, coverage in gene specific reference libraries varies greatly (eg 2 – 52%), as does the associated quality assurance. Priority taxa highlighted by end users had coverage in reference libraries ranging from almost complete, in the case of known invasive non-native species, to significant coverage (71%) for taxa with conservation designations. However, these data also vary by kingdom and reference library, as does the associated quality assurance. If taking a strict requirement of DNA data provided by UK specimens and held in UK repositories, for robust QC and QA, then the proportion of UK species with public DNA data in reference libraries falls to less than 4% in the largest reference library assessed (BOLD). While standard genes for DNA-based identification have essentially been established, more work is required to establish the priority taxa required for regulatory delivery in contrast to taxa that are surveyed in a non-regulatory framework. Several barriers to the development of barcode libraries were highlighted, the most relevant being sustained large scale funding, expertise, capacity, laboratory skills and equipment, quality control and assurance, collecting logistics (eg permits and access) and communication. Significant opportunities identified include a large network of interested experts, several organisations with significant delivery capabilities, current large-scale projects and funding opportunities, emerging technologies and the economy of scale for DNA sequencing. Following a stakeholder workshop, we have outlined a concise action plan to provide reliable, open access reference sequences, linked to open access vouchers, identified by known experts, to facilitate UK academic and regulatory aims.