The Museum’s vast collections of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and microbes support our staff's unique expertise in evolutionary biology, biodiversity and systematics.

Recent Submissions

  • A new species of the genus Palpostilpnus Aubert (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Cryptinae) from the Oriental part of China

    Sheng, M-L; Broad, G (Pensoft, 2011-06-17)
    Palpostilpnus brevis Sheng & Broad, sp.n., belonging to the tribe Phygadeuontini of the subfamily Cryptinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae), collected from Jiangxi Province, China, is described. A key to the described species of the genus Palpostilpnus Aubert, 1961, is provided.
  • DNA barcoding and morphology reveal two common species in one: Pimpla molesta stat. rev. separated from P. croceipes (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae)

    Veijalainen, A; Broad, G; Wahlberg, N; Longino, J; Sääksjärvi, I (Pensoft, 2011-08-18)
    Correct species identification is the basis of ecological studies. Nevertheless, morphological examination alone may not be enough to tell species apart. Here, our integrated molecular and morphological studies demonstrate that the relatively widespread and common neotropical parasitoid wasp Pimpla croceipes Cresson, 1874 (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Pimplinae) actually consists of two distinct species. The name Pimpla molesta (Smith, 1879) stat. rev. is available for the second species. The two species were identified by DNA barcoding and minor differences in morphology and colouration. Our results support the previous notions that DNA barcoding can complement morphological identification and aid the discovery of cryptic species complexes.
  • First record of Acaenitinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae) from South America with description of a new species and a key to the world species of Arotes Gravenhorst

    Castillo, C; Saaksjarvi, L; Bennett, A; Broad, G (Pensoft, 2011-10-14)
    A new species of Acaenitinae, Arotes ucumari Castillo & Sääksjärvi, sp. n., is described and illustrated representing the first record of the subfamily from South America. The new species was collected from a premontane tropical rain forest in the Peruvian Andes at 1500 m. A key to the world species of Arotes Gravenhorst, 1829 is provided. The subspecies Arotes albicinctus moiwanus (Matsumura, 1912) is raised to species rank, Arotes moiwanus stat. n.
  • Two new species of genus Ateleute Förster (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Cryptinae) with a key to the Oriental species

    Sheng, M-L; Broad, G; Sun, S-P (Pensoft, 2011-10-28)
    Three species of Ateleute Förster 1869 belonging to the tribe Cryptini of the subfamily Cryptinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae), collected from Jiangxi Province, China, are reported, of which two are new for science: Ateleute ferruginea Sheng, Broad & Sun, sp. n. and A. zixiensis Sheng, Broad & Sun, sp. n. One, A. densistriata (Uchida, 1955), was previously known from China and Japan. A key to the species of genus Ateleute known in the Oriental Region is provided.
  • Boris Vasil’evich Skvortzov (1896–1980): notes on his life, family and scientific studies

    Williams, DM; Gololobova, M; Glebova, E (Taylor & Francis, 2016-08-15)
    A short account of the life of Boris Vasil’evich Skvortzov (1896–1980) is presented. Some details of his background, his family and his legacy are documented. A short summary of his achievements are included.
  • A parakeet specimen held at National Museums Scotland is a unique skin of the extinct Reunion Parakeet Psittacula eques eques: a reply to Cheke and Jansen ()

    Jones, CG; Jackson, HA; McGowan, RY; Hume, JP; Forshaw, JM; Tatayah, V; Winters, R; Groombridge, JJ (Wiley, 2018-11-02)
    Cheke and Jansen (2016) questioned the identity of a parakeet specimen at National Museums Scotland (NMS), Edinburgh, which is considered in a paper by Jackson et al. (2015) to be a specimen of the extinct R eunion Parakeet Psittacula eques eques (Boddaert, 1783). They suggest that with the available information, its provenance cannot be ascribed with any certainty and it is most likely, on the basis of probability, to be from Mauritius, although they do not exclude the possibility that the parakeet comes from R eunion, the neighbouring island of Mauritius. The provenance and identity of this specimen has previously been questioned (Jones 1987, Hume 2007, Hume & Walters 2012), with the possibility that it may be a Mauritius Parakeet Psittacula eques echo. Since these accounts were written, more work conducted on Psittacula parakeets of the Indian Ocean Islands indicates that the Edinburgh specimen is a R eunion Parakeet, and Cheke and Jansen (2016) would have been unaware of some of this work.
  • Solanum chenopodioides Lam. (Solanaceae) en la ciudad de Madrid

    Martínez Labarga, JM; García Guillén, E; Meliá Vaca, D; Knapp, S (Fotografía y Biodiversidad, 2017-07-23)
    RESUMEN: Se da a conocer la presencia de Solanum chenopodiodes Lam. en Madrid, por primera vez. Supone la única población conocida para el centro de la Península Ibérica. Se aportan fotografías tomadas en el lugar del hallazgo e imágenes de la descripción original y de la primera ilustración que se conoce de la especie. ABSTRACT: The presence of Solanum chenopodiodes Lam. is reported for Madrid for the first time. It seems to be the only known population in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. Photographs of the record are published and images of the original description and the first known illustration of the species are shown.
  • Evolution Is Linear: Debunking Life's Little Joke

    Jenner, RA (Wiley, 2017-12-16)
    Linear depictions of the evolutionary process are ubiquitous in popular culture, but linear evolutionary imagery is strongly rejected by scientists who argue that evolution branches. This point is frequently illustrated by saying that we didn't evolve from monkeys, but that we are related to them as collateral relatives. Yet, we did evolve from monkeys, but our monkey ancestors are extinct, not extant. Influential voices, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, have misled audiences for decades by falsely portraying the linear and branching aspects of evolution to be in conflict, and by failing to distinguish between the legitimate linearity of evolutionary descent, and the branching relationships among collateral relatives that result when lineages of ancestors diverge. The purpose of this article is to correct the widespread misplaced rejection of linear evolutionary imagery, and to re‐emphasize the basic truth that the evolutionary process is fundamentally linear.
  • A review of the genus Chrysocryptus Cameron (Ichneumonidae: Phygadeuontinae), with description of a new species

    Broad, GR; Pham, NT; Achterberg, CV (National University of Singapore, 2019-02-22)
    The phygadeuontine genus Chrysocryptus (Ichneumonidae) is reviewed for the first time on the basis of ichneumonid collections in the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi (Vietnam), the Natural History Museum, London (UK), and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden (the Netherlands). A new species, Chrysocryptus brevis, is described from northern Vietnam. In addition, C. aureopilosus is recorded for the first time from Vietnam and from Indonesia (West Java). A key to all four known species of the genus Chrysocryptus is included.
  • Bidirectional Introgressive Hybridization between a Cattle and Human Schistosome Species

    Huyse, T; Webster, BL; Geldof, S; Stothard, JR; Diaw, OT; Polman, K; Rollinson, D; Kazura, JW (PLOS, 2009-09-04)
    Schistosomiasis is a disease of great medical and veterinary importance in tropical and subtropical regions, caused by parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma (subclass Digenea). Following major water development schemes in the 1980s, schistosomiasis has become an important parasitic disease of children living in the Senegal River Basin (SRB). During molecular parasitological surveys, nuclear and mitochondrial markers revealed unexpected natural interactions between a bovine and human Schistosoma species: S. bovis and S. haematobium, respectively. Hybrid schistosomes recovered from the urine and faeces of children and the intermediate snail hosts of both parental species, Bulinus truncatus and B. globosus, presented a nuclear ITS rRNA sequence identical to S. haematobium, while the partial mitochondrial cox1 sequence was identified as S. bovis. Molecular data suggest that the hybrids are not 1st generation and are a result of parental and/or hybrid backcrosses, indicating a stable hybrid zone. Larval stages with the reverse genetic profile were also found and are suggested to be F1 progeny. The data provide indisputable evidence for the occurrence of bidirectional introgressive hybridization between a bovine and a human Schistosoma species. Hybrid species have been found infecting B. truncatus, a snail species that is now very abundant throughout the SRB. The recent increase in urinary schistosomiasis in the villages along the SRB could therefore be a direct effect of the increased transmission through B. truncatus. Hybridization between schistosomes under laboratory conditions has been shown to result in heterosis (higher fecundity, faster maturation time, wider intermediate host spectrum), having important implications on disease prevalence, pathology and treatment. If this new hybrid exhibits the same hybrid vigour, it could develop into an emerging pathogen, necessitating further control strategies in zones where both parental species overlap.
  • Field sampling is biased against small‑ranged species of high conservation value: a case study on the sphingid moths of East Africa

    Beck, J; Takano, H; Ballesteros-Mejia, L; Kitching, IJ; McCain, CM (Springer Verlag, 2018-08-23)
    The range size of species co-occurring in local assemblages is a pivotal variable in assessments of a site’s conservation value. Assemblages featuring many small-ranged species are given more priority than assemblages consisting mainly of wide-ranging species. However, the assembly of relevant information can be challenging and local range size distributions of tropical invertebrates are rarely available for conservation planning. We present such data for sphingid moths in East Africa, a highly diverse region of high conservation value. We compare geographic range size distributions based on field samples with predictions from modelled range map data. Using this system as a case study, we provide evidence for a systematic sampling bias when inferring average local range sizes from field data. Unseen species (i.e., species present but missed in local sampling) are often those with small ranges (hence, of high conservation value). Using an elevational gradient, we illustrate how this bias can lead to false, counterintuitive assessments of environmental effects on local range size distributions. Furthermore, with particular reference to sphingid moths in the study region, we show that current protected areas appear unrelated to the spatial distribution of species richness or average geographic range sizes at a local scale. We discuss the need to treat field sampled data with caution and in concert with other data sources such as probabilistic models.
  • Mollusca Types in Great Britain: founding a union database

    Salvador, A; Ablett, J (NatSCA, 2018)
    Type specimens are essential to the study of malacology and are distributed across a wide range of museums in the UK. This initiative, funded by the John Ellerman Foundation, is the beginning of an integrated access and learning project bringing together curators from across the museum sector. Malacological curators from Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales (AC-NMW) and The Natural History Museum, London (NHM) worked with staff at seven partner museums in six UK cities. Together they developed a database and online resource connecting the Mollusca collections of National and other museums for the first time. At the time of publication, data on over 1800 type lots are available on the ‘Mollusca Types in Great Britain’ website. Since the launch in March 2018, some 1,189 users have accessed the site from over 60 countries. The database and website continue to be developed and new entries can be made at any time. The regional museum partners were given training focused on building confidence in recognising, researching, and interpreting the molluscan type specimens in their collections. The broader aims of this project were to strengthen and develop curatorial skills in specialist areas that could be transferable to other historically important natural history collections.
  • Phylogenetic relationships within Dicrocoeliidae (Platyhelminthes: Digenea) from birds from the Czech Republic using partial 28S rDNA sequences

    Aldhoun, J; Elmahy, R; Littlewood, DTJ (Springerlink, 2018-09-05)
    Partial (D1-D3) 28S rRNA gene sequences from 16 isolates of digenean parasites of the family Dicrocoeliidae recovered from 16 bird species from the Czech Republic were used for phylogenetic reconstruction. Comparison with sequences available from GenBank suggests that the genus Brachylecithum is paraphyletic, requiring further validation and possible systematic revision. Although partial 28S rDNA is relatively conserved, analyses suggest that the following taxa are synonymous: Lutztrema attenuatum = L. monenteron = L. microstomum, Brachylecithum lobatum = B. glareoli. Zonorchis petiolatus is reassigned back to the genus Lyperosomum with L. collurionis as a junior synonym. The study revealed how complicated the systematics of the family Dicrocoeliidae is currently. The morphology of the group is variable, and the current distinguishing characters at species and even generic level are not sufficiently distinctive; it is difficult to identify the specimens correctly and identification of GenBank isolates is not reliable. Extensive sampling of isolates for both molecular and morphological studies is necessary to resolve the relationships within the family.
  • Habitat Configuration Alters Herbivory across the Tropical Seascape

    Swindells, KL; Murdoch, RJ; Bazen, WD; Harman, NW; Unsworth, RKF (Frontiers, 2017-02-28)
    There exists increasing evidence that top-down ecological processes such as herbivory are key in controlling marine ecosystems and their community structure. Herbivory has the potential to be altered by numerous environmental and ecological factors that operate at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, one such spatial factor is the influence of the marine landscape. We know little about how ecological processes such as herbivory change throughout the marine landscape and how the effects of these processes cascade. This is because most landscape scale studies observe species richness and abundance patterns. In terrestrial systems the landscape is well documented to influence ecological processes, but empirical evidence of this is limited in marine systems. In tropical seagrass meadows direct herbivory by parrotfish can be readily observed due to the clear hemispherical bite marks they leave on the seagrass. As with herbivory in other systems, this leaf consumption is thought to assist with leaf turnover, positively influencing leaf growth. Changes in its rate and extent are therefore likely to influence the characteristics of the plant. The faunal communities of seagrass meadows alter with respect to changes in the landscape, particularly with respect to connectivity to adjacent habitats. It might therefore be expected that a key ecological process such as herbivory will change with respect to habitat configuration and have cascading impacts upon the status of the seagrass. In the present study we examined indirect evidence of parrotfish grazing throughout the marine landscape and assessed this relative to plant condition. Seagrasses in locations of close proximity to mangroves were found to have double the amount of parrotfish grazing than sites away from mangroves. Evidence of herbivory was also found to be strongly and significantly negatively correlated to the abundance of plant attached epicover. The decreased epicover in the presence of elevated herbivory suggests increased leaf turnover. These results indicate that seagrass may have higher levels of ecosystem resilience in the presence of mangroves. Our research highlights how ecological processes can change throughout the marine landscape with cascade impacts on the resilience of the system.
  • Measuring Biodiversity and Extinction-Present and Past

    Sigwart, JD; Bennett, KD; Edie, SM; Mander, L; Okamura, B; Padian, K; Wheeler, Q; Winston, JE; Yeung, NW (Oxford Academic, 2018-09-18)
    How biodiversity is changing in our time represents a major concern for all organismal biologists. Anthropogenic changes to our planet are decreasing species diversity through the negative effects of pollution, habitat destruction, direct extirpation of species, and climate change. But major biotic changes—including those that have both increased and decreased species diversity—have happened before in Earth’s history. Biodiversity dynamics in past eras provide important context to understand ecological responses to current environmental change. The work of assessing biodiversity is woven into ecology, environmental science, conservation, paleontology, phylogenetics, evolutionary and developmental biology, and many other disciplines; yet, the absolute foundation of how we measure species diversity depends on taxonomy and systematics. The aspiration of this symposium, and complementary contributed talks, was to promote better understanding of our common goals and encourage future interdisciplinary discussion of biodiversity dynamics. The contributions in this collection of papers bring together a diverse group of speakers to confront several important themes. How can biologists best respond to the urgent need to identify and conserve diversity? How can we better communicate the nature of species across scientific disciplines? Where are the major gaps in knowledge about the diversity of living animal and plant groups, and what are the implications for understanding potential diversity loss? How can we effectively use the fossil record of past diversity and extinction to understand current biodiversity loss?
  • Eutrophication homogenizes shallow lake macrophyte assemblages over space and time

    Salgado, J; Sayer, CD; Brooks, SJ; Davidson, TA; Goldsmith, B; Patmore, IR; Baker, AG; Okamura, B (Ecological Society of America, 2018-09-11)
    Eutrophication is commonly implicated in the reduction in macrophyte species richness in shallow lakes. However, the extent to which other more nuanced measures of macrophyte diversity, such as assemblage heterogeneity, are impacted concurrently by eutrophication over space and time and the joint influences of other factors (e.g., species invasions and connectivity) remains relatively poorly documented. Using a combination of contemporary and paleoecological data, we examine how eutrophication influences macrophyte assemblage heterogeneity and how nutrient enrichment interacts with watercourse connectivity, lake surface area, and relative zebra mussel abundance over space (within and among lakes) and time (decades to centuries) at the landscape scale. The study system is the Upper Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, UK, which is composed of a large main lake and several smaller satellite lakes that vary in their hydrological connectivity to the main lake. By applying homogeneity analysis of multivariate dispersions and partial redundancy analysis, we demonstrate that contemporary lake macrophyte heterogeneity and species richness are reduced in lakes with intensified eutrophication but are increased in lakes with greater zebra mussel abundance and lake surface area. Watercourse connectivity positively influenced assemblage heterogeneity and explained larger proportions of the variation in assemblage heterogeneity than local environmental factors, whereas variation in species richness was better related to local abiotic factors. Macrophyte fossil data revealed within- and among-lake assemblage homogenization post-1960, with the main lake and connected sites showing the highest rates of homogenization due to progressive eutrophication. The long-term and contemporary data collectively indicate that eutrophication reduces assemblage heterogeneity over time by overriding the importance of regional processes (e.g., connectivity) and exerts stronger pressure on isolated lakes. Our results suggest further that in connected lake systems, assemblage heterogeneity may be impacted more rapidly by eutrophication than species richness. This means that early effects of eutrophication in many systems may be underestimated by monitoring that focuses solely on species richness and is not performed at adequate landscape scales.
  • Eutrophication erodes inter-basin variation in macrophytes and co-occurring invertebrates in a shallow lake: combining ecology and palaeoecology

    Salgado, J; Sayer, CD; Brooks, SJ; Davidson, TA; Okamura, B (Springer, 2017-03-13)
    Aquatic biodiversity is commonly linked with environmental variation in lake networks, but less is known about how local factors may influence within-lake biological heterogeneity. Using a combined ecological and multi-proxy palaeoecological approach we investigated long-term changes in the pathways and processes that underlie eutrophication and water depth effects on lake macrophyte and invertebrate communities across three basins in a shallow lake—Castle Lough, Northern Ireland, UK. Contemporary data allow us to assess how macrophyte assemblages vary in composition and heterogeneity according to basin-specific factors (e.g. variation in water depth), while palaeoecological data (macrophytes and co-occurring invertebrates) enable us to infer basin-specific impacts and susceptibilities to nutrient-enrichment. Results indicate that variability in water depth promotes assemblage variation amongst the lake basins, stimulating within-lake macrophyte assemblage heterogeneity and hence higher lake biodiversity. The palaeo-data indicate that eutrophication has acted as a strong homogenising agent of macrophyte and invertebrate diversities and abundances over time at the whole-lake scale. This novel finding strongly suggests that, as eutrophication advances, the influence of water depth on community heterogeneity is gradually eroded and that ultimately a limited set of eutrophication-tolerant species will become homogeneously distributed across the entire lake.
  • Extensive Uncharted Biodiversity: The Parasite Dimension

    Okamura, B; Hartigan, A; Naldoni, J (Oxford University Press, 2018-09-18)
    Parasites are often hidden in their hosts and exhibit patchy spatial distributions. This makes them relatively difficult to detect and sample. Consequently we have poor knowledge of parasite diversities, distributions, and extinction. We evaluate our general understanding of parasite diversity and highlight the enormous bias in research on parasites such as helminths and arthropods that infect vertebrate hosts. We then focus on Myxozoa as an exemplary case for demonstrating uncharted parasite diversity. Myxozoans are a poorly recognized but speciose clade of endoparasitic cnidarians with complex life cycles that have radiated to exploit freshwater, marine, and terrestrial hosts by adopting strategies convergent to those of parasitic protists. Myxozoans are estimated to represent some 20% of described cnidarian species—greatly outnumbering the combined species richness of scyphozoans, cubozoans, and staurozoans. We summarize limited understanding of myxozoan diversification and geographical distributions, and highlight gaps in knowledge and approaches for measuring myxozoan diversity. We close by reviewing methods and problems in estimating parasite extinction and concerns about extinction risks in view of the fundamental roles parasites play in ecosystem dynamics and in driving host evolutionary trajectories.
  • How climatic variability is linked to the spatial distribution of range sizes: seasonality versus climate change velocity in sphingid moths

    Grünig, M; Beerli, N; Ballesteros-Mejia, L; Kitching, IJ; Beck, J (Wiley, 2017-07-04)
    Aim To map the spatial variation of range sizes within sphingid moths, and to test hypotheses on its environmental control. In particular, we investigate effects of climate change velocity since the Pleistocene and the mid‐Holocene, temperature and precipitation seasonality, topography, Pleistocene ice cover, and available land area. Location Old World and Australasia, excluding smaller islands. Methods We used fine‐grained range maps (based on expert‐edited distribution modelling) for all 972 sphingid moth species in the research region and calculated, at a grain size of 100 km, the median of range sizes of all species that co‐occur in a pixel. Climate, topography and Pleistocene ice cover data were taken from publicly available sources. We calculated climate change velocities (CCV) for the last 21 kyr as well as 6 kyr. We compared the effects of seasonality and CCV on median range sizes with spatially explicit models while accounting for effects of elevation range, glaciation history and available land area. Results Range sizes show a clear spatial pattern, with highest median values in deserts and arctic regions and lowest values in isolated tropical regions. Range sizes were only weakly related to absolute latitude (predicted by Rapoport's effect), but there was a strong north‐south pattern of range size decline. Temperature seasonality emerged as the strongest environmental correlate of median range size, in univariate as well as multivariate models, whereas effects of CCV were weak and unstable for both time periods. These results were robust to variations in the parameters in alternative analyses, among them multivariate CCV. Main conclusions Temperature seasonality is a strong correlate of spatial range size variation, while effects of longer‐term temperature change, as captured by CCV, received much weaker support.
  • Bye-bye dark sky: is light pollution costing us more than just the night-time?

    Lotzof, K; Van Grouw, H; West, S (Natural History Museum, 2018-10-23)
    Humans, birds and several other animals are finding it increasingly challenging to experience night-time uninterrupted by artificial light, while some creatures are handling the change better than others. Hein van Grouw, Senior Curator of Birds, and UK Biodiversity Training Manager Steph West reveal the impacts of light pollution on British wildlife and a few tips for reclaiming your slice of the night sky.

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