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Garcia-Cardenas, E. E., L. E. Angeles-Gonzalez, and G. Alcaraz. 2024. Hermit crabs of the genera Calcinus and Clibanarius show no evidence of competitive exclusion at a geographic scale. Hydrobiologia.

The fundamental ecological niche is determined by individuals’ ability to cope with abiotic conditions; however, biotic interactions (e.g., competition) can also influence species’ distribution ranges, reducing the fundamental niche to the realized niche. Several species of the genera Clibanarius and Calcinus overlap in their distributions. The agonistically dominant Calcinus species inhabits mostly lower intertidal levels, while Clibanarius is more abundant in the abiotically demanding upper strata. Additionally, evidence of microhabitat competitive exclusion shows that the superior competitor, Ca . californiensis , causes the vertical displacement of Cl . albidigitus . However, it is unknown whether competitive exclusion between species of these genera has influenced their distributions at the macroecological scale. We used ecological niche models to compare the distribution and the habitat suitability of species of these genera. We used databases of species occurrences and bioclimatic and geophysical variables to model and map the species’ niches. Species of the two hermit crab genera showed strong overlap in their habitat suitability. Calcinus and Clibanarius species occur in broad sympatry at the regional scale without regions of partial overlap that would indicate competitive exclusion. Therefore, competitive exclusion among species of these genera seems to act only on a microhabitat scale in the most dynamic shoreline areas.

Rojas‐Soto, O., J. S. Forero‐Rodríguez, A. Galindo‐Cruz, C. Mota‐Vargas, K. D. Parra‐Henao, A. Peña‐Peniche, J. Piña‐Torres, et al. 2024. Calibration areas in ecological niche and species distribution modelling: Unravelling approaches and concepts. Journal of Biogeography.

AbstractAimThe calibration area (CA) corresponds to the geographic region used by different algorithms that estimate the species' environmental preferences and delimit its geographic distribution. This study intended to identify, test and compare current literature's most commonly employed approaches and methods for CA creation, highlighting the differences with the accessible area (M), a frequently misapplied concept.LocationGlobal.TaxonArthropods, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.MethodsWe conducted a literature review and analysed 129 recent articles on species distribution that use correlative models to identify the methods used to establish the CA and their frequency. We also evaluated seven of the most widely used methods for 31 species from different taxa.ResultsWe found that the most frequently used methods in literature corresponded to biogeographic entities (BE). Moreover, according to our evaluation, those methods that seek to establish the CA through the accessible area approach (including BE and ‘grinnell’) were the best evaluated. Finally, we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the analysed methods in selecting CA.Main ConclusionsAlthough we cannot fail to recognize the usefulness and validity of the different methods to establish CAs, we suggest calibrating ecological niche and species distribution models in light of explicit a priori hypotheses regarding the extent of accessible areas (M) as a delimitation of the CA, which theoretically includes the species' dispersal ability and its barriers. We recommend using the BE method, which is simple to establish and highly operational.

Tang, T., Y. Zhu, Y.-Y. Zhang, J.-J. Chen, J.-B. Tian, Q. Xu, B.-G. Jiang, et al. 2024. The global distribution and the risk prediction of relapsing fever group Borrelia: a data review with modelling analysis. The Lancet Microbe.

Background The recent discovery of emerging relapsing fever group Borrelia (RFGB) species, such as Borrelia miyamotoi, poses a growing threat to public health. However, the global distribution and associated risk burden of these species remain uncertain. We aimed to map the diversity, distribution, and potential infection risk of RFGB.MethodsWe searched PubMed, Web of Science, GenBank, CNKI, and eLibrary from Jan 1, 1874, to Dec 31, 2022, for published articles without language restriction to extract distribution data for RFGB detection in vectors, animals, and humans, and clinical information about human patients. Only articles documenting RFGB infection events were included in this study, and data for RFGB detection in vectors, animals, or humans were composed into a dataset. We used three machine learning algorithms (boosted regression trees, random forest, and least absolute shrinkage and selection operator logistic regression) to assess the environmental, ecoclimatic, biological, and socioeconomic factors associated with the occurrence of four major RFGB species: Borrelia miyamotoi, Borrelia lonestari, Borrelia crocidurae, and Borrelia hermsii; and mapped their worldwide risk level.FindingsWe retrieved 13 959 unique studies, among which 697 met the selection criteria and were used for data extraction. 29 RFGB species have been recorded worldwide, of which 27 have been identified from 63 tick species, 12 from 61 wild animals, and ten from domestic animals. 16 RFGB species caused human infection, with a cumulative count of 26 583 cases reported from Jan 1, 1874, to Dec 31, 2022. Borrelia recurrentis (17 084 cases) and Borrelia persica (2045 cases) accounted for the highest proportion of human infection. B miyamotoi showed the widest distribution among all RFGB, with a predicted environmentally suitable area of 6·92 million km2, followed by B lonestari (1·69 million km2), B crocidurae (1·67 million km2), and B hermsii (1·48 million km2). The habitat suitability index of vector ticks and climatic factors, such as the annual mean temperature, have the most significant effect among all predictive models for the geographical distribution of the four major RFGB species.InterpretationThe predicted high-risk regions are considerably larger than in previous reports. Identification, surveillance, and diagnosis of RFGB infections should be prioritised in high-risk areas, especially within low-income regions.FundingNational Key Research and Development Program of China.

Belotti López de Medina, C. R. 2024. Diet breadth and biodiversity in the pre-hispanic South-Central Andes (Western South America) during the Holocene: An exploratory analysis and review. The Holocene.

This paper presents an exploratory study on the taxonomic diversity of pre-Hispanic archaeofaunas in the South-Central Andes (SCA; western South America) from the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary to the Late-Holocene. The SCA is a complex of diverse environments and has undergone distinct climate events for the last 13,000 years, such as the occurrence of warmer and drier conditions in the Middle-Holocene. The South-Central Andean area was part of the larger Andes interaction area, which was a primary center for animal and plant domestication and the emergence of agro-pastoralist economies. Since subsistence was key to these processes, the SCA provides a relevant case study on the interactions among environment, foodways and sociocultural evolution. Taxonomic diversity was used here as a proxy for diet breadth. A total of 268 archaeofaunal assemblages were sampled from the zooarchaeological literature. Reviewed variables included the cultural chronology and spatial coordinates of the assemblages, as well as the presence and abundance of taxa at the family rank. Taxonomic diversity covered two dimensions: composition (families present in each assemblage) and structure (quantitative relationships among taxa), which was measured through richness (NTAXA), ubiquity and relative abundance (NISP based rank-order). Despite the uneven distribution of samples, the analyses revealed the following trends: (1) a moderate relationship between NTAXA and distance from coastline for most of the Holocene; (2) a potential decrease in assemblage richness for coastal ecoregions during the Late-Holocene; and (3) a generalized increase in the relative abundance of Camelidae.

Hebets, E. A., M. Oviedo-Diego, F. Cargnelutti, F. Bollatti, L. Calbacho-Rosa, C. I. Mattoni, P. Olivero, et al. 2023. A scientist’s guide to Solifugae: how solifuges could advance research in ecology, evolution, and behaviour. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Despite having >1200 described species and despite their nearly worldwide distribution and prevalence in many xeric ecosystems, relative to many other arachnid groups, we know little about the natural history and behaviour of animals in the order Solifugae (camel spiders, sun spiders, sun scorpions, etc.). Here, we review the current solifuge literature through the lens of conceptual research areas in ecology, evolution, and behaviour and propose ways in which solifuges can contribute to research in specific subfields, as follows: (i) ecology: community and trophic dynamics; connecting food webs; habitat specialization; and biodiversity and conservation; (ii) evolution: speciation and diversification; activity cycles and associated traits; adaptations for speed; and living in extreme environments; and (iii) behaviour and sensory systems: sleep, quiescence, and diapause; sensory systems and sensory ecology; learning and cognition; and mating systems, sexual selection, and sexual conflict. This resource can provide a starting point for identifying research programmes that will simultaneously contribute basic natural history information about this under-studied group and provide a broader understanding of fundamental concepts and theories across the life sciences. We hope that scientists will take this review as a challenge to develop creative ways of leveraging the unique features of solifuges to advance scientific knowledge and understanding.

Munna, A. H., N. A. Amuri, P. Hieronimo, and D. A. Woiso. 2023. Modelling ecological niches of Sclerocarya birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Silva Fennica 57.

The information on ecological niches of the Marula tree, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Horchst. subspecies are needed for sustainable management of this tree, considering its nutritional, economic, and ecological benefits. However, despite Tanzania being regarded as a global genetic center of diversity of S. birrea, information on the subspecies ecological niches is lacking. We aimed to model ecological niches of S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Ecological niches under the current climate were modelled by using ecological niche models in MaxEnt using climatic, edaphic, and topographical variables, and subspecies occurrence data. The Hadley Climate Center and National Center for Atmospheric Research's Earth System Models were used to predict ecological niches under the medium and high greenhouse gases emission scenarios for the years 2050 and 2080. Area under the curves (AUCs) were used to assess the accuracy of the models. The results show that the models were robust, with AUCs of 0.85–0.95. Annual and seasonal precipitation, elevation, and soil cation exchange capacity are the key environmental factors that define the ecological niches of the S. birrea subspecies. Ecological niches of subsp. caffra, multifoliata, and birrea are currently found in 30, 22, and 21 regions, and occupy 184 814 km2, 139 918 km2, and 28 446 km2 of Tanzania's land area respectively, which will contract by 0.4–44% due to climate change. Currently, 31–51% of ecological niches are under Tanzania’s protected areas network. The findings are important in guiding the development of conservation and domestication strategies for the S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania.

Padidar, S., A. Monadjem, T. Litschka-Koen, B. Thomas, N. Shongwe, C. Baker, L. Mmema, et al. 2023. Snakebite epidemiology, outcomes and multi-cluster risk modelling in Eswatini I. Gawarammana [ed.],. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 17: e0011732.

Background Halving snakebite morbidity and mortality by 2030 requires countries to develop both prevention and treatment strategies. The paucity of data on the global incidence and severity of snakebite envenoming causes challenges in prioritizing and mobilising resources for snakebite prevention and treatment. In line with the World Health Organisation’s 2019 Snakebite Strategy, this study sought to investigate Eswatini’s snakebite epidemiology and outcomes, and identify the socio-geographical factors associated with snakebite risk. Methodology Programmatic data from the Ministry of Health, Government of Eswatini 2019–2021, was used to assess the epidemiology and outcomes of snakebite in Eswatini. We developed a snake species richness map from the occurrence data of all venomous snakes of medical importance in Eswatini that was subjected to niche modelling. We formulated four risk indices using snake species richness, various geospatial datasets and reported snakebites. A multivariate cluster modelling approach using these indices was developed to estimate risk of snakebite and the outcomes of snakebite in Eswatini. Principal findings An average of 466 snakebites was recorded annually in Eswatini. Bites were recorded across the entire country and peaked in the evening during summer months. Two cluster risk maps indicated areas of the country with a high probability of snakebite and a high probability of poor snakebite outcomes. The areas with the highest rate of snakebite risk were primarily in the rural and agricultural regions of the country. Significance These models can be used to inform better snakebite prevention and treatment measures to enable Eswatini to meet the global goal of reducing snakebite morbidity and mortality by 50% by 2030. The supply chain challenges of antivenom affecting southern Africa and the high rates of snakebite identified in our study highlight the need for improved snakebite prevention and treatment tools that can be employed by health care workers stationed at rural, community clinics.

McBride, E., I. C. Winder, and W. Wüster. 2023. What Bit the Ancient Egyptians? Niche Modelling to Identify the Snakes Described in the Brooklyn Medical Papyrus. Environmental Archaeology: 1–14.

The Brooklyn Papyrus is a medical treatise from Ancient Egypt (∼660–330 BCE) focusing on snakebite. Herpetologists have proposed identifications for many of the animals it describes, but some remain uncertain partly because the species no longer live in Egypt. This paper uses niche modelling to predict the palaeodistributions of ten of these snake species, to test some proposed identifications. Occurrence records and environmental variables were used to generate maximum entropy models for each species in the present day and the mid-Holocene (∼4,000 BCE). Our models performed very well, generating AUC scores ≥0.867 and successfully predicting species’ current ranges. Nine species’ predicted palaeodistributions included areas within Ancient Egypt, and four (Bitis arietans, Dolichophis jugularis, Macrovipera lebetina and Daboia mauritanica) were within modern Egypt. Daboia palaestinae was also predicted to occupy a patch of suitable habitat inside modern Egypt, but separate from the species’ core range. The tenth species, Causus rhombeatus, would have been present in kingdoms that were the Ancient Egyptians’ regular trading partners. We therefore conclude that all ten species modelled in this study could have bitten Ancient Egyptian people. Our study demonstrates the usefulness of niche modelling in informing debates about the species ancient cultures may have interacted with.

Groh, S. S., P. Upchurch, J. J. Day, and P. M. Barrett. 2023. The biogeographic history of neosuchian crocodiles and the impact of saltwater tolerance variability. Royal Society Open Science 10.

Extant neosuchian crocodiles are represented by only 24 taxa that are confined to the tropics and subtropics. However, at other intervals during their 200 Myr evolutionary history the clade reached considerably higher levels of species-richness, matched by more widespread distributions. Neosuchians have occupied numerous habitats and niches, ranging from dwarf riverine forms to large marine predators. Despite numerous previous studies, several unsolved questions remain with respect to their biogeographic history, including the geographical origins of major groups, e.g. Eusuchia and Neosuchia itself. We carried out the most comprehensive biogeographic analysis of Neosuchia to date, based on a multivariate K-means clustering approach followed by the application of two ancestral area estimation methods (BioGeoBEARS and Bayesian ancestral location estimation) applied to two recently published phylogenies. Our results place the origin of Neosuchia in northwestern Pangaea, with subsequent radiations into Gondwana. Eusuchia probably emerged in the European archipelago during the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous, followed by dispersals to the North American and Asian landmasses. We show that putative transoceanic dispersal events are statistically significantly less likely to happen in alligatoroids. This finding is consistent with the saltwater intolerant physiology of extant alligatoroids, bolstering inferences of such intolerance in their ancestral lineages.

Leão, C. F., M. S. Lima Ribeiro, K. Moraes, G. S. R. Gonçalves, and M. G. M. Lima. 2023. Climate change and carnivores: shifts in the distribution and effectiveness of protected areas in the Amazon. PeerJ 11: e15887.

Background Carnivore mammals are animals vulnerable to human interference, such as climate change and deforestation. Their distribution and persistence are affected by such impacts, mainly in tropical regions such as the Amazon. Due to the importance of carnivores in the maintenance and functioning of the ecosystem, they are extremely important animals for conservation. We evaluated the impact of climate change on the geographic distribution of carnivores in the Amazon using Species Distribution Models (SDMs). Do we seek to answer the following questions: (1) What is the effect of climate change on the distribution of carnivores in the Amazon? (2) Will carnivore species lose or gain representation within the Protected Areas (PAs) of the Amazon in the future? Methods We evaluated the distribution area of 16 species of carnivores mammals in the Amazon, based on two future climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) for the year 2070. For the construction of the SDMs we used bioclimatic and vegetation cover variables (land type). Based on these models, we calculated the area loss and climate suitability of the species, as well as the effectiveness of the protected areas inserted in the Amazon. We estimated the effectiveness of PAs on the individual persistence of carnivores in the future, for this, we used the SDMs to perform the gap analysis. Finally, we analyze the effectiveness of PAs in protecting taxonomic richness in future scenarios. Results The SDMs showed satisfactory predictive performance, with Jaccard values above 0.85 and AUC above 0.91 for all species. In the present and for the future climate scenarios, we observe a reduction of potencial distribution in both future scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), where five species will be negatively affected by climate change in the RCP 4.5 future scenario and eight in the RCP 8.5 scenario. The remaining species stay stable in terms of total area. All species in the study showed a loss of climatic suitability. Some species lost almost all climatic suitability in the RCP 8.5 scenario. According to the GAP analysis, all species are protected within the PAs both in the current scenario and in both future climate scenarios. From the null models, we found that in all climate scenarios, the PAs are not efficient in protecting species richness.