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Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants.

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Maurin, O., A. Anest, F. Forest, I. Turner, R. L. Barrett, R. C. Cowan, L. Wang, et al. 2023. Drift in the tropics: Phylogenetics and biogeographical patterns in Combretaceae. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim The aim of this study was to further advance our understanding of the species-rich, and ecologically important angiosperm family Combretaceae to provide new insights into their evolutionary history. We assessed phylogenetic relationships in the family using target capture data and produced a dated phylogenetic tree to assess fruit dispersal modes and patterns of distribution. Location Tropical and subtropical regions. Time Period Cretaceous to present. Major Taxa Studied Family Combretaceae is a member of the rosid clade and comprises 10 genera and more than 500 species, predominantly assigned to genera Combretum and Terminalia, and occurring on all continents and in a wide range of ecosystems. Methods We use a target capture approach and the Angiosperms353 universal probes to reconstruct a robust dated phylogenetic tree for the family. This phylogenetic framework, combined with seed dispersal traits, biome data and biogeographic ranges, allows the reconstruction of the biogeographical history of the group. Results Ancestral range reconstructions suggest a Gondwanan origin (Africa/South America), with several intercontinental dispersals within the family and few transitions between biomes. Relative abundance of fruit dispersal types differed by both continent and biome. However, intercontinental colonizations were only significantly enhanced by water dispersal (drift fruit), and there was no evidence that seed dispersal modes influenced biome shifts. Main Conclusions Our analysis reveals a paradox as drift fruit greatly enhanced dispersal distances at intercontinental scale but did not affect the strong biome conservatism observed.

Hill, A., M. F. T. Jiménez, N. Chazot, C. Cássia‐Silva, S. Faurby, L. Herrera‐Alsina, and C. D. Bacon. 2023. Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser. Location Global. Time Period Contemporary (or present). Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae). Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models. Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates. Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.

Simons, D., L. A. Attfield, K. E. Jones, D. Watson-Jones, and R. Kock. 2023. Rodent trapping studies as an overlooked information source for understanding endemic and novel zoonotic spillover R. A. Bowen [ed.],. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 17: e0010772.

Rodents, a diverse, globally distributed and ecologically important order of mammals are nevertheless important reservoirs of known and novel zoonotic pathogens. Ongoing anthropogenic land use change is altering these species’ abundance and distribution, which among zoonotic host species may increase the risk of zoonoses spillover events. A better understanding of the current distribution of rodent species is required to guide attempts to mitigate against potentially increased zoonotic disease hazard and risk. However, available species distribution and host-pathogen association datasets (e.g. IUCN, GBIF, CLOVER) are often taxonomically and spatially biased. Here, we synthesise data from West Africa from 127 rodent trapping studies, published between 1964–2022, as an additional source of information to characterise the range and presence of rodent species and identify the subgroup of species that are potential or known pathogen hosts. We identify that these rodent trapping studies, although biased towards human dominated landscapes across West Africa, can usefully complement current rodent species distribution datasets and we calculate the discrepancies between these datasets. For five regionally important zoonotic pathogens (Arenaviridae spp., Borrelia spp., Lassa mammarenavirus, Leptospira spp. and Toxoplasma gondii), we identify host-pathogen associations that have not been previously reported in host-association datasets. Finally, for these five pathogen groups, we find that the proportion of a rodent hosts range that have been sampled remains small with geographic clustering. A priority should be to sample rodent hosts across a greater geographic range to better characterise current and future risk of zoonotic spillover events. In the interim, studies of spatial pathogen risk informed by rodent distributions must incorporate a measure of the current sampling biases. The current synthesis of contextually rich rodent trapping data enriches available information from IUCN, GBIF and CLOVER which can support a more complete understanding of the hazard of zoonotic spillover events.

Boeschoten, L. E., U. Sass-Klaassen, M. Vlam, R. N. J. Comans, G. F. Koopmans, B. R. V. Meyer-Sand, S. N. Tassiamba, et al. 2022. Clay and soil organic matter drive wood multi-elemental composition of a tropical tree species: Implications for timber tracing. Science of The Total Environment 849: 157877.

Forensic methods to independently trace timber origin are essential to combat illegal timber trade. Tracing product origin by analysing their multi-element composition has been successfully applied in several commodities, but its potential for timber is not yet known. To evaluate this potential the drivers of wood multi-elemental composition need to be studied. Here we report on the first study relating wood multi-elemental composition of forest trees to soil chemical and physical properties.We studied the reactive soil element pools and the multi-elemental composition in sapwood and heartwood for 37 Azobé (Lophira alata) trees at two forest sites in Cameroon. A total of 46 elements were measured using ICP-MS. We also measured three potential drivers of soil and wood elemental composition: clay content, soil organic matter and pH. We tested associations between soil and wood using multiple regressions and multivariate analyses (Mantel test, db-RDA). Finally, we performed a Random Forest analysis of heartwood elemental composition to check site assignment accuracy.We found elemental compositions of soil, sapwood and heartwood to be significantly associated. Soil clay content and organic matter positively influenced individual element concentrations (for 13 and 9 elements out of 46 respectively) as well as the multi-elemental composition in wood. However, associations between wood and topsoil elemental concentrations were only significant for one element. We found close associations between element concentrations and composition in sapwood and heartwood. Lastly, the Random Forest assignment success was 97.3 %.Our findings indicate that wood elemental composition is associated with that in the topsoil and its variation is related to soil clay and organic matter content. These associations suggests that the multi-elemental composition of wood can yield chemical fingerprints obtained from sites that differ in soil properties. This finding in addition to the high assignment accuracy shows potential of multi-element analysis for tracing wood origin.

Freitas, C., F. T. Brum, C. Cássia-Silva, L. Maracahipes, M. B. Carlucci, R. G. Collevatti, and C. D. Bacon. 2021. Incongruent Spatial Distribution of Taxonomic, Phylogenetic, and Functional Diversity in Neotropical Cocosoid Palms. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 4.

Biodiversity can be quantified by taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity. Current evidence points to a lack of congruence between the spatial distribution of these facets due to evolutionary and ecological constraints. A lack of congruence is especially evident between phylogenetic and ta…

Xue, T., S. R. Gadagkar, T. P. Albright, X. Yang, J. Li, C. Xia, J. Wu, and S. Yu. 2021. Prioritizing conservation of biodiversity in an alpine region: Distribution pattern and conservation status of seed plants in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Global Ecology and Conservation 32: e01885.

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) harbors abundant and diverse plant life owing to its high habitat heterogeneity. However, the distribution pattern of biodiversity hotspots and their conservation status remain unclear. Based on 148,283 high-resolution occurrence coordinates of 13,450 seed plants, w…

TREVIÑO-ZEVALLOS, I., I. GARCÍA-CUNCHILLOS, and C. LADO. 2021. New records of Myxomycetes (Amoebozoa) from the tropical Andes. Phytotaxa 522: 231–239.

The Myxomycetes comprise a remarkably diverse group of organisms within Amoebozoa, with over 1000 species currently recognized. These organisms, at the end of their life cycles produce fruiting bodies which are the basis for their systematics. Despite being a biodiversity hotspot, the tropical Andes…

McManamay, R. A., C. R. Vernon, and H. I. Jager. 2021. Global Biodiversity Implications of Alternative Electrification Strategies Under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. Biological Conservation 260: 109234.

Addressing climate mitigation while meeting global electrification goals will require major transitions from fossil-fuel dependence to large-scale renewable energy deployment. However, renewables require significant land assets per unit energy and could come at high cost to ecosystems, creating pote…

Farooq, H., J. A. R. Azevedo, A. Soares, A. Antonelli, and S. Faurby. 2020. Mapping Africa’s Biodiversity: More of the Same Is Just Not Good Enough S. Ruane [ed.],. Systematic Biology 70: 623–633.

Species distribution data are fundamental to the understanding of biodiversity patterns and processes. Yet, such data are strongly affected by sampling biases, mostly related to site accessibility. The understanding of these biases is therefore crucial in systematics, biogeography and conservation. …