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Luna-Aranguré, C., and E. Vázquez-Domínguez. 2024. Bears into the Niche-Space: Phylogeography and Phyloclimatic Model of the Family Ursidae. Diversity 16: 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/d16040223

Assessing niche evolution remains an open question and an actively developing area of study. The family Ursidae consists of eight extant species for which, despite being the most studied family of carnivores, little is known about the influence of climate on their evolutionary history and diversification. We evaluated their evolutionary patterns based on a combined phylogeography and niche modeling approach. We used complete mitogenomes, estimated divergence times, generated ecological niche models and applied a phyloclimatic model to determine the species evolutionary and diversification patterns associated with their respective environmental niches. We inferred the family evolutionary path along the environmental conditions of maximum temperature and minimum precipitation, from around 20 million years ago to the present. Our findings show that the phyloclimatic niches of the bear species occupy most of the environmental space available on the planet, except for the most extreme warm conditions, in accordance with the wide geographic distribution of Ursidae. Moreover, some species exhibit broader environmental niches than others, and in some cases, they explore precipitation axes more extensively than temperature axes or vice versa, suggesting that not all species are equally adaptable to these variables. We were able to elucidate potential patterns of niche conservatism and evolution, as well as niche overlapping, suggesting interspecific competitive exclusion between some of the bear species. We present valuable insights into the ecological and evolutionary processes driving the diversification and distribution of the Ursidae. Our approach also provides essential information for guiding effective conservation strategies, particularly in terms of distribution limits in the face of climate change.

DuBose, T. P., V. Catalan, C. E. Moore, V. R. Farallo, A. L. Benson, J. L. Dade, W. A. Hopkins, and M. C. Mims. 2024. Thermal Traits of Anurans Database for the Southeastern United States (TRAD): A Database of Thermal Trait Values for 40 Anuran Species. Ichthyology & Herpetology 112. https://doi.org/10.1643/h2022102

Thermal traits, or how an animal responds to changing temperatures, impacts species persistence and thus biodiversity. Trait databases, as repositories of consolidated, measured organismal attributes, allow researchers to link study species with specific trait values, enabling comparisons within and among species. Trait databases also help lay the groundwork to build mechanistic linkages between organisms and the environment. However, missing or hidden physiological trait data preclude building mechanistic estimates of climate change vulnerability for many species. Thus, physiologically focused trait databases present an opportunity to consolidate data and enable species-specific or multispecies, mechanistic evaluations of climate change vulnerability. Here, we present TRAD: thermal traits of anurans database for the southeastern United States, a database of thermal trait values related to physiological thermoregulation (critical thermal minima and maxima, preferred temperature), behavioral thermoregulation (activity period, retreat emergence temperature, basking temperature, minimum and maximum foraging temperatures), and body mass for 37 anuran species found within the southeastern United States. In total, TRAD contains 858 reported trait values for 37 of 40 species found in the region from 267 peer-reviewed papers, dissertations, or theses and is easily linked with trait data available in ATraiU, an ecological trait database for anurans in the United States. TRAD contains trait values for multiple life stages and a summarization of interspecific adult trait values. Availability of trait data varied widely among traits and species. Estimates of mass were the most common trait values reported, with values available for 32 species. Behavioral trait values comprised 23% of our database, with activity period available for 34 species. We found the most trait values for Cope's Gray Treefrog (Dryophytes chrysoscelis), with at least one trait value for eight traits in the database. Conversely, species in the genus Pseudacris generally had the fewest trait values available. Species with the largest geographic range sizes also had the greatest coverage of data across traits (rho 5 0.75, P , 0.001). TRAD can aid studies of anuran response to changing temperatures, physiological niche space and limitations, and potential drivers of anuran geographic range limits, influencing our understanding of other ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes and enabling multispecies comparisons of potential risk and resilience in the face of climate change.

Pérez-Botello, A. M., W. Dáttilo, and N. Simões. 2023. Geographic range size and species morphology determines the organization of sponge host-guest interaction networks across tropical coral reefs. PeerJ 11: e16381. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.16381

Sponges are widely spread organisms in the tropical reefs of the American Northwest-Atlantic Ocean, they structure ecosystems and provide services such as shelter, protection from predators, and food sources to a wide diversity of both vertebrates and invertebrates species. The high diversity of sponge-associated fauna can generate complex networks of species interactions over small and large spatial-temporal gradients. One way to start uncovering the organization of the sponge host-guest complex networks is to understand how the accumulated geographic area, the sponge morphology and, sponge taxonomy contributes to the connectivity of sponge species within such networks. This study is a meta-analysis based on previous sponge host-guest literature obtained in 65 scientific publications, yielding a total of 745 host-guest interactions between sponges and their associated fauna across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. We analyzed the sponge species contribution to network organization in the Northwest Tropical Atlantic coral reefs by using the combination of seven complementary species-level descriptors and related this importance with three main traits, sponge-accumulated geographic area, functional sponge morphology, and sponges’ taxonomy bias. In general, we observed that sponges with a widespread distribution and a higher accumulated geographic area had a greater network structural contribution. Similarly, we also found that Cup-like and Massive functional morphologies trend to be shapes with a greater contribution to the interaction network organization compared to the Erect and Crust-like morphos. Lastly, we did not detect a taxonomy bias between interaction network organization and sponges’ orders. These results highlight the importance of a specific combination of sponge traits to promote the diversity of association between reef sponges and their guest species.

Ortiz-Acosta, M. Á., J. Galindo-González, A. A. Castro-Luna, and C. Mota-Vargas. 2023. Potential distribution of marsupials (Didelphimorphia: Didelphidae) in Mexico under 2 climate change scenarios M. Vieira [ed.],. Journal of Mammalogy. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyad101

Climate change is one of the main threats to biodiversity in the 21st century. However, the effects that it may have on different mammal species are unknown, making it difficult to implement conservation strategies. In this paper, we used species distribution models (SDM) to assess the effect of global climate change on the potential distribution of the 8 of the 9 marsupial species in Mexico, and analyzed their distribution in the current system of natural protected areas (NPAs). We used presence records for each species and bioclimatic variables from the present and the future (2050 and 2080) with 2 contrasting possible scenarios (representative concentration pathways RCP 4.5 and 8.5). We found that Tlacuatzin canescens would have the most stable potential range under any climate change scenario, while the remaining species (Caluromys derbianus, Chironectes minimus, Didelphis marsupialis, D. virginiana, Philander opossum, Marmosa mexicana, and Metachirus nudicaudatus) would undergo notable range losses in the future, though there would not only be losses—according to our SDMs, for all species there would be some range gain under the different climate scenarios, assuming the vegetation cover remained. The current system of NPAs in Mexico currently protects and under the 2 future scenarios would protect less than 20% of the potential range of marsupials, so a reevaluation of their areas beyond the NPAs is highly recommended for the long-term conservation of this group. Our results provide relevant information on the estimated effects of global climate change on marsupials, allowing us to design more effective methodologies for the protection of this portion of the mammalian fauna in Mexico.

Vázquez-Rueda, E., A. P. Cuervo-Robayo, and J. Ayala-Berdon. 2023. Forest dependency could be more important than dispersal capacity for habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats inhabiting a highly anthropized region in central Mexico. Mammal Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-023-00707-0

The maintenance, restoration, and improvement of habitat structure are critical for biodiversity conservation. Under this context, studies assessing habitat connectivity become essential, especially those focused on anthropized regions holding high species richness. We calculated the habitat connectivity of four species of insectivorous bats with different dispersal capacity and habitat preferences in a highly anthropized region in central Mexico, Idionycteris phyllotis and Myotis thysanodes , with a high dispersal capacity and forest-dependency, and Eptesicus fuscus with a low dispersal capacity, and Tadarida brasiliensis with a high dispersal capacity, as the more tolerant bat species to anthropogenic disturbance. We developed niche-based species distribution models to identify suitable habitat patches for each species. We then assessed habitat connectivity and the importance of suitable habitat patches for maintaining connectivity using a graph theory approach. Our results showed that forest dependency was most important than dispersal capacity for connectivity. We also found that the Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl mountain, a National Park comprising 4.2% of natural vegetation in the study area, was the most critical patch for maintaining connectivity for most of the study species. Our study demonstrates the importance of conserving the remnants of natural vegetation for maintaining habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape and demonstrates the importance of conserving protected areas as well as other remnants of vegetation for the maintenance of habitat connectivity within a fragmented landscape.

Cruz, J. A., J. A. Velasco, J. Arroyo-Cabrales, and E. Johnson. 2023. Paleoclimatic Reconstruction Based on the Late Pleistocene San Josecito Cave Stratum 720 Fauna Using Fossil Mammals, Reptiles, and Birds. Diversity 15: 881. https://doi.org/10.3390/d15070881

Advances in technology have equipped paleobiologists with new analytical tools to assess the fossil record. The functional traits of vertebrates have been used to infer paleoenvironmental conditions. In Quaternary deposits, birds are the second-most-studied group after mammals. They are considered a poor paleoambiental proxy because their high vagility and phenotypic plasticity allow them to respond more effectively to climate change. Investigating multiple groups is important, but it is not often attempted. Biogeographical and climatic niche information concerning small mammals, reptiles, and birds have been used to infer the paleoclimatic conditions present during the Late Pleistocene at San Josecito Cave (~28,000 14C years BP), Mexico. Warmer and dryer conditions are inferred with respect to the present. The use of all of the groups of small vertebrates is recommended because they represent an assemblage of species that have gone through a series of environmental filters in the past. Individually, different vertebrate groups provide different paleoclimatic information. Birds are a good proxy for inferring paleoprecipitation but not paleotemperature. Together, reptiles and small mammals are a good proxy for inferring paleoprecipitation and paleotemperature, but reptiles alone are a bad proxy, and mammals alone are a good proxy for inferring paleotemperature and precipitation. The current paleoclimatic results coupled with those of a previous vegetation structure analysis indicate the presence of non-analog paleoenvironmental conditions during the Late Pleistocene in the San Josecito Cave area. This situation would explain the presence of a disharmonious fauna and the extinction of several taxa when these conditions later disappeared and do not reappear again.

Quillfeldt, P., Y. Bedolla-Guzmán, M. M. Libertelli, Y. Cherel, M. Massaro, and P. Bustamante. 2023. Mercury in Ten Storm-Petrel Populations from the Antarctic to the Subtropics. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-023-01011-3

The oceans become increasingly contaminated as a result of global industrial production and consumer behaviour, and this affects wildlife in areas far removed from sources of pollution. Migratory seabirds such as storm-petrels may forage in areas with different contaminant levels throughout the annual cycle and may show a carry-over of mercury from the winter quarters to the breeding sites. In this study, we compared mercury levels among seven species of storm-petrels breeding on the Antarctic South Shetlands and subantarctic Kerguelen Islands, in temperate waters of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, and in temperate waters of the Pacific off Mexico. We tested for differences in the level of contamination associated with breeding and inter-breeding distribution and trophic position. We collected inert body feathers and metabolically active blood samples in ten colonies, reflecting long-term (feathers) and short-term (blood) exposures during different periods ranging from early non-breeding (moult) to late breeding. Feathers represent mercury accumulated over the annual cycle between two successive moults. Mercury concentrations in feathers ranged over more than an order of magnitude among species, being lowest in subantarctic Grey-backed Storm-petrels (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in subtropical Leach’s Storm-petrels (7.6 μg g −1 dw, i.e. posing a moderate toxicological risk). Among Antarctic Storm-petrels, Black-bellied Storm-petrels had threefold higher values than Wilson’s Storm-petrels, and in both species, birds from the South Shetlands (Antarctica) had threefold higher values than birds from Kerguelen (subantarctic Indian Ocean). Blood represents mercury taken up over several weeks, and showed similar trends, being lowest in Grey-backed Storm-petrels from Kerguelen (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in Leach’s Storm-petrels (3.6 μg g −1 dw). Among Antarctic storm-petrels, species differences in the blood samples were similar to those in feathers, but site differences were less consistent. Over the breeding season, mercury decreased in blood samples of Antarctic Wilson’s Storm-petrels, but did not change in Wilson’s Storm-petrels from Kerguelen or in Antarctic Black-bellied Storm-petrels. In summary, we found that mercury concentrations in storm-petrels varied due to the distribution of species and differences in prey choice. Depending on prey choices, Antarctic storm-petrels can have similar mercury concentrations as temperate species. The lowest contamination was observed in subantarctic species and populations. The study shows how seabirds, which accumulate dietary pollutants in their tissues in the breeding and non-breeding seasons, can be used to survey marine pollution. Storm-petrels with their wide distributions and relatively low trophic levels may be especially useful, but more detailed knowledge on their prey choice and distributions is needed.

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14683

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.

Bharti, D. K., P. Y. Pawar, G. D. Edgecombe, and J. Joshi. 2023. Genetic diversity varies with species traits and latitude in predatory soil arthropods (Myriapoda: Chilopoda). Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13709

Aim To investigate the drivers of intra-specific genetic diversity in centipedes, a group of ancient predatory soil arthropods. Location Asia, Australasia and Europe. Time Period Present. Major Taxa Studied Centipedes (Class: Chilopoda). Methods We assembled a database of 1245 mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I sequences representing 128 centipede species from all five orders of Chilopoda. This sequence dataset was used to estimate genetic diversity for centipede species and compare its distribution with estimates from other arthropod groups. We studied the variation in centipede genetic diversity with species traits and biogeography using a beta regression framework, controlling for the effect of shared evolutionary history within a family. Results A wide variation in genetic diversity across centipede species (0–0.1713) falls towards the higher end of values among arthropods. Overall, 27.57% of the variation in mitochondrial COI genetic diversity in centipedes was explained by a combination of predictors related to life history and biogeography. Genetic diversity decreased with body size and latitudinal position of sampled localities, was greater in species showing maternal care and increased with geographic distance among conspecifics. Main Conclusions Centipedes fall towards the higher end of genetic diversity among arthropods, which may be related to their long evolutionary history and low dispersal ability. In centipedes, the negative association of body size with genetic diversity may be mediated by its influence on local abundance or the influence of ecological strategy on long-term population history. Species with maternal care had higher genetic diversity, which goes against expectations and needs further scrutiny. Hemispheric differences in genetic diversity can be due to historic climatic stability and lower seasonality in the southern hemisphere. Overall, we find that despite the differences in mean genetic diversity among animals, similar processes related to life-history strategy and biogeography are associated with the variation within them.

Cunze, S., S. Klimpel, and J. Kochmann. 2023. Land cover and climatic conditions as potential drivers of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) distribution in North America and Europe. European Journal of Wildlife Research 69. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-023-01679-x

The raccoon is listed among the invasive alien species of EU concern requiring management actions. Projections of its global distribution have been mainly based on climatic variables so far. In this study, we aim to address the impact of land cover (LC) on the raccoon distribution in North America and Europe. First, we identified the LC types in which the observation sites are predominantly located to derive preferred LC types. Second, we used an ecological niche modelling (ENM) approach to evaluate the predictive power of climatic and LC information on the current distribution patterns of raccoons in both ranges. Raccoons seem to be more often associated to forested areas and mixed landscapes, including cropland and urban areas, but underrepresented in vegetation-poor areas, with patterns largely coinciding in both ranges. In order to compare the predictive power of climate variables and land cover variables, we conducted principal component analyses of all variables in the respective variable sets (climate variables and land cover variables) and used all PC variables that together explain 90% of the total variance in the respective set as predictors. Land cover only models resulted in patchy patterns in the projected habitat suitabilities and showed a higher performance compared to the climate only models in both ranges. In Europe, the land cover habitat suitability seems to exceed the current observed occurrences, which could indicate a further spread potential of the raccoon in Europe. We conclude that information on land cover types are important drivers, which explain well the spatial patterns of the raccoon. Consideration of land cover could benefit efforts to control invasive carnivores and contribute to better management of biodiversity, but also human and animal health.