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Owen, E., M. Zuliani, M. Goldgisser, and C. Lortie. 2024. The importance of native shrubs on the distribution and diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the central drylands of Southwestern USA. Biodiversity and Conservation 33: 2131–2151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-024-02851-8

Conservation and management of drylands is a global challenge. Key attributes of these ecosystems, such as dominant vegetation including shrubs, can provide a crucial mechanism to inform conservation strategies. The shrub species Ephedra californica and Larrea tridentata are common native shrub species within the deserts of California and frequently benefit other plant and animal species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that shrubs support reptile and amphibian communities through relative increases in available habitat, estimated through increasing shrub densities at the site level. Reported occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and high-resolution satellite images were used to test for local-to-regional patterns in reptile and amphibian distribution and diversity by shrub densities at sites. At 43 distinct sites, the relationship between shrub density and reported reptile and amphibian communities was also tested. A total of 71 reptile and amphibian species were reported regionally. Increases in shrub density across sites positively influenced the relative abundance and richness of reptiles and amphibians observed. Moreover, increasing shrub density also had a positive influence on species evenness. Aridity differences between sites did not significantly influence the relationship between shrub density and reptiles and amphibians suggesting that the relationship was robust. This study highlights the importance of foundational shrub species in supporting reptile and amphibian communities in arid and semi-arid regions. Large-scale patterns of biodiversity in deserts can be supported by positive plant-animal interactions including small islands of fertility and resources for animals in the context of a warming climate.

Silveira, P., F. G. de Sousa, P. Böning, N. M. Maciel, J. Stropp, and S. Lötters. 2024. Do aposematic species have larger range sizes? A case study with neotropical poison frogs. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14843

AbstractAimAposematic animals, i.e., those that are defended and warn potential predators through signals, are suggested to have resource‐gathering advantages against non‐aposematic ones. We here explore this in a biogeographic framework expecting that aposematic species are better dispersers, which translates into larger geographic range size.LocationSouth America.TaxonPoison frogs (Amphibia; Aromobatidae and Dendrobatidae).MethodsWe use 43 toxic and 26 non‐toxic poison frog species from the lowlands only as representatives of aposematic and non‐aposematic study organisms, respectively. Realised and potential geographic ranges are calculated using minimum convex polygon and species distribution modelling methods, respectively. Accounting for species body size and phylogeny, we test if both range and aposematism are correlated using linear mixed‐effects models.ResultsAposematic and non‐aposematic species neither differ in realised nor in potential geographic range size. There was no effect on body size.Main ConclusionsThe role of aposematism is not yet as clear as suggested and determinants of poison frog range sizes are multifaceted. A more integrative approach is needed using the information on behaviour, predation risk, and reproductive biology to assess the role of aposematism on observed species distributions. Such data are not yet available for most species, neither poison frogs nor other aposematic animals.

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. https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836241231446

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.

Brunner, A., J. R. G. Márquez, and S. Domisch. 2024. Downscaling future land cover scenarios for freshwater fish distribution models under climate change. Limnologica 104: 126139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.limno.2023.126139

The decreasing freshwater biodiversity trend can be attributed to anthropogenic impacts in terms of climate and land cover change. For targeted conservation efforts, mapping and understanding the distribution of freshwater organisms consists of an important knowledge gap. Spatial modelling approaches offer valuable insights into present-day biodiversity patterns and potential future trajectories, however methodological constraints still hamper the applicability of addressing future climate and land cover change concurrently in one modelling workflow. Compared to climate-only projections, spatially explicit and high-resolution land cover projections have seen less attention, and the lack of such data challenges modelling efforts to predict the possible future effects of land cover change especially on freshwater organisms. Here we demonstrate a workflow where we downscale future land cover projection data from the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) scenarios for South America at 1 km2 spatial resolution, to then predict the future habitat suitability patterns of the Colombian fish fauna. Specifically, we show how the land cover data can be converted from plain numbers into a spatially explicit representation for multiple SSP scenarios and at high spatial resolution, employing freshwater-specific downscaling aspects when spatially allocating the land cover category grid cells, and how it can be fitted into an ensemble species distribution modelling approach of 1209 fish species. Our toolbox consists of a suite of open-source tools, including Dinamica EGO, R, GRASS GIS and GDAL, and we provide the code and necessary steps to reproduce the workflow for other study areas. We highlight the feasibility of the downscaling, but also underline the potential challenges regarding the spatial scale and the size of the spatial units of analysis.

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. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.230725

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.

Nekrasova, O. D., O. Yu. Marushchak, M. Pupins, K. M. Bolotova, A. Čeirāns, and A. Skute. 2023. Phenotypic Study of Population and Distribution of the Poecilia reticulata (Cyprinodontiformes, Poeciliidae) from Kyiv Sewage System (Ukraine). zoodiversity 57: 301–310. https://doi.org/10.15407/zoo2023.04.301

This paper presents the original data on studies of populations of guppies on the territory of Ukraine on the example of those of them surviving for many years in the drainage system of Kyiv. For 10 years, wild populations of guppies and their morphological features were studied in the warm water flows of the Bortnychi aeration station in Kyiv (2011–2020). During this period, the original “key” was developed to describe the morphology of their coloration peculiarities, which includes: total length, the number of pattern and coloration elements (4 types, 9 elements), pigmented area (light — orange, dark, pigmentation index), the shape and pigmentation of the tail (6 types) and its asymmetry At present, in the countries of Eastern Europe, the species is not adapted to any waters in the wild due to low winter temperatures, but these fish have become well established in sewage and other warm water bodies in urbanized areas (cities, towns, factories, etc.). We described the places where this invasive species had been found for many years, highlighting its key features. Thanks to GIS modelling, it was revealed that the existence of wild populations of guppies in Ukraine and Latvia is possible only in warm waters (currently mainly sewage systems of big cities) within anthropogenic territories. Such a key and study of relatively isolated populations of invasive species will provide a deeper understanding of micro-evolution of their morphological features (coloration) in isolation, help to track distribution of invasive species in a changing climate and provide material for comparison with possible similar invasions in areas heavily affected by military actions.

Luza, A. L., A. V. Rodrigues, L. Mamalis, and V. Zulian. 2023. Spatial distribution of the greater rhea, Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758), in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil: citizen-science data, probabilistic mapping, and comparison with expert knowledge. Ornithology Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43388-023-00143-3

The popularization of citizen-science platforms has increased the amount of data available in a fine spatial and temporal resolution, which can be used to fill distribution knowledge gaps through probabilistic maps. In this study, we gathered expert-based information and used species distribution models to produce two independent maps of the greater rhea ( Rhea americana , Rheiformes, Rheidae) distribution in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. We integrated municipality level detection/non-detection data from five citizen-science datasets into a Bayesian site occupancy model, accounting for false negatives, sampling effort, habitat covariates, and spatial autocorrelation. We addressed whether habitat (grassland and crop field cover, number of rural properties) and spatial autocorrelation explains the realized occurrence of the species and compared model-based and expert-based occurrence maps. The mean estimated percentage of occupied municipalities was 48% (239 out of 497 municipalities), whereas experts declared 21% of the municipalities (103) as occupied by the species. While both mapping approaches showed greater rhea presence in most municipalities of the Pampa biome, they disagreed in the majority of the municipalities in the Atlantic Forest, where more fieldwork must be undertaken. The greater rhea distribution was exclusively explained by the spatial autocorrelation component, suggesting that the species expanded its distribution towards the north of the state, reaching the Atlantic Forest, following deforestation and agriculture expansion.

Montana, K. O., V. Ramírez-Castañeda, and R. D. Tarvin. 2023. Are Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) Resistant to Tetrodotoxin (TTX)? Characterizing Potential TTX Exposure and Resistance in an Ecological Associate of Pacific Newts (Taricha). Journal of Herpetology 57. https://doi.org/10.1670/22-002

Animals that frequently encounter toxins often develop mechanisms of toxin resistance over evolutionary time. Both predators that consume toxic prey and organisms in physical contact with a toxin in their environment may experience natural selection for resistance. Based on observations that Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) sometimes eat and mistakenly amplect tetrodotoxin (TTX)-defended Taricha newts, we predicted that P. regilla may possess TTX resistance. We compared amino acid sequences of domain IV of the muscle voltage-gated sodium channel gene SCN4A (NaV1.4) in populations of P. regilla that are sympatric and allopatric with Taricha. We identified a single substitution in NaV1.4 of P. regilla at a conserved site in the pore loop where TTX binds. Although the role of this site in TTX resistance has not been functionally assessed, both allopatric and sympatric P. regilla had this substitution, along with several other reptiles and amphibians, suggesting that it may be unrelated to TTX exposure from Taricha. Thus, there is no conclusive evidence that P. regilla possesses TTX resistance encoded by amino acid substitutions in this domain. California occurrence data from the last 50 yr indicate that Taricha activity peaks in January while the activity of P. regilla peaks in April, with times where the species may come into contact. However, P. regilla may not be exposed to levels of TTX from Taricha high enough to select for mutations in NaV1.4. Other unidentified mechanisms of TTX resistance could be present in P. regilla and other species sympatric with toxic newts.

Long, J. M., and L. Seguy. 2023. Global Status of Non-Native Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmoides, Centrachidae) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus Dolomieu, Centrarchidae): Disparate Views as Beloved Sportfish and Feared Invader. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture: 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/23308249.2023.2244078

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides, LMB) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu, SMB) are among the most highly invasive species across the globe, but are simultaneously among the most highly sought-after game fish. To explain these disparate views, data on invasive status and angling participation of these two species were compiled at the country level. Largemouth Bass were found established in 62 countries on five continents, whereas SMB were found established in only nine countries on the same five continents. Invasive risk assessments were disparate between the species, with more for SMB (N = 29) than LMB (N = 27). In every instance save one (Finland), SMB were considered “invasive” compared to LMB, which were “invasive” in only 74% of assessments. Twenty-eight countries with non-native black bass have groups that participate in high-profile fishing tournament such the Black Bass World Championship, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsmans Society) Nation, and Major League Fishing. Most countries with fishing tournaments occur in countries with established LMB populations than in countries with established SMB populations, suggesting a greater economic importance on LMB fishing. The struggle between conserving biodiversity and relying upon economic benefits from fishing for introduced species is a wicked problem likely to continue into the future.

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.