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22 February 2017

Seven new species of Night Frogs (Anura, Nyctibatrachidae) from the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot of India, with remarkably high diversity of diminutive forms [PeerJ]

Keywords : biodiversity, taxonomy, zoology

The Night Frog genus Nyctibatrachus (Family Nyctibatrachidae) represents an endemic anuran lineage of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot, India. Until now, it included 28 recognised species, of which more than half were described recently over the last five years. Our amphibian explorations have further revealed the presence of undescribed species of Nights Frogs in the southern Western Ghats. Based on integrated molecular, morphological and bioacoustic evidence, seven new species are formally described here (...)

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20 February 2017

Dispersal assembly of rain forest tree communities across the Amazon basin [PNAS]

Keywords : Amazonia, biogeography, community assembly, phylogenetic structure, tropical trees

The Amazon is largely covered by contiguous rain forest. Nevertheless, previous studies have suggested that past geological and climatic events, as well as limited seed dispersal, may have restricted the movement of tree lineages across the Amazon. Using a phylogenetic approach, we show that dispersal into local communities and larger regions in the Amazon appears to not have been limited on evolutionary timescales, but instead, local communities have been assembled by lineages from across the Amazon. These results contrast with those from seasonally dry tropical forests, where closely related species are clustered in geographic space. Furthermore, our results suggest a role for dispersal as an initiator for geographic isolation that might lead to speciation in Amazonian trees.

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20 February 2017

Cross-realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : climate-change ecology, community ecology, macroecology, population dynamics

Climate change, land-use change, pollution and exploitation are among the main drivers of species’ population trends; however, their relative importance is much debated. We used a unique collection of over 1,000 local population time series in 22 communities across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms within central Europe to compare the impacts of long-term temperature change and other environmental drivers from 1980 onwards. To disentangle different drivers, we related species’ population trends to species- and driver-specific attributes, such as temperature and habitat preference or pollution tolerance. We found a consistent impact of temperature change on the local abundances of terrestrial species. Populations of warm-dwelling species increased more than those of cold-dwelling species. In contrast, impacts of temperature change on aquatic species’ abundances were variable.(...)

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20 February 2017

Cooperation facilitates the colonization of harsh environments [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : behavioural ecology, ecosystem ecology, phylogenetics, social evolution

Animals living in harsh environments, where temperatures are hot and rainfall is unpredictable, are more likely to breed in cooperative groups. As a result, harsh environmental conditions have been accepted as a key factor explaining the evolution of cooperation. However, this is based on evidence that has not investigated the order of evolutionary events, so the inferred causality could be incorrect. We resolved this problem using phylogenetic analyses of 4,707 bird species and found that causation was in the opposite direction to that previously assumed. (...)

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20 February 2017

Behavioral Diversity (Ethodiversity): A Neglected Level in the Study of Biodiversity [Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution]

The concept of biodiversity embraces a multifaceted and hierarchical analysis of the complexity of life, with implications in many areas of science, philosophy, ethics, politics, and even religion. Three levels are included in the commonly accepted definitions: genetical, species, and ecosystem diversity, going from the intraspecific level to the landscape. Here, I argue that a fourth level, never included in biodiversity studies, is of prominent relevance: ethological diversity or “ethodiversity.” There is a growing number of studies describing alternative behaviors, behavioral plasticity, learning, and even personality, as characteristics of animal populations or individuals. Ethodiversity is also relevant in unraveling cryptic biodiversity, such as species that differ in their behavior but are otherwise undistinguishable. Maintaining ethodiversity is therefore essential in conservation, and cannot be achieved simply by focusing on genetic diversity.(...)

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