Manatee Road, FL, United States
Manatee Road, FL, United States

Time filter

Source Type

News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: phys.org

Collecting data from the shells of dead mollusks is a low-cost, low-impact way of glimpsing how oceans looked before pollution, habitat loss, acidification and explosive algae growth threatened marine life worldwide. Mollusk fossils can inform current and future conservation and restoration efforts, said Michal Kowalewski, the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and the study's principal investigator. "These fossils are like marine time machines that can unveil bygone habitats that existed before humans altered them," he said. "Shells can help us understand past marine life and more precisely gauge recent changes in marine ecosystems. Fossils are the only direct way of learning what these ecosystems looked like before human activities altered them." Because mollusks, such as conchs, oysters and mussels, are abundant and often have sturdy shells, their remains litter much of the Earth's sea floor. These mollusk graveyards offer a treasure trove of information about the state of oceans over thousands of years, recording patterns in the diversity and distribution of marine animals across and within habitats with surprising accuracy, said Carrie Tyler, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the museum and is now an assistant professor of invertebrate paleontology at the Miami University of Ohio. Many scientists have questioned whether mollusks alone can provide insights into entire ecosystems. Currents and storms can carry organisms' remains away, while others are fragmented, destroyed or—in the case of soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish and worms—completely absent from the fossil record. Also, shell graveyards are often a mix of specimens from many centuries, which can muddle ecological interpretations. "The remains that do accumulate only represent part of the whole ecosystem," said Tyler, the study's lead author. "These and other factors can create bias in the fossil record, making comparisons between modern and fossil ecosystems suspect." To test mollusks' ability to faithfully record biodiversity, Tyler and Kowalewski surveyed living and dead marine animals at 51 sites off the coast of North Carolina, selecting spots that differed in environmental conditions and the kinds of species they hosted. Aiming to capture a range of habitats, the researchers surveyed inlets, estuaries and open ocean, from the coast to miles offshore. They tested whether changes in diversity from place to place were accurately recorded by the newly-forming fossil record. They also assessed whether mollusks could reflect these ecosystem-wide changes. Tyler and Kowalewski found that live and dead mollusks accurately recorded spatial diversity patterns in both living and fossil communities of marine bottom-dwelling organisms. By comparing present-day communities of marine animals to dead remains, they discovered that mollusk shells alone accurately reconstructed differences in ecosystems across habitats and correctly tracked changes in the distribution of animals from shallow to deeper waters. A unique aspect of the study, Kowalewski said, was investigating whether mollusks reliably recorded shifts in entire communities of bottom-dwelling animals across habitats and space. "If we look at many spots on the sea floor and evaluate how living bottom-dwelling animals vary in space, do we recover the same information by analyzing shell remains of only one type of organism, such as mollusks? Our data indicate that we can," he said. "The good match between dead and living organisms suggests that we can use historical data to look at not just which species existed in the past, but also whether the spatial structure of these ecosystems changed." Understanding how the diversity of species changes within habitats and from site to site across the sea floor is crucial for effectively planning protected marine areas and coastal resource management, Kowalewski said. It is also a part of an increased effort to approach ecosystem conservation more broadly, focusing not only on the vulnerability of individual species but also on how species congregate within and across habitats. Whether mollusks can provide insights into an ecosystem's more mobile animals, such as fish, remains unclear. But regardless of how much mollusks can tell us about fish, turtles or mammals, understanding marine invertebrate biodiversity is critical to restoring and protecting ocean health, Tyler said. "Invertebrates provide food for fish, birds and marine mammals, purify water and are important for commercial fisheries," she said. "The ability to use mollusks to understand how invertebrate communities are changing in response to human activities can help us protect and manage ecosystems that are critical for maintaining life in the oceans and to society." Explore further: Humans altering Adriatic ecosystems more than nature, study shows More information: Surrogate Taxa and Fossils as Reliable Proxies of Spatial Biodiversity Patterns in Marine Benthic Communities, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2016.2839


News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

A University of Florida study shows that mollusk fossils provide a reliable measure of human-driven changes in marine ecosystems and shifts in ocean biodiversity across time and space. Collecting data from the shells of dead mollusks is a low-cost, low-impact way of glimpsing how oceans looked before pollution, habitat loss, acidification and explosive algae growth threatened marine life worldwide. Mollusk fossils can inform current and future conservation and restoration efforts, said Michal Kowalewski, the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and the study's principal investigator. "These fossils are like marine time machines that can unveil bygone habitats that existed before humans altered them," he said. "Shells can help us understand past marine life and more precisely gauge recent changes in marine ecosystems. Fossils are the only direct way of learning what these ecosystems looked like before human activities altered them." Because mollusks, such as conchs, oysters and mussels, are abundant and often have sturdy shells, their remains litter much of the Earth's sea floor. These mollusk graveyards offer a treasure trove of information about the state of oceans over thousands of years, recording patterns in the diversity and distribution of marine animals across and within habitats with surprising accuracy, said Carrie Tyler, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the museum and is now an assistant professor of invertebrate paleontology at the Miami University of Ohio. Many scientists have questioned whether mollusks alone can provide insights into entire ecosystems. Currents and storms can carry organisms' remains away, while others are fragmented, destroyed or--in the case of soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish and worms--completely absent from the fossil record. Also, shell graveyards are often a mix of specimens from many centuries, which can muddle ecological interpretations. "The remains that do accumulate only represent part of the whole ecosystem," said Tyler, the study's lead author. "These and other factors can create bias in the fossil record, making comparisons between modern and fossil ecosystems suspect." To test mollusks' ability to faithfully record biodiversity, Tyler and Kowalewski surveyed living and dead marine animals at 51 sites off the coast of North Carolina, selecting spots that differed in environmental conditions and the kinds of species they hosted. Aiming to capture a range of habitats, the researchers surveyed inlets, estuaries and open ocean, from the coast to miles offshore. They tested whether changes in diversity from place to place were accurately recorded by the newly-forming fossil record. They also assessed whether mollusks could reflect these ecosystem-wide changes. Tyler and Kowalewski found that live and dead mollusks accurately recorded spatial diversity patterns in both living and fossil communities of marine bottom-dwelling organisms. By comparing present-day communities of marine animals to dead remains, they discovered that mollusk shells alone accurately reconstructed differences in ecosystems across habitats and correctly tracked changes in the distribution of animals from shallow to deeper waters. A unique aspect of the study, Kowalewski said, was investigating whether mollusks reliably recorded shifts in entire communities of bottom-dwelling animals across habitats and space. "If we look at many spots on the sea floor and evaluate how living bottom-dwelling animals vary in space, do we recover the same information by analyzing shell remains of only one type of organism, such as mollusks? Our data indicate that we can," he said. "The good match between dead and living organisms suggests that we can use historical data to look at not just which species existed in the past, but also whether the spatial structure of these ecosystems changed." Understanding how the diversity of species changes within habitats and from site to site across the sea floor is crucial for effectively planning protected marine areas and coastal resource management, Kowalewski said. It is also a part of an increased effort to approach ecosystem conservation more broadly, focusing not only on the vulnerability of individual species but also on how species congregate within and across habitats. Whether mollusks can provide insights into an ecosystem's more mobile animals, such as fish, remains unclear. But regardless of how much mollusks can tell us about fish, turtles or mammals, understanding marine invertebrate biodiversity is critical to restoring and protecting ocean health, Tyler said. "Invertebrates provide food for fish, birds and marine mammals, purify water and are important for commercial fisheries," she said. "The ability to use mollusks to understand how invertebrate communities are changing in response to human activities can help us protect and manage ecosystems that are critical for maintaining life in the oceans and to society."


News Article | March 21, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

A new species of butterfly could provide clues about Alaska's geological history and its changing climate, according to a University of Florida researcher. Research by lepidopterist Andrew Warren suggests that the newly discovered Tanana Arctic butterfly evolved from the offspring of two related butterfly species, the Chryxus Arctic and the White-veined Arctic. He thinks all three species lived in the Beringia region before the last ice age, reported The Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1pyeusq ). Scientists have been seeing the Tanana Arctic butterfly for more than 60 years, but its similarity to the Chryxus Arctic led them to believe it was the same species. Warren noticed its distinct characteristics as senior collections manager at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. The Tanana Arctic has white specks on the underside of its penny-colored wings, giving it a "frosted" appearance, and it is larger and darker than the other species. It also has a unique DNA sequence that is very similar to that in nearby populations of White-veined Arctics, said Warren, leading to the hypothesis that the new species is a hybrid. More field research is needed to find out whether the Tanana Arctic also exists further east into the Yukon. Arctic butterflies live in environments that are too cold and extreme for most other butterflies and can survive in part thanks to a natural antifreeze their bodies produce. "Once we sequence the genome, we'll be able to say whether any special traits helped the butterfly survive in harsh environments," said Warren. He plans to return to Alaska and look for the butterfly next year. Warren wants to collect new specimens in order to fully sequence the genome, which could reveal the species' history and show whether it's truly a hybrid. The Tanana Arctic lives in spruce and aspen forests in the Tanana-Yukon River Basin. Because butterflies react quickly to climate change, the new species could serve as an early warning indicator for the remote region. "This butterfly has apparently lived in the Tanana River valley for so long that if it ever moves out, we'll be able to say 'Wow, there are some changes happening,'" Warren said. "This is a region where the permafrost is already melting and the climate is changing."


News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A University of Florida study shows that mollusk fossils provide a reliable measure of human-driven changes in marine ecosystems and shifts in ocean biodiversity across time and space. Collecting data from the shells of dead mollusks is a low-cost, low-impact way of glimpsing how oceans looked before pollution, habitat loss, acidification and explosive algae growth threatened marine life worldwide. Mollusk fossils can inform current and future conservation and restoration efforts, said Michal Kowalewski, the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and the study's principal investigator. "These fossils are like marine time machines that can unveil bygone habitats that existed before humans altered them," he said. "Shells can help us understand past marine life and more precisely gauge recent changes in marine ecosystems. Fossils are the only direct way of learning what these ecosystems looked like before human activities altered them." Because mollusks, such as conchs, oysters and mussels, are abundant and often have sturdy shells, their remains litter much of the Earth's sea floor. These mollusk graveyards offer a treasure trove of information about the state of oceans over thousands of years, recording patterns in the diversity and distribution of marine animals across and within habitats with surprising accuracy, said Carrie Tyler, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the museum and is now an assistant professor of invertebrate paleontology at the Miami University of Ohio. Many scientists have questioned whether mollusks alone can provide insights into entire ecosystems. Currents and storms can carry organisms' remains away, while others are fragmented, destroyed or--in the case of soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish and worms--completely absent from the fossil record. Also, shell graveyards are often a mix of specimens from many centuries, which can muddle ecological interpretations. "The remains that do accumulate only represent part of the whole ecosystem," said Tyler, the study's lead author. "These and other factors can create bias in the fossil record, making comparisons between modern and fossil ecosystems suspect." To test mollusks' ability to faithfully record biodiversity, Tyler and Kowalewski surveyed living and dead marine animals at 51 sites off the coast of North Carolina, selecting spots that differed in environmental conditions and the kinds of species they hosted. Aiming to capture a range of habitats, the researchers surveyed inlets, estuaries and open ocean, from the coast to miles offshore. They tested whether changes in diversity from place to place were accurately recorded by the newly-forming fossil record. They also assessed whether mollusks could reflect these ecosystem-wide changes. Tyler and Kowalewski found that live and dead mollusks accurately recorded spatial diversity patterns in both living and fossil communities of marine bottom-dwelling organisms. By comparing present-day communities of marine animals to dead remains, they discovered that mollusk shells alone accurately reconstructed differences in ecosystems across habitats and correctly tracked changes in the distribution of animals from shallow to deeper waters. A unique aspect of the study, Kowalewski said, was investigating whether mollusks reliably recorded shifts in entire communities of bottom-dwelling animals across habitats and space. "If we look at many spots on the sea floor and evaluate how living bottom-dwelling animals vary in space, do we recover the same information by analyzing shell remains of only one type of organism, such as mollusks? Our data indicate that we can," he said. "The good match between dead and living organisms suggests that we can use historical data to look at not just which species existed in the past, but also whether the spatial structure of these ecosystems changed." Understanding how the diversity of species changes within habitats and from site to site across the sea floor is crucial for effectively planning protected marine areas and coastal resource management, Kowalewski said. It is also a part of an increased effort to approach ecosystem conservation more broadly, focusing not only on the vulnerability of individual species but also on how species congregate within and across habitats. Whether mollusks can provide insights into an ecosystem's more mobile animals, such as fish, remains unclear. But regardless of how much mollusks can tell us about fish, turtles or mammals, understanding marine invertebrate biodiversity is critical to restoring and protecting ocean health, Tyler said. "Invertebrates provide food for fish, birds and marine mammals, purify water and are important for commercial fisheries," she said. "The ability to use mollusks to understand how invertebrate communities are changing in response to human activities can help us protect and manage ecosystems that are critical for maintaining life in the oceans and to society." The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and is available at http://dx. . Funding from the National Science Foundation helped support the research.


News Article | January 12, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

When a small spider eats up a snake, it makes the news. This is what happened in Brazil when a Tarantula spider devoured a snake under a rock. This surprised scientists at the Federal University of Santa Maria, who were searching for Tarantulas in Serra do Caverá in Southern Brazil, when they spotted the rare "dinner" live. The victim was an Almaden ground snake, which is about a foot in length. The researchers saw the Tarantula — Grammostola quirogai — chomping down the snake — Erythrolamprus almadensis, and reported their observations in the journal Herpetology Notes. Brazil's Serra do Caverá is known to house many species of Tarantula, particularly sedentary females that live in the rocks. "Most likely, the snake was surprised upon entering the spider's environment and hence was subdued by it," said the researchers. The study's first author Leandro Malta Borges, a graduate student at the Federal University who also witnessed the horrible dinner live, is credited with many papers in Herpetology Notes about lizards and amphibians being eaten up by bugs. Borges also studied Aglaoctenus oblongus, a spider that was seen eating up a tree frog. According to Borges, the high surprise in the incident is the size of the snake versus the tiny size of the predator spider, which is just a fraction of the former. The grisly discovery is perhaps the first ever recorded evidence of a Tarantula eating a snake in the wild. "To the best of our knowledge, we present here the first documented case involving the predation of a snake by an individual of the Theraphosidae family in nature," the researchers noted. The snake had a snout-vent length 390.60 mm with most damage to the middle and anterior regions of the victim's body. The snake's body was in a state of decomposition due to the extracorporeal digestion process executed by the arachnid. Cases of captive Tarantulas occasionally eating snakes were reported in 1926 by Brazilian researchers Jehan Vellard and Vital Brazil. "They eat pretty much anything they can grab and overpower," noted Chris Hamilton, a Tarantula expert, and researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It is likely that the snake sneaked into the Tarantula's rock in a bid to use it as a den or simply slithered by it. The fatal attack of the Tarantula must have come from the less than an inch long fangs usually used in subduing preys. When the researchers saw the spider, it was consuming the snake's body after liquefying it like a goo for making it more digestible. Borges noted that some spiders, such as the black widow, are known for feeding on snakes, with their webs for capturing and strong toxin for killing. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | January 25, 2016
Site: phys.org

It was certainly a big shark but there are tales of even bigger sharks lurking in our waters. A quick Google search on "megalodon" brings up around 1.2 million hits about this monster prehistoric shark, made famous in the 2002 eponymous B-movie. Web pages feature frightening movie clips claiming to show evidence that this gigantic fossil shark, once reaching around 17m in length, is still alive out there, perhaps living in deep seas where they escape detection. Megalodon (meaning "big tooth") is really the vernacular name used for Carcharocles megalodon, an extinct relative of today's great white and mako sharks in the family Lamnidae. Megalodon is known from its huge fossil teeth, the largest being 18 centimetres long, found nearly all around the globe in fossil marine deposits. It lived from about 16 million to 2.6 million years ago. The recent Discovery Channel mockumentary about megalodon still being alive had a short disclaimer that it was fictional. Nonetheless, it seems to have sparked a lot of subsequent interest in whether or not such a shark could really out there. Several articles have been written with shark experts debunking these myths. So where did the stories of megalodon's survival originate from, and what is the truth behind these claims? Great White sharks – the big one that got away Perhaps the first case of megalodon mania sprung from real published records of a monster great white in an esteemed museum collection. The largest living predatory shark today, the great white shark(Carcharodon carcharias) grows up to around 6.4m, based on a shark caught off Cuba in 1964. Early records in the published scientific literature speak of an 11-metre giant caught of Port Fairy, Victoria in the 1860s. The jaws of this fish were sent to the collections of the British Museum of Natural History, in London. The calculated size of the fish was published in the book Catalogue of Fishes of the museum by Albert Günther, Keeper of Zoology at the museum in 1870. But in the 1970s, American ichthyologist John Randall doubted this measurement and so he visited the museum in London to recalculate the body size. The original jaws that Gunther studied were examined and their measurements plotted against other specimens where accurate body length to jaw size was known. Randall's new calculation of the Port Fairy specimen was approximately five metres in length, within typical great white body size range. Randall suggested that a typo crept into the original publication where it should have read 16.5 feet but instead stated 36.5 feet. Strangely, it was not picked up in the second edition of the book in which Günther added a maximum size of the shark being 40 feet (12.2m). These inaccurate size estimates published in such a scientifically respectable book no doubt fuelled the idea that monster great whites really did exist in modern times. One last bit of relevant information about just how big great whites might grow comes from a report of measured bite marks on a whale carcass off Albany during the last decade of whaling in Western Australia. Back in the mid-1970s, Colin Ostle was employed by the department of fisheries, and his job was to measure the whale carcasses that were taken by the whaling company. I spoke with Colin and he told me how he also routinely measured shark bite marks on whale carcasses and recorded them in his notebook. Over a seven-year period he also caught around 60 great whites, so he was very familiar with their behaviour. The largest jaw bite marks he ever recorded measured 19x24 inches as part of five bites, all made by the same very large shark which attacked a floating sperm whale carcass that had broken free of its chain as it was towed in to the harbour. When compared to a 16-foot shark (4.87m) with a known bite gape of 11x13 inches, the scaling up of these large bites would suggest a shark up to 7.8m in length was then alive in the seas off Albany. In 1968, even larger shark bites were claimed to be observed on a whale carcass, but measurements were not recorded. Shark ecologist Dr Charlie Huveneers of Flinders University is cautious about extrapolating absolute size from bite marks, but conceded to me that: […] it is quite conceivable that sharks larger than the scientifically confirmed maximum size exist, as for most species scientists are unlikely to have measured the largest individual of that species. New research about Megalodon and its demise Around 400 years ago, megalodon teeth were thought to be petrified tongues. In 1667, the Danish anatomist Nicolas Steno figured out from his dissection of a great white shark head that they were the teeth of ancient large sharks. Scaling up teeth and jaw size with known living sharks yields an approximate maximum size for megalodon around 17m. But, in weight, it would have been at least ten times the mass of a large great white shark. Unlike great whites, we deduce that megalodon targeted large baleen whales as its prime prey, as we have found its tooth marks on fossil whale bones and sometimes teeth stuck into whale fossils. Some of these specimens can also be put down to scavenging behaviour. In recent years several scientific papers by Dr Catalina Pimiento, of the Florida Museum of Natural History, have greatly elucidated our knowledge about this impressive prehistoric predator. Her study calculating its trends in body size through time show its average size was likely around 10m for most of its 14-million year reign. We know that its raised its young (starting at 2m length) in nursery areas of the eastern Pacific. Another study confirms that the species died out at least 2.6 million years ago, based on many reliably dated fossil sites. Pimiento suggests that the the modern baleen whale fauna was probably established after the extinction of megalodons. The reasons for megalodons demise are unknown, but could relate to either climate change or biological factors, like the events concerning the evolution and migration of whales to colder Antarctic waters where the sharks could not go. I proposed this idea back in 1995 in the first edition of my book The Rise of Fishes. Dr Pimiento's new research currently in press seems to support the view. She told me: I found no evidence for a relationship between megalodon distribution and climate, and therefore, no support for such hypotheses. Instead, I found that megalodon trends in distribution coincide with diversification events in marine mammals and in other sharks, further supporting the biotic set of hypotheses. It seems likely that the growth and huge size of modern baleen whales, the largest animals on the planet, could well have been driven by predation pressures from megalodons. Their ability to endure and feed in near freezing Antarctic waters might have been a key reason why megalodons went extinct. Thankfully, for all of us who love swimming and diving in the sea. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Placed in a wax jaw, fossil teeth belonging to Panamacebus transitus are compared with those of a modern female tufted capuchin, Cebus apella, in this picture courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Florida Museum of Natural History/Kristen Grace/Handout via Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Monkeys resembling today's capuchins accomplished the astonishing feat of crossing at least 100 miles (160 km) of open ocean 21 million years ago to get from South America to North America eons before the two continents joined together. Scientists said on Wednesday they reached that conclusion based on the discovery of seven little teeth during excavations involving the Panama Canal's expansion, showing monkeys had reached the North American continent far earlier than previously known. The teeth belonged to Panamacebus transitus, a previously unknown medium-sized monkey species. South America at the time was secluded from other continents, with a strange array of mammals evolving in what 20th century American paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson called "splendid isolation." How Panamacebus performed the feat is a bit mysterious. After all, seagoing simians seem somewhat suspicious. "Panama represents the southernmost extreme of the North American continent at that time," said Jonathan Bloch, a vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. "It may have swum across, but this would have required covering a distance of more than 100 miles, a difficult feat for sure. It's more likely that it unintentionally rafted across on mats of vegetation," Bloch added. Bloch said as far as anyone knows these monkeys were the only mammals that managed to cross the seaway from South America to reach present-day Panama. While South American giant ground sloths managed to reach North America about 9 million years ago, it was not until about 3.5 million years ago that the Isthmus of Panama formed, allowing animals to begin trekking in large numbers between the continents in one of the biggest mixing of species on record. Bloch said learning that monkeys lived then in North America was a "mind-bending discovery" because it had long been accepted that they simply did not exist there at that time. It would be akin to learning that Australia's kangaroos and koalas live in the wilds of Asia today. Monkeys originated in Africa and later spread to other parts of the world. Scientists believe monkeys made an even lengthier transoceanic voyage, perhaps 37 million years ago, when they transited from Africa to South America, also probably on floating debris. Bloch said the seven teeth, the largest of which were molars about one-fifth of an inch (5 mm) long, were unmistakable as belonging to a South American monkey, and their shape showed Panamacebus had a diet of fruit in its tropical forest environment. The research was published in the journal Nature.


A few years ago, Christopher Hamm was reading up on monarch butterflies when he noticed something peculiar. All of the scientific articles that mentioned the number of the insect’s chromosomes—30, it seemed—referenced a 2004 paper, which in turn cited a 1975 paper. But when Hamm, then a postdoc at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, did a genetic analysis of his own, he found that his monarchs only had 28 chromosomes, suggesting that an error has pervaded the literature for more than 40 years. Another twist, however, was just around the corner. Hamm suspected a mistake when he read the original 1975 paper. The authors, biologists N. Nageswara Rao and A. S. Murty at Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, India, had studied what they claimed was an Indian monarch butterfly in their work. But there’s a problem: Monarchs are nearly exclusively a North American species. “It’s implied they just went outside their building and collected some butterflies,” Hamm says. “I immediately thought, ‘Monarch butterflies in India? Really?’” Sure monarchs are master travelers, with the longest-known seasonal migration of any insect. And it’s not uncommon for a few to get blown off course to Australia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and a handful of other places from time to time. But ending up as far away as India seemed like a stretch. Hamm, now a data scientist at Monsanto in Woodland, California, also knew that taxonomists since Carl Linnaeus have struggled to distinguish species in Lepidoptera, the order of insects to which monarchs belong. For example, the monarch (Danaus plexippus) and a similar-looking butterfly known as the common tiger butterfly (D. genutia) were thought to be the same for more than a century until they were reclassified as separate species in 1954. And guess what: D. genutia lives in India. Hamm thinks that Rao and Murty, perhaps not knowing about the reclassification, netted bugs they assumed were monarchs but were actually common tiger butterflies. Back in the lab, they performed a technique known as a chromosome squash—squeezing the butterflies’ cells between thin films of glass until individual chromosomes are visible under a microscope—counted to 30, and published the results. Then, in 2004, Brazilian zoologist Keith Brown Jr. cited the work in his own research exploring the evolutionary history of butterflies; he never suspected that Rao and Murty might have been working with a misidentified species. Brown’s paper has been cited a dozen times since, and the idea that monarchs have 30 chromosomes is now well established in the literature. Murty has since died—though his name lives on in a namesake flatworm, Pseudodiplodiscoides murtyi—and Rao could not be located to confirm the theory. Still, it’s a plausible explanation, says Krushnamegh Kunte, a biologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, India, who studies butterfly genetics. “Unfortunately, history has a strong influence in taxonomy,” he says. “Many Indian taxonomists continued to erroneously refer to the Indian populations of Danaus genutia as Danaus plexippus.” Hamm performed his own chromosome squash with six juvenile monarchs—real ones given to him by Kansas-based Monarch Watch, a network of scientists, teachers, and volunteers that supports research on the butterfly. Earlier this month, he reported his count of 28 chromosomes on the bioRxiv preprint server, an online repository where scientists publish work before it has been peer reviewed. Case closed, right? Not quite. A paper published a few days later on bioRxiv by some of Hamm’s former colleagues at the University of Kansas claims to have found, like Rao and Murty, 30 chromosomes in monarchs. “Previously, an observation of N=30 chromosomes was reported only for males (Nageswara-Rao and Murty 1975),” the authors write. “Our current analysis confirms the same chromosome number not only in males but also in females.” The authors of that paper declined to comment on Hamm’s findings. Hamm doubts that he miscounted the chromosomes in six different samples, but he says there’s a chance he and his former colleagues are both right. Lepidoptera genetics is notorious for the fact that chromosome counts can vary between populations of the same species and occasionally even within cells from the same individual, he explains. “I am glad that other researchers are skeptical and want to build on my minor contribution,” Hamm says. “There could be some interesting biology going on.” Kunte admits it won’t exactly shake up the field of monarch research to revise the species’s chromosome count; a few genetic studies might need to be reconsidered. The larger point is that it’s important to correct the historical record, says Akito Kawahara, a butterfly researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. The work underscores a common complaint that all too often in genetic research, taxonomists are left out of the equation, he says. As a result, genetic studies are vulnerable to species misidentifications like this one. “These kinds of things do happen with closely related species,” he says. “Twenty-eight versus 30 chromosomes doesn’t really have any impact on the conservation of the species or our understanding of it, but the next time someone makes a mistake like this, it could be with something important.”


News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Monkeys first arrived in North America roughly 21 million years ago, according to examination of teeth discovered in the Panama Canal. These primates arrived on the continent following a major ocean voyage, researchers determined. Roughly 21 million years ago, the continents of North and South America were separate bodies. At that time, a cadre of monkeys appears to have journeyed at least 100 miles across open ocean to reach their destination. If confirmed by further investigation, this discovery will push back the date when monkeys were known to walk the northern American continent. Seven teeth belonging to members of the Panamacebus transitus species were found during excavations for an ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal. This variety of medium-sized primate was previously unknown to biologists. As workers used explosives to blast away at rocks in the Las Cascadas Formation, paleontologists and other researchers quickly came in to collect fossils unearthed by the excavation. "We suggest that Panamacebus was related to the capuchin (also known as 'organ-grinder' monkeys) and squirrel monkeys that are found in Central and South America today. Prior to this discovery, New World monkeys were thought to have evolved in isolation on South America, cut-off from North America by a wide seaway," said Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Until South America joined to its northern cousin 3.5 million years ago, animals on that continent evolved in extreme isolation from species on other lands. Before this recent find, the oldest known mammal migration from South to North America was a population shift of sloths between 8.5 and 9 million years before the modern day. The newly-discovered species was named in honor of the location they were found, Panama, as well as their willingness to journey great distances. Although the continents were separated at the time the monkeys made their journey, water levels were fairly shallow between the pair of bodies. This may have aided the primates in carrying out the journey to their new home. However, even given this fact, swimming 100 miles to North America would have been arduous task. One of the few methods by which this migration may have occurred would be if the monkeys built rafts out of vegetation, and floated north. Roughly 37 million years ago, monkeys undertook a similar journey from Africa to South America, biologists believe. Discovery of the ancient monkey migration was profiled in the journal Nature. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | October 28, 2016
Site: co.newswire.com

Museum Hack, the premier non-traditional museum tour company, partners with the Florida Museum of Natural History for HACKOLOGY.

Loading Florida Museum of Natural History collaborators
Loading Florida Museum of Natural History collaborators