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News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

VIDEO:  Extension of Continental, Marginal and Marine environments from ~18.4 to ~10.5 Ma showing the the two marine incursions reported in this study. view more A tiny shark tooth, part of a mantis shrimp and other microscopic marine organisms reveal that as the Andes rose, the Eastern Amazon sank twice, each time for less than a million years. Water from the Caribbean flooded the region from Venezuela to northwestern Brazil. These new findings by Smithsonian scientists and colleagues, published this week in Science Advances, fuel an ongoing controversy regarding the geologic history of the region. "Pollen records from oil wells in eastern Colombia and outcrops in northwestern Brazil clearly show two short-lived events in which ocean water from the Caribbean flooded what is now the northwest part of the Amazon basin," said Carlos Jaramillo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and lead author of the study. "Geologists disagree about the origins of the sediments in this area, but we provide clear evidence that they are of marine origin, and that the flooding events were fairly brief," Jaramillo said. His team dated the two flooding events to between 17 to18 million years ago and between 16 to 12 million years ago. Several controversial interpretations of the history of the region include the existence of a large, shallow sea covering the Amazon for millions of years, a freshwater megalake, shifting lowland rivers occasionally flooded by seawater, frequent seawater incusions, and a long-lived "para-marine metalake," which has no modern analog. Jaramillo assembled a diverse team from the Smithsonian and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Corporacion Geologica Ares; the University of Birmingham; the University of Ghent; the Universidad del Norte, Baranquilla, Colombia; the University of Alberta, Edmonton; the University of Zurich; Ecopetrol, S.A.; Hocol, S.A.; the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research at Utrecht University; the University of Texas of the Permian Basin; and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Together, they examined evidence including more than 50,000 individual pollen grains representing more than 900 pollen types from oil drilling cores from the Saltarin region of Colombia and found two distinct layers of marine pollen separated by layers of non-marine pollen types. They also found several fossils of marine organisms in the lower layer: a shark tooth and a mantis shrimp. "It's important to understand changes across the vast Amazonian landscape that had a profound effect, both on the evolution and distribution of life there and on the modern and ancient climates of the continent," Jaramillo said. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. STRI website: http://www. . C. Jaramillo, I. Romero, C. D'Apolito, J. Ortiz. "Miocene flooding events of western Amazonia." Science Advances. Manuscript Number: sciadv.1601693; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

An international team of ecologists and social scientists has shown in a new study published 3 March in the journal Science that tree species domesticated and distributed throughout the Amazon basin by indigenous peoples before 1492 continue to play an important role in modern-day forests. These new findings strongly refute the idea that Amazonian forests have been largely untouched by humans. The study was led by Carolina Levis, a PhD candidate at Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA) and Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. "For many years, ecological studies ignored the influence of pre-Colombian peoples on the forests we see today. We found that a quarter of Amazonia's domesticated species are widely distributed in the basin and dominate large expanses of forest. These results clearly indicate that the Amazonian flora is in part a surviving heritage of its past inhabitants," says Levis. The team made the discovery by overlaying data from more than 1000 forest surveys of the Amazon Tree Diversity Network on a map of more than 3000 archaeological sites across the Amazon. By comparing forest composition at varying distances from archaeological sites, their analysis generated the first Amazon-wide picture of how pre-Colombian peoples influenced Amazonian biodiversity. The study focused on 85 tree species known to have been domesticated by Amazonian peoples for food, shelter, or other uses over the last several thousand years. The researchers found that throughout the Amazon basin these species were five times more likely to be common in tree surveys than non-domesticated species. Domesticated species were also found to be more common and more diverse in forests closer to archaeological sites. These 85 domesticated trees include well-known commercial species, such as cacao, açaí, and Brazil nut. "The finding promises to heat up a long-simmering debate among scientists about how thousands of years of human occupation in the Amazon basin have influenced modern-day patterns of Amazonian biodiversity, and challenges the view many of us ecologists had and still have of this huge area," says Hans ter Steege, of Naturalis Biodiversity Center and coordinator of the Amazon Tree Diversity Network. The immense size of Amazonian forests has historically hampered archaeological research and given the impression of an untouched landscape, but a large number of new archaeological sites have been discovered in recent years. "This lays to rest the long-standing myth of the 'empty Amazon'," says Charles Clement, senior researcher at INPA, Manaus, and a coauthor of the study. "Early European naturalists reported scattered indigenous populations living in huge and apparently virgin forests, and that idea has continued to fascinate the media, policy makers, development planners and even some scientists. This study confirms that even areas of the Amazon that look empty today are crowded with ancient footprints." The study also pinpointed regions of the Amazon that today concentrate especially high diversities and large populations of domesticated species. Southwestern Amazonia, where large stands of Brazil nut trees remain a foundation of local residents' livelihoods, is one such example. In other regions, like the Guiana Shield, domesticated species are less well represented, and the relationship between domesticated species and archaeological sites is less clear, highlighting the need for more research on the history of Amazonian occupation. The degree to which the recent history of Amazonian settlement has affected the distribution and abundance of domesticated species in the Amazon basin also remains to be studied. While the relatively small number of domesticated tree species used in the study was sufficient to reveal a strong human signal in modern forests, the authors point out that the signal may be even stronger than they documented, since hundreds of other Amazonian tree species were also managed by pre-Colombian peoples but not domesticated. Untangling the complex interplay of historical, environmental, and ecological factors structuring approximately 16,000-species Amazonian tree flora remains a focus of the team's work. The question is pressing, since both types of pre-Columbian heritage--archaeological sites and forests with a strong historical component--are at risk from deforestation, degradation, roadbuilding, mining, and other threats. "Domesticated tree species are still vital nowadays for the livelihood of Amazonian peoples", says André Junqueira, a Post-doc at Wageningen University and Research Center and a co-author of the study. "Results of this study have important implications for conservation. We have shown that the southwestern and eastern regions concentrate the most domesticated species, and these are the regions where most forest degradation and loss is occurring. Southwestern and eastern Amazonia may not be considered classical biodiversity hotspots, but should be top conservation priorities as reservoirs of high value forests for human populations," says Flávia Costa, researcher at INPA and a co-author of the study.


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

An international team of ecologists and social scientists has shown in a new study published 3 March in the journal Science that tree species domesticated and distributed throughout the Amazon basin by indigenous peoples before 1492 continue to play an important role in modern-day forests. These new findings strongly refute the idea that Amazonian forests have been largely untouched by humans. The study was led by Carolina Levis, a PhD candidate at Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA) and Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. "For many years, ecological studies ignored the influence of pre-Colombian peoples on the forests we see today. We found that a quarter of Amazonia's domesticated species are widely distributed in the basin and dominate large expanses of forest. These results clearly indicate that the Amazonian flora is in part a surviving heritage of its past inhabitants," says Levis. The team made the discovery by overlaying data from more than 1000 forest surveys of the Amazon Tree Diversity Network on a map of more than 3,000 archaeological sites across the Amazon. By comparing forest composition at varying distances from archaeological sites, their analysis generated the first Amazon-wide picture of how pre-Colombian peoples influenced Amazonian biodiversity. The study focused on 85 tree species known to have been domesticated by Amazonian peoples for food, shelter, or other uses over the last several thousand years. The researchers found that throughout the Amazon basin these species were five times more likely to be common in tree surveys than non-domesticated species. Domesticated species were also found to be more common and more diverse in forests closer to archaeological sites. These 85 domesticated trees include well-known commercial species, such as cacao, açaí, and Brazil nut. "The finding promises to heat up a long-simmering debate among scientists about how thousands of years of human occupation in the Amazon basin have influenced modern-day patterns of Amazonian biodiversity, and challenges the view many of us ecologists had and still have of this huge area," says Hans ter Steege, of Naturalis Biodiversity Center and coordinator of the Amazon Tree Diversity Network. The immense size of Amazonian forests has historically hampered archaeological research and given the impression of an untouched landscape, but a large number of new archaeological sites have been discovered in recent years. "This lays to rest the long-standing myth of the 'empty Amazon'," says Charles Clement, senior researcher at INPA, Manaus, and a coauthor of the study. "Early European naturalists reported scattered indigenous populations living in huge and apparently virgin forests, and that idea has continued to fascinate the media, policy makers, development planners and even some scientists. This study confirms that even areas of the Amazon that look empty today are crowded with ancient footprints." The study also pinpointed regions of the Amazon that today concentrate especially high diversities and large populations of domesticated species. Southwestern Amazonia, where large stands of Brazil nut trees remain a foundation of local residents' livelihoods, is one such example. In other regions, like the Guiana Shield, domesticated species are less well represented, and the relationship between domesticated species and archaeological sites is less clear, highlighting the need for more research on the history of Amazonian occupation. The degree to which the recent history of Amazonian settlement has affected the distribution and abundance of domesticated species in the Amazon basin also remains to be studied. While the relatively small number of domesticated tree species used in the study was sufficient to reveal a strong human signal in modern forests, the authors point out that the signal may be even stronger than they documented, since hundreds of other Amazonian tree species were also managed by pre-Colombian peoples but not domesticated. Untangling the complex interplay of historical, environmental, and ecological factors structuring approximately 16,000-species Amazonian tree flora remains a focus of the team's work. The question is pressing, since both types of pre-Columbian heritage—archaeological sites and forests with a strong historical component—are at risk from deforestation, degradation, roadbuilding, mining, and other threats. "Domesticated tree species are still vital nowadays for the livelihood of Amazonian peoples", says André Junqueira, a post-doc at Wageningen University and Research Center and a co-author of the study. "Results of this study have important implications for conservation. We have shown that the southwestern and eastern regions concentrate the most domesticated species, and these are the regions where most forest degradation and loss is occurring. Southwestern and eastern Amazonia may not be considered classical biodiversity hotspots, but should be top conservation priorities as reservoirs of high value forests for human populations," says Flávia Costa, researcher at INPA and a co-author of the study.


News Article | March 3, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ancient indigenous peoples had a far more profound impact on the composition of the vast Amazon rainforest than previously known, according to a study showing how tree species domesticated by humans long ago still dominate big swathes of the wilderness. Researchers said on Thursday many tree species populating the Amazon region appear to be abundant because they were cultivated by people who populated the area before Europeans arrived more than five centuries ago. These include the Brazil nut, cacao, acai palm, rubber, caimito, cashew and tucuma palm. "So the Amazon is not nearly as untouched as it may seem," said study researcher Hans ter Steege, a forest community ecologist at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and Free University of Amsterdam. The researchers used data on the tree composition of forests at 1,170 sites throughout the Amazon and compared it to a map of more than 3,000 known archaeological sites representing past human settlements. The study found that 85 tree species known to have been used by Amazonian peoples for fruit, nuts, building materials and other purposes over the past roughly 8,000 years were five times more likely to be dominant in mature Amazon forests than species that had not been domesticated. It also found that forests closer to the pre-Columbian settlements were much more likely to boast tree species domesticated by ancient peoples. The Amazon rainforest is a commanding natural feature in South America and one of the world's richest biological reservoirs, teeming with plant and animal life. Much of it is situated in Brazil but parts are also in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador and French Guiana. Many of the trees found in large numbers represent species critical for the livelihood and economy of Amazonian peoples. At the time of European conquest, there were an estimated 8 to 10 million people in the Amazon, speaking at least 400 different languages. "Past civilizations have had a great role in changing, both consciously and unconsciously, the vegetation in the surroundings of their settlements and along paths that they used to travel," added study researcher Carolina Levis, a doctoral candidate in ecology at Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research and the Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. The research was published in the journal Science.


Giles S.,University of Oxford | Friedman M.,University of Oxford | Brazeau M.D.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center | Brazeau M.D.,Imperial College London
Nature | Year: 2015

The phylogeny of Silurian and Devonian (443-358 million years (Myr) ago) fishes remains the foremost problem in the study of the origin of modern gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates). A central question concerns the morphology of the last common ancestor of living jawed vertebrates, with competing hypotheses advancing either a chondrichthyan- or osteichthyan-like model. Here we present Janusiscus schultzei gen. et sp. nov., an Early Devonian (approximately 415 Myr ago) gnathostome from Siberia previously interpreted as a ray-finned fish, which provides important new information about cranial anatomy near the last common ancestor of chondrichthyans and osteichthyans. The skull roof of Janusiscus resembles that of early osteichthyans, with large plates bearing vermiform ridges and partially enclosed sensory canals. High-resolution computed tomography (CT) reveals a braincase bearing characters typically associated with either chondrichthyans (large hypophyseal opening accommodating the internal carotid arteries) or osteichthyans (facial nerve exiting through jugular canal, endolymphatic ducts exiting posterior to the skull roof) but lacking a ventral cranial fissure, the presence of which is considered a derived feature of crown gnathostomes. A conjunction of well-developed cranial processes in Janusiscus helps unify the comparative anatomy of early jawed vertebrate neurocrania, clarifying primary homologies in 'placoderms', osteichthyans and chondrichthyans. Phylogenetic analysis further supports the chondrichthyan affinities of 'acanthodians', and places Janusiscus and the enigmatic Ramirosuarezia in a polytomy with crown gnathostomes. The close correspondence between the skull roof of Janusiscus and that of osteichthyans suggests that an extensive dermal skeleton was present in the last common ancestor of jawed vertebrates, but ambiguities arise from uncertainties in the anatomy of Ramirosuarezia. The unexpected contrast between endoskeletal structure in Janusiscus and its superficially osteichthyan-like dermal skeleton highlights the potential importance of other incompletely known Siluro-Devonian 'bony fishes' for reconstructing patterns of trait evolution near the origin of modern gnathostomes. ©2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Hoso M.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

Autotomy of body parts offers various prey animals immediate benefits of survival in compensation for considerable costs. I found that a land snail Satsuma caliginosa of populations coexisting with a snaileating snake Pareas iwasakii survived the snake predation by autotomizing its foot, whereas those out of the snake range rarely survived. Regeneration of a lost foot completed in a few weeks but imposed a delay of shell growth. Imprints of autotomy were found in greater than 10 per cent of S. caliginosa in the snake range but in only less than 1 per cent out of it, simultaneously demonstrating intense predation by the snakes and high efficiency of autotomy for surviving snake predation in the wild. However, in experiments, mature S. caliginosa performed autotomy less frequently. Instead of the costly autotomy, they can use defensive denticles on the inside of their shell apertures. Owing to the constraints from the additive growth of shells, most pulmonate snails can produce these denticles only when they have fully grown up. Thus, this developmental constraint limits the availability of the modified aperture, resulting in ontogenetic switching of the alternative defences. This study illustrates how costs of adaptation operate in the evolution of life-history strategies under developmental constraints. © The Royal Society 2012.


Schilthuizen M.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Heredity | Year: 2013

I made use of the known dates of reclamation (and of afforestations) in the IJsselmeerpolders in The Netherlands to assess evolutionary adaptation in Cepaea nemoralis. At 12 localities (three in each polder), I sampled a total of 4390 adult individuals in paired open and shaded habitats, on average 233 m apart, and scored these for genetic shell colour polymorphisms. The results show (highly) significant differentiation at most localities, although the genes involved differed per locality. Overall, though, populations in shaded habitats had evolved towards darker shells than those in adjacent open habitats, whereas a 'Cain & Sheppard' diagram (proportion yellow shells plotted against 'effectively unbanded' shells) failed to reveal a clear pattern. This might suggest that thermal selection is more important than visual selection in generating this pattern. Trait differentiation, regardless of whether they were plotted against polder age or habitat age, showed a linear increase of differentiation with time, corresponding to a mean rate of trait evolution of 15-31 kilodarwin. In conclusion, C. nemoralis is capable of rapid and considerable evolutionary differentiation over 1-25 snail generations, though equilibrium may be reached only at longer time scales. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.


Donovan S.K.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Geology | Year: 2012

The crinoids were the most diverse and numerically most common echinoderms in the Paleozoic, as well as being one of the most important groups of sessile invertebrates. Autotomy (self-mutilation) in the stem, that is, the casting off of the more distal part, is only known to occur in one extant group of crinoids, the post-Paleozoic isocrinine sea lilies. These crinoids have a long distal stalk with regularly spaced articulations (i.e., cryptosymplexies) adapted for autotomy. They are connected together by short, mutable collagenous tissues that undergo irreversible destabilization during autotomy; the distal opening of the axial canal is then sealed by new growth of calcite. Paleozoic crinoids lacked cryptosymplectial articulations, but have other adaptations that may have singly or collectively facilitated autotomy. These include the linking of adjacent short lengths of stalk (i.e., noditaxes) by short ligaments; the evolutionary trend to narrow the axial canal; occlusion of the axial canal in some species; and the ability to seal the axial canal. Other morphological features of relevance to autotomy include the common division of the stem into morphologically distinct regions and attachment by a distal, recumbent radicular runner. The ability to autotomize the distal stem in many Paleozoic crinoid clades was, at the very least, latent; if overt, it would have facilitated escape from environmental disturbance. It may, in part, explain the great abundance of disarticulated crinoid stem fragments in many Ordovician to Permian sedimentary deposits. © 2012 Geological Society of America.


The recent taxonomic history of extant free-living Cycloseris species is briefy reviewed, resulting in the description of Cycloseris boschmai sp. n. (Scleractinia, Fungiidae) and a discussion on the validity of two other recently described species. Some Cycloseris species were previously considered to belong to the Fun-gia patella group, which also concerned misidentifed museum specimens that actually belong to the new species. Other specimens of C. boschmai sp. n. were photographed and collected in the course of 30 years of feldwork. Te new mushroom coral is compared with other free-living Cycloseris species by means of an identifcation key. With a maximum diameter of 50 mm, it is the smallest free-living mushroom coral discovered so far. It can also be distinguished by its large primary order costae and variable colouration. Its distribution range is limited to the Coral Triangle, where it can be observed as an uncommon species on lower reef slopes. © Bert W. Hoeksema.


Mushroom corals of the Indo-West Pacific Fungiidae (Scleractinia) provide habitats for a rich associated fauna, including three species of gall crabs (Cryptochiridae). During the course of the present study gall crabs were sampled from many different fungiid hosts. Based on this 'reversed' approach - by studying coral symbionts from a host perspective - a previously unnoticed host specificity pattern was detected. The sampling of gall crab fauna per host coral combined with molecular analyses of H3 nDNA, 16S and COI mtDNA revealed a cryptic gall crab species closely related to Fungicola fagei. This new species, described hereafter as Fungicola syzygia sp. nov., is predominantly associated with the mushroom coral genera Cycloseris and Pleuractis, whereas its sibling species F. fagei is only known to be associated with the host genera Podabacia and Sandalolitha. Based on morphology F. syzygia sp. nov. is difficult to distinguish from F. fagei, but there are subtle differences in carapace shape, the lateral carapace margins, the border between the orbital angles and the merus of the third maxilliped, as well as in the carapace length/width ratio. The type material of F. utinomi and F. fagei is figured for comparison.

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