Senckenberg Museum of Natural History

Schönau am Königssee, Germany

Senckenberg Museum of Natural History

Schönau am Königssee, Germany
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Clausnitzer V.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Dijkstra K.-D.B.,Netherlands Center for Biodiversity Naturalis | Koch R.,TU Braunschweig | Boudot J.-P.,French National Center for Scientific Research | And 7 more authors.
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment | Year: 2012

This is the first continent-wide overview of insect diversity and status sufficiently fine-scaled to be used in conservation planning. We analyze patterns of richness and the conservation status of African dragonflies and damselflies (Insecta: Odonata), commonly referred to as dragonflies, to determine threats to species and freshwater habitats, location of diversity hotspots, necessary conservation actions, and research gaps. Major centers of dragonfly diversity in Africa are tropical forest areas that include highlands. Most threatened species - as classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature global Red List - are concentrated in highlands from Kenya to South Africa (together with the Cape Floristic Region), western Africa (including mountains on the Cameroon-Nigeria border), and Ethiopia. Currently available knowledge can be applied throughout Africa's freshwater systems to help minimize or mitigate the impact of future development actions, allowing dragonflies to act as "guardians of the watershed". The private sector can be advised to safeguard sensitive habitats and species when selecting sites for development. Key sites and species for monitoring can be identified by checking the distribution of threatened species at © The Ecological Society of America.

Steiner F.M.,University of Innsbruck | Seifert B.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Moder K.,University of Vienna | Schlick-Steiner B.C.,University of Innsbruck
Zoologischer Anzeiger | Year: 2010

Ants of the myrmicine Tetramorium caespitum (Linnaeus, 1758)/T. impurum (Foerster, 1850) complex have challenged taxonomy for long. Schlick-Steiner et al. (2006) made plausible that there are at least seven instead of two species to the complex in the Western Palearctic. Using an increased sample size for increased robustness of the system, we here delimit the alpine species Tetramorium sp. A sensu Schlick-Steiner et al. (2006) against the co-occurring other Western Palearctic species of the complex. The co-occurring species are T. caespitum, T. sp. B sensu Schlick-Steiner et al. (2006) - here treated together because of their extreme morphological similarity - and T. impurum. In a multi-source approach taking advantage of interdisciplinary complementarity, data from male genital morphology and worker morphometrics, thermal niche and mitochondrial DNA are integrated. The unified species concept is applied using the species-delimitation criteria of phenotypic distinctness, thermal niche divergence, reciprocal monophyly and genetic clusters. Tetramorium sp. A is confirmed to be a separate species. Possible synonyms are excluded as names for it based on biogeographic, thermal-niche and worker-morphometric arguments. Tetramorium sp. A is described as Tetramorium alpestre sp.n. It is known from alpine-mat habitats between 1300 and 2335. m above sea level in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. T. alpestre is the only Western Palearctic species of the species complex with functionally polygynous nests and supercolonies. Routine identification of workers can be performed using a freely accessible identification tool embedded in the internet, at We discuss our use of species concept, species-delimitation criteria and data analyses as well as the identity of six ambiguous nests and look at some aspects of taking the multisource approach in taxonomy. © 2010 Elsevier GmbH.

Gerlach A.,Biodiversity and Climate Research Center Frankfurt | Russell D.J.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Rombke J.,ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH | Bruggemann W.,Goethe University Frankfurt
Soil Biology and Biochemistry | Year: 2012

In view of the predicted climate change in Central Europe, preventive forestry adaptation strategies are currently being developed in Germany to maintain stable forest ecosystems with high biodiversity. Mediterranean, drought-tolerant oak species such as Quercus pubescens, Quercus frainetto and Quercus ilex are being evaluated as future forest trees for German forest sites which are becoming increasingly dry. The present study represents first investigations concerning the influence of these introduced species on local soil-biological processes, especially primary leaf litter decomposition. The feeding activity of native Glomeris marginata was observed with the Mediterranean leaf litter in comparison to litter of local Quercus robur and Fagus sylvatica under laboratory conditions. In the experiments the introduced litter was readily fed upon by local millipede populations. The results furthermore show that the introduced litter is consumed at equal or even higher rates than the litter of native tree species. Leaf litter of the introduced tree species seems to have no or possibly even a positive influence on the feeding activity of G. marginata. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Wagner V.,Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg | Treiber J.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Danihelka J.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic | Danihelka J.,Masaryk University | And 3 more authors.
International Journal of Plant Sciences | Year: 2012

A common assumption in ecology and evolutionary biology is that genetic diversity declines and differentiation increases toward the edge of a species' geographic range, where populations tend to be smaller and more isolated. We tested these predictions in a characteristic Eurasian steppe plant, Stipa pennata, by inspecting 230 AFLP bands in 26 populations (345 individuals) along a 3300-km longitudinal gradient from the range core, in Russia, to the range periphery, in central Europe. Overall, our study species showed low genetic diversity within populations (mean proportion of polymorphic bands = 21.2%) and moderately high genetic differentiation among them (mean fΦST = 0.29). As predicted, genetic diversity declined significantly from the range core to the periphery but was not correlated with population size. Pairwise genetic dif-ferentiation was significantly higher among peripheral populations than central populations but did not show a pronounced relationship with geographic distance. Our results indicate that peripheral populations may experience higher genetic drift and lower gene flow than their central counterparts, possibly because of smaller population sizes, spatial isolation, and a more complex landscape structure. In addition, historic range fluctuations and the mixed breeding system could have enhanced the observed patterns in our study species. © 2012 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Goropashnaya A.V.,Uppsala University | Goropashnaya A.V.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Fedorov V.B.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Seifert B.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Pamilo P.,University of Helsinki
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Ants of genus Formica demonstrate variation in social organization and represent model species for ecological, behavioral, evolutionary studies and testing theoretical implications of the kin selection theory. Subgeneric division of the Formica ants based on morphology has been questioned and remained unclear after an allozyme study on genetic differentiation between 13 species representing all subgenera was conducted. In the present study, the phylogenetic relationships within the genus were examined using mitochondrial DNA sequences of the cytochrome b and a part of the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 6. All 23 Formica species sampled in the Palaearctic clustered according to the subgeneric affiliation except F. uralensis that formed a separate phylogenetic group. Unlike Coptoformica and Formica s. str., the subgenus Serviformica did not form a tight cluster but more likely consisted of a few small clades. The genetic distances between the subgenera were around 10%, implying approximate divergence time of 5 Myr if we used the conventional insect divergence rate of 2% per Myr. Within-subgenus divergence estimates were 6.69% in Serviformica, 3.61% in Coptoformica, 1.18% in Formica s. str., which supported our previous results on relatively rapid speciation in the latter subgenus. The phylogeny inferred from DNA sequences provides a necessary framework against which the evolution of social traits can be compared. We discuss implications of inferred phylogeny for the evolution of social traits. © 2012 Goropashnaya et al.

News Article | September 15, 2016

After reconstructing the color patterns of a well-preserved dinosaur from China, researchers from the University of Bristol have found that the long-lost species Psittacosaurus (meaning "parrot lizard,” a reference to its parrot-like beak) was light on its underside and darker on top. This color pattern, known as countershading, is a common form of camouflage in modern animals. The study published today in Current Biology led the researchers to conclude that Psittacosaurus most likely lived in an environment with diffuse light, such as in a forest, and has produced the most life-like reconstruction of a dinosaur ever created. "The fossil, which is on public display at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Germany, preserves clear countershading, which has been shown to function by counter-illuminating shadows on a body, thus making an animal appear optically flat to the eye of the beholder," said Jakob Vinther from the Schools of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences. "By reconstructing a life-size 3-D model, we were able to not only see how the patterns of shading changed over the body, but also that it matched the sort of camouflage which would work best in a forested environment," added behavioral ecologist Innes Cuthill from the School of Biological Sciences. Countershading most likely served to protect Psittacosaurus – an early relative of the triceratop - against predators that use patterns of shadow on an object to determine shape, just as humans do. Vinther realized that structures previously thought to be artifacts or dead bacteria in fossilized feathers were actually "melanosomes," small structures that carry melanin pigments found in the feathers and skin of many animals. In some well-preserved specimens, such as the Psittacosaurus the researchers worked on in the new study, it's possible to make out the patterns of preserved melanin without the aid of a microscope. Innes and colleagues at Bristol had also been exploring the distribution of countershading in modern animals. But it was no easy matter to apply the same principles to an extinct animal that had been crushed flat and fossilized. To explore this idea further they teamed up with local palaeoartist, Bob Nicholls in order to reconstruct the remarkable fossil in to a physical model which, they say, is the most scientifically accurate life-size model of a dinosaur with its real color patterns. Days of careful studies of the fossil, taking measurements of the bones, studying the preserved scales and the pigment patterns, with input on muscle structure from Bristol palaeontologists Emily Rayfield and Stephan Lautenschlager, led to months of careful modeling of the dinosaur. "Our Psittacosaurus was reconstructed from the inside-out. There are thousands of scales, all different shapes and sizes, and many of them are only partially pigmented.  It was a painstaking process but we now have the best suggestion as to what this dinosaur really looked like," said Nicholls. In order to investigate what environment the psittacosaur had evolved to live in, Vinther, Nicholls and Cuthill took another cast of the model and painted it all grey. They then placed it in the Cretaceous plant section of Bristol Botanic Garden and photographed it under an open sky and underneath trees to see how the shadow was cast under those conditions. By comparing the shadow to the pattern in the fossil they could then predict what environment the psittacosaur lived in. "We predicted that the psittacosaur must have lived in a forest. This demonstrates that fossil color patterns can provide not only a better picture of what extinct animals looked like, but they can also give new clues about extinct ecologies and habitats,” said Vinther. "We were amazed to see how well these color patterns actually worked to camouflage this little dinosaur." Psittacosaurus, which Cuthill describes as "both weird and cute, with horns on either side of its head and long bristles on its tail" lived in the early Cretaceous of China and has been found in the same rock strata where many feathered dinosaurs have been found. Those deposits also include evidence for a forest environment based on plant and wood fossils. The researchers say that they'd now like to explore other types of camouflage in fossils and to use this evidence in understanding how predators could perceive the environment and to understand their role in shaping evolution and biodiversity.

Zakeri Z.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Gasparyan A.,Free University of Berlin | Aptroot A.,ABL Herbarium
Willdenowia | Year: 2016

The corticolous species Megaspora cretacea is described as new for science. The species is characterized by a thick, cretaceous thallus and a pale bluish, rather coarse soredia covering most of the thallus. It grows on Juniperus bark in open arid woodlands in Armenia. A key to the three species included in the genus Megaspora is presented. Phylogenetic analysis based on nrITS sequences revealed that M. cretacea clustered within the Megaspora clade as sister species to M. rimisorediata with high support. © 2016 The Authors.

Krause B.,University of Gottingen | Culmsee H.,University of Gottingen | Wesche K.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Bergmeier E.,University of Gottingen | Leuschner C.,University of Gottingen
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2011

Floodplain meadows are severely threatened by land use change and intensification in Central Europe. This study investigates quantitative and qualitative changes in the vegetation of wet and species-rich mesic meadows in the floodplains of north Germany since the 1950s, considering their spatial extent, fragmentation, and replacement by other land use types. Historical high-resolution vegetation maps were compared with recent vegetation surveys in seven study regions (six unprotected areas, one protected reference area) in former West and East Germany. The unprotected sites showed alarming losses in wet and species-rich mesic meadows in the past 50 years (>80%). Wet meadows were substituted by species-poor, intensively managed grasslands (26-60% of the former area), arable fields (0-47%) or set-asides (2-33%). Species-rich mesic meadows were transformed to arable fields (42-72%) or species-poor, intensively managed meadows (14-72%). Decreases in effective mesh size and patch size indicated increasing fragmentation of wet meadows, whilst changes in landscape structure were less consistent in mesic meadows. Only slight changes in the protected floodplain study area indicate that landscape change is mostly caused by local effects such as fertilisation and drainage, but not by general trends such as atmospheric N deposition or climate warming. Despite the contrasting political systems in West and East Germany with different agroeconomic frames, all unprotected study areas showed similar losses and increasing fragmentation of floodplain meadows, which may negatively influence the natural dynamics of, and the gene flow between, meadow plant populations. We conclude that floodplain meadows in north Germany urgently call for high-priority conservation measures. © 2011 The Author(s).

Schulz H.-J.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Potapov M.B.,Moscow State Pedagogical University
Zootaxa | Year: 2010

Folsomia mofettophila sp. nov. is described from cold, volcanic gas vents (mofettes) in the Northwest Bohemia (Czech Republic). The species is characterized by large post-antennal organ and combines characters of F. bisetosa Gisin and F. kuznetsovae Potapov & Taskaeva. Copyright © 2010, Magnolia Press.

Kellner A.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Ritz C.M.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History | Wissemann V.,Senckenberg Museum of Natural History
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2012

Hybridization between invasive and native species often has severe consequences on fitness and survival of the native relative. We investigated the extent of hybridization between the neophyte Rosa rugosa and native R.mollis, an endangered species in Germany. Rosa mollis is found in only one large population in Germany close to the Baltic coast, which has been heavily invaded by R.rugosa for at least 60 years. We analysed all individuals of R.mollis from this mixed population using microsatellite markers and morphological characters and compared these data with those from allopatric populations of R.mollis and R.rugosa. In the mixed population we identified nine plants (45% of the population) as hybrids between R.mollis (seed parent) and R.rugosa (pollen parent) by the presence of microsatellite alleles private for R.rugosa. These individuals were also morphologically intermediate between the parental species. Gene flow from R.mollis into R.rugosa was negligible. We detected a very low genetic diversity and a low number of seeds per hip in the mixed population of R.mollis, pointing to genetic depletion and low fitness. In the light of these results and the difficulties in removing invasive R.rugosa from European coastlines, we discuss possible conservation strategies for this endangered population. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London.

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