Zootaxa 3700 (3): 501–533 (15 Aug. 2013)
Systematic revision of the Parvoscincus decipiens (Boulenger, 1894) complex of Philippine forest skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Lygosominae) with descriptions of seven new species
CHARLES W. LINKEM & RAFE M. BROWN
Analysis of external morphological characters, color pattern, and DNA sequence data, plus consideration of biogeographical patterns, leads us to the hypothesis that the Parvoscincus decipiens complex of Philippine forest skinks consists of a minimum of eight highly divergent, phenotypically distinct, cohesive evolutionary lineages. We rectify this taxonomic underestimation of species diversity with formal descriptions of seven new species (P. abstrusus sp. nov., P. agtorum sp. nov., P. arvindiesmosisp. nov., P. aurorussp. nov., P. banahaoensissp. nov., P. jimmymcguireisp. nov., and P. palaliensis sp. nov.) and highlight geographical sampling deficiencies, which, if addressed with additional fieldwork, should lead to additional new species discoveries. Due to the difficulty of identifying non-overlapping differences in scalation on similarly sized, small-bodied skinks, species level diversity in diminutive Philippine forest skinks is undoubtedly substantially underestimated.
Zootaxa 3701 (1): 035–053 (16 Aug. 2013)
Description of three new species of Hylopanchax Poll & Lambert, 1965 from the central Congo Basin (Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae: Procatopodini) with a redefinition of the genus
JOUKE R. VAN DER ZEE, RAINER SONNENBERG & ULRICH K. SCHLIEWEN
Three new species of the lampeye genus Hylopanchax are described from the central Congo basin: H. leki, new species,
H. ndeko, new species, and H. moke, new species. These differ considerably in body shape from the two previously described species, H. stictopleuron and H. silvestris, with two deep bodied and one small and slender species. A redefinition of the diagnostic characters of the genus Hylopanchax is presented, including pronounced sexual dimorphism.
Anna Reuleaux et al. (2013): Status, distribution and recommendations for monitoring of the Seychelles black parrot Coracopsis (nigra) barklyi (Oryx). Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605312000300
The Seychelles black parrot Coracopsis (nigra) barklyi, endemic to the Seychelles islands, is the only surviving parrot on the archipelago. Although originally classified as a subspecies of the lesser vasa parrot Coracopsis nigra evidence now indicates that the Seychelles population may be a distinct species, in which case its conservation status also requires reassessment. Here, we address the status of the C. (n.) barklyi population on the islands of its current and likely historical range, Praslin and Curieuse, assess the effect of habitat type on relative abundance, and identify the most appropriate point count duration for monitoring the population. We conducted point count distance sampling at 268 locations using habitat type as a covariate in the modelling of the detection function. Density on Praslin was estimated to be 0.14–0.24 individuals per ha, resulting in an estimate of a total of 520–900 individuals (95% confidence interval). The highest densities occurred in endemic palm and mixed forests. Habitats with a high proportion of palms were more likely to support parrots than habitats without palms. As no parrots were detected on Curieuse the number estimated on Praslin is the global wild population. The small size of this population necessitates its categorization as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Our main recommendation for the conservation of C. (n.) barklyi, in addition to continued monitoring, is the preservation and expansion of the parrot’s endemic palm forest habitat.
Do warning calls boost survival of signal recipients? evidence from a field experiment in a group-living bird species
Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:49 (13 August 2013)
Warning calls are a widespread anti-predator adaptation, which can signal unprofitability to predators or alert other potential targets of the predator. Although it is tacitly assumed that the recipients of warning calls experience a reduction in predation risk, this crucial assumption remains untested. Here I tested this hypothesis with a field experiment in the group-living Siberian jay, Perisoreus infaustus. I exposed male or female breeding adults that were foraging together with a non-breeder (related or unrelated) to a model of their main predator (goshawk Accipiter gentilis) in autumn. I then recorded the warning call response of breeders as well as the reaction time of non-breeders, and followed the subsequent survival of non-breeders until spring.
In most experiments (73%), non-breeders were warned by the more experienced breeders. Warning calls almost halved the reaction time of non-breeders during the experiment and influenced the survival of call recipients: non-breeders that were warned had a higher subsequent survival (19 out of 23) than non-breeders that were not warned (2 out of 5). However, neither kinship, group size, the age of the non-breeder, or the habitat structure of the territory had an influence on the survival subsequent to the experiments.
Since earlier studies showed that breeders are consistent in their warning call investment across different contexts, breeders that did warn non-breeders in the experiment were likely to have done so in subsequent, natural attacks. Consequently non-breeders living with breeders that called had a better chance of surviving predator attacks. Thus, these results suggest that warning calls have the potential to boost the survival of signal recipients, confirming a pivotal, yet hitherto untested assumption of the effect of warning calls.
Hidden diversity in Senegalese bats and associated findings in the systematics of the family Vespertilionidae
Koubínová D, Irwin N, Hulva P, Koubek P, Zima J
Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:48 (12 August 2013)
The Vespertilionidae is the largest family of bats, characterized by high occurrence of morphologically convergent groups, which impedes the study of their evolutionary history. The situation is even more complicated in the tropics, where certain regions remain under-sampled.
Two hundred and thirteen vespertilionid bats from Senegal (West Africa) were studied with the use of non-differentially stained karyotypes and multi-locus sequence data analysed with maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. These bats were identified as 10 different taxa, five of which were distinctive from their nominate species (Pipistrellus hesperidus, Nycticeinops schlieffenii, Scotoecus hirundo, Neoromicia nana and N. somalica), based on both karyotypes and molecular data. These five cryptic taxa are unrelated, suggesting that these West African populations have long been isolated from other African regions. Additionally, we phylogenetically analysed 166 vespertilionid taxa from localities worldwide using GenBank data (some 80% of the genera of the family) and 14 representatives of closely related groups, together with our Senegalese specimens. The systematic position of several taxa differed from previous studies and the tribes Pipistrellini and Vespertilionini were redefined. The African Pipistrellus rueppellii was basal to the Pipistrellus/Nyctalus clade and the Oriental species Glischropus tylopus was basal to the East Asian pipistrelles within the tribe Pipistrellini. The African genus Neoromicia was confirmed to be diphyletic. Based on GenBank data, Eptesicus was polyphyletic, with the Asian E. nasutus and E. dimissus both supported as phylogenetically distinct from the Eptesicus clade. The subfamily Scotophilinae was confirmed as one of the basal branches of Vespertilionidae.
New taxa and new systematic arrangements show that there is still much to resolve in the vespertilionids and that West Africa is a biogeographic hotspot with more diversity to be discovered.
Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito
Kristofer M. Helgen, Miguel Pinto, Roland Kays, Lauren Helgen, Mirian Tsuchiya, Aleta Quinn, Don Wilson, Jesus Maldonado
ZooKeys 324 (2013) Special Issue: 1-83
We present the first comprehensive taxonomic revision and review the biology of the olingos, the endemic Neotropical procyonid genus Bassaricyon, based on most specimens available in museums, and with data derived from anatomy, morphometrics, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, field observations, and geographic range modeling. Species of Bassaricyon are primarily forest-living, arboreal, nocturnal, frugivorous, and solitary, and have one young at a time. We demonstrate that four olingo species can be recognized, including a Central American species (Bassaricyon gabbii), lowland species with eastern, cis-Andean (Bassaricyon alleni) and western, trans-Andean (Bassaricyon medius) distributions, and a species endemic to cloud forests in the Andes. The oldest evolutionary divergence in the genus is between this last species, endemic to the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, and all other species, which occur in lower elevation habitats. Surprisingly, this Andean endemic species, which we call the Olinguito, has never been previously described; it represents a new species in the order Carnivora and is the smallest living member of the family Procyonidae. We report on the biology of this new species based on information from museum specimens, niche modeling, and fieldwork in western Ecuador, and describe four Olinguito subspecies based on morphological distinctions across different regions of the Northern Andes.
Lehmann D, Mfune JKE, Gewers E, Cloete J, Brain C, et al. (2013) Dietary Plasticity of Generalist and Specialist Ungulates in the Namibian Desert: A Stable Isotopes Approach. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72190. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072190
Desert ungulates live in adverse ecosystems that are particularly sensitive to degradation and global climate change. Here, we asked how two ungulate species with contrasting feeding habits, grazing gemsbok (Oryx g. gazella) and browsing springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), respond to an increase in food availability during a pronounced rain period. We used a stable isotope approach to delineate the feeding habits of these two ungulates in the arid Kunene Region of Namibia. Our nineteen months field investigation included two time periods of drought when food availability for ungulates was lowest and an intermediate period with extreme, unusual rainfalls. We documented thirteen isotopically distinct food sources in the isotopic space of the study area. Our results indicated a relatively high dietary plasticity of gemsbok, which fed on a mixture of plants, including more than 30% of C3 plants during drought periods, but almost exclusively on C4 and CAM plant types when food was plentiful. During drought periods, the inferred gemsbok diets also consisted of up to 25% of Euphorbia damarana; an endemic CAM plant that is rich in toxic secondary plant compounds. In contrast, springbok were generalists, feeding on a higher proportion of C3 than C4/CAM plants, irrespective of environmental conditions. Our results illustrate two dietary strategies in gemsbok and springbok which enable them to survive and coexist in the hostile Kunene arid ecosystem.
Alex R Hearn, Jonathan R Green, Eduardo Espinoza, Cesar Peñaherrera, David Acuña, A Peter Klimley
Simple criteria to determine detachment point of towed satellite tags provide first evidence of return migrations of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Animal Biotelemetry August 2013
Attachment of towed, floating satellite tags to large marine organisms has provided scientists with a wealth of information on the movements of these species. These tags generally are not programmed to detach at a particular time, yet are often prone to detachment by natural means after only a few days or weeks. It is important to be able to distinguish between the tracks provided by a detached, floating tag, and one that is attached to the subject. To this end, we placed three SPOT-5 and one SPLASH tag on large female whale sharks at Darwin Island (Galapagos Islands), and compared their tracks with those of two floating SPOT-5 tags released at the same site. We present a set of criteria to determine whether a towed satellite tag encased in a float is still attached to the study organism.None of the whale sharks remained in the vicinity of the island. Three of the tracks lasted 31 to 48 days, yet one shark was tracked for 167 days. This was the first recorded bona fide homing migration of a whale shark, travelling 1,650 km west then returning to Darwin four months later. Two other sharks also returned to Darwin. We found that at the time of detachment, a clear change in the daily timing and quality of transmissions became evident. This, in conjunction with daily depth and temperature summaries, and knowledge of currents and the biology of the subject, can be used to justify endpoints on tracks that continue to accrue positions as the tag floats with the currents.The data provided by floating tags is sufficiently distinct to be able to determine a detachment date. After detachment, daily transmissions are received in the first hours of the day after midnight (Coordinated Universal Time), the location quality of the transmissions is consistently high, and temperature or depth summaries are consistent with surface records. Prior knowledge of subject behavior and general ocean circulation patterns in the region reinforces the ability to determine detachment date. In some cases, after a prolonged period of more than three or four weeks, the detection pattern may change, yet caution should be exercised in assuming that the tag is, after all, still attached.
Kenta Suzuki, Maki Ikebuchi, Kazuo Okanoya, The impact of domestication on fearfulness: a comparison of tonic immobility reactions in wild and domesticated finches, Behavioural Processes, Available online 17 August 2013, ISSN 0376-6357, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2013.08.004.
We examined differences in the fear response between Bengalese finches and their wild ancestor, the white-backed munia, to explore the evolutionary mechanisms of behavioural changes due to domestication. The Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata var. domestica) was domesticated from the wild-living white-backed munia (Lonchura striata) approximately 250 years ago. A previous study indicated that Bengalese finches sing much more complex songs than white-backed munias. We hypothesised that Bengalese finches are likely able to allocate more resources to reproduction in exchange for reduced survival effort. We measured tonic immobility (TI) reactions as a response to physical restraint to evaluate fearfulness related to coping with predation. The results showed that Bengalese finches exhibited decreased TI responses compared with white-backed munias. TI responses were unaffected by sex, body weight or growth conditions. These differences suggest that the fearfulness in Bengalese finches has been reduced by selective pressure during domestication. Bengalese finches may have been able to increase the investment of energy in reproduction in exchange for reduced costs of predation and coping necessary to survive in the wild; these behavioural changes may have been a major target of domestication effects in this species.
Charles KE, Linklater WL. Behavior and Characteristics of Sap-Feeding North Island kākā (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) in Wellington, New Zealand. Animals. 2013; 3(3):830-842.
The North Island kākā (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis), a threatened New Zealand native parrot, was successfully reintroduced to an urban sanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand. Conflict has recently begun to emerge with Wellington City residents due to tree damage caused by kākā sap foraging. Little is known about sap foraging behavior of kākā, and this study aimed to gain a greater understanding of this behavior, and to test hypotheses that sap feeding is predominantly a female activity and that one technique, forming transverse gouges through bark, may be restricted to adult kākā. We used instantaneous scan sampling to record the behavior of kākā during 25 60–100 minute observation periods at Anderson Park, Wellington Botanic Garden, and during 13 opportunistic observations of sap feeding kākā in Wellington City. Forty-one observations of sap feeding were made of 21 individually-identified birds. Sap feeding birds were predominantly young and, based on estimated sex, females were no more likely to sap feed than males (exact binomial test p = 0.868). Twenty of the 21 identified sap feeding kākā utilized supplementary feeding stations at Zealandia-Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Kākā were observed defending sap feeding sites from tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) and conspecifics. Sap appears to be an important resource for kākā across sexes and life stages, and provision of supplementary food is unlikely to reduce sap feeding and tree damage in Wellington City.
Edwin J. C. van Leeuwen, Innocent Chitalu Mulenga, Diana Lisensky Chidester
Early social deprivation negatively affects social skill acquisition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
Animal Cognition August 2013
In a highly social species like chimpanzees, the process by which individuals become attuned to their social environment may be of vital importance to their chances of survival. Typically, this socialization process, defined by all acquisition experiences and fine-tuning efforts of social interaction patterns during ontogeny, occurs in large part through parental investment. In this study, we investigated whether maternal presence enhances the socialization process in chimpanzees by comparing the social interactions of orphaned and mother-reared individuals at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia. As response variables, we selected social interactions during which an elaborate level of fine-tuning is assumed to be necessary for sustaining the interaction and preventing escalation: social play. Comparing orphaned (n = 8) to sex- and age-matched mother-reared juvenile chimpanzees (n = 9), we hypothesized that the orphaned juveniles would play less frequently than the mother-reared and would be less equipped for fine-tuning social play (which we assayed by rates of aggression) because of the lack of a safe and facilitating social environment provided by the mother. First, contrary to our hypothesis, results showed that the orphaned juveniles engaged in social play more frequently than the mother-reared juveniles, although for significantly shorter amounts of time. Second, in support of our hypothesis, results showed that social play of the orphaned juveniles more often resulted in aggression than social play of the mother-reared juveniles. In conjunction, these results may indicate that, just like in humans, chimpanzee mothers provide their offspring with adequate social skills that might be of pivotal importance for future challenges like successful group-living and securing competitive fitness advantages.
Tristan L. Guttridge, Culum Brown
Learning and memory in the Port Jackson shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni
Animal Cognition August 2013
Basic understanding of the fundamental principles and mechanisms involved in learning is lacking for elasmobranch fishes. Our aim in this study was to experimentally investigate the learning and memory capacity of juvenile Port Jackson sharks, Heterodontus portusjacksoni. Sharks (N = 30) were conditioned over a 19-day period to associate an underwater LED light or stream of air-bubbles [conditioned stimulus (CS)] with a food reward [unconditioned stimulus (US)], using three procedures (delay, trace and control). During experiments, the CS signalled at a random time between 180 and 300 s for 30 s (six times per day). For the delay the US overlapped in time with the CS, for the trace the US delivered 10 s after the CS and for our control the US was delivered at random time between 180 and 300 s after the CS. H. portusjacksoni sharks trained in all procedures improved consistently in their time to obtain food, indicative of Pavlovian learning. Importantly, the number of sharks in the feeding area 5 s prior to CS onset did not change over time for any procedures. However, significantly more sharks were present 5 s after CS onset for delay for both air-bubble and light CS. Sharks trained in the delay and trace procedures using air-bubbles as the CS also displayed significantly more anticipatory behaviours, such as turning towards the CS and biting. Sharks trained with the light CS did not exhibit such behaviours; however, trace procedural sharks did show a significant improvement in moving towards the CS at its onset. At 20 and 40 days after the end of the conditioning experiments, some sharks were presented the CS without reward. Two sharks trained in the delay procedure using air-bubbles as the CS exhibited biting behaviours: one at 20 and the other at 40 days. This study demonstrates that H. portusjacksoni have the capacity to learn a classical conditioning procedure relatively quickly (30 trials during 5 days) and associate two time-separated events and retention of learnt associations for at least 24 h and possibly up to 40 days.
Zootaxa 3701 (2): 257–276 (19 Aug. 2013)
Lizard Wears Shades. A Spectacled Sphenomorphus (Squamata: Scincidae), from the Sacred Forests of Mawphlang, Meghalaya, North-east India
ANIRUDDHA DATTA-ROY, INDRANEIL DAS, AARON M. BAUER, RONALD K. LYNGDOH TRON & PRAVEEN KARANTH
A new species of lygosomatine scincid lizard is described from the sacred forests of Mawphlang, in Meghalaya, northeastern India. Sphenomorphus apalpebratus sp. nov. possesses a spectacle or brille, an unusual feature within the Scincidae, and a first for the paraphyletic genus Sphenomorphus. The new species is compared with other members of the genus to which it is here assigned, as well as to members of the lygosomatine genera Lipinia and Scincella from mainland India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and south-east Asia, to which it also bears resemblance. The new taxon is diagnosable in exhibiting the following combination of characters: small body size (SVL to 42.0 mm); moveable eyelids absent; auricular opening scaleless, situated in a shallow depression; dorsal scales show a line of demarcation along posterior edge of ventral pes; midbody scale rows 27–28; longitudinal scale rows between parietals and base of tail 62–64; lamellae under toe IV 8–9; supraoculars five; supralabials 5–6; infralabials 4–5; subcaudals 92; and dorsum golden brown, except at dorsal margin of lateral line, which is lighter, with four faintly spotted lines, two along each side of vertebral row of scales, that extend to tail base. The new species differs from its congeners in the lack of moveable eyelids, a character shared with
several distantly related scincid genera.
Aline D. Gomes, Carlos A. Navas, Carlos Jared, Marta M. Antoniazzi, Nora R. Ceballos, Renata G. Moreira, Metabolic and endocrine changes during the reproductive cycle of dermatophagic caecilians in captivity, Zoology, Available online 18 August 2013, ISSN 0944-2006, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2013.06.002.
The amphibian order Gymnophiona is poorly known, and studies about their reproduction are mainly comparative and descriptive, focusing on the structure of testes, ovaries and oviducts. However, to understand the reproductive processes, including those of the oviparous dermatophagic species, it is important to know the dynamics of storage and mobilization of energetic substrates to gonads and skin during the reproductive cycle of males and females, as well as the endocrine control associated. For the present study, total lipids and proteins were measured during the annual cycle in the plasma, liver, muscle, testes, ovaries and skin of Siphonops annulatus in captivity. Plasma levels of gonadal steroids (estradiol, testosterone and progesterone) were quantified by radioimmunoassay. Histological analyses of ovaries and testes were performed to classify the maturation stages of the animals during the reproductive cycle. Gonadal maturation in males and females of S. annulatus was accompanied by metabolic changes in reserve tissues, which supported gonadal development and prepared the females’ epidermis for skin feeding by the offspring. Even in confinement conditions, females and males synchronized the reproductive period. However, due to the absence of environmental cues in captivity inadequate levels of the hormones responsible for gamete release were triggered, leading to a lack of reproductive success.
Foth C., Bona P. and Desojo J.B. 2013. Intraspecific variation in the skull morphology of the black caiman Melanosuchus niger (Alligatoridae, Caimaninae).—Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 00: 000–000.
Melanosuchus niger is a caimanine alligatorid widely distributed in the northern region of South America. This species has been the focus of several ecological, genetic and morphological studies. However, morphological studies have generally been limited to examination of interspecific variation among extant species of South American crocodylians. Here, we present the first study of intraspecific variation in the skull of M. niger using a two-dimensional geometric morphometric approach. The crania of 52 sexed individuals varying in size were analysed to quantify shape variation and to assign observed shape changes to different types of intraspecific variation, that is, ontogenetic variation and sexual dimorphism. Most of the variation in this species is ontogenetic variation in snout length, skull depth, orbit size and the width of the postorbital region. These changes are correlated with bite force performance and probably dietary changes. However, a comparison with previous functional studies reveals that functional adaptations during ontogeny seem to be primarily restricted to the postrostral region, whereas rostral shape changes are more related to dietary shifts. Furthermore, the skulls of M. niger exhibit a sexual dimorphism, which is primarily size-related. The presence of non-size-related sexual dimorphism has to be tested in future examinations.
Arcanjo R.B., deSouza L.P., Rezende C.F. and Silva J.R.F. 2013. Embryonic development and nourishment in the viviparous fish Poecilia vivipara (Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae). — Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 00: 000–000.
While viviparity confers protection to the embryos during gestation, it increases energetic costs for the mother, which acquires new relations to its offspring. Maternal–fetal transfer of nutrients can occur in different patterns: as lecithotrophy (nourished by yolk) or matrotrophy (nourished by the mother). The development of Poecilia vivipara embryos was described macroscopically and microscopically, and the form of nutritional provisioning was identified. Embryonic development was divided into three prefertilization and seven postfertilization stages. The first organ to appear is the notochord, followed by the nervous, digestive and cardiovascular systems, and then by muscles and eyes. Embryonic nutritional provisioning was lecithotrophic, with yolk persisting until the last developmental stages and rich in proteins and polysaccharides. This kind of embryonic nutrition confirms the pattern found in the family Poeciliidae.
Pointer MA, Harrison PW, Wright AE, Mank JE (2013) Masculinization of Gene Expression Is Associated with Exaggeration of Male Sexual Dimorphism. PLoS Genet 9(8): e1003697. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003697
Gene expression differences between the sexes account for the majority of sexually dimorphic phenotypes, and the study of sex-biased gene expression is important for understanding the genetic basis of complex sexual dimorphisms. However, it has been difficult to test the nature of this relationship due to the fact that sexual dimorphism has traditionally been conceptualized as a dichotomy between males and females, rather than an axis with individuals distributed at intermediate points. The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) exhibits just this sort of continuum, with dominant and subordinate males forming a gradient in male secondary sexual characteristics. This makes it possible for the first time to test the correlation between sex-biased gene expression and sexually dimorphic phenotypes, a relationship crucial to molecular studies of sexual selection and sexual conflict. Here, we show that subordinate male transcriptomes show striking multiple concordances with their relative phenotypic sexual dimorphism. Subordinate males were clearly male rather than intersex, and when compared to dominant males, their transcriptomes were simultaneously demasculinized for male-biased genes and feminized for female-biased genes across the majority of the transcriptome. These results provide the first evidence linking sexually dimorphic transcription and sexually dimorphic phenotypes. More importantly, they indicate that evolutionary changes in sexual dimorphism can be achieved by varying the magnitude of sex-bias in expression across a large proportion of the coding content of a genome.
Cobley MJ, Rayfield EJ, Barrett PM (2013) Inter-Vertebral Flexibility of the Ostrich Neck: Implications for Estimating Sauropod Neck Flexibility. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72187. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072187
The flexibility and posture of the neck in sauropod dinosaurs has long been contentious. Improved constraints on sauropod neck function will have major implications for what we know of their foraging strategies, ecology and overall biology. Several hypotheses have been proposed, based primarily on osteological data, suggesting different degrees of neck flexibility. This study attempts to assess the effects of reconstructed soft tissues on sauropod neck flexibility through systematic removal of muscle groups and measures of flexibility of the neck in a living analogue, the ostrich (Struthio camelus). The possible effect of cartilage on flexibility is also examined, as this was previously overlooked in osteological estimates of sauropod neck function. These comparisons show that soft tissues are likely to have limited the flexibility of the neck beyond the limits suggested by osteology alone. In addition, the inferred presence of cartilage, and varying the inter-vertebral spacing within the synovial capsule, also affect neck flexibility. One hypothesis proposed that flexibility is constrained by requiring a minimum overlap between successive zygapophyses equivalent to 50% of zygapophyseal articular surface length (ONP50). This assumption is tested by comparing the maximum flexibility of the articulated cervical column in ONP50 and the flexibility of the complete neck with all tissues intact. It is found that this model does not adequately convey the pattern of flexibility in the ostrich neck, suggesting that the ONP50 model may not be useful in determining neck function if considered in isolation from myological and other soft tissue data.
Marcello Ruta, Kenneth D. Angielczyk, Jörg Fröbisch, Michael J. Benton
Decoupling of morphological disparity and taxic diversity during the adaptive radiation of anomodont therapsids Proc. R. Soc. B October 7, 2013 280 1768 20131071; doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1071 1471-2954
Adaptive radiations are central to macroevolutionary theory. Whether triggered by acquisition of new traits or ecological opportunities arising from mass extinctions, it is debated whether adaptive radiations are marked by initial expansion of taxic diversity or of morphological disparity (the range of anatomical form). If a group rediversifies following a mass extinction, it is said to have passed through a macroevolutionary bottleneck, and the loss of taxic or phylogenetic diversity may limit the amount of morphological novelty that it can subsequently generate. Anomodont therapsids, a diverse clade of Permian and Triassic herbivorous tetrapods, passed through a bottleneck during the end-Permian mass extinction. Their taxic diversity increased during the Permian, declined significantly at the Permo–Triassic boundary and rebounded during the Middle Triassic before the clade’s final extinction at the end of the Triassic. By sharp contrast, disparity declined steadily during most of anomodont history. Our results highlight three main aspects of adaptive radiations: (i) diversity and disparity are generally decoupled; (ii) models of radiations following mass extinctions may differ from those triggered by other causes (e.g. trait acquisition); and (iii) the bottleneck caused by a mass extinction means that a clade can emerge lacking its original potential for generating morphological variety.