Abstract View

Contribution to the study of acoustic communication in two Belgian river bullheads (Cottus rhenanus and C. perifretum) with further insight into the sound-producing mechanism
Colleye O, Ovidio M, Salmon A, Parmentier E
Frontiers in Zoology 2013 (19 November 2013)

The freshwater sculpins (genus Cottus) are small, bottom-living fishes widely distributed in North America and Europe. The taxonomy of European species has remained unresolved for a long time due to the overlap of morphological characters. Sound production has already been documented in some cottid representatives, with sounds being involved in courtship and agonistic interactions. Although the movements associated with sound production have been observed, the underlying mechanism remains incomplete. Here, we focus on two closely related species from Belgium: C. rhenanus and C. perifretum. This study aims 1) to record and to compare acoustic communication in both species, 2) to give further insight into the sound-producing mechanism and 3) to look for new morphological traits allowing species differentiation.
Both Cottus species produce multiple-pulsed agonistic sounds using a similar acoustic pattern: the first interpulse duration is always longer, making the first pulse unit distinct from the others. Recording sound production and hearing abilities showed a clear relationship between the sound spectra and auditory thresholds in both species: the peak frequencies of calls are around 150 Hz, which corresponds to their best hearing sensitivity. However, it appears that these fishes could not hear acoustic signals produced by conspecifics in their noisy habitat considering their hearing threshold expressed as sound pressure (~ 125 dB re 1 muPa). High-speed video recordings highlighted that each sound is produced during a complete back and forth movement of the pectoral girdle.
Both Cottus species use an acoustic pattern that remained conserved during species diversification. Surprisingly, calls do not seem to have a communicative function. On the other hand, fish could detect substrate vibrations resulting from movements carried out during sound production. Similarities in temporal and spectral characteristics also suggest that both species share a common sound-producing mechanism, likely based on pectoral girdle vibrations. From a morphological point of view, only the shape of the spinelike scales covering the body allows species differentiation.

Treerunners, cryptic lizards of the Plica plica group (Squamata, Sauria, Tropiduridae) of northern South America
John Murphy, Michael Jowers
ZooKeys 355 (2013): 49-77
doi: 10.3897/zookeys.355.5868
published: 25.11.2013

The arboreal, Neotropical lizard Plica plica (Linnaeus, 1758) has been long considered a widespread species with a distribution east of the Andes. A preliminary examination of 101 specimens from about 28 locations mostly north of the Amazon suggests that Plica plica is a cryptic species complex with taxa that can be distinguished on the basis of the number of scale rows at mid-body; the arrangement, shape and ornamentation of scales on the snout; the number of lamellae on the fourth toe; the number of subocular plates; as well as other commonly used external morphological traits. The allopatric species discussed here are concordant with northern South American geography. Plica plica (Linnaeus, 1758) is associated with the Guiana Shield (Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela). A second species, P. caribeana sp. n. is associated with the Caribbean Coastal Range of Venezuela including Trinidad and Tobago. A third, distinctive species, P. rayi sp. n. is associated with the middle Orinoco at the eastern edge of the Guiana Shield. Two other species, P. kathleenae sp. n. and P. medemi sp. n., each based upon a single specimen, one from the Sierra Acarai Mountains of Guyana, and the other from southern Meta, Colombia are described. In addition to morphological analyses, we sequenced 12S and 16S rDNA gene fragments from one Plica plica from Trinidad to assess its relationship and taxonomy to other mainland Plica cf. plica. The results suggest Plica caribeana sp. n. likely diverged prior to the separation of Trinidad from northern Venezuela. Isolation in the Caribbean Coastal Range during its rapid uplift in the late Miocene, combined with a marine incursion into northern Venezuela may have contributed to their genetic divergence from other populations.

Zootaxa 3741 (2): 289–294 (27 Nov. 2013)
The Phyllomedusa perinesos group (Anura: Hylidae) is derived from a Miocene Amazonian Lineage

The Phyllomedusa perinesos group is composed of four species that inhabit cloud forests in the eastern Andean slopes. We estimated the phylogenetic relationships among them and their closest relatives using mitochondrial DNA sequences. Our results confirm the monophyly of the group and a close relationship with the Amazonian species Phyllomedusa atelopoides and Phyllomedusa tomopterna. A chronogram indicates that the group originated during the Miocene and the contemporary species diverged from their closest relatives during the Miocene and early Pliocene. The timing of the group’s origin suggests that its
evolution was linked to the rise of the eastern Andes. Based on the phylogeny we expand the species content of the group to include P. atelopoides and P. tomopterna.

Lilian Alba-Mejia, Damien Caillaud, Olga L. Montenegro, Pedro Sánchez-Palomino, Margaret C. Crofoot Spatiotemporal Interactions Among Three Neighboring Groups of Free-Ranging White-Footed Tamarins (Saguinus leucopus) in Colombia
International Journal of Primatology November 2013

Successful conservation requires an understanding of animal movement patterns and space use. Such data are hard to obtain, however, when difficult terrain, nocturnal habits, or lack of habituation make direct observation impractical. White-footed tamarins (Saguinus leucopus) are small primates endemic to Colombia that are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and the illegal pet trade. Here, we report the results of the first study to use radio-tracking to investigate white-footed tamarin ranging behavior. We recorded the movements of three neighboring tamarin groups simultaneously for 3 month using radio-telemetry. Home range sizes (estimated using both minimum convex polygon and fixed kernel contour methods) were substantially larger than reported in previous studies that did not use remote-tracking. Monte Carlo resampling procedures revealed that home range size differed significantly among the three groups but that the mean daily path length did not. As in other tamarin species, the degree of range overlap between neighboring social groups was high, ranging from 27 to 81%. Using a randomization test, we showed that the observed mean distance between groups was significantly lower than expected by chance for two of the three group dyads. This pattern of intergroup “attraction,” in conjunction with substantial range overlap and high population density, implies that the Bellavista Forest, one of the few remaining habitats of Saguinus leucopus, may be saturated, and promoting habitat restoration should be a priority for the conservation of this species.

Elizabeth Tinsley Johnson, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Jacinta C. Beehner, Thore J. Bergman
Kinship and Dominance Rank Influence the Strength of Social Bonds in Female Geladas (Theropithecus gelada)
International Journal of Primatology November 2013

In many primates, close social relationships are associated with lower stress, better health, and increased life span. However, individuals do not form bonds indiscriminately; rather, they focus on a few primary partners. This suggests that the identity of the partner may be as important as the bond itself. Although dominance and kinship have repeatedly emerged as salient predictors of female relationships, most of this research comes from species with multimale, multifemale groups and strict dominance hierarchies. Further, kinship was typically determined based on either behavior or on known mother–daughter relationships alone. To understand the generality of previous findings, we use behavioral and genetic sampling to examine whether dominance rank and/or genetic relatedness mediate female social bonds in geladas (Theropithecus gelada) living in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. First, we found that, even though females in the same unit are closely related, female geladas still preferentially bond with the closest of these relatives. Second, females that were close kin formed the strongest bonds with females of similar rank to themselves. Finally, rank disparity predicted grooming rates but did not predict whether females were nearest neighbors. This suggests that, in contrast with data from other cercopithecines, spatial proximity among females may be less indicative of strong social bonds for geladas, a species that routinely exhibits a high degree of spatial overlap with extra-unit individuals. Together, these results highlight the importance of combining genetic data with detailed behavioral observations to help us understand how individuals choose and interact with social partners.

Varsha Pilbrow, Colin Groves Evidence for Divergence in Populations of Bonobos (Pan paniscus) in the Lomami-Lualaba and Kasai-Sankuru Regions Based on Preliminary Analysis of Craniodental Variation
International Journal of Primatology November 2013

Historical climatic events and riverine barriers influence the distribution of primates. The River Congo exerts the most significant influence on primate distribution in equatorial Africa, but the extent to which the inner basin of the Congo provided a refuge against Plio-Pleistocene climatic fluctuation is poorly understood. In this study we use cranial and dental morphometrics to examine how riverine barriers affect population patterns in bonobos (Pan paniscus). Bonobos and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are sister species and share the distinction of being the closest evolutionary relatives of humans, yet comparatively little is known about bonobo morphological diversity. We selected 55 adult bonobo crania with well-preserved postcanine dentitions and divided them into regions separated by the rivers Lukenie, Kasai, Lomami, and Lualaba. We found good discrimination among these regions in cranial and dental metrics, but whereas the discriminant functions from cranial metrics were statistically significant, the discriminant functions from dental metrics were not. Mean classification accuracy was 89% for craniometrics, and ranged between 72% and 93% for dental metrics. On average 84–97% of phenetic variation was encountered within regions. Our results mirror molecular studies in suggesting that bonobos are characterized by a long-term stable demographic history allowing strong gene flow between regions and precluding drift and population differentiation. There are some indications that the bonobos from the Lomami-Lualaba and the Kasai-Sankuru regions are divergent, but modest sample sizes do not allow us to be conclusive. We would welcome the opportunity to work with field researchers to augment our sample sizes and reanalyze our data.

Milton, K. and Giacalone, J. (2013), Differential effects of unusual climatic stress on capuchin (Cebus capucinus) and howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) populations on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Am. J. Primatol.. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22229
Though the harmful effects anthropogenic disturbances pose to wild primates are well appreciated, comparatively little is known about the effects of natural disturbances. From December 2010 to January 2011, different mortality patterns were observed for two primate species, capuchins and howler monkeys, on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. Unusually high rainfall in 2010 was associated with census and cadaver data indicating the rapid loss of >70% of the capuchin population in late 2010 to early 2011. In contrast, over this same period, no decline was documented for howler monkeys and cadaver data for howlers was unexceptional. The high mortality experienced by the capuchin population was unexpected and its extent was not fully appreciated until the event was largely over. Explanations proposed for it included effects of hypothermia, disease or a shortage of some essential nutrient(s). Of these, the dietary explanation seems most probable. BCI capuchins depend most heavily on arthropod foods in December, when few higher quality ripe fruits are available. The unprecedented high rainfall in December 2010 is hypothesized to have largely eliminated the arthropod peak expected on BCI each December. A lack of protein-rich arthropods, when coupled with the climatic and nutritional stress capuchins generally experience at this time of year, appears to have precipitated the rapid die-off of most of the island’s capuchin population. As howler monkeys obtain dietary protein primarily from leaves, a shortage of edible arthropods would not affect howler numbers. Comparison of our 2010 data with similar data on earlier primate/mammalian mortality events reported for BCI and for Corcovado, Costa Rica indicates that our understanding of the effects of natural disturbances on wild primate populations is not profound. We suggest that more research be devoted to this increasingly timely topic, so important to conservation policy.

Jacob C. Dunn, Aralisa Shedden-González, Jurgi Cristóbal-Azkarate, Liliana Cortés-Ortiz, Ernesto Rodríguez-Luna, Leslie A. Knapp Limited genetic diversity in the critically endangered Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) in the Selva Zoque, Mexico
Primates November 2013

The Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) is a critically endangered primate, which is paleoendemic to Mexico. However, despite the potential significance of genetic data for its management and conservation, there have been no population genetic studies of this subspecies. To examine genetic diversity in the key remaining forest refuge for A. p. mexicana, the Selva Zoque, we amplified full-length mitochondrial control region sequences (1,100 bp) from 45 individuals and found 7 very similar haplotypes. Haplotype diversity (h = 0.486) and nucleotide diversity (π = 0.0007) were extremely low compared to other Neotropical primates. Neutrality tests, used to evaluate demographic effects (Tajima’s D = −1.48, p = 0.05; Fu’s Fs = −3.33, p = 0.02), and mismatch distribution (sum of squares deviation = 0.006, p = 0.38; raggedness index = 0.12, p = 0.33) were consistent with a recent and mild population expansion and genetic diversity appears to be historically low in this taxon. Future studies should use a combination of mitochondrial and nuclear markers to fully evaluate genetic diversity and to better understand demographic history in A. p. mexicana. These studies should be undertaken throughout its geographic range in order to evaluate population structure and identify management units for conservation. Due to the limited distribution and population size of A. p. mexicana, future conservation strategies may need to consider genetic management. However, a more detailed knowledge of the population genetics of the subspecies is urgently recommended to maximise the conservation impact of these strategies.

Marie Bourjade, Adrien Meguerditchian, Audrey Maille, Florence Gaunet, Jacques Vauclair, Olive baboons, Papio anubis, adjust their visual and auditory intentional gestures to the visual attention of others, Animal Behaviour, Available online 26 November 2013, ISSN 0003-3472, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.10.019.Although nonhuman primates‘ gestural communication is often considered to be a likely precursor of human language, the intentional properties in this communicative system have not yet been entirely elucidated. In particular, little is known about the intentional nature of monkeys‘ gestural signalling and related social understanding. We investigated whether olive baboons can (1) adjust their requesting gestures to the visual attention of the experimenter with special emphasis on the state of the eyes (open versus closed), and (2) flexibly tailor visual and auditory-based gestures to elaborate their communication as a function of whether or not the experimenter can see them. Using a food-requesting paradigm, we found monkeys able to favour either visual or auditory-based requesting gestures to match the experimenter’s visual attention. Crucially, when the human was not visually attending, they silenced visual gestures to some extent but performed more attention-getting gestures. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of monkeys elaborating attention-getting signals to compensate for communication breakdown. Gestural communication was also supported by gaze alternation between the experimenter’s face and the food, especially when the human was visually attending. These findings offer evidence that olive baboons understand the state of the eyes in others‘ visual attention and use requesting gestures intentionally. They emphasize that Old World monkeys shift to acoustic communication when the recipient is not visually attending. In contrast to that of human infants and great apes, this acoustic communication is purely gestural, not vocal.

Denis Ndeloh Etiendem, Nikki Tagg
Feeding Ecology of Cross River Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) at Mawambi Hills: The Influence of Resource Seasonality
International Journal of Primatology November 2013

Determining the composition of primate diet and identifying factors that affect food choice are important in understanding habitat requirements of primates and designing conservation plans. We studied the diet of Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) in relation to availability of food resources, in a semideciduous lowland forest site (Mawambi Hills) in Cameroon, from November 2009 to September 2011. Based on 109 d of feeding trail data, 203 fecal samples, and 22 mo of phenological monitoring, we determined that gorillas consumed a total of 242 food items, including 240 plant items from 186 species and 55 taxonomic families. Mawambi gorillas diversified fruit consumption when fruit availability increased, and consumed more fibrous foods (pith, leaf, bark) during times of fruit scarcity, consistent with results of other gorilla studies. However, fruit availability was not related to rainfall, and the period of fruit scarcity was more pronounced at Mawambi than at other gorilla study sites, due to a single long dry season and extreme rainfall at the end of the rainy season that delayed fruit production and ripening. We found no relationship between the daily path length of the gorillas and fruit consumption. We found feeding habits of Mawambi gorillas to be notably similar to those of a population of Cross River gorillas at Afi Mountain, Nigeria, although subtle differences existed, possibly due to site-specific differences in forest composition and altitude. At both sites the liana Landolphia spp. was the single most important food species: the leaves are a staple and the fruits are consumed during periods of fruit scarcity. Snails and maggots were consumed but we observed no further faunivory. We suggest that tree leaves and lianas are important fallback food sources in the gorilla diet in seasonally dry forests.

Oecologia December 2013, Volume 173, Issue 4, pp 1661-1668
Density effect on great tit (Parus major) clutch size intensifies in a polluted environment
Tapio Eeva, Esa Lehikoinen

Long-term data on a great tit (Parus major) population breeding in a metal-polluted zone around a copper–nickel smelter indicate that, against expectations, the clutch size of this species is decreasing even though metal emissions in the area have decreased considerably over the past two decades. Here, we document long-term population-level changes in the clutch size of P. major and explore if changes in population density, population numbers of competing species, timing of breeding, breeding habitat, or female age distribution can explain decreasing clutch sizes. Clutch size of P. major decreased by one egg in the polluted zone during the past 21 years, while there was no significant change in clutch size in the unpolluted reference zone over this time period. Density of P. major nests was similar in both environments but increased threefold during the study period in both areas (from 0.8 to 2.4 nest/ha). In the polluted zone, clutch size has decreased as a response to a considerable increase in population density, while a corresponding density change in the unpolluted zone did not have such an effect. The other factors studied did not explain the clutch size trend. Fledgling numbers in the polluted environment have been relatively low since the beginning of the study period, and they do not show a corresponding decrease to that noted for the clutch size over the same time period. Our study shows that responses of commonly measured life-history parameters to anthropogenic pollution depend on the structure of the breeding population. Interactions between pollution and intrinsic population characters should therefore be taken into account in environmental studies.

Oecologia December 2013, Volume 173, Issue 4, pp 1283-1294
Females better face senescence in the wandering albatross
Deborah Pardo, Christophe Barbraud, Henri Weimerskirch

Sex differences in lifespan and aging are widespread among animals. Since investment in current reproduction can have consequences on other life-history traits, the sex with the highest cost of breeding is expected to suffer from an earlier and/or stronger senescence. This has been demonstrated in polygynous species that are highly dimorphic. However in monogamous species where parental investment is similar between sexes, sex-specific differences in aging patterns of life-history traits are expected to be attenuated. Here, we examined sex and age influences on demographic traits in a very long-lived and sexually dimorphic monogamous species, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans). We modelled within the same model framework sex-dependent variations in aging for an array of five life-history traits: adult survival, probability of returning to the breeding colony, probability of breeding and two measures of breeding success (hatching and fledging). We show that life-history traits presented contrasted aging patterns according to sex whereas traits were all similar at young ages. Both sexes exhibited actuarial and reproductive senescence, but, as the decrease in breeding success remained similar for males and females, the survival and breeding probabilities of males were significantly more affected than females. We discuss our results in the light of the costs associated to reproduction, age-related pairing and a biased operational sex-ratio in the population leading to a pool of non-breeders of potentially lower quality and therefore more subject to death or breeding abstention. For a monogamous species with similar parental roles, the patterns observed were surprising and when placed in a gradient of observed age/sex-related variations in life-history traits, wandering albatrosses were intermediate between highly dimorphic polygynous and most monogamous species.

Zootaxa 3741 (3): 569–582 (29 Nov. 2013)
A molecular phylogeny recovers Strabomantis aramunha Cassimiro, Verdade and Rodrigues, 2008 and Haddadus binotatus (Spix, 1824) (Anura: Terrarana) as sister taxa

The taxonomic and biogeographic affinities of Strabomantis aramunha from the Campos Rupestres of Brazil are intriguing. A unique skull morphology of females suggest affinities with the broad-headed eleutherodactylines of Northwestern South America in the genus Strabomantis. Male and juvenile morphology nonetheless suggest S. aramunha could be related to members of the recently described genus Haddadus from eastern Brazil. We assess the affinities of S. aramunha using molecular phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial (12S, tRNAval, 16S, cyt b) and nuclear sequences (RAG-1and rhodopsin). Bayesian inference, likelihood, and parsimony analysis recover a highly supported clade with S. aramunha and H. binotatus as sister taxa. Accordingly, we transfer S. aramunha to Haddadus, and provide a new generic definition of the later. The distribution of species in Haddadus (highlands of the Espinhaço mountain Range and coastal eastern Brazil) is now concordant with the general pattern observed for other species in the area.

Zootaxa 3741 (3): 593–600 (29 Nov. 2013)
Eviota santanai, a new Dwarfgoby from Timor-Leste (Teleostei: Gobiidae)

Eviota santanai is described based on four specimens from Timor-Leste, taken in 5–8 m depth. In general coloration pattern, the species is most similar to E. latifasciata, but differs in the cephalic sensory-pore system pattern, the absence of an occipital spot, and live color including pinkish-mauve bars. Eviota santanai has a dorsal/anal fin-ray formula of 8/8, 5th pelvic-fin ray absent, some lower pectoral-fin rays branched, and IT and PITO pores absent.

Álvarez, D., Viesca, L. and Nicieza, A. G. (2013), Sperm competitiveness differs between two frog populations with different breeding systems. Journal of Zoology. doi: 10.1111/jzo.12093
In species with simultaneous polyandry, male-biased operational sex ratio is expected to increase the risk of sperm competition and thus sperm traits affecting siring success can differ among populations. Here, we test the hypothesis that high male–female ratios will enhance sperm competitiveness of Rana temporaria males. In this species, local populations can show either prolonged or explosive breeding. In a context of sperm competition and in controlled laboratory conditions, prolonged-breeding males sired a higher proportion of eggs than explosive-breeding males, regardless of female origin. This study demonstrates intrapopulation variation in siring success under a situation of sperm competition, consistent with the prolonged-explosive dichotomy of breeding strategies.

Young, M. T., De Andrade, M. B., Etches, S. and Beatty, B. L. (2013), A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Lower Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Late Jurassic) of England, with implications for the evolution of dermatocranium ornamentation in Geosaurini. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 169: 820–848. doi: 10.1111/zoj.12082
A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Lower Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Kimmeridgian, Upper Jurassic) of England is described. This specimen, a three-dimensionally preserved skull and left mandibular ramus, is referred to a new species: Torvoneustes coryphaeus sp. nov. Within the genus Torvoneustes, T. coryphaeus sp. nov. is unique as it has a long anteromedial process of the frontal, ornamented dermatocranium, and the supraorbital notch forms a strongly acute angle. Our phylogenetic analysis confirms the placement of this specimen in Torvoneustes. The dentition of T. coryphaeus sp. nov., like that of the type species, has a blunt apex, crown basal–mid regions with numerous tightly packed apicobasally aligned ridges, and apical region with an anastomosed pattern of ridges that interact with the carinae. Within Thalattosuchia these dental characteristics are only found in Torvoneustes and the teleosaurid Machimosaurus. The heavily ornamented dermatocranium of T. coryphaeus sp. nov. is in contrast to the unornamented (nasals and frontal)–lightly ornamented (maxillae and premaxillae) pattern seen in Torvoneustes carpenteri. Curiously, this pattern of reduction and loss of dermatocranium ornamentation is also observed in Metriorhynchus, Dakosaurus, and the subclade Rhacheosaurini. We hypothesize that the ‘smooth’ dermatocranium of Late Jurassic metriorhynchids evolved independently in each subclade (parallel evolution), and would have reduced drag, thereby making locomotion through water more energy efficient.

Jingzhi Tan, Ruoting Tao, Yanjie Su
Testing the Cognition of the Forgotten Colobines: A First Look at Golden Snub-Nosed Monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana)
International Journal of Primatology November 2013

Although our understanding of primate cognition is growing rapidly, little is known about the cognition of colobines. Here we report the results of a set of 5 experiments on colobine cognition using 17 golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana). These monkeys are folivores that form multilevel societies with groups of hundreds of individuals and relatively high fission–fusion dynamics. We investigated their sensitivity to human social cues and ability to inhibit impulsive behavioral responses. In three sociocognitive experiments we found that, like most other primates, they follow the gaze direction of a human demonstrator but there is no evidence that they use others’ social cues in a cooperative task to locate hidden food or in a competitive task to steal forbidden food. In two inhibitory control experiments, we found that the monkeys showed a low level of inhibitory control, comparable to that of other folivorous primates. These results suggest that phylogeny and folivory might have been important in shaping the cognition of golden snub-nosed monkeys. Moreover, this species’ large group size and relatively high fission–fusion dynamics may not have imposed a significant social challenge to their cognition, as social interactions occur mainly within basic social units.

Pseudoplatystoma metaense and P. orinocoense (Siluriformes: Pimelodidae) from the Orinoco basin, Venezuela: cytogenetic and molecular analyses
M. Nirchio, A. Mujica, C. Oliveira, A. Granado, J. Mora, A. K. Hett, A. R. Rossi, V. Milana, L. Sola
Italian Journal of Zoology Vol. 80, Iss. 4, 2013

The genus Pseudoplatystoma includes catfish species distributed throughout the fresh waters of South America. These species are important fisheries resources and play a significant ecological role due to their piscivorous and migratory habits. The taxonomy of this genus is still debated: traditionally, only three species have been recognised, but recently, this number was raised to eight. The validity of these eight morphospecies, however, was not confirmed by two subsequent molecular phylogenetic studies, which identified either five or four main clades. In this study, we focused on the two morphospecies restricted to the Orinoco basin, P. metaense and P. orinocoense, which have been assigned to either the same or different clades in previous studies. We carried out cytogenetic analyses to describe their unknown karyotypes and to look for cytotaxonomic markers. We also analysed their mitochondrial sequences in order to assign the sampled specimens to the previously identified molecular clades. The two presumptive species show similar karyotypes (2n = 56, 42 biarmed and 14 uniarmed chromosomes) and cytogenetic features in terms of the constitutive heterochromatin distribution and the number and location of minor and major ribosomal genes. Thus, no species-specific chromosome markers could be identified. The analysis of cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase I mitochondrial genes (carried out by retrieving all the mtDNA Pseudoplatystoma sequences available in GenBank) distributed the sampled specimens into two distinct molecular clades and confirmed the need to re-evaluate, by parallel morphological and molecular analyses, the monophyly of some lineages.

First molecular timetree of billfishes (Istiophoriformes: Acanthomorpha) shows a Late Miocene radiation of marlins and allies
F. Santini, L. Sorenson
Italian Journal of Zoology Vol. 80, Iss. 4, 2013

Billfishes (Order Istiophoriformes) represent a major radiation of pelagic predators in most tropical and temperate ecosystems. This group includes species that are commercially harvested, and several species that are considered the most prized of game fishes. Like other pelagic teleost groups, relatively little is known about the mode and tempo of billfish evolution compared to groups that predominantly inhabit coastal and benthic ecosystems. We generated a time-calibrated molecular hypothesis of the timing of billfish evolution using 10 loci and utilizing the rich fossil record dating back to the Early Eocene. Our timetree infers a Late Cretaceous origin for the istiophoriforms, with istiophorid diversification beginning in the Middle to Late Miocene (~17 Ma), but with most splits having occurred since the Pliocene (~5 Ma). This timing of diversification coincides with the radiation of tunas, and may have been driven by the establishment of modern upwelling regimes across the world’s oceans.

Durant, S. M., Wacher, T., Bashir, S., Woodroffe, R., De Ornellas, P., Ransom, C., Newby, J., Abáigar, T., Abdelgadir, M., El Alqamy, H., Baillie, J., Beddiaf, M., Belbachir, F., Belbachir-Bazi, A., Berbash, A. A., Bemadjim, N. E., Beudels-Jamar, R., Boitani, L., Breitenmoser, C., Cano, M., Chardonnet, P., Collen, B., Cornforth, W. A., Cuzin, F., Gerngross, P., Haddane, B., Hadjeloum, M., Jacobson, A., Jebali, A., Lamarque, F., Mallon, D., Minkowski, K., Monfort, S., Ndoassal, B., Niagate, B., Purchase, G., Samaïla, S., Samna, A. K., Sillero-Zubiri, C., Soultan, A. E., Stanley Price, M. R., Pettorelli, N. (2013), Fiddling in biodiversity hotspots while deserts burn? Collapse of the Sahara’s megafauna. Diversity and Distributions. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12157
Biodiversity hotspots understandably attract considerable conservation attention. However, deserts are rarely viewed as conservation priority areas, due to their relatively low productivity, yet these systems are home to unique species, adapted to harsh and highly variable environments. While global attention has been focused on hotspots, the world’s largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic decline in megafauna. Of 14 large vertebrates that have historically occurred in the region, four are now extinct in the wild, including the iconic scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah). The majority has disappeared from more than 90% of their Saharan range, including addax (Addax nasomaculatus), dama gazelle (Nanger dama) and Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) – all now on the brink of extinction. Greater conservation support and scientific attention for the region might have helped to avert these catastrophic declines. The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them. The scientific community can make an important contribution to conservation in deserts by establishing baseline information on biodiversity and developing new approaches to sustainable management of desert species and ecosystems. Such approaches must accommodate mobility of both people and wildlife so that they can use resources most efficiently in the face of low and unpredictable rainfall. This is needed to enable governments to deliver on their commitments to halt further degradation of deserts and to improve their status for both biodiversity conservation and human well-being. Only by so-doing will deserts be able to support resilient ecosystems and communities that are best able to adapt to climate change.

George Oláh, Gabriela Vigo, Robert Heinsohn, Donald J. Brightsmith, Nest site selection and efficacy of artificial nests for breeding success of Scarlet Macaws Ara macao macao in lowland Peru, Journal for Nature Conservation, Available online 28 November 2013, ISSN 1617-1381, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2013.11.003.
Psittacidae (parrots) have the most threatened species of any bird family in the world. Most parrots are obligate secondary cavity nesters, and can be limited in their breeding success by the availability and quality of nest hollows. However, nesting opportunities for parrots can be increased by provision of artificial nest boxes. The Tambopata Macaw Project has been studying the breeding ecology and natural history of the Scarlet Macaw Ara macao macao in the south-eastern Peruvian Amazon for over 20 years by monitoring natural nest hollows and two types of artificial nest (wooden and PVC). We present data for breeding success in natural and artificial nests over 12 consecutive breeding seasons. The aims of this study were to a) determine the nesting requirements and reproductive success of breeding macaws; and b) compare the efficacy of the two types of artificial nests and natural nest cavities. Our data showed a high rate of reoccupation of successful nests in consecutive years and that nests in artificial and natural nests had very similar reproductive parameters. Our results indicate that artificial nest types can be used by conservation managers seeking to assist A. macao populations where nest hollows are in short supply, and that artificial nests can contribute important data to natural history studies of species where access to natural nests is limited.

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