Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Ordnung des Fachbereichs Biowissenschaften der Johann Wolfgang Goethe für den Masterstudiengang Ökologie und Evolution mit dem Abschluss "Master of Science" (M. Sc.) vom 16. Juni 2009 : genehmigt vom Präsidium der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a. M. am 27. April 2010 ; hier: Änderungen vom 04. Juni 2012 ; genehmigt vom Präsidium der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a. M. am 21. August 2012
Impact of carnivory on human development and evolution revealed by a new unifying model of weaning in mammals
- Our large brain, long life span and high fertility are key elements of human evolutionary success and are often thought to have evolved in interplay with tool use, carnivory and hunting. However, the specific impact of carnivory on human evolution, life history and development remains controversial. Here we show in quantitative terms that dietary profile is a key factor influencing time to weaning across a wide taxonomic range of mammals, including humans. In a model encompassing a total of 67 species and genera from 12 mammalian orders, adult brain mass and two dichotomous variables reflecting species differences regarding limb biomechanics and dietary profile, accounted for 75.5%, 10.3% and 3.4% of variance in time to weaning, respectively, together capturing 89.2% of total variance. Crucially, carnivory predicted the time point of early weaning in humans with remarkable precision, yielding a prediction error of less than 5% with a sample of forty-six human natural fertility societies as reference. Hence, carnivory appears to provide both a necessary and sufficient explanation as to why humans wean so much earlier than the great apes. While early weaning is regarded as essentially differentiating the genus Homo from the great apes, its timing seems to be determined by the same limited set of factors in humans as in mammals in general, despite some 90 million years of evolution. Our analysis emphasizes the high degree of similarity of relative time scales in mammalian development and life history across 67 genera from 12 mammalian orders and shows that the impact of carnivory on time to weaning in humans is quantifiable, and critical. Since early weaning yields shorter interbirth intervals and higher rates of reproduction, with profound effects on population dynamics, our findings highlight the emergence of carnivory as a process fundamentally determining human evolution.
A new golden frog species of the genus Diasporus (Amphibia, Eleutherodactylidae) from the Cordillera Central, western Panama
- We describe the frog species Diasporus citrinobapheussp. n. from the Cordillera Central of western Panama. The new species differs from all other species in its genus in coloration, disk cover and disk pad shape, skin texture, advertisement call, and size. It is most similar to Diasporus tigrillo, from which it differs in dorsal skin texture, relative tibia length, number of vomerine teeth, ventral coloration, dorsal markings, and relative tympanum size, and to Diasporus gularis, from which it can be distinguished by the lack of membranes between the toes, adult size, posterior thigh coloration, and position of the choanae. We provide data on morpho- logy, vocalization, and distribution of the new species, as well as brief information on its natural history.
The antiquity of the Rhine River: stratigraphic coverage of the Dinotheriensande (Eppelsheim Formation) of the Mainz Basin (Germany)
Mammalian fossils from the Eppelsheim Formation (Dinotheriensande) have been a benchmark for Neogene vertebrate palaeontology since 200 years. Worldwide famous sites like Eppelsheim serve as key localities for biochronologic, palaeobiologic, environmental, and mammal community studies. So far the formation is considered to be of early Late Miocene age (~9.5 Ma, Vallesian), representing the oldest sediments of the Rhine River. The stratigraphic unity of the formation and of its fossil content was disputed at times, but persists unresolved.
Here we investigate a new fossil sample from Sprendlingen, composed by over 300 mammalian specimens and silicified wood. The mammals comprise entirely Middle Miocene species, like cervids Dicrocerus elegans, Paradicrocerus elegantulus, and deinotheres Deinotherium bavaricum and D. levius. A stratigraphic evaluation of Miocene Central European deer and deinothere species proof the stratigraphic inhomogenity of the sample, and suggest late Middle Miocene (~12.5 Ma) reworking of early Middle Miocene (~15 Ma) sediments. This results agree with taxonomic and palaeoclimatic analysis of plant fossils from above and within the mammalian assemblage. Based on the new fossil sample and published data three biochronologic levels within the Dinotheriensand fauna can be differentiated, corresponding to early Middle Miocene (late Orleanian to early Astaracian), late Middle Miocene (late Astaracian), and early Late Miocene (Vallesian) ages.
This study documents complex faunal mixing of classical Dinotheriensand fauna, covering at least six million years, during a time of low subsidence in the Mainz Basin and shifts back the origination of the Rhine River by some five million years. Our results have severe implications for biostratigraphy and palaeobiology of the Middle to Late Miocene. They suggest that turnover events may be obliterated and challenge the proposed ‘supersaturated’ biodiversity, caused by Middle Miocene superstites, of Vallesian ecosystems in Central Europe.
Diversity and Distribution Patterns in High Southern Latitude Sponges
Rachel V. Downey
Huw J. Griffiths
- Sponges play a key role in Antarctic marine benthic community structure and dynamics and are often a dominant component of many Southern Ocean benthic communities. Understanding the drivers of sponge distribution in Antarctica enables us to understand many of general benthic biodiversity patterns in the region. The sponges of the Antarctic and neighbouring oceanographic regions were assessed for species richness and biogeographic patterns using over 8,800 distribution records. Species-rich regions include the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Georgia, Eastern Weddell Sea, Kerguelen Plateau, Falkland Islands and north New Zealand. Sampling intensity varied greatly within the study area, with sampling hotspots found at the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, north New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego, with limited sampling in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas in the Southern Ocean. In contrast to previous studies we found that eurybathy and circumpolar distributions are important but not dominant characteristics in Antarctic sponges. Overall Antarctic sponge species endemism is ~43%, with a higher level for the class Hexactinellida (68%). Endemism levels are lower than previous estimates, but still indicate the importance of the Polar Front in isolating the Southern Ocean fauna. Nineteen distinct sponge distribution patterns were found, ranging from regional endemics to cosmopolitan species. A single, distinct Antarctic demosponge fauna is found to encompass all areas within the Polar Front, and the sub-Antarctic regions of the Kerguelen Plateau and Macquarie Island. Biogeographical analyses indicate stronger faunal links between Antarctica and South America, with little evidence of links between Antarctica and South Africa, Southern Australia or New Zealand. We conclude that the biogeographic and species distribution patterns observed are largely driven by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the timing of past continent connectivity.
The Evolutionary History of the Arabidopsis arenosa Complex: Diverse Tetraploids Mask the Western Carpathian Center of Species and Genetic Diversity
Marcus A. Koch
- The Arabidopsis arenosa complex is closely related to the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Species and subspecies in the complex are mainly biennial, predominantly outcrossing, herbaceous, and with a distribution range covering most parts of latitudes and the eastern reaches of Europe. In this study we present the first comprehensive evolutionary history of the A. arenosa species complex, covering its natural range, by using chromosome counts, nuclear AFLP data, and a maternally inherited marker from the chloroplast genome [trnL intron (trnL) and trnL/F intergenic spacer (trnL/F-IGS) of tRNALeu and tRNAPhe, respectively]. We unravel the broad-scale cytogeographic and phylogeographic patterns of diploids and tetraploids. Diploid cytotypes were exclusively found on the Balkan Peninsula and in the Carpathians while tetraploid cytotypes were found throughout the remaining distribution range of the A. arenosa complex. Three centers of genetic diversity were identified: the Balkan Peninsula, the Carpathians, and the unglaciated Eastern and Southeastern Alps. All three could have served as long-term refugia during Pleistocene climate oscillations. We hypothesize that the Western Carpathians were and still are the cradle of speciation within the A. arenosa complex due to the high species number and genetic diversity and the concurrence of both cytotypes there.
Implications of hybridisation and cytotypic differentiation in speciation assessed by AFLP and plastid haplotypes - a case study of Potentilla alpicola La Soie
- Background: Hybridisation is presumed to be an important mechanism in plant speciation and a creative evolutionary force often accompanied by polyploidisation and in some cases by apomixis. The Potentilla collina group constitutes a particularly suitable model system to study these phenomena as it is morphologically extensively variable, exclusively polyploid and expresses apomixis. In the present study, the alpine taxon Potentilla alpicola has been chosen in order to study its presumed hybrid origin, identify underlying evolutionary processes and infer the discreteness or taxonomic value of hybrid forms.
Results: Combined analysis of AFLP, cpDNA sequences and ploidy level variation revealed a hybrid origin of the P. alpicola populations from South Tyrol (Italy) resulting from crosses between P. pusilla and two cytotypes of P. argentea. Hybrids were locally sympatric with at least one of the parental forms. Three lineages of different evolutionary origin comprising two ploidy levels were identified within P. alpicola. The lineages differed in parentage and the complexity of the evolutionary process. A geographically wide-spread lineage thus contrasted with locally distributed lineages of different origins. Populations of P. collina studied in addition, have been regarded rather as recent derivatives of the hexaploid P. argentea. The observation of clones within both P. alpicola and P. collina suggested a possible apomictic mode of reproduction.
Conclusions: Different hybridisation scenarios taking place on geographically small scales resulted in viable progeny presumably stabilised by apomixis. The case study of P. alpicola supports that these processes played a significant role in the creation of polymorphism in the genus Potentilla. However, multiple origin of hybrids and backcrossing are considered to produce a variety of evolutionary spontaneous forms existing aside of reproductively stabilised, established lineages.
Field notes on findings of threatened amphibian species in the central mountain range of western Panama
- During field work along a transect in the Cordillera Central of western Panama between
2008 and 2010, we detected several populations of amphibian species which are considered as
“Endangered” or “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN. Some of these species had suffered from
serious population declines, probably due to chytridiomycosis, but all are generally threatened by
habitat loss. We detected 53% of the Endangered and 56% of the Critically Endangered amphibian
species that have previously been reported from within the investigated area. We report on findings
of species that have not been found in Panama for many years, and provide locality data of newly
discovered populations. There is a need to create a new protected area in the Cerro Colorado area
of the Serranía de Tabasará, where we found 15% of the Endangered and Critically Endangered amphibian species known to Panama.
Morphology and Molecules Reveal Unexpected Cryptic Diversity in the Enigmatic Genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae)
Wolfgang A. Nässig
- The wild silkmoth genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 is a poorly known monotypic taxon from the eastern end of the Himalaya Range. It was convincingly proposed to be closely related to some members of an exclusively Afro-tropical group of Saturniidae, but its biogeographical and evolutionary history remains enigmatic. After examining recently collected material from Tibet, northern India, and northeastern Myanmar, we realized that this unique species, S. malaisei Bryk, 1944 only known so far from a few specimens and from a very restricted area near the border between north-eastern Myanmar and the Yunnan province of China, may in fact belong to a group of closely related cryptic species. In this work, we combined morphological comparative study, DNA barcoding, and the sequences of a nuclear marker (D2 expansion segment of the 28S rRNA gene) to unequivocally delimit three distinct species in the genus Sinobirma, of which two are described as new to science: S. myanmarensis sp. n. and S. bouyeri sp. n. An informative DNA barcode sequence was obtained from the female holotype of S. malaisei—collected in 1934—ensuring the proper assignation of this name to the newly collected and studied specimens. Our findings represent another example of the potential of coupling traditional taxonomy and DNA barcoding for revealing and solving difficult cases of cryptic diversity. This approach is now being generalized to the world fauna of Saturniidae, with the participation of most of the taxonomists studying these moths.
Species richness-environment relationships of European arthropods at two spatial grains: habitats and countries
Martin H. Entling
Ben A. Woodcock
- We study how species richness of arthropods relates to theories concerning net primary productivity, ambient energy, water-energy dynamics and spatial environmental heterogeneity. We use two datasets of arthropod richness with similar spatial extents (Scandinavia to Mediterranean), but contrasting spatial grain (local habitat and country). Samples of ground-dwelling spiders, beetles, bugs and ants were collected from 32 paired habitats at 16 locations across Europe. Species richness of these taxonomic groups was also determined for 25 European countries based on the Fauna Europaea database. We tested effects of net primary productivity (NPP), annual mean temperature (T), annual rainfall (R) and potential evapotranspiration of the coldest month (PETmin) on species richness and turnover. Spatial environmental heterogeneity within countries was considered by including the ranges of NPP, T, R and PETmin. At the local habitat grain, relationships between species richness and environmental variables differed strongly between taxa and trophic groups. However, species turnover across locations was strongly correlated with differences in T. At the country grain, species richness was significantly correlated with environmental variables from all four theories. In particular, species richness within countries increased strongly with spatial heterogeneity in T. The importance of spatial heterogeneity in T for both species turnover across locations and for species richness within countries suggests that the temperature niche is an important determinant of arthropod diversity. We suggest that, unless climatic heterogeneity is constant across sampling units, coarse-grained studies should always account for environmental heterogeneity as a predictor of arthropod species richness, just as studies with variable area of sampling units routinely consider area.