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Huynh, S., A. Cloutier, G. Chen, D. T. C. Chan, D. K. Lam, K. P. Huyvaert, F. Sato, et al. 2023. Whole-genome analyses reveal past population fluctuations and low genetic diversities of the North Pacific albatrosses X. Zhou [ed.],. Molecular Biology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msad155

Abstract Throughout the Plio-Pleistocene, climate change has impacted tropical marine ecosystems substantially, with even more severe impacts predicted in the Anthropocene. Although many studies have clarified demographic histories of seabirds in polar regions, the history of keystone seabirds of the tropics is unclear, despite the prominence of albatrosses (Diomedeidae, Procellariiformes) as the largest and most threatened group of oceanic seabirds. To understand the impact of climate change on tropical albatrosses, we investigated the evolutionary and demographic histories of all four North Pacific albatrosses and their prey using whole-genome analyses. We report a striking concordance in demographic histories among the four species, with a notable dip in effective population size at the beginning of the Pleistocene and a population expansion in the Last Glacial Period when sea levels were low, which resulted in increased potential coastal breeding sites. Abundance of the black-footed albatross dropped again during the Last Glacial Maximum, potentially linked to climate-driven loss of breeding sites and concordant genome-derived decreases in its major prey. We find very low genome-wide (π < 0.001) and adaptative genetic diversities across the albatrosses, with genes of the major histocompatibility complex close to monomorphic. We also identify recent selective sweeps at genes associated with hyperosmotic adaptation, longevity, and cognition and memory. Our study has shed light on the evolutionary and demographic histories of the largest tropical oceanic seabirds and provides evidence for their large population fluctuations and alarmingly low genetic diversities.

Simons, D., L. A. Attfield, K. E. Jones, D. Watson-Jones, and R. Kock. 2023. Rodent trapping studies as an overlooked information source for understanding endemic and novel zoonotic spillover R. A. Bowen [ed.],. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 17: e0010772. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0010772

Rodents, a diverse, globally distributed and ecologically important order of mammals are nevertheless important reservoirs of known and novel zoonotic pathogens. Ongoing anthropogenic land use change is altering these species’ abundance and distribution, which among zoonotic host species may increase the risk of zoonoses spillover events. A better understanding of the current distribution of rodent species is required to guide attempts to mitigate against potentially increased zoonotic disease hazard and risk. However, available species distribution and host-pathogen association datasets (e.g. IUCN, GBIF, CLOVER) are often taxonomically and spatially biased. Here, we synthesise data from West Africa from 127 rodent trapping studies, published between 1964–2022, as an additional source of information to characterise the range and presence of rodent species and identify the subgroup of species that are potential or known pathogen hosts. We identify that these rodent trapping studies, although biased towards human dominated landscapes across West Africa, can usefully complement current rodent species distribution datasets and we calculate the discrepancies between these datasets. For five regionally important zoonotic pathogens (Arenaviridae spp., Borrelia spp., Lassa mammarenavirus, Leptospira spp. and Toxoplasma gondii), we identify host-pathogen associations that have not been previously reported in host-association datasets. Finally, for these five pathogen groups, we find that the proportion of a rodent hosts range that have been sampled remains small with geographic clustering. A priority should be to sample rodent hosts across a greater geographic range to better characterise current and future risk of zoonotic spillover events. In the interim, studies of spatial pathogen risk informed by rodent distributions must incorporate a measure of the current sampling biases. The current synthesis of contextually rich rodent trapping data enriches available information from IUCN, GBIF and CLOVER which can support a more complete understanding of the hazard of zoonotic spillover events.

Brito, J. C., A. S. Sow, C. G. Vale, C. Pizzigalli, D. Hamidou, D. V. Gonçalves, F. Martínez-Freiría, et al. 2022. Diversity, distribution and conservation of land mammals in Mauritania, North-West Africa L. K. Sharma [ed.],. PLOS ONE 17: e0269870. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269870

Detailed knowledge about biodiversity distribution is critical for monitoring the biological effects of global change processes. Biodiversity knowledge gaps hamper the monitoring of conservation trends and they are especially evident in the desert biome. Mauritania constitutes a remarkable example on how remoteness and regional insecurity affect current knowledge gaps. Mammals remain one of the least studied groups in this country, without a concerted species checklist, the mapping of regions concentrating mammal diversity, or a national assessment of their conservation status. This work assessed the diversity, distribution, and conservation of land mammals in Mauritania. A total of 6,718 published and original observations were assembled in a spatial database and used to update the occurrence status, distribution area, and conservation status. The updated taxonomic list comprises 107 species, including 93 extant, 12 Regionally Extinct, and 2 Extinct in the Wild. Mapping of species distributions allowed locating concentrations of extant mammal species richness in coastal areas, along the Senegal River valley, and in mountain plateaus. Recent regional extinction of large-sized Artiodactyla and Carnivora has been very high (11% extinct species). From the extant mammals, 11% are threatened, including flagship species (e.g., Addax nasomaculatus and Panthera pardus). Species richness is poorly represented by the current protected areas. Despite the strong advances made, 23% of species categorise as Data Deficient. Persisting systematics and distribution uncertainties require further research. Field surveys in currently unexplored areas (northern and south-eastern regions) are urgently needed to increase knowledge about threatened mammals. The long-term conservation of land mammals in Mauritania is embedded in a complex web of socioeconomic and environmental factors that call for collaborative action and investment in sustainable human development. The current work sets the baseline for the future development of detailed research studies and to address the general challenges faced by mammals and biodiversity in the country.

Miller, E. F., R. E. Green, A. Balmford, P. Maisano Delser, R. Beyer, M. Somveille, M. Leonardi, et al. 2021. Bayesian Skyline Plots disagree with range size changes based on Species Distribution Models for Holarctic birds. Molecular Ecology 30: 3993–4004. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16032

During the Quaternary, large climate oscillations impacted the distribution and demography of species globally. Two approaches have played a major role in reconstructing changes through time: Bayesian Skyline Plots (BSPs), which reconstruct population fluctuations based on genetic data, and Species …

Basinski, A. J., E. Fichet-Calvet, A. R. Sjodin, T. J. Varrelman, C. H. Remien, N. C. Layman, B. H. Bird, et al. 2021. Bridging the gap: Using reservoir ecology and human serosurveys to estimate Lassa virus spillover in West Africa A. Wesolowski [ed.],. PLOS Computational Biology 17: e1008811. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008811

Forecasting the risk of pathogen spillover from reservoir populations of wild or domestic animals is essential for the effective deployment of interventions such as wildlife vaccination or culling. Due to the sporadic nature of spillover events and limited availability of data, developing and valida…

Farooq, H., J. A. R. Azevedo, A. Soares, A. Antonelli, and S. Faurby. 2020. Mapping Africa’s Biodiversity: More of the Same Is Just Not Good Enough S. Ruane [ed.],. Systematic Biology 70: 623–633. https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syaa090

Species distribution data are fundamental to the understanding of biodiversity patterns and processes. Yet, such data are strongly affected by sampling biases, mostly related to site accessibility. The understanding of these biases is therefore crucial in systematics, biogeography and conservation. …

Prieto-Torres, D. A., A. Lira-Noriega, and A. G. Navarro-Sigüenza. 2020. Climate change promotes species loss and uneven modification of richness patterns in the avifauna associated to Neotropical seasonally dry forests. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation 18: 19–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pecon.2020.01.002

We assessed the effects of global climate change as a driver of spatio-temporal biodiversity patterns in bird assemblages associated to Neotropical seasonally dry forests (NSDF). For this, we estimated the geographic distribution of 719 bird species under current and future climate (2050 and 2070) p…

Menegotto, A., T. F. Rangel, J. Schrader, P. Weigelt, and H. Kreft. 2019. A global test of the subsidized island biogeography hypothesis A. M. C. dos Santos [ed.],. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29: 320–330. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13032

Aim: The decreasing capacity of area to predict species richness on small islands (the small‐island effect; SIE) seems to be one of the few exceptions of the species–area relationship. While most studies have focused on how to detect the SIE, the underlying ecological factors determining this patter…

Liu, X., T. M. Blackburn, T. Song, X. Li, C. Huang, and Y. Li. 2019. Risks of Biological Invasion on the Belt and Road. Current Biology 29: 499-505.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.036

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an unprecedented global development program that involves nearly half of the world’s countries [1]. It not only will have economic and political influences, but also may generate multiple environmental challenges and is a focus of considerable academic and p…