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Abstract

The integrated approach of molecular phylogenetic and morphological analyses has revolutionized the systematics and our understanding of the evolutionary relationships of marine taxa. One such group is the hexacorallian order Zoantharia . The monotypic genus Thoracactis has been little investigated since its placement within the order Zoantharia more than 100 years ago. Here, we examined museum specimens collected from the Cape Verde Islands (eastern Atlantic) and newly collected specimens from Brazil (southwestern Atlantic), using a combined molecular and morphological approach. Our results conclusively show Thoracactis to be referable to the family Parazoanthidae. Morphological data show that Thoracactis topsenti , the type species of this monotypic genus, has a cyclically transitional arrangement of its sphincter muscle, and this arrangement has previously been reported from the Parazoanthidae. Thoracactis can be distinguished from other hexasterophoran glass-sponge-associated genera (, Parachurabana Kise, 2023, and ) by a combination of morphological, ecological and molecular phylogenetic data. In addition, molecular phylogenetic analyses clearly indicate that Thoracactis topsenti is placed within Parazoanthidae. These results are yet another demonstration of the utility of comprehensive combined approaches. From now, research attention should focus on the revision of remaining taxonomic questions within the family Epizoanthidae, with the goal of a comprehensively revised suborder Macrocnemina within reach.

Open Access
In: Contributions to Zoology
Author:

Abstract

The herpetofauna of the Iberian Peninsula is relatively well-researched, yet detailed studies, at least in part relying on molecular genetic data, continue to reveal taxa new to science, mostly species and subspecies. Newts of the genus Triturus are one such group with undiscovered yet taxonomically relevant variation, as shown by the recent description of new (sub)species of pygmy newts (T. pygmaeus, T. rudolfi). The marbled newt, Triturus marmoratus, shows an equally deep and geographically coherent spatial-genetic diversification. It is here shown that a northern and a southern group are characterized by different mitochondrial dna profiles and are also differentiated in morphometry and colouration pattern. With no firm evidence for selection against intermediate genotypes, the southern group is described at the subspecies level, as T. marmoratus harmannis ssp. nov. The subspecies’ contact zone is situated at ca. 41.5 northern latitude and stretches from the Atlantic coast near Porto, Portugal to the northeast of Madrid, Spain.

Open Access
In: Contributions to Zoology

Abstract

The Ponto-Caspian radiation of gammaroid amphipods is one of the world’s most diverse lacustrine crustacean radiations as well as the only lacustrine amphipod radiation with a fossil record (dating back 9 Ma). However, the phyletic relationship between fossils and extant species was never formally investigated, hampering our evolutionary understanding of this diverse clade. Here, we present the first morphology-based phylogeny (114 characters) of Ponto-Caspian gammaroids that includes 99% of extant taxa, all previously known fossils, as well as newly discovered fossil specimens from the Late Miocene (10.5 Ma) of eastern Romania. Our phylogenetic and phenetic results strongly support the monophyly of all fossil taxa. However, despite its widespread Late Miocene distribution throughout the Paratethys Sea, this fossil clade left no modern descendants. Its exact phylogenetic position is ambiguous, although it is nested in the radiation’s crown group. Morphometric analyses further indicate that fossil species occupy a narrower and peripheral morphospace relative to extant taxa. Our results support the assignment of the newly discovered Romanian fossils to a new genus, Eogmelina gen. nov. with two new species Eogmelina moldavica gen. et sp. nov. and Eogmelina prisca gen. et sp. nov. Finally, our findings call for a fundamental systematic restructuring of Ponto-Caspian gammaroids at genus and family level.

Open Access
In: Contributions to Zoology

Abstract

The impact of climate fluctuations on the genetic diversity and distribution of species is of particular concern for large mammals that are already at risk of extinction. In this study, we investigated the genetic status of populations, the evolutionary relationships, and the current and future state of population dispersion of the goitered gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa, using 109 mtDNA sequences (cytb) and species distribution modeling. We assessed the impact of past (Last Glacial Maximum [lgm: 21 Kya] and Mid-Holocene [6 Kya]), current, and future (2070) climate on the phylogeography and spatial distribution of the species. Our results indicate evidence of divergence of two main clades (G. subgutturosa subgutturosa, and G. subgutturosa yarkandensis) (1.052 Mya) and a further split between two clades of G. s. subgutturosa (Middle Eastern and Central Iranian) in the middle Pleistocene. Historical species distribution models suggest the species’ range has not changed much across all periods examined, but there has been a decreasing trend from 21k to the current. Future climate projections (bcc-csm1 and ccsm4, rcp s 4.5 and 6 scenarios) predict a contraction of suitable habitat at the northern and southern edges of the species’ current distribution, shifting the range to the center of the study area. Biogeographic analyses suggest that vicariance and dispersal events have shaped the genetic structure of G. subgutturosa. Our findings suggest that the current genetic structure of the species is potentially related to Pleistocene climatic fluctuations and refuges (Alborz, Zagros, and Kope Dagh Mountains) during cold periods. The study highlights the importance of understanding the genetic status of populations and their evolutionary relationships to effectively prevent further declines of species at risk of extinction.

Open Access
In: Contributions to Zoology

Abstract

Since the start of the COVID‐19 pandemic, a tremendous amount of work has been done by scientists to understand the pathogenesis of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2). Several animal models have been reported to be useful for the development and testing of vaccines, antivirals, or therapeutics. These in vivo experiments have to be performed at high containment biosafety level (BSL)-3. Thus, an appropriate biosafety, facility and data management as well as high standard of animal welfare, thorough study design, and staff training combined with an overall research transparency and open communication need to be implemented to achieve high quality reproducible research. Such an approach combined with the well-known 3R principle (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement) and the 3S principle (Good Science, Good Sense, and Good Sensibilities) can contribute to culture of care in scientific research. The perspective reviews the key points of optimized biosafety, data, quality and animal welfare management in high risk biosafety-settings to conduct animal experiments with infectious pathogens in the context of a culture of care.

In: Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research
Author:

Abstract

Iberian populations of large-bodied newts, with Triturus marmoratus in the north and T. pygmaeus in the south of the peninsula, were studied for external morphology, mitochondrial dna and for a panel of single nucleotide polymorphisms. This confirmed the species’ low level of interspecific hybridization and their parapatric, mosaic-like mutual range border across the peninsula. The genetic data also revealed substantial variation within T. pygmaeus, with narrow (0.43–35.2 km) clinal transitions in the very centre of Portugal. Similar clines were observed for body size and colouration pattern. Pygmy newts in the west of Portugal are larger, with a more striped (less reticulated) green dorso-lateral colouration pattern than those in the east and south of the country. The western group of populations is described as a new species, Triturus rudolfi sp. nov., on account of a long, ca. 2.5 Ma, independent evolutionary history and limited hybridization with its sister-species T. pygmaeus, suggesting selection against hybrid offspring. The range of the newly described species may be restricted to the wider Lisbon Peninsula, stretching northwards along the Atlantic coast to the river Vouga estuary. Inland, the range border may be set by the lower Tejo River, or by the currently wide area of agricultural land at either side of that river, that may accommodate a residual hybrid zone. The close contact between both pygmy newt species is effectively limited to a ca. 20 × 40 km area directly north of the town Entroncamento, where T. rudolfi sp. nov. is sandwiched in between T. marmoratus and the river Tejo.

Open Access
In: Contributions to Zoology

Abstract

While there have been recent breakthroughs in human vaginal microbiome research, very few non-human primate (NHP) vaginal microbiome studies exist due to difficulty in obtaining samples. In this study, we sought to: (1) characterize the bonobo vaginal microbiota for the first time, and (2) determine the relationship between vaginal pH and swelling size. During a 21-day study period, we collected observational data and 71 vaginal swabs from three cohoused adult females at the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative. After filtering and classification, a total of 3452 amplicon sequence variants were recruited from 12 vaginal samples. The most dominant phylum represented was Actinobacteria, and the most abundant genera were Gardnerella, Atopobium, and Prevotella. The mean pH score was 6.1 (range: 5.1-7.0), and pH levels varied with relative swelling size. This is the first study to examine the vaginal microbial composition in this species, and it conforms to previous NHP studies in that there was not the same bacterial dominance of Lactobacillus spp. often highlighted in human vaginal microbiota studies. Our findings suggest there may be other factors contributing to the protection of the bonobo vaginal environment, but future analysis of a larger sample is needed to fully understand how sociality and sexuality shape vaginal microbiota and host health.

In: Folia Primatologica
Authors: and

Abstract

Anthropogenic disturbance is a major threat to biodiversity. An anthropogenic disturbance that is rarely addressed for nonhuman primates is the effect of artificial light at night (ALAN) which is defined by the spread of artificial lighting at night which eliminates natural darkness. Artificial light at night can result from streetlights, or indirectly from sky glow (artificial light that is scattered and reflected back to earth by the atmosphere). Research has demonstrated that artificial lighting causes changes in animal behavior, reproductive success, survivorship, as well as can alter the composition of the communities. The goal of this paper is to explore how the behavior of spectral tarsiers, Tarsius spectrumgurskyae, is modified in response to artificial light. We conducted this study at Tangkoko Nature Reserve on the easternmost tip of the northern arm of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The results of this study suggest that in response to artificial light tarsiers increase their time spent travelling and foraging, left their sleeping sites earlier and returned to them later thereby extending their daily activity time. The tarsiers also left their sleeping trees at lower heights, gave fewer vocalizations and fewer alarm calls each night in response to the additional artificial light. The tarsier’s lengthened night might be leading to a change in interspecific competition for food as well as increase the ability of potential predators to locate the tarsiers. Additional research on the effect of ALAN on primates is clearly needed.

In: Folia Primatologica