23 posts · 9,239 views
A non-technical weekly highlight of new research in biogeography- the study of how living things got to live where they do on planet Earth and where they might go in the future.
Sometimes species are boring- how much does Picea mariana really say about a scraggly looking tree with sharp needles? Sometimes it can be more interesting to describe plants by their characteristics. If you are an ecologist- this approach is called ‘functional ecology’, and if you are a biogeographer, well... there isn't a name for it yet, but that hasn't stopped researchers from asking ... Read more »
Freschet, G., Dias, A., Ackerly, D., Aerts, R., van Bodegom, P., Cornwell, W., Dong, M., Kurokawa, H., Liu, G., Onipchenko, V.... (2011) Global to community scale differences in the prevalence of convergent over divergent leaf trait distributions in plant assemblages. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20(5), 755-765. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00651.x
How many fish can you name? Five? Fifty? How about all 829 species native to the rivers and lakes of the continental U.S. and Canada? Naming all those species is impressive, but the fifteen-or-so minutes that it takes to do so would be a bit like watching water boil… only longer. Names only become interesting if we know something interesting about the species they pertain to.... Read more »
Knouft, J., & Page, L. (2011) Assessment of the relationships of geographic variation in species richness to climate and landscape variables within and among lineages of North American freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography, 38(12), 2259-2269. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02567.x
In case you needed a more compelling reason to scoop your dog’s poop than the general good deed of not leaving behind a present for someone’s shoe to discover, consider the fact that what you leave behind on the ground doesn’t always remain on the ground.... Read more »
Bowers, R., Sullivan, A., Costello, E., Collett, J., Knight, R., & Fierer, N. (2011) Sources of Bacteria in Outdoor Air across Cities in the Midwestern United States. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77(18), 6350-6356. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.05498-11
Everything does not live everywhere; there are no baobab trees in Canada, nor caribou in Florida. This is not a particularly profound statement. But, for some of my former Malawian high school students, who had never traveled farther than 20km from their home or watched a nature documentary, it came as a revelation. “But why, madam?” they would ask me.... Read more »
Morin, X., & Lechowicz, M. (2011) Geographical and ecological patterns of range size in North American trees. Ecography, 34(5), 738-750. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2010.06854.x
Old wives may say that the early bird gets the worm, but there are many worms that birds may not want to get. These are the helminths (a.k.a parasitic worms), and whether they are early to the table or late, birds end up with a lot of them. Helminths come in many shapes and sizes; nematodes are round and generally look like a worm, digeneans have two suckers and are solid all the way... Read more »
Locke, S., Levy, M., Marcogliese, D., Ackerman, S., & McLaughlin, J. (2011) The decay of parasite community similarity in ring-billed gulls Larus delawarensis and other hosts. Ecography. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2011.07244.x
Many couples would probably agree that deciding on a place to live together is about as easy as tying your shoes using one hand and one foot- and that’s when the two parties are both human. Consider what life is like for a lichen, a creature made up of organisms from two different kingdoms of life. A lichen is a fungus that obtains nutrients from an algae growing inside of it- a symbiotic... Read more »
PEKSA, O., & ŠKALOUD, P. (2011) Do photobionts influence the ecology of lichens? A case study of environmental preferences in symbiotic green alga Asterochloris (Trebouxiophyceae). Molecular Ecology, 20(18), 3936-3948. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05168.x
A latitudinal diversity gradient for dinosaurs?... Read more »
Mannion, P., Benson, R., Upchurch, P., Butler, R., Carrano, M., & Barrett, P. (2012) A temperate palaeodiversity peak in Mesozoic dinosaurs and evidence for Late Cretaceous geographical partitioning. Global Ecology and Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00735.x
Biogeographers have a not-so-secret love affair with archipelagos. Inarguably, islands are sexy. But, when a bunch of islands get together they become the pieces in an irresistible puzzle of “who lives where and why?”... Read more »
Collins, M., Simberloff, D., & Connor, E. (2011) Binary matrices and checkerboard distributions of birds in the Bismarck Archipelago. Journal of Biogeography, 38(12), 2373-2383. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02506.x
I used to love a certain board game called “Snail’s Pace Race”. For some reason, the inch-by-inch progress of the colorful wooden snails along a flat piece of cardboard was exciting to my five-year-old brain. Perhaps it was my aversion to competitive situations- no one loses in a game in which snails race.
As even a five-year-old knows, snails are not exactly skillful travelers. Yet... Read more »
Wada, S., Kawakami, K., & Chiba, S. (2012) Snails can survive passage through a bird’s digestive system. Journal of Biogeography, 39(1), 69-73. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02559.x
Despite indications to the contrary, this post is not about
googly-eyed spaghetti people from beyond our galaxy. It’s actually about fish, eventually.... Read more »
Burridge, C., McDowall, R., Craw, D., Wilson, M., & Waters, J. (2012) Marine dispersal as a pre-requisite for Gondwanan vicariance among elements of the galaxiid fish fauna. Journal of Biogeography, 39(2), 306-321. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02600.x
For many of us, an ant colony is something that grows between two glass plates when you “just add ants” to a little bit of dirt. Glass and little red plastic frames being in short supply out in nature, wild ants have to make do with other materials to build their homes. Some ants do house their colonies in dirt, but many others can make a whole colony in a rolled-up leaf or inside an acorn.... Read more »
Kaspari, M., & Weiser, M. (2012) Energy, taxonomic aggregation, and the geography of ant abundance. Ecography, 35(1), 65-72. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2011.06971.x
Gladiolus is latin for ‘little sword’, a fitting name for a plant whose flowers grow along giant spikes. While these plants are ubiquitous in gardens across the United States, they actually are complete foreigners. Of the 260 species around the world, almost all are from southern Africa, and none are from North or South America.... Read more »
Valente, L., Savolainen, V., Manning, J., Goldblatt, P., & Vargas, P. (2011) Explaining disparities in species richness between Mediterranean floristic regions: a case study in Gladiolus (Iridaceae). Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20(6), 881-892. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00644.x
A well-known and highly-contested “rule” among biogeographers is Bergmann’s rule, which basically says that animals in the north have larger bodies than animals in the south because it allows them to stay warmer. Sometimes, this is true. Sometimes, in order to stay warm, animals behave differently too.... Read more »
M. C. Mainwaring, I. R. Hartley, S. Bearhop, K. Brulez, C. R. du Feu, G. Murphy, K. E. Plummer, S. I. Webber, S. J. Reynolds, & D. C. Deeming. (2012) Latitudinal variation in blue tit and great tit nest characteristics indicates environmental adjustment. Journal of Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2012.02724.x
Networking is not just a thing that computers and college counselors are into; birds, bees and trees do it too. Pollination networking, that is. The pollination of all the world’s flowers is not the sole job of the European honey bee; many other insects, birds, and even little furry mammals carry pollen from flower to flower. But, not every pollinator can visit every type of flower. A... Read more »
Kristian Trojelsgaard, & Jens M. Olesen. (2012) Macroecology of pollination networks. Global Ecology and Biogeography. info:/10.1111/j.1466-8238.2012.00777.x
Islands are quirky. They don’t always play by the same rules that continents do. And even though continents are just really big islands, their large size means that evolution managed to fit many forms of life onto them, all eating, parasitizing, and competing with each other. Not so on islands. Only a “lucky” few species cross the waters to reach those isolated bits of land.... Read more »
Kevin C. Burns, Nadine Herold, & Ben Wallace. (2012) Evolutionary size changes in plants of the south-west Pacific. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 819-828. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00730.x
Hitching a ride with a tortoise is a speedy way to travel- at least for Galapagos plants living rooted to the spot. According to research published in the Journal of Biogeography's special issue on how island plants spread their seeds, forty-five different plant species on Santa Cruz Island may take advantage of Galapagos tortoise mobility and undiscriminating appetite to move their offspring ... Read more »
Stephen Blake, Martin Wikelski, Fredy Canbrera, Anne Guezou, Miriam Silva, E. Sadeghayobi, Charles B. Yackulic, & Patricia Jaramillo. (2012) Seed dispersal by Galapagos tortoises. Journal of Biogeography, 1961-1972. info:/
The environmentally conscientious citizen is well aware of the plight of the world’s tropical rainforests and our moral obligation to protect these biodiverse shelters of the next new cancer drug. But how many know of the troubles facing the tropical dry forests? (Or could even find them on a map?1) Just over 40% of tropical and subtropical forests are ‘dry’ forests where the trees lose their... Read more »
Bodart, C., Brink, A.B., Donnay, F., Lupi, A., Mayaux, P., & Achard, F. (2013) Continental estimates of forest cover and forest cover changes in the dry ecosystems of Africa between 1990 and 2000. Journal of Biogeography. info:/
A long long time ago, 25 million years, to be exact, the Andes Mountains in South America began to rise, and as they rose, all of the water in what is now Peru and Ecuador that used to flow northwest had to change directions and head east. This rainwater carried with it lots of dirt, creating a big mud-pie full of cations (i.e. plant nutrients) under a lake on the edge of the ocean. But, the... Read more »
M.A. Higgins, K. Ruokolainen, H. Tuomisto, N. Llerena, G. Cardenas, O. L. Phillips, R. Vasquez, & M. Rasanen. (2011) Geological control of floristic composition in Amazonian forests. Journal of Biogeography, 2136-2149. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02585.x
A little over 1000 years ago Eric the Red sailed around the southern tip of Greenland to set up the first successful European settlement in Greenland. But it wasn’t just people and farm animals that joined Eric in his exile- seeds of several weedy plants likely stowed away on sheep fur and hay to become their species’ first representatives on the western coast of Greenland.... Read more »
J. Edward Schofield, Kevin J. Edwards, Egill Erlendsson, & Paul M. Ledger. (2012) Palynology supports 'Old Norse' introductions to the flora of Greenland. Journal of Biogeography. info:/10.1111/jbi.12067
Above the surf, sand, and mai-tai toting tourists, the Hawaiian Islands soar to heights that would be... uncomfortable for bikini and board short-clad beach-goers. Yet, these cold and windy high elevation environments are home to some of Hawaii’s greatest treasures; botanical absurdities reside on top of the Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes that grow nowhere else in the world. But, ... Read more »
Christopher R. Hobbs, & Bruce G. Baldwin. (2013) Asian origin and upslope migration of Hawaiian Artemisia (Compositae-Anthemidea). Journal of Biogeography. info:/10.1111/jbi.12046
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