ResearchPad - 144 https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[The apparent exponential radiation of Phanerozoic land vertebrates is an artefact of spatial sampling biases]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nc9e55dae-0ecc-4336-855c-b5ad1fdaf2ed There is no consensus about how terrestrial biodiversity was assembled through deep time, and in particular whether it has risen exponentially over the Phanerozoic. Using a database of 60 859 fossil occurrences, we show that the spatial extent of the worldwide terrestrial tetrapod fossil record itself expands exponentially through the Phanerozoic. Changes in spatial sampling explain up to 67% of the change in known fossil species counts, and these changes are decoupled from variation in habitable land area that existed through time. Spatial sampling therefore represents a real and profound sampling bias that cannot be explained as redundancy. To address this bias, we estimate terrestrial tetrapod diversity for palaeogeographical regions of approximately equal size. We find that regional-scale diversity was constrained over timespans of tens to hundreds of millions of years, and similar patterns are recovered for major subgroups, such as dinosaurs, mammals and squamates. Although the Cretaceous/Palaeogene mass extinction catalysed an abrupt two- to three-fold increase in regional diversity 66 million years ago, no further increases occurred, and recent levels of regional diversity do not exceed those of the Palaeogene. These results parallel those recovered in analyses of local community-level richness. Taken together, our findings strongly contradict past studies that suggested unbounded diversity increases at local and regional scales over the last 100 million years.

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<![CDATA[Correction to ‘A possible case of inverted lifestyle in a new bivalved arthropod from the Burgess Shale’]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N6470609c-4bf8-4e9c-8955-8d300f900ce8 ]]> <![CDATA[New theropod remains and implications for megaraptorid diversity in the Winton Formation (lower Upper Cretaceous), Queensland, Australia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N54f0ac06-7dd3-4132-a1ec-8c71ec345581

The holotype specimen of the megaraptorid Australovenator wintonensis, from the Upper Cretaceous Winton Formation (Rolling Downs Group, Eromanga Basin) of central Queensland, is the most complete non-avian theropod found in Australia to date. In fact, the holotype of A. wintonensis and isolated megaraptorid teeth (possibly referable to Australovenator) constitute the only theropod body fossils reported from the Winton Formation. Herein, we describe a new fragmentary megaraptorid specimen from the Winton Formation, found near the type locality of A. wintonensis. The new specimen comprises parts of two vertebrae, two metatarsals, a pedal phalanx and multiple unidentifiable bone fragments. Although the new megaraptorid specimen is poorly preserved, it includes the only megaraptorid vertebrae known from Queensland. The presence of pleurocoels and highly pneumatic caudal centra with camerate and camellate internal structures permit the assignment of these remains to Megaraptora gen. et sp. indet. A morphological comparison revealed that the distal end of metatarsal II and the partial pedal phalanx II-1 of the new specimen are morphologically divergent from Australovenator. This might indicate the presence of a second megaraptorid taxon in the Winton Formation, or possibly intraspecific variation.

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<![CDATA[New application of strontium isotopes reveals evidence of limited migratory behaviour in Late Cretaceous hadrosaurs]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nb9091ab0-5d82-4a73-8c59-6c096c056520

Dinosaur migration patterns are very difficult to determine, often relying solely on the geographical distribution of fossils. Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to determine if a fossil taxon's geographical distribution is the result of migration or simply a wide distribution. Whereas some attempts have been made to use isotopic systems to determine migratory patterns in dinosaurs, these methods have yet to achieve wider usage in the study of dinosaur ecology. Here, we have used strontium isotope ratios from fossil enamel to reconstruct the movements of an individual hadrosaur from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada. Results from this study are consistent with a range or migratory pattern between Dinosaur Provincial Park and a contemporaneous locality in the South Saskatchewan River area, Alberta, Canada. This represents a minimum distance of approximately 80 km, which is consistent with migrations seen in modern elephants. These results suggest the continent-wide distribution of some hadrosaur species in the Late Cretaceous of North America is not the result of extremely long-range migratory behaviours.

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<![CDATA[A re-description of Sandownia harrisi (Testudinata: Sandownidae) from the Aptian of the Isle of Wight based on computed tomography scans]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nb520e3f9-8b53-4d21-8a8b-e8f98a200e4e

Sandownidae is an enigmatic group of Cretaceous–Paleogene turtles with highly derived cranial anatomy. Although sandownid monophyly is not debated, relationships with other turtles remain unclear. Sandownids have been recovered in significantly different parts of the turtle tree: as stem-turtles, stem-cryptodires and stem-chelonioid sea turtles. Latest phylogenetic studies find sandownids as the sister-group of the Late Jurassic thalassochelydians and as stem-turtles. Here, we provide a detailed study of the cranial and mandibular anatomy of Sandownia harrisi from the Aptian of the Isle of Wight, based on high resolution computed tomography scanning of the holotype. Our results confirm a high number of anatomical similarities with thalassochelydians and particularly Solnhofia parsonsi, which is interpreted as an early member of the sandownid lineage. Sandownids + Solnhofia show many cranial modifications related to the secondary palate and a durophagous diet. Sandownia is additionally highly derived in features related to its arterial circulation and neuroanatomy, including the endosseous labyrinth. Our results imply rapid morphological evolution during the early history of sandownids. Sandownids likely evolved in central Europe from thalassochelydian ancestors during the Late Jurassic. The durophagous diet of sandownids possibly facilitated their survival of the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction.

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<![CDATA[Correction to ‘Carbonodraco lundi gen et sp. nov., the oldest parareptile, from Linton, Ohio, and new insights into the early radiation of reptiles’]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N72417d5d-285a-4755-8f87-ed82d77a443f ]]> <![CDATA[The evolution of dermal shield vascularization in Testudinata and Pseudosuchia: phylogenetic constraints versus ecophysiological adaptations]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N5d69ecbd-a34a-411d-aed5-54e2db0fce4a

Studies on living turtles have demonstrated that shells are involved in the resistance to hypoxia during apnea via bone acidosis buffering; a process which is complemented with cutaneous respiration, transpharyngeal and cloacal gas exchanges in the soft-shell turtles. Bone acidosis buffering during apnea has also been identified in crocodylian osteoderms, which are also known to employ heat transfer when basking. Although diverse, many of these functions rely on one common trait: the vascularization of the dermal shield. Here, we test whether the above ecophysiological functions played an adaptive role in the evolutionary transitions between land and aquatic environments in both Pseudosuchia and Testudinata. To do so, we measured the bone porosity as a proxy for vascular density in a set of dermal plates before performing phylogenetic comparative analyses. For both lineages, the dermal plate porosity obviously varies depending on the animal lifestyle, but these variations prove to be highly driven by phylogenetic relationships. We argue that the complexity of multi-functional roles of the post-cranial dermal skeleton in both Pseudosuchia and Testudinata probably is the reason for a lack of obvious physiological signal, and we discuss the role of the dermal shield vascularization in the evolution of these groups.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Vertebrate palaeophysiology’.

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<![CDATA[Respiratory evolution in archosaurs]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N458a8b7e-65c9-4512-8550-b0ae93c3a740

The Archosauria are a highly successful group of vertebrates, and their evolution is marked by the appearance of diverse respiratory and metabolic strategies. This review examines respiratory function in living and fossil archosaurs, focusing on the anatomy and biomechanics of the respiratory system, and their physiological consequences. The first archosaurs shared a heterogeneously partitioned parabronchial lung with unidirectional air flow; from this common ancestral lung morphology, we trace the diverging respiratory designs of bird- and crocodilian-line archosaurs. We review the latest evidence of osteological correlates for lung structure and the presence and distribution of accessory air sacs, with a focus on the evolution of the avian lung-air sac system and the functional separation of gas exchange and ventilation. In addition, we discuss the evolution of ventilation mechanics across archosaurs, citing new biomechanical data from extant taxa and how this informs our reconstructions of fossils. This improved understanding of respiratory form and function should help to reconstruct key physiological parameters in fossil taxa. We highlight key events in archosaur evolution where respiratory physiology likely played a major role, such as their radiation at a time of relative hypoxia following the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, and their evolution of elevated metabolic rates.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Vertebrate palaeophysiology’.

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<![CDATA[A new specimen of Ziphiidae (Cetacea, Odontoceti) from the late Miocene of Denmark with morphological evidence for suction feeding behaviour]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N4a5ca346-4547-42b3-be0a-1784ef3203ec

A new fossil of Ziphiidae from the upper Miocene Gram Formation (ca 9.9–7.2 Ma) is described herein. Computed tomographic scanning of the specimen was performed to visualize the mandibles and to obtain a three-dimensional digital reconstruction. It possesses several characters of the derived ziphiids, such as the dorsoventral thickening of the anterior process of the periotic, the dorsoventral compression of the pars cochlearis and the short unfused symphysis. The specimen cannot be identified beyond the family level, because of the unusual nature of the preserved parts consisting of the mandibles, earbones and postcranial remains. It differs from other ziphiid species from the Gram Formation, Dagonodum mojnum, in its larger size and the more derived morphology of its mandibles and earbones. Its long and thickened stylohyal, combined with its reduced teeth, suggests that this new specimen relied primarily on suction feeding. By contrast, the other ziphiid species from the Gram Formation, D. mojnum, shows adaptations for a more raptorial feeding strategy. Assuming the two species were coeval, their co-occurrence at the same locality with two different feeding strategies, may represent a case of niche separation. They may have hunted different types of prey, thus avoiding direct competition for the same food resource.

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<![CDATA[The Burramys Project: a conservationist's reach should exceed history's grasp, or what is the fossil record for?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N3e4ccbfe-8719-4704-9fdc-06b8cdf055fc

The fossil record provides important information about changes in species diversity, distribution, habitat and abundance through time. As we understand more about these changes, it becomes possible to envisage a wider range of options for translocations in a world where sustainability of habitats is under increasing threat. The Critically Endangered alpine/subalpine mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus (Marsupialia, Burramyidae), is threatened by global heating. Using conventional strategies, there would be no viable pathway for stopping this iconic marsupial from becoming extinct. The fossil record, however, has inspired an innovative strategy for saving this species. This lineage has been represented over 25 Myr by a series of species always inhabiting lowland, wet forest palaeocommunities. These fossil deposits have been found in what is now the Tirari Desert, South Australia (24 Ma), savannah woodlands of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Queensland (approx. 24–15 Ma) and savannah grasslands of Hamilton, Victoria (approx. 4 Ma). This palaeoecological record has led to the proposal overviewed here to construct a lowland breeding facility with the goal of monitoring the outcome of introducing this possum back into the pre-Quaternary core habitat for the lineage. If this project succeeds, similar approaches could be considered for other climate-change-threatened Australian species such as the southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) and the western swamp tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina).

This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘The past is a foreign country: how much can the fossil record actually inform conservation?’

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<![CDATA[HIV is associated with endothelial activation despite ART, in a sub-Saharan African setting]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5f19f6d5eed0c484699eb5

Objective

To study the relationship between endothelial dysfunction, HIV infection, and stroke in Malawians.

Methods

Using a cross-sectional design, we measured plasma levels of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and soluble thrombomodulin (sTM) in stroke patients and controls, stratified by HIV status. These biomarkers were measured using ELISA. After dichotomization, each biomarker was used as the dependent variable in a multivariable logistic regression model. Primary independent variables included HIV and stroke status. Adjustment variables were age, sex, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tobacco and alcohol consumption, personal/family history of stroke, antiretroviral therapy status, and hypercholesterolemia.

Results

Sixty-one stroke cases (19 HIV+) and 168 controls (32 HIV+) were enrolled. The median age was 55 years (38.5–65.0) for controls and 52 years (38.0–73.0) for cases (p = 0.38). The median CD4+ T-cell count was 260.1 cells/mm3 (156.3–363.9) and 452 cells/mm3 (378.1–527.4) in HIV-infected cases and controls, respectively. HIV infection was independently associated with high levels of ICAM-1 (OR = 3.6, 95% CI: 1.3–10.6, p = 0.018) in controls but not in stroke cases even after excluding patients with a viral load >1,000 RNA copies/mL (OR = 4.1, 95% CI: 1.3–13.1, p = 0.017). There was no association between the clinical profiles of HIV-positive controls or HIV-positive stroke and high levels of PAI-1, VEGF, and sTM.

Conclusions

HIV infection is associated with endothelial activation despite antiretroviral treatment. Our findings underscore the need for larger clinical cohorts to better understand the contribution of this perturbation of the endothelial function to the increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

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<![CDATA[Microbial-tubeworm associations in a 440 million year old hydrothermal vent community]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c1c2b44d5eed0c48445eaa3

Microorganisms are the chief primary producers within present-day deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems, and play a fundamental role in shaping the ecology of these environments. However, very little is known about the microbes that occurred within, and structured, ancient vent communities. The evolutionary history, diversity and the nature of interactions between ancient vent microorganisms and hydrothermal vent animals are largely undetermined. The oldest known hydrothermal vent community that includes metazoans is preserved within the Ordovician to early Silurian Yaman Kasy massive sulfide deposit, Ural Mountains, Russia. This deposit contains two types of tube fossil attributed to annelid worms. A re-examination of these fossils using a range of microscopy, chemical analysis and nano-tomography techniques reveals the preservation of filamentous microorganisms intimately associated with the tubes. The microfossils bear a strong resemblance to modern hydrothermal vent microbial filaments, including those preserved within the mineralized tubes of the extant vent polychaete genus Alvinella. The Yaman Kasy fossil filaments represent the oldest animal–microbial associations preserved within an ancient hydrothermal vent environment. They allude to a diverse microbial community, and also demonstrate that remarkable fine-scale microbial preservation can also be observed in ancient vent deposits, suggesting the possible existence of similar exceptionally preserved microfossils in even older vent environments.

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<![CDATA[Indirect effects of climate change altered the cannibalistic behaviour of shell-drilling gastropods in Antarctica during the Eocene]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c15229fd5eed0c4840bd501

The fossil record from Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, provides a record of biotic response to the onset of global climatic cooling during the Eocene. Using drilling traces—small, round holes preserved on prey shells—we examined the effect of a cooling pulse 41 Ma on the cannibalistic behaviour of predatory naticid gastropods. We predicted that cannibalistic attacks would decline in response to the cooling climate, reflecting reduced activity levels, energy requirements and constraints on the chemically aided drilling process of the naticids. Surprisingly, however, cannibalism frequencies did not change. This counterintuitive result is best explained by a sharp reduction in durophagous (shell-crushing) predation in shallow-benthic communities in Antarctica that also occurred as the climate cooled. Reduced durophagous predation may have created a less-risky environment for foraging naticids, stimulating cannibalistic behaviour. The change in the top-down control exerted by shell-crushing predators on naticids may have counteracted the direct, negative effects of declining temperatures on the predatory performance of naticids. Our results suggest that the long-term consequences of climate change cannot be predicted solely from its direct effects on predation, because the temperature can have large indirect effects on consumer–resource interactions, especially where risk-effects dominate.

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<![CDATA[The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c4b8f33d5eed0c48486fd60

Changing patterns of human resource use and food consumption have profoundly impacted the Earth's biosphere. Until now, no individual taxa have been suggested as distinct and characteristic new morphospecies representing this change. Here we show that the domestic broiler chicken is one such potential marker. Human-directed changes in breeding, diet and farming practices demonstrate at least a doubling in body size from the late medieval period to the present in domesticated chickens, and an up to fivefold increase in body mass since the mid-twentieth century. Moreover, the skeletal morphology, pathology, bone geochemistry and genetics of modern broilers are demonstrably different to those of their ancestors. Physical and numerical changes to chickens in the second half of the twentieth century, i.e. during the putative Anthropocene Epoch, have been the most dramatic, with large increases in individual bird growth rate and population sizes. Broiler chickens, now unable to survive without human intervention, have a combined mass exceeding that of all other birds on Earth; this novel morphotype symbolizes the unprecedented human reconfiguration of the Earth's biosphere.

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<![CDATA[Ancient collagen reveals evolutionary history of the endemic South American ‘ungulates’]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5ae977e1463d7e0b6169447d

Since the late eighteenth century, fossils of bizarre extinct creatures have been described from the Americas, revealing a previously unimagined chapter in the history of mammals. The most bizarre of these are the ‘native’ South American ungulates thought to represent a group of mammals that evolved in relative isolation on South America, but with an uncertain affinity to any particular placental lineage. Many authors have considered them descended from Laurasian ‘condylarths’, which also includes the probable ancestors of perissodactyls and artiodactyls, whereas others have placed them either closer to the uniquely South American xenarthrans (anteaters, armadillos and sloths) or the basal afrotherians (e.g. elephants and hyraxes). These hypotheses have been debated owing to conflicting morphological characteristics and the hitherto inability to retrieve molecular information. Of the ‘native’ South American mammals, only the toxodonts and litopterns persisted until the Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene. Owing to known difficulties in retrieving ancient DNA (aDNA) from specimens from warm climates, this research presents a molecular phylogeny for both Macrauchenia patachonica (Litopterna) and Toxodon platensis (Notoungulata) recovered using proteomics-based (liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry) sequencing analyses of bone collagen. The results place both taxa in a clade that is monophyletic with the perissodactyls, which today are represented by horses, rhinoceroses and tapirs.

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<![CDATA[Bracketing phenogenotypic limits of mammalian hybridization]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c22c685d5eed0c484aa02f9

An increasing number of mammalian species have been shown to have a history of hybridization and introgression based on genetic analyses. Only relatively few fossils, however, preserve genetic material, and morphology must be used to identify the species and determine whether morphologically intermediate fossils could represent hybrids. Because dental and cranial fossils are typically the key body parts studied in mammalian palaeontology, here we bracket the potential for phenotypically extreme hybridizations by examining uniquely preserved cranio-dental material of a captive hybrid between grey and ringed seals. We analysed how distinct these species are genetically and morphologically, how easy it is to identify the hybrids using morphology and whether comparable hybridizations happen in the wild. We show that the genetic distance between these species is more than twice the modern human–Neanderthal distance, but still within that of morphologically similar species pairs known to hybridize. By contrast, morphological and developmental analyses show grey and ringed seals to be highly disparate, and that the hybrid is a predictable intermediate. Genetic analyses of the parent populations reveal introgression in the wild, suggesting that grey–ringed seal hybridization is not limited to captivity. Taken together, we postulate that there is considerable potential for mammalian hybridization between phenotypically disparate taxa.

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<![CDATA[Vertebral morphometrics and lung structure in non-avian dinosaurs]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c15229bd5eed0c4840bd4e6

The lung-air sac system of modern birds is unique among vertebrates. However, debate surrounds whether an avian-style lung is restricted to birds or first appeared in their dinosaurian ancestors, as common osteological correlates for the respiratory system offer limited information on the lungs themselves. Here, we shed light on these issues by using axial morphology as a direct osteological correlate of lung structure, and quantifying vertebral shape using geometric morphometrics in birds, crocodilians and a wide range of dinosaurian taxa. Although fully avian lungs were a rather late innovation, we quantitatively show that non-avian dinosaurs and basal dinosauriforms possessed bird-like costovertebral joints and a furrowed thoracic ceiling. This would have immobilized the lung's dorsal surface, a structural prerequisite for a thinned blood-gas barrier and increased gas exchange potential. This could have permitted high levels of aerobic and metabolic activity in dinosaurs, even in the hypoxic conditions of the Mesozoic, contributing to their successful radiation.

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