From Neandertal history to Taiwan’s pet bird market: Selected publications from the 2nd Quarter 2014

1. Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los Huesos. Science

The Sima de los Huesos (pit of bones) is a cave in northern Spain from which 6500 human fossils from at least 28 individuals have been recovered to date. Analysis of skulls from the earliest humans with Neandertal-like features reassigned the age of the fossils to about 430 000 years ago. See also

2. Origins and functional evolution of Y chromosomes across mammals. Nature

Mammalian Y chromosomes, known for their roles in sex determination and male fertility, often contain repetitive sequences that make them harder to assemble than the rest of the genome. This study reports the development of a new transcript assembly approach based on male-specific RNA/genomic sequencing data to explore Y evolution across 15 species representing all major mammalian lineages. They find evidence for two independent sex chromosome originations in mammals and one in birds.

3. Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution. Science

New Zealand claims back the Kiwi after 20 years being thought to originate from Australia. Ancient DNA of two extinct birds from Madagascar were analysed the Kiwis were found to be their closest relatives. The emu, cassowary, ostrich, rhea and kiwi are known as “ratite birds” they can’t fly because they have lost the bone that wing muscles can attach to. The fact that the DNA of the kiwi closely matches the DNA of the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar means that birds of kiwi lineage must have flown at some point to get from Madagascar.

4. Seagrass Proliferation Precedes Mortality during Hypo-Salinity Events: A Stress-Induced Morphometric Response. PLOS ONE

Halophytes, such as seagrasses, are plants that grow in waters of high salinity. They typically grow in coastal and estuarine areas. This study assesses the affect of seasonal hypo-salinity events during watershed run off and found that a stress induced morphometric response (SIMR) may initially show positive plant response as a result of osmotic shock, but it could actually signal pre-mortality stress.

5. South Korean energy scenarios show how nuclear power can reduce future energy and environmental costs. Energy Policy

South Korea is an important case study for understanding the future role of nuclear power in countries with on-going economic growth, and limited renewable energy resources. This study compares the ‘Governmental’ scenario, which relies on fossil fuels, and the Greenpeace scenario, which emphasises renewable energy and excludes nuclear power against two additional nuclear scenarios that instead envisage a dominant role for nuclear energy.

6. How interactions between animal movement and landscape processes modify local range dynamics and extinction risk. Biology Letters

This paper reports on studies of turtle species inhabiting wetlands which are patchily distributed across a tropical savannah, and whose persistence is threatened by two important synergistic drivers of global change: predation by invasive species and overexploitation. An individual-based model is linked to a niche-population model to test the implications of lack of consideration of how the individual behaviour of dispersing organisms interacts with landscape structure (functional connectivity).

7. Geographic population structure analysis of worldwide human populations infers their biogeographical origins. Nature Communications

This study desrcibes the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm and demonstrate its accuracy. GPS placed 83% of worldwide individuals in their country of origin.

8. Modelling environmental and socio-economic trade-offs associated with land-sparing and land-sharing approaches to oil palm expansion. Journal of Applied Ecology

A computer model has been developed to simulate the expansion of oil palm in Indonesia.

9. Temperature extremes reduce seagrass growth and induce mortality. Marine Pollution Bulletin

Extreme heating (up to 43 °C measured from five-year temperature records) occurs in shallow coastal seagrass meadows of the Great Barrier Reef at low tide. 40 °C represented a critical threshold as there were strong species differences and there was a large impact on growth and mortality.

10. Genetic inference as a method for modelling occurrence: A viable alternative to visual surveys. Austral Ecology

Management and conservation require a comprehensive understanding of species distributions and habitat requirements.  This study uses models to conclude that indirect surveys using molecular approaches have an important role to play in modelling species’ occurrence, and developing future management practices and guidelines to aid species conservation.

11. True Value of Estuarine and Coastal Nurseries for Fish: Incorporating Complexity and Dynamics. Eustuaries and Coasts

Coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass meadows, comprise some of the world’s most productive and ecologically significant ecosystems. Described in this study are 10 key components of nursery habitat value grouped into three types: (1) connectivity and population dynamics (includes connectivity, ontogenetic migration and seascape migration), (2) ecological and ecophysiological factors (includes ecotone effects, ecophysiological factors, food/predation trade-offs and food webs) and (3) resource dynamics (includes resource availability, ontogenetic diet shifts and allochthonous inputs).

12. Application of Various Oxidants for Cyanobacteria Control and Cyanotoxin Removal in Wastewater Treatment. Journal of Environmental Engineering

The impacts of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), chlorine, potassium permanganate (KMnO4), and ozone on Microcystis aeruginosa cell viability, and the concomitant toxin release and degradation in wastewater, were investigated.

13. Longitudinal variation and effects of habitat on biodiversity of Australasian temperate reef fishes. Journal of Biogeography

The objective of this study was to describe the distributional patterns in biodiversity and assemblage structure of temperate reef-associated fishes in two habitats (kelp forests and open reefs) in each of four regions at comparable latitudes spanning a large longitudinal range (> 5000 km; 117.91° E–174.81° E).

14. Contrasting levels of connectivity and localises persistence characterise the latitudinal distribution of a wind-dispersed rainforest canopy tree. Genetica

Contrasting signals of genetic divergence due to historic and contemporary gene flow were inferred for Coachwood, Ceratopetalum apetalum (Cunoniaceae), a wind-dispersed canopy tree endemic to eastern Australian warm temperate rainforest.

15. Patterns of non-randomness in the composition and characteristics of the Taiwanese bird trade. Biological Invasions

The invasion pathway is composed of a sequential series of stages that need to be quantified separately in order properly to understand the invasion process. Examined here are the composition and characteristics of bird species being sold in the pet bird market in Taiwan.

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