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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Biogeographia – The Journal of Integrative Biogeography is the scientific journal of the Italian Biogeography Society (SIB, [in Italian only]). Since 1970, it publishes original research and reviews on any topic in biogeography.


Out of Europe: Investigating Hystrix cristata (Rodentia: Hystricidae) skull morphometric geographic variability in Africa

The crested porcupine Hystrix cristata is one of the most well-known members of the Family Hystricidae, yet very little is known regarding its geographic variability in Africa. Two alternative hypotheses exist; pre-1940s classical taxonomy supported the existence of a distinct Eastern African species, Hystrix galeata, whereas recent molecular data seem to support only a North-South separation inside one single species, with the geographic-ecological barrier represented by the Sahara desert. Our morphometric data support the recognition of Hystrix cristata senegalica Cuvier, 1822 as the sub-Saharan representative of the species with a clear morphological difference between the North African and sub-Saharan crested porcupines, which seem re-conductible mostly to size difference. Within H. c. senegalica, our analysis seems to support a weak separation between the West African and the East African samples. Owing to considerable qualitative skull differences and overlooked molecular data, the taxonomic status of H. galeata remains uncertain as well as the status of porcupines of North-East Africa (Nubia). Our results also highlight the role of North Africa (mainly the Maghreb) as a refuge for the nominal taxon. This suggests that intraspecific variability is presently overlooked and that further integrative studies and more samples are needed to adequately assess the geographic variability of sub-Saharan crested porcupines.


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Summer aggregation of common eagle ray, Myliobatis aquila (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatidae), in the Marine Protected Area of the Egadi Islands (southwestern Tyrrhenian Sea)

We report for the first time in Italian waters a periodic and frequent presence of a summer aggregation of common eagle ray Myliobatis aquila in the island of Marettimo (southwestern Tyrrhenian Sea), which is part of the Marine Protected Area of the Egadi Islands. These aggregation could be related to different phenomena such as reproduction, feeding or simply as a transit zone.

First record of Temnosewellia minor (Platyhelminthes, Temnocephalidae) in Sicily, with a plea for a re-examination of the identity of the publicly available molecular sequences of the genus

Ectosymbiotic temnocephalan flatworms belonging to the genus Temnosewellia Damborenea and Cannon, 2001 were collected on Cherax destructor Clark, 1936 in an aquaculture farm in Sicily, Italy. This represents the first record of a temnocephalan species for the fauna of the island. Morphological and molecular identification of the collected specimens proved that they belong to the allochthonous species Temnosewellia minor Haswell, 1888, which was introduced along with crayfishes bred in aquaculture farms. The phylogenetic analyses carried out for the molecular identification of the Sicilian population highlighted some inconsistencies in the grouping of the Temnosewellia sequences available online, thus stressing the opportunity of a careful re-examination of the voucher samples and their identifications. The risks of a its unwary introduction in the wild and the need of monitoring its possible impacts on native biota are briefly discussed.

A checklist of near-shore strombidae (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Neostromboidae) on Green Island, Queensland

This study provides a checklist of the distribution and relative abundance of Strombidae from the near-shore environment of Green Island, Queensland, Australia. Historical records indicate that this island has not been surveyed for at least half a century. We used an opportunistic sighting survey method, where we walked the path of the receding tidal line around the island, counting and measuring all species that we observed directly. We also recorded the substrate on which each individual was collected as sand, sand-seagrass or seagrass. Eleven species of Strombidae were found. The survey provided the first record of Ministrombus athenius (Duclos, 1844) from North Queensland. This study provides base-line data on the presence and distribution of near-shore Stromboidea that will enable future studies to detect and monitor changes in the composition of near-shore strombid species.


Monkeys on a free-floating island in a Colombian river: further support for over-water colonization

Further to the debate associated with the viability of land-bound mammals being able to colonize remote frontiers by way of long-distance over-water dispersal, observations are documented of monkeys (red howlers, Alouatta seniculus) occupying free-standing trees within a large floating island on the Magdalena River in north-west Colombia. Also, we contribute to the discussion related to the 15.0–12.5 Ma (Middle Miocene) arrival of the howler monkeys in Central America, which is well before the Panama Isthmus had fully emerged 3.0–2.8 Ma (Late Pliocene). We speculate it was by way of a raft similar to the ones reported here, possibly from a river entering the sea from northern Colombia.

Areas of endemism of Jamaica: inferences from Parsimony Analysis of Endemism based on amphibian and reptile distributions

Islands represent interesting biogeographic features often defined by unique and dynamic geological and biological components. Such systems serve as examples of the basic fundamental units of biogeographical analyses: areas of endemism. The island of Jamaica is recognized as possessing a unique biota with a large number of herpetofauna species persisting only within the island. Further, Jamaica exhibits a dynamic geologic history characterized by an easterly migration and repeated inundation, resulting in a contemporary biota formed through dispersal. Here, we infer areas of endemism across Jamaica based on 57 amphibian and reptile distributions using Parsimony Analysis and Endemism (PAE). We recover 19 areas of endemism concentrated in two regions: The Blue Mountains region diagnosed by 8 taxa and the west/central limestone plateau region including Cockpit Country and the western Dolphin Head region, diagnosed by 9 taxa. Further discussion on the utility of ambiguous syntaxa in diagnosing extinction, dispersal and ecological patterns as they pertain to biogeographic units is provided.


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Special Section: Citizen Science in Biogeography

Towards a new flora of Liguria: the usefulness of citizen science through the Wikiplantbase floristic surveys

The current understanding of the richness and distribution of plant species on a national scale, achieved by the recent checklists of Italian flora, is largely based on the quality and thoroughness of the data provided by regional floristic studies. This knowledge benefits from regional databases, such as the Wikiplantbase #Liguria project, which offers an online platform where thousands of geo-referenced floristic records from Liguria (north-western Italy) are stored and freely accessible. In 2019, adopting a citizen science approach, a floristic survey program consisting of 11 excursions opened to the public was implemented, with the aim of deepening the floristic knowledge of some poorly investigated areas of the region. The active collaboration between scientists and volunteers led to the collection of about 4000 floristic data corresponding to more than 800 taxa, including 13 taxa unknown or no longer recorded for Liguria. These results suggest that citizen science can be a useful tool to address the knowledge gaps of regional floras. In particular, collaboration between experts and non-professional botanists allows to collect reliable data even for hardly-to-recognize taxa, contributing to fix some gaps occurring in the Wikiplantbase #Liguria project.

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Scientists by chance: reliability of non-structured primary biodiversity data. Insights from Italian Forums of Natural Sciences

Forums and social networks store a big deal of data on flora and fauna, collected especially by amateurs. To what extent are these data useful to contribute to biodiversity data systems? In this paper, we addressed the question about the "suitability for use" of primary biodiversity data by exploring two popular and valued Italian Forums of Natural Science (Forum Natura Mediterraneo and Forum Entomologi Italiani) and tried to assess their scientific potential. The aim of our work was to evaluate and discuss taxonomic reliability of the identification of butterfly species and the accuracy of their geographic locations. For each forum thread, we examined the posted images of butterflies, checked the diagnoses and georeferenced the observations from the textual descriptions provided by the users. Then, we compared each final identification by users with an independent identification by expert taxonomists. Looking at species level identifications, users identified 3764 out of 4029 specimens (93.4%) and experts agreed with them in 3649 cases: a high percentage agreement (po = 96.9%). As for the geographic data, we were able to georeferenced 97.9% of the observations (70% with an estimated extent less than 2500m). Results of this study, although limited to butterflies, suggest that the final identifications from forums show a surprisingly small bias and that the 'democratic' approach to taxonomy ultimately produces few uncertainties. The selected forums contain large amounts of primary biodiversity data in digital format, correctly identified and georeferenced with satisfactory accuracy and this capital is too valuable to remain unused. The formalization of collaborations with scientific projects and institutions would bring the forums in the area of “official” citizen science initiatives, giving the forums a role of citizens' scientific training. The recognition of a scientific role makes forum managers and users more deeply involved and data protection over time, currently entrusted to forum managers, would be greatly enhanced.

Citizen science project on Alpine ibex, Capra ibex, in the Orobie Alps

The Alpine ibex is one of the finest examples of how human’s attitude towards nature is changing by becoming aware of biodiversity conservation. On the 30th anniversary of the first Alpine ibex reintroduction in the Orobie Alps, a three year long Citizen Science Project started in June 2017 (‘Stambecco Orobie e Lombardia’). Nowadays, a complementary tool that can be used in data collection is citizen science; its use among scientific community is increasing and it is considered a new opportunity for the future of science. A three-year project (from 2017 to 2019) took place in the Orobie Alps (Bergamo, Italy), with the collection of 2,530 photographs of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex ibex). A total of 735 citizen scientists took part in the project by gathering data and collecting pictures (225 in 2017, 248 in 2018 and 262 in 2019). Photographs, complete with technical descriptions, were posted on the project’s Facebook page and the Instagram page and each one was georeferenced on the ArcGis platform and a web mapping application. The georeferenced images helped comparing the expansion zones of Lombard Alpine ibex colonies to the ones identified in a preliminary study. The images also turned out to be a useful tool in monitoring population health. These methods may help to avoid data dispersion and may raise public awareness of Alpine ibex conservation policies.