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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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New distributional data for the Mediterranean medicinal leech Hirudo verbana Carena, 1820 (Hirudinea, Hirudinidae) in Italy, with a note on its feeding on amphibians

Scarce data are currently available about the distribution of the Mediterranean medicinal leech Hirudo verbana in Italy, and most of the known occurrence localities are based on records collected in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, which were not confirmed in the last decades, mostly due to a lack of surveys. Accordingly, the available knowledge on the distribution of the species is far from being updated and representative, although a significant negative trend of H. verbana throughout the country is supposed. The lack of sound distribution data is a significant shortfall, which hinders the implementation of the monitoring of the species as required by the Article 17 of the “Habitats Directive” on the species of Union concern. To provide recent, validated distributional data for the Mediterranean medicinal leech in Italy to be used as baseline data for further surveys and monitoring, we present herein a set of unpublished observations collected in the last decades in peninsular Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia. Moreover, we report observation of H. verbana feeding on amphibians, a feeding habit to date poorly documented for the Mediterranean medicinal leech. Based on both published and novel data, H. verbana is characterised by a large but fragmented distribution in Italy. Therefore, dedicated monitoring programs and the collection of validated occasional observations are highly desirable to get a clearer picture of the real distribution of the species.

A dataset of Tanaidacea from the Iberian Peninsula and surrounding areas

We describe a dataset on the crustacean Order Tanaidacea from the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula and surrounding seas, including the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira, Savage, and the Canary Islands. The dataset gathers the records from all available sources published between 1828 to 2019, which were collected following a standardized Google Scholar search and cross checking each article’s reference lists. For each record, the dataset includes taxonomic, geographical, and ecological information, as well as remarks regarding the sampling methods. The dataset was further completed with 52 additional unpublished records obtained from screening the collections of the University Complutense of Madrid gathered from 35 shallow water surveys. Furthermore, 698 records from different oceanographic deep-sea campaigns have also been included. In total, 3456 records from 186 species in 22 families have been compiled. The dataset organises the current published and unpublished knowledge on tanaidaceans in the area and, by making it open access, it will allow comparisons of the distribution of tanaidaceans in zoogeographic studies.


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Developing the GIS-based maps of the geomorphological and phytogeographical division of the Ukrainian Carpathians for routine use in biogeography

The paper introduces GIS-based maps of the geomorphological and phytogeographical division of the Ukrainian Carpathians (a part of Eastern Carpathian Mts.), which were developed for routine use in biogeography and based on the consolidation of the existing publications. The map of geomorphological division includes 57 OGUs (operational geographic units), and the map phytogeographical division – 18 OGUs of the lowest rank. Geomorphological units are supported with available synonyms, which should help in work with different topic-related Ukrainian publications. Both maps follow strict hierarchical classification and are briefly discussed.

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An updated checklist and biogeography of the Sardinian large branchiopods, with a focus on Spinicaudata (Crustacea, Branchiopoda)

The large branchiopod fauna of Sardinia is reviewed based both on literature and newly collected data. Based on the available evidence, 13 taxa are present on the island (8 Anostraca, 2 Notostraca, and 3 Spinicaudata). Among them, the finding of the spinicaudatan Leptestheria dahalacensis is new for Sardinia, while the spinicaudatans Cyzicus bucheti and Eulimnadia sp. were overlooked in the most recent synopses on the fauna of the island due to misidentifications. Conversely, Cyzicus tetracerus and Limnadia lenticularis, previously erroneously reported based on misidentifications, must be excluded from the fauna of Sardinia. The finding of Eulimnadia sp. is the first record in Europe and the northernmost record of the genus. The occurrence of Leptestheria dahalacensis in Sardinia is rather unexpected and probably due to its accidental introduction linked with rice cultures. At least four of the 13 Sardinian large branchiopod species are absent from the Italian mainland and Sicily, stressing the uniqueness of its fauna and its significant contribution to the Mediterranean inland water crustacean diversity.


Caveat lector; or, the Linnean origin of the myth of Tournefort as a precursor of von Humboldt

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708) is frequently mentioned in biogeography and ecology among those who, before von Humboldt, paralleled the elevational organization of vegetation to its latitudinal zonation on the basis of observations made on Mount Ararat and presented in his Relation d'un voyage du Levant (1717). However, as already noticed in overlooked notes by Hooker (1881) and Hemsley (1896), there is no hint to this correspondence in Tournefort’s description of his ascent of Mount Ararat. Linnaeus (1744) was the first author who, without any plausible reason, attributed the idea of this parallelism to Tournefort. Based on Linnaeus’ work, Mirbel (1815), von Humboldt (1816), Schouw (1823) and Forbes (1846) repeated this wrong credit. Works by these early authors have in turn generated an intricate pathway of repetition of original Linnaeus’ error until nowadays. Along with Tournefort, Linnaeus cited Cesalpino (1583), as one who found floral similarities between northern lowlands (Sweden) and southern mountains (Tuscany). However, there is no passage in Cesalpino that might suggest that he made any comparison between the Italian and Swedish floras, although it is possible that Linnaeus used Cesalpino’s observations on the Italian flora to make a parallelism with the Swedish one. Cesalpino’s recognition of the existence of allied species placed at different elevations may suggest that he has anticipated, by centuries, the concept of vicariance.


First record for the Palearctic region of a rare rotifer from the Ptygura elsteri group (Rotifera: Monogononta: Flosculariaceae: Flosculariidae) with description and biogeography of a new species: Ptygura innominata n. sp.

Here, I describe a new rotifer species within the Ptygura elsteri group collected from Mallorca, Spain (Palearctic). Previously reported from the Nearctic, this form possesses anatomical and ecological characteristics that indicate it to be a separate species. While other morphotypes assigned to the P. elsteri group have cervical hooks, the hooks on this morphotype are clearly different. In this report, I discuss previously published observations of this form, describe its anatomical and ecological details, and discuss its taxonomic position within the genus Ptygura. The name for this new species is Ptygura innominata n. sp.


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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.


Acta Plantarum, more than a forum: a new national floristic distribution database completes the numerous online IPFI facilities

Citizen science projects are able to collect massive amounts of data engaging thousands of motivated volunteers. Moreover web-based communities are a powerful way to promote citizen involvement. This paper describes Acta Plantarum (, an open source project born in 2007, aiming at the study of spontaneous Italian flora and hosting one of the most popular floristic web-based communities in Italy. Participation in the project is free and takes place, upon registration, by posting pictures and contributions in a discussion forum. This represents the heart of the website together with IPFI (Index Plantarum Florae Italicae), a complete nomenclatural database of Italian flora species created to archive all the botanical information. Over the years, thanks to the participation of amateur botanists from all Italian regions, a relevant amount of floristic records has been accumulated in Acta Plantarum. A new utility now allows the retrieval of floristic records stored in the forum through automatic and semi-automatic functions. As of 30 June 2020, Acta Plantarum had 1,793 active members and 74,188 floristic records were automatically or manually extracted, covering about 70% of the specific and subspecific taxa occurring in Italy. An appropriate validation process ensures reliability of data that can be extremely useful to the general audience, policy makers, amateur and professional botanists. Acta Plantarum results confirm the fundamental role of amateurs to develop large floristic databases and to increase floristic knowledge both at local and national level.

People’s contribution to the knowledge of Pycnogonida: citizen science in the case of a “problematic” taxon.

Pycnogonida is a poorly known class of marine arthropods represented by nearly 1350 species described worldwide. We examined data about these organisms available on seven websites for photographs and information sharing among recreational naturalists. We found 384 observations, mainly with data about locality and date. Photos about 65 of them resulted correctly identified to the species level with certainty. The others refer to species whose identification requires a more in-depth analysis under a microscope. Unfortunately, this problem is common to a high percentage of pycnogonids. Therefore it seems unlikely that citizen scientists could contribute significantly to their knowledge. Nevertheless, for some species this would be possible and data on the presence of the taxon could be useful for more general studies at community level.

Using citizen science to monitor non-native species: the case of Lethocerus patruelis (Stål, 1855) (Hemiptera: Belostomatidae) in Italy

Findings of Lethocerus patruelis (Stål, 1855) in Southern Italy have become frequent in the last decades. We collected records of Lethocerus patruelis observations in Italy using scientific literature, citizen science programs, and social networks as data sources to create a complete and up-to-date dataset. This dataset is made of 59 Lethocerus patruelis observations from the Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Abruzzi regions, 32 of which were previously unpublished, spanning from 1997 to 2020. Half of these records comes from biodiversity dedicated Facebook groups, citizen science programs and online forums, underlining the usefulness of unconventional data sources to gather data on species with poorly known distributions. The existence of Lethocerus patruelis viable populations in Italy remains unclear.


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Aliens in their native country: the case of the Alpine marmot Marmota marmota (Linnaeus, 1758) (Mammalia, Rodentia) in the Apennine ridge

The distribution of the Alpine marmot released in the Northern Apennines has been largely unstudied. In this note, we summarise the current distribution and the altitude range of the Alpine marmot in the Apennine ridge, 80 years after their first releases. We searched for marmot occurrence on the Apennines (i) on citizen-science platforms and (ii) through a webmail on Sciuridae distribution in Italy. We collected 80 marmot records validated by photos and by field investigations. We showed that Alpine marmots are present on over 70,000 ha in the Apennines, between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Most occurrences were recorded between 1600 and 1700 m a.s.l., in lines with other works on this species. Although the introduction of the Alpine marmot in the Apennines appears to have been successful, further molecular and ecological data are needed to assess origins and potential environmental impacts (e.g. on soil stability) of these established populations. This work may represent a description of the current status of this species, to be compared with future monitoring. In turn, updating the distribution of the Alpine marmot in the Apennines in the next years may be useful to assess potential distribution shift towards higher altitudes as a response to local climatic change.


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