skip to main content

Title: Tropical snake diversity collapses after widespread amphibian loss
Biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates worldwide. Yet cascading effects of biodiversity loss on other taxa are largely unknown because baseline data are often unavailable. We document the collapse of a Neotropical snake community after the invasive fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis caused a chytridiomycosis epizootic leading to the catastrophic loss of amphibians, a food source for snakes. After mass mortality of amphibians, the snake community contained fewer species and was more homogeneous across the study site, with several species in poorer body condition, despite no other systematic changes in the environment. The demise of the snake community after amphibian loss demonstrates the repercussive and often unnoticed consequences of the biodiversity crisis and calls attention to the invisible declines of rare and data-deficient species.
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1702635
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10176666
Journal Name:
Science
Volume:
367
Issue:
6479
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
814 to 816
ISSN:
0036-8075
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Glaciers are important drivers of environmental heterogeneity and biological diversity across mountain landscapes. Worldwide, glaciers are receding rapidly due to climate change, with important consequences for biodiversity in mountain ecosystems. However, the effects of glacier loss on biodiversity have never been quantified across a mountainous region, primarily due to a lack of adequate data at large spatial and temporal scales. Here, we combine high-resolution biological and glacier change (ca. 1850–2015) datasets for Glacier National Park, USA, to test the prediction that glacier retreat reduces biodiversity in mountain ecosystems through the loss of uniquely adapted meltwater stream species. We identified a specialized cold-water invertebrate community restricted to the highest elevation streams primarily below glaciers, but also snowfields and groundwater springs. We show that this community and endemic species have unexpectedly persisted in cold, high-elevation sites, even in catchments that have not been glaciated in ∼170 y. Future projections suggest substantial declines in suitable habitat, but not necessarily loss of this community with the complete disappearance of glaciers. Our findings demonstrate that high-elevation streams fed by snow and other cold-water sources continue to serve as critical climate refugia for mountain biodiversity even after glaciers disappear.
  2. JIA, Zhi-Yun (Ed.)
    Abstract Understanding how alien species assemble is crucial for predicting changes to community structure caused by biological invasions and for directing management strategies for alien species, but patterns and drivers of alien species assemblages remain poorly understood relative to native species. Climate has been suggested as a crucial filter of invasion-driven homogenization of biodiversity. However, it remains unclear which climatic factors drive the assemblage of alien species. Here, we compiled global data at both grid scale (2,653 native and 2,806 current grids with a resolution of 2° × 2°) and administrative scale (271 native and 297 current nations and sub-nations) on the distributions of 361 alien amphibians and reptiles (herpetofauna), the most threatened vertebrate group on the planet. We found that geographical distance, a proxy for natural dispersal barriers, was the dominant variable contributing to alien herpetofaunal assemblage in native ranges. In contrast, climatic factors explained more unique variation in alien herpetofaunal assemblage after than before invasions. This pattern was driven by extremely high temperatures and precipitation seasonality, 2 hallmarks of global climate change, and bilateral trade which can account for the alien assemblage after invasions. Our results indicated that human-assisted species introductions combined with climate change may accelerate the reorganization ofmore »global species distributions.« less
  3. Over the past decade, museum genomics studies have focused on obtaining DNA of sufficient quality and quantity for sequencing from fluid-preserved natural history specimens, primarily to be used in systematic studies. While these studies have opened windows to evolutionary and biodiversity knowledge of many species worldwide, published works often focus on the success of these DNA sequencing efforts, which is undoubtedly less common than obtaining minimal or sometimes no DNA or unusable sequence data from specimens in natural history collections. Here, we attempt to obtain and sequence DNA extracts from 115 fresh and 41 degraded samples of homalopsid snakes, as well as from two degraded samples of a poorly known snake, Hydrablabes periops . Hydrablabes has been suggested to belong to at least two different families (Natricidae and Homalopsidae) and with no fresh tissues known to be available, intractable museum specimens currently provide the only opportunity to determine this snake’s taxonomic affinity. Although our aim was to generate a target-capture dataset for these samples, to be included in a broader phylogenetic study, results were less than ideal due to large amounts of missing data, especially using the same downstream methods as with standard, high-quality samples. However, rather than discount resultsmore »entirely, we used mapping methods with references and pseudoreferences, along with phylogenetic analyses, to maximize any usable molecular data from our sequencing efforts, identify the taxonomic affinity of H. periops , and compare sequencing success between fresh and degraded tissue samples. This resulted in largely complete mitochondrial genomes for five specimens and hundreds to thousands of nuclear loci (ultra-conserved loci, anchored-hybrid enrichment loci, and a variety of loci frequently used in squamate phylogenetic studies) from fluid-preserved snakes, including a specimen of H. periops from the Field Museum of Natural History collection. We combined our H. periops data with previously published genomic and Sanger-sequenced datasets to confirm the familial designation of this taxon, reject previous taxonomic hypotheses, and make biogeographic inferences for Hydrablabes . A second H. periops specimen, despite being seemingly similar for initial raw sequencing results and after being put through the same protocols, resulted in little usable molecular data. We discuss the successes and failures of using different pipelines and methods to maximize the products from these data and provide expectations for others who are looking to use DNA sequencing efforts on specimens that likely have degraded DNA. Life Science Identifier ( Hydrablabes periops ) urn:lsid:zoobank.org :pub:F2AA44 E2-D2EF-4747-972A-652C34C2C09D.« less
  4. Abstract Earth is rapidly losing free-living species. Is the same true for parasitic species? To reveal temporal trends in biodiversity, historical data are needed, but often such data do not exist for parasites. Here, parasite communities of the past were reconstructed by identifying parasites in fluid-preserved specimens held in natural history collections. Approximately 2500 macroparasites were counted from 109 English Sole ( Parophrys vetulus ) collected between 1930 and 2019 in the Salish Sea, Washington, USA. Alpha and beta diversity were measured to determine if and how diversity changed over time. Species richness of parasite infracommunities and community dispersion did not vary over time, but community composition of decadal component communities varied significantly over the study period. Community dissimilarity also varied: prior to the mid-20th century, parasites shifted in abundance in a seemingly stochastic manner and, after this time period, a canalization of community change was observed, where species' abundances began to shift in consistent directions. Further work is needed to elucidate potential drivers of these changes and to determine if these patterns are present in the parasite communities of other fishes of the Salish Sea.
  5. Silva, Daniel de (Ed.)
    Biodiversity loss is a global ecological crisis that is both a driver of and response to environmental change. Understanding the connections between species declines and other components of human-natural systems extends across the physical, life, and social sciences. From an analysis perspective, this requires integration of data from different scientific domains, which often have heterogeneous scales and resolutions. Community science projects such as eBird may help to fill spatiotemporal gaps and enhance the resolution of standardized biological surveys. Comparisons between eBird and the more comprehensive North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) have found these datasets can produce consistent multi-year abundance trends for bird populations at national and regional scales. Here we investigate the reliability of these datasets for estimating patterns at finer resolutions, inter-annual changes in abundance within town boundaries. Using a case study of 14 focal species within Massachusetts, we calculated four indices of annual relative abundance using eBird and BBS datasets, including two different modeling approaches within each dataset. We compared the correspondence between these indices in terms of multi-year trends, annual estimates, and inter-annual changes in estimates at the state and town-level. We found correspondence between eBird and BBS multi-year trends, but this was not consistent acrossmore »all species and diminished at finer, inter-annual temporal resolutions. We further show that standardizing modeling approaches can increase index reliability even between datasets at coarser temporal resolutions. Our results indicate that multiple datasets and modeling methods should be considered when estimating species population dynamics at finer temporal resolutions, but standardizing modeling approaches may improve estimate correspondence between abundance datasets. In addition, reliability of these indices at finer spatial scales may depend on habitat composition, which can impact survey accuracy.« less