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  1. The highest species richness and ecological diversity of extant snakes are in the tropics, primarily in South Asia and Central and South America. Tropical Africa has relatively lower richness and less diversity, but the evolution of tropical herpetofaunas, and the factors governing diversification through time at continental scales are poorly understood due to an understudied fossil record. The ecologies and geographic distributions of aniliid and uropeltoid snakes are examples. Modern species constitute either a grade or clade of fossorial, primarily wet forest taxa from South America and South Asia. Their distributions have historically been interpreted as Gondwanan vicariance following the isolation of Africa in the Early Cretaceous, but a definitive fossil record for these snakes is depauperate. Field research in the early Miocene (approx. 19 Mya) Tinderet sequence of western Kenya has produced precloacal vertebrae of an aniliid snake from multiple localities. Specimens possess vertebral apomorphies shared with extant South American Anilius scytale, including the morphology of the neural spine and prezygapophyseal angle. Combined with additional fossils from the Eocene of North Africa, the Tinderet records demonstrate an unambiguous past record of an extant neotropical snake lineage in Africa and falsify previous vicariance hypotheses. Recent stable isotopic and palynological studies of Neogene eastern African fossil localities have indicated heterogenous environments, including C4 grasses and wood- to scrubland, associated with vertebrate faunas. Comparing climate parameters of habitats for extant Anilius and uropeltoid snakes as ecological analogues to the Tinderet snake with modern ecosystems equivalent to those reconstructed for the eastern African early Miocene demonstrates only limited overlap in precipitation and temperature values. This discord indicates either greater environmental heterogeneity than reconstructed for the early Miocene of eastern Africa, or a greater range of habitat variability in aniliid snakes than observed in extant Anilius. 
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  2. Abstract

    During the first year of the COVID‐19 pandemic, federal spending on government safety net programs in the United States increased dramatically. Despite this unparalleled spending, government safety nets were widely critiqued for failing to fully meet many households' needs. Disaster research suggests thatinformalmodes of social support often emerge during times of disruption, such as the first year of the pandemic. However, use of formal government programs and informal support are rarely examined relative to each other, resulting in an incomplete picture of how households navigate disaster impacts and financial shocks. This study compares estimates of informal social support to formal government program use in the rural U.S. West, drawing on data from a rapid response survey fielded during the summer of 2020 and the 2021 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS‐ASEC). We find that informal social support systems were, on aggregate, used almost as extensively as long‐standing government programs. Our findings highlight the critical role of person‐to‐person assistance, such as sharing financial resources, among rural households during a disruptive disaster period. Routine and standardized data collection on these informal support behaviors could improve future disaster research and policy responses, especially among rural populations.

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  5. Abstract

    Natural resource dependence, although commonly invoked in natural resource sociology, has often been ambiguously defined. Communities are frequently described as dependent on natural resource development, but limited attention has been paid to what that means. In the literature, resource dependence is often treated as over‐specialization in, or over‐reliance upon, the natural resource sectors. However, the logic of over‐specialization conceptually grounds dependence in poor economic outcomes. Thus, a one‐dimensional typology of dependence based on a threshold of the share of development in the natural resource sector—as commonly used—does not fully capture the concept and risks tautology. In this paper, I address this ambiguity by formally defining natural resource dependence as over‐specialization in the natural resource sectors. I then present an ideal typology, known as the Natural Resource Community Typology, and a corresponding classification scheme for rural communities in the United States. The typology integrates both extractive and non‐extractive natural resource activity and has two dimensions—the level of development and the level of economic prosperity—and six mutually exclusive categories—extractive specialized, extractive dependent, non‐extractive specialized, non‐extractive dependent, hybrid specialized, and hybrid dependent. I classify counties from 2000 to 2015 and find that while extractive dependence decreased over the study period, non‐extractive dependence increased.

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  6. Despite considerable social scientific attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on urbanized areas, very little research has examined its impact on rural populations. Yet rural communities—which make up tens of millions of people from diverse backgrounds in the United States—are among the nation’s most vulnerable populations and may be less resilient to the effects of such a large-scale exogenous shock. We address this critical knowledge gap with data from a new survey designed to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health-related and economic dimensions of rural well-being in the North American West. Notably, we find that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural populations have been severe, with significant negative impacts on unemployment, overall life satisfaction, mental health, and economic outlook. Further, we find that these impacts have been generally consistent across age, ethnicity, education, and sex. We discuss how these findings constitute the beginning of a much larger interdisciplinary COVID-19 research effort that integrates rural areas and pushes beyond the predominant focus on cities and nation-states.

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