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  1. Bond, Jason (Ed.)

    Morphology has long been used to classify and identify living organisms. However, taxonomic descriptions are often limited to qualitative descriptions of size and shape, making identification difficult due to the subjective language used to describe complex shapes. Additionally, for some taxa, there are few reliable qualitative characters available for delimitation that have yet to be tested objectively in a phylogenetic context. Solifugae is one such example. The order, Solifugae, is recognized from the other arachnid orders by the possession of large, powerful jaws or chelicerae. Male cheliceral morphology is the leading diagnostic character system in solifuge systematics and is the basis for much of solifuge current taxonomy. Female chelicerae, on the other hand, are reportedly deeply conserved and much of the species identification is based on female operculum morphology. To elucidate patterns of chelicerae and opercula trait evolution within the solifuge family, Eremobatidae, we used a 2-dimenstional morphological analysis using an Elliptical Fourier approach for closed outlines, in addition to an analysis of traditionally used measures in a phylogenetic context. Using ancestral state reconstruction and ultra-conserved elements, we assessed the taxonomic utility of female cheliceral and opercular morphology, and we evaluated which male morphological characters reflect shared, derived ancestry. Investigation into ubiquitously used character sets, in addition to newly proposed characters herein, illustrates the complex evolution of traits with high levels of convergence. Our results provide taxonomic insight into future, higher level taxonomic revisions of Eremobatidae.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 4, 2025
  2. Abstract Aim

    To review the histories of the Colorado River and North American monsoon system to ascertain their effects on the genetic divergence of desert‐adapted animals.


    Lower Colorado River region, including Mojave and Sonoran deserts, United States.


    We synthesized recent geological literature to summarize initiation phases of lower Colorado River evolution, their discrepancies, and potential for post‐vicariance dispersal of animals across the river. We simulated data under geological models and performed a meta‐analysis of published and unpublished genetic data including population diversity metrics, relatedness and historical migration rates to assess alternative divergence hypotheses.


    The two models for arrival of the Colorado River into the Gulf of California impose east‐west divergence ages of 5.3 and 4.8 Ma, respectively. We found quantifiable river‐associated differentiation in the lower Colorado River region in reptiles, arachnids and mammals relative to flying insects. However, topological statistics, historical migration rates and cross‐river extralimital populations suggest that the river should be considered a leaky barrier that filters, rather than prevents, gene flow. Most markers violated neutrality tests. Differential adaptation to monsoon‐based precipitation differences may contribute to divergence between Mojave and Sonoran populations and should be tested.

    Main Conclusions

    Rivers are dynamic features that can both limit and facilitate gene flow through time, the impacts of which are mitigated by species‐specific life history and dispersal traits. The Southwest is a geo‐climatically complex region with the potential to produce pseudocongruent patterns of genetic divergence, offering a good setting to evaluate intermediate levels of geological‐biological (geobiological) complexity.

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  3. Abstract

    Montane species endemic to the “sky islands” of the North American southwest were significantly impacted by changing climates during the Pleistocene. We combined mitochondrial and genomic data with species distribution modelling to determine whetherAphonopelma marxi, a large tarantula from the nearby Colorado Plateau, was similarly impacted by glacial climates. Genetic analyses revealed that the species comprises three main clades that diverged in the Pleistocene. A clade distributed along the Mogollon Rim appears to have persisted in place during glacial conditions, whereas the other two clades probably colonized central and northeastern portions of the species' range from refugia in canyons. Climate models support this hypothesis for the Mogollon Rim, but late glacial climate data appear too coarse to detect suitable areas in canyons. Locations of canyon refugia could not be inferred from genomic analyses due to missing data, encouraging us to explore the effect of missing loci in phylogeographical inferences using RADseq. Results from analyses with varying amounts of missing data suggest that samples with large amounts of missing data can still improve inferences, and the specific loci that are missing matters more than the number of missing loci. This study highlights the profound impact of Pleistocene climates on tarantulas endemic to the Colorado Plateau, as well as the mixed nature of the region's fauna. Some animals recently colonized from nearby deserts as glacial climates receded, whereas others, like tarantulas, appear to have persisted on the Mogollon Rim and in refugia associated with the region's famous river‐cut canyons.

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  4. Although many studies have examined how taxa responded to Pleistocene climate fluctuations in the Appalachian Mountains, impacts on high-elevation endemics of Central Appalachia are not yet understood. We use mitochondrial (ND4 & Cytb) and nuclear (GAPD) DNA sequences to investigate the phylogeography of the Cow Knob Salamander (Plethodon punctatus), a woodland species from Central Appalachian highlands thought to have origins in the Pleistocene. Data from 72 tail tips representing 25 sites revealed that the species comprises two geographically cohesive mitochondrial clades with a narrow, putative contact zone on Shenandoah Mountain. Molecular clock estimates indicate the clades diverged in the Middle Pleistocene. The population size of the Southern clade appears to have remained stable for at least 50,000 years. Despite spanning several isolated mountain systems, the Northern clade has exceptionally low genetic diversity, probably due to recent demographic expansion. Palaeodemographic hypothesis testing supported a scenario in which a founder effect characterized the Northern clade as it diverged from the Southern clade. Species distribution models predicted no suitable habitat for the species during the Last Glacial Maximum. Ultimately, Pleistocene glacial climates may have driven the species from the northern half of its current range, with recolonization events by members of the Northern clade as climates warmed. Density dependent processes may now maintain a narrow contact zone between the two clades.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 10, 2024
  5. Abstract Species of camel spiders in the family Eremobatidae are an important component of arthropod communities in arid ecosystems throughout North America. Recently, research demonstrated that the evolutionary history and biogeography of the family are poorly understood. Herein we explore the biogeographic history of this group of arachnids using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data, morphology, and distribution modelling to study the eremobatid genus Eremocosta , which contains exceptionally large species distributed throughout North American deserts. Relationships among sampled species were resolved with strong support and they appear to have diversified within distinct desert regions along an east-to-west progression beginning in the Chihuahuan Desert. The unexpected phylogenetic position of some samples suggests that the genus may contain additional, morphologically cryptic species. Geometric morphometric analyses reveal a largely conserved cheliceral morphology among Eremocosta spp. Phylogeographic analyses indicate that the distribution of E. titania was substantially reduced during the last glacial maximum and the species only recently colonized much of the Mojave Desert. Results from this study underscore the power of genome-wide data for unlocking the genetic potential of museum specimens, which is especially promising for organisms like camel spiders that are notoriously difficult to collect. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Scorpion toxins are thought to have originated from ancestral housekeeping genes that underwent diversification and neofunctionalization, as a result of positive selection. Our understanding of the evolutionary origin of these peptides is hindered by the patchiness of existing taxonomic sampling. While recent studies have shown phylogenetic inertia in some scorpion toxins at higher systematic levels, evolutionary dynamics of toxins among closely related taxa remain unexplored. In this study, we used new and previously published transcriptomic resources to assess evolutionary relationships of closely related scorpions from the family Hadruridae and their toxins. In addition, we surveyed the incidence of scorpine-like peptides (SLP, a type of potassium channel toxin), which were previously known from 21 scorpion species. We demonstrate that scorpine-like peptides exhibit gene duplications. Our molecular analyses demonstrate that only eight sites of two SLP copies found in scorpions are evolving under positive selection, with more sites evolving under negative selection, in contrast to previous findings. These results show evolutionary conservation in toxin diversity at shallow taxonomic scale. 
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