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Department ofBotany

No. 350
February 2014

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In This Issue

Scientists Shine Light on World's Least-studied Bat: Mortlock Islands Flying Fox

Adapted from

The Mortlock Islands flying fox, a large, breadfruit-eating bat native to a few remote and tiny Pacific islands, has long been regarded as one of the world's least studied bats. For more than 140 years nearly all scientists knew about this animal was derived from one solitary specimen preserved in a jar of alcohol in the Natural History Museum, London.

In a paper in the open access journal ZooKeys, a team of bat biologists led by Don Buden of the College of Micronesia published a wealth of new information on this "forgotten" species, including the first detailed observations of wild populations. And it is none too soon, says paper co-author Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, as the low-lying atolls this bat calls home are likely to be increasingly affected by rising ocean waters brought on by climate change.

This 1882 illustration of the Mortlock flying fox from "Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London" uses the now incorrect name for the animal. It's original and correct name is "Pteropus pelagicus."

This 1882 illustration of the Mortlock flying fox from Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London uses the now incorrect name for the animal. It's original and correct name is Pteropus pelagicus.

The lone London specimen was collected in 1870 from the Mortlock Islands, a series of atolls that are part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the west-central Pacific Ocean. British biologist Oldfield Thomas used this specimen to name the species Pteropus phaeocephalus in 1882. But during recent study of the bat Burden discovered that a German naturalist voyaging on a Russian expedition had observed and named the animal some 50 years earlier.

"We found a report written by F.H. Kittlitz in 1836 describing his expedition to the Pacific Islands in the late 1820s. In that report he describes the flying-foxes of the Mortlocks and names them Pteropus pelagicus," Buden says. "This means the species was named long before Thomas's description in 1882." In the ZooKeys paper the scientists comply with this rule by re-naming the Mortlock Islands flying fox Pteropus pelagicus.

During their research—which involved careful study of the skulls and skins of related flying fox species in 8 different museums on 3 different continents—Buden and colleagues straightened out a second point of confusion in the scientific literature regarding these animals. They demonstrated that flying foxes from the nearby islands of Chuuk Lagoon, long regarded as the separate species Pteropus insularis, are best regarded as a subspecies of Pteropus pelagicus. This finding shows that the Mortlock flying fox has a wider geographic distribution than previously realized.

New fieldwork on the Mortlock Islands revealed more than name changes. The ZooKeys article describes the first study of the behavior, diet, and conservation status of this flying fox, finding that the Mortlock Islands support a small population of 900 to 1,200 bats scattered across a land surface of only 4.6 square miles. Legal rules have brought better protection to the species, which was once heavily hunted and exported for food.

But the future of the species remains uncertain, Helgen points out. In their study of Mortlock Islands geography the researchers learned none of the islands are more than a few meters high. Rising sea levels, generated by climate change, pose a serious threat to the flying foxes' habitat and its food resources through flooding, erosion, and contamination of freshwater supplies.

"When we think of climate change having an impact on a mammal species, what comes to mind most immediately is an Arctic animal like the polar bear which depends on sea ice to survive," Helgen says. "But this flying fox may be the best example of a mammal species likely to be negatively impacted by warming global climates. Here is a tropical mammal that has survived and evolved for hundreds of millennia on little atolls near the equator. How much longer will it survive as sea levels continue to rise?"

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Failing, L., Gregory, R., and Higgins, P. 2013. Science, uncertainty, and values in ecological restoration: a case study in structured decision-making and adaptive management. Restor. Ecol. 21(4):422-430.

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Norris, D., and Michalski, F. 2013. Socio-economic and spatial determinants of anthropogenic predation on Yellow-spotted River Tuttle, Podocnemis unifilis (Testudines: Pelomedusidae), nests in the Brazilian Amazon: implications for sustainable conservation and management. Zoologia 30(5):482-490.

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Parepa, M., Schaffner, U., and Bossdorf, O. 2013. Help from under ground: soil biota facilitate knotweed invasion. Ecosphere 4(2):art31.

Park, D.S., and Potter, D. 2013. A test of Darwin's naturalization hypothesis in the thistle tribe shows that close relatives make bad neighbors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110(44):17915-17920.

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Pasachnik, S.A. 2013. Growth, reproduction, and diet of Roatan spiny-tailed iguanas, Ctenosaura oedirhina, with notes on the status of the species. Herpetol. Conserv. Biol. 8(1):191-198.

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Payne, J., and Davies, G. 2013. Conservation of rain forest mammals in Sabah: long term perspectives. Raffles Bull. Zool. Suppl. 29:187-201.

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Percino-Danier, R., Cruz-Ocaña, E., Pozo-Ventura, W., and Velázquez-Velázquez, E. 2013. Diversity of the reptiles in two microbasins from the río Grijalva, Chiapas, Mexico. Rev. Mex. Biodivers. 84(3):938-948.

Pérez, J.M., Sánchez, I., and Palma, R.L. 2013. The dilemma of conserving parasites: the case of Felicola (Lorisicola) isidoroi (Phthiraptera: Trichodectidae) and its host, the endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Insect Conserv. Divers. 6(6):680-686.

Peters, J.A., and Lodge, D.M. 2013. Habitat, predation, and coexistence between invasive and native crayfishes: prioritizing lakes for invasion prevention. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2489-2502.

Petre, C.A., Tagg, N., Haurez, B., Beudels-Jamar, R., Huynen, M.C., and Doucet, J.L. 2013. Role of the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in seed dispersal in tropical forests and implications of its decline. Biotechnol. Agron. Soc. 17(3):517-526.

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Phipps, W.L., Wolter, K., Michael, M.D., MacTavish, L.M., and Yarnell, R.W. 2013. Do power lines and protected areas present a catch-22 situation for cape vultures (Gyps coprotheres)? PLoS ONE 8(10):e76794.

Pilgrim, E.M., Blum, M.J., Reusser, D.A., Lee, H., and Darling, J.A. 2013. Geographic range and structure of cryptic genetic diversity among Pacific North American populations of the non-native amphipod Grandidierella japonica. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2415-2428.

Post, G., and Pandav, B. 2013. Comparative evaluation of tiger reserves in India. Biodivers. Conserv. 22(12):2785-2794.

Potts, A.J., Hedderson, T.A., and Cowling, R.M. 2013. Testing large-scale conservation corridors designed for patterns and processes: comparative phylogeography of three tree species. Divers. Distrib. 19(11):1418-1428.

Pryke, J.S., Roets, F., and Samways, M.J. 2013. Importance of habitat heterogeneity in remnant patches for conserving dung beetles. Biodivers. Conserv. 22(12):2857-2873.

Pulkkinen, K., Ruokonen, T.J., Mykrä, M., Tambe, G., Karjalainen, J., and Hämäläinen, H. 2013. Indirect effects of invasive crayfish on native fish parasites. Ecosphere 4(4):art50.

Punjabi, G.A., Chellam, R., and Vanak, A.T. 2013. Importance of native grassland habitat for den-site selection of Indian foxes in a fragmented landscape. PLoS ONE 8(10):e76410.

Pyke, D.A., Wirth, T.A., and Beyers, J.L. 2013. Does seeding after wildfires in rangelands reduce erosion or invasive species? Restor. Ecol. 21(4):415-421.

Radea, C., Parmakelis, A., Papadogiannis, V., Charou, D., and Triantis, K.A. 2013. The hydrobioid freshwater gastropods (Caenogastropoda, Truncatelloidea) of Greece: new records, taxonomic reassessments using DNA sequence data and an update of the IUCN Red List Categories. ZooKeys 350:1-20.

Ramaswami, G., and Sukumar, R. 2013. Long-term environmental correlates of invasion by Lantana camara (Verbenaceae) in a seasonally dry tropical forest. PLoS ONE 8(10):e76995.

Rao, M., Htun, S., Platt, S.G., Tizard, R., Poole, C., Myint, T., and Watson, J.E.M. 2013. Biodiversity conservation in a changing climate: a review of threats and implications for conservation planning in Myanmar. Ambio 42(7):789-804.

Reddy, C.S., Sreelekshmi, S., Jha, C.S., and Dadhwal, V.K. 2013. National assessment of forest fragmentation in India: Landscape indices as measures of the effects of fragmentation and forest cover change. Ecol. Eng. 60:453-464.

Reece, J.S., Passeri, D., Ehrhart, L., Hagen, S.C., Hays, A., Long, C., Noss, R.F., Bilskie, M., Sanchez, C., Schwoerer, M.V., Von Holle, B., Weishampel, J., and Wolf, S. 2013. Sea level rise, land use, and climate change influence the distribution of loggerhead turtle nests at the largest USA rookery (Melbourne Beach, Florida). Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 493:259-274.

Reid, A.J., Chapman, L.J., and Ricciardi, A. 2013. Wetland edges as peak refugia from an introduced piscivore. Aquat. Conserv. 23(5):646-655.

Resh, V.H., Bêche, L.A., Lawrence, J.E., Mazor, R.D., McElravy, E.P., O'Dowd, A.P., Rudnick, D., and Carlson, S.M. 2013. Long-term population and community patterns of benthic macroinvertebrates and fishes in Northern California Mediterranean-climate streams. Hydrobiologia 719(1):93-118.

Rice, K.J., Gerlach, J.D., Dyer, A.R., and McKay, J.K. 2013. Evolutionary ecology along invasion fronts of the annual grass Aegilops triuncialis. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2531-2545.

Richards, D.R. 2013. The content of historical books as an indicator of past interest in environmental issues. Biodivers. Conserv. 22(12):2795-2803.

Robson, B.J., Chester, E.T., Mitchell, B.D., and Matthews, T.G. 2013. Disturbance and the role of refuges in Mediterranean climate streams. Hydrobiologia 719(1):77-91.

Rodrigues, L., van den Berg, C., Póvoa, O., and Monteiro, A. 2013. Low genetic diversity and significant structuring in the endangered Mentha cervina populations and its implications for conservation. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 50:51-61.

Root-Bernstein, M., and Jaksic, F. 2013. The Chilean espinal: restoration for a sustainable silvopastoral system. Restor. Ecol. 21(4):409-414.

Salgado-Salazar, C., Rossman, A.Y., and Chaverri, P. 2013. Not as ubiquitous as we thought: taxonomic crypsis, hidden diversity and cryptic speciation in the cosmopolitan fungus Thelonectria discophora (Nectriaceae, Hypocreales, Ascomycota). PLoS ONE 8(10):e76737.

Salvaterra, T., Green, D.S., Crowe, T.P., and O'Gorman, E.J. 2013. Impacts of the invasive alga Sargassum muticum on ecosystem functioning and food web structure. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2563-2576.

Sánchez-Carmona, R., Rodríguez-Ruiz, A., Encina, L., Granado-Lorencio, C., and Rodríguez-Sánchez, M.V. 2013. Network structure of food webs in Mediterranean streams: a tool for conservation. Fund. Appl. Limnol. 183(3):215-221.

Sánchez-Fernández, D., Abellán, P., Picazo, F., Millán, A., Ribera, I., and Lobo, J.M. 2013. Do protected areas represent species' optimal climatic conditions? A test using Iberian water beetles. Divers. Distrib. 19(11):1407-1417.

Sanín, M.J., Anthelme, F., Pintaud, J.C., Galeano, G., and Bernal, R. 2013. Juvenile resilience and adult longevity explain residual populations of the Andean wax palm Ceroxylon quindiuense after deforestation. PLoS ONE 8(10):e74139.

Sassen, M., and Sheil, D. 2013. Human impacts on forest structure and species richness on the edges of a. protected mountain forest in Uganda. Forest Ecol. Manag. 307:206-218.

Schlacher, T.A., Weston, M.A., Lynn, D., and Connolly, R.M. 2013. Setback distances as a conservation tool in wildlife-human interactions: testing their efficacy for birds affected by vehicles on open-coast sandy beaches. PLoS ONE 8(9):e71200.

Schlöder, C., O'Dea, A., and Guzman, H.M. 2013. Benthic community recovery from small-scale damage on marginal Caribbean reefs: an example from Panama. Bull. Mar. Sci. 89(4):1003-1013.

Schmiedel, D., Huth, F., and Wagner, S. 2013. Using data from seed-dispersal modelling to manage invasive tree species: the example of Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marshall in Europe. Environ. Manage. 52(4):851-860.

Schoville, S.D., and Graening, G.O. 2013. Updated checklist of the ice-crawlers (Insecta: Grylloblattodea: Grylloblattidae) of North America, with notes on their natural history, biogeography and conservation. Zootaxa 3737(4):351-378.

Schreck, T.K., David, S.J., and Mooney, K.A. 2013. Effects of Brassica nigra and plant-fungi interactions on the arthropod community of Deinandra fasciculata. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2443-2454.

Serrano, A.R.M., and Capela, R.A. 2013. The tiger beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae, Cicindelinae) of Angola: a descriptive catalogue and designation of neotypes. Zootaxa 3731(4):401-444.

Shipley, B.K., Chiszar, D., Fitzgerald, K.T., and Saviola, A.J. 2013. Spatial ecology of prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) associated with black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colonies in Colorado. Herpetol. Conserv. Biol. 8(1):240-250.

Shoo, L.P., Scarth, P., Schmidt, S., and Wilson, K.A. 2013. Reclaiming degraded rainforest: a spatial evaluation of gains and losses in subtropical eastern Australia to inform future investment in restoration. Restor. Ecol. 21(4):481-489.

Singh, S.K., Hodda, M., Ash, G.J., and Banks, N.C. 2013. Plant-parasitic nematodes as invasive species: characteristics, uncertainty and biosecurity implications. Ann. Appl. Biol. 163(3):323-350.

Siple, M.C., and Donahue, M.J. 2013. Invasive mangrove removal and recovery: food web effects across a chronosequence. J. Exp. Marine Biol. Ecol. 448:128-135.

Sobral, M. 2013. Eight new Atlantic rainforest species and nomenclatural notes in Brazilian Myrtaceae. Phytotaxa 135(1):43-61.

Song, B., Stocklin, J., Zhang, Z.Q., Yang, Y., and Sun, H. 2013. Seed and microsite limitation in Rheum nobile, a rare and endemic plant from the subnival zone of Sino-Himalaya. Plant Ecol. Divers. 6(3-4):503-509.

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Spiegel, K.S., and Leege, L.M. 2013. Impacts of laurel wilt disease on redbay (Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng.) population structure and forest communities in the coastal plain of Georgia, USA. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2467-2487.

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Tapilatu, R.F., Dutton, P.H., Tiwari, M., Wibbels, T., Ferdinandus, H.V., Iwanggin, W.G., and Nugroho, B.H. 2013. Long-term decline of the western Pacific leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea: a globally important sea turtle population. Ecosphere 4(2):art25.

Tarnowska, K., Daguin-Thiebaut, C., Pain-Devin, S., and Viard, F. 2013. Nuclear and mitochondrial genetic variability of an old invader, Dreissena polymorpha (Bivalvia), in French river basins. Biol. Invasions 15(11):2547-2561.

Teles, A.M., and Freitas, F.S. 2013. Senecio hortensiae (Senecioneae, Asteraceae): a new species from Espírito Santo, Brazil. Phytotaxa 142(1):46-50.

Thirugnanavel, A., Deka, B.C., Rangnamei, L., and Chakruno, M. 2013. Genetic diversity of taro (Colocasia esculenta L.) in Mon district, Nagaland, needs attention for its conservation. Curr. Sci. 105(8):1036-1037.

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Usieta, H.O., Manu, S.A., and Ottosson, U. 2013. Farmland conservation in West Africa: how do hedgerow characteristics affect bird species richness? Bird Study 60(1):102-110.

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Vargas, R., Gartner, S.M., Hagen, E., and Reif, A. 2013. Tree regeneration in the threatened forest of Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile: the role of small-scale disturbances on microsite conditions and invasive species. Forest Ecol. Manag. 307:255-265.

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Zhu, L.F., Hu, Y.B., Qi, D.W., Wu, H., Zhan, X.J., Zhang, Z.J., Bruford, M.W., Wang, J.L., Yang, X.Y., Gu, X.D., Zhang, L., Zhang, B.W., Zhang, S.N., and Wei, F.W. 2013. Genetic consequences of historical anthropogenic and ecological events on giant pandas. Ecology 94(10):2346-2357.

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