Recent publications -now with graphical abstracts!
It has been a busy couple of months, here are some quick summaries of recent publications on which I am an author.
Our new publication on the pet trade of Asian newts just came out in Biological Conservation! The over-harvesting of these species for the pet trade has almost driven some Asian newt species to extinction. The trade remains poorly documented and largely unregulated, our paper calls for CITES listing all of these species so at least the trade can be documented.
Our paper on African Batis birds provides new msats and a first pass at assessing population structure for the Batis capensis complex is published in Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. There are five undergraduate co-authors on this one, all of whom did a great job testing and optimizing those new msats!
and another…. this paper uses niche modelling to look at the impact of life history traits on temporal transferability of models for North American birds. This paper is reliant upon data from citizen scientists from the Christmas Bird Count. It is open access and available at PLoS One.
The First is about the Asian Common Toad, Duttaphynus melanostictus. Published in Biology Letters. Below is a nice summary of this work by co-author Bryan Stuart from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Most species are negatively affected when humans transform natural habitats into urban areas and agricultural lands, but a few species actually benefit from these activities. These species- called human commensals- thrive in human-modified environments. One example, the Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), is extremely abundant in villages, towns, cities and agricultural areas across much of Southeast Asia, where it feeds on insects that are attracted to artificial lights. Because of this long and close association with people, Asian Common Toads are assumed to easily disperse over large distances, including saltwater barriers between islands, when they are accidentally transported with land and sea cargo. Such long-distance dispersal abilities infers that the toad’s genes also easily move among populations, and that toads in different parts of Southeast Asia are genetically similar.
We tested the hypothesis that Asian Common Toad populations across Southeast Asia are genetically similar owing to their commensal nature and high dispersive ability. To the researcher’s surprise, three genetically divergent groups of toads were found, each in a different geographic area (mainland Southeast Asia, coastal Myanmar and the islands of Java and Sumatra). The ranges of these three groups of toads were also found have statistically different climates. This suggests that the toads may be adapting to local climatic conditions and evolving into separate species. Thus, toads of one group may not be able to disperse and persist within the range of another group because of climatic differences.
This research changes the view on the conservation value of these toads. One common toad may not be the same as another. What is thought to be a single, common species having a large range may actually be three distinct species, each having smaller ranges with specific climatic needs. Asian Common Toads have recently invaded the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo, Sulawesi and Seram and the African island of Madagascar, presumably via shipping containers. The discovery that there are three genetically and ecologically divergent groups of Asian Common Toads may explain why some islands have been successfully colonized and others not- and what the future range of Asian Common Toads will be as humans continue to modify habitats and transport cargo around the world.
Here is the citation
G. O. U. Wogan, B. L. Stuart, D. T. Iskandar, and J. A. McGuire. 2016. Highly structured phylogeographic patterns in a wide-spread human commensal anuran species Duttaphrynus melanostictus in Asia. Biology Letters v. 12 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0807 (available online January 13 2016)
Welcome to my new and improved website! I will be posting news and discussing new tools for generating and analyzing genetic data if they fall under the big umbrella of “Evolutionary Biology in a Global Change Context”-exciting! I might also post links to articles that I am particularly amped up about.