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Understanding the processes leading to fossilization

Modern death assemblages provide insights about the early stages of fossilization and useful ecological information about the species inhabiting the ecosystem. The results of taphonomic monitoring of modern vertebrate carcasses and bones from Doñana National Park, a Mediterranean coastal ecosystem in Andalusia, Spain, are presented. Ten different habitats were surveyed. Half of them occur in active depositional environments (marshland, lake margin, river margin, beach and dunes). Most of the skeletal remains belong to land mammals larger than 5 kg in body weight (mainly wild and feral ungulates). Overall, the Doñana bone assemblage shows good preservation with little damage to the bones, partly as a consequence of the low predator pressure on large vertebrates. Assemblages from active depositional habitats differ significantly from other habitats in terms of the higher incidence of breakage and chewing marks on bones in the latter, which result from scavenging, mainly by wild boar and red fox. The lake-margin and river-margin death assemblages have high concentrations of well preserved bones that are undergoing burial and offer the greatest potential to produce fossil assemblages. The spatial distribution of species in the Doñana death assemblage generally reflects the preferred habitats of the species in life. Meadows seem to be a preferred winter habitat for male deer, given the high number of shed antlers recorded there. This study is further proof that taphonomy can provide powerful insights to better understand the ecology of modern species and to infer past and future scenarios for the fossil record. informacion[at] Domingo et al (2020) Taphonomic information from the modern vertebrate death assemblage of Doñana National Park, Spain. PLOS ONE 15(11): e0242082. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0242082
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Turning up the heat on global hotspots of marine biodiversity

Turning up the heat on global hotspots of marine biodiversity

The year 2016 has been the hottest on record, reflecting a generally rising trend in the Earth's temperature. Understanding the global distribution of these changes is extremely important to be able to assess the threats that local ecosystems must face. Is this trend the same everywhere around the world? How can this be determined in an environment as remote, vast and inaccessible as the ocean? This study determined that there are places where the temperature increase and associated environmental changes have been much greater than elsewhere. Remote sensing data gathered over more than 30 years from a whole constellation of satellites orbiting our planet and imaging its surface allowed the authors to look at our planet from the right perspective. This information was used to determine how the temperature, productivity and currents of our oceans have changed over the last three decades for the entire planet. Climate-driven environmental changes were found, not surprisingly, not evenly distributed. However, by overlaying the areas affected by climate-driven change with areas of high biodiversity, particularly vulnerable areas of ocean located near the poles and the equator were identified. For instance, the North Sea, between America and Europe, and all the marine areas connected by the Labrador Current have experienced one of the largest global increases in ocean temperature. Near the equator, there has been a large increase in the velocity of marine currents. All of these changes are likely to affect the marine organisms living in those places. This study contributes to the international effort to mitigate the causes and consequences of climate change. Ramírez et al (2017) Climate impacts on global hotspots of marine biodiversity. Sci Adv 3 e1601198 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601198