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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]ebd.csic.es: 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


https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0242082
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The costs of mischoosing are not uniform across individuals

The costs of mischoosing are not uniform across individuals

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Matching habitat choice is a particular form of habitat selection based on self-assessment of local performance that offers individuals a means to optimize the match of phenotype to the environment. Despite the advantages of this mechanism in terms of increased local adaptation, examples from natural populations are extremely rare. One possible reason for the apparent rarity of matching habitat choice is that it might be manifest only in those segments of a population for which the cost of a phenotype–environment mismatch is high. To test this hypothesis, a breeding population of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) exposed to size-dependent predation risk by bears was used, and the costs of mischoosing in discrete groups (e.g. male versus females, and ocean-age 2 versus ocean-age 3) was evaluated using reproductive life span as a measure of individual performance. Bear preference for larger fish, especially in shallow water, translates into a performance trade-off that sockeye salmon can potentially use to guide their settlement decisions. Consistent with matching habitat choice, we found that salmon of similar ocean-age and size tended to cluster together in sites of similar water depth. However, matching habitat choice was only favoured in 3-ocean females – the segment of the population most vulnerable to bear predation. This study illustrates the unequal relevance of matching habitat choice to different segments of a population, and suggests that ‘partial matching habitat choice' could have resulted in an underestimation of the actual prevalence of this mechanism in nature. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Camacho & Hendry (2020) Matching habitat choice: it's not for everyone. Oikos DOI 10.1111/oik.06932


https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/oik.06932