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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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Seed dispersal by neotropical waterfowl depends on bird species and seasonality

Seed dispersal by neotropical waterfowl depends on bird species and seasonality

Waterbirds have an important ecological function as vectors of plant dispersal between different wetlands. In the Neotropical region, there is very limited information about this dispersal. In southern Brazil, seed dispersal by endozoochory was studied by five waterfowl, including Brazilian teal, yellow-billed teal, ringed teal, coscoroba swan, and whitefaced whistling-duck. Over 2000 diaspores were recovered from 40 different plants, including seeds of 37 angiosperms, and diaspores of mosses, ferns and charophytes. Seeds of the threatened grass Zizaniopsis bonariensis were the most abundant. The species richness and abundance of seeds dispersed varied between bird species, and between the cold and warm seasons, with a strong interaction between these two factors. 12 plant species were indicators of particular bird species or seasons. The largest bird, the coscoroba, dispersed a larger proportion of relatively large seeds. The coscoroba and the smallest bird (ringed teal) differed from each other, and from the other three ducks, in the community composition of plants dispersed. All five species make daily movements between wetlands and are widely distributed in South America, ranging from the sedentary Brazilian teal to the long-distance migratory coscoroba. informacion[at] Silva et al. (2020) Seed dispersal by neotropical waterfowl depends on bird species and seasonality.  Freshwater Biology