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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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Shorebirds disperse a wide variety of plants along the Atlantic flyway

Shorebirds disperse a wide variety of plants along the Atlantic flyway

Almost no empirical work has been done before on the plants dispersed by migratory shorebirds (Charadriiformes). By sampling faeces and regurgitated pellets in Doñana (Spain), England, Ireland and Iceland, scientists found intact seeds of 27 plant taxa, only four of which have a fleshy fruit widely considered diagnostic for this "endozoochory" dispersal process. Furthermore, 89% of the seeds were from terrestrial plants that are broadly distributed along the Atlantic flyway. Shorebirds are excellent vectors for long-distance dispersal (LDD), and seeds were carried by birds at the beginning or end of migratory flights between England and Iceland. This work suggests that seed morphology alone cannot predict LDD mechanisms, and that aquatic plants are not the only ones dispersed readily by shorebirds. Four alien species were dispersed, including the buttonweed Cotula coronopifolia which had a germination rate of 45% after gut passage, and is spreading quickly in coastal wetlands frequented by shorebirds. informacion[at] Lovas-Kiss et al 2018. Shorebirds as important vectors for plant dispersal in Europe. Ecography doi: 10.1111/ecog.04065