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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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Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation

Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation

Animals living on the earth's surface are protected from the damaging effects of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation by melanin pigments that color their integument. UV levels that reach the earth's surface vary spatially, but the role of UV exposure in shaping clinal variations in animal pigmentation has never been tested. Here it is shown at a continental scale in Europe that golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos reared in territories with a high solar UV-B radiation exposure deposit lower amounts of the sulphurated form of melanin (pheomelanin) in feathers and consequently develop darker plumage phenotypes than eagles from territories with lower radiation exposure. This clinal variation in pigmentation is also explained by terrestrial gamma radiation levels in the rearing territories by a similar effect on the pheomelanin content of feathers, unveiling natural radioactivity as a previously unsuspected factor shaping animal pigmentation. These findings show for the first time the potential of solar and terrestrial radiations to explain pigmentation phenotype diversity in animals, including humans, at large spatial scales. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Galván et al (2018) Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation. Oecologia Doi 10.1007/s00442-018-4238-8


https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-018-4238-8