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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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Stripes of prey species associated with group living

Stripes of prey species associated with group living

Grouping is a widespread form of predator defence, with individuals in groups often performing evasive collective movements in response to attack by predators. Individuals in these groups use behavioural rules to coordinate their movements, with visual cues about neighbours' positions and orientations often informing movement decisions. Although the exact visual cues individuals use to coordinate their movements with neighbours have not yet been decoded, some studies have suggested that stripes, lines, or other body patterns may act as conspicuous conveyors of movement information that could promote coordinated group movement, or promote dazzle camouflage, thereby confusing predators. This study used phylogenetic logistic regressions to test whether the contrasting achromatic stripes present in four different taxa vulnerable to predation, including species within two orders of birds (Anseriformes and Charadriiformes), a suborder of Artiodactyla (the ruminants), and several orders of marine fishes (predominantly Perciformes) were associated with group living. Contrasting patterns were significantly more prevalent in social species, and tended to be absent in solitary species or species less vulnerable to predation. It is suggested that stripes taking the form of light-coloured lines on dark backgrounds, or vice versa, provide a widespread mechanism across taxa that either serves to inform conspecifics of neighbours' movements, or to confuse predators, when moving in groups. Because detection and processing of patterns and of motion in the visual channel is essentially colour-blind, diverse animal taxa with widely different vision systems (including mono-, di-, tri-, and tetrachromats) appear to have converged on a similar use of achromatic patterns, as would be expected given signal-detection theory. This hypothesis would explain the convergent evolution of conspicuous achromatic patterns as an antipredator mechanism in numerous vertebrate species. informacion[at] Negro et al (2020) Contrasting stripes are a widespread feature of group living in birds, mammals and fishes. Proc Royal Society B. DOI 10.1098/rspb.2020.2021