Collections and Research News for the Week of November 2, 2012
In the last week of October, Associate Curator Janet Voight (Zoology/Invertebrates) published a paper in the journal Zoomorphology that reports a fundamental difference in the mouth muscles of deep-sea octopuses. With a critical illustration by Janet’s intern, Meghan Rock, a student at California State University Monterey Bay, this short paper suggests that the two apparent clades of octopuses that are broadly sympatric worldwide in the deep sea avoid competition due to this difference. One of these octopus groups, species of the genus Muusoctopus, is in most respects very much like shallow-water octopuses. The other, Graneledone spp., looks different, with bumpy skin, a single row of arm suckers and, it turns out, different mouth musculature. Octopuses, being mollusks, are “supposed” to use their radula, their toothed tongue, to rasp their food into their mouths and, in octopuses’ case, big muscular palps move it from the entry of the mouth to the esophagus. The anatomy of the mouths of species of Muusoctopus makes it apparent that they likely do just this. Species of Graneledone, however, have exceptionally short radulae and a new, never-seen-before, vertically oriented muscle under the floor of their mouth. Based on anatomy, Janet hypothesized that contraction of this vertically oriented muscle, which Janet named the buccal abductor, expands the posterior part of the mouth to create negative pressure; in doing so, it draws the food into the esophagus. So, both octopuses put food in their mouths that winds up in their esophagus, but the process is a bit different. Could this difference be enough to prevent competition between these octopuses and allow them to coexist in the food-limited deep sea? Gut contents from octopuses of Graneledone suggest that they eat bigger chunks of prey than do the other octopuses (including snails, shells and all). Part of the reason why scientists publish their work is to present a hypothesis for others to test, and reject. Janet’s paper outlines what she discovered, and what she thinks it means. Images above: Left: a photo taken by a camera mounted on the crewed research submersible, ALVIN, of a Muusoctopus at about 2400 m depth. This octopus appears in most ways to be similar to shallow-water octopuses. Right: Photo of an octopus of the genus Graneledone in the North Pacific Ocean at about 2600 m depth by a camera mounted on the crewed research submersible, ALVIN. Note the bumpy skin and relatively massive head
Curator Gary Feinman and Adjunct Curator Linda Nicholas (both Anthropology) coauthored two papers regarding community organization and economy in prehispanic Mesoamerica. The first paper, entitled “The Late Prehispanic Economy of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico: Weaving Threads from Data, Theory, and Subsequent History,” appeared in Research in Economic Anthropology.
The second, “Compact versus Dispersed Settlement in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica: The Role of Neighborhood Organization and Collective Action,” appears in The Neighborhood as a Social and Spatial Unit in Mesoamerican Cities, edited by M. Charlotte Arnauld, Linda R. Manzanilla, and Michael E. Smith, and published by University of Arizona Press, Tucson. Each paper draws heavily on Gary and Linda’s decades of archaeological studies in the Valley of Oaxaca, expanding their field research findings to address broader and more comparative themes.
Resident Graduate Student Jon Mitchell and Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (both Geology) co-authored a paper with Dr. Peter Roopnarine (California Academy of Sciences) that appeared online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 29. The paper, entitled “Late Cretaceous restructuring of terrestrial communities facilitated the end-Cretaceous mass extinction in North America,” used a computer model to examine how disturbances to a community (such as a die-off of plants caused by an asteroid impact) can propagate through the community’s food web, causing additional species to become extinct. Jon and his colleagues found that the same-sized disturbance caused more extinction in North American communities that existed in the final two million years of the Cretaceous (i.e., closer to the extinction) than in communities from the preceding 13 million years. This difference in vulnerability likely stems from climatic and environmental changes going on during the Late Cretaceous, which caused mixing of previously separated terrestrial communities and ecological reshuffling. Although a mass extinction almost certainly would have still occurred if the asteroid had hit at an earlier time, their results indicate that it likely would have been less severe. In addition to providing new insight into the end-Cretaceous extinction, their results emphasize that seemingly innocuous changes in community structure and function, such as those caused by anthropogenic climate change and habitat degradation, can have serious consequences when unexpected disturbances occur.
MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) attended the 42nd Annual Meeting of the North American Society for Bat Research. He presented a paper with Research Associate Paúl Velazco (Zoology) entitled“Diversification of the Neotropical Yellow-shouldered bats (Phyllostomidae: Sturnirini),”describing their efforts to elucidate this widespread, abundant and diverse group of bats. Their analysis of three mitochondrial and two nuclear genes indicates that the 14 species listed for the genus Sturnira in the last world checklist (2005) represent only two-thirds of its diversity, and three of these species are new. Bruce also co-authored a presentation by University at Buffalo graduate student Solon Morse entitled “Some Like It Hot—Evolution and Ecology of Novel Endosymbionts in Bat Flies of Cave-roosting Bats (Hippoboscoidea, Nycterophiliinae),” which focused on the novel and unique pupiposition habits of a bat fly that recently acquired a new bacterial endosymbiont. (See header image)
A. Watson Armour III Lab Manager Kevin Feldheim, Intern Michelle LeCaptain and Research Assistant Kellie Murdoch (all Pritzker Molecular Lab), Research Associate Nobby Cordeiro (Zoology/Botany), and colleagues from New Jersey and Tanzania published a paper describing molecular markers developed for a threatened African trees species, entitled “Isolation and development of 13 new, polymorphic microsatellite loci for a threatened, understory tree, Mesogyne insignis, (Moraceae) from the Eastern Arc Mountains,” online in Conservation Genetics Resources. These markers will be used to study the population structure of this tree species in a fragmented landscape.
Research on our Invertebrates Division land snail collections by Dr. Rebecca Rundell (Zoology Curator Rüdiger Bieler’s former Ph.D. student at The Field Museum and the University of Chicago and now an Assistant Professor at State University of New York, SUNY-ESF) shines a spotlight on extinction in land snails on Pacific islands. In the latest (October) update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Rebecca contributed 52 land snail species threat assessments using Field Museum collections as part of a new initiative to better understand the extinction crises in the Pacific. Of the three groups included in this collaborative effort—freshwater fishes, reptiles and land snails—land snails were found to be the most highly threatened, with 70% of assessed species falling into a threatened category. Half of these species are considered Critically Endangered. One of Rebecca’s primary study areas, lowland tropical forests in the Republic of Palau, not only contain many highly threatened species, but according to the study also have the highest percentage of land snail species found there and nowhere else: 90%!
Research Associate Nobby Cordeiro (Zoology/Botany) and Resident Graduate Student Carrie Seltzer (Zoology/UIC) published a paper describing the first record of the Servaline genet Genetta servalina from the East Usambara Mountains of Tanzania in the Journal of East African Natural History. This record, based largely on numerous camera-trap photographs from within and around Amani Nature Reserve, is the northernmost East African record of this enigmatic species. This is a surprising new distributional report given that the species has escaped detection by scientists working intensively in this mountain range since the late 1800s. The paper is available here. Image above: Servaline genet Genetta servalina photograph from a camera-trap in Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania (photo by Carrie Seltzer)
Research Associate Nobby Cordeiro (Zoology/Botany) just returned from the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress in Arusha, Tanzania, where together with colleagues he presented two posters, one on climate change and bird distributions on Mt Kilimanjaro over a 20-year period, and another on the distribution and abundance of a critically endangered species, the Long-billed tailorbird Artisornis moreauii. He also participated in a symposium on landscape modification, presenting the effects of forest fragmentation on interspecific interactions of mixed species bird flocks.Less
The Division of Mammals welcomes Venezuelan scientist Eliecer Gutierrez, now based at the Smithsonian Institution, for a two-week study of Neotropical deer. The Museum’s collections from the Andes are particularly strong, and this region includes some of the world's most striking deer, including the Chilean pudu (image left), one of the world’s smallest. The Neotropical radiation is ultimately derived from North American immigrants that colonized South America during the Great American Biotic Interchange 3–12 million years ago. MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) is collaborating with Eliecer and others on some of these studies.… More
The Division of Mammals welcomes Venezuelan scientist Eliecer Gutierrez, now based at the Smithsonian Institution, for a two-week study of Neotropical deer. The Museum’s collections from the Andes are particularly strong, and this region includes some of the world's most striking deer, including the Chilean pudu (image left), one of the world’s smallest. The Neotropical radiation is ultimately derived from North American immigrants that colonized South America during the Great American Biotic Interchange 3–12 million years ago. MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) is collaborating with Eliecer and others on some of these studies.
During the week of October 15th, Assistant Collections Manager Janeen Jones (Zoology/Invertebrates) attended the 7th Annual North American KE Emu User Conference and Natural History Special Interest Group at the Peabody Museum, Yale. Emu is the Electronic Museum management system Database used in C&R for collections management and on-line collections data. The meeting was well attended by the Smithsonian, New York Botanical Gardens, American Museum of Natural History and The Henry Ford Museum among many others. GBIF/ IPT toolkit integration, upgrading Darwin Core fields and Filtered Push development were among the many topics discussed. Presentations covered many topics from experiences implementing Emu, to uses of the tool in exhibit (real and virtual) development. The final day of the meeting covered new features in the latest version to be released in January 2013 as well as new tools and features being developed longer term.Less
Associate Curator Janet Voight (Zoology/Invertebrates) gave a Special Keynote address at the Biology Club’s annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Symposium at Malcolm X College in Chicago on October 23. Giving a lecture between those of Vincent T. Turitto, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director, Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering at IIT and Dr. Mona Khanna, chief Medical Reporter for Fox News Chicago, Janet, as usual, offered something completely different. In the spirit of the event, Janet talked about her career in deep-sea research, and how she got to where she is today, as well as the opportunities the Field Museum offers, especially in the way of internships. She encouraged everyone to see the Romance of the Ants exhibition then in its last days, as that exhibition shows just what one can achieve with enough determination and drive.… More
Associate Curator Janet Voight (Zoology/Invertebrates) gave a Special Keynote address at the Biology Club’s annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Symposium at Malcolm X College in Chicago on October 23. Giving a lecture between those of Vincent T. Turitto, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director, Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering at IIT and Dr. Mona Khanna, chief Medical Reporter for Fox News Chicago, Janet, as usual, offered something completely different. In the spirit of the event, Janet talked about her career in deep-sea research, and how she got to where she is today, as well as the opportunities the Field Museum offers, especially in the way of internships. She encouraged everyone to see the Romance of the Ants exhibition then in its last days, as that exhibition shows just what one can achieve with enough determination and drive.
Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck and Collections Manager Jim Holstein (both Geology), along with Francois Tissot, Nicolas Dauphas and Levke Kööp from The University of Chicago presented at the 2nd Annual French-American Science Festival at Northwestern Hospital on October 29–30. This program, hosted by the French Consulate in Chicago, promotes scientific collaboration and education for middle school and high school children. Using meteorites from The Field Museum collection, the presentation focused on why meteorites are important to science and highlighted current research being conducted at The Field Museum and the University of Chicago.Less