Collections and Research News for the Week of November 30, 2012

Research & Publications: 

In early November, Resident Graduate Student Nate Upham (University of Chicago and Zoology/Mammals) began a five-week research trip in Argentina and Brazil, starting in Buenos Aires to give an invited talk in the symposium “Biología de los roedores Caviomorfos: diversidad y evolución” at the II Congreso Latinoamericano de Mastozoología (CLM).  The symposium brought together nine presentations on this group of mostly South American rats that includes capybaras, guinea pigs, and spiny rats.  Nate and coauthor MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) presented findings on their molecular phylogeny of 143 species in Caviomorpha, and received much encouragement from an attentive audience.  Research Associate Noe de la Sancha (Zoology) also presented a talk at CLM titled “Patrones de biodiversidad de micromamíferos en fragmentos grandes en el Bosque Atlántico del Alto Paraná de Paraguay.”

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In early November, Resident Graduate Student Nate Upham (University of Chicago and Zoology/Mammals) began a five-week research trip in Argentina and Brazil, starting in Buenos Aires to give an invited talk in the symposium “Biología de los roedores Caviomorfos: diversidad y evolución” at the II Congreso Latinoamericano de Mastozoología (CLM).  The symposium brought together nine presentations on this group of mostly South American rats that includes capybaras, guinea pigs, and spiny rats.  Nate and coauthor MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) presented findings on their molecular phylogeny of 143 species in Caviomorpha, and received much encouragement from an attentive audience.  Research Associate Noe de la Sancha (Zoology) also presented a talk at CLM titled “Patrones de biodiversidad de micromamíferos en fragmentos grandes en el Bosque Atlántico del Alto Paraná de Paraguay.”

                  From Buenos Aires, Nate traveled to Brazil and the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo to visit their excellent mammal collections from November 13–16.  Among their well-cared for material was a rare specimen of the Painted Tree-rat, Callistomys pictus (see photo).  This striking black-and-white colored rat is now restricted to cacao plantations in coastal Bahia, but is endemic to the Atlantic Forest.  While the evolutionary relationships of Callistomys have long been unclear, frozen tissues from a recently collected animal have been generously loaned to Nate by collaborators at Universidade Federal do Espirítu Santo in Vitória.  Nate is now working at their molecular facility in Vitória to sequence DNA from this specimen and several related spiny rats. With luck, this piece of the evolutionary puzzle may soon fit into place!  Image left: Callistomys pictus


Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Steve Leavitt (both Botany) and coworkers published a paper, entitled “Multilocus phylogeny of the lichen-forming fungal genus Melanohalea (Parmeliaceae, Ascomycota): Insights on diversity, distributions, and a comparison of species tree and concatenated topologies,” in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution investigating diversity in an important lichen-forming fungal genus that occurs throughout the Northern Hemisphere.  This study is the result of broad, international collaborative efforts and includes collections from 26 countries across four continents and provides an important perspective on species distributions within this common genus.  In some cases, species are shown to have broad distributions spanning multiple continents, while other species appear to be restricted to small geographic regions.  An important component of this study is the documentation of multiple previously unrecognized species in temperate regions of Europe, western North America, and South America.  Collections representing these new species are now incorporated into the mycology collection at The Field Museum.  These collections provide an important baseline for ongoing studies documenting species’ responses to global climatic change.  Overall, this study demonstrates the synergistic value of effective international collaborations in understanding and documenting biological diversity on this planet.   See Header Image: Melanoalea elegantula in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area, Utah, USA. This species commonly occurs across broad intercontinental regions, including Asia, Europe, and North and South America (photo by Steve Leavitt)

Associate Curator Scott Lidgard and former John Caldwell Meeker Postdoctoral Research Fellow Melanie Hopkins (both Geology) published a large-scale study, entitled “Evolutionary mode routinely varies amongst morphological traits within fossil species lineages,” which appeared November 26 in the online “Early Edition” of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their work provides a new twist to understanding evolutionary tempo and mode—rates and patterns of change over geologic time—that are mostly revealed by studying the fossil record. Paleontologists measure parts of the skeletal fossil remains of once-living organisms that they believe best represent the morphology, or form, of those organisms.  They then analyze the variation in these traits through successive layers of rock that were laid down over longs spans of geologic time in order to determine the tempo and mode of species evolution.  The new study is based on data taken from hundreds of sequences of fossil samples previously reported in the scientific literature, but uses model selection methods available only in the last several years.  The researchers compared models describing different modes of change, namely stasis, random change, and directional change, to each fossil series and found that different traits generally showed different, conflicting evolutionary modes within the same species.  Many kinds of life were represented, including mammals, fish, mollusks, arthropods, and single-celled organisms.  This large comparative study validates the ubiquity of mosaic evolution.  At the same time, it also raises questions about the evidence for different evolutionary modes, since the great majority of previous studies that quantify evolutionary stasis, punctuated equilibrium, and gradual or “random” patterns in the fossil record are based on measurements of single traits, not on combined analyses of many traits.  Their results have far-reaching implications because these canonical patterns, and the broader topic of evolutionary modes, are taught in just about every major textbook on evolutionary biology and on paleontology.  Further research will be required to establish the underlying processes driving the patterns of mosaic evolution and fossil species change.  Nonetheless, the study is an excellent example of an emerging revolution in scientific inquiry as new techniques are used to breathe new life into old data.


In December, Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch and Postdoctoral Research Scientist Steve Leavitt (both Botany), along with colleagues Pradeep Divakar (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain) and Ted Esslinger (North Dakota State University, USA), published a paper in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society entitled “Miocene divergence, phenotypically cryptic lineages, and contrasting distribution patterns in common lichen-forming fungi (Ascomycota: Parmeliaceae).”  They provide evidence supporting previously unrecognized species within a common, widespread, and relatively well-known group of camouflage lichens (Melanelixia).  The results suggest that the dispersal ability and establishment success of closely related species may be species-specific, even in species with similar reproductive strategies.  The Field Museum now maintains the majority of the Melanelixia collections made in conjunction with this study in the Mycology Collection in the Department of Botany.  These collections include the only identified material representing the previously unrecognized species found in this study.  This study provides an important perspective on diversity and biogeography in common lichen-forming, and the collections made in conjunction with this study provide a valuable resource for ongoing lichenological research.  Image left: “Claudogram” of a camouflage lichens species tree


Curator Chapurukha Kusimba (Anthropology) attended an international conference held at the Guangdong Provincial Museum in Guangzhou, China.  The conference entitled: Ancient Maritime Trade in Chinese Porcelain featured anthropologists, archaeologists, and art historians from Hong Kong, Macau, and China.  Chap was the only representative from North America.  In his paper “Ancient and Contemporary Connections between China and East Africa,” Chap argued that the continuous occurrence of Chinese trade porcelain in dateable archaeological contexts at several key sites in East Africa from the Tang through Qing Dynasties (ca. AD 756–1908) pointed to the long, productive relationship between China and East Africa.  This relationship is now under critical scholarly scrutiny by Chap and his colleagues at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China.  A proposal to support this joint collaborative research effort is being considered by the Chinese Science Commission.

Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) presented “Crossing the Western Altiplano” at the American Anthropological Association meetings in San Francisco on November 18.  His paper elaborated on the reasons the ancient Tiwanaku civilization was able to sustain such a substantial colony in the western valley of Moquegua, 300 km away from the Tiwanaku capital city.  Ryan and Research Associate Ben Vining used satellite imaging and geographic information systems modeling of ancient roads to argue that the corridor connecting Moquegua and Tiwanaku was more than twice as rich in ecological resources, especially green pasturage and lacustrine resources, than any other pathway between Tiwanaku and the western valleys.  Pasturage and lakes were necessary to sustaining human settlement and the large herds of llamas that were the primary form of transport in the ancient Andes.  Thus, the scale of colonial expansion was dependent not only on resources in the zone of colonization, but also on resources along the road that connected dependent colonies to their capital cities.


Associate Curator Bill Parkinson (Anthropology) presented a lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on November 16.  The talk, entitled “The Social Dynamics of Early Agricultural Villages in Southeastern Europe,” was presented to the Department of Anthropology at UW-Madison, and focused on his ongoing multidisciplinary archaeological research projects in Greece and Hungary, where Bill and his colleagues are investigating how small early agricultural villages evolved into larger, more complex, proto-urban settlements. 


Research Assistant Gracen Brilmyer (Zoology/Insects) co-authored a paper with Johannes Bergsten (Sweden Museum of Natural History), Alex Crampton-Platt (Natural History Museum), and Anders N. Nilsson (Umeå University) in the November issue of the new journal, DNA Barcodes.  The paper, entitled “Sympatry and colour variation disguised well-differentiated sister species: Suphrodytes revised with integrative taxonomy including 5 kbp of housekeeping genes (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae)" focuses on the significant differences between S. dorsalis (Fabricius, 1787) and S. figuratus (Gyllenhal, 1826) using molecular data and morphological characters.  Gracen spent the summer of 2009 collaborating on this research at the Swedish Museum of Natural History under Dr. Bergsten.  She photographed and measured over six hundred water beetles and documented their collection information to analyze distribution.  Image Left: Suphrodytes, female, dorsal view: (A) S. dorsalis, (B) S.figuratus

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Fieldwork & Collections: 

Collection Assistant and Preparator Anna Goldman (Zoology/Mammals) traveled to Cambridge, England in late October, where she had been invited to lecture at the University Museum of Zoology. “I Found This at the Side of the Road, A Guide to Specimen Preparation,” was a natural history network event, attracting museum employees from all over England.  The lecture focused on mammal preparation for museum collections, including skinning, pickling, and the use of the Dermestid beetle colony.  Anna also discussed the FMNH laboratory facilities and collection management techniques that have been refined over the past century, and are currently a model

for other natural history institutions.  The lecture was enthusiastically received and Cambridge museum personnel are developing new plans for their labs to handle more specimen preparation in the future, based in part on Anna’s lecture and interaction with museum staff.  Image Left: The lecture also gave Anna the opportunity to examine specimens collected by Alfred Russel Wallace on the island where he developed the concept of natural selection.  This is a Great Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea apoda

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Collection Assistant and Preparator Anna Goldman (Zoology/Mammals) traveled to Cambridge, England in late October, where she had been invited to lecture at the University Museum of Zoology. “I Found This at the Side of the Road, A Guide to Specimen Preparation,” was a natural history network event, attracting museum employees from all over England.  The lecture focused on mammal preparation for museum collections, including skinning, pickling, and the use of the Dermestid beetle colony.  Anna also discussed the FMNH laboratory facilities and collection management techniques that have been refined over the past century, and are currently a model

for other natural history institutions.  The lecture was enthusiastically received and Cambridge museum personnel are developing new plans for their labs to handle more specimen preparation in the future, based in part on Anna’s lecture and interaction with museum staff.  Image Left: The lecture also gave Anna the opportunity to examine specimens collected by Alfred Russel Wallace on the island where he developed the concept of natural selection.  This is a Great Bird of Paradise, Paradisaea apoda


The Botany Department recently hosted three visitors to the Herbarium.  Michael Donoghue of Yale University spent three days studying and annotating our collections of Viburnum.  Michael Nee, a former FM staff member and now at the New York Botanical Garden, spent a week identifying specimens of Asteraceae.  He also found a number of previously unannotated types within the collections.  Maria do Ceo from the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco spent four days researching our collections of Chomelia, a genus of the coffee family (Rubiaceae).


Dr. Peter de Lange, Department of Conservation, New Zealand, visiting FMNH  for the BioSync Bryology meeting, took a side trip through the Herbarium to examine our flowering plant collections in search of specimens from New Zealand.  He was excited to discover a specimen of a now extinct species, Lepidum obtusatum, collected by Thomas Kirk, an important New Zeland botanist of the mid-to-late 1800s.  Kirk's collection (see image left) at the Field Museum, almost 700 specimens, was originally part of the Coulter Herbarium at the University of Chicago that was subsequently donated to the Field Museum.  Peter also found several plants that could be type specimens--watch for updates on that in future editions of the C&R News!

 

 

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Public Education & Media Coverage: 

On November 21, C&R Media Interns Jared Berent and Kate Webbink released a new The Field Revealed entitled A Special Thank You.  With the generous support of the public, this year the Museum has provided resources and programs for over 575,000 students, impassioned and trained the next generation of scientists, trained and provided critical resources to Chicago Public School teachers, discovered new species and new truths about human ancestors, presented world-class exhibitions on critical environmental and cultural issues, and translated museum science into lasting results for conservation and cultural understanding.  Field Museum President Richard Lariviere, DNA Educator and Researcher Erica Zahnle (Pritzker Lab) and Graduate Research Assistant Dani Riebe (Anthropology) are all featured.

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On November 21, C&R Media Interns Jared Berent and Kate Webbink released a new The Field Revealed entitled A Special Thank You.  With the generous support of the public, this year the Museum has provided resources and programs for over 575,000 students, impassioned and trained the next generation of scientists, trained and provided critical resources to Chicago Public School teachers, discovered new species and new truths about human ancestors, presented world-class exhibitions on critical environmental and cultural issues, and translated museum science into lasting results for conservation and cultural understanding.  Field Museum President Richard Lariviere, DNA Educator and Researcher Erica Zahnle (Pritzker Lab) and Graduate Research Assistant Dani Riebe (Anthropology) are all featured.


The New York Times Holiday Gift Guide has included Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes among its selections for this year’s gift guides.  The work includes articles by Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams and Adjunct Curator Donna Nash (both Anthropology) and is described by the New York Times as “a fresh and sweeping view of an entire lost culture” and “the breadth of the cultural achievement of the Wari, who preceded the better-known Incas in the highlands of Peru, has never been so thoroughly demonstrated or explicated.”  The volume is edited by Susan Bergh and published by the Cleveland Museum of Art/Thames and Hudson.


Collections Manager Christine Niezgoda (Botany) gave a tour of the Herbarium and Economic Botany collections to an Ethnobotany class from Maharishi University, Fairfield, IA on November 15. 


The December issue of International Innovation includes an interview with Curator of Mammals (Zoology) and International Biogeography Society President Larry Heaney (2012–2013) about the role of the International Biogeography Society in promoting the understanding and application of biogeography in the modern world.  The full article is provided courtesy of the magazine.  Read the article hereInternational Innovation is a leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level.

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