Nav: Home

The new tree of life of freshwater macroinvertebrates in the European continent

August 03, 2018

A study from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio-UB) analysed how water macroinvertebrate species, such as beetles, mosquitos and dragonflies, evolved and diversified since their beginnings. With the analysis of the ecological features of about 6,600 European species, researchers rebuilt the functional space they occupy.

At the same time, they used DNA sequencing to rebuild the tree of life of aquatic macroinvertebrates -evolutionary and phylogenic relation between species- to estimate when they first appeared and their evolution. Results prove previous studies right, which suggested the number of species of each lineage does not depend on the evolutionary time. This study concludes that oldest lineages have more functional diversity -they can do more things and live in more habitats- than younger ones, whose functional diversity is conditioned by oldest lineages which colonized that habitat previously.

The new study has been selected as the article of the month (July) in the journal Ecography. Its first author is the ecologist Cesc Múrria (IRBio-UB) and is led by Professor Núria Bonada (IRBio-UB), head of the research group Freshwater Ecology, Hydrology and Management (FEHM) of the UB. Other participating experts are Anna Papadopoulou (Doñana Biological Station, CSIC), Sylvain Dolédec (University of Lyon, France), and Alfried Vogler (Natural History Museum - Imperial College London, United Kingdom).

Age of lineage and functional diversity

Macroecology is the field of ecology that studies global patterns in biodiversity, such as the decrease of richness of species ranging from tropical areas to the poles, or how this variety gets reduced while the elevation of a mountain rises. In this study, researchers analysed the tree of life of European aquatic macroinvertebrates to determine the time these colonized water ecosystems out of terrestrial or marine ancestors. For instance, it is well established that lineages such as dragonflies colonized continental freshwaters before others, such as beetles or mosquitoes. The next step was to relate the age of lineage to the functional diversity they currently have. "To understand biodiversity global patterns and the processes that created it, it is important to know what these species do -breathe, eat, breed- and where they live -elevation, pH, temperature, amount of oxygen and organic matter of the habitat-, which is known as functional diversity", says Cesc Múrria, member of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and FEHM.

Youngest lineages are found in less used places

To relate the evolutionary age and functional diversity, researchers gathered ecological data from about 6,600 species of aquatic macroinvertebrates published in previous studies. Results prove the hypothesis according to which oldest lineages would have a larger functional diversity than young ones, but it also shows how this evolution occurs. "Our results show that young lineages have a functional space which was not used before by other lineages, such as salty environments where we cannot find old lineages. This diversification would occur due older lineages colonizing continental waters with no competitors to limit the functional space. Therefore, as other lineages appeared and occupied functional space, the new ones would evolve to use ecological spaces which were not used before, and they would do fewer things and live in particular habitats", says Cesc Múrria.

A pioneer research in evolutionary studies

This research study is one of the first ones in the field of evolution which determines how lineages in a new habitat can condition the functional diversity of lineages that will colonize the habitat later. "We offer a new perspective for the evolutionary studies that have to consider the ecology of species and not only the amount of species within different lineages. Although it seems something obvious, since the origin of species depends on what the species do, this ecological and evolutionary view is rare in studies that analyse diversity patterns at a big time and space scale. This involvement goes further than the study of aquatic organisms and it can be applied to the whole biota", adds Cesc Múrria.

"The new study is a step forward to a better understanding of the evolutionary and ecological history of rivers, since the study mixes three research fields that have been worked on separately: phylogeny, functional ecology and evolution", conclude the researchers.
-end-


University of Barcelona

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Biodiversity is 3-D
The species-area relationship (SAC) is a long-time considered pattern in ecology and is discussed in most of academic Ecology books.
Thought Antarctica's biodiversity was doing well? Think again
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Antarctica's biodiversity is under threat
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
Temperature drives biodiversity
Why is the diversity of animals and plants so unevenly distributed on our planet?
Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research?
Biodiversity loss in forests will be pricey
A new global assessment of forests -- perhaps the largest terrestrial repositories of biodiversity -- suggests that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 2 to 3 percent loss in the productivity, including biomass, that forests can offer.
Biodiversity falls below 'safe levels' globally
Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.
Unravelling the costs of rubber agriculture on biodiversity
A striking decline in ant biodiversity found on land converted to a rubber plantation in China.
Nitrogen is a neglected threat to biodiversity
Nitrogen pollution is a recognized threat to sensitive species and ecosystems.

Related Biodiversity Reading:

Biodiversity: An Introduction
by Kevin J. Gaston (Author), John I. Spicer (Author)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)

Messages from Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour
by Ilkka Hanski (Author)

Biodiversity (Papers from the 1st National Forum on Biodiversity, September 1986, Washington, D.C.)
by Edward O. Wilson (Editor), Frances M. Peter (Editor)

The Diversity of Life: With a New Preface (Questions of Science)
by Edward O. Wilson (Author)

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
by Eric Chivian (Editor), Aaron Bernstein (Editor)

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth (CitizenKid)
by Rochelle Strauss (Author), Margot Thompson (Illustrator)

Complexity: The Evolution of Earth's Biodiversity and the Future of Humanity
by William C. Burger (Author)

Whooping Cranes: Biology and Conservation: Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes
by John B French (Editor), Sarah J. Converse (Editor), Jane E. Austin (Editor), Philip J. Nyhus (Editor)

Biodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth with Environmental Science Activities for Kids (Build It Yourself)
by Laura Perdew (Author), Tom Casteel (Illustrator)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...