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Concept: Brazil


Zika virus was discovered in Uganda in 1947 and is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which also act as vectors for dengue and chikungunya viruses throughout much of the tropical world. In 2007, an outbreak in the Federated States of Micronesia sparked public health concern. In 2013, the virus began to spread across other parts of Oceania and in 2015, a large outbreak in Latin America began in Brazil. Possible associations with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome observed in this outbreak have raised concerns about continued global spread of Zika virus, prompting its declaration as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. We conducted species distribution modelling to map environmental suitability for Zika. We show a large portion of tropical and sub-tropical regions globally have suitable environmental conditions with over 2.17 billion people inhabiting these areas.

Concepts: AIDS, Public health, United States, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Brazil, World Health Organization, Federated States of Micronesia


True river dolphins are some of the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates. They comprise relict evolutionary lineages of high taxonomic distinctness and conservation value, but are afforded little protection. We report the discovery of a new species of a river dolphin from the Araguaia River basin of Brazil, the first such discovery in nearly 100 years. The species is diagnosable by a series of molecular and morphological characters and diverged from its Amazonian sister taxon 2.08 million years ago. The estimated time of divergence corresponds to the separation of the Araguaia-Tocantins basin from the Amazon basin. This discovery highlights the immensity of the deficit in our knowledge of Neotropical biodiversity, as well as vulnerability of biodiversity to anthropogenic actions in an increasingly threatened landscape. We anticipate that this study will provide an impetus for the taxonomic and conservation reanalysis of other taxa shared between the Araguaia and Amazon aquatic ecosystems, as well as stimulate historical biogeographical analyses of the two basins.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Species, Ecology, Drainage basin, Amazon River, Brazil, Amazon Basin, Amazon Rainforest


The exact timing, route, and process of the initial peopling of the Americas remains uncertain despite much research. Archaeological evidence indicates the presence of humans as far as southern Chile by 14.6 thousand years ago (ka), shortly after the Pleistocene ice sheets blocking access from eastern Beringia began to retreat. Genetic estimates of the timing and route of entry have been constrained by the lack of suitable calibration points and low genetic diversity of Native Americans. We sequenced 92 whole mitochondrial genomes from pre-Columbian South American skeletons dating from 8.6 to 0.5 ka, allowing a detailed, temporally calibrated reconstruction of the peopling of the Americas in a Bayesian coalescent analysis. The data suggest that a small population entered the Americas via a coastal route around 16.0 ka, following previous isolation in eastern Beringia for ~2.4 to 9 thousand years after separation from eastern Siberian populations. Following a rapid movement throughout the Americas, limited gene flow in South America resulted in a marked phylogeographic structure of populations, which persisted through time. All of the ancient mitochondrial lineages detected in this study were absent from modern data sets, suggesting a high extinction rate. To investigate this further, we applied a novel principal components multiple logistic regression test to Bayesian serial coalescent simulations. The analysis supported a scenario in which European colonization caused a substantial loss of pre-Columbian lineages.

Concepts: DNA, Regression analysis, United States, Brazil, South America, Americas, Latin America, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is a remarkable genus of miniaturized frogs of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. Many of its species are highly endemic to cloud forests, being found only on one or a few mountaintops. Such level of microendemism might be caused by their climatic tolerance to a narrow set of environmental conditions found only in montane regions. This restriction severely limits the chance of discovery of new species, given the difficulty of exploring these inaccessible habitats. Following extensive fieldwork in montane areas of the southern portion of the Atlantic Rainforest, in this study we describe seven new species of Brachycephalus from the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. These species can be distinguished from one another based on coloration and the level of rugosity of the skin in different parts of their body. These discoveries increase considerably the number of described species of Brachycephalus in southern Brazil.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Atlantic Ocean, Forest, Brazil, Montane, Florianópolis, German Brazilian, Joinville


Tropical rainforest regions have large hydropower generation potential that figures prominently in many nations' energy growth strategies. Feasibility studies of hydropower plants typically ignore the effect of future deforestation or assume that deforestation will have a positive effect on river discharge and energy generation resulting from declines in evapotranspiration (ET) associated with forest conversion. Forest loss can also reduce river discharge, however, by inhibiting rainfall. We used land use, hydrological, and climate models to examine the local “direct” effects (through changes in ET within the watershed) and the potential regional “indirect” effects (through changes in rainfall) of deforestation on river discharge and energy generation potential for the Belo Monte energy complex, one of the world’s largest hydropower plants that is currently under construction on the Xingu River in the eastern Amazon. In the absence of indirect effects of deforestation, simulated deforestation of 20% and 40% within the Xingu River basin increased discharge by 4-8% and 10-12%, with similar increases in energy generation. When indirect effects were considered, deforestation of the Amazon region inhibited rainfall within the Xingu Basin, counterbalancing declines in ET and decreasing discharge by 6-36%. Under business-as-usual projections of forest loss for 2050 (40%), simulated power generation declined to only 25% of maximum plant output and 60% of the industry’s own projections. Like other energy sources, hydropower plants present large social and environmental costs. Their reliability as energy sources, however, must take into account their dependence on forests.

Concepts: Hydrology, Amazon River, Brazil, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Amazon Basin, Amazon Rainforest, Xingu River


Expansion of cropland in tropical countries is one of the principal causes of biodiversity loss, and threatens to undermine progress towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. To understand this threat better, we analysed data on crop distribution and expansion in 128 tropical countries, assessed changes in area of the main crops and mapped overlaps between conservation priorities and cultivation potential. Rice was the single crop grown over the largest area, especially in tropical forest biomes. Cropland in tropical countries expanded by c. 48,000 km(2) per year from 1999-2008. The countries which added the greatest area of new cropland were Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Brazil. Soybeans and maize are the crops which expanded most in absolute area. Other crops with large increases included rice, sorghum, oil palm, beans, sugar cane, cow peas, wheat and cassava. Areas of high cultivation potential-while bearing in mind that political and socio-economic conditions can be as influential as biophysical ones-may be vulnerable to conversion in the future. These include some priority areas for biodiversity conservation in tropical countries (e.g., Frontier Forests and High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas), which have previously been identified as having ‘low vulnerability’, in particular in central Africa and northern Australia. There are also many other smaller areas which are important for biodiversity and which have high cultivation potential (e.g., in the fringes of the Amazon basin, in the Paraguayan Chaco, and in the savanna woodlands of the Sahel and East Africa). We highlight the urgent need for more effective sustainability standards and policies addressing both production and consumption of tropical commodities, including robust land-use planning in agricultural frontiers, establishment of new protected areas or REDD+ projects in places agriculture has not yet reached, and reduction or elimination of incentives for land-demanding bioenergy feedstocks.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Sustainability, Amazon Basin


Lyme disease is an underdiagnosed zoonosis in Brazil. There are no cases registered in the state of Tocantins, the newest Brazilian state. The cases of three patients in contact with rural areas in three Tocantins' districts are herein described, and the Brazilian literature is reviewed.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Brazil, Zoonosis, Goiás, Maranhão, States of Brazil, Zoonoses


We present the global phylogeography of the black sea urchin Arbacia lixula, an amphi-Atlantic echinoid with potential to strongly impact shallow rocky ecosystems. Sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase gene of 604 specimens from 24 localities were obtained, covering most of the distribution area of the species, including the Mediterranean and both shores of the Atlantic. Genetic diversity measures, phylogeographic patterns, demographic parameters and population differentiation were analysed. We found high haplotype diversity but relatively low nucleotide diversity, with 176 haplotypes grouped within three haplogroups: one is shared between Eastern Atlantic (including Mediterranean) and Brazilian populations, the second is found in Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean and the third is exclusively from Brazil. Significant genetic differentiation was found between Brazilian, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean regions, but no differentiation was found among Mediterranean sub-basins or among Eastern Atlantic sub-regions. The star-shaped topology of the haplotype network and the unimodal mismatch distributions of Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic samples suggest that these populations have suffered very recent demographic expansions. These expansions could be dated 94-205 kya in the Mediterranean, and 31-67 kya in the Eastern Atlantic. In contrast, Brazilian populations did not show any signature of population expansion. Our results indicate that all populations of A. lixula constitute a single species. The Brazilian populations probably diverged from an Eastern Atlantic stock. The present-day genetic structure of the species in Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean is shaped by very recent demographic processes. Our results support the view (backed by the lack of fossil record) that A. lixula is a recent thermophilous colonizer which spread throughout the Mediterranean during a warm period of the Pleistocene, probably during the last interglacial. Implications for the possible future impact of A. lixula on shallow Mediterranean ecosystems in the context of global warming trends must be considered.

Concepts: DNA, Demography, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, Sea urchin, Haplotype, Black Sea


BACKGROUND: Anopheles (Kerteszia) cruzii is a primary vector of Plasmodium parasites in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Adult females of An. cruzii and An. homunculus, which is a secondary malaria vector, are morphologically similar and difficult to distinguish when using external morphological characteristics only. These two species may occur syntopically with An. bellator, which is also a potential vector of Plasmodium species and is morphologically similar to An. cruzii and An. homunculus. Identification of these species based on female specimens is often jeopardised by polymorphisms, overlapping morphological characteristics and damage caused to specimens during collection. Wing geometric morphometrics has been used to distinguish several insect species; however, this economical and powerful tool has not been applied to Kerteszia species. Our objective was to assess wing geometry to distinguish An. cruzii, An. homunculus and An. bellator. METHODS: Specimens were collected in an area in the Serra do Mar hotspot biodiversity corridor of the Atlantic Forest biome (Cananeia municipality, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil). The right wings of females of An. cruzii (n= 40), An. homunculus (n= 50) and An. bellator (n= 27) were photographed. For each individual, 18 wing landmarks were subjected to standard geometric morphometrics. Discriminant analysis of Procrustean coordinates was performed to quantify wing shape variation. RESULTS: Individuals clustered into three distinct groups according to species with a slight overlap between representatives of An. cruzii and An. homunculus. The Mahalanobis distance between An. cruzii and An. homunculus was consistently lower (3.50) than that between An. cruzii and An. bellator (4.58) or An. homunculus and An. bellator (4.32). Pairwise cross-validated reclassification showed that geometric morphometrics is an effective analytical method to distinguish between An. bellator, An. cruzii and An. homunculus with a reliability rate varying between 78-88%. Shape analysis revealed that the wings of An. homunculus are narrower than those of An. cruzii and that An. bellator is different from both of the congeneric species. CONCLUSION: It is possible to distinguish among the vectors An. cruzii, An. homunculus and An. bellator based on female wing characteristics.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium, Brazil, São Paulo, Procrustes analysis, Wing


By highlighting the extreme event of 11-12 January 2011 in the mountain cities of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an attempt is made to exemplify the triad paradigmatically: contemporary problems / government inability to adapt / low public participation, and highlight the issue with some reflections on the gap between discourse on social participation and its inexistence. The goal is to elicit reflection that generates a polemic regarding the technical nature of the scientific reports produced and thus be able to integrate the overriding question into the set of reflections: How can one plan more resilient locations that are simultaneously socially equitable, have economic vitality, are environmentally compatible and less vulnerable to disasters? The reflections are the result of the analysis of technical and scientific documents.

Concepts: Science, Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Southeast Region, Brazil, Minas Gerais, States of Brazil, Estádio do Maracanã