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Concept: Taxon


The fossil record of ceratopsid dinosaurs between the occurrence of their proximate sister taxa in the Turonian and the beginning of their well-documented radiation from the late Campanian of North America onwards (approximately 90 and 77 Ma) is poor, with only seven taxa described from this early period in their evolution. We describe a new taxon of a highly adorned basal centrosaurine, Wendiceratops pinhornensis gen. et sp. nov., from the lower part of the Oldman Formation (middle Campanian, approximately 78-79 Ma), Alberta, Canada. Over 200 bones derived from virtually all parts of the skeleton, including multiple well-preserved specimens of the diagnostic parietosquamosal frill, were collected from a medium-density monodominant bonebed, making the new taxon one of the best-represented early ceratopsids. The new taxon is apomorphic in having epiparietals at loci 2 and 3 developed as broad-based, pachyostotic processes that are strongly procurved anterodorsally to overhang the posterior and lateral parietal rami, and an ischium with a broad, rectangular distal terminus. Although the morphology of the nasal is incompletely known, Wendiceratops is inferred to have a large, upright nasal horn located close to the orbits, which represents the oldest occurrence of this feature in Ceratopsia. Given the phylogenetic position of the new taxon within Centrosaurinae, a enlarged nasal horn is hypothesized to have arisen independently at least twice in ceratopsid evolution.

Concepts: Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Fossil, Paleontology, Dinosaur, Taxon, Ceratopsidae, Albertaceratops


This study reports on a new ceratopsid, Spiclypeus shipporum gen et sp. nov., from the lower Coal Ridge Member of the Judith River Formation in Montana, USA, which dates to ~76 Ma (upper Campanian). The species is distinguished by rugose dorsal contacts on the premaxillae for the nasals, laterally projecting postorbital horncores, fully fused and anteriorly curled P1 and P2 epiparietals, and a posterodorsally projecting P3 epiparietal. The holotype specimen is also notable for its pathological left squamosal and humerus, which show varied signs of osteomyelitis and osteoarthritis. Although the postorbital horncores of Spiclypeus closely resemble those of the contemporaneous ‘Ceratops’, the horncores of both genera are nevertheless indistinguishable from those of some other horned dinosaurs, including Albertaceratops and Kosmoceratops; ‘Ceratops’ is therefore maintained as a nomen dubium. Cladistic analysis recovers Spiclypeus as the sister taxon to the clade Vagaceratops + Kosmoceratops, and appears transitional in the morphology of its epiparietals. The discovery of Spiclypeus adds to the poorly known dinosaur fauna of the Judith River Formation, and suggests faunal turnover within the formation.

Concepts: Cladistics, Clade, Cretaceous, Dinosaur, Taxon, Linnaean taxonomy, Ceratopsidae, Nomen dubium


Despite recent advances spearheaded by molecular approaches and novel technologies, species description and DNA sequence information are significantly lagging for fungi compared to many other groups of organisms. Large scale sequencing of vouchered herbarium material can aid in closing this gap. Here, we describe an effort to obtain broad ITS sequence coverage of the approximately 6000 macrofungal-species-rich herbarium of the Museum of Natural History in Venice, Italy. Our goals were to investigate issues related to large sequencing projects, develop heuristic methods for assessing the overall performance of such a project, and evaluate the prospects of such efforts to reduce the current gap in fungal biodiversity knowledge. The effort generated 1107 sequences submitted to GenBank, including 416 previously unrepresented taxa and 398 sequences exhibiting a best BLAST match to an unidentified environmental sequence. Specimen age and taxon affected sequencing success, and subsequent work on failed specimens showed that an ITS1 mini-barcode greatly increased sequencing success without greatly reducing the discriminating power of the barcode. Similarity comparisons and nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordinations based on pairwise distance matrices proved to be useful heuristic tools for validating the overall accuracy of specimen identifications, flagging potential misidentifications, and identifying taxa in need of additional species-level revision. Comparison of within- and among-species nucleotide variation showed a strong increase in species discriminating power at 1-2% dissimilarity, and identified potential barcoding issues (same sequence for different species and vice-versa). All sequences are linked to a vouchered specimen, and results from this study have already prompted revisions of species-sequence assignments in several taxa.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Species, Fungus, Sequence, DNA barcoding, Multidimensional scaling, Taxon


The late Campanian-early Maastrichtian site of Lo Hueco (Cuenca, Spain) has provided a set of well-preserved crocodyliform skull and lower jaw remains, which are described here and assigned to a new basal eusuchian taxon, Lohuecosuchus megadontos gen. et sp. nov. The reevaluation of a complete skull from the synchronous site of Fox-Amphoux (Department of Var, France) allows us to define a second species of this new genus. Phylogenetic analysis places Lohuecosuchus in a clade exclusively composed by European Late Cretaceous taxa. This new clade, defined here as Allodaposuchidae, is recognized as the sister group of Hylaeochampsidae, also comprised of European Cretaceous forms. Allodaposuchidae and Hylaeochampsidae are grouped in a clade identified as the sister group of Crocodylia, the only crocodyliform lineage that reaches our days. Allodaposuchidae shows a vicariant distribution pattern in the European Late Cretaceous archipelago, with several Ibero-Armorican forms more closely related to each other than with to Romanian Allodaposuchus precedens.

Concepts: Definition, Extensional definition, Phylogenetic nomenclature, Europe, Cladistics, Spain, Taxon, Crocodylomorpha


While key early(iest) fossils were recently discovered for several crown afrotherian mammal orders, basal afrotherians, e.g., early Cenozoic species that comprise sister taxa to Paenungulata, Afroinsectiphilia or Afrotheria, are nearly unknown, especially in Africa. Possible stem condylarth-like relatives of the Paenungulata (hyraxes, sea-cows, elephants) include only Abdounodus hamdii and Ocepeia daouiensis from the Selandian of Ouled Abdoun Basin, Morocco, both previously only documented by lower teeth. Here, we describe new fossils of Ocepeia, including O.grandis n. sp., and a sub-complete skull of O. daouiensis, the first known before the Eocene for African placentals. O.daouiensis skull displays a remarkable mosaic of autapomophic, ungulate-like and generalized eutherian-like characters. Autapomorphies include striking anthropoid-like characters of the rostrum and dentition. Besides having a basically eutherian-like skull construction, Ocepeia daouiensis is characterized by ungulate-like, and especially paenungulate-like characters of skull and dentition (e.g., selenodonty). However, some plesiomorphies such as absence of hypocone exclude Ocepeia from crown Paenungulata. Such a combination of plesiomorphic and derived characters best fits with a stem position of Ocepeia relative to Paenungulata. In our cladistic analyses Ocepeia is included in Afrotheria, but its shared derived characters with paenungulates are not optimized as exclusive synapomorphies. Rather, within Afrotheria Ocepeia is reconstructed as more closely related to insectivore-like afroinsectiphilians (i.e., aardvarks, sengis, tenrecs, and golden moles) than to paenungulates. This results from conflict with undetected convergences of Paenungulata and Perissodactyla in our cladistic analysis, such as the shared bilophodonty. The selenodont pattern best supports the stem paenungulate position of Ocepeia; that, however, needs further support. The remarkable character mosaic of Ocepeia makes it the first known “transitional fossil” between insectivore-like and ungulate-like afrotherians. In addition, the autapomorphic family Ocepeiidae supports the old - earliest Tertiary or Cretaceous - endemic evolution of placentals in Africa, in contrast to hypotheses rooting afrotherians in Paleogene Laurasian “condylarths”.

Concepts: Mammal, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Afrotheria, Synapomorphy, Taxon, Paleocene, Afrosoricida


The early evolution of sauropod dinosaurs remains poorly understood, with a paucity of unequivocal sauropod taxa known from the first twenty million years of the Jurassic. Recently, the Early Jurassic of South Africa has yielded an assemblage of dental and post-cranial remains displaying a more apomorphic character suite than any other similarly aged sauropodomorph. These remains are interpreted as a new species of basal sauropod and recovered cladistically as the sister taxon to Vulcanodon +more derived Sauropoda, underscoring its importance for our understanding of this pivotal period of sauropod evolution. Key changes in the dentition, axial skeleton and forelimb of this new species suggest a genuine functional distinction occurring at the sauropodiform-sauropod boundary. With reference to these changes, we propose a scenario in which interdependent refinements of the locomotory and feeding apparatus occurred in tandem with, or were effected by, restrictions in the amount of vertical forage initially available to the earliest sauropods. The hypothesized instance of niche-partitioning between basal sauropodan taxa and higher-browsing non-sauropodan sauropodomorphs may partially explain the rarity of true sauropods in the basal rocks of the Jurassic, while having the added corollary of couching the origins of Sauropoda in terms of an ecologically delimited ‘event’.

Concepts: Cladistics, Sauropoda, Dinosaur, Sauropodomorpha, Diplodocus, Saurischia, Taxon, Vulcanodontidae


Most land plants live in association with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and rely on this symbiosis to scavenge phosphorus (P) from soil. The ability to establish this partnership has been lost in some plant lineages like the Brassicaceae, which raises the question of what alternative nutrition strategies such plants have to grow in P-impoverished soils. To understand the contribution of plant-microbiota interactions, we studied the root-associated fungal microbiome of Arabis alpina (Brassicaceae) with the hypothesis that some of its components can promote plant P acquisition. Using amplicon sequencing of the fungal internal transcribed spacer 2, we studied the root and rhizosphere fungal communities of A. alpina growing under natural and controlled conditions including low-P soils and identified a set of 15 fungal taxa consistently detected in its roots. This cohort included a Helotiales taxon exhibiting high abundance in roots of wild A. alpina growing in an extremely P-limited soil. Consequently, we isolated and subsequently reintroduced a specimen from this taxon into its native P-poor soil in which it improved plant growth and P uptake. The fungus exhibited mycorrhiza-like traits including colonization of the root endosphere and P transfer to the plant. Genome analysis revealed a link between its endophytic lifestyle and the expansion of its repertoire of carbohydrate-active enzymes. We report the discovery of a plant-fungus interaction facilitating the growth of a nonmycorrhizal plant under native P-limited conditions, thus uncovering a previously underestimated role of root fungal microbiota in P cycling.

Concepts: Bacteria, Eukaryote, Plant, Fungus, Mycorrhiza, Root, Endophyte, Taxon


Fishing takes place in the high seas and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of maritime countries. Closing the former to fishing has recently been proposed in the literature and is currently an issue of debate in various international fora. We determine the degree of overlap between fish caught in these two areas of the ocean, examine how global catch might change if catches of straddling species or taxon groups increase within EEZs as a result of protection of adjacent high seas; and identify countries that are likely to gain or lose in total catch quantity and value following high-seas closure. We find that <0.01% of the quantity and value of commercial fish taxa are obtained from catch taken exclusively in the high seas, and if the catch of straddling taxa increases by 18% on average following closure because of spillover, there would be no loss in global catch. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, would decrease from 0.66 to 0.33. Thus, closing the high seas could be catch-neutral while inequality in the distribution of fisheries benefits among the world's maritime countries could be reduced by 50%.

Concepts: Economic inequality, Overfishing, Income inequality metrics, Taxon, Gini coefficient


The Palaeozoic form-taxon Lobopodia encompasses a diverse range of soft-bodied ‘legged worms’ known from exceptional fossil deposits. Although lobopodians occupy a deep phylogenetic position within Panarthropoda, a shortage of derived characters obscures their evolutionary relationships with extant phyla (Onychophora, Tardigrada and Euarthropoda). Here we describe a complex feature in the terminal claws of the mid-Cambrian lobopodian Hallucigenia sparsa-their construction from a stack of constituent elements-and demonstrate that equivalent elements make up the jaws and claws of extant Onychophora. A cladistic analysis, informed by developmental data on panarthropod head segmentation, indicates that the stacked sclerite components in these two taxa are homologous-resolving hallucigeniid lobopodians as stem-group onychophorans. The results indicate a sister-group relationship between Tardigrada and Euarthropoda, adding palaeontological support to the neurological and musculoskeletal evidence uniting these disparate clades. These findings elucidate the evolutionary transformations that gave rise to the panarthropod phyla, and expound the lobopodian-like morphology of the ancestral panarthropod.

Concepts: Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Clade, Phylum, Taxon, Ecdysozoa, Onychophora


Mock communities have been used in microbiome method development to help estimate biases introduced in PCR amplification and sequencing and to optimize pipeline outputs. Nevertheless, the strong value of routine mock community analysis beyond initial method development is rarely, if ever, considered. Here we report that our routine use of mock communities as internal standards allowed us to discover highly aberrant and strong biases in the relative proportions of multiple taxa in a single Illumina HiSeqPE250 run. In this run, an important archaeal taxon virtually disappeared from all samples, and other mock community taxa showed >2-fold high or low abundance, whereas a rerun of those identical amplicons (from the same reaction tubes) on a different date yielded “normal” results. Although obvious from the strange mock community results, we could have easily missed the problem had we not used the mock communities because of natural variation of microbiomes at our site. The “normal” results were validated over four MiSeqPE300 runs and three HiSeqPE250 runs, and run-to-run variation was usually low. While validating these “normal” results, we also discovered that some mock microbial taxa had relatively modest, but consistent, differences between sequencing platforms. We strongly advise the use of mock communities in every sequencing run to distinguish potentially serious aberrations from natural variations. The mock communities should have more than just a few members and ideally at least partly represent the samples being analyzed to detect problems that show up only in some taxa and also to help validate clustering.IMPORTANCEDespite the routine use of standards and blanks in virtually all chemical or physical assays and most biological studies (a kind of “control”), microbiome analysis has traditionally lacked such standards. Here we show that unexpected problems of unknown origin can occur in such sequencing runs and yield completely incorrect results that would not necessarily be detected without the use of standards. Assuming that the microbiome sequencing analysis works properly every time risks serious errors that can be detected by the use of mock communities.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Fungus, Validation, Standard, Community, Domain, Baseball statistics, Taxon