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Did we have to kill the dog?

We published a post at Ciencia Crítica on the gains that we could have obtained if they didn’t sacrifice the dog of the nurse infected with the ebola virus. You can read it (in Spanish) at

Cristina Araújo got her PhD!

Last Tuesday, 30th September, Cristina Araújo successfully passed her viva at Fundão, and now she’s a brand new doctor from the Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro.

Cris did her PhD work on the organization of dung beetle communities at the altitudinal gradient of Itatiaia National Park (one of the highest elevations of Brazil), under the supervision of Ricardo Monteiro and myself, with the invaluable help of Júlio Louzada and his team at Universidade Federal de Lavras. Apart from the necessary description of the fauna, Cris has evaluated the determinants of local coexistence of Scarabaeinae species from different perspectives, from niche requirements to co-occurrence networks, that will be published in the forthcoming months.

Parabéns Cris!!!!

Why species geographic ranges can’t be used to study the evolution of the conservatism in the ecophysiological constraints

The last paper from Sidney Gouveia’s PhD just came out as early view in Global Ecology and Biogeography. In this study we compare the patterns of evolution in thermal tolerance when measured from ecophysiological experiments to those extracted from species’ geographic ranges.Thanks to a collaboration with the teams of Carlos Navas from USP (Brazil) and Miguel Tejedo (EBD-CSIC) we were able to check for differences between the actual pond temperature at which the locomotory activity of tadpoles starts to fail (measured as CTmax), and the environmental temperatures of the geographic areas occupied by the same species of anurans.

The results are striking. While CTmax follows a constant rate of evolution throughout the evolutionary history of anurans, sometimes faster than Brownian motion, geographic range-based measures of thermal tolerance (both maximum and niche width) “evolve” at a much slower rate (akin to an Ornstein–Uhlenbeck process), which may be linked to geographic constraints other than the abiotic requirements of the species (i.e. the biotic and movement portions of Soberón and Peterson’s BAM diagram). That is, the geographic signal shows a fast recent evolution of climatic constraints. Only the central position of the range of temperatures “suffered” by the species in the geographic space shows a pace of evolution that is relatively similar to that measured from the ecophysiological measurements. This is true for both the Brazilian and Iberian groups of frogs and toads that we studied.

The implications of this work for the study of climatic niche conservatism and  species distribution modelling are striking. It is clear that the evolution of climatic constraints (i.e. niche limits) can’t be safely studied with data extracted by comparing species’ geographic ranges with current climatic conditions. This is in fact not surprising, if one bears in mind that we already know that most species’ distributions are not in equilibrium with current environment. Due to this, the apparent fast evolution of niche limits is in fact caused by the absence of many species from some of the areas (and climatic domains) that they could potentially occupy, due to biogeographical and historical reasons. That is, either these climatic domains are not currently present in the region they inhabit, some past events or processes have precluded them to reach these areas, or they have become extinct there for other reasons than their climatic requirements. In the case of species distribution modelling, our results provide additional evidence that species do not colonize all potentially suitable areas, and therefore that the environmental conditions in the areas occupied by the species are most (if not all) times not able to recover their potential distribution.

Despite the evident limitations for the study of tolerance limits, the results of our study may indicate that the evolution of the placement of the niche within environmental gradients (i.e., its centroid) can be safely studied using data of geographic origin. This aspect should be further explored, though, and probably needs the inclusion of null models that take into account the environmental configuration of the regions where the species are living, as well as –ideally– the past history of climate in that region.

Gouveia, S.F., Hortal, J., Tejedo, M., Duarte, H., Cassemiro, F.A.S., Navas, C.A. & Diniz-Filho, J.A.F. (2014) Climatic niche at physiological and macroecological scales: thermal tolerance–geographic range interface and niche dimensionality. Global Ecology and Biogeography, in press. doi:10.1111/geb.12114. Available at

La colección del Museo en 3D

David Vieites explica en esta pequeña entrevista a RTVE el proyecto de digitalizar parte la colección del Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales mediante escáner 3D, y su disponibilidad en aplicaciones móviles.


Alice Francener has got her Master!

Friday last week, the 22nd of March, Alice defended successfully her MSc thesis, entitled: “Padrões globais de descrição de espécies e revisão taxonômica de morcegos (Mammalia, Chiroptera)” [Global patterns in the description of species and taxonomic revisions of bats (Mammalia, Chiroptera)] which was co-supervised by Joaquín Hortal and Daniel Brito. After a nice and fruitful discussion with the two jury members (Ludmila Aguiar from the Universidade de Brasilia, Thiago Rangel from the UFG) about the future of taxonomy, the pitfalls of doing taxonomy in the tropics and the evolution of the concept of species trhough time, among other things, Alice passed with no corrections (the maximum qualification at UFG). Congratulations Master Alice!

Sidney Gouveia has got a position!

In a quite succesful February, Sidney Gouveia has just ranked first in the application for Assistant Professor at the Dept. de Ecologia of the Universidade Federal de Sergipe, at Aracajú (Brazil). This position is permanent, with the possibility to promoting to upper levels in the Federal rank of professorship in Brazil. Many congratulations to him!

The new blog “Ciencia Crítica” is now online at

Six researchers in ecology, including Joaquín Hortal, have just started a blog aiming to provide a critical vision about the way science is conducted, why is it conducted the way it is and its multiple connections with economy, society, etc., making special emphasis (but not exclusively) with the situation of scientific research in Spain.

The blog is available at, within, an Spanish online journal. New posts will appear at least once a week.

An article on global change effects on populations highlighted in MNCN blog

The article of Carolina Ureta and cols in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics has been highlighted at MNCN’s blog and CSIC’s service for scientific news SINC. This article proposes a new method to account for uncertainty in the projections of population growth based on ensemble forecasting. Its application to populations two Mexican species of Mammillaria cacti that have been followed by Carlos Martorell for several years shows that, for some species, the synergic effects of climatic change and human disturbance will cause the extinction of populations that would survive if they were only subject to climate change.

The new blog “Ciencia crítica” is now online at

A multidisciplinary team of ecologists, including Joaquín, has started a blog in the Spanish online journal The blog Ciencia Crítica will make a critical review to current practice in research and research policies, with an special focus in Spain. The posts made by  Fernando Valladares, Luis Santamaría, Jordi Moya, Miguel Angel Rodriguez-Gironés, Joaquín Hortal and Adrián Escudero will seek ways of improving the robustness and effectiveness of the Spanish scientific system, while transmitting young researchers and the general public what is good practice in science and why some aspects of research work are the way they are now.

The first post, entitled “Reasons for confidence“, makes a general introduction to the blog in Spanish.

Sidney Gouveia is now a doctor!

Yesterday, 7th February 2013, Sidney Feitosa Gouveia succesfully defended his PhD thesis at the Universidade Federal de Goiás (UFG, Brazil), entitled “Origem e natureza de padrões macroecológicos em anfíbios: antigas questões, novas abordagens” [Origin and nature of macroecological patterns in amphibians: old questions, new approaches], which Joaquín had the luck to co-supervise together with José Alexandre F. Diniz-Filho. Since two of the four papers of the thesis have been already published, Sidney had a nice discussion with the examiners about the state-of-the-art and future prospects in amphibian macroecology.

Now Sidney is applying for a permanent position at the Universidade Federal de Maceió, in Aracajú, and we wish him the best of luck.

Congratulations, Dr. Gouveia!