Senckenberg Research

Symposium 3
Symposium 3 (Tue, Oct. 3rd, 10:30-12:00):

The power of natural history collections – archives of nature for science in the past, present and future

Chairs:

Scientific collections are not only archives of name-bearing individuals; they also provide evidence of the occurrence of certain organisms at a certain time at a certain place, of genetic and phylogenetic relationships, of traits and potential ecosystems functions, of biotic interactions, as well as environmental conditions. For example, the scientific collections can serve as an excellent basis for biogeographic analyses and analyses of range shifts and bear the potential to predict climate-related or anthropogenically induced changes in the distribution of species. In this context, specimens in scientific collections serve as unique identifiers linking different disciplines; they also provide crucial data points for the parametrization and validation of models. Besides fossil documents scientific collections provide the only available basis for analyzing biodiversity of past eras and explain changes over time in the context of the evolutionary process. Collections document and preserve irreplaceable data about nature for future generations. This symposium will address the role, opportunities and challenges of natural history collections in modern, integrative science.

 

Talks:

10:30 - 10:50

Natural history collections - archives of nature for science in past, present and future – what are our visions?
  • Angelika Brandt (Senckenberg & Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Scientific collections provide evidence of the occurrence of certain organisms at a certain time at a certain place, of genetic and phylogenetic relationships, of traits and potential ecosystems functions, of biotic interactions, as well as environmental conditions. For example, scientific collections can serve as an excellent basis for biogeographic analyses and analyses of range shifts. Besides fossil documents scientific collections provide the only available basis for analyzing biodiversity of past eras and explain changes over time in the context of the evolutionary process and preserve irreplaceable data about nature for future generations. The role, opportunities and challenges of natural history collections in modern, integrative science will be addressed in the presentation besides the infrastructural benchmark that natural history collections offer per se for any natural history research.

 

10:50 - 11:10

The Value of Natural History Collections in a World at War
  • Aaron Bauer (Villanova University)

For war-torn areas, ex situ natural history collections serve as arks for biodiversity data. Examples of herpetological collections from Afghanistan, Libya, and Angola are used to explore how natural history collections can contribute to present and future research and conservation following years of strife. For Angola museum data provide the basis for a resurgence of evidence-based management decisions and provide a key to resolving difficult taxonomic problems across all of central Africa. For Libya museum collections preserve evidence of oasis faunas that reflected ancient paleodrainage systems, but which are now irreparably changed. And for Afghanistan historical collections have identified new challenges to integrative taxonomy that may be addressed if and when improved security conditions prevail. Further, advances in both ancient DNA technology and CT imaging methods provide the prospect of obtaining more data from natural history collections than has ever been possible before.

 

11:10 - 11:25

Museum specimens reveal a surprisingly rapid evolution of a distinct phylogeographic pattern in spurge hawkmoths
  • Michael B. Mende (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

The systematics of the Western Palearctic Hyles euphorbiae complex has long been controversial due to the geographic variation of colour pattern morphotypes: an Eurasian and Afro-Macaronesian lineage amalgamated in hybrid swarms in large areas of southern Europe or, in contrast, the latter have been considered distinct taxa. Distinct mtDNA haplogroups that almost exclusively occupy these areas further corroborated separate evolutionary histories. However, sequencing historic specimens showed that these haplogroups had no integral area a few decades ago and increased from a moderate frequency to near fixation throughout the last century. Correlations with climate change and a comparison with present patterns of SSR markers strongly suggest very recent introgression of these haplogroups from an African source that mimics long-term vicariance in southern European glacial refuges - representing another potential pitfall for the most used marker in phylogeography and molecular taxonomy.

 

11:25 - 11:40

The key role of collection-based research in the age of big data
  • Martin Päckert (Senckenberg)

Natural history collections are an outstanding resource for a global assessment of biodiversity. Great digitization efforts have facilitated the use of online collection data for meta-analyses such as species distribution modeling. However, online data include an unforeseeable factor of misidentifications that are often due to out-dated taxonomy. Therefore an integrative approach combining information from the phenotype, genetics and biocaoustics is essential for correct species identification. Furthermore, phylogenetic backbones of ecological or biogeographical meta-analyses are increasingly being modified by virtually including missing species despite of data-deficiency. Phylogenetic uncertainty likewise increases. Genetic material from collections is the ultimate source to provide data for i) extinct or highly endangered species, ii) populations from countries where field work has become nearly impossible for political and other reasons. Improved lab protocols for work in specialized clean rooms allow for comparison of genetic variation over historical periods of time.

 

11:40 - 11:55

Tracking the past: How chemicals extracted from museum specimens reveal natural history traits
  • Georg Petschenka (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen)

The seed bug Spilostethus saxatilis stores high amounts of colchicine from meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) as a defense against predators. While S. saxatilis is feeding on many plant species it was not known if it is associated with Colchicum obligatorily. To test this hypothesis we extracted >25 S. saxatilis museum specimens from several countries using a non-disruptive procedure for HPLC analysis. Although some of the specimens were older than 100 years every individual contained high concentrations of colchicine proving that each individual bug fed on C. autumnale during its life. Also based on museum specimens, we demonstrated sequestration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in two seed bug species. Similarly, we successfully analyzed the occurrence of defensive toxins (bufadienolides) across European and African firefly species (Lampyridae). Our findings highlight the importance of natural history collections as a treasure of chemical information to analyze natural history traits.

https://die-welt-baut-ihr-museum.de