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Science News

December 2011

Robert Prys-Jones (Zoology) is co-author on a new paper on Indian Ocean Parrot biogeography and evolution being published in Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. It is the latest in a line of research papers deriving from Robert’s on-going Indian Ocean island research programme, and comprises a comprehensive overview of extant and extinct parrot evolution on western Indian Ocean islands. 



Psittacula eupatria


Parrot diversity around the Indian Ocean is high, with many possible geological, ecological and geographical explanations.This paper examines DNA data from modern and extinct parrots and suggests that the Indian Ocean islands acted as stepping stones in  the radiation of the Old-World parrots, and that past sea-level changes may help to explain distributions and  differences in speciation. A molecular phylogeny shows complex colonisation of Africa, Asia  and the Indian Ocean islands from Australasia via multiple routes, and  of island populations ‘seeding’ continents.

A second paper develops a comprehensive phylogeny of the finches, a large and familiar bird family within which many genus-level relationships have previously been unclear, and is the first product of a co-operation with Dr Per Ericson, Director of Science at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and is further co-authored by Dr Pamela Rasmussen (Michigan State University Museum), a Scientific Associate of the NHM. The similarity of plumage of finches, and of feeding habits, has in the past given misleading impressions of related groups.  DNA from nuclei and mitochondria give a much clearer and more reliable picture in this paper.


  • Kundu, S., Jones, C.G., Prys-Jones, R.P. & Groombridge, J.J. The evolution of the Indian Ocean parrots (Psittaciformes): extinction, adaptive radiation and eustacy. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, Volume 62, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 296-305.
  • Zuccon, D., Prys-Jones, R.P., Rasmussen, P.C. & Ericson, P.G.P. The phylogenetic relationships and generic limits of finches (Fringillidae). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, in press,

Wild Stardust

Posted by John Jackson Dec 23, 2011

Samples returned from comet 81P/Wild 2 by the Stardust mission provided an unequalled opportunity to compare previously available extraterrestrial samples against those from a known comet. Iron sulphides are a major constituent of cometary grains commonly identified within cometary interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and Wild 2 samples.  NHM scientists Sara Russell and Anton Kearsley, and Scientific Associate Phil Bland, are key collaborators on a new examination of this unique material.


Chemical analyses show that Wild 2 sulphides are fundamentally different from those in IDPs. However, as Wild 2 dust was collected via impact into capture media at approximately 6.1 km s-1, it is unclear whether this is due to original variations in these materials or is due to heating and alteration during collection. The results obtained are consistent with estimated peak pressures and temperatures experienced (approximately 85 GPa, approximately 2600 K) and some may be used to predict original chemistry and estimate mineralogy - the work continues....

Wozniakiewicz P J, Ishii H A, KEARSLEY A T, Burchell M J, BLAND P A, Bradley J P, Dai Z R,   Teslich N, Collins G S, Cole M J & RUSSELL S S 2011. Investigation of iron sulfide impact crater residues: A combined analysis by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 46: 1007-1024.


Tapeworm genomics

Posted by John Jackson Dec 22, 2011

Genome data represent the largest and most diverse set of heritable characters for comparative evolutionary studies. In collaboration with the The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, we have recently characterised and assembled the complete genome of Hymenolepis microstoma, a classical tapeworm model with over 50 years of literature supporting it.


Together with colleagues from the University of Würzburg, Germany, Peter Olson and Magdalena Zarowiecki have recently published the first insights into the gene content and general characteristics of tapeworm genomes based on data from Hymenolepis and the medically important genera Echinococcus and Taenia. Findings show that tapeworms have small genomes at ~150 Mb, compared to ~350 Mb in flukes and over 700 Mb in free-living planarians.


Their genomes are compact, containing few repetitive or mobile elements, and appear to contain a majority of common gene families, albeit they may be missing ~10% of 'core' or universal metazoan genes found in free-living animals and typically show a reduction in the number of genes per family. A number of necessary biosynthesis components are missing, such as genes required to synthesise cholesterol, and hence these essential molecules must be taken directly from the host. Data are now publicly available via the Web and promise to accelerate the pace of research in the field by eliminating the need for time consuming and costly genetic manipulations at the bench.

PD Olson, M Zarowiecki, F Kiss and K Brehm (2011). Invited review: Cestode genomics--progress and prospects for understanding basic and applied aspects of flatworm biology. Parasite Immunology [doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3024.2011.01319.x]


Publications for last 4 Weeks to (Search done on 13th Dec.)


(Search on the basis of ‘Nat SAME Hist SAME Mus* SAME Lon*

Web of Science)


Eiserhardt, W.L., Rohwer, J.G., RUSSELL, S.J., YESILYURT, J.C. & SCHNEIDER, H. 2011. Evidence for radiations of cheilanthoid ferns in the Greater Cape Floristic Region. Taxon, 60(5): 1269-1283.    [Core funded]

HAWKSWORTH, D.L., Crous, P.W., Redhead, S.A., Reynolds, D.R., Samson, R.A., Seifert, K.A., Taylor, J.W., Wingfield, M.J. & Signatories 2011. The Amsterdam Declaration on fungal nomenclature. Mycotaxon, 116: 491-500.    [Scientific Associate]

KNAPP, S., McNeill, J. & Turland, N.J. 2011. Changes to publication requirements made at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne - what does e-publication mean for you? New Phytologist, 192(3): 569-573.    [Core funded]

KNAPP, S., McNeill, J. & Turland, N.J. 2011. Changes to publication requirements made at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne: What does e-publication mean for you? Taxon, 60(5): 1498-1501.    [Core funded]

Ligrone, R. & DUCKETT, J.G. 2011. Morphology versus molecules in moss phylogeny: new insights (or controversies) from placental and vascular anatomy in Oedipodium griffithianum. Plant Systematics and Evolution, 296(3-4): 275-282.    [Scientific Associate]

Martin-Bravo, S., Jimenez-Mejias, P. & JARVIS, C.E. 2011. Revised lectotypification of Reseda glauca L. (Resedaceae). Taxon, 60(5): 1478-1479.    [Core funded]

Romeiras, M.M., Paulo, O.S., Duarte, M.C., Pina-Martins, F., Cotrim, M.H., CARINE, M.A. & Pais, M.S. 2011. Origin and diversification of the genus Echium (Boraginaceae) in the Cape Verde archipelago. Taxon, 60(5): 1375-1385.    [Core funded]

Selvi, F. & JARVIS, C.E. 2011. Typification of the name Cynoglossum creticum Mill. (Boraginaceae). Taxon, 60(5): 1477-1477.    [Core funded]

Van de Vijver, B., Juettner, I., Gurung, S., Sharma, C., Sharma, S., de Haan, M. & COX, E.J. 2011. The genus Cymbopleura (Cymbellales, Bacillariophyta) from high altitude freshwater habitats, Everest National Park, Nepal, with the description of two new species. Fottea, 11(2): 245-269.    [Core funded]


Bagchi, R., Philipson, C.D., Slade, E.M., Hector, A., Phillips, S., Villanueva, J.F., Lewis, O.T., LYAL, C.H.C., Nilus, R., Madran, A., Scholes, J.D. & Press, M.C. 2011. Impacts of logging on density-dependent predation of dipterocarp seeds in a South East Asian rainforest. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 366(1582): 3246-3255.    [Core funded]

BONAL, R., Espelta, J.M. & VOGLER, A.P. 2011. Complex selection on life-history traits and the maintenance of variation in exaggerated rostrum length in acorn weevils. Oecologia, 167(4): 1053-1061.    [PhD student (?), Core funded (jointly with IC)]

Foster, W.A., Snaddon, J.L., Turner, E.C., FAYLE, T.M., COCKERILL, T.D., Ellwood, M.D.F., BROAD, G.R., Chung, A.Y.C., EGGLETON, P., Khen, C.V. & Yusah, K.M. 2011. Establishing the evidence base for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in the oil palm landscapes of South East Asia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 366(1582): 3277-3291.    [Externally funded, PhD student, Core funded]

Holmes, N., Langdon, P.G., Caseldine, C., BROOKS, S.J. & Birks, H.J.B. 2011. Merging chironomid training sets: implications for palaeoclimate reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviews, 30(19-20): 2793-2804.    [Core funded]

Macfadyen, S., Craze, P.G., POLASZEK, A., van Achterberg, K. & Memmott, J. 2011. Parasitoid diversity reduces the variability in pest control services across time on farms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278(1723): 3387-3394.    [Core funded]

Morgan, K., O'Loughlin, S.M., Chen, B., LINTON, Y.M., Thongwat, D., Somboon, P., Fong, M.Y., Butlin, R., Verity, R., Prakash, A., Htun, P.T., Hlaing, T., Nambanya, S., Socheat, D., Dinh, T.H. & Walton, C. 2011. Comparative phylogeography reveals a shared impact of pleistocene environmental change in shaping genetic diversity within nine Anopheles mosquito species across the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. Molecular Ecology, 20(21): 4533-4549.    [Core funded]

Sinka, M.E., Bangs, M.J., Manguin, S., Chareonviriyaphap, T., Patil, A.P., Temperley, W.H., Gething, P.W., Elyazar, I.R.F., Kabaria, C.W., HARBACH, R.E. & Hay, S.I. 2011. Correction: The dominant Anopheles vectors of human malaria in the Asia-Pacific region: occurrence data, distribution maps and bionomic precis (vol 3, pg 72, 2010). Parasites & Vectors, 4: 210. [Core funded]

STEFKA, J., Hoeck, P.E.A., Keller, L.F. & SMITH, V.S. 2011. A hitchhikers guide to the Galapagos: co-phylogeography of Galapagos mockingbirds and their parasites. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11.    [Externally funded (Marie Curie), Core funded]

Wagele, H., Klussmann-Kolb, A., KUHLMANN, M., Haszprunar, G., Lindberg, D., Koch, A. & Wagele, J.W. 2011. The taxonomist - an endangered race. A practical proposal for its survival. Frontiers in Zoology, 8.    [Core funded]

WILLIAMS, D.J. 2011. Some words used in scale insect names (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Coccoidea). Zootaxa(3087): 66-68.     [Scientific Associate]

WILLIAMS, P.H., An, J.D. & Huang, J.X. 2011. The bumblebees of the subgenus Subterraneobombus: integrating evidence from morphology and DNA barcodes (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 163(3): 813-862.    [Core funded]

Woodcock, P., Edwards, D.P., FAYLE, T.M., Newton, R.J., Khen, C.V., Bottrell, S.H. & Hamer, K.C. 2011. The conservation value of South East Asia's highly degraded forests: evidence from leaf-litter ants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 366(1582): 3256-3264.    [Externally funded]

Zelazny, B. & WEBB, M.D. 2011. Revision of the planthopper tribe Rhotanini (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Derbidae). Zootaxa(3071): 1-+.    [Core funded]


Ferrat, M., WEISS, D.J., STREKOPYTOV, S., Dong, S.F., Chen, H.Y., NAJORKA, J., Sun, Y.B., Gupta, S., Tada, R. & Sinha, R. 2011. Improved provenance tracing of Asian dust sources using rare earth elements and selected trace elements for palaeomonsoon studies on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 75(21): 6374-6399. [Scientific Associate, Core funded]

KNIGHT, K.S., Marshall, W.G. & Zochowski, S.W. 2011. The low-temperature and high-pressure thermoelastic and structural properties of chalcopyrite, CuFeS(2). Canadian Mineralogist, 49(4): 1015-1034. [Scientific Associate]

Li, J., Li, Q.L., Gioia, R., Zhang, Y.L., Zhang, G., Li, X.D., SPIRO, B., Bhatia, R.S. & Jones, K.C. 2011. PBDEs in the atmosphere over the Asian marginal seas, and the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Atmospheric Environment, 45(37): 6622-6628.    [Scientific Associate]

SELTMANN, R., Konopelko, D., Biske, G., Divaev, F. & Sergeev, S. 2011. Hercynian post-collisional magmatism in the context of Paleozoic magmatic evolution of the Tien Shan orogenic belt. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 42(5): 821-838.    [Core funded]

WILKINSON, J.J., Crowther, H.L. & Coles, B.J. 2011. Chemical mass transfer during hydrothermal alteration of carbonates: Controls of seafloor subsidence, sedimentation and Zn-Pb mineralization in the Irish Carboniferous. Chemical Geology, 289(1-2): 55-75.     [Scientific Associate]


BARRETT, P.M., Benson, R.B.J., Rich, T.H. & Vickers-Rich, P. 2011. First spinosaurid dinosaur from Australia and the cosmopolitanism of Cretaceous dinosaur faunas. Biology Letters, 7(6): 933-936.    [Core funded]

Becking, L.E., Renema, W., SANTODOMINGO, N.K., Hoeksema, B.W., Tuti, Y. & de Voogd, N.J. 2011. Recently discovered landlocked basins in Indonesia reveal high habitat diversity in anchialine systems. Hydrobiologia, 677(1): 89-105.    [Externally funded (Marie Curie)]

BELLO, S.M., VERVENIOTOU, E., Cornish, L. & PARFITT, S.A. 2011. 3-Dimensional Microscope Analysis of Bone and Tooth Surface Modifications: Comparisons of Fossil Specimens and Replicas. Scanning, 33(5): 316-324.    [Externally funded (AHOB contract)]

Lombardi, C., Cocito, S., Gambi, M.C., Cisterna, B., Flach, F., TAYLOR, P.D., Keltie, K., Freer, A. & Cusack, M. 2011. Effects of ocean acidification on growth, organic tissue and protein profile of the Mediterranean bryozoan Myriapora truncata. Aquatic Biology, 13(3): 251-262.    [Core funded]

Morris, J.L., Edwards, D., RICHARDSON, J.B., Axe, L. & Davies, K.L. 2011. New plant taxa from the Lower Devonian (Lochkovian) of the Welsh Borderland, with a hypothesis on the relationship between hilate and trilete spore producers. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 167(1-2): 51-81.    [Scientific Associate]


Back, J., Lee, W. & HUYS, R. 2011. A new species of Remanea Klie, 1929 (Copepoda: Harpacticoida: Paramesochridae) with a redescription of the type species. Journal of Natural History, 45(47-48): 2939-2964. [Core funded]

Cunha, M.R., PATERSON, G.L.J., Amaro, T., Blackbird, S., de Stigter, H.C., Ferreira, C., GLOVER, A., Hilario, A., Kiriakoulakis, K., NEAL, L., Ravara, A., Rodrigues, C.F., Tiago, A. & Billett, D.S.M. 2011. Biodiversity of macrofaunal assemblages from three Portuguese submarine canyons (NE  Atlantic). Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography, 58(23-24): 2433-2447.    [Core funded, externally funded]

DISSANAYAKE, R. & Oshida, T. 2012. The systematics of the dusky striped squirrel, Funambulus sublineatus (Waterhouse, 1838) (Rodentia: Sciuridae) and its relationships to Layard's squirrel, Funambulus layardi Blyth, 1849. Journal of Natural History, 46(1-2): 91-116.    [?]

Fehlauer-Ale, K.H. & LITTLEWOOD, D.T.J. 2011. Molecular phylogeny of Potamotrygonocotyle (Monogenea, Monocotylidae) challenges the validity of some of its species. Zoologica Scripta, 40(6): 638-658.    [Core funded]

Green, H.K., SOUSA-FIGUEIREDO, J.C., Basanez, M.-G., Betson, M., Kabatereine, N.B., Fenwick, A. & Stothard, J.R. 2011. Anaemia in Ugandan preschool-aged children: the relative contribution of intestinal parasites and malaria. Parasitology, 138(12): 1534-1545.    [Externally funded]

Lai, J.C.Y., Mendoza, J.C.E., Guinot, D., CLARK, P.F. & Ng, P.K.L. 2011. Xanthidae MacLeay, 1838 (Decapoda: Brachyura: Xanthoidea) systematics: A multi-gene approach with support from adult and zoeal morphology. Zoologischer Anzeiger, 250(4): 407-448.    [Core funded]

LITTLEWOOD, D.T.J. 2011. Systematics as a cornerstone of parasitology: overview and preface. Parasitology, 138(13): 1633-1637.    [Core funded]

Luque, J.L., Aguiar, J.C., Vieira, F.M., GIBSON, D.I. & Santos, C.P. 2011. Checklist of Nematoda associated with the fishes of Brazil. Zootaxa(3082): 1-88.    [Scientific Associate]

Menegon, M., GOWER, D.J. & Loader, S.P. 2011. A remarkable new species of Callulina (Amphibia: Anura: Brevicipitidae) with massive, boldly coloured limb glands. Zootaxa(3095): 15-26.    [Core funded]

Miller, T.L., BRAY, R.A. & Cribb, T.H. 2011. Taxonomic approaches to and interpretation of host specificity of trematodes of fishes: lessons from the Great  Barrier Reef. Parasitology, 138(13): 1710-1722.    [Scientific Associate]

MORTON, B. 2011. The Great Barrier Reef Expedition's "Coral Corroboree", Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 10 July 1928: an historical portent. Archives of Natural History, 38(1): 88-95.    [Scientific Associate]

MORTON, B. 2011. Under mackerel skies. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62(10): 2009-2010.    [Scientific Associate]

PATERSON, G.L.J., GLOVER, A.G., Cunha, M.R., NEAL, L., de Stigter, H.C., Kiriakoulakis, K., Billett, D.S.M., Wolff, G.A., Tiago, A., Ravara, A., Lamont, P. & Tyler, P. 2011. Disturbance, productivity and diversity in deep-sea canyons: A worm's eye view. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography, 58(23-24): 2448-2460.    [Core funded, externally funded]

Quilichini, Y., Foata, J., Justine, J.L., BRAY, R.A. & Marchand, B. 2011. Spermatozoon Ultrastructure of Gyliauchen sp (Digenea: Gyliauchenidae), an Intestinal Parasite of Siganus fuscescens (Pisces: Teleostei). Biological Bulletin, 221(2): 197-205.    [Scientific Associate]

STANDLEY, C.J., Wade, C.M. & STOTHARD, J.R. 2011. A Fresh Insight into Transmission of Schistosomiasis: A Misleading Tale of Biomphalaria in Lake Victoria. PLoS ONE, 6(10).    [PhD student, Core funded]

STOTHARD, J.R., SOUSA-FIGUEIREDO, J.C., BETSON, M., GREEN, H.K., Seto, E.Y.W., Garba, A., Sacko, M., Mutapi, F., Nery, S.V., Amin, M.A., Mutumba-Nakalembe, M., Navaratnam, A., Fenwick, A., Kabatereine, N.B., Gabrielli, A.F. & Montresor, A. 2011. Closing the praziquantel treatment gap: new steps in epidemiological monitoring and control of schistosomiasis in African infants and preschool-aged children. Parasitology, 138(12): 1593-1606.    [Core funded, Externally funded, other?]

Swiderski, Z., Bakhoum, A.J.S., Montoliu, I., Feliu, C., GIBSON, D.I. & Miquel, J. 2011. Ultrastructural study of vitellogenesis in Maritrema feliui (Digenea, Microphallidae). Parasitology Research, 109(6): 1707-1714.    [Scientific Associate]

Wastling, S.L., Picozzi, K., Wamboga, C., Von Wissmann, B., Amongi-Accup, C., Wardrop, N.A., STOTHARD, J.R., Kakembo, A. & Welburn, S.C. 2011. Latent Trypanosoma brucei gambiense foci in Uganda: a silent epidemic in children and adults? Parasitology, 138(12): 1480-1487.    [Core funded]

ZAROWIECKI, M., Loaiza, J.R. & Conn, J.E. 2011. Towards a new role for vector systematics in parasite control. Parasitology, 138(13): 1723-1729.    [Externally funded]


Palaeontology Seminar


Atapuerca under the microscope: Some applications of lithic microwear, zooarchaeology, taphomony, and conservation 

Andreu Ollé, Isabel Cáceres, Palmira Saladié, Lucía López-Polín and Antonio Rodríguez


Thursday 15th December
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2 - LG16


Pal sem 1.bmp


Past human behaviour can be reconstructed from the analysis of surface damage, marks and polishes on stone tools and archaeological faunal remains. Their successful interpretation relies on two key factors: the application of appropriate microscopic techniques, and the development of consistent experiments and actualistic observations.

Here we present some methodological advances and case studies using material from Atapuerca (Spain), ranging from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. The importance of conservation and preparation techniques will also be discussed.




For additional details on attending this seminar see


Zoology Seminar


The Journey to SCAN: A Schistosomiasis Collection at NHM

Department of Zoology, NHM.


TUESDAY 13th December
Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)


A common integrative theme bringing together research, DNA storage and collections management runs through a number of ongoing Biomedical Parasitology group activities.  Much of this is represented in the SCAN project which aims to develop a research repository at NHM using existing and new collections of schistosomiasis-related specimens.  The journey towards SCAN has passed through a number of steps and side-projects which will be reviewed, including:


  • Developments in ambient DNA sampling and storage;
  • DNA sampling trials from chemically-fixed museum specimens;
  • Consolidating decades of research specimens;
  • New data collection methods;
  • Working with the new molecular collections facility to develop a biorepository infrastructure.




For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


Opening a can of worms from the Cambrian sea


Dr. Xiaoya Ma,

Department of Palaeontology, NHM



THURSDAY 8th December
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2 LG16)

16:00 - 17:00


The Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte (~525 Ma) in southwest China is one of the oldest fossil assemblages in the world and yields a great diversity of exceptionally preserved soft-bodied fossils, including many worms or worm-like animals preserved in exquisite detail. This biota provides a unique window into the origin and early evolution of different vermiform phyla, which is significant for our understanding of deep phylogeny. This talk briefly reviews research progress on Chengjiang vermiform animals and then introduces some of my research work on different vermiform groups. Lobopodians are a group of worms with legs, which are suggested to have a close affinity with the origin of arthropods. With newly collected material, we re-described Paucipodia, Luolishania and Diania to provide more accurate morphological information for phylogenetic analysis. Priapulida is a small phylum today, but much more abundant in Cambrian seas. A new priapulid species was discovered recently and its exquisitely preserved morphological details allow direct comparison with extant taxa. Evidence indicates that this animal already developed a double-anchor locomotion strategy. Three new worm species may represent new vermiform phyla found in the Chengjiang Lagerstätte, and their functional morphology indicates a possible parasitic lifestyle.





For additional details on attending this seminar see