Monthly Archives: April 2011

Field guide to Amazonian Zingiberales

Off topic, but perhaps worth mentioning as a good example of a plant guide, especially useful for those visiting Amazonia.


Costa et al. (2011) produced an overview of all families and species of the Zingiberales group, occurring in the northwestern part of Amazonia. A well illustrated guide, with identification keys and background information on the biology and phylogenetic relationships of the genera treated. The publication is bi-lingual, both in Portuguese and English, and is available as PDF here:

Costa, F.R.C., Espinelli, F.P., Figueiredo, F.O.G., 2011. Guia de zingiberales dos sitios PPBio na Amaz??nia Ocidental brasileira. ??ttema Design Editorial, Manaus: 1-284.

Citizen science reveals evolution on a continental scale

Yesterday the results were published of the Evolution MegaLab Project. I reported before on this large scale project (, involving the participation of citizens throughout Europe. The study was focussed on Cepaea nemoralis, a common land snail found in gardens and other public areas.


The abstract of the paper is:
Organisms provide some of the most sensitive indicators of climate change and evolutionary responses are becoming apparent in species with short generation times. Large datasets on genetic polymorphism that can provide an historical benchmark against which to test for recent evolutionary responses are very rare, but an exception is found in the brown-lipped banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis). This species is sensitive to its thermal environment and exhibits several polymorphisms of shell colour and banding pattern affecting shell albedo in the majority of populations within its native range in Europe. We tested for evolutionary changes in shell albedo that might have been driven by the warming of the climate in Europe over the last half century by compiling an historical dataset for 6,515 native populations of C. nemoralis and comparing this with new data on nearly 3,000 populations. The new data were sampled mainly in 2009 through the Evolution MegaLab, a citizen science project that engaged thousands of volunteers in 15 countries throughout Europe in the biggest such exercise ever undertaken. A known geographic cline in the frequency of the colour phenotype with the highest albedo (yellow) was shown to have persisted and a difference in colour frequency between woodland and more open habitats was confirmed, but there was no general increase in the frequency of yellow shells. This may have been because snails adapted to a warming climate through behavioural thermoregulation. By contrast, we detected an unexpected decrease in the frequency of Unbanded shells and an increase in the Mid-banded morph. Neither of these evolutionary changes appears to be a direct response to climate change, indicating that the influence of other selective agents, possibly related to changing predation pressure and habitat change with effects on micro-climate.

The project was an experiment in involving thousands of amateur malacologists and ordinary citizens. It shows that they can contribute to science, in this case by providing data on snails that live in their own ‘back garden’. However, it must be noted that the results could not have been obtained without the historical datasets available in museum collections.

Silvertown, J., Cook, L., Cameron, R., Dood, M., McConway, K., et al., 2011. Citizen science reveals unexpected continental-scale evolutionary change in a model organism. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18. The paper may be found here:

Live Science

Is it an experiment? Yes, it is!


Today was the official opening of the Live Science Project in Naturalis museum. One of the exhibition halls has been transformed to a place where the next two years a team from our Collection Department will work on the integration of the Mollusca collections of the (former) Zoological Museum Amsterdam and the (former) Naturalis, now NCB Naturalis. A job of handling 800.000 lots, transferring them from two different, incompatible cabinet systems into one new system; in doing so, each lot will be registered and digitally photographed.


Visitors of the museum will be able to see the team working, looking over their shoulders via a real-time video system. Also, they will be able to decipher labels and give their interpretation as input via iPads.


It will transmit the impression of scientists at work, although it actually only is the preemptive stage of the ‘real’ scientific work. But that’s part of the experiment of course…

Venezuelan Guayana Plekocheilus: SEM (1)

For a review of the malacofauna from the tepuis in Southern Venezuela and the adjacent area in Brazil, I recently made a series of Scanning Electron Microscope photographs. As not all pictures will make it to the publication – being slight variations on the same theme – I choose to make the photographs available here.

Today, pictures of Plekocheilus (Eurytus) huberi Breure, 2009 of respectively the mandibula, the central area of the radula, the marginal area and an overview to show the shape of the transverse rows.