New papers from NiB contributors

White sands, New Mexico

White gypsum sands: officially an ecological opportunity

Evidently they’re not willing to toot their own horns, so I’ll do it on their behalf: Two of our contributors, Simone Des Roches and Chris Smith, have brand-new publications in print, and both papers are open access, available to anyone who wants to take a look.

Simone’s paper makes the case that the gypsum sands of White Sands, New Mexico, create an “ecological release” for lizards living there, since reduced predator density and diversity on the white dunes lets the lizards use a wider range of habitat types, and achieve higher population density.

First, we provide evidence for ecological opportunity by demonstrating reduced species richness and abundance of potential competitors and predators at White Sands relative to nearby dark soils habitats. Second, we characterize ecological release at White Sands by demonstrating density compensation in the three White Sands lizard species and expanded resource use in White Sands Sceloporus undulatus.

Chris’s paper tests the hypothesis that Joshua trees have expanded their range northward since the last glacial maximum, drawing together many different data sets to find the same signal of population expansion.

Using a database of >5000 GPS records for Joshua trees, and multi-locus DNA sequence data from the Joshua tree and four species of yucca moth, we combined paleaodistribution modeling with coalescent-based analyses of demographic and phylgeographic history. We extensively evaluated the power of our methods to infer past population size and distributional changes by evaluating the effect of different inference procedures on our results, comparing our palaeodistribution models to Pleistocene-aged packrat midden records, and simulating DNA sequence data under a variety of alternative demographic histories.