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Data that accurately capture the spatial structure of biodiversity are required for many paleobiological questions, from assessments of changing provinciality and the role of geographic ranges in extinction and originations, to estimates of global taxonomic or morphological diversity through time. Studies of temporal changes in diversity and global biogeographic patterns have attempted to overcome fossil sampling biases through sampling standardization protocols, but such approaches must ultimately be limited by available literature and museum collections. One approach to evaluating such limits is to compare results from the fossil record with models of past diversity patterns informed by modern relationships between diversity and climatic factors. Here we use present-day patterns for marine bivalves, combined with data on the geologic ages and distributions of extant taxa, to develop a model for Pliocene diversity patterns, which is then compared with diversity patterns retrieved from the literature as compiled by the Paleobiology Database (PaleoDB). The published Pliocene bivalve data (PaleoDB) lack the first-order spatial structure required to generate the modern biogeography within the time available (<3 Myr). Instead, the published data (raw and standardized) show global diversity maxima in the Tropical West Atlantic, followed closely by a peak in the cool-temperate East Atlantic. Either today's tropical West Pacific diversity peak, double that of any other tropical region, is a purely Pleistocene phenomenon—highly unlikely given the geologic ages of extant genera and the topology of molecular phylogenies—or the paleontological literature is such a distorted sample of tropical Pliocene diversity that current sampling standardization methods cannot compensate for existing biases. A rigorous understanding of large-scale spatial and temporal diversity patterns will require new approaches that can compensate for such strong bias, presumably by drawing more fully on our understanding of the factors that underlie the deployment of diversity today.
The solar activity cycle entered a prolonged quiet phase that started in 2008 and ended in 2010. This minimum lasted for a year longer than expected and all activity proxies, as measured from Earth and from Space, reached minimum values never observed before (de Toma, 2012). The number of spotless days from 2006 to 2009 totals 800, the largest ever recorded in modern times. Solar irradiance was at historic minimums. The interplanetary magnetic field was measured at values as low as 2.9 nT and the cosmic rays were observed at records-high. While rumors spread that the Sun could be entering a grand minimum quiet phase (such as the Maunder minimum of the XVII century), activity took over in 2010 and we are now well into Solar Cycle 24 (albeit, probably, a low intensity cycle), approaching towards a maximum due by mid 2013. In addition to bringing us the possibility to observe a quiet state of the Sun and of the Heliosphere that was previously not recorded with modern instruments, the Sun has also shown us how little we know about the dynamo mechanism that drives its activity as all solar cycle predictions failed to see this extended minimum coming.
Solar energy is abundant and offers significant potential for near-term (2020) and long-term (2050) climate change mitigation. There are a wide variety of solar technologies of varying maturities that can, in most regions of the world, contribute to a suite of energy services. Even though solar energy generation still only represents a small fraction of total energy consumption, markets for solar technologies are growing rapidly. Much of the desirability of solar technology is its inherently smaller environmental burden and the opportunity it offers for positive social impacts. The cost of solar technologies has been reduced significantly over the past 30 years and technical advances and supportive public policies continue to offer the potential for additional cost reductions. Potential deployment scenarios range widely—from a marginal role of direct solar energy in 2050 to one of the major sources of energy supply. The actual deployment achieved will depend on the degree of continued innovation, cost reductions and supportive public policies.
Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources. Indeed, the rate at which solar energy is intercepted by the Earth is about 10,000 times greater than the rate at which humankind consumes energy. Although not all countries are equally endowed with solar energy, a significant contribution to the energy mix from direct solar energy is possible for almost every country. Currently, there is no evidence indicating a substantial impact of climate change on regional solar resources.
This report is on activities of the Division at the General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro. Summaries of scientific activities over the past triennium have been published in Transactions A, see Melrose et al. (2008), Klimchuk et al. (2008), Martinez Pillet et al. (2008) and Bougeret et al. (2008). The business meeting of the three Commissions were incorporated into the business meeting of the Division. This report is based in part on minutes of the business meeting, provided by the Secretary of the Division, Lidia van Driel-Gesztelyi, and it also includes reports provided by the Presidents of the Commissions (C10, C12, C49) and of the Working Groups (WGs) in the Division.
Division II of the IAU provides a forum for astronomers and astrophysicists studying a wide range of phenomena related to the structure, radiation and activity of the Sun, and its interaction with the Earth and the rest of the solar system. Division II encompasses three Commissions, 10, 12 and 49, and four Working Groups.
Physical environmental factors have been seen as paramount in determining many large-scale biodistributional patterns in time and space. Although this is probably correct for many situations, this view has become so pervasive that it has led to the neglect of the role of biotic interactions in setting large-scale diversity patterns. (In this paper diversity denotes taxonomic richness.) New approaches to this perennial debate on the roles of physical and biotic forces in paleoecology and macroevolution are needed, and here we explore an argument for the role of incumbency or priority effects in the dynamics behind the most dramatic spatial pattern in biodiversity, the latitudinal diversity gradient.
Division II provides a forum for astronomers studying a wide range of problems related to the structure, radiation and activity of the Sun, and its interaction with the Earth and the rest of the solar system.
Division II of the IAU provides a forum for astronomers studying a wide range of phenomena related to the structure, radiation and activity of the Sun, and its interaction with the Earth and the rest of the solar system. Division II encompasses three Commissions, 10, 12 and 49, and four working groups. During the last triennia the activities of the division involved some reorganization of the division and its working groups, developing new procedures for election of division and commission officers, promoting annual meetings from within the division and evaluating all the proposed meetings, evaluating the division's representatives for the IAU to international scientific organizations, and participating in general IAU business.
The Late Neoproterozoic or Ediacaran biota contains a variety of enigmatic fossils of uncertain, but likely metazoan, affinities. The protistan group Choanoflagellata and Metazoa share a common ancestor predating the first fossils by perhaps 100's of millions of years. Sponge choanocytes closely resemble choanoflagellates, establishing a morphologic similarity as well. Fossils in the late Neoproterozoic may represent stem or early groups of cnidarians, while others resemble eumetazoans and bilaterians. These organisms occurred on all continents except Antarctica, and occupied four major habitats from prodeltaic to deep slope environments in each area. Their paleoecology was complex but similar to modern soft-bodied slope organisms. Ediacaran trophic structures were complex as well and included a wide variety of feeding types from detritovores, herbivores on microbial mats, filter-feeders, and predators. Ediacaran assemblages thus constitute the evolutionary and ecological precursors of later Phanerozoic and modern biotas.
While early eukaryotic life must have been unicellular, multicellular lifeforms evolved multiple times from protistan ancestors in diverse eukaryotic lineages. The origins of multicellularity are of special interest because they require evolutionary transitions towards increased levels of complexity. We have generated new sequence data from the nuclear large subunit ribosomal DNA gene (LSU rDNA) and the SSU rDNA gene of several unicellular opisthokont protists – a nucleariid amoeba (Nuclearia simplex) and four choanoflagellates (Codosiga gracilis, Choanoeca perplexa, Proterospongia choanojuncta and Stephanoeca diplocostata) to provide the basis for re-examining relationships among several unicellular lineages and their multicellular relatives (animals and fungi). Our data indicate that: (1) choanoflagellates are a monophyletic rather than a paraphyletic assemblage that independently gave rise to animals and fungi as suggested by some authors and (2) the nucleariid filose amoebae are the likely sister group to Fungi. We also review published information regarding the origin of multicellularity in the opisthokonts.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, a professionally disparate group of biologists forged an evolutionary synthesis that placed natural selection at the center of the changes in genes and in morphology that have produced the diversity of organisms in the biosphere. The chief architects of this famous synthesis included population geneticists, zoologists, botanists, and paleontologists, but not developmental biologists. Among the tenets of the synthesis was the finding that evolution generally proceeded in populations by selection from among a variety of alleles of structural genes that were provided by various forms of mutation, and which had small but cumulative effects. Some workers concluded that even the evolution of major novelties, such as the distinctive body-plans of different animal phyla, could be produced by the accumulation of such small changes in gene products. Whether the high rates of morphological change inferred from the fossil record could have actually been achieved by these processes alone was not clear.
The study of biodiversity can be divided into two major aspects. One aspect is concerned with the numbers of species, genera, families, or other taxonomic units that are present within a given group of organisms, or a given region, or during a given period of time. This measure of diversity is termed richness. Richness may be represented at any geographic scale: local, such as the number of species in your backyard; regional, such as the number of species found in California; or global, such as the number of species in the entire world at present. Preservation of species richness in the present biosphere is clearly a matter of great social and scientific concern. Each species has a unique genetic makeup, and a distinctive place within an ecosystem. If a species is lost, the unique genes are also lost, and the effects on the ecosystem can be destabilizing, affecting the well-being of still other species.
It is difficult to assign the animal-like body fossils of the late Neoproterozoic to crown metazoan phyla. Many Neoproterozoic fossils appear to share an architectural theme, which was characterized by Seilacher (1984, 1989) as modular; he noted that the modules, named pneus, could be arranged in a series of distinctive geometries to produce many of the Neoproterozoic fossil morphologies. The assemblages of pneus formed “quilted” constructions. Seilacher further suggested that these fossils might represent a multicellular clade that evolved independently of Metazoa–in effect, that they represented a kingdom of their own, which he named the Vendozoa. In later contributions, Seilacher (1992) renamed putatively quilted forms as the Vendobionta, and Buss and Seilacher (1994) considered Vendobionta to be a possible sister to Eumetazoa. The affinities suggested for vendobionts by various workers form a long list, ranging from protistans through fungi to several animal groups. Many vendobionts appear to be at the tissue grade of construction, and in this respect resemble cnidarians, to which they are most often compared. Neoproterozoic fossil assemblages also contain numbers of forms that are unlikely to be vendobionts, including a variety of “medusoids,” tentaculate fossils such as Hiemolora and Ediacaria (see Fedonkin 1992) that somewhat resemble sea anemones and may well be stem anthozoans. Additionally, numbers of Neoproterozoic forms have been suggested to be bilaterians, most notably the sluglike Kimberella (Fedonkin and Waggoner 1997). The contents and morphological limits of Vendobionta, and of some other higher taxa proposed for Neoproterozoic forms, are uncertain.
Morphologically complex metazoans appear abruptly during the Cambrian explosion. Suggested measures of metazoan complexity include number of cell morphotypes and aspects of the genome such as the amount of DNA, the number of genes, and the information content of the genome or egg. Estimates of gene numbers are now available for metazoan species belonging to five different phyla or subphyla. There is little correlation between gene number and morphological complexity in the invertebrates: relatively complex forms can have fewer genes than relatively simple forms. Presumably, the more complex forms use more gene-expression events during development, implying that, on average, cis-regulatory elements of more complex invertebrates are richer in binding sites than are those of simpler forms. Vertebrates have many more genes than invertebrates and therefore have more total gene-expression events during development, although they may have, on average, fewer expression events per gene than the invertebrates. There are thus two genomic pathways in the evolution of metazoan complexity: one involves increasing the number of genes, the other involves increasing the number of cis-regulatory binding sites. Both modes were associated with the origin of bodyplans that first appear as fossils during the Cambrian explosion.