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AMNH scientists grace Science & Nature covers
Date:4/10/2008

In an unusual confluence of events, two comprehensive, collaborative projects that include the work of two different curators from the American Museum of Natural History will grace the covers of the journals Science and Nature this week. For the paper in Science, herpetologist and Associate Dean of Science Christopher Raxworthy and colleagues analyzed thousands of species, rather than the more typical few keystone species, to determine a conservation plan for a tropical hotspot, a biologically rich but threatened region. The research by Ward Wheeler, Curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, also drew from analysis of many taxa: by comparing at the genetic level 77 animals from 21 different phyla, he and his colleagues have redrawn the phylogenetic tree of multicellular animals.

A new way to conserve the diverse and unique animals and plants in Madagascar was the goal of Raxworthys contribution to Science. Madagascar is a global hotspot, with many unique species, and this tropical nationan island the size of Californiahas committed to expanding its protected areas to cover 10 percent of the land. The study looked at over 2,300 species and, after finding little correlation between the distribution of ants, frogs, geckos, butterflies, plants, and other groups, used new computer methods to map the regions of the country that could efficiently harbor healthy populations of all species. A bonus was that the new multispecies approach identified regions that have been ignored to date, such as the less glamorous shoreline forests and some neglected mountains. By analyzing multiple species, we came up with conservation recommendations that are more robust for biodiversity as a whole, and expect that by tweaking and expanding the existing reserve network, we will have a much more efficient system, explains Raxworthy. Hopefully this study will encourage other tropical countries to try similar approaches that pool data to develop more effective conservation
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Contact: Kristin Phillips
kphilips@amnh.oeg
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert

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