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Survey of bioluminescent organisms from the Ecological Station of Juréia-Itatins: biodiversity, molecular evolution, and environmental bioindicator

Abstract

Brazil is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and the Atlantic Forest is a refuge and cradle for several species. The Juréia-Itatins Ecological Station (EEJI) displays one of the few remaining forest continuums of this highly threatened formation in the São Paulo state. In addition, the EEJI encompasses different habitats, from rocky shores, beaches, and mangroves to important state river basins, clearly demonstrating its relevance for conservation. Therefore, the survey of the local biodiversity and the understanding of the evolutionary and ecological relationships of the species that occur in the EEJI are fundamental for the adequate maintenance of the unit, its conservation, and the sustainable use of its natural resources. Despite being recognized as one of the main biodiversity hotspots, the Atlantic Forest has still been poorly explored among terrestrial, freshwater, brackish, and mangrove bioluminescent species. Bioluminescence, the emission of cold visible light by living organisms, is one of the most intriguing biological phenomena known. It results from biochemical processes observed in several taxa, from bacteria to vertebrates, and has important biological roles for them, such as defense, prey attraction, and intra- and interspecific communication. Thus, this proposal with an interdisciplinary focus aims to survey the biodiversity of terrestrial and aquatic bioluminescent organisms within the limits of the EEJI and to perform phylogenetic and demographic studies on Diptera and Coleoptera. To do so, collections and field observations will be conducted, as well as the use of molecular biology techniques and phylogenetic and demographic analyses. It is expected, with this proposal, to assist the conservation and management plans of the EEJI, as well as to understand better our bioluminescent fauna, and its potential use as environmental bioindicators. (AU)

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