BMC Evolutionary Biology

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November 26, 2014

05:00
Background: Insect compound eyes are composed of ommatidia, which contain photoreceptor cells that are sensitive to different wavelengths of light defined by the specific rhodopsin proteins that they express. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has several different ommatidium types that can be localised to specific retinal regions, such as the dorsal rim area (DRA), or distributed stochastically in a mosaic across the retina, like the `pale? and `yellow? types. Variation in these ommatidia patterns very likely has important implications for the vision of insects and could underlie behavioural and environmental adaptations. However, despite the detailed understanding of ommatidia specification in D. melanogaster, the extent to which the frequency and distribution of the different ommatidium types vary between sexes, strains and species of Drosophila is not known. Results: We investigated the frequency and distribution of ommatidium types based on rhodopsin protein expression, and the expression levels of rhodopsin transcripts in the eyes of both sexes of different strains of D. melanogaster, D. simulans and D. mauritiana. We found that while the number of DRA ommatidia was invariant, Rh3 expressing ommatidia were more frequent in the larger eyes of females compared to the males of all species analysed. The frequency and distribution of ommatidium types also differed between strains and species. The D. simulans strain ZOM4 has the highest frequency of Rh3 expressing ommatidia, which is associated with a non-stochastic patch of pale and odd-coupled ommatidia in the dorsal-posterior of their eyes. Conclusions: Our results show that there is striking variation in the frequency and distribution of ommatidium types between sexes, strains and species of Drosophila. This suggests that evolutionary changes in the underlying regulatory mechanisms can alter the distribution of ommatidium types to promote or restrict their expression in specific regions of the eye within and between species, and that this could cause differences in vision among these flies.

November 25, 2014

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Background: The poly(A)-binding protein (PABP) binds the poly(A) tail of eukaryotic mRNAs and functions to maintain the integrity of the mRNA while promoting protein synthesis through its interaction with eukaryotic translation initiation factor (eIF) 4G and eIF4B. PABP is encoded by a single gene in yeast and marine algae but during plant evolution the PABP gene family expanded substantially, underwent sequence divergence into three subclasses, and acquired tissue-specificity in gene family member expression. Although such changes suggest functional specialization, the size of the family and its sequence divergence have complicated an understanding of which gene family members may be foundational and which may represent more recent expansions of the family to meet the specific needs of speciation. Here, we examine the evolution of the plant PABP gene family to provide insight into these aspects of the family that may yield clues into the function of individual family members. Results: The PABP gene family had expanded to two members by the appearance of fresh water algae and four members in non-vascular plants. In lycophytes, the first sequence divergence yielding a specific class member occurs. The earliest members of the gene family share greatest similarity to those modern members whose expression is confined to reproductive tissues, suggesting that supporting reproductive-associated gene expression is the most conserved function of this family. A family member sharing similarity to modern vegetative-associated members first appears in gymnosperms. Further elaboration of the reproductive-associated and vegetative-associated members occurred during the evolution of flowering plants. Conclusions: Expansion of the plant PABP gene family began prior to the colonization of land. By the evolution of lycophytes, the first class member whose expression is confined to reproductive tissues in higher plants had appeared. A second class member whose expression is vegetative-associated appeared in gymnosperms and all three modern classes had fully evolved by the appearance of the first known basal angiosperm. The size of each PABP class underwent further expansion during subsequent evolution, especially in the Brassicaceae, suggesting that the family is undergoing dynamic evolution.
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Background: RNA or RNA-like polymers are the most likely candidates for having played the lead roles on the stage of the origin of life. RNA is known to feature two of the three essential functions of living entities (metabolism, heredity and membrane): it is capable of unlimited heredity and it has a proven capacity for catalysing very different chemical reactions which may form simple metabolic networks. The Metabolically Coupled Replicator System is a class of simulation models built on these two functions to show that an RNA World scenario for the origin of life is ecologically feasible, provided that it is played on mineral surfaces. The fact that RNA templates and their copies are of complementary base sequences has an obvious dynamical relevance: complementary strains may have very different structures and, consequently, functions ? one may specialize for increasing enzymatic activity while the other takes the role of the gene of the enzyme. Results: Incorporating the functional divergence of template and copy into the Metabolically Coupled Replicator System model framework we show that sequence complementarity 1) does not ruin the coexistence of a set of metabolically cooperating replicators; 2) the replicator system remains resistant to, but also tolerant with its parasites; 3) opens the way to the evolutionary differentiation of phenotype and genotype through a primitive version of phenotype amplification. Conclusions: The functional asymmetry of complementary RNA strains results in a shift of phenotype/genotype (enzyme/gene) proportions in MCRS, favouring a slight genotype dominance. This asymmetry is expected to reverse due to the evolved trade-off of high ?gene? replicability and high catalytic activity of the corresponding ?enzyme? in expense of its replicability. This trade-off is the first evolutionary step towards the ?division of labour? among enzymes and genes, which has concluded in the extreme form of phenotype amplification characteristic of our recent DNA-RNA-protein World.
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Background: Satellite DNA can make up a substantial fraction of eukaryotic genomes and has roles in genome structure and chromosome segregation. The rapid evolution of satellite DNA can contribute to genomic instability and genetic incompatibilities between species. Despite its ubiquity and its contribution to genome evolution, we currently know little about the dynamics of satellite DNA evolution. The Responder (Rsp) satellite DNA family is found in the pericentric heterochromatin of chromosome 2 of Drosophila melanogaster. Rsp is well-known for being the target of Segregation Distorter (SD)? an autosomal meiotic drive system in D. melanogaster. I present an evolutionary genetic analysis of the Rsp family of repeats in D. melanogaster and its closely-related species in the melanogaster group (D. simulans, D. sechellia, D. mauritiana, D. erecta, and D. yakuba) using a combination of available BAC sequences, whole genome shotgun Sanger reads, Illumina short read deep sequencing, and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Results: I show that Rsp repeats have euchromatic locations throughout the D. melanogaster genome, that Rsp arrays show evidence for concerted evolution, and that Rsp repeats exist outside of D. melanogaster, in the melanogaster group. The repeats in these species are considerably diverged at the sequence level compared to D. melanogaster, and have a strikingly different genomic distribution, even between closely-related sister taxa. Conclusions: The genomic organization of the Rsp repeat in the D. melanogaster genome is complex?it exists of large blocks of tandem repeats in the heterochromatin and small blocks of tandem repeats in the euchromatin. My discovery of heterochromatic Rsp-like sequences outside of D. melanogaster suggests that SD evolved after its target satellite and that the evolution of the Rsp satellite family is highly dynamic over a short evolutionary time scale (
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Background: Calcium carbonate biominerals form often complex and beautiful skeletal elements, including coral exoskeletons and mollusc shells. Although the ability to generate these carbonate structures was apparently gained independently during animal evolution, it sometimes involves the same gene families. One of the best-studied of these gene families comprises the ?- carbonic anhydrases (CAs), which catalyse the reversible transformation of CO2 to HCO3 ? and fulfill many physiological functions. Among Porifera ?the oldest animal phylum with the ability to produce skeletal elements? only the class of calcareous sponges can build calcitic spicules, which are the extracellular products of specialized cells, the sclerocytes. Little is known about the molecular mechanisms of their synthesis, but inhibition studies suggest an essential role of CAs. In order to gain insight into the evolution and function of CAs in biomineralization of a basal metazoan species, we determined the diversity and expression of CAs in the calcareous sponges Sycon ciliatum and Leucosolenia complicata by means of genomic screening, RNA-Seq and RNA in situ hybridization expression analysis. Active biomineralization was located with calcein-staining. Results: We found that the CA repertoires of two calcareous sponge species are strikingly more complex than those of other sponges. By characterizing their expression patterns, we could link two CAs (one intracellular and one extracellular) to the process of calcite spicule formation in both studied species. The extracellular biomineralizing CAs seem to be of paralogous origin, a finding that advises caution against assuming functional conservation of biomineralizing genes based upon orthology assessment alone. Additionally, calcareous sponges possess acatalytic CAs related to human CAs X and XI, suggesting an ancient origin of these proteins. Phylogenetic analyses including CAs from genomes of all non-bilaterian phyla suggest multiple gene losses and duplications and presence of several CAs in the last common ancestor of metazoans. Conclusions: We identified two key biomineralization enzymes from the CA-family in calcareous sponges and propose their possible interaction in spicule formation. The complex evolutionary history of the CA family is driven by frequent gene diversification and losses. These evolutionary patterns likely facilitated the numerous events of independent recruitment of CAs into biomineralization within Metazoa.

November 19, 2014

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Background: Despite the common assumption that multiple mating should in general be favored in males, but not in females, to date there is no consensus on the general impact of multiple mating on female fitness. Notably, very little is known about the genetic and physiological features underlying the female response to sexual selection pressures. By combining an experimental evolution approach with genomic techniques, we investigated the effects of single and multiple matings on female fecundity and gene expression. We experimentally manipulated the opportunity for mating in replicate populations of Drosophila melanogaster by removing components of sexual selection, with the aim of testing differences in short term post-mating effects of females evolved under different mating strategies. Results: We show that monogamous females suffer decreased fecundity, a decrease that was partially recovered by experimentally reversing the selection pressure back to the ancestral state. The post-mating gene expression profiles of monogamous females differ significantly from promiscuous females, involving 9% of the genes tested (approximately 6% of total genes in D. melanogaster). These transcripts are active in several tissues, mainly ovaries, neural tissues and midgut, and are involved in metabolic processes, reproduction and signaling pathways. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate how the female post-mating response can evolve under different mating systems, and provide novel insights into the genes targeted by sexual selection in females, by identifying a list of candidate genes responsible for the decrease in female fecundity in the absence of promiscuity.
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Background: Mitochondria are ubiquitous membranous organelles of eukaryotic cells that evolved from an alpha-proteobacterial endosymbiont and possess a small genome that encompasses from 3 to 106 genes. Accumulation of thousands of mitochondrial genomes from diverse groups of eukaryotes provides an opportunity for a comprehensive reconstruction of the evolution of the mitochondrial gene repertoire. Results: Clusters of orthologous mitochondrial protein-coding genes (MitoCOGs) were constructed from all available mitochondrial genomes and complemented with nuclear orthologs of mitochondrial genes. With minimal exceptions, the mitochondrial gene complements of eukaryotes are subsets of the superset of 66 genes found in jakobids. Reconstruction of the evolution of mitochondrial genomes indicates that the mitochondrial gene set of the last common ancestor of the extant eukaryotes was slightly larger than that of jakobids. This superset of mitochondrial genes likely represents an intermediate stage following the loss and transfer to the nucleus of most of the endosymbiont genes early in eukaryote evolution. Subsequent evolution in different lineages involved largely parallel transfer of ancestral endosymbiont genes to the nuclear genome. The intron density in nuclear orthologs of mitochondrial genes typically is nearly the same as in the rest of the genes in the respective genomes. However, in land plants, the intron density in nuclear orthologs of mitochondrial genes is almost 1.5-fold lower than the genomic mean, suggestive of ongoing transfer of functional genes from mitochondria to the nucleus. Conclusions: The MitoCOGs are expected to become an important resource for the study of mitochondrial evolution. The nearly complete superset of mitochondrial genes in jakobids likely represents an intermediate stage in the evolution of eukaryotes after the initial, extensive loss and transfer of the endosymbiont genes. In addition, the bacterial multi-subunit RNA polymerase that is encoded in the jakobid mitochondrial genomes was replaced by a single-subunit phage-type RNA polymerase in the rest of the eukaryotes. These results are best compatible with the rooting of the eukaryotic tree between jakobids and the rest of the eukaryotes. The land plants are the only eukaryotic branch in which the gene transfer from the mitochondrial to the nuclear genome appears to be an active, ongoing process.
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Background: Mitochondrial DNA markers have long been used to identify population boundaries and are now a standard tool in conservation biology. In elasmobranchs, evolutionary rates of mitochondrial genes are low and variation between distinct populations can be hard to detect with commonly used control region sequencing or other single gene approaches. In this study we sequenced the whole mitogenome of 93 Critically Endangered Speartooth Shark Glyphis glyphis from the last three river drainages they inhabit in northern Australia. Results: Genetic diversity was extremely low (π =0.00019) but sufficient to demonstrate the existence of barriers to gene flow among river drainages (AMOVA Φ ST =0.28283, P

November 18, 2014

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Background: Some clover species, particularly Trifolium subterraneum, have previously been reported to have highly unusual plastomes, relative to closely related legumes, enlarged with many duplications, gene losses and the presence of DNA unique to Trifolium, which may represent horizontal transfer. In order to pinpoint the evolutionary origin of this phenomenon within the genus Trifolium, we sequenced and assembled the plastomes of eight additional Trifolium species widely sampled from across the genus. Results: The Trifolium plastomes fell into two groups: those of Trifolium boissieri, T. strictum and T. glanduliferum (representing subgenus Chronosemium and subg. Trifolium section Paramesus) were tractable, assembled readily and were not unusual in the general context of Fabeae plastomes. The other Trifolium species (“core Trifolium”) proved refractory to assembly mainly because of numerous short duplications. These species form a single clade, which we call the “refractory clade” (comprising subg, Trifolium sections Lupinaster, Trifolium, Trichocephalum, Vesicastrum and Trifoliastrum). The characteristics of the refractory clade are the presence of numerous short duplications and 7-15% longer genomes than the tractable species. Molecular dating estimates that the origin of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of the refractory clade is approximately 13.1 million years ago (MYA). This is considerably younger than the estimated MRCA ages of Trifolium (c. 18.6 MYA) and Trifolium subg. Trifolium (16.1 MYA). Conclusions: We conclude that the unusual repetitive plastome type previously characterized in Trifolium subterraneum had a single origin within Trifolium and is characteristic of most (but not all) species of subgenus Trifolium. It appears that an ancestral plastome within Trifolium underwent an evolutionary change resulting in plastomes that either actively promoted, were permissive to, or were unable to control, duplications within the genome. The precise mechanism of this important change in the mode and tempo of plastome evolution deserves further investigation.

November 14, 2014

17:00
Background: Hybridization provides a unique perspective into the ecological, genetic and behavioral context of speciation. Hybridization is common in birds, but has not yet been reported among bird species with a simultaneously polyandrous mating system; a mating system where a single female defends a harem of males who provide nearly all parental care. Unlike simple polyandry, polyandrous mating is extremely rare in birds, with only 1% of bird species employing this mating system. Although it is classically held that females are “choosy” in avian hybrid systems, nearly-exclusive male parental care raises the possibility that female selection against heterospecific matings might be reduced compared to birds with other mating systems. Results: We describe a narrow hybrid zone in southwestern Panama between two polyandrous freshwater waders: Northern Jacana, Jacana spinosa and Wattled Jacana, J. jacana. We document coincident cline centers for three phenotypic traits, mtDNA, and one of two autosomal introns. Cline widths for these six markers varied from seven to 142 km, with mtDNA being the narrowest, and five of the six markers having widths less than 100 km. Cline tails were asymmetrical, with greater introgression of J. jacana traits extending westward into the range of J. spinosa. Likewise, within the hybrid zone, the average hybrid index of phenotypic hybrids was significantly biased towards J. spinosa. Species distribution models indicate that the hybrid zone is located at the edge of a roughly 100 km wide overlap where habitat is predicted to be suitable for both species, with more westerly areas suitable only for spinosa and eastward habitats suitable only for J. jacana. Conclusion: The two species of New World jacanas maintain a narrow, and persistent hybrid zone in western Panama. The hybrid zone may be maintained by the behavioral dominance of J. spinosa counterbalanced by unsuitable habitat for J. spinosa east of the contact zone. Although the two parental species are relatively young, mitochondrial cline width was extremely narrow. This result suggests strong selection against maternally-inherited markers, which may indicate either mitonuclear incompatibilities and/or female choice against heterospecific matings typical of avian hybrid systems, despite jacana sex role reversal.

October 31, 2014

18:00
Background: African wildlife experienced a reduction in population size and geographical distribution over the last millennium, particularly since the 19th century as a result of human demographic expansion, wildlife overexploitation, habitat degradation and cattle-borne diseases. In many areas, ungulate populations are now largely confined within a network of loosely connected protected areas. These metapopulations face gene flow restriction and run the risk of genetic diversity erosion. In this context, we assessed the “genetic health” of free ranging southern African Cape buffalo populations (S.c. caffer) and investigated the origins of their current genetic structure. The analyses were based on 264 samples from 6 southern African countries that were genotyped for 14 autosomal and 3 Y-chromosomal microsatellites. Results: The analyses differentiated three significant genetic clusters, hereafter referred to as Northern (N), Central (C) and Southern (S) clusters. The results suggest that splitting of the N and C clusters occurred around 6000 to 8400 years ago. Both N and C clusters displayed high genetic diversity (mean allelic richness (A r ) of 7.217, average genetic diversity over loci of 0.594, mean private alleles (P a ) of 11), low differentiation, and an absence of an inbreeding depression signal (mean F IS = 0.037). The third (S) cluster, a tiny population enclosed within a small isolated protected area, likely originated from a more recent isolation and experienced genetic drift (F IS = 0.062, mean A r = 6.160, P a = 2). This study also highlighted the impact of translocations between clusters on the genetic structure of several African buffalo populations. Lower differentiation estimates were observed between C and N sampling localities that experienced translocation over the last century. Conclusions: We showed that the current genetic structure of southern African Cape buffalo populations results from both ancient and recent processes. The splitting time of N and C clusters suggests that the current pattern results from human-induced factors and/or from the aridification process that occurred during the Holocene period. The more recent S cluster genetic drift probably results of processes that occurred over the last centuries (habitat fragmentation, diseases). Management practices of African buffalo populations should consider the micro-evolutionary changes highlighted in the present study.

October 30, 2014

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Background: The Central and Southern European mountain ranges represent important biodiversity hotspots and show high levels of endemism. In the land snail genus Orcula Held, 1837 nine species are distributed in the Alps and a few taxa inhabit the Carpathians, the Dinarids and the Western Black Sea region. In order to elucidate the general patterns of temporal and geographic diversification, mitochondrial and nuclear markers were analyzed in all 13 Orcula species. We particularly aimed to clarify whether the Alpine taxa represent a monophyletic group and if the local species diversity is rather the result of isolation in geographically separated Pleistocene glacial refuges or earlier Tertiary and Quaternary palaeogeographic events. In order to test if patterns of molecular genetic and morphological differentiation were congruent and/or if hybridization had occurred, shell morphometric investigations were performed on the Orcula species endemic to the Alps. Results: The phylogenetic trees resulting from the analyses of both the mitochondrial (COI, 12S and 16S) and the nuclear (H4/H3) data sets revealed three main groups, which correspond to the three subgenera Orcula, Illyriobanatica and Hausdorfia. The reconstruction of the historic geographic ranges suggested that the genus originated in the Dinarides during the Middle Miocene and first colonized the Alps during the Late Miocene, giving rise to the most diverse subgenus Orcula. Within the latter subgenus (including all Alpine endemics) almost all species were differentiated by both molecular genetic markers and by shell morphometrics, except O. gularis and O. pseudodolium. Conclusions: The present study confirms the importance of the Alps as biodiversity hotspot and origin center of land snail diversity. The species diversity in the subgenus Orcula was likely promoted by Miocene to Pliocene palaeogeographic events and the insular distribution of preferred limestone areas. In some cases, speciation events could be linked to the divergence of populations in glacial refuges during the Pleistocene. Sporadic contact between geographically separated and reproductively not yet isolated populations led to intermixture of haplogroups within species and even hybridization and mitochondrial capture between species.

October 26, 2014

18:00
Background: Wild relatives in the genus Arabidopsis are recognized as useful model systems to study traits and evolutionary processes in outcrossing species, which are often difficult or even impossible to investigate in the selfing and annual Arabidopsis thaliana. However, Arabidopsis as a genus is littered with sub-species and ecotypes which make realizing the potential of these non-model Arabidopsis lineages problematic. There are relatively few evolutionary studies which comprehensively characterize the gene pools across all of the Arabidopsis supra-groups and hypothesized evolutionary lineages and none include sampling at a world-wide scale. Here we explore the gene pools of these various taxa using various molecular markers and cytological analyses. Results: Based on ITS, microsatellite, chloroplast and nuclear DNA content data we demonstrate the presence of three major evolutionary groups broadly characterized as A. lyrata group, A. halleri group and A. arenosa group. All are composed of further species and sub-species forming larger aggregates. Depending on the resolution of the marker, a few closely related taxa such as A. pedemontana, A. cebennensis and A. croatica are also clearly distinct evolutionary lineages. ITS sequences and a population-based screen based on microsatellites were highly concordant. The major gene pools identified by ITS sequences were also significantly differentiated by their homoploid nuclear DNA content estimated by flow cytometry. The chloroplast genome provided less resolution than the nuclear data, and it remains unclear whether the extensive haplotype sharing apparent between taxa results from gene flow or incomplete lineage sorting in this relatively young group of species with Pleistocene origins. Conclusions: Our study provides a comprehensive overview of the genetic variation within and among the various taxa of the genus Arabidopsis. The resolved gene pools and evolutionary lineages will set the framework for future comparative studies on genetic diversity. Extensive population-based phylogeographic studies will also be required, however, in particular for A. arenosa and their affiliated taxa and cytotypes.

October 25, 2014

06:00
Background: Elucidating the mechanisms underlying coevolution of ligands and receptors is an important challenge in molecular evolutionary biology. Peptide hormones and their receptors are excellent models for such efforts, given the relative ease of examining evolutionary changes in genes encoding for both molecules. Most vertebrates possess multiple genes for both the decapeptide gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and for the GnRH receptor. The evolutionary history of the receptor family, including ancestral copy number and timing of duplications and deletions, has been the subject of controversy. Results: We report here for the first time sequences of three distinct GnRH receptor genes in salamanders (axolotls, Ambystoma mexicanum), which are orthologous to three GnRH receptors from ranid frogs. To understand the origin of these genes within the larger evolutionary context of the gene family, we performed phylogenetic analyses and probabilistic protein homology searches of GnRH receptor genes in vertebrates and their near relatives. Our analyses revealed four points that alter previous views about the evolution of the GnRH receptor gene family. First, the “mammalian” pituitary type GnRH receptor, which is the sole GnRH receptor in humans and previously presumed to be highly derived because it lacks the cytoplasmic C-terminal domain typical of most G-protein coupled receptors, is actually an ancient gene that originated in the common ancestor of jawed vertebrates (Gnathostomata). Second, unlike previous studies, we classify vertebrate GnRH receptors into five subfamilies. Third, the order of subfamily origins is the inverse of previous proposed models. Fourth, the number of GnRH receptor genes has been dynamic in vertebrates and their ancestors, with multiple duplications and losses. Conclusion: Our results provide a novel evolutionary framework for generating hypotheses concerning the functional importance of structural characteristics of vertebrate GnRH receptors. We show that five subfamilies of vertebrate GnRH receptors evolved early in the vertebrate phylogeny, followed by several independent instances of gene loss. Chief among cases of gene loss are humans, best described as degenerate with respect to GnRH receptors because we retain only a single, ancient gene.

October 24, 2014

18:00
Background: Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a neoplastic disease characterized by cutaneous tumours that has been documented to infect all sea turtle species. Chelonid fibropapilloma-associated herpesvirus (CFPHV) is believed to be the aetiological agent of FP, based principally on consistent PCR-based detection of herpesvirus DNA sequences from FP tumours. We used a recently described PCR-based assay that targets 3 conserved CFPHV genes, to survey 208 green turtles (Chelonia mydas). This included both FP tumour exhibiting and clinically healthy individuals. An additional 129 globally distributed clinically healthy individual sea turtles; representing four other species were also screened. Results: CFPHV DNA sequences were obtained from 37/37 (100%) FP exhibiting green turtles, and 45/300 (15%) clinically healthy animals spanning all five species. Although the frequency of infected individuals per turtle population varied considerably, most global populations contained at least one CFPHV positive individual, with the exception of various turtle species from the Arabian Gulf, Northern Indian Ocean and Puerto Rico.Haplotype analysis of the different gene markers clustered the CFPHV DNA sequences for two of the markers (UL18 and UL22) in turtles from Turks and Caicos separate to all others, regardless of host species or geographic origin. Conclusion: Presence of CFPHV DNA within globally distributed samples for all five species of sea turtle was confirmed. While 100% of the FP exhibiting green turtles yielded CFPHV sequences, surprisingly, so did 15% of the clinically healthy turtles. We hypothesize that turtle populations with zero (0%) CFPHV frequency may be attributed to possible environmental differences, diet and/or genetic resistance in these individuals. Our results provide first data on the prevalence of CFPHV among seemingly healthy turtles; a factor that may not be directly correlated to the disease incidence, but may suggest of a long-term co-evolutionary latent infection interaction between CFPHV and its turtle-host across species. Finally, computational analysis of amino acid variants within the Turks and Caicos samples suggest potential functional importance in a substitution for marker UL18 that encodes the major capsid protein gene, which potentially could explain differences in pathogenicity. Nevertheless, such a theory remains to be validated by further research.
18:00
Background: Rhynchocypris oxycephalus is a cold water fish with a wide geographic distribution including the relatively warm temperate regions of southern China. It also occurs in second- and third-step geomorphic areas in China. Previous studies have postulated that high-altitude populations of R. oxycephalus in southern China are Quaternary glacial relics. In this study, we used the mitochondrial gene Cytb and the nuclear gene RAG2 to investigate the species phylogeographical patterns and to test two biogeographic hypotheses: (1) that divergence between lineages supports the three-step model and (2) climatic fluctuations during the Quaternary resulted in the present distribution in southern China. Results: Phylogenetic analysis detected three major matrilines (A, B, and C); with matrilines B and C being further subdivided into two submatrilines. Based on genetic distances and morphological differences, matriline A potentially represents a cryptic subspecies. The geographic division between matrilines B and C coincided with the division of the second and third geomorphic steps in China, suggesting a historical vicariance event. Pliocene climatic fluctuations might have facilitated the southwards dispersal of R. oxycephalus in matriline C, with the subsequent warming resulting in its split into submatrilines C1 and C2, leaving submatriline C2 as a relic in southern China. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that geological events (three steps orogenesis) and climate fluctuations during the Pliocene were important factors in shaping phylogeographical patterns in R. oxycephalus. Notably, no genetic diversity was detected in several populations, all of which possessed unique genotypes. This indicates the uniqueness of local populations and calls for a special conservation plan for the whole species at the population level.
18:00
Background: The margins of a species’ range might be located at the margins of a species’ niche, and in such cases, can be highly vulnerable to climate changes. They, however, may also undergo significant evolutionary changes due to drastic population dynamics in response to climate changes, which may increase the chances of isolation and contact among species. Such species interactions induced by climate changes could then regulate or facilitate further responses to climatic changes. We hypothesized that climate changes lead to species contacts and subsequent genetic exchanges due to differences in population dynamics at the species boundaries. We sampled two closely related Rubus species, one temperate (Rubus palmatus) and the other subtropical (R. grayanus) near their joint species boundaries in southern Japan. Coalescent analysis, based on molecular data and ecological niche modelling during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), were used to infer past population dynamics. At the contact zones on Yakushima (Yaku Island), where the two species are parapatrically distributed, we tested hybridization along altitudinal gradients. Results: Coalescent analysis suggested that the southernmost populations of R. palmatus predated the LGM (~20,000 ya). Conversely, populations at the current northern limit of R. grayanus diverged relatively recently and likely represent young outposts of a northbound range shift. These population dynamics were partly supported by the ensemble forecasting of six different species distribution models. Both past and ongoing hybridizations were detected near and on Yakushima. Backcrosses and advanced-generation hybrids likely generated the clinal hybrid zones along altitudinal gradients on the island where the two species are currently parapatrically distributed. Conclusions: Climate oscillations during the Quaternary Period and the response of a species in range shifts likely led to repeated contacts with the gene pools of ecologically distinct relatives. Such species interactions, induced by climate changes, may bring new genetic material to the marginal populations where species tend to experience more extreme climatic conditions at the margins of the species distribution.

October 22, 2014

18:00
Background: The current taxonomy of the African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is primarily based on pelage pattern and geographic distribution, and nine subspecies are currently recognized. Although genetic studies have been conducted, their resolution is low, mainly due to limited sampling. Detailed knowledge about the genetic variation and phylogeography of the South African giraffe (G. c. giraffa) and the Angolan giraffe (G. c. angolensis) is lacking. We investigate genetic variation among giraffe matrilines by increased sampling, with a focus on giraffe key areas in southern Africa. Results: The 1,562 nucleotides long mitochondrial DNA dataset (cytochrome b and partial control region) comprises 138 parsimony informative sites among 161 giraffe individuals from eight populations. We additionally included two okapis as an outgroup. The analyses of the maternally inherited sequences reveal a deep divergence between northern and southern giraffe populations in Africa, and a general pattern of distinct matrilineal clades corresponding to their geographic distribution. Divergence time estimates among giraffe populations place the deepest splits at several hundred thousand years ago. Conclusions: Our increased sampling in southern Africa suggests that the distribution ranges of the Angolan and South African giraffe need to be redefined. Knowledge about the phylogeography and genetic variation of these two maternal lineages is crucial for the development of appropriate management strategies.

October 21, 2014

06:00
Background: As attested by the fossil record, Cretaceous environmental changes have significantly impacted the diversification dynamics of several groups of organisms. A major biome turnover that occurred during this period was the rise of angiosperms starting ca. 125 million years ago. Though there is evidence that the latter promoted the diversification of phytophagous insects, the response of other insect groups to Cretaceous environmental changes is still largely unknown. To gain novel insights on this issue, we assess the diversification dynamics of a hyperdiverse family of detritivorous beetles (Tenebrionidae) using molecular dating and diversification analyses. Results: Age estimates reveal an origin after the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction (older than previously thought), followed by the diversification of major lineages during Pangaean and Gondwanan breakups. Dating analyses indicate that arid-adapted species diversified early, while most of the lineages that are adapted to more humid conditions diversified much later. Contrary to other insect groups, we found no support for a positive shift in diversification rates during the Cretaceous; instead there is evidence for an 8.5-fold increase in extinction rates that was not compensated by a joint increase in speciation rates. Conclusions: We hypothesize that this pattern is better explained by the concomitant reduction of arid environments starting in the mid-Cretaceous, which likely negatively impacted the diversification of arid-adapted species that were predominant at that time.

October 18, 2014

18:00
Background: Duplication and subsequent neofunctionalization of the teleostean hatching enzyme gene occurred in the common ancestor of Euteleostei and Otocephala, producing two genes belonging to different phylogenetic clades (clades I and II). In euteleosts, the clade I enzyme inherited the activity of the ancestral enzyme of swelling the egg envelope by cleavage of the N-terminal region of egg envelope proteins. The clade II enzyme gained two specific cleavage sites, N-ZPd and mid-ZPd but lost the ancestral activity. Thus, euteleostean clade II enzymes assumed a new function; solubilization of the egg envelope by the cooperative action with clade I enzyme. However, in Otocephala, the clade II gene was lost during evolution. Consequently, in a late group of Otocephala, only the clade I enzyme is present to swell the egg envelope. We evaluated the egg envelope digestion properties of clade I and II enzymes in Gonorynchiformes, an early diverging group of Otocephala, using milkfish, and compared their digestion with those of other fishes. Finally, we propose a hypothesis the neofunctionalization process. Results: The milkfish clade II enzyme cleaved N-ZPd but not mid-ZPd, and did not cause solubilization of the egg envelope. We conclude that neofunctionalization is incomplete in the otocephalan clade II enzymes. Comparison of clade I and clade II enzyme characteristics implies that the specificity of the clade II enzymes gradually changed during evolution after the duplication event, and that a change in substrate was required for the addition of the mid-ZPd site and loss of activity at the N-terminal region. Conclusions: We infer the process of neofunctionalization of the clade II enzyme after duplication of the gene. The ancestral clade II gene gained N-ZPd cleavage activity in the common ancestral lineage of the Euteleostei and Otocephala. Subsequently, acquisition of cleavage activity at the mid-ZPd site and loss of cleavage activity in the N-terminal region occurred during the evolution of Euteleostei, but not of Otocephala. The clade II enzyme provides an example of the development of a neofunctional gene for which the substrate, the egg envelope protein, has adapted to a gradual change in the specificity of the corresponding enzyme.