- Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft (70)
Waves of genomic hitchhikers shed light on the evolution of gamebirds (Aves: Galliformes) : research article
Jan Ole Kriegs
- Background The phylogenetic tree of Galliformes (gamebirds, including megapodes, currassows, guinea fowl, New and Old World quails, chicken, pheasants, grouse, and turkeys) has been considerably remodeled over the last decades as new data and analytical methods became available. Analyzing presence/absence patterns of retroposed elements avoids the problems of homoplastic characters inherent in other methodologies. In gamebirds, chicken repeats 1 (CR1) are the most prevalent retroposed elements, but little is known about the activity of their various subtypes over time. Ascertaining the fixation patterns of CR1 elements would help unravel the phylogeny of gamebirds and other poorly resolved avian clades. Results We analyzed 1,978 nested CR1 elements and developed a multidimensional approach taking advantage of their transposition in transposition character (TinT) to characterize the fixation patterns of all 22 known chicken CR1 subtypes. The presence/absence patterns of those elements that were active at different periods of gamebird evolution provided evidence for a clade (Cracidae + (Numididae + (Odontophoridae + Phasianidae))) not including Megapodiidae; and for Rollulus as the sister taxon of the other analyzed Phasianidae. Genomic trace sequences of the turkey genome further demonstrated that the endangered African Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis) is the sister taxon of the Asian Peafowl (Pavo), rejecting other predominantly morphology-based groupings, and that phasianids are monophyletic, including the sister taxa Tetraoninae and Meleagridinae. Conclusions The TinT information concerning relative fixation times of CR1 subtypes enabled us to efficiently investigate gamebird phylogeny and to reconstruct an unambiguous tree topology. This method should provide a useful tool for investigations in other taxonomic groups as well.
Hominin palaeoecology in Late Pliocene Malawi: first insights from isotopes (13C, 18O) in mammal teeth
- Carbon-13 and oxygen-18 abundances were measured in large mammal skeletal remains (tooth enamel, dentine and bone) from the Chiwondo Beds in Malawi, which were dated by biostratigraphic correlation to ca. 2.5 million years ago. The biologic isotopic patterns, in particular the difference in carbon-13 abundances between grazers and browsers and the difference in oxygen-18 abundances between semi-aquatic and terrestrial herbivores, were preserved in enamel, but not in dentine and bone. The isotopic results obtained from the skeletal remains from the Chiwondo Beds indicate a dominance of savannah habitats with some trees and shrubs. This environment was more arid than the contemporaneous Ndolanya Beds in Tanzania. The present study confirms that robust australopithecines were able to live in relatively arid environments and were not confined to more mesic environments elsewhere in southern Africa.
Molar macrowear reveals Neanderthal eco-geographic dietary variation
Timothy G. Bromage
- Neanderthal diets are reported to be based mainly on the consumption of large and medium sized herbivores, while the exploitation of other food types including plants has also been demonstrated. Though some studies conclude that early Homo sapiens were active hunters, the analyses of faunal assemblages, stone tool technologies and stable isotopic studies indicate that they exploited broader dietary resources than Neanderthals. Whereas previous studies assume taxon-specific dietary specializations, we suggest here that the diet of both Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens is determined by ecological conditions. We analyzed molar wear patterns using occlusal fingerprint analysis derived from optical 3D topometry. Molar macrowear accumulates during the lifespan of an individual and thus reflects diet over long periods. Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens maxillary molar macrowear indicates strong eco-geographic dietary variation independent of taxonomic affinities. Based on comparisons with modern hunter-gatherer populations with known diets, Neanderthals as well as early Homo sapiens show high dietary variability in Mediterranean evergreen habitats but a more restricted diet in upper latitude steppe/coniferous forest environments, suggesting a significant consumption of high protein meat resources.
Short read Illumina data for the de novo assembly of a non-model snail species transcriptome (Radix balthica, Basommatophora, Pulmonata), and a comparison of assembler performance
Christopher W. Wheat
- Background: Until recently, read lengths on the Solexa/Illumina system were too short to reliably assemble transcriptomes without a reference sequence, especially for non-model organisms. However, with read lengths up to 100 nucleotides available in the current version, an assembly without reference genome should be possible. For this study we created an EST data set for the common pond snail Radix balthica by Illumina sequencing of a normalized transcriptome. Performance of three different short read assemblers was compared with respect to: the number of contigs, their length, depth of coverage, their quality in various BLAST searches and the alignment to mitochondrial genes. Results: A single sequencing run of a normalized RNA pool resulted in 16,923,850 paired end reads with median read length of 61 bases. The assemblies generated by VELVET, OASES, and SeqMan NGEN differed in the total number of contigs, contig length, the number and quality of gene hits obtained by BLAST searches against various databases, and contig performance in the mt genome comparison. While VELVET produced the highest overall number of contigs, a large fraction of these were of small size (< 200bp), and gave redundant hits in BLAST searches and the mt genome alignment. The best overall contig performance resulted from the NGEN assembly. It produced the second largest number of contigs, which on average were comparable to the OASES contigs but gave the highest number of gene hits in two out of four BLAST searches against different reference databases. A subsequent meta-assembly of the four contig sets resulted in larger contigs, less redundancy and a higher number of BLAST hits. Conclusion: Our results document the first de novo transcriptome assembly of a non-model species using Illumina sequencing data. We show that de novo transcriptome assembly using this approach yields results useful for downstream applications, in particular if a meta-assembly of contig sets is used to increase contig quality. These results highlight the ongoing need for improvements in assembly methodology. Keywords: next generation sequencing; short read assembly; Mollusca
Utility of arsenic-treated bird skins for DNA extraction
- Background: Natural history museums receive a rapidly growing number of requests for tissue samples from preserved specimens for DNA-based studies. Traditionally, dried vertebrate specimens were treated with arsenic because of its toxicity and insect-repellent effect. Arsenic has negative effects on in vivo DNA repair enzymes and consequently may inhibit PCR performance. In bird collections, foot pad samples are often requested since the feet were not regularly treated with arsenic and because they are assumed to provide substantial amounts of DNA. However, the actual influence of arsenic on DNA analyses has never been tested. Findings: PCR success of both foot pad and body skin samples was significantly lower in arsenic-treated samples. In general, foot pads performed better than body skin samples. Moreover, PCR success depends on collection date in which younger samples yielded better results. While the addition of arsenic solution to the PCR mixture had a clear negative effect on PCR performance after the threshold of 5.4 μg/μl, such high doses of arsenic are highly unlikely to occur in dried zoological specimens. Conclusions: While lower PCR success in older samples might be due to age effects and/or DNA damage through arsenic treatment, our results show no inhibiting effect on DNA polymerase. We assume that DNA degradation proceeds more rapidly in thin tissue layers with low cell numbers that are susceptible to external abiotic influences. In contrast, in thicker parts of a specimen, such as foot pads, the outermost horny skin may act as an additional barrier. Since foot pads often performed better than body skin samples, the intention to preserve morphologically important structures of a specimen still conflicts with the aim to obtain optimal PCR success. Thus, body skin samples from recently collected specimens should be considered as alternative sources of DNA.
Chemical composition of modern and fossil Hippopotamid teeth and implications for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and enamel formation: 1. major and minor element variation
Thomas C. Brachert
Dieter F. Mertz
- Bioapatite in mammalian teeth is readily preserved in continental sediments and represents a very important archive for reconstructions of environment and climate evolution. This project intends to provide a detailed data base of major, minor and trace element and isotope tracers for tooth apatite using a variety of microanalytical techniques. The aim is to identify specific sedimentary environments and to improve our understanding on the interaction between internal metabolic processes during tooth formation and external nutritional control and secondary alteration effects. Here, we use the electron microprobe, to determine the major and minor element contents of fossil and modern molar enamel, cement and dentin from hippopotamids. Most of the studied specimens are from different ecosystems in Eastern Africa, representing modern and fossil lakustrine (Lake Kikorongo, Lake Albert, and Lake Malawi) and modern fluvial environments of the Nile River system.
Secondary alteration effects in particular FeO, MnO, SO3 and F concentrations, which are 2 to 10 times higher in fossil than in modern enamel; secondary enrichments in fossil dentin and cement are even higher. In modern and fossil enamel, along sections perpendicular to the enamel-dentin junction (EDJ) or along cervix-apex profiles, P2O5 and CaO contents and the CaO/P2O5 ratios are very constant (StdDev ~1 %). Linear regression analysis reveals very tight control of the MgO (R2∼0.6), Na2O and Cl variation (for both R2>0.84) along EDJ-outer enamel rim profiles, despite large concentration variations (40 % to 300 %) across the enamel. These minor elements show well defined distribution patterns in enamel, similar in all specimens regardless of their age and origin, as the concentration of MgO and Na2O decrease from the enamel-dentin junction (EDJ) towards the outer rim, whereas Cl displays the opposite variation.
Fossil enamel from hippopotamids which lived in the saline Lake Kikorongo have a much higher MgO/Na2O ratio (∼1.11) than those from the Neogene fossils of Lake Albert (MgO/Na2O∼0.4), which was a large fresh water lake like those in the western Branch of the East African Rift System today. Similarly, the MgO/Na2O ratio in modern enamel from the White Nile River (∼0.36), which has a Precambrian catchment of dominantly granite and gneisses and passes through several saline zones, is higher than that from the Blue Nile River, whose catchment is the Neogene volcanic Ethiopian Highland (MgO/Na2O∼0.22). Thus, particularly MgO/Na2O might be a sensitive fingerprint for environments where river and lake water have suffered strong evaporation.
Enamel formation in mammals takes place at successive mineralization fronts within a confined chamber where ion and molecule transport is controlled by the surrounding enamel organ. During the secretion and maturation phases the epithelium generates different fluid composition, which in principle, should determine the final composition of enamel apatite. This is supported by co-linear relationships between MgO, Cl and Na2O which can be interpreted as binary mixing lines. However, if maturation starts after secretion is completed the observed element distribution can only be explained by recrystallization of existing and addition of new apatite during maturation. Perhaps the initial enamel crystallites precipitating during secretion and the newly formed bioapatite crystals during maturation equilibrate with a continuously evolving fluid. During crystallization of bioapatite the enamel fluid becomes continuously depleted in MgO and Na2O, but enriched in Cl which results in the formation of MgO, and Na2O-rich, but Cl-poor bioapatite near the EDJ and MgO- and Na2O-poor, but Cl-rich bioapatite at the outer enamel rim.
The linkage between lake and river water composition, bioavailability of elements for plants, animal nutrition and tooth formation is complex and multifaceted. The quality and limits of the MgO/Na2O and other proxies have to be established with systematic investigations relating chemical distribution patterns to sedimentary environment and to growth structures developing as secretion and maturation proceed during tooth formation.
A genomic approach to examine the complex evolution of laurasiatherian mammals
Björn M. Hallström
- Recent phylogenomic studies have failed to conclusively resolve certain branches of the placental mammalian tree, despite the evolutionary analysis of genomic data from 32 species. Previous analyses of single genes and retroposon insertion data yielded support for different phylogenetic scenarios for the most basal divergences. The results indicated that some mammalian divergences were best interpreted not as a single bifurcating tree, but as an evolutionary network. In these studies the relationships among some orders of the super-clade Laurasiatheria were poorly supported, albeit not studied in detail. Therefore, 4775 protein-coding genes (6,196,263 nucleotides) were collected and aligned in order to analyze the evolution of this clade. Additionally, over 200,000 introns were screened in silico, resulting in 32 phylogenetically informative long interspersed nuclear elements (LINE) insertion events.
The present study shows that the genome evolution of Laurasiatheria may best be understood as an evolutionary network. Thus, contrary to the common expectation to resolve major evolutionary events as a bifurcating tree, genome analyses unveil complex speciation processes even in deep mammalian divergences. We exemplify this on a subset of 1159 suitable genes that have individual histories, most likely due to incomplete lineage sorting or introgression, processes that can make the genealogy of mammalian genomes complex.
These unexpected results have major implications for the understanding of evolution in general, because the evolution of even some higher level taxa such as mammalian orders may sometimes not be interpreted as a simple bifurcating pattern.
Molecular phylogeny of the acanthocephala (class palaeacanthocephala) with a paraphyletic assemblage of the orders polymorphida and echinorhynchida
Harry W. Palm
- Acanthocephalans are attractive candidates as model organisms for studying the ecology and co-evolutionary history of parasitic life cycles in the marine ecosystem. Adding to earlier molecular analyses of this taxon, a total of 36 acanthocephalans belonging to the classes Archiacanthocephala (3 species), Eoacanthocephala (3 species), Palaeacanthocephala (29 species), Polyacanthocephala (1 species) and Rotifera as outgroup (3 species) were analyzed by using Bayesian Inference and Maximum Likelihood analyses of nuclear 18S rDNA sequence. This data set included three re-collected and six newly collected taxa, Bolbosoma vasculosum from Lepturacanthus savala, Filisoma rizalinum from Scatophagus argus, Rhadinorhynchus pristis from Gempylus serpens, R. lintoni from Selar crumenophthalmus, Serrasentis sagittifer from Johnius coitor, and Southwellina hispida from Epinephelus coioides, representing 5 new host and 3 new locality records. The resulting trees suggest a paraphyletic arrangement of the Echinorhynchida and Polymorphida inside the Palaeacanthocephala. This questions the placement of the genera Serrasentis and Gorgorhynchoides within the Echinorhynchida and not the Polymorphida, necessitating further insights into the systematic position of these taxa based on morphology.
Adaptive radiation within marine anisakid nematodes: a zoogeographical modeling of cosmopolitan, zoonotic parasites
- Parasites of the nematode genus Anisakis are associated with aquatic organisms. They can be found in a variety of marine hosts including whales, crustaceans, fish and cephalopods and are known to be the cause of the zoonotic disease anisakiasis, a painful inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract caused by the accidental consumptions of infectious larvae raw or semi-raw fishery products. Since the demand on fish as dietary protein source and the export rates of seafood products in general is rapidly increasing worldwide, the knowledge about the distribution of potential foodborne human pathogens in seafood is of major significance for human health. Studies have provided evidence that a few Anisakis species can cause clinical symptoms in humans. The aim of our study was to interpolate the species range for every described Anisakis species on the basis of the existing occurrence data. We used sequence data of 373 Anisakis larvae from 30 different hosts worldwide and previously published molecular data (n = 584) from 53 field-specific publications to model the species range of Anisakis spp., using a interpolation method that combines aspects of the alpha hull interpolation algorithm as well as the conditional interpolation approach. The results of our approach strongly indicate the existence of species-specific distribution patterns of Anisakis spp. within different climate zones and oceans that are in principle congruent with those of their respective final hosts. Our results support preceding studies that propose anisakid nematodes as useful biological indicators for their final host distribution and abundance as they closely follow the trophic relationships among their successive hosts. The modeling might although be helpful for predicting the likelihood of infection in order to reduce the risk of anisakiasis cases in a given area.
Forest fragmentation and selective logging have inconsistent effects on multiple animal-mediated ecosystem processes in a tropical forest
Marcell K. Peters
Wolfram M. Freund
Mary Wanjiku Gikungu
Francisco Hita Garcia
Godfrey Hurbby Kagezi
Clas M. Naumann
J. Wolfgang Wägele
- Forest fragmentation and selective logging are two main drivers of global environmental change and modify biodiversity and environmental conditions in many tropical forests. The consequences of these changes for the functioning of tropical forest ecosystems have rarely been explored in a comprehensive approach. In a Kenyan rainforest, we studied six animal-mediated ecosystem processes and recorded species richness and community composition of all animal taxa involved in these processes. We used linear models and a formal meta-analysis to test whether forest fragmentation and selective logging affected ecosystem processes and biodiversity and used structural equation models to disentangle direct from biodiversity-related indirect effects of human disturbance on multiple ecosystem processes. Fragmentation increased decomposition and reduced antbird predation, while selective logging consistently increased pollination, seed dispersal and army-ant raiding. Fragmentation modified species richness or community composition of five taxa, whereas selective logging did not affect any component of biodiversity. Changes in the abundance of functionally important species were related to lower predation by antbirds and higher decomposition rates in small forest fragments. The positive effects of selective logging on bee pollination, bird seed dispersal and army-ant raiding were direct, i.e. not related to changes in biodiversity, and were probably due to behavioural changes of these highly mobile animal taxa. We conclude that animal-mediated ecosystem processes respond in distinct ways to different types of human disturbance in Kakamega Forest. Our findings suggest that forest fragmentation affects ecosystem processes indirectly by changes in biodiversity, whereas selective logging influences processes directly by modifying local environmental conditions and resource distributions. The positive to neutral effects of selective logging on ecosystem processes show that the functionality of tropical forests can be maintained in moderately disturbed forest fragments. Conservation concepts for tropical forests should thus include not only remaining pristine forests but also functionally viable forest remnants.