Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
Phykologie - Blütezeiten und Ruhepausen einer Wissenschaft im Nebenamt (Fallbeispiel Grünalgen)
- Phykologie (Algenforschung) ist der Öffentlichkeit dem Namen nach und als wissenschaftliche Disziplin kaum geläufig. Innerhalb der Botanik (Biologie) besteht die Algenkunde gleichsam "implizit" als eine Vielfalt von Entwicklungssträngen, die selten gebündelt sind, vielmehr leicht immer wieder abreißen können, denen sich aber immer wieder auch neue Stränge hinzugesellen. Die Phykologie erforscht, im Gegensatz etwa zum Studium der Blütenpflanzen, nur wenige aus dem Alltagsleben vertraute Gewächse. Ihre Untersuchungsobjekte wurden (und werden immer noch) erst nach und nach entdeckt, weshalb sich die Vorstellung, was eine Alge ist, ständig wandelt. Viele sind ohne Mikroskop gar nicht wahrzunehmen. Forschungsgegenstand und Forschungsaufgabe bilden durch ihre fortwährende Umgestaltung die Leitgedanken der Botanik und Biologie überhaupt ab, wobei die Beziehung reziprok ist. Eine lebhafte Fluktuation von ausübenden Personen und Paradigmata ist ebenso charakteristisch für die Phykologie wie eine ausgeprägte Inter- bzw. Transdisziplinarität und ein hohes aktives internes Innovationspotential. Am Beispiel der traditionellen, heute so nicht mehr bestehenden, »Chlorophyta« wird untersucht, wie diese Sippe zunächst für makroskopisch sichtbare Meeresalgen etabliert wurde. Dann wurden ihr schrittweise verschiedene binnenländische Formenkreise von Algen zugeordnet, bis hin zu den grünen Phytoflagellaten. In der jüngsten Entwicklungsphase haben sich die "grünen Algen" als heterogener Komplex mehrerer voneinander unabhängiger Entwicklungslinien erwiesen, die bis auf eine über das Niveau der Algen nicht hinausgekommen sind, wohl aber zum Landleben fähige Vertreter haben. Als Wurzelbereich der echten Landpflanzen erwies sich überraschend ein kleiner Verwandtschaftsbereich der Algenklasse der Charophyceae.
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.
Regional climate model experiments to investigate the Asian monsoon in the Late Miocene
- The Late Miocene (11.6–5.3 Ma) is a crucial period in the history of the Asian monsoon. Significant changes in the Asian climate regime have been documented for this period, which saw the formation of the modern Asian monsoon system. However, the spatiotemporal structure of these changes is still ambiguous, and the associated mechanisms are debated. Here, we present a simulation of the average state of the Asian monsoon climate for the Tortonian (11–7 Ma) using the regional climate model CCLM3.2. We employ relatively high spatial resolution (1° × 1°) and adapt the physical boundary conditions such as topography, land-sea distribution and vegetation in the regional model to represent the Late Miocene. As climatological forcing, the output of a Tortonian run with a fully-coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model is used. Our regional Tortonian run shows a stronger-than-present East Asian winter monsoon wind as a result of the enhanced mid-latitude westerly wind of our global forcing and the lowered present-day northern Tibetan Plateau in the regional model. The summer monsoon circulation is generally weakened in our regional Tortonian run compared to today. However, the changes of summer monsoon precipitation exhibit major regional differences. Precipitation decreases in northern China and northern India, but increases in southern China, the western coast and the southern tip of India. This can be attributed to the changes in both the regional topography (e.g. the lower northern Tibetan Plateau) and the global climate conditions (e.g. the higher sea surface temperature). The spread of dry summer conditions over northern China and northern Pakistan in our Tortonian run further implies that the monsoonal climate may not have been fully established in these regions in the Tortonian. Compared with the global model, the high resolution regional model highlights the spatial differences of the Asian monsoon climate in the Tortonian, and better characterizes the convective activity and its response to regional topographical changes. It therefore provides a useful and compared to global models, a complementary tool to improve our understanding of the Asian monsoon evolution in the Late Miocene.
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.