Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
The rediscovery of a long described species reveals additional complexity in speciation patterns of poeciliid fishes in sulfide springs
- The process of ecological speciation drives the evolution of locally adapted and reproductively isolated populations in response to divergent natural selection. In Southern Mexico, several lineages of the freshwater fish species of the genus Poecilia have independently colonized toxic, hydrogen sulfide-rich springs. Even though ecological speciation processes are increasingly well understood in this system, aligning the taxonomy of these fish with evolutionary processes has lagged behind. While some sulfide spring populations are classified as ecotypes of Poecilia mexicana, others, like P. sulphuraria, have been described as highly endemic species. Our study particularly focused on elucidating the taxonomy of the long described sulfide spring endemic, Poecilia thermalis Steindachner 1863, and investigates if similar evolutionary patterns of phenotypic trait divergence and reproductive isolation are present as observed in other sulfidic species of Poecilia. We applied a geometric morphometric approach to assess body shape similarity to other sulfidic and non-sulfidic fish of the genus Poecilia. We also conducted phylogenetic and population genetic analyses to establish the phylogenetic relationships of P. thermalis and used a population genetic approach to determine levels of gene flow among Poecilia from sulfidic and non-sulfidic sites. Our results indicate that P. thermalis' body shape has evolved in convergence with other sulfide spring populations in the genus. Phylogenetic analyses placed P. thermalis as most closely related to one population of P. sulphuraria, and population genetic analyses demonstrated that P. thermalis is genetically isolated from both P. mexicana ecotypes and P. sulphuraria. Based on these findings, we make taxonomic recommendations for P. thermalis. Overall, our study verifies the role of hydrogen sulfide as a main factor shaping convergent, phenotypic evolution and the emergence of reproductive isolation between Poecilia populations residing in adjacent sulfidic and non-sulfidic environments.
Genomic basis of ecological niche divergence among cryptic sister species of non-biting midges
- Background: There is a lack of understanding the evolutionary forces driving niche segregation of closely related organisms. In addition, pinpointing the genes driving ecological divergence is a key goal in molecular ecology. Here, larval transcriptome sequences obtained by next-generation-sequencing are used to address these issues in a morphologically cryptic sister species pair of non-biting midges (Chironomus riparius and C. piger).
Results: More than eight thousand orthologous open reading frames were screened for interspecific divergence and intraspecific polymorphisms. Despite a small mean sequence divergence of 1.53% between the sister species, 25.1% of 18,115 observed amino acid substitutions were inferred by α statistics to be driven by positive selection. Applying McDonald-Kreitman tests to 715 alignments of gene orthologues identified eleven (1.5%) genes driven by positive selection.
Conclusions: Three candidate genes were identified as potentially responsible for the observed niche segregation concerning nitrite concentration, habitat temperature and water conductivity. Additionally, signs of positive selection in the hydrogen sulfide detoxification pathway were detected, providing a new plausible hypothesis for the species’ ecological differentiation. Finally, a divergently selected, nuclear encoded mitochondrial ribosomal protein may contribute to reproductive isolation due to cytonuclear coevolution.
Predator avoidance in extremophile fish
Jeane Rimber Indy
- Extreme habitats are often characterized by reduced predation pressures, thus representing refuges for the inhabiting species. The present study was designed to investigate predator avoidance of extremophile populations of Poecilia mexicana and P. sulphuraria that either live in hydrogen sulfide-rich (sulfidic) springs or cave habitats, both of which are known to have impoverished piscine predator regimes. Focal fishes that inhabited sulfidic springs showed slightly weaker avoidance reactions when presented with several naturally occurring predatory cichlids, but strongest differences to populations from non-sulfidic habitats were found in a decreased shoaling tendency with non-predatory swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii) females. When comparing avoidance reactions between P. mexicana from a sulfidic cave (Cueva del Azufre) and the adjacent sulfidic surface creek (El Azufre), we found only slight differences in predator avoidance, but surface fish reacted much more strongly to the non-predatory cichlid Vieja bifasciata. Our third experiment was designed to disentangle learned from innate effects of predator recognition. We compared laboratory-reared (i.e., predator-naïve) and wild-caught (i.e., predator-experienced) individuals of P. mexicana from a non-sulfidic river and found no differences in their reaction towards the presented predators. Overall, our results indicate (1) that predator avoidance is still functional in extremophile Poecilia spp. and (2) that predator recognition and avoidance reactions have a strong genetic basis.
Unravelling the functional biomechanics of dental features and tooth wear
Huynh Nhu Nguyen
- Most of the morphological features recognized in hominin teeth, particularly the topography of the occlusal surface, are generally interpreted as an evolutionary functional adaptation for mechanical food processing. In this respect, we can also expect that the general architecture of a tooth reflects a response to withstand the high stresses produced during masticatory loadings. Here we use an engineering approach, finite element analysis (FEA), with an advanced loading concept derived from individual occlusal wear information to evaluate whether some dental traits usually found in hominin and extant great ape molars, such as the trigonid crest, the entoconid-hypoconulid crest and the protostylid have important biomechanical implications. For this purpose, FEA was applied to 3D digital models of three Gorilla gorilla lower second molars (M2) differing in wear stages. Our results show that in unworn and slightly worn M2s tensile stresses concentrate in the grooves of the occlusal surface. In such condition, the trigonid and the entoconid-hypoconulid crests act to reinforce the crown locally against stresses produced along the mesiodistal groove. Similarly, the protostylid is shaped like a buttress to suffer the high tensile stresses concentrated in the deep buccal groove. These dental traits are less functional in the worn M2, because tensile stresses decrease physiologically in the crown with progressing wear due to the enlargement of antagonistic contact areas and changes in loading direction from oblique to nearly parallel direction to the dental axis. This suggests that the wear process might have a crucial influence in the evolution and structural adaptation of molars enabling to endure bite stresses and reduce tooth failure throughout the lifetime of an individual.
Are plant species able to keep pace with the rapidly changing climate?
- Future climate change is predicted to advance faster than the postglacial warming. Migration may therefore become a key driver for future development of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. For 140 European plant species we computed past range shifts since the last glacial maximum and future range shifts for a variety of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios and global circulation models (GCMs). Range shift rates were estimated by means of species distribution modelling (SDM). With process-based seed dispersal models we estimated species-specific migration rates for 27 dispersal modes addressing dispersal by wind (anemochory) for different wind conditions, as well as dispersal by mammals (dispersal on animal's coat – epizoochory and dispersal by animals after feeding and digestion – endozoochory) considering different animal species. Our process-based modelled migration rates generally exceeded the postglacial range shift rates indicating that the process-based models we used are capable of predicting migration rates that are in accordance with realized past migration. For most of the considered species, the modelled migration rates were considerably lower than the expected future climate change induced range shift rates. This implies that most plant species will not entirely be able to follow future climate-change-induced range shifts due to dispersal limitation. Animals with large day- and home-ranges are highly important for achieving high migration rates for many plant species, whereas anemochory is relevant for only few species.
Impact of protected areas and land use on regeneration of Acacia woodland’s in Eastern Burkina Faso
Jeanne Millogo Rasolodimbi
- Regeneration success, persistence strategies (seedlings vs. coppicing), and population trend of Acacia spp. were tested under two land-use regimes in eastern Burkina Faso: (i) protected areas shielded to livestock grazing pressure, to logging, and using early annual fire as a management system; (ii) areas with high human impact (heavily and extensive livestock grazing, harvesting for wood and for medicinal plants). Generally, a good regeneration rate of Acacia species was observed in protected areas and a poor regeneration rate in areas with high human impact. Nevertheless, some species affiliated to the subgenus Aculeiferum as A. dudgeoni and A. polyacantha showed a good regeneration under both land use regimes. Juvenile plants less than 25 cm height of A. dudgeoni and A. gourmaensis increased by 116 to 50 % in areas with human impact as compared to their populations in protected areas. With SCD slopes varying from –0.40 to -0.70, the protected Acacia woodland displayed a stable population structure due to abundance of recruitment, and coppicing persistence (more common in the subgenus Aculeiferum) favoured by early annual fire. Consequently, the protected areas are favourable for Acacia woodland regeneration. Conversely, SCD slopes are positive or close to zero in areas of anthropogenic regime and showed a declining population, especially more marked with the subgenus Acacia due to permanent seed and seedling removal by livestock grazing. Nevertheless, the number of seedlings of some species was higher in areas under human pressure than in protected areas, especially for the subgenus Aculeiferum, improving the genetic variability and thus the long-term maintenance of the population. Key words: Acacia, early fire, land use, sudano-sahelien zone
Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water : total estrogenic burden and migration from plastic bottles
- Background, aim, and scope Food consumption is an important route of human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. So far, this has been demonstrated by exposure modeling or analytical identification of single substances in foodstuff (e.g., phthalates) and human body fluids (e.g., urine and blood). Since the research in this field is focused on few chemicals (and thus missing mixture effects), the overall contamination of edibles with xenohormones is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the integrated estrogenic burden of bottled mineral water as model foodstuff and to characterize the potential sources of the estrogenic contamination. Materials, methods, and results In the present study, we analyzed commercially available mineral water in an in vitro system with the human estrogen receptor alpha and detected estrogenic contamination in 60% of all samples with a maximum activity equivalent to 75.2 ng/l of the natural sex hormone 17beta-estradiol. Furthermore, breeding of the molluskan model Potamopyrgus antipodarum in water bottles made of glass and plastic [polyethylene terephthalate (PET)] resulted in an increased reproductive output of snails cultured in PET bottles. This provides first evidence that substances leaching from plastic food packaging materials act as functional estrogens in vivo. Discussion and conclusions Our results demonstrate a widespread contamination of mineral water with xenoestrogens that partly originates from compounds leaching from the plastic packaging material. These substances possess potent estrogenic activity in vivo in a molluskan sentinel. Overall, the results indicate that a broader range of foodstuff may be contaminated with endocrine disruptors when packed in plastics. Keywords Endocrine disrupting chemicals - Estradiol equivalents - Human exposure - In vitro effects - In vivo effects - Mineral water - Plastic bottles - Plastic packaging - Polyethylene terephthalate - Potamopyrgus antipodarum - Yeast estrogen screen - Xenoestrogens
The role of food quality for local adaptation in Daphnia
- The impact of different food qualites on the local adaptation was investigated at several organization levels in Daphnia.
The associations of the plant-ant Cladomyrma with plants in Southeast Asia
- In over 100 genera of tropical angiosperms, one or more species possess specialised structures for housing ants. The longevity and intimacy of these associations has often facilitated an increasing specialisation of both the ants and the plants, leading to a number of highly specific and obligate symbioses. Early literature contained only few anecdotal reports of the ant genus Cladomyrma WHEELER inhabiting (unidentified) plants. This work presents the new findings on Cladomyrma and its host plants that accumulated over the last two decades. My studies of Cladomyrma reveal that there is a largely overlooked community of south-east Asian plant-ants and their associated plants. Currently the genus consists of at least 12 species. Cladomyrma has been thought to be restricted to the ever-wet part of the West Malesian floristic region, comprising the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra, but recent collections from Thailand and Vietnam indicate that species of the genus penetrate the seasonal tropical forests of Continental Asia. Cladomyrma inhabits 24 plant species belonging to a surprisingly extensive range of plant taxa: Callerya, Saraca, Spatholobus (Fabaceae), Crypteronia (Crypteroniaceae), Drypetes (Putranjivaceae), Ryparosa (Achariaceae), Strychnos (Loganiaceae), Neonauclea (Rubiaceae), Luvunga (Rutaceae) and Sphenodesme (Verbenaceae). In terms of taxonomic diversity on the genus and family level the range of hosts utilised by Cladomyrma is one of the broadest ever recorded for any live stem-nesting plant-ant lineage worldwide. This work provides a species-level overview of all Cladomyrma host plants known from Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, including descriptions of ant-housing structures (domatia), ant inhabitant identity, onset of colonisation during plant ontogeny, nest structure, occupancy rate, and considerations of results obtained from herbarium specimens. Both the regularity of ant association and the degree of morphological specialisation toward myrmecophytism are assessed. The behavioural traits of Cladomyrma are compatible with traits exhibited by other protective plant-ants. This work demonstrates that all species of Cladomyrma investigated (dianeae, maschwitzi, yongi, petalae) confer antiherbivore protection to young leaves of its host. The ants also attack and repell or kill herbivorous insect larvae encountered on young foliage. Cleaning behaviour appears to be a trait shared by all members of the genus, and the two species tested (maschwitzi, petalae) successfully removed termite eggs experimentally placed onto young leaves. Another trait common to all known species of the genus is that the ants preferentially patrol young shoots and leaves ('neophily'). These behavioural traits of Cladomyrma likely reduce stem damage and pathogenic infection of their host. The ants prune encroaching vegetation (tested in dianeae maschwitzi, petalae, yongi, observed in crypteroniae) and attack paper tape used to mark host plants (observed in andrei, dianeae, hobbyi, nudidorsalis, maschwitzi, yongi, petalae). If these traits combined translate into a better reproductive success of the hosts has yet to be verified. Evidence for lifetime fitness benefits is particularly difficult to quantify for the long-lived woody host plants of Cladomyrma. The predominant food source of Cladomyrma appears to be the honeydew of scale insects (Coccidae and Pseudococcidae) which the ants tend inside their nest cavities. Observations on scale insect acquisition by Cladomyrma foundress queens show that hemipteran trophobionts are not transported by the queens on their nuptial flight but they nevertheless arrive on the host plant independently of the ants. Entry into nest chambers is facilitated by small holes kept open by the foundress queen. Most Cladomyrma species have been recorded from only one or two (three) host plant species (andrei, crypteroniae, hobbyi, maschwitzi, nudidorsalis, scopulosa, yongi), but two species, Cladomyrma petalae and C. dianeae, are more catholic in their host usage; the first being a 'generalist' plant-ant colonising hosts across a broad taxonomic range, the second inhabiting several members of the genus Neonauclea. First results of host-choice experiments with C. petalae are presented and the potential mechanisms promoting host specificity are discussed. My studies of the Cladomyrma/plant associations indicate that codiversification and host shifts or host expansions, rather than cospeciation, shape the pattern of species interactions in this system. Finally, I propose a scenario in which three key traits of Cladomyrma –access to live stems, utilisation of indirect food rewards via trophobionts and 'neophily'– are hypothesised to favour niche differentiation and the acquisition of new hosts over evolutionary time.
Genome sequence of the necrotrophic plant pathogen Pythium ultimum reveals original pathogenicity mechanisms and effector repertoire
C. André Lévesque
John P. Hamilton
Gregg P. Robideau
Marcelo M. Zerillo
Gordon W. Beakes
Jeffrey L. Boore
Susan I. Fuerstenberg
Claire M. M. Gachon
Rays H. Y. Jiang
Harold J. G. Meijer
Jason E. Stajich
Pieter van West
Brett R. Whitty
Pedro M. Coutinho
Paul D. Thomas
Brett M. Tyler
Ronald P. De Vries
C. Robin Buell
- Background: Pythium ultimum (P. ultimum) is a ubiquitous oomycete plant pathogen responsible for a variety of diseases on a broad range of crop and ornamental species. Results: The P. ultimum genome (42.8 Mb) encodes 15,290 genes and has extensive sequence similarity and synteny with related Phytophthora species, including the potato blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Whole transcriptome sequencing revealed expression of 86% of genes, with detectable differential expression of suites of genes under abiotic stress and in the presence of a host. The predicted proteome includes a large repertoire of proteins involved in plant pathogen interactions although surprisingly, the P. ultimum genome does not encode any classical RXLR effectors and relatively few Crinkler genes in comparison to related phytopathogenic oomycetes. A lower number of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism were present compared to Phytophthora species, with the notable absence of cutinases, suggesting a significant difference in virulence mechanisms between P. ultimum and more host specific oomycete species. Although we observed a high degree of orthology with Phytophthora genomes, there were novel features of the P. ultimum proteome including an expansion of genes involved in proteolysis and genes unique to Pythium. We identified a small gene family of cadherins, proteins involved in cell adhesion, the first report in a genome outside the metazoans. Conclusions: Access to the P. ultimum genome has revealed not only core pathogenic mechanisms within the oomycetes but also lineage specific genes associated with the alternative virulence and lifestyles found within the pythiaceous lineages compared to the Peronosporaceae.