Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Diversity and Distribution Patterns in High Southern Latitude Sponges
Rachel V. Downey
Huw J. Griffiths
- Sponges play a key role in Antarctic marine benthic community structure and dynamics and are often a dominant component of many Southern Ocean benthic communities. Understanding the drivers of sponge distribution in Antarctica enables us to understand many of general benthic biodiversity patterns in the region. The sponges of the Antarctic and neighbouring oceanographic regions were assessed for species richness and biogeographic patterns using over 8,800 distribution records. Species-rich regions include the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Georgia, Eastern Weddell Sea, Kerguelen Plateau, Falkland Islands and north New Zealand. Sampling intensity varied greatly within the study area, with sampling hotspots found at the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, north New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego, with limited sampling in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas in the Southern Ocean. In contrast to previous studies we found that eurybathy and circumpolar distributions are important but not dominant characteristics in Antarctic sponges. Overall Antarctic sponge species endemism is ~43%, with a higher level for the class Hexactinellida (68%). Endemism levels are lower than previous estimates, but still indicate the importance of the Polar Front in isolating the Southern Ocean fauna. Nineteen distinct sponge distribution patterns were found, ranging from regional endemics to cosmopolitan species. A single, distinct Antarctic demosponge fauna is found to encompass all areas within the Polar Front, and the sub-Antarctic regions of the Kerguelen Plateau and Macquarie Island. Biogeographical analyses indicate stronger faunal links between Antarctica and South America, with little evidence of links between Antarctica and South Africa, Southern Australia or New Zealand. We conclude that the biogeographic and species distribution patterns observed are largely driven by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the timing of past continent connectivity.
The Evolutionary History of the Arabidopsis arenosa Complex: Diverse Tetraploids Mask the Western Carpathian Center of Species and Genetic Diversity
Marcus A. Koch
- The Arabidopsis arenosa complex is closely related to the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Species and subspecies in the complex are mainly biennial, predominantly outcrossing, herbaceous, and with a distribution range covering most parts of latitudes and the eastern reaches of Europe. In this study we present the first comprehensive evolutionary history of the A. arenosa species complex, covering its natural range, by using chromosome counts, nuclear AFLP data, and a maternally inherited marker from the chloroplast genome [trnL intron (trnL) and trnL/F intergenic spacer (trnL/F-IGS) of tRNALeu and tRNAPhe, respectively]. We unravel the broad-scale cytogeographic and phylogeographic patterns of diploids and tetraploids. Diploid cytotypes were exclusively found on the Balkan Peninsula and in the Carpathians while tetraploid cytotypes were found throughout the remaining distribution range of the A. arenosa complex. Three centers of genetic diversity were identified: the Balkan Peninsula, the Carpathians, and the unglaciated Eastern and Southeastern Alps. All three could have served as long-term refugia during Pleistocene climate oscillations. We hypothesize that the Western Carpathians were and still are the cradle of speciation within the A. arenosa complex due to the high species number and genetic diversity and the concurrence of both cytotypes there.
Implications of hybridisation and cytotypic differentiation in speciation assessed by AFLP and plastid haplotypes - a case study of Potentilla alpicola La Soie
- Background: Hybridisation is presumed to be an important mechanism in plant speciation and a creative evolutionary force often accompanied by polyploidisation and in some cases by apomixis. The Potentilla collina group constitutes a particularly suitable model system to study these phenomena as it is morphologically extensively variable, exclusively polyploid and expresses apomixis. In the present study, the alpine taxon Potentilla alpicola has been chosen in order to study its presumed hybrid origin, identify underlying evolutionary processes and infer the discreteness or taxonomic value of hybrid forms.
Results: Combined analysis of AFLP, cpDNA sequences and ploidy level variation revealed a hybrid origin of the P. alpicola populations from South Tyrol (Italy) resulting from crosses between P. pusilla and two cytotypes of P. argentea. Hybrids were locally sympatric with at least one of the parental forms. Three lineages of different evolutionary origin comprising two ploidy levels were identified within P. alpicola. The lineages differed in parentage and the complexity of the evolutionary process. A geographically wide-spread lineage thus contrasted with locally distributed lineages of different origins. Populations of P. collina studied in addition, have been regarded rather as recent derivatives of the hexaploid P. argentea. The observation of clones within both P. alpicola and P. collina suggested a possible apomictic mode of reproduction.
Conclusions: Different hybridisation scenarios taking place on geographically small scales resulted in viable progeny presumably stabilised by apomixis. The case study of P. alpicola supports that these processes played a significant role in the creation of polymorphism in the genus Potentilla. However, multiple origin of hybrids and backcrossing are considered to produce a variety of evolutionary spontaneous forms existing aside of reproductively stabilised, established lineages.
Field notes on findings of threatened amphibian species in the central mountain range of western Panama
- During field work along a transect in the Cordillera Central of western Panama between
2008 and 2010, we detected several populations of amphibian species which are considered as
“Endangered” or “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN. Some of these species had suffered from
serious population declines, probably due to chytridiomycosis, but all are generally threatened by
habitat loss. We detected 53% of the Endangered and 56% of the Critically Endangered amphibian
species that have previously been reported from within the investigated area. We report on findings
of species that have not been found in Panama for many years, and provide locality data of newly
discovered populations. There is a need to create a new protected area in the Cerro Colorado area
of the Serranía de Tabasará, where we found 15% of the Endangered and Critically Endangered amphibian species known to Panama.
Morphology and Molecules Reveal Unexpected Cryptic Diversity in the Enigmatic Genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae)
Wolfgang A. Nässig
- The wild silkmoth genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 is a poorly known monotypic taxon from the eastern end of the Himalaya Range. It was convincingly proposed to be closely related to some members of an exclusively Afro-tropical group of Saturniidae, but its biogeographical and evolutionary history remains enigmatic. After examining recently collected material from Tibet, northern India, and northeastern Myanmar, we realized that this unique species, S. malaisei Bryk, 1944 only known so far from a few specimens and from a very restricted area near the border between north-eastern Myanmar and the Yunnan province of China, may in fact belong to a group of closely related cryptic species. In this work, we combined morphological comparative study, DNA barcoding, and the sequences of a nuclear marker (D2 expansion segment of the 28S rRNA gene) to unequivocally delimit three distinct species in the genus Sinobirma, of which two are described as new to science: S. myanmarensis sp. n. and S. bouyeri sp. n. An informative DNA barcode sequence was obtained from the female holotype of S. malaisei—collected in 1934—ensuring the proper assignation of this name to the newly collected and studied specimens. Our findings represent another example of the potential of coupling traditional taxonomy and DNA barcoding for revealing and solving difficult cases of cryptic diversity. This approach is now being generalized to the world fauna of Saturniidae, with the participation of most of the taxonomists studying these moths.
Species richness-environment relationships of European arthropods at two spatial grains: habitats and countries
Martin H. Entling
Ben A, Woodcock
- We study how species richness of arthropods relates to theories concerning net primary productivity, ambient energy, water-energy dynamics and spatial environmental heterogeneity. We use two datasets of arthropod richness with similar spatial extents (Scandinavia to Mediterranean), but contrasting spatial grain (local habitat and country). Samples of ground-dwelling spiders, beetles, bugs and ants were collected from 32 paired habitats at 16 locations across Europe. Species richness of these taxonomic groups was also determined for 25 European countries based on the Fauna Europaea database. We tested effects of net primary productivity (NPP), annual mean temperature (T), annual rainfall (R) and potential evapotranspiration of the coldest month (PETmin) on species richness and turnover. Spatial environmental heterogeneity within countries was considered by including the ranges of NPP, T, R and PETmin. At the local habitat grain, relationships between species richness and environmental variables differed strongly between taxa and trophic groups. However, species turnover across locations was strongly correlated with differences in T. At the country grain, species richness was significantly correlated with environmental variables from all four theories. In particular, species richness within countries increased strongly with spatial heterogeneity in T. The importance of spatial heterogeneity in T for both species turnover across locations and for species richness within countries suggests that the temperature niche is an important determinant of arthropod diversity. We suggest that, unless climatic heterogeneity is constant across sampling units, coarse-grained studies should always account for environmental heterogeneity as a predictor of arthropod species richness, just as studies with variable area of sampling units routinely consider area.
Which Morphological Characteristics Are Most Influenced by the Host Matrix in Downy Mildews? A Case Study in Pseudoperonospora cubensis
Marco Fabian Runge
- Before the advent of molecular phylogenetics, species concepts in the downy mildews, an economically important group of obligate biotrophic oomycete pathogens, have mostly been based upon host range and morphology. While molecular phylogenetic studies have confirmed a narrow host range for many downy mildew species, others, like Pseudoperonospora cubensis affect even different genera. Although often morphological differences were found for new, phylogenetically distinct species, uncertainty prevails regarding their host ranges, especially regarding related plants that have been reported as downy mildew hosts, but were not included in the phylogenetic studies. In these cases, the basis for deciding if the divergence in some morphological characters can be deemed sufficient for designation as separate species is uncertain, as observed morphological divergence could be due to different host matrices colonised. The broad host range of P. cubensis (ca. 60 host species) renders this pathogen an ideal model organism for the investigation of morphological variations in relation to the host matrix and to evaluate which characteristics are best indicators for conspecificity or distinctiveness. On the basis of twelve morphological characterisitcs and a set of twelve cucurbits from five different Cucurbitaceae tribes, including the two species, Cyclanthera pedata and Thladiantha dubia, hitherto not reported as hosts of P. cubensis, a significant influence of the host matrix on pathogen morphology was found. Given the high intraspecific variation of some characteristics, also their plasticity has to be taken into account. The implications for morphological species determination and the confidence limits of morphological characteristics are discussed. For species delimitations in Pseudoperonospora it is shown that the ratio of the height of the first ramification to the sporangiophore length, ratio of the longer to the shorter ultimate branchlet, and especially the length and width of sporangia, as well as, with some reservations, their ratio, are the most suitable characteristics for species delimitation.
Species distribution modelling of stream macroinvertebrates under climate change scenarios
- There is increasing evidence that climate change will have a severe impact on species’ distributions by altering the climatic conditions within their present ranges. Especially species inhabiting stream ecosystems are expected to be strongly affected due to warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns. The aim of this thesis was to
investigate how distributions of aquatic insects, i.e., benthic stream macroinvertebrates would be impacted by warming climates. The methods comprised of an ensemble forecasting technique based on species distribution models (SDMs) and climate change scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the year 2080. Future model projections were generated for a wide variety of species from a number of taxonomic orders for two spatial scales: a stream network within the lower mountain ranges of Germany, and the entire territory across Europe. In addition, the effect of the modelling technique on habitat suitability projections was investigated by modifying the choice of study area (continuous area vs. stream network) and the choice of predictors (standard vs. corrected set).
Projections of future habitat suitability showed that potential climate-change impacts would be dependent on species’ thermal preferences, and with a similar pattern for both spatial scales. Future habitat suitability was projected to remain for most or all of the modelled species, and species were projected to track their climatically suitable conditions by shifting uphill along the river continuum within the lower mountain ranges, and into a north-easterly direction across Europe. Cold-adapted headwater and high-latitude species were projected to lose suitable habitats, whereas gains would be expected for warm-adapted river and low-latitude species along the river continuum and across Europe, respectively. Additionally, habitat specialist species in terms of endemics of the Iberian Peninsula were identified as potential climate-change losers, highlighting their restricted habitat availability and therefore vulnerability to warming climates.
The main findings of this thesis underline the high susceptibility of stream macroinvertebrates to ongoing climate change, and give insights into patterns of possible consequences due to changes in species’ habitat suitability. Concerning the methodology, a clear recommendation can be given for future modelling approaches of stream macroinvertebrates by building models within a stream network and with a careful choice of environmental predictors, to reduce uncertainties and thus to improve model projections.
Genomic resources for a model in adaptation and speciation research: characterization of the Poecilia mexicana transcriptome
Joanna L. Kelley
Courtney N. Passow
Lenin Arias Rodriguez
- Background: Elucidating the genomic basis of adaptation and speciation is a major challenge in natural systems with large quantities of environmental and phenotypic data, mostly because of the scarcity of genomic resources for non-model organisms. The Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae) is a small livebearing fish that has been extensively studied for evolutionary ecology research, particularly because this species has repeatedly colonized extreme environments in the form of caves and toxic hydrogen sulfide containing springs. In such extreme environments, populations show strong patterns of adaptive trait divergence and the emergence of reproductive isolation. Here, we used RNA-sequencing to assemble and annotate the first transcriptome of P. mexicana to facilitate ecological genomics studies in the future and aid the identification of genes underlying adaptation and speciation in the system.
Description: We provide the first annotated reference transcriptome of P. mexicana. Our transcriptome shows high congruence with other published fish transcriptomes, including that of the guppy, medaka, zebrafish, and stickleback. Transcriptome annotation uncovered the presence of candidate genes relevant in the study of adaptation to extreme environments. We describe general and oxidative stress response genes as well as genes involved in pathways induced by hypoxia or involved in sulfide metabolism. To facilitate future comparative analyses, we also conducted quantitative comparisons between P. mexicana from different river drainages. 106,524 single nucleotide polymorphisms were detected in our dataset, including potential markers that are putatively fixed across drainages. Furthermore, specimens from different drainages exhibited some consistent differences in gene regulation.
Conclusions: Our study provides a valuable genomic resource to study the molecular underpinnings of adaptation to extreme environments in replicated sulfide spring and cave environments. In addition, this study adds to the increasing number of genomic resources in the family Poeciliidae, which are widely used in comparative analyses of behavior, ecology, evolution, and medical genetics.
Chemical composition of modern and fossil Hippopotamid teeth and implications for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and enamel formation - Part 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 provides a comprehensive 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 lacustrine (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 – are 2 to 10 times higher in fossil than in modern enamel; the secondary enrichment of these components in fossil dentin and cement is 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 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 trend. 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 granites 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 equilibration of existing and addition of new apatite during maturation. It appears 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 compositions, 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.