ResearchPad - evolutionary-ecology https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Plant ontogeny determines strength and associated plant fitness consequences of plant‐mediated interactions between herbivores and flower visitors]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_7146 Plants show ontogenetic variation in growth–defence strategies to maximize reproductive output within a community context. Our study shows that the ontogenetic stage of plant individuals determined the effects of herbivory on plant flowering traits, interactions with flower visitors and plant fitness. Hence, studies on plant evolution need to consider ecologically relevant timing of herbivory.

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<![CDATA[Till Death (Or an Intruder) Do Us Part: Intrasexual-Competition in a Monogamous Primate]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989daaaab0ee8fa60ba8f45

Polygynous animals are often highly dimorphic, and show large sex-differences in the degree of intra-sexual competition and aggression, which is associated with biased operational sex ratios (OSR). For socially monogamous, sexually monomorphic species, this relationship is less clear. Among mammals, pair-living has sometimes been assumed to imply equal OSR and low frequency, low intensity intra-sexual competition; even when high rates of intra-sexual competition and selection, in both sexes, have been theoretically predicted and described for various taxa. Owl monkeys are one of a few socially monogamous primates. Using long-term demographic and morphological data from 18 groups, we show that male and female owl monkeys experience intense intra-sexual competition and aggression from solitary floaters. Pair-mates are regularly replaced by intruding floaters (27 female and 23 male replacements in 149 group-years), with negative effects on the reproductive success of both partners. Individuals with only one partner during their life produced 25% more offspring per decade of tenure than those with two or more partners. The termination of the pair-bond is initiated by the floater, and sometimes has fatal consequences for the expelled adult. The existence of floaters and the sporadic, but intense aggression between them and residents suggest that it can be misleading to assume an equal OSR in socially monogamous species based solely on group composition. Instead, we suggest that sexual selection models must assume not equal, but flexible, context-specific, OSR in monogamous species.

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<![CDATA[Discovery of a new species of the Hypoxylon rubiginosum complex from Iran and antagonistic activities of Hypoxylon spp. against the Ash Dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in dual culture]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N42b420df-f01d-4492-b8d8-193894490051

Abstract

During a survey of xylarialean fungi in Northern Iran, several specimens that showed affinities to the Hypoxylon rubiginosum complex were collected and cultured. A comparison of their morphological characters, combined with a chemotaxonomic study based on high performance liquid chromatography, coupled with diode array detection and mass spectrometry (HPLC-DAD/MS) and a multi-locus phylogeny based on ITS, LSU, rbp2 and tub2 DNA sequences, revealed a new species here described as Hypoxylon guilanense. In addition, Hypoxylon rubiginosumsensu stricto was also encountered. Concurrently, an endophytic isolate of the latter species showed strong antagonistic activities against the Ash Dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in a dual culture assay in our laboratory. Therefore, we decided to test the new Iranian fungi for antagonistic activities against the pathogen, along with several cultures of other Hypoxylon species that are related to H. rubiginosum. Our results suggest that the antagonistic effects of Hypoxylon spp. against Hym. fraxineus are widespread and that they are due to the production of antifungal phomopsidin derivatives in the presence of the pathogen.

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<![CDATA[Phylogeography of post-Pleistocene population expansion in Dasyscyphella longistipitata (Leotiomycetes, Helotiales), an endemic fungal symbiont of Fagus crenata in Japan]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N769974b5-a75a-4c02-adb2-df539465e4d8
Abstract

During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), drastic environmental changes modified the topology of the Japanese Archipelago, impacting species distributions. An example is Fagus crenata, which has a present continuous distribution throughout Japan. However, by the end of the LGM it was restricted to southern refugia. Similarly, Dasyscyphella longistipitata (Leotiomycetes, Helotiales, Lachnaceae) occurs strictly on cupules of F. crenata, sharing currently an identical distribution. As the effects of the LGM remain poorly understood for saprobiotic microfungal species, herein we identified past structuring forces that shaped the current genetic diversity within D. longistipitata in relation to its host using a phylogeographic approach. We inferred present and past potential distributions through species distribution modeling, identifying environmental suitability areas in mid-southern Japan from which subsequent colonizations occurred. Our findings suggest that current high genetic diversity and lack of genetic structure within D. longistipitata are the result of recent multiple re-colonization events after the LGM.

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<![CDATA[Measuring popularity of ecological topics in a temporal dynamical knowledge network]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b5243d5eed0c4842bc58d

As interdisciplinary branches of ecology are developing rapidly in the 21st century, contents of ecological researches have become more abundant than ever before. Along with the exponential growth of number of published literatures, it is more and more difficult for ecologists to get a clear picture of their discipline. Nevertheless, the era of big data has brought us massive information of well documented historical literature and various techniques of data processing, which greatly facilitates the implementation of bibliometric analysis on ecology. Frequency has long been used as the primary metric in keyword analysis to detect ecological hotspots, however, this method could be somewhat biased. In our study, we have suggested a method called PAFit to measure keyword popularity, which considered ecology-related topics in a large temporal dynamical knowledge network, and found out the popularity of ecological topics follows the “rich get richer” and “fit get richer” mechanism. Feasibility of network analysis and its superiority over simply using frequency had been explored and justified, and PAFit was testified by its outstanding performance of prediction on the growth of frequency and degree. In addition, our research also encourages ecologists to consider their domain knowledge in a large dynamical network, and be ready to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations when necessary.

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<![CDATA[Trypanosoma cruzi IIc: Phylogenetic and Phylogeographic Insights from Sequence and Microsatellite Analysis and Potential Impact on Emergent Chagas Disease]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da91ab0ee8fa60ba016a

Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas disease, is highly genetically diverse. Numerous lines of evidence point to the existence of six stable genetic lineages or DTUs: TcI, TcIIa, TcIIb, TcIIc, TcIId, and TcIIe. Molecular dating suggests that T. cruzi is likely to have been an endemic infection of neotropical mammalian fauna for many millions of years. Here we have applied a panel of 49 polymorphic microsatellite markers developed from the online T. cruzi genome to document genetic diversity among 53 isolates belonging to TcIIc, a lineage so far recorded almost exclusively in silvatic transmission cycles but increasingly a potential source of human infection. These data are complemented by parallel analysis of sequence variation in a fragment of the glucose-6-phosphate isomerase gene. New isolates confirm that TcIIc is associated with terrestrial transmission cycles and armadillo reservoir hosts, and demonstrate that TcIIc is far more widespread than previously thought, with a distribution at least from Western Venezuela to the Argentine Chaco. We show that TcIIc is truly a discrete T. cruzi lineage, that it could have an ancient origin and that diversity occurs within the terrestrial niche independently of the host species. We also show that spatial structure among TcIIc isolates from its principal host, the armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus, is greater than that among TcI from Didelphis spp. opossums and link this observation to differences in ecology of their respective niches. Homozygosity in TcIIc populations and some linkage indices indicate the possibility of recombination but cannot yet be effectively discriminated from a high genome-wide frequency of gene conversion. Finally, we suggest that the derived TcIIc population genetic data have a vital role in determining the origin of the epidemiologically important hybrid lineages TcIId and TcIIe.

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<![CDATA[High Levels of Genetic Differentiation between Ugandan Glossina fuscipes fuscipes Populations Separated by Lake Kyoga]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da83ab0ee8fa60b9b88b

Background

Glossina fuscipes fuscipes is the major vector of human African trypanosomiasis, commonly referred to as sleeping sickness, in Uganda. In western and eastern Africa, the disease has distinct clinical manifestations and is caused by two different parasites: Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and T. b. gambiense. Uganda is exceptional in that it harbors both parasites, which are separated by a narrow 160-km belt. This separation is puzzling considering there are no restrictions on the movement of people and animals across this region.

Methodology and Results

We investigated whether genetic heterogeneity of G. f. fuscipes vector populations can provide an explanation for this disjunct distribution of the Trypanosoma parasites. Therefore, we examined genetic structuring of G. f. fuscipes populations across Uganda using newly developed microsatellite markers, as well as mtDNA. Our data show that G. f. fuscipes populations are highly structured, with two clearly defined clusters that are separated by Lake Kyoga, located in central Uganda. Interestingly, we did not find a correlation between genetic heterogeneity and the type of Trypanosoma parasite transmitted.

Conclusions

The lack of a correlation between genetic structuring of G. f. fuscipes populations and the distribution of T. b. gambiense and T. b. rhodesiense indicates that it is unlikely that genetic heterogeneity of G. f. fuscipes populations explains the disjunct distribution of the parasites. These results have important epidemiological implications, suggesting that a fusion of the two disease distributions is unlikely to be prevented by an incompatibility between vector populations and parasite.

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<![CDATA[Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) for Lineage Assignment and High Resolution Diversity Studies in Trypanosoma cruzi]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da8eab0ee8fa60b9f10d

Background

Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) is a powerful and highly discriminatory method for analysing pathogen population structure and epidemiology. Trypanosoma cruzi, the protozoan agent of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), has remarkable genetic and ecological diversity. A standardised MLST protocol that is suitable for assignment of T. cruzi isolates to genetic lineage and for higher resolution diversity studies has not been developed.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We have sequenced and diplotyped nine single copy housekeeping genes and assessed their value as part of a systematic MLST scheme for T. cruzi. A minimum panel of four MLST targets (Met-III, RB19, TcGPXII, and DHFR-TS) was shown to provide unambiguous assignment of isolates to the six known T. cruzi lineages (Discrete Typing Units, DTUs TcI-TcVI). In addition, we recommend six MLST targets (Met-II, Met-III, RB19, TcMPX, DHFR-TS, and TR) for more in depth diversity studies on the basis that diploid sequence typing (DST) with this expanded panel distinguished 38 out of 39 reference isolates. Phylogenetic analysis implies a subdivision between North and South American TcIV isolates. Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) data revealed high levels of heterozygosity among DTUs TcI, TcIII, TcIV and, for three targets, putative corresponding homozygous and heterozygous loci within DTUs TcI and TcIII. Furthermore, individual gene trees gave incongruent topologies at inter- and intra-DTU levels, inconsistent with a model of strict clonality.

Conclusions/Significance

We demonstrate the value of systematic MLST diplotyping for describing inter-DTU relationships and for higher resolution diversity studies of T. cruzi, including presence of recombination events. The high levels of heterozygosity will facilitate future population genetics analysis based on MLST haplotypes.

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<![CDATA[Why Do Cuckolded Males Provide Paternal Care?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da1fab0ee8fa60b7e71f

A comparative analysis across insects, birds, fish, and mammals reveals why it sometimes pays for males to care for the offspring of other males.

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<![CDATA[Natural Selection on Individual Variation in Tolerance of Gastrointestinal Nematode Infection]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da93ab0ee8fa60ba0bac

A 25-year study of wild sheep shows that individuals vary in how quickly they lose weight as parasite infections increase, and that those who lose the least weight when heavily infected produce more offspring.

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<![CDATA[Origin of the Dengue Fever Mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in California]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da80ab0ee8fa60b9a458

Dengue fever is among the most widespread vector-borne infectious diseases. The primary vector of dengue is the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Ae. aegypti is prevalent in the tropics and sub-tropics and is closely associated with human habitats outside its native range of Africa. While long established in the southeastern United States of America where dengue is re-emerging, breeding populations have never been reported from California until the summer of 2013. Using 12 highly variable microsatellite loci and a database of reference populations, we have determined that the likely source of the California introduction is the southeastern United States, ruling out introductions from abroad, from the geographically closer Arizona or northern Mexico populations, or an accidental release from a research laboratory. The power to identify the origin of new introductions of invasive vectors of human disease relies heavily on the availability of a panel of reference populations. Our work demonstrates the importance of generating extensive reference databases of genetically fingerprinted human-disease vector populations to aid public health efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of vector-borne diseases.

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<![CDATA[The Establishment of Genetically Engineered Canola Populations in the U.S.]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da7bab0ee8fa60b98961

Concerns regarding the commercial release of genetically engineered (GE) crops include naturalization, introgression to sexually compatible relatives and the transfer of beneficial traits to native and weedy species through hybridization. To date there have been few documented reports of escape leading some researchers to question the environmental risks of biotech products. In this study we conducted a systematic roadside survey of canola (Brassica napus) populations growing outside of cultivation in North Dakota, USA, the dominant canola growing region in the U.S. We document the presence of two escaped, transgenic genotypes, as well as non-GE canola, and provide evidence of novel combinations of transgenic forms in the wild. Our results demonstrate that feral populations are large and widespread. Moreover, flowering times of escaped populations, as well as the fertile condition of the majority of collections suggest that these populations are established and persistent outside of cultivation.

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<![CDATA[Coexistence of Trichome Variation in a Natural Plant Population: A Combined Study Using Ecological and Candidate Gene Approaches]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9f0ab0ee8fa60b6e461

The coexistence of distinct phenotypes within populations has long been investigated in evolutionary ecology. Recent studies have identified the genetic basis of distinct phenotypes, but it is poorly understood how the variation in candidate loci is maintained in natural environments. In this study, we examined fitness consequences and genetic basis of variation in trichome production in a natural population of Arabidopsis halleri subsp. gemmifera. Half of the individuals in the study population produced trichomes while the other half were glabrous, and the leaf beetle Phaedon brassicae imposed intensive damage to both phenotypes. The fitness of hairy and glabrous plants showed no significant differences in the field during two years. A similar result was obtained when sibling hairy and glabrous plants were transplanted at the same field site, whereas a fitness cost of trichome production was detected under a weak herbivory condition. Thus, equivalent fitness of hairy and glabrous plants under natural herbivory allows their coexistence in the contemporary population. The pattern of polymorphism of the candidate trichome gene GLABROUS1 (GL1) showed no evidence of long-term maintenance of trichome variation within the population. Although balancing selection under fluctuating biotic environments is often proposed to explain the maintenance of defense variation, the lack of clear evidence of balancing selection in the study population suggests that other factors such as gene flow and neutral process may have played relatively large roles in shaping trichome variation at least for the single population level.

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<![CDATA[Growth Pattern Responses to Photoperiod across Latitudes in a Northern Damselfly]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db3bab0ee8fa60bd4e75

Background

Latitudinal clines in temperature and seasonality impose strong seasonal constraints on ectotherms. Studies of population differentiation in phenotypic plasticity of life history traits along latitudinal gradients are important for understanding how organisms have adapted to seasonal environments and predict how they respond to climate changes. Such studies have been scarce for species with a northern distribution.

Methodology/Principle Finding

Larvae of the northern damselfly Coenagrion johanssoni originating from semivoltine central, partivoltine northern, and partivoltine northernmost Swedish populations were reared in the laboratory. To investigate whether larvae use photoperiodic cues to induce compensatory growth along this latitudinal gradient, larvae were reared under two different photoperiods corresponding to a northern and southern latitude. In addition, field adult size was assessed to test the strength of possible compensatory growth mechanisms under natural conditions and hatchling size was measured to test for maternal effects. We hypothesized that populations originating from lower latitudes would be more time constrained than high-latitude populations because they have a shorter life cycle. The results showed that low-latitude populations had higher growth rates in summer/fall. In general northern photoperiods induced higher growth rates, but this plastic response to photoperiod was strongest in the southernmost populations and negligible in the northernmost population. During spring, central populations grew faster under the southern rather than the northern photoperiod. On the other hand, northern and northernmost populations did not differ between each other and grew faster in the northern rather than in the southern photoperiod. Field sampled adults did not differ in size across the studied regions.

Conclusion/Significance

We found a significant differentiation in growth rate across latitudes and latitudinal difference in growth rate response to photoperiod. Importantly, growth responses measured at a single larval developmental stage in one season may not always generalize to other developmental stages or seasons.

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<![CDATA[Susceptibility of Anopheles stephensi to Plasmodium gallinaceum: A Trait of the Mosquito, the Parasite, and the Environment]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da04ab0ee8fa60b7518f

Background

Vector susceptibility to Plasmodium infection is treated primarily as a vector trait, although it is a composite trait expressing the joint occurrence of the parasite and the vector with genetic contributions of both. A comprehensive approach to assess the specific contribution of genetic and environmental variation on “vector susceptibility” is lacking. Here we developed and implemented a simple scheme to assess the specific contributions of the vector, the parasite, and the environment to “vector susceptibility.” To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that employs such an approach.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We conducted selection experiments on the vector (while holding the parasite “constant”) and on the parasite (while holding the vector “constant”) to estimate the genetic contributions of the mosquito and the parasite to the susceptibility of Anopheles stephensi to Plasmodium gallinaceum. We separately estimated the realized heritability of (i) susceptibility to parasite infection by the mosquito vector and (ii) parasite compatibility (transmissibility) with the vector while controlling the other. The heritabilities of vector and the parasite were higher for the prevalence, i.e., fraction of infected mosquitoes, than the corresponding heritabilities of parasite load, i.e., the number of oocysts per mosquito.

Conclusions

The vector's genetics (heritability) comprised 67% of “vector susceptibility” measured by the prevalence of mosquitoes infected with P. gallinaceum oocysts, whereas the specific contribution of parasite genetics (heritability) to this trait was only 5%. Our parasite source might possess minimal genetic diversity, which could explain its low heritability (and the high value of the vector). Notably, the environment contributed 28%. These estimates are relevant only to the particular system under study, but this experimental design could be useful for other parasite-host systems. The prospects and limitations of the genetic manipulation of vector populations to render the vector resistant to the parasite are better considered on the basis of this framework.

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<![CDATA[Disentangling Ancient Interactions: A New Extinct Passerine Provides Insights on Character Displacement among Extinct and Extant Island Finches]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da28ab0ee8fa60b81542

Background

Evolutionary studies of insular biotas are based mainly on extant taxa, although such biotas represent artificial subsets of original faunas because of human-caused extinctions of indigenous species augmented by introduced exotic taxa. This makes it difficult to obtain a full understanding of the history of ecological interactions between extant sympatric species. Morphological bill variation of Fringilla coelebs and F. teydea (common and blue chaffinches) has been previously studied in the North Atlantic Macaronesian archipelagos. Character displacement between both species has been argued to explain bill sizes in sympatry. However, this explanation is incomplete, as similar patterns of bill size have been recorded in F. coelebs populations from islands with and without F. teydea.

Methodology/Principal Findings

The discovery of a new extinct species in Tenerife (Canary Islands), here named Carduelis aurelioi n. sp. (slender-billed greenfinch), provides the opportunity to study ancient ecological interactions among Macaronesian finches. To help understand the evolutionary histories of forest granivores in space and time, we have performed a multidisciplinary study combining: (1) morphological analyses and radiocarbon dating (11,460±60 yr BP) of the new taxon and, (2) molecular divergence among the extant finch species and populations in order to infer colonization times (1.99 and 1.09 My for F. teydea and F. coelebs respectively).

Conclusion/Significance

C. aurelioi, F. coelebs and F. teydea co-habited in Tenerife for at least one million years. The unique anatomical trends of the new species, namely chaffinch-like beak and modified hind and forelimbs, reveal that there was a process of divergence of resource competition traits among the three sympatric finches. The results of our study, combined with the presence of more extinct greenfinches in other Macaronesian islands with significant variation in their beak sizes, suggests that the character displacement has influenced patterns of divergence in bill size and shape on other Macaronesian islands as well.

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<![CDATA[Gene Flow among Populations of Two Rare Co-Occurring Fern Species Differing in Ploidy Level]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da9aab0ee8fa60ba3374

Differences in ploidy levels among different fern species have a vast influence on their mating system, their colonization ability and on the gene flow among populations. Differences in the colonization abilities of species with different ploidy levels are well known: tetraploids, in contrast to diploids, are able to undergo intra-gametophytic selfing. Because fertilization is a post-dispersal process in ferns, selfing results in better colonization abilities in tetraploids because of single spore colonization. Considerably less is known about the gene flow among populations of different ploidy levels. The present study examines two rare fern species that differ in ploidy. While it has already been confirmed that tetraploid species are better at colonizing, the present study focuses on the gene flow among existing populations. We analyzed the genetic structure of a set of populations in a 10×10 km study region using isoenzymes. Genetic variation in tetraploid species is distributed mainly among populations; the genetic distance between populations is correlated with the geographical distance, and larger populations host more genetic diversity than smaller populations. In the diploid species, most variability is partitioned within populations; the genetic distance is not related to geographic distance, and the genetic diversity of populations is not related to the population size. This suggests that in tetraploid species, which undergo selfing, gene flow is limited. In contrast, in the diploid species, which experience outcrossing, gene flow is extensive and the whole system behaves as one large population. Our results suggest that in ferns, the ability to colonize new habitats and the gene flow among existing populations are affected by the mating system.

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<![CDATA[Architecture of an Antagonistic Tree/Fungus Network: The Asymmetric Influence of Past Evolutionary History]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da75ab0ee8fa60b963ab

Background

Compartmentalization and nestedness are common patterns in ecological networks. The aim of this study was to elucidate some of the processes shaping these patterns in a well resolved network of host/pathogen interactions.

Methology/Principal Findings

Based on a long-term (1972–2005) survey of forest health at the regional scale (all French forests; 15 million ha), we uncovered an almost fully connected network of 51 tree taxa and 157 parasitic fungal species. Our analyses revealed that the compartmentalization of the network maps out the ancient evolutionary history of seed plants, but not the ancient evolutionary history of fungal species. The very early divergence of the major fungal phyla may account for this asymmetric influence of past evolutionary history. Unlike compartmentalization, nestedness did not reflect any consistent phylogenetic signal. Instead, it seemed to reflect the ecological features of the current species, such as the relative abundance of tree species and the life-history strategies of fungal pathogens. We discussed how the evolution of host range in fungal species may account for the observed nested patterns.

Conclusion/Significance

Overall, our analyses emphasized how the current complexity of ecological networks results from the diversification of the species and their interactions over evolutionary times. They confirmed that the current architecture of ecological networks is not only dependant on recent ecological processes.

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<![CDATA[The Genome Sequence of the Leaf-Cutter Ant Atta cephalotes Reveals Insights into Its Obligate Symbiotic Lifestyle]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dadeab0ee8fa60bbaf02

Leaf-cutter ants are one of the most important herbivorous insects in the Neotropics, harvesting vast quantities of fresh leaf material. The ants use leaves to cultivate a fungus that serves as the colony's primary food source. This obligate ant-fungus mutualism is one of the few occurrences of farming by non-humans and likely facilitated the formation of their massive colonies. Mature leaf-cutter ant colonies contain millions of workers ranging in size from small garden tenders to large soldiers, resulting in one of the most complex polymorphic caste systems within ants. To begin uncovering the genomic underpinnings of this system, we sequenced the genome of Atta cephalotes using 454 pyrosequencing. One prediction from this ant's lifestyle is that it has undergone genetic modifications that reflect its obligate dependence on the fungus for nutrients. Analysis of this genome sequence is consistent with this hypothesis, as we find evidence for reductions in genes related to nutrient acquisition. These include extensive reductions in serine proteases (which are likely unnecessary because proteolysis is not a primary mechanism used to process nutrients obtained from the fungus), a loss of genes involved in arginine biosynthesis (suggesting that this amino acid is obtained from the fungus), and the absence of a hexamerin (which sequesters amino acids during larval development in other insects). Following recent reports of genome sequences from other insects that engage in symbioses with beneficial microbes, the A. cephalotes genome provides new insights into the symbiotic lifestyle of this ant and advances our understanding of host–microbe symbioses.

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<![CDATA[The Evolutionary Ecology of Biotic Association in a Megadiverse Bivalve Superfamily: Sponsorship Required for Permanent Residency in Sediment]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da29ab0ee8fa60b81b2e

Background

Marine lineage diversification is shaped by the interaction of biotic and abiotic factors but our understanding of their relative roles is underdeveloped. The megadiverse bivalve superfamily Galeommatoidea represents a promising study system to address this issue. It is composed of small-bodied clams that are either free-living or have commensal associations with invertebrate hosts. To test if the evolution of this lifestyle dichotomy is correlated with specific ecologies, we have performed a statistical analysis on the lifestyle and habitat preference of 121 species based on 90 source documents.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Galeommatoidea has significant diversity in the two primary benthic habitats: hard- and soft-bottoms. Hard-bottom dwellers are overwhelmingly free-living, typically hidden within crevices of rocks/coral heads/encrusting epifauna. In contrast, species in soft-bottom habitats are almost exclusively infaunal commensals. These infaunal biotic associations may involve direct attachment to a host, or clustering around its tube/burrow, but all commensals locate within the oxygenated sediment envelope produced by the host’s bioturbation.

Conclusions/Significance

The formation of commensal associations by galeommatoidean clams is robustly correlated with an abiotic environmental setting: living in sediments (). Sediment-dwelling bivalves are exposed to intense predation pressure that drops markedly with depth of burial. Commensal galeommatoideans routinely attain depth refuges many times their body lengths, independent of siphonal investment, by virtue of their host’s burrowing and bioturbation. In effect, they use their much larger hosts as giant auto-irrigating siphon substitutes. The evolution of biotic associations with infaunal bioturbating hosts may have been a prerequisite for the diversification of Galeommatoidea in sediments and has likely been a key factor in the success of this exceptionally diverse bivalve superfamily.

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