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BMC Evol Biol [journal]
- Clock model makes a large difference to age estimates of long-stemmed clades with no internal calibration: a test using Australian grasstrees. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 19; 14(1):263.
BackgroundEstimating divergence times in phylogenies using a molecular clock depends on accurate modeling of nucleotide substitution rates in DNA sequences. Rate heterogeneity among lineages is likely to affect estimates, especially in lineages with long stems and short crowns (¿broom¿ clades) and no internal calibration. We evaluate the performance of the random local clocks model (RLC) and the more routinely employed uncorrelated lognormal relaxed clock model (UCLN) in situations in which a significant rate shift occurs on the stem branch of a broom clade. We compare the results of simulations to empirical results from analyses of a real rate-heterogeneous taxon ¿ Australian grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) ¿ whose substitution rate is slower than in its sister groups, as determined by relative rate tests.ResultsIn the simulated datasets, the RLC model performed much better than UCLN: RLC correctly estimated the age of the crown node of slow-rate broom clades, whereas UCLN estimates were consistently too young. Similarly, in the Xanthorrhoea dataset, UCLN returned significantly younger crown ages than RLC (mean estimates respectively 3¿6 Ma versus 25¿35 Ma). In both real and simulated datasets, Bayes Factor tests strongly favored the RLC model over the UCLN model.ConclusionsThe choice of an unsuitable molecular clock model can strongly bias divergence time estimates. In particular, for data predicted to have more rate variation among than within clades, dating with RLC is much more likely to be accurate than with UCLN. The choice of clocks should be informed by the biology of the study group (e.g., life-form) or assessed with relative rate tests and post-hoc model comparisons.
- Divergent evolutionary rates in vertebrate and mammalian specific conserved non-coding elements (CNEs) in echolocating mammals. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 19; 14(1):261.
BackgroundThe majority of DNA contained within vertebrate genomes is non-coding, with a certain proportion of this thought to play regulatory roles during development. Conserved Non-coding Elements (CNEs) are an abundant group of putative regulatory sequences that are highly conserved across divergent groups and thus assumed to be under strong selective constraint. Many CNEs may contain regulatory factor binding sites, and their frequent spatial association with key developmental genes ¿ such as those regulating sensory system development ¿ suggests crucial roles in regulating gene expression and cellular patterning. Yet surprisingly little is known about the molecular evolution of CNEs across diverse mammalian taxa or their role in specific phenotypic adaptations. We examined 3,110 vertebrate-specific and ~82,000 mammalian-specific CNEs across 19 and 9 mammalian orders respectively, and tested for changes in the rate of evolution of CNEs located in the proximity of genes underlying the development or functioning of auditory systems. As we focused on CNEs putatively associated with genes underlying the development/functioning of auditory systems, we incorporated echolocating taxa in our dataset because of their highly specialised and derived auditory systems.ResultsPhylogenetic reconstructions of concatenated CNEs broadly recovered accepted mammal relationships despite high levels of sequence conservation. We found that CNE substitution rates were highest in rodents and lowest in primates, consistent with previous findings. Comparisons of CNE substitution rates from several genomic regions containing genes linked to auditory system development and hearing revealed differences between echolocating and non-echolocating taxa. Wider taxonomic sampling of four CNEs associated with the homeobox genes Hmx2 and Hmx3 ¿ which are required for inner ear development ¿ revealed family-wise variation across diverse bat species. Specifically within one family of echolocating bats that utilise frequency-modulated echolocation calls varying widely in frequency and intensity high levels of sequence divergence were found.ConclusionsLevels of selective constraint acting on CNEs differed both across genomic locations and taxa, with observed variation in substitution rates of CNEs among bat species. More work is needed to determine whether this variation can be linked to echolocation, and wider taxonomic sampling is necessary to fully document levels of conservation in CNEs across diverse taxa.
- Analysis of codon usage bias of mitochondrial genome in Bombyx mori and its relation to evolution. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 17; 14(1):262.
BackgroundSynonymous codon usage bias (SCUB) is an inevitable phenomenon in organismic taxa, generally referring to differences in the occurrence frequency of codons across different species or within the genome of the same species. SCUB happens in various degrees under pressure from nature selection, mutation bias and other factors in different ways. It also attaches great significance to gene expression and species evolution, however, a systematic investigation towards the codon usage in Bombyx mori (B. mori) has not been reported yet. Moreover, it is still indistinct about the reasons contributing to the bias or the relationship between the bias and the evolution of B. mori.ResultsThe comparison of the codon usage pattern between the genomic DNA (gDNA) and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from B. mori suggests that mtDNA has a higher level of codon bias. Furthermore, the correspondence analysis suggests that natural selection, such as gene length, gene function and translational selection, dominates the codon preference of mtDNA, while the composition constraints for mutation bias only plays a minor role. Additionally, the clustering results of the silkworm superfamily suggest a lack of explicitness in the relationship between the codon usage of mitogenome and species evolution.ConclusionsAmong the complicated influence factors leading to codon bias, natural selection is found to play a major role in shaping the high bias in the mtDNA of B. mori from our current data. Although the cluster analysis reveals that codon bias correlates little with the species evolution, furthermore, a detailed analysis of codon usage of mitogenome provides better insight into the evolutionary relationships in Lepidoptera. However, more new methods and data are needed to investigate the relationship between the mtDNA bias and evolution.
- At the brink of eusociality: transcriptomic correlates of worker behaviour in a small carpenter bee. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 17; 14(1):260.
BackgroundThere is great interest in understanding the genomic underpinnings of social evolution, in particular, the evolution of eusociality (caste-containing societies with non-reproductives that care for siblings). Subsociality is a key precursor for the evolution of eusociality and characterized by prolonged parental care and parent-offspring interaction. Here, we provide the first transcriptomic data for the small carpenter bee, Ceratina calcarata. This species is of special interest because it is subsocial and in the same family as the highly eusocial honey bee, Apis mellifera. In addition, some C. calcarata females demonstrate alloparental care without reproduction, which provides a unique opportunity to study worker behaviour in a non-eusocial species.ResultsWe uncovered similar gene expression patterns related to maternal care and sibling care in different groups of females. This agrees with the maternal heterochrony hypothesis, specifically, that changes in timing of offspring care gene expression are related to worker behaviour in incipient insect societies. In addition, we also detected some similarity to caste-related gene expression patterns in highly eusocial honey bees, and uncovered large lifetime changes in gene expression that accompany shifts in reproductive and maternal care behaviour.ConclusionsFor Ceratina calcarata, we found that transcript expression profiles were most similar between sibling care and maternal care females. The maternal care behaviour exhibited post-reproductively by Ceratina mothers is concordant in terms of transcript expression with the alloparental care exhibited by workers. In line with theoretical predictions, our data are consistent with the maternal heterochrony hypothesis for the evolutionary development of worker behaviour in subsocial bees.
- Directed evolution of cell size in Escherichia coli. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 17; 14(1):257.
BackgroundIn bacteria, cell size affects chromosome replication, the assembly of division machinery, cell wall synthesis, membrane synthesis and ultimately growth rate. In addition, cell size can also be a target for Darwinian evolution for protection from predators. This strong coupling of cell size and growth, however, could lead to the introduction of growth defects after size evolution. An important question remains: can bacterial cell size change and/or evolve without imposing a growth burden?ResultsThe directed evolution of particular cell sizes, without a growth burden, was tested with a laboratory Escherichia coli strain. Cells of defined size ranges were collected by a cell sorter and were subsequently cultured. This selection-propagation cycle was repeated, and significant changes in cell size were detected within 400 generations. In addition, the width of the size distribution was altered. The changes in cell size were unaccompanied by a growth burden. Whole genome sequencing revealed that only a few mutations in genes related to membrane synthesis conferred the size evolution.ConclusionsIn conclusion, bacterial cell size could evolve, through a few mutations, without growth reduction. The size evolution without growth reduction suggests a rapid evolutionary change to diverse cell sizes in bacterial survival strategies.
- Impacts of genetic correlation on the independent evolution of body mass and skeletal size in mammals. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 14; 14(1):258.
BackgroundMammals show a predictable scaling relationship between limb bone size and body mass. This relationship has a genetic basis which likely evolved via natural selection, but it is unclear how much the genetic correlation between these traits in turn impacts their capacity to evolve independently. We selectively bred laboratory mice for increases in tibia length independent of body mass, to test the hypothesis that a genetic correlation with body mass constrains evolutionary change in tibia length.ResultsOver 14 generations, we produced mean tibia length increases of 9-13%, while mean body mass was unchanged, in selectively bred mice and random-bred controls. Using evolutionary scenarios with different selection and quantitative genetic parameters, we also found that this genetic correlation impedes the rate of evolutionary change in both traits, slowing increases in tibia length while preventing decreases in body mass, despite the latter¿s negative effect on fitness.ConclusionsOverall, results from this ongoing selection experiment suggest that parallel evolution of relatively longer hind limbs among rodents, for example in the context of strong competition for resources and niche partitioning in heterogeneous environments, may have occurred very rapidly on geological timescales, in spite of a moderately strong genetic correlation between tibia length and body mass.
- Pan-African phylogeny of Mus (subgenus Nannomys ) reveals one of the most successful mammal radiations in Africa. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 14; 14(1):256.
BackgroundRodents of the genus Mus represent one of the most valuable biological models for biomedical and evolutionary research. Out of the four currently recognized subgenera, Nannomys (African pygmy mice, including the smallest rodents in the world) comprises the only original African lineage. Species of this subgenus became important models for the study of sex determination in mammals and they are also hosts of potentially dangerous pathogens. Nannomys ancestors colonized Africa from Asia at the end of Miocene and Eastern Africa should be considered as the place of their first radiation. In sharp contrast with this fact and despite the biological importance of Nannomys, the specimens from Eastern Africa were obviously under-represented in previous studies and the phylogenetic and distributional patterns were thus incomplete.ResultsWe performed comprehensive genetic analysis of 657 individuals of Nannomys collected at approximately 300 localities across the whole sub-Saharan Africa. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on mitochondrial (CYTB) and nuclear (IRBP) genes identified five species groups and three monotypic ancestral lineages. We provide evidence for important cryptic diversity and we defined and mapped the distribution of 27 molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs) that may correspond to presumable species. Biogeographical reconstructions based on data spanning all of Africa modified the previous evolutionary scenarios. First divergences occurred in Eastern African mountains soon after the colonization of the continent and the remnants of these old divergences still occur there, represented by long basal branches of M. (previously Muriculus) imberbis and two undescribed species from Ethiopia and Malawi. The radiation in drier lowland habitats associated with the decrease of body size is much younger, occurred mainly in a single lineage (called the minutoides group, and especially within the species M. minutoides), and was probably linked to aridification and climatic fluctuations in middle Pliocene/Pleistocene.ConclusionsWe discovered very high cryptic diversity in African pygmy mice making the genus Mus one of the richest genera of African mammals. Our taxon sampling allowed reliable phylogenetic and biogeographic reconstructions that (together with detailed distributional data of individual MOTUs) provide a solid basis for further evolutionary, ecological and epidemiological studies of this important group of rodents.
- CompPhy: a web-based collaborative platform for comparing phylogenies. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 14; 14(1):253.
BackgroundCollaborative tools are of great help in conducting projects involving distant workers. Recent web technologies have helped to build such tools for jointly editing office documents and scientific data, yet none are available for handling phylogenies. Though a large number of studies and projects in evolutionary biology and systematics involve collaborations between scientists of different institutes, current tree comparison visualization software and websites are directed toward single-user access. Moreover, tree comparison functionalities are dispersed between different software that mainly focus on high level single tree visualization but to the detriment of basic tree comparison features.ResultsThe web platform presented here, named CompPhy, intends to fill this gap by allowing collaborative work on phylogenies and by gathering simple advanced tools dedicated to tree comparison. It offers functionalities for tree edition, tree comparison, supertree inference and data management in a collaborative environment. The latter aspect is a specific feature of the platform, allowing people located in different places to work together at the same time on a common project. CompPhy thus proposes shared tree visualization, both synchronous and asynchronous tree manipulation, data exchange/storage, as well as facilities to keep track of the progress of analyses in working sessions. Specific advanced comparison tools are also available, such as consensus and supertree inference, or automated branch swaps of compared trees. As projects can be readily created and shared, CompPhy is also a tool that can be used easily to interact with students in a educational setting, either in the classroom or for assignments.ConclusionsCompPhy is the first web platform devoted to the comparison of phylogenetic trees allowing real-time distant collaboration on a phylogenetic/phylogenomic project. This application can be accessed freely with a recent browser at the following page of the ATGC bioinformatics platform: http://www.atgc-montpellier.fr/compphy/.
- Dynamic evolution of the alpha (α) and beta (β) keratins has accompanied integument diversification and the adaptation of birds into novel lifestyles. [Journal Article]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014.:249.
Vertebrate skin appendages are constructed of keratins produced by multigene families. Alpha (α) keratins are found in all vertebrates, while beta (β) keratins are found exclusively in reptiles and birds. We have studied the molecular evolution of these gene families in the genomes of 48 phylogenetically diverse birds and their expression in the scales and feathers of the chicken.We found that the total number of α-keratins is lower in birds than mammals and non-avian reptiles, yet two α-keratin genes (KRT42 and KRT75) have expanded in birds. The β-keratins, however, demonstrate a dynamic evolution associated with avian lifestyle. The avian specific feather β-keratins comprise a large majority of the total number of β-keratins, but independently derived lineages of aquatic and predatory birds have smaller proportions of feather β-keratin genes and larger proportions of keratinocyte β-keratin genes. Additionally, birds of prey have a larger proportion of claw β-keratins. Analysis of α- and β-keratin expression during development of chicken scales and feathers demonstrates that while α-keratins are expressed in these tissues, the number and magnitude of expressed β-keratin genes far exceeds that of α-keratins.These results support the view that the number of α- and β-keratin genes expressed, the proportion of the β-keratin subfamily genes expressed and the diversification of the β-keratin genes have been important for the evolution of the feather and the adaptation of birds into multiple ecological niches.
- The role of aedeagus size and shape in failed mating interactions among recently diverged taxa in the Drosophila mojavensis species cluster. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Dec 10; 14(1):255.
BackgroundInvestigating the evolution of species-specific insect genitalia is central to understanding how morphological diversification contributes to reproductive isolation and lineage divergence. While many studies evoke some form of sexual selection to explain genitalia diversity, the basis of selection and the mechanism of heterospecific mate exclusion remains vague. I conducted reciprocal mate pair trials in the Drosophila mojavensis species cluster to quantify the frequency of failed insemination attempts, historically referred to as pseudocopulation, between lineages with discrete size and shape differences of the male aedeagus.ResultsIn cross-taxon matings aedeagus size had a significant effect on pseudocopulation frequencies, while aedeagus shape and genetic distance did not. The direction of the size difference was an important factor for successful mating. When females were mated to a cross-taxon male with a larger aedeagus than males from her own species, the pair could not establish a successful mating interaction. Females mated to cross-taxon males with a smaller aedeagus than conspecific males were able to establish the mating interaction but had issues disengaging at the end of the interaction.ConclusionsThe results of this study support a role for aedeagus size in the male-female mating interaction, with a secondary role for aedeagus shape. In natural populations, mating failure based on aedeagus size could serve as an important reproductive isolating mechanism resulting in failed insemination attempts after both the male and female show a willingness to mate.