The recent discovery of genetically distinct hantaviruses in multiple species of shrews and moles prompted a further exploration of their host diversification by analyzing frozen, ethanol-fixed and RNAlater®-preserved archival tissues and fecal samples from 533 bats (representing seven families, 28 genera and 53 species in the order Chiroptera), captured in Asia, Africa and the Americas in 1981-2012, using RT-PCR. Hantavirus RNA was detected in Pomona roundleaf bats (Hipposideros pomona) (family Hipposideridae), captured in Vietnam in 1997 and 1999, and in banana pipistrelles (Neoromicia nanus) (family Vespertilionidae), captured in Côte d'Ivoire in 2011. Phylogenetic analysis, based on the full-length S- and partial M- and L-segment sequences using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods, demonstrated that the newfound hantaviruses formed highly divergent lineages, comprising other recently recognized bat-borne hantaviruses in Sierra Leone and China. The detection of bat-associated hantaviruses opens a new era in hantavirology and provides insights into their evolutionary origins.
The study of the diet of the Barn Owl in two steppic regions (M'Sila and Djelfa) located in the Algerian highlands is based on the analysis of the pellets of rejections collected in six stations. The analysis of 706 pellets resulting from the various stations made it possible to count 1380 individuals, represented by seven classes, 12 orders, 32 families, and 76 species of preys. The mammals are consumed with variable abundance rates between 59.1 % and 90.0 % whose predominance is assigned to the rodents (relative abundance: AR > 58 %). The latter constitute the most advantageous preys in biomass (61.4 ? B % ? 99.2). The most consumed prey is Meriones shawii, with variable rates between 31.9 % and 76.6 %. Generally, Tyto alba presents a diversified diet in the majority of the stations (0.69 ? E ? 0.76), except the station of Ain El-Hadjel (E = 0.35), with a low diversity and dominance of M. shawii (AR = 76.6 %).
Developing tools for visualizing DNA sequences is an important issue in the Barcoding context. Visualizing Barcode data can be put in a purely statistical context, unsupervised learning. Clustering methods combined with projection methods have two closely linked objectives, visualizing and finding structure in the data. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) and Self-organizing maps (SOM) are unsupervised statistical tools for data visualization. Both algorithms map data onto a lower dimensional manifold: MDS looks for a projection that best preserves pairwise distances while SOM preserves the topology of the data. Both algorithms were initially developed for Euclidean data and the conditions necessary to their good implementation were not satisfied for Barcode data. We developed a workflow consisting in four steps: collapse data into distinct sequences; compute a dissimilarity matrix; run a modified version of SOM for dissimilarity matrices to structure the data and reduce dimensionality; project the results using MDS. This methodology was applied to Astraptes fulgerator and Hylomyscus, an African rodent with debated taxonomy. We obtained very good results for both data sets. The results were robust against unbalanced species. All the species in Astraptes were well displayed in very distinct groups in the various visualizations, except for LOHAMP and FABOV that were mixed up. For Hylomyscus, our findings were consistent with known species, confirmed the existence of four unnamed taxa and suggested the existence of potentially new species.
The Black Rat (Rattus rattus) spread out of Asia to become one of the worlds worst agricultural and urban pests, and a reservoir or vector of numerous zoonotic diseases, including the devastating plague. Despite the global scale and inestimable cost of their impacts on both human livelihoods and natural ecosystems, little is known of the global genetic diversity of Black Rats, the timing and directions of their historical dispersals, and the risks associated with contemporary movements. We surveyed mitochondrial DNA of Black Rats collected across their global range as a first step towards obtaining an historical genetic perspective on this socioeconomically important group of rodents. We found a strong phylogeographic pattern with well-differentiated lineages of Black Rats native to South Asia, the Himalayan region, southern Indochina, and northern Indochina to East Asia, and a diversification that probably commenced in the early Middle Pleistocene. We also identified two other currently recognised species of Rattus as potential derivatives of a paraphyletic R. rattus. Three of the four phylogenetic lineage units within R. rattus show clear genetic signatures of major population expansion in prehistoric times, and the distribution of particular haplogroups mirrors archaeologically and historically documented patterns of human dispersal and trade. Commensalism clearly arose multiple times in R. rattus and in widely separated geographic regions, and this may account for apparent regionalism in their associated pathogens. Our findings represent an important step towards deeper understanding the complex and influential relationship that has developed between Black Rats and humans, and invite a thorough re-examination of host-pathogen associations among Black Rats.
This study aimed to identify new arenaviruses and gather insights in the evolution of arenaviruses in Africa. During 2003 through 2005, 1,228 small mammals representing 14 different genera were trapped in 9 villages in south, east, and middle west of Côte dIvoire. Specimens were screened by pan-Old World arenavirus RT-PCRs targeting S and L RNA segments as well as immunofluorescence assay. Sequences of two novel tentative species of the family Arenaviridae, Menekre and Gbagroube virus, were detected in Hylomyscus sp. and Mus (Nannomys) setulosus, respectively. Arenavirus infection of Mus (Nannomys) setulosus was also demonstrated by serological testing. Lassa virus was not found, although 60% of the captured animals were Mastomys natalensis. Complete S RNA and partial L RNA sequences of the novel viruses were recovered from the rodent specimens and subjected to phylogenetic analysis. Gbagroube virus is a closely related sister taxon of Lassa virus, while Menekre virus clusters with the Ippy/Mobala/Mopeia virus complex. Reconstruction of possible virus-host co-phylogeny scenarios suggests that, within the African continent, signatures of co-evolution might have been obliterated by multiple host-switching events.
The relationship between local and global climatic variations and the origin and dispersal of Homo sapiens in Africa is complex, and North Africa may have played a major role in these events. In Morocco, very few studies are specifically dedicated to small fossil vertebrates, and neither taphonomic nor palaeoecological studies have been undertaken on these taxa, particularly in archaeological contexts. The late Pleistocene to middle Holocene succession of El Harhoura 2 cave, situated in the region of Témara, yields an exceptionally rich small vertebrate assemblage. We present the results of a first systematic, taphonomic, and palaeoecological study of the small mammals from Levels 1 to 8 of El Harhoura 2. The absence of bone sorting and polishing, as well as the presence of significant traces of digestion indicate that the small mammal bones were accumulated in the cave by predators and that no water transport occurred. Other traces observed on the surface of bones consist mainly of root marks and black traces (micro-organisms or more probably manganese) which affected the majority of the material. The percentage of fragmentation is very high in all stratigraphic levels, and the post-depositional breakage (geologic and anthropogenic phenomena) obscure the original breakage patterns of bones by predators. According to the ecology of the different species present in the levels of El Harhoura 2, and by taking into account possible biases highlighted by the taphonomic analysis, we reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental evolution in the region. For quantitative reconstructions we used two indices: the Taxonomic Habitat Index (THI) and the Gerbillinae/Murinae ratio. Late Pleistocene accumulations were characterised by a succession of humid (Levels 3, 4a, 6, and 8) and arid (Levels 2?, 5, and 7) periods, with more or less open landscapes, ending in an ultimate humid and wooded period during the middle Holocene (Level 1). We discuss particular limits of our results and interpretations, due to an important lack of taxonomic, ecological, and taphonomic knowledge in North Africa.
In this study, we investigate skull size and shape differentiation between sibling species of Mastomys with the aim to characterize and discriminate three sympatric species found in West Africa: M. huberti, M. erythroleucus and M. natalensis. A total of 133 genetically determined specimens were used for the morphometric analyses. Statistical analyses clearly demonstrated that the three species largely overlapped in centroid size (M. erythroleucus tends to be larger on average than the M. huberti and M. natalensis) but they exhibited large differences in skull shape. The current study focused on skull shape, and allowed us to discriminate three morphological groups that are congruent with the three species suggested by molecular identification (90% of the individuals are correctly assigned by cross-validated classifications). In the Mastomys, the evolution of cranial length and shape may be influenced by competitive pressure between closely related species separated by ecological segregation. This source of variability could possibly induce character displacement between species of Mastomys.
Environmental changes have been shown to play an important role in the emergence of new human diseases of zoonotic origin. The contribution of social factors to their spread, especially conflicts followed by mass movement of populations, has not been extensively investigated. Here we reveal the effects of civil war on the phylogeography of a zoonotic emerging infectious disease by concomitantly studying the population structure, evolution and demography of Lassa virus and its natural reservoir, the rodent Mastomys natalensis, in Guinea, West Africa. Analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences enabled us to reconstruct the evolutionary history of Lassa virus, which appeared 750 to 900 years ago in Nigeria and only recently spread across western Africa (170 years ago). Bayesian demographic inferences revealed that both the host and the virus populations have gone recently through severe genetic bottlenecks. The timing of these events matches civil war-related mass movements of refugees and accompanying environmental degradation. Forest and habitat destruction and human predation of the natural reservoir are likely explanations for the sharp decline observed in the rodent populations, the consequent virus population decline, and the coincident increased incidence of Lassa fever in these regions. Interestingly, we were also able to detect a similar pattern in Nigeria coinciding with the Biafra war. Our findings show that anthropogenic factors may profoundly impact the population genetics of a virus and its reservoir within the context of an emerging infectious disease.
The Praomyini tribe is one of the most diverse and abundant groups of Old World rodents. Several species are known to be involved in crop damage and in the epidemiology of several human and cattle diseases. Due to the existence of sibling species their identification is often problematic. Thus an easy, fast and accurate species identification tool is needed for non-systematicians to correctly identify Praomyini species. In this study we compare the usefulness of three genes (16S, Cytb, CO1) for identifying species of this tribe. A total of 426 specimens representing 40 species (sampled across their geographical range) were sequenced for the three genes. Nearly all of the species included in our study are monophyletic in the neighbour joining trees. The degree of intra-specific variability tends to be lower than the divergence between species, but no barcoding gap is detected. The success rate of the statistical methods of species identification is excellent (up to 99% or 100% for statistical supervised classification methods as the k-Nearest Neighbour or Random Forest). The 16S gene is 2.5 less variable than the Cytb and CO1 genes. As a result its discriminatory power is smaller. To sum up, our results suggest that using DNA markers for identifying species in the Praomyini tribe is a largely valid approach, and that the CO1 and Cytb genes are better DNA markers than the 16S gene. Our results confirm the usefulness of statistical methods such as the Random Forest and the 1-NN methods to assign a sequence to a species, even when the number of species is relatively large. Based on our NJ trees and the distribution of all intraspecific and interspecific pairwise nucleotide distances, we highlight the presence of several potentially new species within the Praomyini tribe that should be subject to corroboration assessments.
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