Although many classic radiations on islands are thought to be the result of repeated lineage splitting, the role of past fusion is rarely known because during these events, purebreds are rapidly replaced by a swarm of admixed individuals. Here, we capture lineage fusion in action in a Galápagos giant tortoise species, Chelonoidis becki, from Wolf Volcano (Isabela Island). The long generation time of Galápagos tortoises and dense sampling (841 individuals) of genetic and demographic data were integral in detecting and characterizing this phenomenon. In C. becki, we identified two genetically distinct, morphologically cryptic lineages. Historical reconstructions show that they colonized Wolf Volcano from Santiago Island in two temporally separated events, the first estimated to have occurred ~199 000 years ago. Following arrival of the second wave of colonists, both lineages coexisted for approximately ~53 000 years. Within that time, they began fusing back together, as microsatellite data reveal widespread introgressive hybridization. Interestingly, greater mate selectivity seems to be exhibited by purebred females of one of the lineages. Forward-in-time simulations predict rapid extinction of the early arriving lineage. This study provides a rare example of reticulate evolution in action and underscores the power of population genetics for understanding the past, present and future consequences of evolutionary phenomena associated with lineage fusion.
Camera trapping has greatly enhanced population monitoring of often cryptic and low abundance apex carnivores. Effectiveness of passive infrared camera trapping, and ultimately population monitoring, relies on temperature mediated differences between the animal and its ambient environment to ensure good camera detection. In ectothermic predators such as large varanid lizards, this criterion is presumed less certain. Here we evaluated the effectiveness of camera trapping to potentially monitor the population status of the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), an apex predator, using site occupancy approaches. We compared site-specific estimates of site occupancy and detection derived using camera traps and cage traps at 181 trapping locations established across six sites on four islands within Komodo National Park, Eastern Indonesia. Detection and site occupancy at each site were estimated using eight competing models that considered site-specific variation in occupancy (?)and varied detection probabilities (p) according to detection method, site and survey number using a single season site occupancy modelling approach. The most parsimonious model [? (site), p (site survey); ??=?0.74] suggested that site occupancy estimates differed among sites. Detection probability varied as an interaction between site and survey number. Our results indicate that overall camera traps produced similar estimates of detection and site occupancy to cage traps, irrespective of being paired, or unpaired, with cage traps. Whilst one site showed some evidence detection was affected by trapping method detection was too low to produce an accurate occupancy estimate. Overall, as camera trapping is logistically more feasible it may provide, with further validation, an alternative method for evaluating long-term site occupancy patterns in Komodo dragons, and potentially other large reptiles, aiding conservation of this species.
The assessment of marine environmental health is a complex but fundamental task both for ecosystem conservation and food safety related to the human consumption of marine products. Manila clams inhabiting the Venice Lagoon constitute an excellent case study for evaluating the effects of complex mixtures of industrial and urban effluents on aquatic organisms. Clams were collected in different seasons at four locations within the Venice Lagoon. The sampling sites were characterized by a range of pollutant concentrations and included Porto Marghera, a highly polluted industrial area where clam harvesting for human consumption is strictly forbidden. Pooled soft tissues were subjected to mass spectroscopy analysis to measure the concentrations of PCDDs/PCDFs/PCBs-DL, PCBs, PBDEs, HCB and PAHs, and pooled digestive gland samples were used for gene expression profiling. While seasonal variation was found to be responsible for the largest proportion of transcriptional changes, significance analysis of microarrays quantitative correlation analysis identified 162 transcripts that were correlated with at least one class of chemicals measured in the samples from the four different sampling sites. Prediction Analysis of Microarrays (PAM) identified a minimal set of seven genes that correctly assigned samples collected in the restricted polluted area (Porto Marghera), independent of the season in which they were collected. An integrated approach combining transcriptomics and chemical analyses of the Manila clam provided a global picture of how Manila clams respond to complex mixtures of xenobiotics and their interplay with other biotic and abiotic factors. We were also able to identify gene expression signatures for different classes of chemicals and a set of robust biomarkers of exposure to these chemicals.
There is increasing evidence that most parapatric cryptic/sister taxa are reproductively compatible across their areas of contact. Consequently, the biological species concept, which assumes absence of interbreeding, is becoming a not so effective criterion in evolutionary ecology. Nevertheless, the few parapatric sister taxa showing complete reproductive barriers represent interesting models to study speciation processes and the evolution of reproductive isolation. In this study, we examined contact populations in northwestern Italy of two butterfly species, Zerynthia polyxena and Z. cassandra, characterized by different genitalic morphotypes. We studied levels of divergence among 21 populations distributed from Sicily to France using three genetic markers (the mitochondrial COI and ND1 genes and the nuclear wingless gene) and genitalic geometric morphometrics. Moreover, we performed species distribution modelling to estimate different climatic requirements of Z. polyxena and Z. cassandra. We projected climatic data into glacial maximum scenarios in order to verify if and to which extent glacial cycles could have contributed to speciation processes. Genetic and morphometric analyses identified two main groups. All specimens showed a concordant pattern of diversification, including those individuals sampled in the contact area. Haplotype distribution and climatic models showed that during glacial maxima both species experienced a strong range contraction and presumably remained separated into different microrefugia in southern France, in the Italian Peninsula and on the islands of Elba and Sicily. Long term separation was probably favoured by reduced dispersal ability and high phylopatry, while genitalic diversification probably favoured interbreeding avoidance. Conversely, the aposematic wing pattern remained almost identical. We compared our results with those obtained in other species and concluded that Z. polyxena and Z. cassandra represent a valuable model in the study of speciation.
The Manila clam, Ruditapes philippinarum, is one of the major aquaculture species in the world and a potential sentinel organism for monitoring the status of marine ecosystems. However, genomic resources for R. philippinarum are still extremely limited. Global analysis of gene expression profiles is increasingly used to evaluate the biological effects of various environmental stressors on aquatic animals under either artificial conditions or in the wild. Here, we report on the development of a transcriptomic platform for global gene expression profiling in the Manila clam.
Multiplex PCR assays for the coamplification of microsatellite loci allow rapid and cost-effective genetic analyses and the production of efficient screening protocols for international breeding programs. We constructed a partial genomic library enriched for di-nucleotide repeats and characterized 14 new microsatellite loci for the Komodo monitor (or Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis). Using these novel microsatellites and four previously described loci, we developed multiplex PCR assays that may be loaded on a genetic analyser in three separate panels. We tested the novel set of microsatellites for polymorphism using 69 individuals from three island populations and evaluated the resolving power of the entire panel of 18 loci by conducting (i) a preliminary assignment test to determine population(s) of origin and (ii) a parentage analysis for 43 captive Komodo monitors. This panel of polymorphic loci proved useful for both purposes and thus can be exploited for fine-scale population genetic analyses and as part of international captive breeding programs directed at maintaining genetically viable ex situ populations and reintroductions.
Evolution of population structure on islands is the result of physical processes linked to volcanism, orogenic events, changes in sea level, as well as habitat variation. We assessed patterns of genetic structure in the giant tortoise of the Aldabra atoll, where previous ecological studies suggested population subdivisions as a result of landscape discontinuity due to unsuitable habitat and island separation. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences and allelic variation at 8 microsatellite loci were conducted on tortoises sampled in 3 locations on the 2 major islands of Aldabra. We found no variation in mtDNA sequences. This pattern corroborated earlier work supporting the occurrence of a founding event during the last interglacial period and a further reduction in genetic variability during historical time. On the other hand, significant population structure recorded at nuclear loci suggested allopatric divergence possibly due to geographical barriers among islands and ecological partitions hindering tortoise movements within islands. This is the first attempt to study the population genetics of Aldabra tortoises, which are now at carrying capacity in an isolated terrestrial ecosystem where ecological factors appear to have a strong influence on population dynamics.
A set of eight highly polymorphic microsatellite markers was isolated and characterized from a genomic library enriched for dinucleotide repeats in the European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis. The markers were tested for polymorphism in a total of 33 turtles sampled in two natural ponds in the nature reserve of Kerkini, northern Greece. Number of alleles varied from 10 to 18, and expected heterozygosity ranged between 0.738 and 0.921. This novel set of loci will be particularly useful to assess fine-scale population structure and for parentage analysis in E. orbicularis.
Somatic growth patterns represent a major component of organismal fitness and may vary among sexes and populations due to genetic and environmental processes leading to profound differences in life-history and demography. This study considered the ontogenic, sex-specific and spatial dynamics of somatic growth patterns in ten populations of the worlds largest lizard the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The growth of 400 individual Komodo dragons was measured in a capture-mark-recapture study at ten sites on four islands in eastern Indonesia, from 2002 to 2010. Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs) and information-theoretic methods were used to examine how growth rates varied with size, age and sex, and across and within islands in relation to site-specific prey availability, lizard population density and inbreeding coefficients. Growth trajectories differed significantly with size and between sexes, indicating different energy allocation tactics and overall costs associated with reproduction. This leads to disparities in maximum body sizes and longevity. Spatial variation in growth was strongly supported by a curvilinear density-dependent growth model with highest growth rates occurring at intermediate population densities. Sex-specific trade-offs in growth underpin key differences in Komodo dragon life-history including evidence for high costs of reproduction in females. Further, inverse density-dependent growth may have profound effects on individual and population level processes that influence the demography of this species.
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