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Molecular Ecology

Amy E Leedale, Stuart P Sharp, Michelle Simeoni, Elva J H Robinson, Ben J Hatchwell
In animal societies, characteristic demographic and dispersal patterns may lead to genetic structuring of populations, generating the potential for kin selection to operate. However, even in genetically structured populations, social interactions may still require kin discrimination for cooperative behaviour to be directed towards relatives. Here, we use molecular genetics and long-term field data to investigate genetic structure in an adult population of long-tailed tits Aegithalos caudatus, a cooperative breeder in which helping occurs within extended kin networks, and relate this to patterns of helping with respect to kinship...
March 15, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Thomas D Whitney, Michael I Sitvarin, Edward A Roualdes, Simon J Bonner, James D Harwood
Generalist predators are capable of selective foraging, but are predicted to feed in close proportion to prey availability to maximize energetic intake especially when overall prey availability is low. By extension, they are also expected to feed in a more frequency-dependent manner during winter compared to the more favorable foraging conditions during spring, summer and fall seasons. For 18 months, we observed the foraging patterns of forest-dwelling wolf spiders from the genus Schizocosa (Araneae: Lycosidae) using PCR-based gut-content analysis and simultaneously monitored the activity-densities of two common prey: springtails (Collembola) and flies (Diptera)...
March 15, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Sathvik X Palakurty, John R Stinchcombe, Michelle E Afkhami
A mechanistic understanding of community ecology requires tackling the nonadditive effects of multispecies interactions, a challenge that necessitates integration of ecological and molecular complexity- namely moving beyond pairwise ecological interaction studies and the 'gene at a time' approach to mechanism. Here, we investigate the consequences of multispecies mutualisms for the structure and function of genome-wide differential coexpression networks for the first time, using the tractable and ecologically-important interaction between legume Medicago truncatula, rhizobia, and mycorrhizal fungi...
March 13, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Staffan Jacob, Louis Sallé, Lucie Zinger, Alexis S Chaine, Christine Ducamp, Léa Boutault, Andrew F Russell, Philipp Heeb
The microbiota has a broad range of impacts on host physiology and behaviour, pointing out the need to improve our comprehension of the drivers of host microbiota composition. Of particular interest is whether the microbiota is acquired passively, or whether and to what extent hosts themselves shape the acquisition and maintenance of their microbiota. In birds, the uropygial gland produces oily secretions used to coat feathers that have been suggested to act as an antimicrobial defence mechanism regulating body feather microbiota...
March 13, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Tanya M Llorens, David J Ayre, Robert J Whelan
Many plant species have pollination and seed dispersal systems and evolutionary histories that have produced strong genetic structuring. These genetic patterns may be consistent with expectations following recent anthropogenic fragmentation, making it difficult to detect fragmentation effects if no pre-fragmentation genetic data are available. We used microsatellite markers to investigate whether severe habitat fragmentation may have affected the structure and diversity of populations of the endangered Australian bird-pollinated shrub Grevillea caleyi R...
March 13, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Melissa Y Chen, Laura Wegener Parfrey
Macroalgae variably promote and deter microbial growth through release of organic carbon and anti-microbial compounds into the water column. Consequently, macroalgae influence the microbial composition of the surrounding water column and biofilms on nearby surfaces. Here, we use manipulative experiments to test the hypotheses that 1) Nereocystis luetkeana and Mastocarpus sp. macroalgae alter the water column microbiota in species-specific manner,that 2) neighboring macroalgae alter the bacterial communities on the surface (epibiota) of actively growing Nereocystis luetkeana meristem fragments (NMFs), and that 3) neighbors alter NMF growth rate...
March 9, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Collin W Ahrens, Paul D Rymer, Adam Stow, Jason Bragg, Shannon Dillon, Kate D L Umbers, Rachael Y Dudaniec
Detecting genetic variants under selection using FST outlier analysis (OA) and environmental association analyses (EAA) are popular approaches that provide insight into the genetic basis of local adaptation. Despite the frequent use of OA and EAA approaches and their increasing attractiveness for detecting signatures of selection, their application to field-based empirical data have not been synthesized. Here, we review 66 empirical studies that use Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in OA and EAA. We report trends and biases across biological systems, sequencing methods, approaches, parameters, environmental variables and their influence on detecting signatures of selection...
March 9, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Guillaume Méric, Leonardos Mageiros, Ben Pascoe, Dan J Woodcock, Evangelos Mourkas, Sarah Lamble, Rory Bowden, Keith A Jolley, Ben Raymond, Samuel K Sheppard
Bacterial plasmids can vary from small selfish genetic elements to large autonomous replicons that constitute a significant proportion of total cellular DNA. By conferring novel function to the cell, plasmids may facilitate evolution but their mobility may be opposed by co-evolutionary relationships with chromosomes or encouraged via the infectious sharing of genes encoding public goods. Here, we explore these hypotheses through large-scale examination of the association between plasmids and genomes in the phenotypically diverse Bacillus cereus group...
March 6, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Melissa B De Biasse, Yasmeen Kawji, Morgan W Kelly
Species inhabiting the North American west coast intertidal must tolerate an extremely variable environment, with large fluctuations in both temperature and salinity. Uncovering the mechanisms for this tolerance is key to understanding species' persistence. We tested for differences in salinity tolerance between populations of Tigriopus californicus copepods from locations in northern (Bodega Reserve) and southern (San Diego) California known to differ in temperature, precipitation, and humidity. We also tested for differences between populations in their transcriptomic responses to salinity...
March 6, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Jason P Andras, Peter D Fields, Dieter Ebert
Knowledge of a species' population genetic structure can provide insight into fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes including gene flow, genetic drift, and adaptive evolution. Such inference is of particular importance for parasites, as an understanding of their population structure can illuminate epidemiological and coevolutionary dynamics. Here we describe the population genetic structure of the bacterium Pasteuria ramosa, a parasite that infects planktonic crustaceans of the genus Daphnia. This system has become a model for investigations of host-parasite interactions and represents an example of coevolution via negative frequency-dependent selection (a...
March 6, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Shinnosuke Kagiya, Masaki Yasugi, Hiroshi Kudoh, Atsushi J Nagano, Shunsuke Utsumi
Understanding how genetic variation within a foundation species determines the structure of associated communities and ecosystem processes has been an emerging frontier in ecology. Previous studies in common gardens identified close links between intraspecific variation and multispecies community structure, and these findings are now being evaluated directly in the complex natural ecosystem. In this study, we examined to what extent genomic variation in a foundation tree species explains the structure of associated arthropod communities in the field, comparing with spatial, temporal and environmental factors...
March 6, 2018: Molecular Ecology
James J N Kitson, Christoph Hahn, Richard J Sands, Nigel A Straw, Darren M Evans, David H Lunt
Determining the host-parasitoid interactions and parasitism rates for invasive species entering novel environments is an important first step in assessing potential routes for biocontrol and integrated pest management. Conventional insect rearing techniques followed by taxonomic identification are widely used to obtain such data, but this can be time consuming and prone to biases. Here we present a Next Generation Sequencing approach for use in ecological studies which allows for individual level metadata tracking of large numbers of invertebrate samples through the use of hierarchically organised molecular identification tags...
February 27, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Blake D Ramsby, Mia O Hoogenboom, Steve Whalan, Nicole S Webster
Bioeroding sponges break down calcium carbonate substratum, including coral skeleton, and their capacity for reef erosion is expected to increase in warmer and more acidic oceans. However, elevated temperature can disrupt the functionally important microbial symbionts of some sponge species, often with adverse consequences for host health. Here, we provide the first detailed description of the microbial community of the bioeroding sponge Cliona orientalis and assess how the community responds to seawater temperatures incrementally increasing from 23°C to 32°C...
February 23, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Ann-Marie Waldvogel, Andreas Wieser, Tilman Schell, Simit Patel, Hanno Schmidt, Thomas Hankeln, Barbara Feldmeyer, Markus Pfenninger
The gradual heterogeneity of climatic factors poses varying selection pressures across geographic distances that leave signatures of clinal variation in the genome. Separating signatures of clinal adaptation from signatures of other evolutionary forces, such as demographic processes, genetic drift, and adaptation to non-clinal conditions of the immediate local environment is a major challenge. Here, we examine climate adaptation in five natural populations of the harlequin fly Chironomus riparius sampled along a climatic gradient across Europe...
February 23, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Norma M Morella, Annika L Gomez, Grant Wang, Michelle S Leung, Britt Koskella
Interactions between bacteria and bacteriophage viruses (phages) are known to influence pathogen growth and virulence, microbial diversity, and even biogeochemical cycling. Lytic phages in particular infect and lyse their host cells, and can therefore have significant effects on cell densities as well as competitive dynamics within microbial communities. Despite the known impacts of lytic phages on the ecology and evolution of bacteria in free-living communities, little is known about the role of lytic phages in host-associated microbiomes...
February 19, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Marieke E Feis, Uwe John, Ana Lokmer, Pieternella C Luttikhuizen, K Mathias Wegner
On theoretical grounds, antagonistic co-evolution between hosts and their parasites should be a widespread phenomenon but only received little empirical support so far. Consequently, the underlying molecular mechanisms and evolutionary steps remain elusive, especially in non-model systems. Here, we utilised the natural history of invasive parasites to document the molecular underpinnings of co-evolutionary trajectories. We applied a dual-species transcriptomics approach to experimental cross-infections of blue mussel Mytilus edulis hosts and their invasive parasitic copepods Mytilicola intestinalis from two invasion fronts in the Wadden Sea...
February 17, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Matthew W Pennell, Judith E Mank, Catherine L Peichel
Despite the prevalence of sexual reproduction across eukaryotes, there is a remarkable diversity of sex determination mechanisms. The underlying causes of this diversity remain unclear, and it is unknown if there are convergent trends in the directionality of turnover in sex determination mechanisms. We used the recently assembled Tree of Sex database to assess patterns in the evolution of sex determination systems in the remarkably diverse vertebrate clades of teleost fish, squamate reptiles, and amphibians...
February 16, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Manpreet K Dhami, Thomas Hartwig, Andrew D Letten, Michael Banf, Tadashi Fukami
Both dispersal limitation and environmental sorting can affect genetic variation in populations, but their contribution remains unclear, particularly in microbes. We sought to determine the contribution of geographic distance (as a proxy for dispersal limitation) and phenotypic traits (as a proxy for environmental sorting), including morphology, metabolic ability, and interspecific competitiveness, to the genotypic diversity in a nectar yeast species, Metschnikowia reukaufii. To measure genotypic diversity, we sequenced the genomes of 102 strains of M...
February 15, 2018: Molecular Ecology
K Heer, D Behringer, A Piermattei, C Bässler, R Brandl, B Fady, H Jehl, S Liepelt, S Lorch, A Piotti, G G Vendramin, M Weller, B Ziegenhagen, U Büntgen, L Opgenoorth
Genetic association studies in forest trees would greatly benefit from information on the response of trees to environmental stressors over time, which can be provided by dendroecological analysis. Here, we jointly analyzed dendroecological and genetic data of surviving silver fir trees to explore the genetic basis of their response to the iconic stress episode of the 1970s and 80s that led to large-scale forest dieback in Central Europe and has been attributed to air pollution. Specifically, we derived dendrophenotypic measures from 190 trees in the Bavarian Forest that characterize the resistance, resilience and recovery during this growth depression, and in the drought year in 1976...
February 14, 2018: Molecular Ecology
Coline Deveautour, Suzanne Donn, Sally Power, Alison E Bennett, Jeff R Powell
Future climate scenarios predict changes in rainfall regimes. These changes are expected to affect plants via effects on the expression of root traits associated with water and nutrient uptake. Associated microorganisms may also respond to these new precipitation regimes, either directly in response to changes in the soil environment or indirectly in response to altered root trait expression. We characterised arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal communities in an Australian grassland exposed to experimentally altered rainfall regimes...
February 14, 2018: Molecular Ecology
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