MuseumLab - Systematics and Evolution of Metazoa

Nadir Alvarez

Adjunct Professor

  • T: +41 22 418 64 56
  • office Muséum (Muséum d'histoire naturelle)

The MuseumLab - Systematics and Evolution of Metazoa laboratory establishes the links between the physical and living worlds and contributes to understanding the dynamics of biodiversity over time. Harbored at the Museum of Natural History of the City of Geneva (MHNG) but also at the University, the research conducted at MuseumLab is essentially based on the MHNG collections, comprising nearly 15 million specimens.

By combining morphological and genetic approaches, the study of natural history collections makes it possible to describe new species and to validate propositions for systematic classification, as well as to determine the evolutionary history of species over time, in their geographical and ecological contexts. The usefulness of this fundamental research is more essential than ever at a time when the world is going through a major biodiversity crisis. Indeed, how can we identify and protect the thousands of animal species that are threatened with extinction if they have not been discovered, studied, classified and conserved beforehand?

As natural history collections are witnesses to the history of our planet, their study at the genomic level also makes it possible to identify the processes of expansion, decline or adaptation of populations, particularly in the context of the anthropocene.

  • DiscoSnp-RAD: de novo detection of small variants for RAD-Seq population genomics. PeerJ 2020 ;8():e9291. 10.7717/peerj.9291. 9291. PMC7293188.

    abstract

    Restriction site Associated DNA Sequencing (RAD-Seq) is a technique characterized by the sequencing of specific loci along the genome that is widely employed in the field of evolutionary biology since it allows to exploit variants (mainly Single Nucleotide Polymorphism-SNPs) information from entire populations at a reduced cost. Common RAD dedicated tools, such as or , are based on all-vs-all read alignments, which require consequent time and computing resources. We present an original method, DiscoSnp-RAD, that avoids this pitfall since variants are detected by exploiting specific parts of the assembly graph built from the reads, hence preventing all-vs-all read alignments. We tested the implementation on simulated datasets of increasing size, up to 1,000 samples, and on real RAD-Seq data from 259 specimens of flies, morphologically assigned to seven species. All individuals were successfully assigned to their species using both STRUCTURE and Maximum Likelihood phylogenetic reconstruction. Moreover, identified variants succeeded to reveal a within-species genetic structure linked to the geographic distribution. Furthermore, our results show that DiscoSnp-RAD is significantly faster than state-of-the-art tools. The overall results show that DiscoSnp-RAD is suitable to identify variants from RAD-Seq data, it does not require time-consuming parameterization steps and it stands out from other tools due to its completely different principle, making it substantially faster, in particular on large datasets.

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  • Museomics identifies genetic erosion in two butterfly species across the 20th century in Finland. Mol Ecol Resour 2020 Apr;():. 10.1111/1755-0998.13167.

    abstract

    Erosion of biodiversity generated by anthropogenic activities has been studied for decades and in many areas at the species level, using taxa monitoring. In contrast, genetic erosion within species has rarely been tracked, and is often studied by inferring past population dynamics from contemporaneous estimators. An alternative to such inferences is the direct examination of past genes, by analysing museum collection specimens. While providing direct access to genetic variation over time, historical DNA is usually not optimally preserved, and it is necessary to apply genotyping methods based on hybridization-capture to unravel past genetic variation. In this study, we apply such a method (i.e., HyRAD), to large time series of two butterfly species in Finland, and present a new bioinformatic pipeline, namely PopHyRAD, that standardizes and optimizes the analysis of HyRAD data at the within-species level. In the localities for which the data retrieved have sufficient power to accurately examine genetic dynamics through time, we show that genetic erosion has increased across the last 100 years, as revealed by signatures of allele extinctions and heterozygosity decreases, despite local variations. In one of the two butterflies (Erebia embla), isolation by distance also increased through time, revealing the effect of greater habitat fragmentation over time.

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  • Climate drives community-wide divergence within species over a limited spatial scale: evidence from an oceanic island. Ecol. Lett. 2020 Feb;23(2):305-315. 10.1111/ele.13433.

    abstract

    Geographic isolation substantially contributes to species endemism on oceanic islands when speciation involves the colonisation of a new island. However, less is understood about the drivers of speciation within islands. What is lacking is a general understanding of the geographic scale of gene flow limitation within islands, and thus the spatial scale and drivers of geographical speciation within insular contexts. Using a community of beetle species, we show that when dispersal ability and climate tolerance are restricted, microclimatic variation over distances of only a few kilometres can maintain strong geographic isolation extending back several millions of years. Further to this, we demonstrate congruent diversification with gene flow across species, mediated by Quaternary climate oscillations that have facilitated a dynamic of isolation and secondary contact. The unprecedented scale of parallel species responses to a common environmental driver for evolutionary change has profound consequences for understanding past and future species responses to climate variation.

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  • A mirage of cryptic species: Genomics uncover striking mitonuclear discordance in the butterfly Thymelicus sylvestris. Mol. Ecol. 2019 09;28(17):3857-3868. 10.1111/mec.15153.

    abstract

    Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing has led to an unprecedented rise in the identification of cryptic species. However, it is widely acknowledged that nuclear DNA (nuDNA) sequence data are also necessary to properly define species boundaries. Next generation sequencing techniques provide a wealth of nuclear genomic data, which can be used to ascertain both the evolutionary history and taxonomic status of putative cryptic species. Here, we focus on the intriguing case of the butterfly Thymelicus sylvestris (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). We identified six deeply diverged mitochondrial lineages; three distributed all across Europe and found in sympatry, suggesting a potential case of cryptic species. We then sequenced these six lineages using double-digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (ddRADseq). Nuclear genomic loci contradicted mtDNA patterns and genotypes generally clustered according to geography, i.e., a pattern expected under the assumption of postglacial recolonization from different refugia. Further analyses indicated that this strong mtDNA/nuDNA discrepancy cannot be explained by incomplete lineage sorting, sex-biased asymmetries, NUMTs, natural selection, introgression or Wolbachia-mediated genetic sweeps. We suggest that this mitonuclear discordance was caused by long periods of geographic isolation followed by range expansions, homogenizing the nuclear but not the mitochondrial genome. These results highlight T. sylvestris as a potential case of multiple despeciation and/or lineage fusion events. We finally argue, since mtDNA and nuDNA do not necessarily follow the same mechanisms of evolution, their respective evolutionary history reflects complementary aspects of past demographic and biogeographic events.

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  • Genomic signatures accompanying the dietary shift to phytophagy in polyphagan beetles. Genome Biol. 2019 05;20(1):98. 10.1186/s13059-019-1704-5. 10.1186/s13059-019-1704-5. PMC6525341.

    abstract

    The diversity and evolutionary success of beetles (Coleoptera) are proposed to be related to the diversity of plants on which they feed. Indeed, the largest beetle suborder, Polyphaga, mostly includes plant eaters among its approximately 315,000 species. In particular, plants defend themselves with a diversity of specialized toxic chemicals. These may impose selective pressures that drive genomic diversification and speciation in phytophagous beetles. However, evidence of changes in beetle gene repertoires driven by such interactions remains largely anecdotal and without explicit hypothesis testing.

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  • Bacterial communities within caterpillars are shifted following transition from solitary living to social parasitism of ant colonies. Ecol Evol 2019 Apr;9(8):4452-4464. 10.1002/ece3.5010. ECE35010. PMC6476763.

    abstract

    Bacterial symbionts are known to facilitate a wide range of physiological processes and ecological interactions for their hosts. In spite of this, caterpillars with highly diverse life histories appear to lack resident microbiota. Gut physiology, endogenous digestive enzymes, and limited social interactions may contribute to this pattern, but the consequences of shifts in social activity and diet on caterpillar microbiota are largely unknown. caterpillars undergo particularly dramatic social and dietary shifts when they parasitize ant colonies, rapidly transitioning from solitary herbivory to ant tending (i.e., receiving protein-rich regurgitations through trophallaxis). This unique life history provides a model for studying interactions between social living, diet, and caterpillar microbiota. Here, we characterized and compared bacterial communities within .  caterpillars before and after their association with ants, using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and quantitative PCR. After being adopted by ants, bacterial communities within caterpillars shifted substantially, with a significant increase in alpha diversity and greater consistency in bacterial community composition in terms of beta dissimilarity. We also characterized the bacterial communities within their host ants (), food plant (), and soil from ant nest chambers. These data indicated that the aforementioned patterns were influenced by bacteria derived from caterpillars' surrounding environments, rather than through transfers from ants. Thus, while bacterial communities are substantially reorganized over the life cycle of caterpillars, it appears that they do not rely on transfers of bacteria from host ants to complete their development.

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  • Phylogeography and population genomics of a lotic water beetle across a complex tropical landscape. Mol. Ecol. 2018 Jul;():. 10.1111/mec.14796.

    abstract

    The habitat template concept applied to a freshwater system indicates that lotic species, or those which occupy permanent habitats along stream courses, are less dispersive than lentic species, or those that occur in more ephemeral aquatic habitats. Thus, populations of lotic species will be more structured than those of lentic species. Stream courses include both flowing water and small, stagnant microhabitats that can provide refuge when streams are low. Many species occur in these microhabitats but remain poorly studied. Here, we present population genetic data for one such species, the tropical diving beetle Exocelina manokwariensis (Dytiscidae), sampled from six localities along a ~300 km transect across the Birds Head Peninsula of New Guinea. Molecular data from both mitochondrial (CO1 sequences) and nuclear (ddRAD loci) regions document fine-scale population structure across populations that are ~45 km apart. Our results are concordant with previous phylogenetic and macroecological studies that applied the habitat template concept to aquatic systems. This study also illustrates that these diverse but mostly overlooked microhabitats are promising study systems in freshwater ecology and evolutionary biology. With the advent of next-generation sequencing, fine-scale population genomic studies are feasible for small nonmodel organisms to help illuminate the effect of habitat stability on species' natural history, population structure and geographic distribution.

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  • Spatial and temporal genetic dynamics of the grasshopper revealed by museum genomics. Ecol Evol 2018 02;8(3):1480-1495. 10.1002/ece3.3699. ECE33699. PMC5792620.

    abstract

    Analyzing genetic variation through time and space is important to identify key evolutionary and ecological processes in populations. However, using contemporary genetic data to infer the dynamics of genetic diversity may be at risk of a bias, as inferences are performed from a set of extant populations, setting aside unavailable, rare, or now extinct lineages. Here, we took advantage of new developments in next-generation sequencing to analyze the spatial and temporal genetic dynamics of the grasshopper , a steppic Southwestern-Palearctic species. We applied a recently developed hybridization capture (hyRAD) protocol that allows retrieving orthologous sequences even from degraded DNA characteristic of museum specimens. We identified single nucleotide polymorphisms in 68 historical and 51 modern samples in order to (i) unravel the spatial genetic structure across part of the species distribution and (ii) assess the loss of genetic diversity over the past century in Swiss populations. Our results revealed (i) the presence of three potential glacial refugia spread across the European continent and converging spatially in the Alpine area. In addition, and despite a limited population sample size, our results indicate (ii) a loss of allelic richness in contemporary Swiss populations compared to historical populations, whereas levels of expected heterozygosities were not significantly different. This observation is compatible with an increase in the bottleneck magnitude experienced by central European populations of following human-mediated land-use change impacting steppic habitats. Our results confirm that application of hyRAD to museum samples produces valuable information to study genetic processes across time and space.

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  • Long-term in situ persistence of biodiversity in tropical sky islands revealed by landscape genomics. Mol. Ecol. 2018 01;27(2):432-448. 10.1111/mec.14461.

    abstract

    Tropical mountains are areas of high species richness and endemism. Two historical phenomena may have contributed to this: (i) fragmentation and isolation of habitats may have promoted the genetic differentiation of populations and increased the possibility of allopatric divergence and speciation and (ii) the mountain areas may have allowed long-term population persistence during global climate fluctuations. These two phenomena have been studied using either species occurrence data or estimating species divergence times. However, only few studies have used intraspecific genetic data to analyse the mechanisms by which endemism may emerge at the microevolutionary scale. Here, we use landscape analysis of genomic SNP data sampled from two high-elevation plant species from an archipelago of tropical sky islands (the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt) to test for population genetic differentiation, synchronous demographic changes and habitat persistence. We show that genetic differentiation can be explained by the degree of glacial habitat connectivity among mountains and that mountains have facilitated the persistence of populations throughout glacial/interglacial cycles. Our results support the ongoing role of tropical mountains as cradles for biodiversity by uncovering cryptic differentiation and limits to gene flow.

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  • Elevation in tropical sky islands as the common driver in structuring genes and communities of freshwater organisms. Sci Rep 2017 11;7(1):16089. 10.1038/s41598-017-16069-y. 10.1038/s41598-017-16069-y. PMC5700956.

    abstract

    Tropical mountains are usually characterized by a vertically-arranged sequence of ecological belts, which, in contrast to temperate habitats, have remained relatively stable in space across the Quaternary. Such long-lasting patterning of habitats makes them ideal to test the role of environmental pressure in driving ecological and evolutionary processes. Using Sumatran freshwater mayfly communities, we test whether elevation, rather than other spatial factors (i.e. volcanoes, watersheds) structures both species within communities and genes within species. Based on the analysis of 31 mayfly (Ephemeroptera) communities and restriction-site-associated-DNA sequencing in the four most ubiquitous species, we found elevation as the major spatial component structuring both species and genes in the landscape. In other words, similar elevations across different mountains or watersheds harbor more similar species and genes than different elevations within the same mountain or watershed. Tropical elevation gradients characterized by environmental conditions that are both steep and relatively stable seasonally and over geological time scales, are thus responsible for both ecological and genetic differentiation. Our results demonstrate how in situ ecological diversification at the micro-evolutionary level might fuel alpha- and beta- components of diversity in tropical sky islands.

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  • Genomics of extreme ecological specialists: multiple convergent evolution but no genetic divergence between ecotypes of Maculinea alcon butterflies. Sci Rep 2017 10;7(1):13752. 10.1038/s41598-017-12938-8. 10.1038/s41598-017-12938-8. PMC5653870.

    abstract

    Biotic interactions are often acknowledged as catalysers of genetic divergence and eventual explanation of processes driving species richness. We address the question, whether extreme ecological specialization is always associated with lineage sorting, by analysing polymorphisms in morphologically similar ecotypes of the myrmecophilous butterfly Maculinea alcon. The ecotypes occur in either hygric or xeric habitats, use different larval host plants and ant species, but no significant distinctive molecular traits have been revealed so far. We apply genome-wide RAD-sequencing to specimens originating from both habitats across Europe in order to get a view of the potential evolutionary processes at work. Our results confirm that genetic variation is mainly structured geographically but not ecologically - specimens from close localities are more related to each other than populations of each ecotype from distant localities. However, we found two loci for which the association with xeric versus hygric habitats is supported by segregating alleles, suggesting convergent evolution of habitat preference. Thus, ecological divergence between the forms probably does not represent an early stage of speciation, but may result from independent recurring adaptations involving few genes. We discuss the implications of these results for conservation and suggest preserving biotic interactions and main genetic clusters.

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  • Assessing the potential of RAD-sequencing to resolve phylogenetic relationships within species radiations: The fly genus Chiastocheta (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) as a case study. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 2017 09;114():189-198. S1055-7903(17)30278-6. 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.06.012.

    abstract

    Determining phylogenetic relationships among recently diverged species has long been a challenge in evolutionary biology. Cytoplasmic DNA markers, which have been widely used, notably in the context of molecular barcoding, have not always proved successful in resolving such phylogenies. However, with the advent of next-generation-sequencing technologies and associated techniques of reduced genome representation, phylogenies of closely related species have been resolved at a much higher detail in the last couple of years. Here we examine the potential and limitations of one of such techniques-Restriction-site Associated DNA (RAD) sequencing, a method that produces thousands of (mostly) anonymous nuclear markers, in disentangling the phylogeny of the fly genus Chiastocheta (Diptera: Anthomyiidae). In Europe, this genus encompasses seven species of seed predators, which have been widely studied in the context of their ecological and evolutionary interactions with the plant Trollius europaeus (Ranunculaceae). So far, phylogenetic analyses using mitochondrial markers failed to resolve monophyly of most of the species from this recently diversified genus, suggesting that their taxonomy may need a revision. However, relying on a single, non-recombining marker and ignoring potential incongruences between mitochondrial and nuclear loci may provide an incomplete account of the lineage history. In this study, we applied both classical Sanger sequencing of three mtDNA regions and RAD-sequencing, for reconstructing the phylogeny of the genus. Contrasting with results based on mitochondrial markers, RAD-sequencing analyses retrieved the monophyly of all seven species, in agreement with the morphological species assignment. We found robust nuclear-based species assignment of individual samples, and low levels of estimated contemporary gene flow among them. However, despite recovering species' monophyly, interspecific relationships varied depending on the set of RAD loci considered, producing contradictory topologies. Moreover, coalescence-based phylogenetic analyses revealed low supports for most of the interspecific relationships. Our results indicate that despite the higher performance of RAD-sequencing in terms of species trees resolution compared to cytoplasmic markers, reconstructing inter-specific relationships among recently-diverged lineages may lie beyond the possibilities offered by large sets of RAD-sequencing markers in cases of strong gene tree incongruence.

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  • Climatic niche evolution is faster in sympatric than allopatric lineages of the butterfly genus . Proc. Biol. Sci. 2017 Apr;284(1852):. rspb.2017.0208. 10.1098/rspb.2017.0208. PMC5394673.

    abstract

    Understanding how speciation relates to ecological divergence has long fascinated biologists. It is assumed that ecological divergence is essential to sympatric speciation, as a mechanism to avoid competition and eventually lead to reproductive isolation, while divergence in allopatry is not necessarily associated with niche differentiation. The impact of the spatial context of divergence on the evolutionary rates of abiotic dimensions of the ecological niche has rarely been explored for an entire clade. Here, we compare the magnitude of climatic niche shifts between sympatric versus allopatric divergence of lineages in butterflies. By combining next-generation sequencing, parametric biogeography and ecological niche analyses applied to a genus-wide phylogeny of Palaearctic butterflies, we compare evolutionary rates along eight climatic dimensions across sister lineages that diverged in large-scale sympatry versus allopatry. In order to examine the possible effects of the spatial scale at which sympatry is defined, we considered three sets of biogeographic assignments, ranging from narrow to broad definition. Our findings suggest higher rates of niche evolution along all climatic dimensions for sister lineages that diverge in sympatry, when using a narrow delineation of biogeographic areas. This result contrasts with significantly lower rates of climatic niche evolution found in cases of allopatric speciation, despite the biogeographic regions defined here being characterized by significantly different climates. Higher rates in allopatry are retrieved when biogeographic areas are too widely defined-in such a case allopatric events may be recorded as sympatric. Our results reveal the macro-evolutionary significance of abiotic niche differentiation involved in speciation processes within biogeographic regions, and illustrate the importance of the spatial scale chosen to define areas when applying parametric biogeographic analyses.

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  • Differential phenotypic and genetic expression of defence compounds in a plant-herbivore interaction along elevation. R Soc Open Sci 2016 Sep;3(9):160226. 10.1098/rsos.160226. rsos160226. PMC5043307.

    abstract

    Elevation gradients impose large differences in abiotic and biotic conditions over short distances, in turn, likely driving differences in gene expression more than would genetic variation , as natural selection and drift are less likely to fix alleles at such a narrow spatial scale. As elevation increases, the pressure exerted on plants by herbivores and on arthropod herbivores by predators decreases, and organisms spanning the elevation gradient are thus expected to show lower levels of defence at high elevation. The alternative hypothesis, based on the optimal defence theory, is that defence allocation should be higher in low-resource habitats such as those at high elevation, due to higher costs associated with tissue replacement. In this study, we analyse variation with elevation in (i) defence compound content in the plant and (ii) gene expression associated with defence against predators in the specific phytophagous moth, . Both species produce cyanogenic glycosides (CNglcs) such as lotaustralin and linamarin as defence mechanisms, with the moth, in addition, being able to sequester CNglcs from its host plant. Specifically, we tested the assumption that the defence-associated phenotype in plants and the gene expression in the insect herbivore should covary between low- and high-elevation environments. We found that accumulated more CNglcs at high elevation, a result in agreement with the optimal defence theory. By contrast, we found that the levels of expression in the defence genes of larvae were not related to the CNglc content of their host plant. Overall, expression levels were not correlated with elevation either, with the exception of the gene, which showed a marginally significant trend towards higher expression at high elevation when using a simple statistical framework. These results suggest that the defence phenotype of plants against herbivores, and subsequent herbivore sequestration machineries and production, are based on a complex network of interactions.

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  • Genetic consequences of Quaternary climatic oscillations in the Himalayas: Primula tibetica as a case study based on restriction site-associated DNA sequencing. New Phytol. 2017 Feb;213(3):1500-1512. 10.1111/nph.14221.

    abstract

    The effects of Quaternary climatic oscillations on the demography of organisms vary across regions and continents. In taxa distributed in Europe and North America, several paradigms regarding the distribution of refugia have been identified. By contrast, less is known about the processes that shaped the species' spatial genetic structure in areas such as the Himalayas, which is considered a biodiversity hotspot. Here, we investigated the phylogeographic structure and population dynamics of Primula tibetica by combining genomic phylogeography and species distribution models (SDMs). Genomic data were obtained for 293 samples of P. tibetica using restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RADseq). Ensemble SDMs were carried out to predict potential present and past distribution ranges. Four distinct lineages were identified. Approximate Bayesian computation analyses showed that each of them have experienced both expansions and bottlenecks since their divergence, which occurred during or across the Quaternary glacial cycles. The two lineages at both edges of the distribution were found to be more vulnerable and responded in different ways to past climatic changes. These results illustrate how past climatic changes affected the demographic history of Himalayan organisms. Our findings highlight the significance of combining genomic approaches with environmental data when evaluating the effects of past climatic changes.

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  • Is hybridization driving the evolution of climatic niche in Alyssum montanum. Am. J. Bot. 2016 07;103(7):1348-57. ajb.1500368. 10.3732/ajb.1500368.

    abstract

    After decades of interest, the contribution of hybridization to ecological diversification remains unclear. Hybridization is a potent source of novelty, but nascent hybrid lineages must overcome reproductive and ecological competition from their parental species. Here, we assess whether hybrid speciation is advantageous over alternative modes of speciation, by comparing the geographical and ecological ranges and climatic niche evolutionary rates of stabilized allopolyploid vs. autopolyploids in the Alyssum montanum species complex.

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  • Hybridization Capture Using RAD Probes (hyRAD), a New Tool for Performing Genomic Analyses on Collection Specimens. PLoS ONE 2016 ;11(3):e0151651. 10.1371/journal.pone.0151651. PONE-D-15-36609. PMC4801390.

    abstract

    In the recent years, many protocols aimed at reproducibly sequencing reduced-genome subsets in non-model organisms have been published. Among them, RAD-sequencing is one of the most widely used. It relies on digesting DNA with specific restriction enzymes and performing size selection on the resulting fragments. Despite its acknowledged utility, this method is of limited use with degraded DNA samples, such as those isolated from museum specimens, as these samples are less likely to harbor fragments long enough to comprise two restriction sites making possible ligation of the adapter sequences (in the case of double-digest RAD) or performing size selection of the resulting fragments (in the case of single-digest RAD). Here, we address these limitations by presenting a novel method called hybridization RAD (hyRAD). In this approach, biotinylated RAD fragments, covering a random fraction of the genome, are used as baits for capturing homologous fragments from genomic shotgun sequencing libraries. This simple and cost-effective approach allows sequencing of orthologous loci even from highly degraded DNA samples, opening new avenues of research in the field of museum genomics. Not relying on the restriction site presence, it improves among-sample loci coverage. In a trial study, hyRAD allowed us to obtain a large set of orthologous loci from fresh and museum samples from a non-model butterfly species, with a high proportion of single nucleotide polymorphisms present in all eight analyzed specimens, including 58-year-old museum samples. The utility of the method was further validated using 49 museum and fresh samples of a Palearctic grasshopper species for which the spatial genetic structure was previously assessed using mtDNA amplicons. The application of the method is eventually discussed in a wider context. As it does not rely on the restriction site presence, it is therefore not sensitive to among-sample loci polymorphisms in the restriction sites that usually causes loci dropout. This should enable the application of hyRAD to analyses at broader evolutionary scales.

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  • Clustering Genes of Common Evolutionary History. Mol. Biol. Evol. 2016 06;33(6):1590-605. msw038. 10.1093/molbev/msw038. PMC4868114.

    abstract

    Phylogenetic inference can potentially result in a more accurate tree using data from multiple loci. However, if the loci are incongruent-due to events such as incomplete lineage sorting or horizontal gene transfer-it can be misleading to infer a single tree. To address this, many previous contributions have taken a mechanistic approach, by modeling specific processes. Alternatively, one can cluster loci without assuming how these incongruencies might arise. Such "process-agnostic" approaches typically infer a tree for each locus and cluster these. There are, however, many possible combinations of tree distance and clustering methods; their comparative performance in the context of tree incongruence is largely unknown. Furthermore, because standard model selection criteria such as AIC cannot be applied to problems with a variable number of topologies, the issue of inferring the optimal number of clusters is poorly understood. Here, we perform a large-scale simulation study of phylogenetic distances and clustering methods to infer loci of common evolutionary history. We observe that the best-performing combinations are distances accounting for branch lengths followed by spectral clustering or Ward's method. We also introduce two statistical tests to infer the optimal number of clusters and show that they strongly outperform the silhouette criterion, a general-purpose heuristic. We illustrate the usefulness of the approach by 1) identifying errors in a previous phylogenetic analysis of yeast species and 2) identifying topological incongruence among newly sequenced loci of the globeflower fly genus Chiastocheta We release treeCl, a new program to cluster genes of common evolutionary history (http://git.io/treeCl).

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  • Asymmetrical nature of the Trollius-Chiastocheta interaction: insights into the evolution of nursery pollination systems. Ecol Evol 2015 Nov;5(21):4766-77. 10.1002/ece3.1544. ECE31544. PMC4662325.

    abstract

    The mutualistic versus antagonistic nature of an interaction is defined by costs and benefits of each partner, which may vary depending on the environment. Contrasting with this dynamic view, several pollination interactions are considered as strictly obligate and mutualistic. Here, we focus on the interaction between Trollius europaeus and Chiastocheta flies, considered as a specialized and obligate nursery pollination system - the flies are thought to be exclusive pollinators of the plant and their larvae develop only in T. europaeus fruits. In this system, features such as the globelike flower shape are claimed to have evolved in a coevolutionary context. We examine the specificity of this pollination system and measure traits related to offspring fitness in isolated T. europaeus populations, in some of which Chiastocheta flies have gone extinct. We hypothesize that if this interaction is specific and obligate, the plant should experience dramatic drop in its relative fitness in the absence of Chiastocheta. Contrasting with this hypothesis, T. europaeus populations without flies demonstrate a similar relative fitness to those with the flies present, contradicting the putative obligatory nature of this pollination system. It also agrees with our observation that many other insects also visit and carry pollen among T. europaeus flowers. We propose that the interaction could have evolved through maximization of by-product benefits of the Chiastocheta visits, through the male flower function, and selection on floral traits by the most effective pollinator. We argue this mechanism is also central in the evolution of other nursery pollination systems.

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  • Uncovering Cryptic Parasitoid Diversity in Horismenus (Chalcidoidea, Eulophidae). PLoS ONE 2015 ;10(9):e0136063. 10.1371/journal.pone.0136063. PONE-D-15-11086. PMC4564207.

    abstract

    Horismenus parasitoids are an abundant and understudied group of eulophid wasps found mainly in the New World. Recent surveys based on morphological analyses in Costa Rica have quadrupled the number of named taxa, with more than 400 species described so far. This recent revision suggests that there is still a vast number of unknown species to be identified. As Horismenus wasps have been widely described as parasitoids of insect pests associated with crop plants, it is of high importance to properly establish the extant diversity of the genus, in order to provide biological control practitioners with an exhaustive catalog of putative control agents. In this study, we first collected Horismenus wasps from wild Phaseolus bean seeds in Central Mexico and Arizona to assess the genetic relatedness of three morphologically distinct species with overlapping host and geographical ranges. Sequence data from two nuclear and two mitochondrial gene regions uncovered three cryptic species within each of the three focal species (i.e., H. missouriensis, H. depressus and H. butcheri). The monophyly of each cryptic group is statistically supported (except in two of them represented by one single tip in which monophyly cannot be tested). The phylogenetic reconstruction is discussed with respect to differences between gene regions as well as likely reasons for the differences in variability between species.

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  • Gene duplication, population genomics, and species-level differentiation within a tropical mountain shrub. Genome Biol Evol 2014 Sep;6(10):2611-24. evu205. 10.1093/gbe/evu205. PMC4224332.

    abstract

    Gene duplication leads to paralogy, which complicates the de novo assembly of genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) data. The issue of paralogous genes is exacerbated in plants, because they are particularly prone to gene duplication events. Paralogs are normally filtered from GBS data before undertaking population genomics or phylogenetic analyses. However, gene duplication plays an important role in the functional diversification of genes and it can also lead to the formation of postzygotic barriers. Using populations and closely related species of a tropical mountain shrub, we examine 1) the genomic differentiation produced by putative orthologs, and 2) the distribution of recent gene duplication among lineages and geography. We find high differentiation among populations from isolated mountain peaks and species-level differentiation within what is morphologically described as a single species. The inferred distribution of paralogs among populations is congruent with taxonomy and shows that GBS could be used to examine recent gene duplication as a source of genomic differentiation of nonmodel species.

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  • Wheat alleles introgress into selfing wild relatives: empirical estimates from approximate Bayesian computation in Aegilops triuncialis. Mol. Ecol. 2014 Oct;23(20):5089-101. 10.1111/mec.12918.

    abstract

    Extensive gene flow between wheat (Triticum sp.) and several wild relatives of the genus Aegilops has recently been detected despite notoriously high levels of selfing in these species. Here, we assess and model the spread of wheat alleles into natural populations of the barbed goatgrass (Aegilops triuncialis), a wild wheat relative prevailing in the Mediterranean flora. Our sampling, based on an extensive survey of 31 Ae. triuncialis populations collected along a 60 km × 20 km area in southern Spain (Grazalema Mountain chain, Andalousia, totalling 458 specimens), is completed with 33 wheat cultivars representative of the European domesticated pool. All specimens were genotyped with amplified fragment length polymorphism with the aim of estimating wheat admixture levels in Ae. triuncialis populations. This survey first confirmed extensive hybridization and backcrossing of wheat into the wild species. We then used explicit modelling of populations and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate the selfing rate of Ae. triuncialis along with the magnitude, the tempo and the geographical distance over which wheat alleles introgress into Ae. triuncialis populations. These simulations confirmed that extensive introgression of wheat alleles (2.7 × 10(-4) wheat immigrants for each Ae. triuncialis resident, at each generation) into Ae. triuncialis occurs despite a high selfing rate (Fis ≈ 1 and selfing rate = 97%). These results are discussed in the light of risks associated with the release of genetically modified wheat cultivars in Mediterranean agrosystems.

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  • A deep dig––hindsight on Holocene vegetation composition from ancient environmental DNA. Mol. Ecol. 2013 Jul;22(13):3433-6. 10.1111/mec.12356.

    abstract

    Want a glimpse at past vegetation? Studying pollen and other plant remains, which are preserved for example in lake sediments or mires for thousands of years, allows us to document regional occurrences of plant species over radiocarbon-dated time series. Such vegetation reconstructions derived from optical analyses of fossil samples are inherently incomplete because they only comprise taxa that contribute sufficient amounts of pollen, spores, macrofossil or other evidences. To complement optical analyses for paleoecological inference, molecular markers applied to ancient DNA (aDNA) may help in disclosing information hitherto inaccessible to biologists. Parducci et al. (2013) targeted aDNA from sediment cores of two lakes in the Scandes Mountains with generic primers in a meta-barcoding approach. When compared to palynological records from the same cores, respective taxon lists show remarkable differences in their compositions, but also in quantitative representation and in taxonomic resolution similar to a previous study (Jørgensen et al. 2012). While not free of assumptions that need critical and robust testing, notably the question of possible contamination, this study provides thrilling prospects to improve our knowledge about past vegetation composition, but also other organismic groups, stored as a biological treasure in the ground.

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  • The abrupt climate change at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary and the emergence of South-East Asia triggered the spread of sapindaceous lineages. Ann. Bot. 2013 Jul;112(1):151-60. mct106. 10.1093/aob/mct106. PMC3690995.

    abstract

    Paleoclimatic data indicate that an abrupt climate change occurred at the Eocene-Oligocene (E-O) boundary affecting the distribution of tropical forests on Earth. The same period has seen the emergence of South-East (SE) Asia, caused by the collision of the Eurasian and Australian plates. How the combination of these climatic and geomorphological factors affected the spatio-temporal history of angiosperms is little known. This topic is investigated by using the worldwide sapindaceous clade as a case study.

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  • Morphological, ecological and genetic aspects associated with endemism in the Fly Orchid group. Mol. Ecol. 2013 Mar;22(5):1431-46. 10.1111/mec.12169.

    abstract

    The European genus Ophrys (Orchidaceae) is famous for its insect-like floral morphology, an adaptation for a pseudocopulatory pollination strategy involving Hymenoptera males. A large number of endemic Ophrys species have recently been described, especially within the Mediterranean Basin, which is one of the major species diversity hotspots. Subtle morphological variation and specific pollinator dependence are the two main perceptible criteria for describing numerous endemic taxa. However, the degree to which endemics differ genetically remains a challenging question. Additionally, knowledge regarding the factors underlying the emergence of such endemic entities is limited. To achieve new insights regarding speciation processes in Ophrys, we have investigated species boundaries in the Fly Orchid group (Ophrys insectifera sensu lato) by examining morphological, ecological and genetic evidence. Classically, authors have recognized one widespread taxon (O. insectifera) and two endemics (O. aymoninii from France and O. subinsectifera from Spain). Our research has identified clear morphological and ecological factors segregating among these taxa; however, genetic differences were more ambiguous. Insights from cpDNA sequencing and amplified fragment length polymorphisms genotyping indicated a recent diversification in the three extant Fly Orchid species, which may have been further obscured by active migration and admixture across the European continent. Our genetic results still indicate weak but noticeable phylogeographic clustering that partially correlates with the described species. Particularly, we report several isolated haplotypes and genetic clusters in central and southeastern Europe. With regard to the morphological, ecological and genetic aspects, we discuss the endemism status within the Fly Orchid group from evolutionary, taxonomical and conservation perspectives.

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  • Genetic diversity in widespread species is not congruent with species richness in alpine plant communities. Ecol. Lett. 2012 Dec;15(12):1439-48. 10.1111/ele.12004.

    abstract

    The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims at the conservation of all three levels of biodiversity, that is, ecosystems, species and genes. Genetic diversity represents evolutionary potential and is important for ecosystem functioning. Unfortunately, genetic diversity in natural populations is hardly considered in conservation strategies because it is difficult to measure and has been hypothesised to co-vary with species richness. This means that species richness is taken as a surrogate of genetic diversity in conservation planning, though their relationship has not been properly evaluated. We tested whether the genetic and species levels of biodiversity co-vary, using a large-scale and multi-species approach. We chose the high-mountain flora of the Alps and the Carpathians as study systems and demonstrate that species richness and genetic diversity are not correlated. Species richness thus cannot act as a surrogate for genetic diversity. Our results have important consequences for implementing the CBD when designing conservation strategies.

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  • Broad-scale adaptive genetic variation in alpine plants is driven by temperature and precipitation. Mol. Ecol. 2012 Aug;21(15):3729-38. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05656.x. PMC4003392. EMS54924.

    abstract

    Identifying adaptive genetic variation is a challenging task, in particular in non-model species for which genomic information is still limited or absent. Here, we studied distribution patterns of amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) in response to environmental variation, in 13 alpine plant species consistently sampled across the entire European Alps. Multiple linear regressions were performed between AFLP allele frequencies per site as dependent variables and two categories of independent variables, namely Moran's eigenvector map MEM variables (to account for spatial and unaccounted environmental variation, and historical demographic processes) and environmental variables. These associations allowed the identification of 153 loci of ecological relevance. Univariate regressions between allele frequency and each environmental factor further showed that loci of ecological relevance were mainly correlated with MEM variables. We found that precipitation and temperature were the best environmental predictors, whereas topographic factors were rarely involved in environmental associations. Climatic factors, subject to rapid variation as a result of the current global warming, are known to strongly influence the fate of alpine plants. Our study shows, for the first time for a large number of species, that the same environmental variables are drivers of plant adaptation at the scale of a whole biome, here the European Alps.

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  • Automated scoring of AFLPs using RawGeno v 2.0, a free R CRAN library. Methods Mol. Biol. 2012 ;888():155-75. 10.1007/978-1-61779-870-2_10.

    abstract

    Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLPs) are a cheap and efficient protocol for generating large sets of genetic markers. This technique has become increasingly used during the last decade in various fields of biology, including population genomics, phylogeography, and genome mapping. Here, we present RawGeno, an R library dedicated to the automated scoring of AFLPs (i.e., the coding of electropherogram signals into ready-to-use datasets). Our program includes a complete suite of tools for binning, editing, visualizing, and exporting results obtained from AFLP experiments. RawGeno can either be used with command lines and program analysis routines or through a user-friendly graphical user interface. We describe the whole RawGeno pipeline along with recommendations for (a) setting the analysis of electropherograms in combination with PeakScanner, a program freely distributed by Applied Biosystems; (b) performing quality checks; (c) defining bins and proceeding to scoring; (d) filtering nonoptimal bins; and (e) exporting results in different formats.

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  • Gene flow among wild and domesticated almond species: insights from chloroplast and nuclear markers. Evol Appl 2012 Jun;5(4):317-29. 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2011.00223.x. PMC3353361.

    abstract

    Hybridization has played a central role in the evolutionary history of domesticated plants. Notably, several breeding programs relying on gene introgression from the wild compartment have been performed in fruit tree species within the genus Prunus but few studies investigated spontaneous gene flow among wild and domesticated Prunus species. Consequently, a comprehensive understanding of genetic relationships and levels of gene flow between domesticated and wild Prunus species is needed. Combining nuclear and chloroplastic microsatellites, we investigated the gene flow and hybridization among two key almond tree species, the cultivated Prunus dulcis and one of the most widespread wild relative Prunus orientalis in the Fertile Crescent. We detected high genetic diversity levels in both species along with substantial and symmetric gene flow between the domesticated P. dulcis and the wild P. orientalis. These results were discussed in light of the cultivated species diversity, by outlining the frequent spontaneous genetic contributions of wild species to the domesticated compartment. In addition, crop-to-wild gene flow suggests that ad hoc transgene containment strategies would be required if genetically modified cultivars were introduced in the northwestern Mediterranean.

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  • Predicting present and future intra-specific genetic structure through niche hindcasting across 24 millennia. Ecol. Lett. 2012 Jul;15(7):649-57. 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01779.x.

    abstract

    Paleoclimatic reconstructions coupled with species distribution models and identification of extant spatial genetic structure have the potential to provide insights into the demographic events that shape the distribution of intra-specific genetic variation across time. Using the globeflower Trollius europaeus as a case-study, we combined (1) Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms, (2) suites of 1000-years stepwise hindcasted species distributions and (3) a model of diffusion through time over the last 24,000 years, to trace the spatial dynamics that most likely fits the species' current genetic structure. We show that the globeflower comprises four gene pools in Europe which, from the dry period preceding the Last Glacial Maximum, dispersed while tracking the conditions fitting its climatic niche. Among these four gene pools, two are predicted to experience drastic range retraction in the near future. Our interdisciplinary approach, applicable to virtually any taxon, is an advance in inferring how climate change impacts species' genetic structures.

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  • Forecasting changes in population genetic structure of alpine plants in response to global warming. Mol. Ecol. 2012 May;21(10):2354-68. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05541.x.

    abstract

    Species range shifts in response to climate and land use change are commonly forecasted with species distribution models based on species occurrence or abundance data. Although appealing, these models ignore the genetic structure of species, and the fact that different populations might respond in different ways because of adaptation to their environment. Here, we introduced ancestry distribution models, that is, statistical models of the spatial distribution of ancestry proportions, for forecasting intra-specific changes based on genetic admixture instead of species occurrence data. Using multi-locus genotypes and extensive geographic coverage of distribution data across the European Alps, we applied this approach to 20 alpine plant species considering a global increase in temperature from 0.25 to 4 °C. We forecasted the magnitudes of displacement of contact zones between plant populations potentially adapted to warmer environments and other populations. While a global trend of movement in a north-east direction was predicted, the magnitude of displacement was species-specific. For a temperature increase of 2 °C, contact zones were predicted to move by 92 km on average (minimum of 5 km, maximum of 212 km) and by 188 km for an increase of 4 °C (minimum of 11 km, maximum of 393 km). Intra-specific turnover-measuring the extent of change in global population genetic structure-was generally found to be moderate for 2 °C of temperature warming. For 4 °C of warming, however, the models indicated substantial intra-specific turnover for ten species. These results illustrate that, in spite of unavoidable simplifications, ancestry distribution models open new perspectives to forecast population genetic changes within species and complement more traditional distribution-based approaches.

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  • Reconstructing the origins of high-alpine niches and cushion life form in the genus Androsace S.L. (Primulaceae). Evolution 2012 Apr;66(4):1255-68. 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01483.x. PMC3999638. EMS54921.

    abstract

    Relatively, few species have been able to colonize extremely cold alpine environments. We investigate the role played by the cushion life form in the evolution of climatic niches in the plant genus Androsace s.l., which spreads across the mountain ranges of the Northern Hemisphere. Using robust methods that account for phylogenetic uncertainty, intraspecific variability of climatic requirements and different life-history evolution scenarios, we show that climatic niches of Androsace s.l. exhibit low phylogenetic signal and that they evolved relatively recently and punctually. Models of niche evolution fitted onto phylogenies show that the cushion life form has been a key innovation providing the opportunity to occupy extremely cold environments, thus contributing to rapid climatic niche diversification in the genus Androsace s.l. We then propose a plausible scenario for the adaptation of plants to alpine habitats.

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  • Ecological and historical drivers of diversification in the fly genus Chiastocheta Pokorny. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 2012 May;63(2):466-74. S1055-7903(12)00035-8. 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.01.018.

    abstract

    Coevolution is among the main forces shaping the biodiversity on Earth. In Eurasia, one of the best-known plant-insect interactions showing highly coevolved features involves the fly genus Chiastocheta and its host-plant Trollius. Although this system has been widely studied from an ecological point of view, the phylogenetic relationships and biogeographic history of the flies have remained little investigated. In this integrative study, we aim to test the monophyly of the five Chiastocheta eco-morphological groups, defined by Pellmyr in 1992, by inferring a mitochondrial phylogeny. We further apply a new approach to assess the effect of (i) different molecular substitution rates and (ii) phylogenetic uncertainty on the inference of the spatio-temporal evolution of the group. From a taxonomic point of view, we demonstrate that only two of Pellmyr's groups (rotundiventris and dentifera) are phylogenetically supported, the other species appearing para- or polyphyletic. We also identify the position of C. lophota, which was not included in previous surveys. From a spatio-temporal perspective, we show that the genus arose during the Pliocene in Europe. Our results also indicate that at least four large-scale dispersal events are required to explain the current distribution of Chiastocheta. Moreover, each dispersal to or from Asia is associated with a host-shift and seems to correspond to an increase in speciation rates. Finally, we highlight the correlation between diversification and climatic fluctuations, which indicate that the cycles of global cooling over the last million years had an influence on the radiation of the group.

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  • Comparative phylogeography in a specific and obligate pollination antagonism. PLoS ONE 2011 ;6(12):e28662. 10.1371/journal.pone.0028662. PONE-D-11-15574. PMC3246438.

    abstract

    In specific and obligate interactions the nature and abundance of a given species can have important effects on the survival and population dynamics of associated organisms. In a phylogeographic framework, we therefore expect that the fates of organisms interacting specifically are also tightly interrelated. Here we investigate such a scenario by analyzing the genetic structures of species interacting in an obligate plant-insect pollination lure-and-trap antagonism, involving Arum maculatum (Araceae) and its specific psychodid (Diptera) visitors Psychoda phalaenoides and Psycha grisescens. Because the interaction is asymmetric (i.e., only the plant depends on the insect), we expect the genetic structure of the plant to be related with the historical pollinator availability, yielding incongruent phylogeographic patterns between the interacting organisms.Using insect mtDNA sequences and plant AFLP genome fingerprinting, we inferred the large-scale phylogeographies of each species and the distribution of genetic diversities throughout the sampled range, and evaluated the congruence in their respective genetic structures using hierarchical analyses of molecular variances (AMOVA). Because the composition of pollinator species varies in Europe, we also examined its association with the spatial genetic structure of the plant.Our findings indicate that while the plant presents a spatially well-defined genetic structure, this is not the case in the insects. Patterns of genetic diversities also show dissimilar distributions among the three interacting species. Phylogeographic histories of the plant and its pollinating insects are thus not congruent, a result that would indicate that plant and insect lineages do not share the same glacial and postglacial histories. However, the genetic structure of the plant can, at least partially, be explained by the type of pollinators available at a regional scale. Differences in life-history traits of available pollinators might therefore have influenced the genetic structure of the plant, the dependent organism, in this antagonistic interaction.

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  • Does a shift in host plants trigger speciation in the Alpine leaf beetle Oreina speciosissima (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae)? BMC Evol. Biol. 2011 Oct;11():310. 1471-2148-11-310. 10.1186/1471-2148-11-310. PMC3256130.

    abstract

    Within the Coleoptera, the largest order in the animal kingdom, the exclusively herbivorous Chrysomelidae are recognized as one of the most species rich beetle families. The evolutionary processes that have fueled radiation into the more than thirty-five thousand currently recognized leaf beetle species remain partly unresolved. The prominent role of leaf beetles in the insect world, their omnipresence across all terrestrial biomes and their economic importance as common agricultural pest organisms make this family particularly interesting for studying the mechanisms that drive diversification. Here we specifically focus on two ecotypes of the alpine leaf beetle Oreina speciosissima (Scop.), which have been shown to exhibit morphological differences in male genitalia roughly corresponding to the subspecies Oreina speciosissima sensu stricto and Oreina speciosissima troglodytes. In general the two ecotypes segregate along an elevation gradient and by host plants: Oreina speciosissima sensu stricto colonizes high forb vegetation at low altitude and Oreina speciosissima troglodytes is found in stone run vegetation at higher elevations. Both host plants and leaf beetles have a patchy geographical distribution. Through use of gene sequencing and genome fingerprinting (AFLP) we analyzed the genetic structure and habitat use of Oreina speciosissima populations from the Swiss Alps to examine whether the two ecotypes have a genetic basis. By investigating a wide range of altitudes and focusing on the structuring effect of habitat types, we aim to provide answers regarding the factors that drive adaptive radiation in this phytophagous leaf beetle.

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  • Insights into the biogeographical history of the Lower Guinea Forest Domain: evidence for the role of refugia in the intraspecific differentiation of Aucoumea klaineana. Mol. Ecol. 2011 Jan;20(1):131-42. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04919.x.

    abstract

    Determining the biogeographical histories of rainforests is central to our understanding of the present distribution of tropical biodiversity. Ice age fragmentation of central African rainforests strongly influenced species distributions. Elevated areas characterized by higher species richness and endemism have been postulated to be Pleistocene forest refugia. However, it is often difficult to separate the effects of history and of present-day ecological conditions on diversity patterns at the interspecific level. Intraspecific genetic variation could yield new insights into history, because refugia hypotheses predict patterns not expected on the basis of contemporary environmental dynamics. Here, we test geographically explicit hypotheses of vicariance associated with the presence of putative refugia and provide clues about their location. We intensively sampled populations of Aucoumea klaineana, a forest tree sensitive to forest fragmentation, throughout its geographical range. Characterizing variation at 10 nuclear microsatellite loci, we were able to obtain phylogeographic data of unprecedented detail for this region. Using Bayesian clustering approaches, we demonstrated the presence of four differentiated genetic units. Their distribution matched that of forest refugia postulated from patterns of species richness and endemism. Our data also show differences in diversity dynamics at leading and trailing edges of the species' shifting distribution. Our results confirm predictions based on refugia hypotheses and cannot be explained on the basis of present-day ecological conditions.

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  • Comparative performance of supertree algorithms in large data sets using the soapberry family (Sapindaceae) as a case study. Syst. Biol. 2011 Jan;60(1):32-44. syq057. 10.1093/sysbio/syq057.

    abstract

    For the last 2 decades, supertree reconstruction has been an active field of research and has seen the development of a large number of major algorithms. Because of the growing popularity of the supertree methods, it has become necessary to evaluate the performance of these algorithms to determine which are the best options (especially with regard to the supermatrix approach that is widely used). In this study, seven of the most commonly used supertree methods are investigated by using a large empirical data set (in terms of number of taxa and molecular markers) from the worldwide flowering plant family Sapindaceae. Supertree methods were evaluated using several criteria: similarity of the supertrees with the input trees, similarity between the supertrees and the total evidence tree, level of resolution of the supertree and computational time required by the algorithm. Additional analyses were also conducted on a reduced data set to test if the performance levels were affected by the heuristic searches rather than the algorithms themselves. Based on our results, two main groups of supertree methods were identified: on one hand, the matrix representation with parsimony (MRP), MinFlip, and MinCut methods performed well according to our criteria, whereas the average consensus, split fit, and most similar supertree methods showed a poorer performance or at least did not behave the same way as the total evidence tree. Results for the super distance matrix, that is, the most recent approach tested here, were promising with at least one derived method performing as well as MRP, MinFlip, and MinCut. The output of each method was only slightly improved when applied to the reduced data set, suggesting a correct behavior of the heuristic searches and a relatively low sensitivity of the algorithms to data set sizes and missing data. Results also showed that the MRP analyses could reach a high level of quality even when using a simple heuristic search strategy, with the exception of MRP with Purvis coding scheme and reversible parsimony. The future of supertrees lies in the implementation of a standardized heuristic search for all methods and the increase in computing power to handle large data sets. The latter would prove to be particularly useful for promising approaches such as the maximum quartet fit method that yet requires substantial computing power.

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  • The phylogeography of an alpine leaf beetle: divergence within Oreina elongata spans several ice ages. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 2010 Nov;57(2):703-9. S1055-7903(10)00351-9. 10.1016/j.ympev.2010.08.017.

    abstract

    The genetic landscape of the European flora and fauna was shaped by the ebb and flow of populations with the shifting ice during Quaternary climate cycles. While this has been well demonstrated for lowland species, less is known about high altitude taxa. Here we analyze the phylogeography of the leaf beetle Oreina elongata from 20 populations across the Alps and Apennines. Three mitochondrial and one nuclear region were sequenced in 64 individuals. Within an mtDNA phylogeny, three of seven subspecies are monophyletic. The species is chemically defended and aposematic, with green and blue forms showing geographic variation and unexpected within-population polymorphism. These warning colors show pronounced east-west geographical structure in distribution, but the phylogeography suggests repeated origin and loss. Basal clades come from the central Alps. Ancestors of other clades probably survived across northern Italy and the northern Adriatic, before separation of eastern, southern and western populations and rapid spread through the western Alps. After reviewing calibrated gene-specific substitution rates in the literature, we use partitioned Bayesian coalescent analysis to date our phylogeography. The major clades diverged long before the last glacial maximum, suggesting that O. elongata persisted many glacial cycles within or at the edges of the Alps and Apennines. When analyzing additional barcoding pairwise distances, we find strong evidence to consider O. elongata as a species complex rather than a single species.

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  • Origin and expansion of the allotetraploid Aegilops geniculata, a wild relative of wheat. New Phytol. 2010 Sep;187(4):1170-80. NPH3328. 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03328.x.

    abstract

    *This study reconstructs the phylogeography of Aegilops geniculata, an allotetraploid relative of wheat, to discuss the impact of past climate changes and recent human activities (e.g. the early expansion of agriculture) on the genetic diversity of ruderal plant species. *We combined chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) sequencing, analysed using statistical parsimony network, with nonhierarchical K-means clustering of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genotyping, to unravel patterns of genetic structure across the native range of Ae. geniculata. The AFLP dataset was further explored by measurement of the regional genetic diversity and the detection of isolation by distance patterns. *Both cpDNA and AFLP suggest an eastern Mediterranean origin of Ae. geniculata. Two lineages have spread independently over northern and southern Mediterranean areas. Northern populations show low genetic diversity but strong phylogeographical structure among the main peninsulas, indicating a major influence of glacial cycles. By contrast, low genetic structuring and a high genetic diversity are detected in southern Mediterranean populations. Finally, we highlight human-mediated dispersal resulting in substantial introgression between resident and migrant populations. *We have shown that the evolutionary trajectories of ruderal plants can be similar to those of wild species, but are interfered by human activities, promoting range expansions through increased long-distance dispersal and the creation of suitable habitats.

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  • Population genetic structure of two primary parasitoids of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera), Chelonus insularis and Campoletis sonorensis (Hymenoptera): to what extent is the host plant important? Mol. Ecol. 2010 May;19(10):2168-79. MEC4625. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04625.x.

    abstract

    Plant chemistry can strongly influence interactions between herbivores and their natural enemies, either by providing volatile compounds that serve as foraging cues for parasitoids or predators, or by affecting the quality of herbivores as hosts or prey. Through these effects plants may influence parasitoid population genetic structure. We tested for a possible specialization on specific crop plants in Chelonus insularis and Campoletis sonorensis, two primary parasitoids of the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda. Throughout Mexico, S. frugiperda larvae were collected from their main host plants, maize and sorghum and parasitoids that emerged from the larvae were used for subsequent comparison by molecular analysis. Genetic variation at eight and 11 microsatellites were respectively assayed for C. insularis and C. sonorensis to examine isolation by distance, host plant and regional effects. Kinship analyses were also performed to assess female migration among host-plants. The analyses showed considerable within population variation and revealed a significant regional effect. No effect of host plant on population structure of either of the two parasitoid species was found. Isolation by distance was observed at the individual level, but not at the population level. Kinship analyses revealed significantly more genetically related--or kin--individuals on the same plant species than on different plant species, suggesting that locally, mothers preferentially stay on the same plant species. Although the standard population genetics parameters showed no effect of plant species on population structure, the kinship analyses revealed that mothers exhibit plant species fidelity, which may speed up divergence if adaptation were to occur.

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  • Do Sebacinales commonly associate with plant roots as endophytes? Mycol. Res. 2009 Oct;113(Pt 10):1062-9. S0953-7562(09)00118-X. 10.1016/j.mycres.2009.07.004.

    abstract

    Sebacinales are basal Hymenomycetes with diverse mycorrhizal abilities, ranging from ectomycorrhizae to ericoid and orchid mycorrhizae. Several previous PCR or isolation works raised the possibility that Sebacinales are endophytes in plant roots. We tested this hypothesis in an isolation-independent approach by using specific PCR primers for ribosomal DNA of Sebacinales on AM mycorrhizal or non-mycorrhizal roots. Thirty-nine plant species were sampled on a Caribbean and two European sites (3 repetition per species and site), covering 25 families in monocots and eudicots. PCR signals were obtained from 40 samples (28.9%) from 27 species (69.2%) and all sites. Whenever sequencing was successful, a sequence belonging to Sebacinales was recovered. A phylogenetic approach revealed that 13 of them belonged to clade B (encompassing ericoid and orchid mycorrhizal species) and 4 to clade A (usually encompassing only ectomycorrhizal species). These data suggest that Sebacinales may be endophytic in many angiosperm roots, and that this condition is plesiomorphic in Sebacinales. They bridge the gap between physiological studies, inoculating Sebacinales (Piriformospora indica or Sebacina vermifera) on diverse plants and molecular ecology, hitherto restricting Sebacinales to mycorrhizal interactions. Structural and functional aspects of the interaction deserve further studies.

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  • Malagasy Dracaena Vand. ex L. (Ruscaceae): an investigation of discrepancies between morphological features and spatial genetic structure at a small evolutionary scale. Plant Syst. Evol. 2009 Jun;280(1-2):15-28. 10.1007/s00606-009-0162-z. PMC3118427. NIHMS301807.

    abstract

    Malagasy Dracaena (Ruscaceae) are divided into four species and 14 varieties, all of them showing a high level of morphological diversity and a putatively artefactual circumscription. In order to reveal relationships between those entangled entities, a span of Malagasy Dracaena were sampled and analyzed using cpDNA sequences and AFLP. The cpDNA analyses resolved three biogeographic clades that are mostly inconsistent with morphology, since similar phenotypes are found across the three clades. Bayesian inference clustering analyses based on the AFLP were not in accordance with the cpDNA analysis. This result might be explained by (1) a recent origin of the Malagasy species of Dracaena with an incomplete sorting of chloroplast lineages; (2) a high amount of hybridizations; (3) a complex migration pattern. Interestingly, when the AFLP are analyzed using the parsimony criterion, a trend towards a directional evolution of inflorescence types and ecological features was observed. This might be considered either as phenotypic plasticity and/or as the result of fast evolution in flower characters according to habitat preferences. Overall, our results point to the difficulty of defining evolutionarily significant units in Malagasy Dracaena, emphasizing the complex speciation processes taking place in tropical regions.

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  • Plastid and nuclear DNA markers reveal intricate relationships at subfamilial and tribal levels in the soapberry family (Sapindaceae). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 2009 May;51(2):238-58. 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.01.012.

    abstract

    The economically important soapberry family (Sapindaceae) comprises about 1900 species mainly found in the tropical regions of the world, with only a few genera being restricted to temperate areas. The infrafamilial classification of the Sapindaceae and its relationships to the closely related Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae - which have now been included in an expanded definition of Sapindaceae (i.e., subfamily Hippocastanoideae) - have been debated for decades. Here we present a phylogenetic analysis of Sapindaceae based on eight DNA sequence regions from the plastid and nuclear genomes and including 85 of the 141 genera defined within the family. Our study comprises 997 new sequences of Sapindaceae from 152 specimens. Despite presenting 18.6% of missing data our complete data set produced a topology fully congruent with the one obtained from a subset without missing data, but including fewer markers. The use of additional information therefore led to a consistent result in the relative position of clades and allowed the definition of a new phylogenetic hypothesis. Our results confirm a high level of paraphyly and polyphyly at the subfamilial and tribal levels and even contest the monophyletic status of several genera. Our study confirms that the Chinese monotypic genus Xanthoceras is sister to the rest of the family, in which subfamily Hippocastanoideae is sister to a clade comprising subfamilies Dodonaeoideae and Sapindoideae. On the basis of the strong support demonstrated in Sapindoideae, Dodonaeoideae and Hippocastanoideae as well as in 14 subclades, we propose and discuss informal groupings as basis for a new classification of Sapindaceae.

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  • History or ecology? Substrate type as a major driver of spatial genetic structure in Alpine plants. Ecol. Lett. 2009 Jul;12(7):632-40. ELE1312. 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01312.x.

    abstract

    Climatic history and ecology are considered the most important factors moulding the spatial pattern of genetic diversity. With the advent of molecular markers, species' historical fates have been widely explored. However, it has remained speculative what role ecological factors have played in shaping spatial genetic structures within species. With an unprecedented, dense large-scale sampling and genome-screening, we tested how ecological factors have influenced the spatial genetic structures in Alpine plants. Here, we show that species growing on similar substrate types, largely determined by the nature of bedrock, displayed highly congruent spatial genetic structures. As the heterogeneous and disjunctive distribution of bedrock types in the Alps, decisive for refugial survival during the ice ages, is temporally stable, concerted post-glacial migration routes emerged. Our multispecies study demonstrates the relevance of particular ecological factors in shaping genetic patterns, which should be considered when modelling species projective distributions under climate change scenarios.

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  • Evaluating the impact of scoring parameters on the structure of intra-specific genetic variation using RawGeno, an R package for automating AFLP scoring. BMC Bioinformatics 2009 Jan;10():33. 1471-2105-10-33. 10.1186/1471-2105-10-33. PMC2656475.

    abstract

    Since the transfer and application of modern sequencing technologies to the analysis of amplified fragment-length polymorphisms (AFLP), evolutionary biologists have included an increasing number of samples and markers in their studies. Although justified in this context, the use of automated scoring procedures may result in technical biases that weaken the power and reliability of further analyses.

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  • Isolation and characterization of polymorphic microsatellite loci in two primary parasitoids of the noctuid Spodoptera frugiperda: Chelonus insularis and Campoletis sonorensis (Hymenoptera). Mol Ecol Resour 2009 Jan;9(1):171-3. 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2008.02408.x.

    abstract

    Fifteen and 13 microsatellite loci were isolated, respectively, from Campoletis sonorensis Cameron and from Chelonus insularis Cresson. These two parasitic Hymenoptera are primary parasitoids of Lepidoptera in North, Central and South America, including the important agricultural pest Spodoptera frugiperda. Allelic diversity and heterozygosity were quantified in samples from Mexico. Each locus was polymorphic, with the number of alleles ranging from two to 16 in C. sonorensis and from four to 18 in C. insularis. Heterozygosity ranged from 0.088 to 0.403 in C. sonorensis and from 0.106 to 0.458 in C. insularis.

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  • Anthropogenic effects on population genetics of phytophagous insects associated with domesticated plants. Evolution 2007 Dec;61(12):2986-96. EVO235. 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2007.00235.x.

    abstract

    The hypothesis of isolation by distance (IBD) predicts that genetic differentiation between populations increases with geographic distance. However, gene flow is governed by numerous factors and the correlation between genetic differentiation and geographic distance is never simply linear. In this study, we analyze the interaction between the effects of geographic distance and of wild or domesticated status of the host plant on genetic differentiation in the bean beetle Acanthoscelides obvelatus. Geographic distance explained most of the among-population genetic differentiation. However, IBD varied depending on the kind of population pairs for which the correlation between genetic differentiation and geographic distance was examined. Whereas pairs of beetle populations associated with wild beans showed significant IBD (P < 10(-4)), no IBD was found when pairs of beetle populations on domesticated beans were examined (P= 0.2992). This latter result can be explained by long-distance migrations of beetles on domesticated plants resulting from human exchanges of bean seeds. Beetle populations associated with wild beans were also significantly more likely than those on domesticated plants to contain rare alleles. However, at the population level, beetles on cultivated beans were similar in allelic richness to those on wild beans. This similarity in allelic richness combined with differences in other aspects of the genetic diversity (i.e., IBD, allelic diversity) is compatible with strongly contrasting effects of migration and drift. This novel indirect effect of human actions on gene flow of a serious pest of a domesticated plant has important implications for the spread of new adaptations such as resistance to pesticides.

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  • Phylogeographic support for horizontal gene transfer involving sympatric bruchid species. Biol. Direct 2006 Jul;1():21. 1745-6150-1-21. 10.1186/1745-6150-1-21. PMC1562361.

    abstract

    We report on the probable horizontal transfer of a mitochondrial gene, cytb, between species of Neotropical bruchid beetles, in a zone where these species are sympatric. The bruchid beetles Acanthoscelides obtectus, A. obvelatus, A. argillaceus and Zabrotes subfasciatus develop on various bean species in Mexico. Whereas A. obtectus and A. obvelatus develop on Phaseolus vulgaris in the Mexican Altiplano, A. argillaceus feeds on P. lunatus in the Pacific coast. The generalist Z. subfasciatus feeds on both bean species, and is sympatric with A. obtectus and A. obvelatus in the Mexican Altiplano, and with A. argillaceus in the Pacific coast. In order to assess the phylogenetic position of these four species, we amplified and sequenced one nuclear (28S rRNA) and two mitochondrial (cytb, COI) genes.

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  • Ancient and recent evolutionary history of the bruchid beetle, Acanthoscelides obtectus Say, a cosmopolitan pest of beans. Mol. Ecol. 2005 Apr;14(4):1015-24. MEC2470. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02470.x.

    abstract

    Acanthoscelides obtectus Say is a bruchid species of Neotropical origin, and is specialized on beans of the Phaseolus vulgaris L. group. Since the domestication and diffusion of beans, A. obtectus has become cosmopolitan through human-mediated migrations and is now a major pest in bean granaries. Using phylogeographic methods applied to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear microsatellite molecular markers, we show that the origin of this species is probably further south than Mesoamerica, as commonly thought. Our results also indicate that A. obtectus and its Mesoamerican sister species Acanthoscelides obvelatus, two morphologically close species differing principally in voltinism, speciated in allopatry: A. obtectus (multivoltine) arising in Andean America and A. obvelatus (univoltine) in Mesoamerica. In contrast to Mesoamerica where beans fruit once yearly, wild beans in Andean America fruit year-round, especially in regions showing little or no seasonality. In such habitats where resources are continuously present, multivoltinism is adaptive. According to existing hypotheses, multivoltinism in A. obtectus is a new adaptation that evolved after bean domestication. Our data suggest the alternative hypothesis that multivoltinism is an older trait, adapted to exploit the year-round fruiting of wild beans in relatively aseasonal habitats, and allowed A. obtectus to become a pest in bean granaries. This trait also permitted this species to disperse through human-mediated migrations associated with diffusion of domesticated beans. We also show that diversity of Old World A. obtectus populations can be quite well explained by a single colonization event about 500 bp. Human-mediated migrations appear not to be rare, as our results indicate a second more recent migration event from Andean America to Mexico.

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