Daphnia pulex is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. Availability of the genome sequence will have implications for research in aquatic ecology and evolution in particular, as addressed by a series of papers published recently in BMC Evolutionary Biology and BMC Genomics.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/78, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/527, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/79, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/175, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/172, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/169, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/170 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/243.
The phylum to which humans belong, Chordata, takes its name from one of the major shared derived features of the group, the notochord. All chordates have a notochord, at least during embryogenesis, and there is little doubt about notochord homology at the morphological level. A study in BMC Evolutionary Biology now shows that there is greater variability in the molecular genetics underlying notochord development than previously appreciated.
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Population genetic analyses of Eurasian wolves published recently in BMC Evolutionary Biology suggest that a major genetic turnover took place in Eurasian wolves after the Pleistocene. These results add to the growing evidence that large mammal species surviving the late Pleistocene extinctions nevertheless lost a large share of their genetic diversity.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/10/104
Several recent papers, including one in BMC Evolutionary Biology, examine the colonization history of house mice. As well as background for the analysis of mouse adaptation, such studies offer a perspective on the history of movements of the humans that accidentally transported the mice.
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CYCLOIDEA (CYC)-like TCP genes are critical for flower developmental patterning. Exciting recent breakthroughs, including a study by Song et al. published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, demonstrate that CYC-like genes have also had an important role in the evolution of flower form.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/244.
Sequencing of expressed genes has shown that nematodes, particularly the plant-parasitic nematodes, have genes purportedly acquired from other kingdoms by horizontal gene transfer. The prevailing orthodoxy is that such transfer has been a driving force in the evolution of niche specificity, and a recent paper in BMC Evolutionary Biology that presents a detailed phylogenetic analysis of cellulase genes in the free-living nematode Pristionchus pacificus at the species, genus and family levels substantiates this hypothesis.
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In a recent BMC Evolutionary Biology article, Huiquan Liu and colleagues report two new genomes of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses from fungi and use these as a springboard to perform an extensive phylogenomic analysis of dsRNA viruses. The results support the old scenario of polyphyletic origin of dsRNA viruses from different groups of positive-strand RNA viruses and additionally reveal extensive horizontal gene transfer between diverse viruses consistent with the network-like rather than tree-like mode of viral evolution. Together with the unexpected discoveries of the first putative archaeal RNA virus and a RNA-DNA virus hybrid, this work shows that RNA viral genomics has major surprises to deliver.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/12/91
A study using phylogenetic hypothesis testing, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, suggests that non-mimetic forms of the North American white admiral butterfly evolved from a mimetic ancestor. This case might provide one of the first examples in which mimicry was gained and then lost again, emphasizing the evolutionary lability of Batesian mimicry.
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The majority of convincingly documented cases of hybridization in angiosperms has involved genetic introgression between the parental species or formation of a hybrid species with increased ploidy; however, homoploid (diploid) hybridization may be just as common. Recent studies, including one in BMC Evolutionary Biology, show that pollinator shifts can play a role in both mechanisms of hybrid speciation.
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The circadian clock enhances fitness through temporal organization of plant gene expression, metabolism and physiology. Two recent studies, one in BMC Evolutionary Biology, demonstrate through phylogenetic analysis of the CCA1/LHY and TOC1/PRR gene families that the common ancestor of monocots and eudicots had components sufficient to construct a circadian clock consisting of multiple interlocked feedback loops.
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Expressed sequence tag analyses of the annelid Pomatoceros lamarckii, recently published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, are consistent with less extensive gene loss in the Lophotrochozoa than in the Ecdysozoa, but it would be premature to generalize about patterns of gene loss on the basis of the limited data available.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/240.
Within their territories, damselfish cultivate particular algae for consumption. A recent study in BMC Evolutionary Biology shows extensive variation among and within fish species in the composition of these algal 'gardens', varying from monocultures to cultures of mixed species, and in the mode of cultivation. This fish-algal agriculture may provide insight into the early stages of domestication.
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Whilst parthenogenesis has evolved multiple times from sexual invertebrate and vertebrate lineages, the drivers and consequences of the sex-asex transition remain mostly uncertain. A model by Stouthamer et al. recently published in BMC Evolutionary Biology shows a pathway by which obligate asexuality could be selected for following endosymbiont infection.
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A re-examination of the mitochondrial genomes of unisexual salamander lineages, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, shows them to be the oldest unisexual vertebrates known, having been around for 5 million years. This presents a challenge to the prediction that lack of genetic recombination is a fast track to extinction.
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A recent study in BMC Evolutionary Biology has shown that genetically similar individual ring-tailed lemurs are also more similar in their scent composition, suggesting a possible mechanism of kin recognition. Theoretical and experimental studies reveal challenges ahead in achieving a true systems-level understanding of this process and its outcomes.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/281.
A recent study in BMC Evolutionary Biology has reconstructed the molecular phylogeny of a large Mediterranean cave-dwelling beetle clade, revealing an ancient origin and strong geographic structuring. It seems likely that diversification of this clade in the Oligocene was seeded by an ancestor already adapted to subterranean life.
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Little is known about the genetic mechanisms underlying inducible defenses. Recently, the genome of Daphnia pulex, a model organism for defense studies, has been sequenced. Building on the genome information, recent preliminary studies in BMC Developmental Biology and BMC Molecular Biology have assessed gene response profiles in Daphnia under predation pressure. We review the significance of the findings and highlight future research perspectives.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/527, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2105/6/45, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-213X/10/45
A new study of divergence in freshwater fish provides strong evidence of rapid, temperature-mediated adaptation. This study is particularly important in the ongoing debate over the extent and significance of evolutionary response to climate change because divergence has occurred in relatively few generations in spite of ongoing gene flow and in the aftermath of a significant genetic bottleneck, factors that have previously been considered obstacles to evolution. Climate change may thus be more likely to foster contemporary evolutionary responses than has been anticipated, and I argue here for the importance of investigating their possible occurrence.
See Research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/10/350/abstract
Chemosensory receptor genes encode G protein-coupled receptors with which animals sense their chemical environment. The large number of chemosensory receptor genes in the genome and their extreme genetic variability pose unusual challenges for understanding their evolution and function. Two articles in BMC Genomics explore the genetic variation of chemosensory receptor gene repertoires in humans and mice and provide unparalleled insight into the causes and consequences of this variability.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/13/414 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/13/415
An international collaborative effort has recently uncovered the genome of the zebra finch, a songbird model that has provided unique insights into an array of biological phenomena.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/9/131, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/11/220/, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2202/11/46/ and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/28/
How much functional specialization can one component histone confer on a single nucleosome? The histone variant H2A.Z seems to be an extreme example. Genome-wide distribution maps show non-random (and evolutionarily conserved) patterns, with localized enrichment or depletion giving a tantalizing suggestion of function. Multiple post-translational modifications on the protein indicate further regulation. An additional layer of complexity has now been uncovered: the vertebrate form is actually encoded by two non-allelic genes that differ by expression pattern and three amino acids.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/86 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/31.
Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) are among the most evolutionarily ancient classes of small RNA. Two experimental screens published in BMC Genomics expand the eukaryotic snoRNA catalog, but many more snoRNAs remain to be found.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/515 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/11/61.
Transposable elements are best interpreted as genomic parasites, proliferating in genomes through their over-replication relative to the rest of the genome. A new study examining correlations across Drosophila species between transposable element numbers and rates of host evolution has brought into focus one of the most complex questions in transposable element biology-what it is that determines the proportion of the genome that is transposable elements.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/11/258/
Mutations causing antibiotic resistance are often associated with a cost in the absence of antibiotics. Surprisingly, a new study found that bacteria adapting to increased temperature became resistant to rifampicin. By studying the consequences of the involved mutations in different conditions and genetic backgrounds, the authors illustrate how knowledge of two fundamental genetic properties, pleiotropy and epistasis, may help to predict the evolution of antibiotic resistance.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/13/50
The regulation of gene expression in trypanosomes is unique. In the absence of transcriptional control at the level of initiation, a subset of Trypanosoma brucei genes form post-transcriptional regulons in which mRNAs are co-regulated in response to differentiation signals.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/427, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/482 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/495.