Insectivores represent extremes in mammalian body size and brain size, retaining various “primitive” morphological characteristics, and some species of Insectivora are thought to share similarities with small-bodied ancestral eutherians. This raises the possibility that insectivore brains differ from other taxa, including rodents and primates, in cellular scaling properties. Here we examine the cellular scaling rules for insectivore brains and demonstrate that insectivore scaling rules overlap somewhat with those for rodents and primates such that the insectivore cortex shares scaling rules with rodents (increasing faster in size than in numbers of neurons), but the insectivore cerebellum shares scaling rules with primates (increasing isometrically). Brain structures pooled as “remaining areas” appear to scale similarly across all three mammalian orders with respect to numbers of neurons, and the numbers of non-neurons appear to scale similarly across all brain structures for all three orders. Therefore, common scaling rules exist, to different extents, between insectivore, rodent, and primate brain regions, and it is hypothesized that insectivores represent the common aspects of each order. The olfactory bulbs of insectivores, however, offer a noteworthy exception in that neuronal density increases linearly with increasing structure mass. This implies that the average neuronal cell size decreases with increasing olfactory bulb mass in order to accommodate greater neuronal density, and represents the first documentation of a brain structure gaining neurons at a greater rate than mass. This might allow insectivore brains to concentrate more neurons within the olfactory bulbs without a prohibitively large and metabolically costly increase in structure mass.
allometry; brain size; comparative neuroanatomy; glia; neurons; evolution; olfactory bulb
What are the rules relating the size of the brain and its structures to the number of cells that compose them and their average sizes? We have shown previously that the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size as a linear function of their numbers of neurons and non-neuronal cells across 6 species of primates. Here we describe that the cellular composition of the same brain structures of 5 other primate species, as well as humans, conform to the scaling rules identified previously, and that the updated power functions for the extended sample are similar to those determined earlier. Accounting for phylogenetic relatedness in the combined dataset does not affect the scaling slopes that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum, but alters the slope for the remaining brain structures to a value that is similar to that observed in rodents, which raises the possibility that the neuronal scaling rules for these structures are shared among rodents and primates. The conformity of the new set of primate species to the previous rules strongly suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to primates in general, including humans, and not only to particular subgroups of primate species. In contrast, the allometric rules relating body and brain size are highly sensitive to the particular species sampled, suggesting that brain size is neither determined by body size nor together with it, but is rather only loosely correlated with body size.
Allometry; Brain size; Evolution; Glia, number; Neurons, number; Primates
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is a widespread phenomenon in animals including mammals. It has been demonstrated that across species, the direction and magnitude of sexual dimorphism in body size often corresponds to social systems. Moreover, many animal lineages conform to “Rensch’s rule”, which states that male-biased SSD increases with body size. We tested whether considerable differences in sociality and large variation in body size were connected with the evolution of SSD in the structural body size of ground squirrels, an otherwise ecologically relatively homogenous group of terrestrial rodents.
We found the general trend of male-biased SSD in ground squirrels, however, male size increases nearly perfectly isometrically with female size among species and sociality does not explain departures from this relationship. Species with different sociality grades significantly differ in body size, with the most social species tending to be the largest.
We suggest that lack of conformity with Rensch´s rule in ground squirrels may be attributed to their low variation in SSD, and briefly discuss three potential causes of small magnitude of SSD in the structural size in rodents: low selection on SSD in structural dimensions, ontogenetic and genetic constraints and the existence of ecological/selection factors preventing the evolution of extensive SSD.
Allometry; Constraints; Cynomys; Marmota; Phylogenetic comparative study; Social system; Spermophilus
The human brain has often been viewed as outstanding among mammalian brains: the most cognitively able, the largest-than-expected from body size, endowed with an overdeveloped cerebral cortex that represents over 80% of brain mass, and purportedly containing 100 billion neurons and 10× more glial cells. Such uniqueness was seemingly necessary to justify the superior cognitive abilities of humans over larger-brained mammals such as elephants and whales. However, our recent studies using a novel method to determine the cellular composition of the brain of humans and other primates as well as of rodents and insectivores show that, since different cellular scaling rules apply to the brains within these orders, brain size can no longer be considered a proxy for the number of neurons in the brain. These studies also showed that the human brain is not exceptional in its cellular composition, as it was found to contain as many neuronal and non-neuronal cells as would be expected of a primate brain of its size. Additionally, the so-called overdeveloped human cerebral cortex holds only 19% of all brain neurons, a fraction that is similar to that found in other mammals. In what regards absolute numbers of neurons, however, the human brain does have two advantages compared to other mammalian brains: compared to rodents, and probably to whales and elephants as well, it is built according to the very economical, space-saving scaling rules that apply to other primates; and, among economically built primate brains, it is the largest, hence containing the most neurons. These findings argue in favor of a view of cognitive abilities that is centered on absolute numbers of neurons, rather than on body size or encephalization, and call for a re-examination of several concepts related to the exceptionality of the human brain.
brain scaling; number of neurons; human; encephalization
Expansion of the cortical gray matter in evolution has been accompanied by an even faster expansion of the subcortical white matter volume and by folding of the gray matter surface, events traditionally considered to occur homogeneously across mammalian species. Here we investigate how white matter expansion and cortical folding scale across species of rodents and primates as the gray matter gains neurons. We find very different scaling rules of white matter expansion across the two orders, favoring volume conservation and smaller propagation times in primates. For a similar number of cortical neurons, primates have a smaller connectivity fraction and less white matter volume than rodents; moreover, as the cortex gains neurons, there is a much faster increase in white matter volume and in its ratio to gray matter volume in rodents than in primates. Order-specific scaling of the white matter can be attributed to different scaling of average fiber caliber and neuronal connectivity in rodents and primates. Finally, cortical folding increases as different functions of the number of cortical neurons in rodents and primates, scaling faster in the latter than in the former. While the neuronal rules that govern gray and white matter scaling are different across rodents and primates, we find that they can be explained by the same unifying model, with order-specific exponents. The different scaling of the white matter has implications for the scaling of propagation time and computational capacity in evolution, and calls for a reappraisal of developmental models of cortical expansion in evolution.
white matter; number of neurons; allometry; brain size; cortical expansion; gyrification
Rodentia is the most species-rich mammalian order and includes several important laboratory model species. The amount of new information on karyotypic and phylogenetic relations within and among rodent taxa is rapidly increasing, but a synthesis of these data is currently lacking. Here, we have integrated information drawn from conventional banding studies, recent comparative painting investigations and molecular phylogenetic reconstructions of different rodent taxa. This permitted a revision of several ancestral karyotypic reconstructions, and a more accurate depiction of rodent chromosomal evolution.
rodentia; rodents; comparative cytogenetics; chromosomal evolution
The Praomyini tribe is one of the most diverse and abundant groups of Old World rodents. Several species are known to be involved in crop damage and in the epidemiology of several human and cattle diseases. Due to the existence of sibling species their identification is often problematic. Thus an easy, fast and accurate species identification tool is needed for non-systematicians to correctly identify Praomyini species. In this study we compare the usefulness of three genes (16S, Cytb, CO1) for identifying species of this tribe. A total of 426 specimens representing 40 species (sampled across their geographical range) were sequenced for the three genes. Nearly all of the species included in our study are monophyletic in the neighbour joining trees. The degree of intra-specific variability tends to be lower than the divergence between species, but no barcoding gap is detected. The success rate of the statistical methods of species identification is excellent (up to 99% or 100% for statistical supervised classification methods as the k-Nearest Neighbour or Random Forest). The 16S gene is 2.5 less variable than the Cytb and CO1 genes. As a result its discriminatory power is smaller. To sum up, our results suggest that using DNA markers for identifying species in the Praomyini tribe is a largely valid approach, and that the CO1 and Cytb genes are better DNA markers than the 16S gene. Our results confirm the usefulness of statistical methods such as the Random Forest and the 1-NN methods to assign a sequence to a species, even when the number of species is relatively large. Based on our NJ trees and the distribution of all intraspecific and interspecific pairwise nucleotide distances, we highlight the presence of several potentially new species within the Praomyini tribe that should be subject to corroboration assessments.
Stereology is an established method to extrapolate three-dimensional quantities from two-dimensional images. It was applied to placentation in the mouse, but not yet for other rodents. Herein, we provide the first study on quantitative placental development in a sigmodontine rodent species with relatively similar gestational time. Placental structure was also compared to the mouse, in order to evaluate similarities and differences in developmental patterns at the end of gestation.
Fetal and placental tissues of Necromys lasiurus were collected and weighed at 3 different stages of gestation (early, mid and late gestation) for placental stereology. The total and relative volumes of placenta and of its main layers were investigated. Volume fractions of labyrinth components were quantified by the One Stop method in 31 placentae collected from different individuals, using the Mercator® software. Data generated at the end of gestation from N. lasiurus placentae were compared to those of Mus musculus domesticus obtained at the same stage.
A significant increase in the total absolute volumes of the placenta and its main layers occurred from early to mid-gestation, followed by a reduction near term, with the labyrinth layer becoming the most prominent area. Moreover, at the end of gestation, the total volume of the mouse placenta was significantly increased compared to that of N. lasiurus although the proportions of the labyrinth layer and junctional zones were similar. Analysis of the volume fractions of the components in the labyrinth indicated a significant increase in fetal vessels and sinusoidal giant cells, a decrease in labyrinthine trophoblast whereas the proportion of maternal blood space remained stable in the course of gestation. On the other hand, in the mouse, volume fractions of fetal vessels and sinusoidal giant cells decreased whereas the volume fraction of labyrinthine trophoblast increased compared to N. lasiurus placenta.
Placental development differed between N. lasiurus and M. musculus domesticus. In particular, the low placental efficiency in N. lasiurus seemed to induce morphological optimization of fetomaternal exchanges. In conclusion, despite similar structural aspects of placentation in these species, the quantitative dynamics showed important differences.
Placenta; Stereology; Sigmodontinae; Decidua; Junctional zone; Labyrinth; Haemochorial placenta; Fetal vessels; Trophoblast; Evolution
Dental characters are importantly used for reconstructing the evolutionary history of mammals, because teeth represent the most abundant material available for the fossil species. However, the characteristics of dental renewal are presently poorly used, probably because dental formulae are frequently not properly established, whereas they could be of high interest for evolutionary and developmental issues. One of the oldest rodent families, the Ctenodactylidae, is intriguing in having longstanding disputed dental formulae. Here, we investigated 70 skulls among all extant ctenodactylid genera (Ctenodactylus, Felovia, Massoutiera and Pectinator) by using X-ray conventional and synchrotron microtomography in order to solve and discuss these dental issues. Our study clearly indicates that Massoutiera, Felovia and Ctenodactylus differ from Pectinator not only by a more derived dentition, but also by a more derived eruptive sequence. In addition to molars, their dentition only includes the fourth deciduous premolars, and no longer bears permanent premolars, conversely to Pectinator. Moreover, we found that these premolars are lost during adulthood, because of mesial drift of molars. Mesial drift is a striking mechanism involving migration of teeth allowed by both bone remodeling and dental resorption. This dental innovation is to date poorly known in rodents, since it is only the second report described. Interestingly, we noted that dental drift in rodents is always associated with high-crowned teeth favoring molar size enlargement. It can thus represent another adaptation to withstand high wear, inasmuch as these rodents inhabit desert environments where dust is abundant. A more accurate study of mesial drift in rodents would be very promising from evolutionary, biological and orthodontic points of view.
Although species within Lagomorpha are derived from a common ancestor, the distribution range and body size of its two extant groups, ochotonids and leporids, are quite differentiated. It is unclear what has driven their disparate evolutionary history. In this study, we compile and update all fossil records of Lagomorpha for the first time, to trace the evolutionary processes and infer their evolutionary history using mitochondrial genes, body length and distribution of extant species. We also compare the forage selection of extant species, which offers an insight into their future prospects. The earliest lagomorphs originated in Asia and later diversified in different continents. Within ochotonids, more than 20 genera occupied the period from the early Miocene to middle Miocene, whereas most of them became extinct during the transition from the Miocene to Pliocene. The peak diversity of the leporids occurred during the Miocene to Pliocene transition, while their diversity dramatically decreased in the late Quaternary. Mantel tests identified a positive correlation between body length and phylogenetic distance of lagomorphs. The body length of extant ochotonids shows a normal distribution, while the body length of extant leporids displays a non-normal pattern. We also find that the forage selection of extant pikas features a strong preference for C3 plants, while for the diet of leporids, more than 16% of plant species are identified as C4 (31% species are from Poaceae). The ability of several leporid species to consume C4 plants is likely to result in their size increase and range expansion, most notably in Lepus. Expansion of C4 plants in the late Miocene, the so-called ‘nature’s green revolution’, induced by global environmental change, is suggested to be one of the major ‘ecological opportunities’, which probably drove large-scale extinction and range contraction of ochotonids, but inversely promoted diversification and range expansion of leporids.
The house mouse (Mus musculus) is universally adopted as the mammalian laboratory model, and it is involved in most studies of large-scale comparative genomics. Paradoxically, this taxon is rarely the index species for evolutionary analyses of genome architecture owing to its highly rearranged karyotype. To unravel the origin and nature of this extensive repatterning genome, we performed a multidirectional chromosome painting study of representative species within the genus Mus. However, the latter includes four extant subgenera (Mus, Coelomys, Nannomys and Pyromys) between which the phylogenetic relationships remain elusive despite the numerous molecular studies. Comparative genomic maps were established using chromosome-specific painting probes of the laboratory mouse and Nannomys minutoides. Hence, by integrating closely related species within Mus, this study allowed us to: (i) unambiguously resolve for the first time the long-standing controversial phylogeny, (ii) trace the evolution of genome organization in the house mouse, (iii) track rearrangements that necessitated new centromere locations, i.e. formation of neocentromere or reactivation of latent centromeres, (iv) reveal an extremely high rate of karyotypic evolution, with a 10- to 30-fold acceleration which was coincidental with subgeneric cladogenesis and (v) highlight genomic areas of interest for high-resolution studies on neocentromere formation and synteny breakpoints.
fluorescence in situ hybridization; phylogenomics; Mus; Nannomys; Coelomys; neocentromere
Mammalian sleep varies widely, ranging from frequent napping in rodents to consolidated blocks in primates and unihemispheric sleep in cetaceans. In humans, rats, mice and cats, sleep patterns are orchestrated by homeostatic and circadian drives to the sleep–wake switch, but it is not known whether this system is ubiquitous among mammals. Here, changes of just two parameters in a recent quantitative model of this switch are shown to reproduce typical sleep patterns for 17 species across 7 orders. Furthermore, the parameter variations are found to be consistent with the assumptions that homeostatic production and clearance scale as brain volume and surface area, respectively. Modeling an additional inhibitory connection between sleep-active neuronal populations on opposite sides of the brain generates unihemispheric sleep, providing a testable hypothetical mechanism for this poorly understood phenomenon. Neuromodulation of this connection alone is shown to account for the ability of fur seals to transition between bihemispheric sleep on land and unihemispheric sleep in water. Determining what aspects of mammalian sleep patterns can be explained within a single framework, and are thus universal, is essential to understanding the evolution and function of mammalian sleep. This is the first demonstration of a single model reproducing sleep patterns for multiple different species. These wide-ranging findings suggest that the core physiological mechanisms controlling sleep are common to many mammalian orders, with slight evolutionary modifications accounting for interspecies differences.
The field of sleep physiology has made huge strides in recent years, uncovering the neurological structures which are critical to sleep regulation. However, given the small number of species studied in such detail in the laboratory, it remains to be seen how universal these mechanisms are across the whole mammalian order. Mammalian sleep is extremely diverse, and the unihemispheric sleep of dolphins is nothing like the rapidly cycling sleep of rodents, or the single daily block of humans. Here, we use a mathematical model to demonstrate that the established sleep physiology can indeed account for the sleep of a wide range of mammals. Furthermore, the model gives insight into why the sleep patterns of different species are so distinct: smaller animals burn energy more rapidly, resulting in more rapid sleep–wake cycling. We also show that mammals that sleep unihemispherically may have a single additional neuronal pathway which prevents sleep-promoting neurons on opposite sides of the hypothalamus from activating simultaneously. These findings suggest that the basic physiology controlling sleep evolved before mammals, and illustrate the functional flexibility of this simple system.
Gorillas and orangutans are primates at least as large as humans, but their brains amount to about one third of the size of the human brain. This discrepancy has been used as evidence that the human brain is about 3 times larger than it should be for a primate species of its body size. In contrast to the view that the human brain is special in its size, we have suggested that it is the great apes that might have evolved bodies that are unusually large, on the basis of our recent finding that the cellular composition of the human brain matches that expected for a primate brain of its size, making the human brain a linearly scaled-up primate brain in its number of cells. To investigate whether the brain of great apes also conforms to the primate cellular scaling rules identified previously, we determine the numbers of neuronal and other cells that compose the orangutan and gorilla cerebella, use these numbers to calculate the size of the brain and of the cerebral cortex expected for these species, and show that these match the sizes described in the literature. Our results suggest that the brains of great apes also scale linearly in their numbers of neurons like other primate brains, including humans. The conformity of great apes and humans to the linear cellular scaling rules that apply to other primates that diverged earlier in primate evolution indicates that prehistoric Homo species as well as other hominins must have had brains that conformed to the same scaling rules, irrespective of their body size. We then used those scaling rules and published estimated brain volumes for various hominin species to predict the numbers of neurons that composed their brains. We predict that Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis had brains with approximately 80 billion neurons, within the range of variation found in modern Homo sapiens. We propose that while the cellular scaling rules that apply to the primate brain have remained stable in hominin evolution (since they apply to simians, great apes and modern humans alike), the Colobinae and Pongidae lineages favored marked increases in body size rather than brain size from the common ancestor with the Homo lineage, while the Homo lineage seems to have favored a large brain instead of a large body, possibly due to the metabolic limitations to having both.
Allometry; Brain size; Great apes; Human; Evolution, human; Neurons, number
The spinal cord can be considered a major sensorimotor interface between the body and the brain. How does the spinal cord scale with body and brain mass, and how are its numbers of neurons related to the number of neurons in the brain across species of different body and brain sizes? Here we determine the cellular composition of the spinal cord in eight primate species and find that its number of neurons varies as a linear function of cord length, and accompanies body mass raised to an exponent close to 1/3. This relationship suggests that the extension, mass and number of neurons that compose the spinal cord are related to body length, rather than to body mass or surface. Moreover, we show that although brain mass increases linearly with cord mass, the number of neurons in the brain increases with the number of neurons in the spinal cord raised to the power of 1.7. This faster addition of neurons to the brain than to the spinal cord is consistent with current views on how larger brains add complexity to the processing of environmental and somatic information.
Allometry; Number of neurons; Evolution; Connectivity
It is usually considered that larger brains have larger neurons, which consume more energy individually, and are therefore accompanied by a larger number of glial cells per neuron. These notions, however, have never been tested. Based on glucose and oxygen metabolic rates in awake animals and their recently determined numbers of neurons, here I show that, contrary to the expected, the estimated glucose use per neuron is remarkably constant, varying only by 40% across the six species of rodents and primates (including humans). The estimated average glucose use per neuron does not correlate with neuronal density in any structure. This suggests that the energy budget of the whole brain per neuron is fixed across species and brain sizes, such that total glucose use by the brain as a whole, by the cerebral cortex and also by the cerebellum alone are linear functions of the number of neurons in the structures across the species (although the average glucose consumption per neuron is at least 10× higher in the cerebral cortex than in the cerebellum). These results indicate that the apparently remarkable use in humans of 20% of the whole body energy budget by a brain that represents only 2% of body mass is explained simply by its large number of neurons. Because synaptic activity is considered the major determinant of metabolic cost, a conserved energy budget per neuron has several profound implications for synaptic homeostasis and the regulation of firing rates, synaptic plasticity, brain imaging, pathologies, and for brain scaling in evolution.
Hypnomys is a genus of Gliridae (Rodentia) that occurred in the Balearic Islands until Late Holocene. Recent finding of a complete skeleton of the chronospecies H. morpheus (Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene) and two articulated skeletons of H. cf. onicensis (Late Pliocene) allowed the inference of body size and the calculation of several postcranial indexes. We also performed a Factorial Discriminant Analysis (FDA) in order to evaluate locomotory behaviour and body shape of the taxa. Using allometric models based on skull and tooth measurements, we calculated a body weight between 173 and 284 g for H. morpheus, and direct measurements of articulated skeletons yielded a Head and Body Length (HBL) of 179 mm and a Total Body Length of 295 mm for this species. In addition to the generally higher robustness of postcranial bones already recorded by previous authors, H. morpheus, similar to Canariomys tamarani, another extinct island species, displayed elongated zygopodium bones of the limbs and a wider distal humerus and femur than in an extant related taxon, Eliomys quercinus. Indexes indicated that Hypnomys was more terrestrial and had greater fossorial abilities than E. quercinus. This was also corroborated by a Discriminant Analysis, although no clear additional inference of locomotory abilities could be calculated.
The large size of primate brains is an impediment to obtaining high-resolution cell number maps of the cortex in humans and non-human primates. We present a rapid, flow cytometry-based cell counting method that can be used to estimate cell numbers from homogenized brain tissue samples comprising the entire cortical sheet. The new method, called the flow fractionator, is based on the isotropic fractionator (IF) method (Herculano-Houzel and Lent, 2005), but substitutes flow cytometry analysis for manual, microscope analysis using a Neubauer counting chamber. We show that our flow cytometry-based method for total cell estimation in homogenized brain tissue provides comparable data to that obtained using a counting chamber on a microscope. The advantages of the flow fractionator over existing methods are improved precision of cell number estimates and improved speed of analysis.
flow cytometry; Neubauer chamber; nuclear suspension; cell counting
Drawing the map of neuronal circuits at microscopic resolution is important to explain how brain works. Recent progresses in fluorescence labeling and imaging techniques have enabled measuring the whole brain of a rodent like a mouse at submicron-resolution. Considering the huge volume of such datasets, automatic tracing and reconstruct the neuronal connections from the image stacks is essential to form the large scale circuits. However, the first step among which, automated location the soma across different brain areas remains a challenge. Here, we addressed this problem by introducing L1 minimization model. We developed a fully automated system, NeuronGlobalPositionSystem (NeuroGPS) that is robust to the broad diversity of shape, size and density of the neurons in a mouse brain. This method allows locating the neurons across different brain areas without human intervention. We believe this method would facilitate the analysis of the neuronal circuits for brain function and disease studies.
The Gray-faced Sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis) is a newly-discovered species of sengi (elephant-shrew) and is the largest known extant representative of the order Macroscelidea. The discovery of R. udzungwensis provides an opportunity to investigate the scaling relationship between brain size and body size within Macroscelidea, and to compare this allometry among insectivorous species of Afrotheria and other eutherian insectivores. We performed a spin-echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a preserved adult specimen of R. udzungwensis using a 7-Tesla high-field MR imaging system. The brain was manually segmented and its volume was compiled into a dataset containing previously-published allometric data on 56 other species of insectivore-grade mammals including representatives of Afrotheria, Soricomorpha and Erinaceomorpha. Results of log-linear regression indicate that R. udzungwensis exhibits a brain size that is consistent with the allometric trend described by other members of its order. Inter-specific comparisons indicate that macroscelideans as a group have relatively large brains when compared with similarly-sized terrestrial mammals that also share a similar diet. This high degree of encephalization within sengis remains robust whether sengis are compared with closely-related insectivorous afrotheres, or with more-distantly-related insectivorous laurasiatheres.
Intraspecific variation within the diverse southern African murine rodents has not been extensively investigated, yet cryptic diversity is evident in several taxa studied to date. The Namaqua rock mouse, Micaelamys namaquensis Smith, 1834 is a widespread endemic murine rodent from the subregion. Currently, a single species with four subspecies is recognised, but in the past up to 16 subspecies were described. Thus, this species is a good candidate for the investigation of patterns and processes of diversification in a diverse but under-studied mammalian subfamily and geographic region. Here, we report genetic differentiation based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b (cyt b) sequences among samples collected over an extensive coverage of the species' range.
Cytochrome b sequences of 360 widely sampled individuals identified 137 unique maternal alleles. Gene tree and phylogeographic analyses of these alleles suggest the presence of at least eight lineages or haplogroups (A-H), with varying degrees of intra-lineage diversity. This differentiation is in contrast with the most recent taxonomic treatment based on cranial morphometrics which only recognised four subspecies. The mtDNA diversity strongly supports earlier views that this taxon may represent a species complex. We further show statistical support for the association of several of these lineages with particular vegetation biomes of southern Africa. The time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) dates to the Pliocene (~5 Mya) whereas coalescent-based divergence time estimates between lineages vary between 813 Kya [0.22 - 1.36] and 4.06 Mya [1.21 - 4.47]. The major diversification within lineages occurred during the Pleistocene. The identification of several regions of sympatry of distinct lineages offers future opportunities for the elucidation of the underlying speciation processes in the suggested species complex.
Similar to other African murine rodents, M. namaquensis radiated during the Pliocene and Pleistocene coinciding with major periods of aridification and the expansion of savanna habitats. The suggested species complex is represented by at least eight lineages of which the majority are confined to only one or a few neighbouring biomes/bioregions. Contrasting intra-lineage phylogeographic patterns suggest differences in adaptation and responses to Plio-Pleistocene climatic and vegetation changes. The role of ecological factors in driving speciation in the group needs further investigation.
A new genus and species of aplodontid rodent, Proansomys dureensis, from the late Oligocene of the northern Junggar Basin of China is described. The new genus is referred to as Ansomyinae because the ectoloph on the upper cheek teeth, although not fully crested, has attained the same characteristic bucket-handle-shaped configuration as other members of the subfamily. It represents the earliest record of the subfamily yet discovered in Asia and is more plesiomorphic than species of the genus Ansomys in having a partly crested ectoloph, a lower degree of lophodonty, and less complex tooth basins (lacking accessory lophules). Proansomys has transitional features between Prosciurus and Ansomys, suggesting that the Ansomyinae derived from a group of aplodontids related to Prosciurus, as did other advanced aplodontid rodents. This provides new light on the paleobiogeography of the Ansomyinae.
Elucidation of the ‘fear circuit’ has opened exciting avenues for understanding and treating human anxiety disorders. However, the translation of rodent to human studies, and vice versa, depends on understanding the homology in relevant circuits across species. Although abundant evidence indicates that the hippocampal-amygdala circuit mediates contextual fear learning, previous studies indicate that this pathway is more restricted in the primate than in rodent. Moreover, cellular components of the amygdala differ across species. The paralaminar nucleus (PL) of the amygdala, a structure that is closely associated with the basal nucleus, is one example, having no clear homologue in rodents. In both human and nonhuman primates, the PL contains a subpopulation of immature-appearing neurons, which merge into the corticoamygdaloid transition area (CTA). To understand whether immature-appearing neurons are positioned to participate in fear circuitry, we first mapped the hippocampal-amygdala projection in the monkey. We then determined whether immature appearing neurons were targets of this path. Retrograde results show that the hippocampal inputs to the amygdala originate in uncal region (CA1’) and the rostral prosubiculum, consistent with earlier studies. The amygdalohippocampal area, ventral basal nucleus, the medial paralaminar nucleus, and its confluence with the CTA are the main targets of this projection. Immature neurons are prominent in the PL and corticoamygdaloid transition area (CTA), and are overlapped by anterogradely labeled fibers from CA1’, particularly in the medial PL and CTA. Hippocampal inputs to the amygdala are more focused in higher primates compared to rodents, supporting previous anatomic studies and recent data from human functional imaging studies of contextual fear. At the cellular level, a hippocampal interaction with immature neurons in the amygdala suggests a novel substrate for cellular plasticity, with implications for mechanisms underlying contextual learning and emotional memory processes.
doublecortin; polysialated neural cell adhesion molecule; CA1; prosubiculum; corticoamygdaloid transition area; paralaminar nucleus
The importance of the genus Thrichomys in the retention of infection and transmission of Leishmania species is supported by previous studies that describe an ancient interaction between caviomorphs and trypanosomatids and report the natural infection of Thrichomys spp. Moreover, these rodents are widely dispersed in Brazil and recognized as important hosts of other tripanosomatids. Our main purpose was to evaluate the putative role of Thrichomys laurentius in the retention of infection and amplification of the transmission cycle of Leishmania infantum and L. braziliensis. Male and female T. laurentius (n = 24) born in captivity were evaluated for the retention of infection with these Leishmania species and followed up by parasitological, serological, hematological, biochemical, histological, and molecular assays for 3, 6, 9, or 12 months post infection (mpi). T. laurentius showed its competence as maintenance host for the two inoculated Leishmania species. Four aspects should be highlighted: (i) re-isolation of parasites 12 mpi; (ii) the low parasitic burden displayed by T. laurentius tissues; (iii) the early onset and maintenance of humoral response, and (iv) the similar pattern of infection by the two Leishmania species. Both Leishmania species demonstrated the ability to invade and maintain itself in viscera and skin of T. laurentius, and no rodent displayed any lesion, histological changes, or clinical evidence of infection. We also wish to point out the irrelevance of the adjective dermotropic or viscerotropic to qualify L. braziliensis and L. infantum, respectively, when these species are hosted by nonhuman hosts. Our data suggest that T. laurentius may act at least as a maintenance host of both tested Leishmania species since it maintained long-lasting infections. Moreover, it cannot be discarded that Leishmania spp. infection in free-ranging T. laurentius could result in higher parasite burden due the more stressing conditions in the wild. Therefore the tissular parasitism of the skin, infectiveness to the vector, and amplification of the transmission cycle of both Leishmania species could be expected.
For Leishmania, one genus among several genera belonging to the parasitic Trypanosomatidae family, many nonhuman mammals are known to be hosts in addition to humans. Most studies that describe Leishmania wild reservoirs are based on isolated descriptions of infection that can lead to misinterpretation of information. The definition of the epidemiological importance of a putative reservoir host depends on adequate data on the dynamics and peculiarities inherent to the host-parasite interactions and their involvement in the transmission cycle of these parasites. Our objectives were to sort out the features displayed by nonhuman mammal populations (the caviomorph rodent Thrichomys laurentius) which, with an insect host, perpetuate Leishmania transmission cycles. This rodent species had the ability to act as maintenance and/or amplifier host of both tested Leishmania species. The similar pattern of infection displayed by T. laurentius infected by these two Leishmania species shows that the definition of dermotropic or viscerotropic based on the clinical features observed in humans should not be applied to natural hosts, and it emphasizes that the search for Leishmania reservoirs should consider all possibilities of the infection course, independent of current knowledge in other mammal hosts.
We have characterized satellite DNAs from 9 species of kangaroo rat (Dipodomys) and have shown that the HS-α and HS-β satellites, where present, are nearly identical in all species as to melting transition midpoint (Tm), and density in neutral CsCl, alkaline CsCl, and Cs2SO4-Ag+ gradients. However, the MS satellites exist in two internally similar classes. The satellite DNAs from three other rodents were characterized (densities listed are in neutral CsCl). The pocket gopher, Thomomysbottae, contains Th-α (1.713 g/ml) and Th-β (1.703 g/ml). The guinea pig (Caviaporcellus) contains Ca-α, Ca-β and Ca-γ at densities of 1.706 g/ml, 1.704 g/ml and 1.704 g/ml, respectively. The antelope ground squirrel (Ammospermophilusharrisi) contains Am-α, 1.708 g/ml, Am-β, 1.717 g/ml, and Am-γ, 1.707 g/ml. The physical and chemical properties of the alpha-satellites from the above four rodents representing four different families in two suborders of Rodentia were compared. They show nearly identical Tm, nucleoside composition of single strands, and single strand densities in alkaline CsCl. Similar comparisons on the second or third satellite DNAs from these rodents also indicate a close relationship to each other. Thus the high degree of similarity of satellite sequences found in such a diverse group of rodents suggests a cellular function that is subject to natural selection, and implies that these sequences have been conserved over a considerable span of evolutionary time since the divergence of these rodents about 50 million years ago.
Placentas of guinea pig-related rodents are appropriate animal models for human placentation because of their striking similarities to those of humans. To optimize the pool of potential models in this context, it is essential to identify the occurrence of characters in close relatives.
In this study we first analyzed chorioallantoic placentation in the prea, Galea spixii, as one of the guinea pig's closest relatives. Material was collected from a breeding group at the University of Mossoró, Brazil, including 18 individuals covering an ontogenetic sequence from initial pregnancy to term. Placentas were investigated by means of histology, electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry (vimentin, α-smooth muscle actin, cytokeration) and proliferation activity (PCNA).
Placentation in Galea is primarily characterized by an apparent regionalization into labyrinth, trophospongium and subplacenta. It also has associated growing processes with clusters of proliferating trophoblast cells at the placental margin, internally directed projections and a second centre of proliferation in the labyrinth. Finally, the subplacenta, which is temporarily supplied in parallel by the maternal and fetal blood systems, served as the center of origin for trophoblast invasion.
Placentation in Galea reveals major parallels to the guinea pig and other caviomorphs with respect to the regionalization of the placenta, the associated growing processes, as well as trophoblast invasion. A principal difference compared to the guinea pig occurred in the blood supply of the subplacenta. Characteristics of the invasion and expanding processes indicate that Galea may serve as an additional animal model that is much smaller than the guinea pig and where the subplacenta partly has access to both maternal and fetal blood systems.