Individuals of the scale-eating cichlid fish, Perissodus microlepis, from Lake Tanganyika tend to have remarkably asymmetric heads that are either left-bending or right-bending. The ‘left’ morph opens its mouth markedly towards the left and preferentially feeds on the scales from the right-hand side of its victim fish, and the ‘right’ morph bites scales from the victims’ left-hand side. This striking dimorphism made these fish a textbook example of their astonishing degree of ecological specialization and as one of the few known incidences of negative frequency-dependent selection acting on an asymmetric morphological trait, where left and right forms are equally frequent within a species. We investigated the degree and the shape of the frequency distribution of head asymmetry in P. microlepis to test whether the variation conforms to a discrete dimorphism, as generally assumed. In both adult and juvenile fish, mouth asymmetry appeared to be continuously and unimodally distributed with no clear evidence for a discrete dimorphism. Mixture analyses did not reveal evidence of a discrete or even strong dimorphism. These results raise doubts about previous claims, as reported in textbooks, that head variation in P. microlepis represents a discrete dimorphism of left- and right-bending forms. Based on extensive field sampling that excluded ambiguous (i.e. symmetric or weakly asymmetric) individual adults, we found that left and right morphs occur in equal abundance in five populations. Moreover, mate pairing for 51 wild-caught pairs was random with regard to head laterality, calling into question reports that this laterality is maintained through disassortative mating.
behavioural laterality; Lake Tanganyika; mixture analysis; negative frequency-dependent selection; Perissodus microlepis; random mating
In poeciliid fish the male anal fin has been transformed into a gonopodium, an intromittent organ required for internal fertilization. Elevated testosterone levels induce metamorphosis of a subset of anal fin rays to grow and form the specialized terminal structures of the gonopodium. The molecular mechanisms underlying these processes are largely unknown. Here, we investigated whether retinoic acid (RA) signaling is involved in gonopodium development in the swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii. We showed that aldh1a2, a RA synthesizing enzyme, and the RA receptors, rar-ga and rar-gb, are expressed in anal fins during metamorphosis. aldh1a2 expression is regulated by testosterone in a concentration-dependent manner and is up-regulated in both hormone-induced and naturally developing gonopodia. Androgen receptor (ar), a putative regulator of gonopodial development, is co-expressed with aldh1a2 and the RA receptors in gonopodial rays. Importantly, experimental increase of RA signaling promoted growth of the gonopodium and increased the number of new segments. Based on gene expression analyses and pharmacological manipulation of gonopodium development, we show that the RA signaling pathway is activated in response to androgen signaling and promotes fin ray growth and development during the metamorphosis of the anal fin into the gonopodium.
Lampreys are representatives of an ancient vertebrate lineage that diverged from our own ~500 million years ago. By virtue of this deeply shared ancestry, the sea lamprey (P. marinus) genome is uniquely poised to provide insight into the ancestry of vertebrate genomes and the underlying principles of vertebrate biology. Here, we present the first lamprey whole-genome sequence and assembly. We note challenges faced owing to its high content of repetitive elements and GC bases, as well as the absence of broad-scale sequence information from closely related species. Analyses of the assembly indicate that two whole-genome duplications likely occurred before the divergence of ancestral lamprey and gnathostome lineages. Moreover, the results help define key evolutionary events within vertebrate lineages, including the origin of myelin-associated proteins and the development of appendages. The lamprey genome provides an important resource for reconstructing vertebrate origins and the evolutionary events that have shaped the genomes of extant organisms.
The approximately 700 species of cichlids found in Lake Victoria in East Africa are thought to have evolved over a short period of time, and they represent one of the largest known examples of adaptive radiation. To understand the processes that are driving this spectacular radiation, we must determine the present genetic structure of these species and elucidate how this structure relates to the ecological conditions that caused their adaptation. We analyzed the genetic structure of two pelagic and seven littoral species sampled from the southeast area of Lake Victoria using sequences from the mtDNA control region and 12 microsatellite loci as markers. Using a Bayesian model-based clustering method to analyze the microsatellite data, we separated these nine species into four groups: one group composed of pelagic species and another three groups composed mainly of rocky-shore species. Furthermore, we found significant levels of genetic variation between species within each group at both marker loci using analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), although the nine species often shared mtDNA haplotypes. We also found significant levels of genetic variation between populations within species. These results suggest that initial groupings, some of which appear to have been related to habitat differences, as well as divergence between species within groups took place among the cichlid species of Lake Victoria.
Modularity has been suggested to be connected to evolvability because a higher degree of independence among parts allows them to evolve as separate units. Recently, the Escoufier RV coefficient has been proposed as a measure of the degree of integration between modules in multivariate morphometric datasets. However, it has been shown, using randomly simulated datasets, that the value of the RV coefficient depends on sample size. Also, so far there is no statistical test for the difference in the RV coefficient between a priori defined groups of observations. Here, we (1), using a rarefaction analysis, show that the value of the RV coefficient depends on sample size also in real geometric morphometric datasets; (2) propose a permutation procedure to test for the difference in the RV coefficient between a priori defined groups of observations; (3) show, through simulations, that such a permutation procedure has an appropriate Type I error; (4) suggest that a rarefaction procedure could be used to obtain sample-size-corrected values of the RV coefficient; and (5) propose a nearest-neighbor procedure that could be used when studying the variation of modularity in geographic space. The approaches outlined here, readily extendable to non-morphometric datasets, allow study of the variation in the degree of integration between a priori defined modules. A Java application – that will allow performance of the proposed test using a software with graphical user interface – has also been developed and is available at the Morphometrics at Stony Brook Web page (http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/morph/).
The ectodermal neural cortex (ENC) gene family, whose members are implicated in neurogenesis, is part of the kelch repeat superfamily. To date, ENC genes have been identified only in osteichthyans, although other kelch repeat-containing genes are prevalent throughout bilaterians. The lack of elaborate molecular phylogenetic analysis with exhaustive taxon sampling has obscured the possible link of the establishment of this gene family with vertebrate novelties. In this study, we identified ENC homologs in diverse vertebrates by means of database mining and polymerase chain reaction screens. Our analysis revealed that the ENC3 ortholog was lost in the basal eutherian lineage through single-gene deletion and that the triplication between ENC1, -2, and -3 occurred early in vertebrate evolution. Including our original data on the catshark and the zebrafish, our comparison revealed high conservation of the pleiotropic expression pattern of ENC1 and shuffling of expression domains between ENC1, -2, and -3. Compared with many other gene families including developmental key regulators, the ENC gene family is unique in that conventional molecular phylogenetic inference could identify no obvious invertebrate ortholog. This suggests a composite nature of the vertebrate-specific gene repertoire, consisting not only of de novo genes introduced at the vertebrate origin but also of long-standing genes with no apparent invertebrate orthologs. Some of the latter, including the ENC gene family, may be too rapidly evolving to provide sufficient phylogenetic signals marking orthology to their invertebrate counterparts. Such gene families that experienced saltatory evolution likely remain to be explored and might also have contributed to phenotypic evolution of vertebrates.
vertebrate novelty; saltation; gene loss; conserved synteny; whole genome duplication
Cartilaginous fishes, divided into Holocephali (chimaeras) and Elasmoblanchii (sharks, rays and skates), occupy a key phylogenetic position among extant vertebrates in reconstructing their evolutionary processes. Their accurate evolutionary time scale is indispensable for better understanding of the relationship between phenotypic and molecular evolution of cartilaginous fishes. However, our current knowledge on the time scale of cartilaginous fish evolution largely relies on estimates using mitochondrial DNA sequences. In this study, making the best use of the still partial, but large-scale sequencing data of cartilaginous fish species, we estimate the divergence times between the major cartilaginous fish lineages employing nuclear genes. By rigorous orthology assessment based on available genomic and transcriptomic sequence resources for cartilaginous fishes, we selected 20 protein-coding genes in the nuclear genome, spanning 2973 amino acid residues. Our analysis based on the Bayesian inference resulted in the mean divergence time of 421 Ma, the late Silurian, for the Holocephali-Elasmobranchii split, and 306 Ma, the late Carboniferous, for the split between sharks and rays/skates. By applying these results and other documented divergence times, we measured the relative evolutionary rate of the Hox A cluster sequences in the cartilaginous fish lineages, which resulted in a lower substitution rate with a factor of at least 2.4 in comparison to tetrapod lineages. The obtained time scale enables mapping phenotypic and molecular changes in a quantitative framework. It is of great interest to corroborate the less derived nature of cartilaginous fish at the molecular level as a genome-wide phenomenon.
Animal pigmentation has received much attention in evolutionary biology research due to its strong implications for adaptation and speciation. However, apart from a few cases the genetic changes associated with these evolutionary processes remain largely unknown. The Midas cichlid fish from Central America are an ideal model system for investigating pigmentation traits that may also play a role in speciation. Most Midas cichlids maintain their melanophores and exhibit a grayish (normal) color pattern throughout their lives. A minority of individuals, however, undergo color change and exhibit a distinctive gold or even white coloration in adulthood. The ontogenetic color change in the Midas cichlids may also shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying pigmentation disorders in humans.
Here we use next-generation sequencing (Illumina) RNAseq analyses to compare skin transcriptome-wide expression levels in three distinct stages of color transformation in Midas cichlids. cDNA libraries of scale tissue, for six biological replicates of each group, were generated and sequenced using Illumina technology. Using a combination of three differential expression (DE) analyses we identified 46 candidate genes that showed DE between the color morphs. We find evidence for two key DE patterns: a) genes involved in melanosomal pathways are up-regulated in normally pigmented fish; and b) immediate early and inflammatory response genes were up-regulated in transitional fish, a response that parallels some human skin disorders such as melanoma formation and psoriasis. One of the DE genes segregates with the gold phenotype in a genetic cross and might be associated with incipient speciation in this highly “species-rich” lineage of cichlids.
Using transcriptomic analyses we successfully identified key expression differences between different color morphs of Midas cichlid fish. These differentially expressed genes have important implications for our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying speciation in this lineage of extremely young species since they mate strongly assortatively, and new species may arise by sexual selection due to this color polymorphism. Some of the human orthologues of the genes identified here may also be involved in pigmentation differences and diseases and therefore provide genetic markers for the detection of human pigmentation disorders.
RNAseq; Color change; Melanophore; Differential expression; Tyrosinase genes; Midas cichlids
Cichlid fishes are remarkably phenotypically diverse and species-rich. Therefore, they provide an exciting opportunity for the study of the genetics of adaptation and speciation by natural and sexual selection. Here, we review advances in the genomics and transcriptomics of cichlids, particularly regarding ecologically relevant differences in body shape, trophic apparatus, coloration and patterning, and sex determination. Research conducted so far has focused almost exclusively on African cichlids. To analyse genomic diversity and selection in a Neotropical radiation, we conducted a comparative transcriptomic analysis between sympatric, ecologically divergent crater-lake Midas cichlids (Lake Xiloá Amphilophus amarillo and Amphilophus sagittae). We pyrosequenced (Roche 454) expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries and generated more than 178 000 000 ESTs and identified nine ESTs under positive selection between these sister species (Ka/Ks > 1). None of these ESTs were found to be under selection in African cichlids. Of 11 candidate genes for ecomorphological differentiation in African cichlids, none showed signs of selection between A. amarillo and A. sagittae. Although more population-level studies are now needed to thoroughly document patterns of divergence during speciation of cichlids, available information so far suggests that adaptive phenotypic diversification in Neotropical and African cichlids may be evolving through non-parallel genetic bases.
next-generation sequencing; cichlid fish; ecological speciation; coloration; body shape; expressed sequence tags
Males in some species of the genus Xiphophorus, small freshwater fishes from Meso-America, have an extended caudal fin, or sword – hence their common name “swordtails”. Longer swords are preferred by females from both sworded and – surprisingly also, non-sworded (platyfish) species that belong to the same genus. Swordtails have been studied widely as models in research on sexual selection. Specifically, the pre-existing bias hypothesis was interpreted to best explain the observed bias of females in presumed ancestral lineages of swordless species that show a preference for assumed derived males with swords over their conspecific swordless males. However, many of the phylogenetic relationships within this genus still remained unresolved. Here we construct a comprehensive molecular phylogeny of all 26 known Xiphophorus species, including the four recently described species (X. kallmani, X. mayae, X. mixei and X. monticolus). We use two mitochondrial and six new nuclear markers in an effort to increase the understanding of the evolutionary relationships among the species in this genus. Based on the phylogeny, the evolutionary history and character state evolution of the sword was reconstructed and found to have originated in the common ancestral lineage of the genus Xiphophorus and that it was lost again secondarily.
We estimated the evolutionary relationships among all known species of the genus Xiphophorus based on the largest set of DNA markers so far. The phylogeny indicates that one of the newly described swordtail species, Xiphophorus monticolus, is likely to have arisen through hybridization since it is placed with the southern platyfish in the mitochondrial phylogeny, but with the southern swordtails in the nuclear phylogeny. Such discordance between these two types of markers is a strong indication for a hybrid origin. Additionally, by using a maximum likelihood approach the possession of the sexually selected sword trait is shown to be the most likely ancestral state for the genus Xiphophorus. Further, we provide a well supported estimation of the phylogenetic relationships between the previously unresolved northern swordtail groups.
This comprehensive molecular phylogeny of the entire genus Xiphophorus provides evidence that a second swordtail species, X. monticolus, arose through hybridization. Previously, we demonstrated that X. clemenciae, another southern swordtail species, arose via hybridization. These findings highlight the potential key role of hybridization in the evolution of this genus and suggest the need for further investigations into how hybridization contributes to speciation more generally.
In caves one repeatedly finds strikingly convergent patterns of evolution in diverse sets of organisms involving 'regressive' traits such as the loss of eyes and pigmentation. Ongoing debate centers around whether these regressive traits arise as the result of neutral evolutionary processes, or rather by natural selection of 'constructive' traits that arise at the expense of eyes and pigmentation. Recent research on cavefish points to the latter, suggesting that the 'constructive' trait vibrational attractive behavior and the reduction of eye size may share a common genetic basis.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/108
Cichlid fishes are an excellent model system for studying speciation and the formation of adaptive radiations because of their tremendous species richness and astonishing phenotypic diversity. Most research has focused on African rift lake fishes, although Neotropical cichlid species display much variability as well. Almost one dozen species of the Midas cichlid species complex (Amphilophus spp.) have been described so far and have formed repeated adaptive radiations in several Nicaraguan crater lakes. Here we apply double-digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing to obtain a high-density linkage map of an interspecific cross between the benthic Amphilophus astorquii and the limnetic Amphilophus zaliosus, which are sympatric species endemic to Crater Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. A total of 755 RAD markers were genotyped in 343 F2 hybrids. The map resolved 25 linkage groups and spans a total distance of 1427 cM with an average marker spacing distance of 1.95 cM, almost matching the total number of chromosomes (n = 24) in these species. Regions of segregation distortion were identified in five linkage groups. Based on the pedigree of parents to F2 offspring, we calculated a genome-wide mutation rate of 6.6 × 10−8 mutations per nucleotide per generation. This genetic map will facilitate the mapping of ecomorphologically relevant adaptive traits in the repeated phenotypes that evolved within the Midas cichlid lineage and, as the first linkage map of a Neotropical cichlid, facilitate comparative genomic analyses between African cichlids, Neotropical cichlids and other teleost fishes.
Midas cichlid; double-digest RADSeq; synteny; segregation distortion; RAD markers; mutation rate
Scale-eating cichlid fish, Perissodus microlepis, from Lake Tanganyika display handed (lateralized) foraging behavior, where an asymmetric ‘left’ mouth morph preferentially feeds on the scales of the right side of its victim fish and a ‘right’ morph bites the scales of the left side. This species has therefore become a textbook example of the astonishing degree of ecological specialization and negative frequency-dependent selection. We investigated the strength of handedness of foraging behavior as well as its interaction with morphological mouth laterality in P. microlepis. In wild-caught adult fish we found that mouth laterality is, as expected, a strong predictor of their preferred attack orientation. Also laboratory-reared juvenile fish exhibited a strong laterality in behavioral preference to feed on scales, even at an early age, although the initial level of mouth asymmetry appeared to be small. This suggests that pronounced mouth asymmetry is not a prerequisite for handed foraging behavior in juvenile scale-eating cichlid fish and might suggest that behavioral preference to attack a particular side of the prey plays a role in facilitating morphological asymmetry of this species.
Sexual selection on male coloration is one of the main mechanisms proposed to explain the explosive speciation rates in East African cichlid fish. True eggspots are color patterns characteristic of the most species-rich lineage of cichlids, the Haplochromini, and have been suggested to be causally related to the speciation processes. Eggspots are thought to have originated by sensory exploitation and subsequently gained several roles in sexual advertisement. However, for most of these functions the evidence is equivocal. In addition, the genetic architecture of this trait still is largely unknown. We conducted bidirectional selective breeding experiments for eggspot numbers in the model cichlid, Astatotilapia burtoni. After two generations, low lines responded significantly, whereas the high lines did not. Body size was both phenotypically and genotypically correlated with eggspot number and showed correlated response to selection. Males with higher numbers of eggspots were found to sire larger offspring. Despite the potential to act as honest indicators of fitness, the behavioral experiments showed no evidence of a role in either intra- or inter-sexual selection. Visual-based female preference was instead explained by courtship intensity. The evolution of this trait has been interpreted in light of adaptive theories of sexual selection, however the present and published results suggest the influence of non-adaptive factors such as sensory exploitation, environmental constraints and sexual antagonism.
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has been recognized to be an important mechanism that shaped the evolution and genomes of prokaryotes and unicellular eukaryotes. However, HGT is regarded to be exceedingly rare among eukaryotes. We discovered massive transfers of a DNA transposon, a Tc1 element encoding a transposase, between multiple teleost fishes and lampreys that last shared a common ancestor over 500 Ma. Members of this group of Tc1 elements were found to exhibit a mosaic phylogenetic distribution, yet their sequences were highly similar even between distantly related lineages (95%–99% identity). Our molecular phylogenetic analyses suggested that horizontal transfers of this element happened repeatedly, involving multiple teleost fishes that are phylogenetically only distantly related. Interestingly, almost all the affected teleost lineages are also known to be subject to lamprey parasitism, suggesting that the horizontal transfers between vertebrates might have occurred through parasite–host interaction. The genomes of several northern hemisphere lamprey species, including that of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), were found to contain thousands of copies of the foreign elements. Impact of this event is discussed in relation to other peculiar genomic features of lampreys.
lamprey; Salmonidae; Tc1 transposase; horizontal gene transfer
Cichlid fishes are a textbook example of rapid speciation and exuberant diversity—this applies especially to haplochromines, a lineage with approximately 1800 species. Haplochromine males uniquely possess oval, bright spots on their anal fin, called ‘egg-spots’ or ‘egg-dummies’. These are presumed to be an evolutionary key innovation that contributed to the tribe's evolutionary success. Egg-spots have been proposed to mimic the ova of the mouthbrooding females of the corresponding species, contribute to fertilization success and even facilitate species recognition. Interestingly, egg-spot number varies extensively not only between species, but also within some populations. This high degree of intraspecific variation may appear to be counterintuitive since selection might be expected to act to stabilize traits that are correlated with fitness measures. We addressed this ‘paradox’ experimentally, and found that in the haplochromine cichlid Astatotilapia burtoni, the number of egg-spots was related to male age, body condition and dominance status. Intriguingly, the egg-spot number also had a high heritable component (narrow sense heritability of 0.5). These results suggest that the function of egg-spots might have less to do with fertilization success or species recognition, but rather relate to mate choice and/or male–male competition, helping to explain the high variability in this important trait.
body condition; dominance hierarchy; narrow sense heritability; intraspecific variation; key innovation; signal value
Alicyclic compounds with hydroxyl groups represent common structures in numerous natural compounds, such as terpenes and steroids. Their degradation by microorganisms in the absence of dioxygen may involve a C—C bond ring cleavage to form an aliphatic intermediate that can be further oxidized. The cyclohexane-1,2-dione hydrolase (CDH) (EC 22.214.171.124) from denitrifying Azoarcus sp. strain 22Lin, grown on cyclohexane-1,2-diol as a sole electron donor and carbon source, is the first thiamine diphosphate (ThDP)-dependent enzyme characterized to date that cleaves a cyclic aliphatic compound. The degradation of cyclohexane-1,2-dione (CDO) to 6-oxohexanoate comprises the cleavage of a C—C bond adjacent to a carbonyl group, a typical feature of reactions catalyzed by ThDP-dependent enzymes. In the subsequent NAD+-dependent reaction, 6-oxohexanoate is oxidized to adipate. CDH has been purified to homogeneity by the criteria of gel electrophoresis (a single band at ∼59 kDa; calculated molecular mass, 64.5 kDa); in solution, the enzyme is a homodimer (∼105 kDa; gel filtration). As isolated, CDH contains 0.8 ± 0.05 ThDP, 1.0 ± 0.02 Mg2+, and 1.0 ± 0.015 flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) per monomer as a second organic cofactor, the role of which remains unclear. Strong reductants, Ti(III)-citrate, Na+-dithionite, and the photochemical 5-deazaflavin/oxalate system, led to a partial reduction of the FAD chromophore. The cleavage product of CDO, 6-oxohexanoate, was also a substrate; the corresponding cyclic 1,3- and 1,4-diones did not react with CDH, nor did the cis- and trans-cyclohexane diols. The enzymes acetohydroxyacid synthase (AHAS) from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, pyruvate oxidase (POX) from Lactobacillus plantarum, benzoylformate decarboxylase from Pseudomonas putida, and pyruvate decarboxylase from Zymomonas mobilis were identified as the closest relatives of CDH by comparative amino acid sequence analysis, and a ThDP binding motif and a 2-fold Rossmann fold for FAD binding could be localized at the C-terminal end and central region of CDH, respectively. A first mechanism for the ring cleavage of CDO is presented, and it is suggested that the FAD cofactor in CDH is an evolutionary relict.
Introduced species represent one of the most serious global threats to biodiversity. In this field-based study, we assessed behavioural responses of brood tending cichlid fish to an invasive predator of their offspring. This was achieved by comparing parental defence responses of the endangered arrow cichlid (Amphilophus zaliosus), a fish species endemic to the crater lake Apoyo in Nicaragua, towards the bigmouth sleeper (Gobiomorus dormitor), a formidable predator of cichlid fry, and all other potential fish predators of offspring. The bigmouth sleeper was recently introduced into Apoyo but naturally co-exists with cichlids in a few other Nicaraguan lakes. Arrow cichlid parents allowed bigmouth sleepers to advance much closer to their fry than other predators before initiating aggressive brood defence behaviours. Interestingly, parents of a very closely related species, A. sagittae, which has coevolved with bigmouth sleepers in crater lake Xiloá, reacted to approaching bigmouth sleepers at comparable distances as to other predators of cichlid fry. These results provide a novel demonstration of the specific mechanism (i.e. naive parental behaviour) by which invasive predators may negatively affect species that lack the adequate behavioural repertoire.
Evolutionary biologist Axel Meyer reviews the new English translation of philosopher Paul Feyerabend's The Tyranny of Science.
Recent development of deep sequencing technologies has facilitated de novo genome sequencing projects, now conducted even by individual laboratories. However, this will yield more and more genome sequences that are not well assembled, and will hinder thorough annotation when no closely related reference genome is available. One of the challenging issues is the identification of protein-coding sequences split into multiple unassembled genomic segments, which can confound orthology assignment and various laboratory experiments requiring the identification of individual genes. In this study, using the genome of a cartilaginous fish, Callorhinchus milii, as test case, we performed gene prediction using a model specifically trained for this genome. We implemented an algorithm, designated ESPRIT, to identify possible linkages between multiple protein-coding portions derived from a single genomic locus split into multiple unassembled genomic segments. We developed a validation framework based on an artificially fragmented human genome, improvements between early and recent mouse genome assemblies, comparison with experimentally validated sequences from GenBank, and phylogenetic analyses. Our strategy provided insights into practical solutions for efficient annotation of only partially sequenced (low-coverage) genomes. To our knowledge, our study is the first formulation of a method to link unassembled genomic segments based on proteomes of relatively distantly related species as references.
Chondrichthyes; trained gene prediction; next generation sequencing; genome assembly; orthology
In understanding the evolutionary process of vertebrates, cyclostomes (hagfishes and lamprey) occupy crucial positions. Resolving molecular phylogenetic relationships of cyclostome genes with gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) genes is indispensable in deciphering both the species tree and gene trees. However, molecular phylogenetic analyses, especially those including lamprey genes, have produced highly discordant results between gene families. To efficiently scrutinize this problem using partial genome assemblies of early vertebrates, we focused on the potassium voltage-gated channel, shaker-related (KCNA) family, whose members are mostly single-exon.
Seven sea lamprey KCNA genes as well as six elephant shark genes were identified, and their orthologies to bony vertebrate subgroups were assessed. In contrast to robustly supported orthology of the elephant shark genes to gnathostome subgroups, clear orthology of any sea lamprey gene could not be established. Notably, sea lamprey KCNA sequences displayed unique codon usage pattern and amino acid composition, probably associated with exceptionally high GC-content in their coding regions. This lamprey-specific property of coding sequences was also observed generally for genes outside this gene family.
Our results suggest that secondary modifications of sequence properties unique to the lamprey lineage may be one of the factors preventing robust orthology assessments of lamprey genes, which deserves further genome-wide validation. The lamprey lineage-specific alteration of protein-coding sequence properties needs to be taken into consideration in tackling the key questions about early vertebrate evolution.
The polychromatic and trophically polymorphic Midas cichlid fish species complex (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) is an excellent model system for studying the mechanisms of speciation and patterns of phenotypic diversification in allopatry and in sympatry. Here, we first review research to date on the species complex and the geological history of its habitat. We analyse body shape variation from all currently described species in the complex, sampled from six crater lakes (maximally 1.2–23.9 kyr old) and both great lakes in Nicaragua. We find that Midas cichlid populations in each lake have their own characteristic body shape. In lakes with multiple sympatric species of Midas cichlid, each species has a distinct body shape. Across the species complex, most body shape change relates to body depth, head, snout and mouth shape and caudal peduncle length. There is independent parallel evolution of an elongate limnetic species in at least two crater lakes. Mitochondrial genetic diversity is higher in crater lakes with multiple species. Midas cichlid species richness increases with the size and age of the crater lakes, though no such relationship exists for the other syntopic fishes. We suggest that crater lake Midas cichlids follow the predicted pattern of an adaptive radiation, with early divergence of each crater lake colonization, followed by intralacustrine diversification and speciation by ecological adaptation and sexual selection.
geometric morphometrics; mitochondrial DNA genetic diversity; ecomorphology; limnology; Mesoamerica; adaptive radiation
Phenotypic evolution and its role in the diversification of organisms is a central topic in evolutionary biology. A neglected factor during the modern evolutionary synthesis, adaptive phenotypic plasticity, more recently attracted the attention of many evolutionary biologists and is now recognized as an important ingredient in both population persistence and diversification. The traits and directions in which an ancestral source population displays phenotypic plasticity might partly determine the trajectories in morphospace, which are accessible for an adaptive radiation, starting from the colonization of a novel environment. In the case of repeated colonizations of similar environments from the same source population this "flexible stem" hypothesis predicts similar phenotypes to arise in repeated subsequent radiations. The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus spp.) in Nicaragua has radiated in parallel in several crater-lakes seeded by populations originating from the Nicaraguan Great Lakes. Here, we tested phenotypic plasticity in the pharyngeal jaw of Midas Cichlids. The pharyngeal jaw apparatus of cichlids, a second set of jaws functionally decoupled from the oral ones, is known to mediate ecological specialization and often differs strongly between sister-species.
We performed a common garden experiment raising three groups of Midas cichlids on food differing in hardness and calcium content. Analyzing the lower pharyngeal jaw-bones we find significant differences between diet groups qualitatively resembling the differences found between specialized species. Observed differences in pharyngeal jaw expression between groups were attributable to the diet's mechanical resistance, whereas surplus calcium in the diet was not found to be of importance.
The pharyngeal jaw apparatus of Midas Cichlids can be expressed plastically if stimulated mechanically during feeding. Since this trait is commonly differentiated - among other traits - between Midas Cichlid species, its plasticity might be an important factor in Midas Cichlid speciation. The prevalence of pharyngeal jaw differentiation across the Cichlidae further suggests that adaptive phenotypic plasticity in this trait could play an important role in cichlid speciation in general. We discuss several possibilities how the adaptive radiation of Midas Cichlids might have been influenced in this respect.
Divergent natural selection rooted in differential resource use can generate and maintain intraspecific eco-morphological divergence (i.e., resource polymorphism), ultimately leading to population splitting and speciation. Differing bottom environments create lake habitats with different benthos communities, which may cause selection in benthivorous fishes. Here, we document the nature of eco-morphological and genetic divergence among local populations of the Japanese gudgeon Sarcocheilichthys (Cyprinidae), which inhabits contrasting habitats in the littoral zones (rocky vs. pebbly habitats) in Lake Biwa, a representative ancient lake in East Asia. Eco-morphological analyses revealed that Sarcocheilichthys variegatus microoculus from rocky and pebbly zones differed in morphology and diet, and that populations from rocky environments had longer heads and deeper bodies, which are expected to be advantageous for capturing cryptic and/or attached prey in structurally complex, rocky habitats. Sarcocheilichthys biwaensis, a rock-dwelling specialist, exhibited similar morphologies to the sympatric congener, S. v. microoculus, except for body/fin coloration. Genetic analyses based on mitochondrial and nuclear microsatellite DNA data revealed no clear genetic differentiation among local populations within/between the gudgeon species. Although the morphogenetic factors that contribute to morphological divergence remain unclear, our results suggest that the gudgeon populations in Lake Biwa show a state of resource polymorphism associated with differences in the bottom environment. This is a novel example of resource polymorphism in fish within an Asian ancient lake, emphasizing the importance and generality of feeding adaptation as an evolutionary mechanism that generates morphological diversification.