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1.  Alkaloid defenses of co-mimics in a putative Müllerian mimetic radiation 
Polytypism in aposematic species is unlikely according to theory, but commonly seen in nature. Ranitomeya imitator is a poison frog species exhibiting polytypic mimicry of three congeneric model species (R. fantastica, R. summersi, and two morphs of R. variabilis) across four allopatric populations (a "mimetic radiation"). In order to investigate chemical defenses in this system, a key prediction of Müllerian mimicry, we analyzed the alkaloids of both models and mimics from four allopatric populations.
In this study we demonstrate distinct differences in alkaloid profiles between co-mimetic species within allopatric populations. We further demonstrate that R. imitator has a greater number of distinct alkaloid types than the model species and more total alkaloids in all but one population.
Given that R. imitator is the more abundant species in these populations, R. imitator is likely driving the majority of predator-learned avoidance in these complexes. The success of Ranitomeya imitator as a putative advergent mimic may be a direct result of differences in alkaloid sequestration. Furthermore, we propose that automimicry within co-mimetic species is an important avenue of research.
PMCID: PMC4101839  PMID: 24707851
Alkaloids; Aposematism; Dendrobatids; Müllerian mimicry; Polytypism; Ranitomeya imitator
2.  Phenotypic and Genetic Divergence among Poison Frog Populations in a Mimetic Radiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55443.
The evolution of Müllerian mimicry is, paradoxically, associated with high levels of diversity in color and pattern. In a mimetic radiation, different populations of a species evolve to resemble different models, which can lead to speciation. Yet there are circumstances under which initial selection for divergence under mimicry may be reversed. Here we provide evidence for the evolution of extensive phenotypic divergence in a mimetic radiation in Ranitomeya imitator, the mimic poison frog, in Peru. Analyses of color hue (spectral reflectance) and pattern reveal substantial divergence between morphs. However, we also report that there is a “transition-zone” with mixed phenotypes. Analyses of genetic structure using microsatellite variation reveals some differentiation between populations, but this does not strictly correspond to color pattern divergence. Analyses of gene flow between populations suggest that, while historical levels of gene flow were low, recent levels are high in some cases, including substantial gene flow between some color pattern morphs. We discuss possible explanations for these observations.
PMCID: PMC3566184  PMID: 23405150
3.  Advergence in Müllerian mimicry: the case of the poison dart frogs of Northern Peru revisited 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):796-800.
Whether the evolution of similar aposematic signals in different unpalatable species (i.e. Müllerian mimicry) is because of phenotypic convergence or advergence continues to puzzle scientists. The poison dart frog Ranitomeya imitator provides a rare example in support of the hypothesis of advergence: this species was believed to mimic numerous distinct model species because of high phenotypic variability and low genetic divergence among populations. In this study, we test the evidence in support of advergence using a population genetic framework in two localities where R. imitator is sympatric with different model species, Ranitomeya ventrimaculata and Ranitomeya variabilis. Genetic analyses revealed incomplete sorting of mitochondrial haplotypes between the two model species. These two species are also less genetically differentiated than R. imitator populations on the basis of both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA comparisons. The genetic similarity between the model species suggests that they have either diverged more recently than R. imitator populations or that they are still connected by gene flow and were misidentified as different species. An analysis of phenotypic variability indicates that the model species are as variable as R. imitator. These results do not support the hypothesis of advergence by R. imitator. Although we cannot rule out phenotypic advergence in the evolution of Müllerian mimicry, this study reopens the discussion regarding the direction of the evolution of mimicry in the R. imitator system.
PMCID: PMC3169040  PMID: 21411452
phenotypic advergence; Ranitomeya; mimicry
4.  Drosophila Ube3a regulates monoamine synthesis by increasing GTP cyclohydrolase I activity via a non-ubiquitin ligase mechanism 
Neurobiology of disease  2010;41(3):669-677.
The underlying defects in Angelman syndrome (AS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be in part due to basic defects in synaptic plasticity and function. In some individuals serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which decrease pre-synaptic re-uptake of serotonin, can ameliorate symptoms, as can resperidone, which blocks both dopamine and serotonin receptors. Loss of maternal UBE3A expression causes AS, while maternal duplications of chromosome 15q11.2-q13 that include the UBE3A gene cause ASD, implicating the maternally expressed UBE3A gene in the ASD phenotype. In a Drosophila screen for proteins regulated by UBE3A, we identified a key regulator of monoamine synthesis, the gene Punch, or GCH1, encoding the enzyme GTP cyclohydrolase I. Here we show that Dube3a, the fly UBE3A ortholog, regulates Punch/GCH1 in the fly brain. Over-expression of Dube3a elevates tetrahydrobiopterin (THB), the rate-limiting cofactor in monoamine synthesis while loss of Dube3a has the opposite effect. The fluctuations in dopamine levels were associated with hyper- and hypoactivity, respectively, in flies. We show that changes in Punch/GCH1 and dopamine levels do not depend on the ubiquitin ligase catalytic domain of Dube3a. In addition, both wild type Dube3a and a ubiquitination-defective Dube3a-C/A form were found at high levels in nuclear fractions and appear to be poly-ubiquitinated in vivo by endogenous Dube3a. We propose that the transcriptional co-activation function of Dube3a may regulate GCH1 activity in the brain. These results provide a connection between monoamine synthesis (dopamine/serotonin) and Dube3a expression that may explain why some individuals with ASD or AS respond better to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors than others.
PMCID: PMC3040417  PMID: 21147225
5.  Evidence for acquisition of virulence effectors in pathogenic chytrids 
The decline in amphibian populations across the world is frequently linked to the infection of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This is particularly perplexing because Bd was only recently discovered in 1999 and no chytrid fungus had previously been identified as a vertebrate pathogen.
In this study, we show that two large families of known virulence effector genes, crinkler (CRN) proteins and serine peptidases, were acquired by Bd from oomycete pathogens and bacteria, respectively. These two families have been duplicated after their acquisition by Bd. Additional selection analyses indicate that both families evolved under strong positive selection, suggesting that they are involved in the adaptation of Bd to its hosts.
We propose that the acquisition of virulence effectors, in combination with habitat disruption and climate change, may have driven the Bd epidemics and the decline in amphibian populations. This finding provides a starting point for biochemical investigations of chytridiomycosis.
PMCID: PMC3161006  PMID: 21740557
6.  Correction: Amazonian Amphibian Diversity Is Primarily Derived from Late Miocene Andean Lineages 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(9):10.1371/annotation/18e722e3-05db-4e40-86a0-bedfc4934a5a.
PMCID: PMC2938366
7.  Tactical reproductive parasitism via larval cannibalism in Peruvian poison frogs 
Biology Letters  2008;5(2):148-151.
We report an unusual example of reproductive parasitism in amphibians. Dendrobates variabilis, an Amazonian poison frog, oviposits at the surface of the water in small pools in plants and deposits tadpoles within the pools. Tadpoles are highly cannibalistic and consume young tadpoles if they are accessible. Deposition of embryos and tadpoles in the same pool is common. Genetic analyses indicate that tadpoles are frequently unrelated to embryos in the same pool. A pool choice experiment in the field demonstrated that males carrying tadpoles prefer to place them in pools with embryos, facilitating reproductive parasitism via cannibalism.
PMCID: PMC2665805  PMID: 19042178
reproductive parasitism; egg cannibalism; Dendrobates; Ranitomeya; deposition strategies; anuran
8.  Evolutionary genomics of human intellectual disability 
Evolutionary Applications  2009;3(1):52-63.
Previous studies have postulated that X-linked and autosomal genes underlying human intellectual disability may have also mediated the evolution of human cognition. We have conducted the first comprehensive assessment of the extent and patterns of positive Darwinian selection on intellectual disability genes in humans. We report three main findings. First, as noted in some previous reports, intellectual disability genes with primary functions in the central nervous system exhibit a significant concentration to the X chromosome. Second, there was no evidence for a higher incidence of recent positive selection on X-linked than autosomal intellectual disability genes, nor was there a higher incidence of selection on such genes overall, compared to sets of control genes. However, the X-linked intellectual disability genes inferred to be subject to recent positive selection were concentrated in the Rho GTP-ase pathway, a key signaling pathway in neural development and function. Third, among all intellectual disability genes, there was evidence for a higher incidence of recent positive selection on genes involved in DNA repair, but not for genes involved in other functions. These results provide evidence that alterations to genes in the Rho GTP-ase and DNA-repair pathways may play especially-important roles in the evolution of human cognition and vulnerability to genetically-based intellectual disability.
PMCID: PMC3352458
genetic; genomic; intellectual disability; positive selection
9.  Amazonian Amphibian Diversity Is Primarily Derived from Late Miocene Andean Lineages 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(3):e1000056.
The Neotropics contains half of remaining rainforests and Earth's largest reservoir of amphibian biodiversity. However, determinants of Neotropical biodiversity (i.e., vicariance, dispersals, extinctions, and radiations) earlier than the Quaternary are largely unstudied. Using a novel method of ancestral area reconstruction and relaxed Bayesian clock analyses, we reconstructed the biogeography of the poison frog clade (Dendrobatidae). We rejected an Amazonian center-of-origin in favor of a complex connectivity model expanding over the Neotropics. We inferred 14 dispersals into and 18 out of Amazonia to adjacent regions; the Andes were the major source of dispersals into Amazonia. We found three episodes of lineage dispersal with two interleaved periods of vicariant events between South and Central America. During the late Miocene, Amazonian, and Central American-Chocoan lineages significantly increased their diversity compared to the Andean and Guianan-Venezuelan-Brazilian Shield counterparts. Significant percentage of dendrobatid diversity in Amazonia and Chocó resulted from repeated immigrations, with radiations at <10.0 million years ago (MYA), rather than in situ diversification. In contrast, the Andes, Venezuelan Highlands, and Guiana Shield have undergone extended in situ diversification at near constant rate since the Oligocene. The effects of Miocene paleogeographic events on Neotropical diversification dynamics provided the framework under which Quaternary patterns of endemism evolved.
Author Summary
The Neotropics, which includes South and Central America, contains half of remaining rainforests and the largest reservoir of amphibian diversity. Why there are so many species in certain areas and how such diversity arose before the Quaternary (i.e., more that 1.8 million years ago [MYA]) are largely unstudied. One hypothesis is that the Amazon Basin was the key source of diversity, and species dispersed from there to other areas. Here, we reconstruct a time-calibrated phylogeny and track, in space and time, the distribution of the endemic and species-rich clade of poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) during the Cenozoic (more than 65 MYA) across the continental Neotropics. Our results indicate a far more complex pattern of lineage dispersals and radiations during the past 10 MY. Rather than the Amazon Basin being the center of origin, our results show that the diversity stemmed from repeated dispersals from adjacent areas, especially from the Andes. We also found a recurrent pattern of colonization of Central America from the Chocó at 4–5 MY earlier than the formation of the Panamanian Land Bridge at 1.5 MYA. Thus, the major patterns of dispersals and radiations in the Neotropics were already set by ∼5–6 MYA (the Miocene–Pliocene boundary), but the ongoing process of Neotropical radiation is still happening now, especially in the Chocó–Central America region and Amazonian rainforest.
Phylogenetic analysis and ancestral range modeling of the poison-frog clade (Dendrobatidae) indicates that Amazonian species richness derives from repeated dispersals from adjacent regions, especially the Andes.
PMCID: PMC2653552  PMID: 19278298
10.  Genomic sister-disorders of neurodevelopment: an evolutionary approach 
Evolutionary Applications  2009;2(1):81-100.
Genomic sister-disorders are defined here as diseases mediated by duplications versus deletions of the same region. Such disorders can provide unique information concerning the genomic underpinnings of human neurodevelopment because effects of diametric variation in gene copy number on cognitive and behavioral phenotypes can be inferred. We describe evidence from the literature on deletions versus duplications for the regions underlying the best-known human neurogenetic sister-disorders, including Williams syndrome, Velocardiofacial syndrome, and Smith–Magenis syndrome, as well as the X-chromosomal conditions Klinefelter and Turner syndromes. These data suggest that diametric copy-number alterations can, like diametric alterations to imprinted genes, generate contrasting phenotypes associated with autistic-spectrum and psychotic-spectrum conditions. Genomically based perturbations to the development of the human social brain are thus apparently mediated to a notable degree by effects of variation in gene copy number. We also conducted the first analyses of positive selection for genes in the regions affected by these disorders. We found evidence consistent with adaptive evolution of protein-coding genes, or selective sweeps, for three of the four sets of sister-syndromes analyzed. These studies of selection facilitate identification of candidate genes for the phenotypes observed and lend a novel evolutionary dimension to the analysis of human cognitive architecture and neurogenetic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3352408
autism; evolution; gene copy-number variation; positive Darwinian selection; schizophrenia
11.  Adaptive evolution of genes underlying schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia poses an evolutionary-genetic paradox because it exhibits strongly negative fitness effects and high heritability, yet it persists at a prevalence of approximately 1% across all human cultures. Recent theory has proposed a resolution: that genetic liability to schizophrenia has evolved as a secondary consequence of selection for human cognitive traits. This hypothesis predicts that genes increasing the risk of this disorder have been subject to positive selection in the evolutionary history of humans and other primates. We evaluated this prediction using tests for recent selective sweeps in human populations and maximum-likelihood tests for selection during primate evolution. Significant evidence for positive selection was evident using one or both methods for 28 of 76 genes demonstrated to mediate liability to schizophrenia, including DISC1, DTNBP1 and NRG1, which exhibit especially strong and well-replicated functional and genetic links to this disorder. Strong evidence of non-neutral, accelerated evolution was found for DISC1, particularly for exon 2, the only coding region within the schizophrenia-associated haplotype. Additionally, genes associated with schizophrenia exhibited a statistically significant enrichment in their signals of positive selection in HapMap and PAML analyses of evolution along the human lineage, when compared with a control set of genes involved in neuronal activities. The selective forces underlying adaptive evolution of these genes remain largely unknown, but these findings provide convergent evidence consistent with the hypothesis that schizophrenia represents, in part, a maladaptive by-product of adaptive changes during human evolution.
PMCID: PMC2288689  PMID: 17785269
adaptive evolution; schizophrenia; positive Darwinian selection; disease genetics
12.  The evolution of parental care and egg size: a comparative analysis in frogs 
The evolution of parental care and egg size has attracted considerable attention and theoretical debate. Several different hypotheses have been proposed concerning the trajectories of parental care and egg size evolution and the order of specific evolutionary transitions. Few comparative studies have investigated the predictions of these hypotheses. Here, we investigate the evolutionary association between parental care and egg size in frogs in a phylogenetic context. Data on egg size and presence or absence of parental care in various species of frogs was gathered from the scientific literature. As a basis for our comparative analyses, we developed a phylogenetic supertree, by combining the results of multiple phylogenetic analyses in the literature using matrix representation parsimony. Using phylogenetic pairwise comparisons we demonstrated a significant association between the evolution of parental care and large egg size. We then used recently developed maximum likelihood methods to infer the evolutionary order of specific transitions. This analysis revealed that the evolution of large egg size typically precedes the evolution of parental care, rather than the reverse. We discuss the relevance of our results to previous hypotheses concerning the evolution of parental care and egg size.
PMCID: PMC1560067  PMID: 16608687
parental care; egg size; anurans; phylogenetic supertree; pairwise comparisons
13.  Cadherins in maternal–foetal interactions: red queen with a green beard? 
Cadherins are homophilic cell surface adhesion proteins, some of which mediate interactions between maternal and foetal tissues during mammalian pregnancy. David Haig suggested that these proteins may exhibit ‘green-beard gene’ effects, whereby the nature of binding between identical alleles in mother and foetus leads to differential levels of resource transfer. The selfish effects of such self-recognizing alleles should, however, be suppressed over evolutionary time by unlinked genes, which is expected to lead to antagonistic coevolution between placentally expressed cadherins and unlinked modifiers. Such molecular coevolution should leave a signature of positive selection, with high ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous amino acid substitution. We present evidence that three placentally expressed cadherin genes, E-cadherin, P-cadherin and VE-cadherin, have been subject to positive selection. By contrast, a ‘control’ cadherin that is not expressed in the placenta, H-cadherin, showed no evidence of selection. These results provide support for the hypothesis that the cadherin genes involved in maternal–foetal interactions have been subject to green-beard-effect mutations over the course of evolutionary history, leading to antagonistic coevolution with suppressing elements from the parliament of genes.
PMCID: PMC1564080  PMID: 15817439
cadherin; selection; placenta; green-beard

Results 1-13 (13)