Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Monday" reads

Another post Monday issue on new DNA barcoding articles. Once again my Monday was too busy to find a few minutes to assemble the post. Nevertheless, here we go - some interesting reads for the week:

While pollinators are widely acknowledged as important contributors to seed production in plant communities, we do not yet have a good understanding of the importance of pollinator specialists for this ecosystem service. Determination of the prevalence of pollinator specialists is often hindered by the occurrence of cryptic species and the limitations of observational data on pollinator visitation rates, two areas where DNA barcoding of pollinators and pollen can be useful. Further, the demonstrated adequacy of pollen DNA barcoding from historical records offers opportunities to observe the effects of pollinator loss over longer timescales, and phylogenetic approaches can elucidate the historical rates of extinction of specialist lineages. In this Viewpoint article, we review how advances in DNA barcoding and metabarcoding of plants and pollinators have brought important developments to our understanding of specialization in plant-pollinator interactions. We then put forth several lines of inquiry that we feel are especially promising for providing insight on changes in plant-pollinator interactions over space and time. Obtaining estimates of the effects of reductions in specialists will contribute to forecasting the loss of ecosystem services that will accompany the erosion of plant and pollinator diversity.

Understanding the diet of an endangered species illuminates the animal’s ecology, habitat requirements, and conservation needs. However, direct observation of diet can be difficult, particularly for small, nocturnal animals such as the Pacific pocket mouse (Heteromyidae: Perognathus longimembris pacificus). Very little is known of the dietary habits of this federally endangered rodent, hindering management and restoration efforts. We used a metabarcoding approach to identify source plants in fecal samples (N = 52) from the three remaining populations known. The internal transcribed spacers (ITS) of the nuclear ribosomal loci were sequenced following the Illumina MiSeq amplicon strategy and processed reads were mapped to reference databases. We evaluated a range of threshold mapping criteria and found the best-performing setting generally recovered two distinct mock communities in proportions similar to expectation. We tested our method on captive animals fed a known diet and recovered almost all plant sources, but found substantial heterogeneity among fecal pellets collected from the same individual at the same time. Observed richness did not increase with pooling of pellets from the same individual. In field-collected samples, we identified 4–14 plant genera in individual samples and 74 genera overall, but over 50 percent of reads mapped to just six species in five genera. We simulated the effects of sequencing error, variable read length, and chimera formation to infer taxon-specific rates of misassignment for the local flora, which were generally low with some exceptions. Richness at the species and genus levels did not reach a clear asymptote, suggesting that diet breadth remained underestimated in the current pool of samples. Large numbers of scat samples are therefore needed to make inferences about diet and resource selection in future studies of the Pacific pocket mouse. We conclude that our minimally invasive method is promising for determining herbivore diets given a library of sequences from local plants.

Plants are colonized various microorganisms including endophytes. These microbes can play an important role in agricultural production as they promote plant growth and/or enhance the resistance of their host plant against diseases and environmental stress conditions. Although culture-independent molecular approaches such as DNA barcoding have greatly enhanced our understanding of bacterial and fungal endophyte communities, there are some methodical problems when investigating endophyte diversity. One main issue are sequence contaminations such as plastid-derived rRNA gene sequences which are co-amplified due to their high homology to bacterial 16S rRNA genes. The same is true for plant and fungal ITS sequences. The application of highly specific-primers suppressing co-amplification of these sequence contaminations is a good solution for this issue. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for assessing bacterial and fungal endophyte diversity in plants using these primers in combination with next-generation sequencing.

DNA barcoding has demonstrated that many discrete phenotypes are in fact genetically distinct (pseudo)cryptic species. Genetically identical, isogenic individuals, however, can also express similarly different phenotypes in response to a trigger condition, e.g. in the environment. This alternative explanation to cryptic speciation often remains untested because it requires considerable effort to reject the hypothesis that the observed underlying genetic homogeneity of the different phenotypes may be trivially caused by too slowly evolving molecular markers. The widespread squat lobster Munida gregaria comprises two discrete ecotypes, gregaria s. str. and subrugosa, which were long regarded as different species due to marked differences in morphological, ecological and behavioral traits. We studied the morphometry and genetics of M. gregaria s. l. and tested (1) whether the phenotypic differences remain stable after continental-scale sampling and inclusion of different life stages, (2) and whether each phenotype is underpinned by a specific genotype.
A total number of 219 gregaria s. str. and subrugosa individuals from 25 stations encompassing almost entire range in South America were included in morphological and genetic analyses using nine unlinked hypervariable microsatellites and new COI sequences. Results from the PCA and using discriminant functions demonstrated that the morphology of the two forms remains discrete. The mitochondrial data showed a shallow, star-like haplotype network and complete overlap of genetic distances within and among ecotypes. Coalescent-based species delimitation methods, PTP and GMYC, coherently suggested that haplotypes of both ecotypes forms a single species. Although all microsatellite markers possess sufficient genetic variation, AMOVA, PCoA and Bayesian clustering approaches revealed no genetic clusters corresponding to ecotypes or geographic units across the entire South-American distribution. No evidence of isolation-by-distance could be detected for this species in South America.
Despite their pronounced bimodal morphologies and different lifestyles, the gregaria s. str. and subrugosa ecotypes form a single, dimorphic species M. gregaria s. l.. Based on adequate geographic coverage and multiple independent polymorphic loci, there is no indication that each phenotype may have a unique genetic basis, leaving phenotypic plasticity or localized genomic islands of speciation as possible explanations.

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