Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday reads

Happy DNA Day! Has been a little while since the last post but I have been busy with a lot of different tasks and working myself into new projects. Here is hope that things will go back to normal slowly. Lots of interesting reads today starting with two of my own.

The School Malaise Trap Program (SMTP) provides a technologically sophisticated and scientifically relevant educational experience that exposes students to the diversity of life, enhancing their understanding of biodiversity while promoting environmental stewardship. Since 2013, the SMTP has allowed 15,000 students at 350 primary and secondary schools to explore insect diversity in Canadian schoolyards. Students at each school collected hundreds of insects for an analysis of DNA sequence variation that enabled their rapid identification to a species. Through this hands-on approach, they participated in a learning exercise that conveys a real sense of scientific discovery. As well, the students contributed valuable data to the largest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken: the International Barcode of Life project. To date, the SMTP has sequenced over 80,000 insect specimens, which includes representatives of 7,990 different species, nearly a tenth of the Canadian fauna. Both surprisingly and importantly, the collections generated the first DNA barcode records for 1,288 Canadian species.

To date the global initiative to barcode all fishes, FISH-BOL, has delivered barcodes for approximately 14,400 of the 30,000 fish species; there is still much to do to attain its ultimate goal of barcoding all the world’s fishes. One strategy to overcome local gaps is to initiate short but intensive efforts to collect and barcode as many species as possible from a small region – a barcode ‘blitz’. This study highlights one such event, for the marine waters around Lizard island in the Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia). Barcode records were obtained from 983 fishes collected over a two-week period. The resulting dataset comprised 358 named species and another 13 species that presently can only be reliably identified to genus level. Overall, this short expedition provided DNA barcodes for 13% of all marine fish species known to occur in Queensland.

The difficulty of censusing marine animal populations hampers effective ocean management. Analyzing water for DNA traces shed by organisms may aid assessment. Here we tested aquatic environmental DNA (eDNA) as an indicator of fish presence in the lower Hudson River estuary. A checklist of local marine fish and their relative abundance was prepared by compiling 12 traditional surveys conducted between 1988–2015. To improve eDNA identification success, 31 specimens representing 18 marine fish species were sequenced for two mitochondrial gene regions, boosting coverage of the 12S eDNA target sequence to 80% of local taxa. We collected 76 one-liter shoreline surface water samples at two contrasting estuary locations over six months beginning in January 2016. eDNA was amplified with vertebrate-specific 12S primers. Bioinformatic analysis of amplified DNA, using a reference library of GenBank and our newly generated 12S sequences, detected most (81%) locally abundant or common species and relatively few (23%) uncommon taxa, and corresponded to seasonal presence and habitat preference as determined by traditional surveys. Approximately 2% of fish reads were commonly consumed species that are rare or absent in local waters, consistent with wastewater input. Freshwater species were rarely detected despite Hudson River inflow. These results support further exploration and suggest eDNA will facilitate fine-scale geographic and temporal mapping of marine fish populations at relatively low cost.

We report the discovery of a non-native gammarid, Gammarus fossarum (Koch, 1836) (Crustacea, Amphipoda), in UK rivers. Gammarus fossarum is a common freshwater gammarid in many parts of mainland Europe, but was previously considered absent from the UK. Gammarus fossarum was detected in a number of UK rivers following DNA metabarcoding of a mini-barcode region of the COI gene in macroinvertebrate kick samples, and environmental DNA (eDNA) from water and sediment samples. Subsequent morphological analysis and standard DNA barcoding showed that the species could be reliably identified and separated from Gammarus pulex (Linnaeus, 1758), the most dominant and widespread native freshwater gammarid in the UK. Our data demonstrate extensive geographical coverage of G. fossarum in the UK, spanning distant river catchments. At present there is no data to confirm the likely origin of G. fossarum’s introduction. Subsequent re-examination of historic archive material shows the species to have been present in the UK since at least 1964. This study is among the first to demonstrate the potential of eDNA metabarcoding for detection of new non-native species. 

Consumption of frog legs is increasing worldwide, with potentially dramatic effects for ecosystems. More and more functioning frog farms are reported to exist. However, due to the lack of reliable methods to distinguish farmed from wild-caught individuals, the origin of frogs in the international trade is often uncertain. Here, we present a new methodological approach to this problem. We investigated the isotopic composition of legally traded frog legs from suppliers in Vietnam and Indonesia. Muscle and bone tissue samples were examined for δ15N, δ13C, and δ18O stable isotope compositions, to elucidate the conditions under which the frogs grew up. We used DNA barcoding (16S rRNA) to verify species identities. We identified three traded species (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus, Fejervarya cancrivora and Limnonectes macrodon); species identities were partly deviating from package labeling. Isotopic values of δ15N and δ18O showed significant differences between species and country of origin. Based on low δ15N composition and generally little variation in stable isotope values, our results imply that frogs from Vietnam were indeed farmed. In contrast, the frogs from the Indonesian supplier likely grew up under natural conditions, indicated by higher δ15N values and stronger variability in the stable isotope composition. Our results indicate that stable isotope analyses seem to be a useful tool to distinguish between naturally growing and intensively farmed frogs. We believe that this method can be used to improve the control in the international trade of frog legs, as well as for other biological products, thus supporting farming activities and decreasing pressure on wild populations. However, we examined different species from different countries and had no access to samples of individuals with confirmed origin and living conditions. Therefore, we suggest improving this method further with individuals of known origin and history, preferably including samples of the respective nutritive bases.

Biological diversity is depleting at an alarming rate. Additionally, a vast amount of biodiversity still remains undiscovered. Taxonomy has been serving the purpose of describing, naming, and classifying species for more than 250 years. DNA taxonomy and barcoding have accelerated the rate of this process, thereby providing a tool for conservation practice. DNA barcoding and traditional taxonomy have their own inherent merits and demerits. The synergistic use of both methods, in the form of integrative taxonomy, has the potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation in a pragmatic timeframe and overcome their individual drawbacks. In this review, we discuss the basics of both these methods of biological identification- traditional taxonomy and DNA barcoding, the technical advances in integrative taxonomy, and future trends. We also present a comprehensive compilation of published examples of integrative taxonomy that refer to nine topics within biodiversity conservation. Morphological and molecular species limits were observed to be congruent in ~41% of the 58 source studies. The majority of the studies highlighted the description of cryptic diversity through the use of molecular data, whereas research areas like endemism, biological invasion, and threatened species were less discussed in the literature.

Effective vector and arbovirus surveillance requires timely and accurate screening techniques that can be easily upscaled. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a high-throughput technology that has the potential to modernise vector surveillance. When combined with DNA barcoding, it is termed 'metabarcoding'. The aim of our study was to establish a metabarcoding protocol to characterise pools of mosquitoes and screen them for virus. Pools contained 100 morphologically identified individuals, including one Ross River virus (RRV) infected mosquito, with three species present at different proportions: 1, 5, 94%. Nucleic acid extracted from both crude homogenate and supernatant was used to amplify a 269 bp section of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) locus. Additionally, a 67 bp region of the RRV E2 gene was amplified from synthesised cDNA to screen for RRV. Amplicon sequencing was performed using an Illumina MiSeq, and bioinformatic analysis was performed using a DNA barcode database of Victorian mosquitoes. Metabarcoding successfully detected all mosquito species and RRV in every positive sample tested. The limits of species detection were also examined by screening a pool of 1000 individuals, successfully identifying the species and RRV from a single mosquito. The primers used for amplification, number of PCR cycles, and total number of individuals present all have effects on the quantification of species in mixed bulk samples. Based on the results, a number of recommendations for future metabarcoding studies are presented. Overall, metabarcoding shows great promise for providing a new alternative approach to screening large insect surveillance trap catches. 

The potential of DNA barcoding approaches to identify single species and characterize species compositions strongly depends on the marker choice. The prominent "Folmer region", a 648 basepair fragment at the 5' end of the mitochondrial CO1 gene, has been traditionally applied as a universal DNA barcoding region for metazoans. In order to find a suitable marker for biomonitoring odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), we here explore a new region of the CO1 gene (CO1B) for DNA barcoding in 51 populations of 23 dragonfly and damselfly species. We compare the "Folmer region", the mitochondrial ND1 gene (NADH dehydrogenase 1) and the new CO1 region with regard to (i) speed and reproducibility of sequence generation, (ii) levels of homoplasy and (iii) numbers of diagnostic characters for discriminating closely related sister taxa and populations. The performances of the gene regions regarding these criteria were quite different. Both, the amplification of CO1B and ND1 was highly reproducible and CO1B showed the highest potential for discriminating sister taxa at different taxonomic levels. In contrast, the amplification of the "Folmer region" using the universal primers was difficult and the third codon positions of this fragment have experienced nucleotide substitution saturation. Most important, exploring this new barcode region of the CO1 gene identified a higher discriminating power between closely related sister taxa. Together with the design of layered barcode approaches adapted to the specific taxonomic "environment", this new marker will further enhance the discrimination power at the species level.

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