Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday reads

A very happy New Year to all readers out there. I am back to posting after a brief holiday hibernation. Lots of interesting papers have been published in the last few weeks:

DNA barcoding is a global initiative for species identification through sequencing of short DNA sequence markers. Sequences of two loci, ITS and LSU, were generated as barcode data for all (ca. 9k) yeast strains included in the CBS collection, originally assigned to ca. 2 000 species. Taxonomic sequence validation turned out to be the most severe bottleneck due to the large volume of generated trace files and lack of reference sequences. We have analysed and validated CBS strains and barcode sequences automatically. Our analysis shows that there were 6 and 9.5 % of CBS yeast species that could not be distinguished by ITS and LSU, respectively. Among them, ∼3 % were indistinguishable by both loci. Except for those species, both loci were successfully resolving yeast species as the grouping of yeast DNA barcodes with the predicted taxonomic thresholds was more than 90 % similar to the grouping with respect to the expected taxon names. The taxonomic thresholds predicted to discriminate yeast species were 98.41 % for ITS and 99.51 % for LSU. To discriminate current yeast genera, thresholds were 96.31 % for ITS and 97.11 % for LSU. Using ITS and LSU barcodes, we were also able to show that the recent reclassifications of basidiomycetous yeasts in 2015 have made a significant improvement for the generic taxonomy of those organisms. The barcodes of 4 730 (51 %) CBS yeast strains of 1 351 (80 %) accepted yeast species that were manually validated have been released to GenBank and the CBS-KNAW website as reference sequences for yeast identification.

Inflow of matter and organisms may strongly affect the local density and diversity of organisms. This effect is particularly evident on shores where organisms with aquatic larval stages enter the terrestrial food web. The identities of such trophic links are not easily estimated as spiders, a dominant group of shoreline predator, have external digestion. We compared trophic links and the prey diversity of spiders on different shore types along the Baltic Sea: on open shores and on shores with a reed belt bordering the water. A priori, we hypothesized that the physical structure of the shoreline reduces the flow between ecosystem and the subsidies across the sea-land interface. To circumvent the lack of morphologically detectable remains of spider prey, we used a combination of stable isotope and molecular gut content analyses. The two tools used for diet analysis revealed complementary information on spider diets. The stable isotope analysis indicated that spiders on open shores had a marine signal of carbon isotopes, while spiders on reedy shores had a terrestrial signal. The molecular analysis revealed a diverse array of dipteran and lepidopteran prey, where spiders on open and reedy shores shared a similar diet with a comparable proportion of chironomids, the larvae of which live in the marine system. Comparing the methods suggests that differences in isotope composition of the two spider groups occurred because of differences in the chironomid diets: as larvae, chironomids of reedy shores likely fed on terrestrial detritus and acquired a terrestrial isotope signature, while chironomids of open shores utilized an algal diet and acquired a marine isotope signature. Our results illustrate how different methods of diet reconstruction may shed light on complementary aspects of nutrient transfer. Overall, they reveal that reed belts can reduce connectivity between habitats, but also function as a source of food for predators.

Amphibians are one of the most threatened vertebrate classes, yet at the same time new species are being described every year, demonstrating that the number of existing species is grossly underestimated. In groups such as amphibians, with high extinction rates and poorly known species boundaries, DNA barcoding is a tool that can rapidly assess genetic diversity and estimate species richness for prioritizing conservation decisions. However, reliable recovery of the 5' region of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) gene is critical for the ongoing effort to gather DNA barcodes for all amphibian species. Here we provide new PCR conditions and tested new primers that increase the efficiency of barcode recovery in amphibians. We found that a low extension temperature for PCR cycles significantly improves the efficiency of amplification for all combinations of primers. Combining low PCR extension temperature and primers AnF1 + AnR1 we were able to recover COI sequences for 100% of the species analyzed (N=161), encompassing ~15% of the species known from Brazil (representing 77 genera and 23 families), which is an important improvement over previous studies. The preliminary assessment of species diversity suggested that number of species might be underestimated by about 25%. We conclude that DNA barcoding is an efficient, simple, and standardized protocol for identifying cryptic diversity in amphibians and advocate for its use in biodiversity inventories and across widespread populations within known species.

The Antarctic marine environment is a diverse ecosystem currently experiencing some of the fastest rates of climatic change. The documentation and management of these changes requires accurate estimates of species diversity. Recently, there has been an increased recognition of the abundance and importance of cryptic species, i.e. those that are morphologically identical but genetically distinct. This article presents the largest genetic investigation into the prevalence of cryptic polychaete species within the deep Antarctic benthos to date. We uncover cryptic diversity in 50% of the 15 morphospecies targeted through the comparison of mitochondrial DNA sequences, as well as 10 previously overlooked morphospecies, increasing the total species richness in the sample by 233%. Our ability to describe universal rules for the detection of cryptic species within polychaetes, or normalization to expected number of species based on genetic data is prevented by taxon-specific differences in phylogenetic outputs and genetic variation between and within potential cryptic species. These data provide the foundation for biogeographic and functional analysis that will provide insight into the drivers of species diversity and its role in ecosystem function.

DNA barcoding has been used extensively to solve taxonomic questions and identify new species. Neotropical fishes are found in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with a large number of species yet to be described, many of which are very difficult to identify. Characidae is the most species-rich family of the Characiformes, and many of its genera are affected by taxonomic uncertainties, including the widely-distributed, species-rich genus Astyanax. In this study, we present an extensive analysis of Astyanax covering almost its entire area of occurrence, based on DNA barcoding. The use of different approaches (ABGD, GMYC and BIN) to the clustering of the sequences revealed ample consistency in the results obtained by the initial cutoff value of 2% divergence for putative species in the Neighbor-Joining analysis using the Kimura-2-parameter model. The results indicate the existence of five Astyanax lineages. Some groups, such as that composed by the trans-Andean forms, are mostly composed of well-defined species, and in others a number of nominal species are clustered together, hampering the delimitation of species, which in many cases proved impossible. The results confirm the extreme complexity of the systematics of the genus Astyanax and show that DNA barcoding can be an useful tool to address these complexes questions.

The sacoglossan sea slug species complex Plakobranchus ocellatus is a common algivore throughout the tropical Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands. Plakobranchus ocellatus is kleptoplastic - it sequesters and retains algal chloroplasts - a characteristic that can be exploited to molecularly characterize diminutive bryopsidalean algae that are typically difficult to locate, collect, and identify. Previous DNA barcode analyses of both P. ocellatus and its kleptoplasts have been conducted primarily in the western Pacific and have only minimally sampled the most eastern populations in the Hawaiian Islands. Using two chloroplast markers rbcL and tufA, kleptoplast samples from an O'ahu population of P. ocellatus were amplified and cloned to identify their algal sources. Plakobranchus ocellatus sequester chloroplasts from up to 11 bryopsidalean algal species, all but one being diminutive in thallus size. Notably, eight of the detected algal species were new records to the Hawaiian Islands. A sequestration preference study demonstrated that the O'ahu population of P. ocellatus preferentially sequesters chloroplasts from diminutive, epilithic taxa. Using coxI barcoding of P. ocellatus we showed the O'ahu population to be part of a clade that includes sequences from the neighboring island Maui, Australia, and the Philippines. The use of P. ocellatus as a novel sampling tool allows the exploration of the green algal community diversity and composition at a fine scale. 

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