Friday, February 2, 2018

Weekend reads

Some good reads for the weekend and the long winter weeks to come (at least in North America according to a group of highly specialized groundhogs)

Metabarcoding potentially offers a rapid and cheap method of monitoring biodiversity, but real-world applications are few. We investigated its utility in studying patterns of litter arthropod diversity and composition in the tropics. We collected litter arthropods from 35 matched forest-plantation sites across Xishuangbanna, southwestern China. A new primer combination and the MiSeq platform were used to amplify and sequence a wide variety of litter arthropods using simulated and real-world communities. Quality filtered reads were clustered into 3,624 MOTUs at ≥97% similarity and the taxonomy of each MOTU was predicted. We compared diversity and compositional differences between forests and plantations (rubber and tea) for all MOTUs and for eight arthropod groups. We obtained ~100% detection rate after in silico sequencing six mock communities with known arthropod composition. Ordination showed that rubber, tea and forest communities formed distinct clusters. α-diversity declined significantly between forests and adjacent plantations for more arthropod groups in rubber than tea, and diversity of order Orthoptera increased significantly in tea. Turnover was higher in forests than plantations, but patterns differed among groups. Metabarcoding is useful for quantifying diversity patterns of arthropods under different land-uses and the MiSeq platform is effective for arthropod metabarcoding in the tropics.

DNA barcoding utilizes short standardized DNA sequences to identify species and is increasingly used in biodiversity assessments. The technique has unveiled an unforeseeably high number of morphologically cryptic species. However, if speciation has occurred relatively recently and rapidly, the use of single gene markers, and especially the exclusive use of mitochondrial markers, will presumably fail in delimitating species. Therefore, the true number of biological species might be even higher. One mechanism that can result in rapid speciation is hybridization of different species in combination with polyploidization, that is, allopolyploid speciation. In this study, we analyzed the population genetic structure of the polyploid freshwater snail Ancylus fluviatilis, for which allopolyploidization was postulated as a speciation mechanism. DNA barcoding has already revealed four cryptic species within A. fluviatilis (i.e., A. fluviatilis s. str., Ancylus sp. A-C), but early allozyme data even hint at the presence of additional cryptic lineages in Central Europe. We combined COI sequencing with high-resolution genome-wide SNP data (ddRAD data) to analyze the genetic structure of A. fluviatilis populations in a Central German low mountain range (Sauerland). The ddRAD data results indicate the presence of three cryptic species within A. fluviatilis s. str. occurring in sympatry and even syntopy, whereas mitochondrial sequence data only support the existence of one species, with shared haplotypes between species. Our study hence points to the limitations of DNA barcoding when dealing with organismal groups where speciation is assumed to have occurred rapidly, for example, through the process of allopolyploidization. We therefore emphasize that single marker DNA barcoding can underestimate the true species diversity and argue in strong favor of using genome-wide data for species delimitation in such groups.

We used complementary morphological and DNA metabarcoding approaches to characterize soil nematode communities in three cropping systems, conventional till (CT), no-till (NT) and organic (ORG), from a long-term field experiment. We hypothesized that organic inputs to the ORG system would promote a more abundant nematode community, and that the NT system would show a more structured trophic system (higher Bongers MI) than CT due to decreased soil disturbance. The abundance of Tylenchidae and Cephalobidae both showed positive correlations to soil organic carbon and nitrogen, which were highest in the ORG system. The density of omnivore-predator and bacterial-feeding nematodes was reduced in NT soils compared to CT, while some plant-parasitic taxa increased. NT soils had similar Bongers MI values to CT, suggesting they contained nematode communities associated with soils experiencing comparable levels of disturbance. Metabarcoding revealed within-family differences in nematode diversity. Shannon and Simpson's index values for the Tylenchidae and Rhabditidae were higher in the ORG system than CT. Compared to morphological analysis, metabarcoding over- or underestimated the prevalence of several nematode families and detected some families not observed based on morphology. Discrepancies between the techniques require further investigation to establish the accuracy of metabarcoding for characterization of soil nematode communities.

Microbial ecology has been profoundly advanced by the ability to profile complex microbial communities by sequencing of marker genes amplified from environmental samples. However, inclusion of appropriate controls is vital to revealing the limitations and biases of this technique. 'Mock community' samples, in which the composition and relative abundances of community members are known, are particularly valuable for guiding library preparation and data processing decisions. I generated a set of three mock communities using 19 different fungal taxa, and demonstrate their utility by contrasting amplicon sequencing data obtained for the same communities under modifications to PCR conditions during library preparation. Increasing the number of PCR cycles elevated rates of chimera formation, and of errors in the final dataset. Extension time during PCR had little impact on chimera formation, error rate, or observed community structure. Polymerase fidelity impacted error rates significantly. Despite a high error rate, a master mix optimized to minimize amplification bias yielded profiles that were most similar to the true community structure. Bias against particular taxa differed among ITS1 vs. ITS2 loci. Preclustering nearly identical reads substantially reduced error rates, but did not improve similarity to the expected community structure. Inaccuracies in amplicon sequence-based estimates of fungal community structure were associated with amplification bias and size selection processes, as well as variable culling rates among reads from different taxa. In some cases, the numerically dominant taxon was completely absent from final datasets, highlighting the need for further methodological improvements to avoid biased observations of community profiles.

PCR amplification bias is a well-known problem in metagenomic analysis of arthropod communities. In contrast, variation of DNA degradation rates is a largely neglected source of bias. Differential degradation of DNA molecules could cause underrepresentation of taxa in a community sequencing sample. Arthropods are often collected by passive sampling devices, like malaise traps. Specimens in such a trap are exposed to varying periods of suboptimal storage and possibly different rates of DNA degradation. Degradation bias could thus be a significant issue, skewing diversity estimates. Here, we estimate the effect of differential DNA degradation on the recovery of community diversity of Hawaiian arthropods and their associated microbiota. We use a simple DNA size selection protocol to test for degradation bias in mock communities, as well as passively collected samples from actual Malaise traps. We compare the effect of DNA degradation to that of varying PCR conditions, including primer choice, annealing temperature and cycle number. Our results show that DNA degradation does indeed bias community analyses. However, the effect of this bias is of minor importance compared to that induced by changes in PCR conditions. Analyses of the macro and microbiome from passively collected arthropod samples are thus well worth pursuing.

Intense landscaping often alters the plant composition in urban areas. Knowing which plant species that pollinators are visiting in urban areas is necessary for understanding how landscaping impacts biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. The cave nectar bat, Eonycteris spelaea, is an important pollinator for many plants and is often recorded in human-dominated habitats. Previous studies of the diet of E. spelaea relied on morphological identification of pollen grains found in faeces and on the body of bats and by necessity disregarded other forms of digested plant material present in the faeces (i.e., plant juice and remnants). The main objective of this study was to examine the diet of the nectarivorous bat, E. spelaea, roosting in an urban cave at Batu Caves, Peninsular Malaysia by identifying the plant material present in the faeces of bats using DNA metabarcoding.

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