- Phylogenetic support values are not necessarily informative : the case of the Serialia hypothesis (a mollusk phylogeny) (2009)
- Background: Molecular phylogenies are being published increasingly and many biologists rely on the most recent topologies. However, different phylogenetic trees often contain conflicting results and contradict significant background data. Not knowing how reliable traditional knowledge is, a crucial question concerns the quality of newly produced molecular data. The information content of DNA alignments is rarely discussed, as quality statements are mostly restricted to the statistical support of clades. Here we present a case study of a recently published mollusk phylogeny that contains surprising groupings, based on five genes and 108 species, and we apply new or rarely used tools for the analysis of the information content of alignments and for the filtering of noise (masking of random-like alignment regions, split decomposition, phylogenetic networks, quartet mapping). Results: The data are very fragmentary and contain contaminations. We show that that signal-like patterns in the data set are conflicting and partly not distinct and that the reported strong support for a "rather surprising result" (monoplacophorans and chitons form a monophylum Serialia) does not exist at the level of primary homologies. Split-decomposition, quartet mapping and neighbornet analyses reveal conflicting nucleotide patterns and lack of distinct phylogenetic signal for the deeper phylogeny of mollusks. Conclusion: Even though currently a majority of molecular phylogenies are being justified with reference to the 'statistical' support of clades in tree topologies, this confidence seems to be unfounded. Contradictions between phylogenies based on different analyses are already a strong indication of unnoticed pitfalls. The use of tree-independent tools for exploratory analyses of data quality are highly recommended. Concerning the new mollusk phylogeny more convincing evidence is needed.
- Transcriptomic evidence that longevity of acquired plastids in the photosynthetic slugs Elysia timida and Plakobrachus ocellatus does not entail lateral transfer of algal nuclear genes (2010)
- Sacoglossan sea slugs are unique in the animal kingdom in that they sequester and maintain active plastids that they acquire from the siphonaceous algae upon which they feed, making the animals photosynthetic. While most sacoglossan species digest their freshly ingested plastids within hours, four species from the family Plakobranchidae retain their stolen plastids (kleptoplasts) in a photosynthetically active state on time scales of weeks to months. The molecular basis of plastid maintenance within the cytosol of digestive gland cells in these photosynthetic metazoans is yet unknown, but is widely thought to involve gene transfer from the algal food source to the slugs based upon previous investigations of single genes. Indeed, normal plastid development requires hundreds of nuclear-encoded proteins, with protein turnover in photosystem II in particular known to be rapid under various conditions. Moreover, only algal plastids, not the algal nuclei, are sequestered by the animals during feeding. If algal nuclear genes are transferred to the animal either during feeding or in the germ line, and if they are expressed, then they should be readily detectable with deep-sequencing methods. We have sequenced expressed mRNAs from actively photosynthesizing, starved individuals of two photosynthetic sea slug species, Plakobranchus ocellatus Van Hasselt, 1824 and Elysia timida Risso, 1818. We find that nuclear-encoded, algal-derived genes specific to photosynthetic function are expressed neither in P. ocellatus nor in E. timida. Despite their dramatic plastid longevity, these photosynthetic sacoglossan slugs do not express genes acquired from algal nuclei in order to maintain plastid function.
- The taxonomist - an endangered race : a practical proposal for its survival (2011)
- Background: Taxonomy or biological systematics is the basic scientific discipline of biology, postulating hypotheses of identity and relationships, on which all other natural sciences dealing with organisms relies. However, the scientific contributions of taxonomists have been largely neglected when using species names in scientific publications by not citing the authority on which they are based. Discussion: Consequences of this neglect is reduced recognition of the importance of taxonomy, which in turn results in diminished funding, lower interest from journals in publishing taxonomic research, and a reduced number of young scientists entering the field. This has lead to the so-called taxonomic impediment at a time when biodiversity studies are of critical importance. Here we emphasize a practical and obvious solution to this dilemma. We propose that whenever a species name is used, the author(s) of the species hypothesis be included and the original literature source cited, including taxonomic revisions and identification literature - nothing more than what is done for every other hypothesis or assumption included in a scientific publication. In addition, we postulate that journals primarily publishing taxonomic studies should be indexed in ISISM. Summary: The proposal outlined above would make visible the true contribution of taxonomists within the scientific community, and would provide a more accurate assessment for funding agencies impact and importance of taxonomy, and help in the recruitment of young scientists into the field, thus helping to alleviate the taxonomic impediment. In addition, it would also make much of the biological literature more robust by reducing or alleviating taxonomic uncertainty. Keywords: Taxonomy crisis; taxonomic impediment; impact factor; original species description; citation index; systematics
- Opisthobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda) – more than just slimy slugs. Shell reduction and its implications on defence and foraging (2005)
- Background: In general shell-less slugs are considered to be slimy animals with a rather dull appearance and a pest to garden plants. But marine slugs usually are beautifully coloured animals belonging to the less-known Opisthobranchia. They are characterized by a large array of interesting biological phenomena, usually related to foraging and/or defence. In this paper our knowledge of shell reduction, correlated with the evolution of different defensive and foraging strategies is reviewed, and new results on histology of different glandular systems are included. Results: Based on a phylogeny obtained by morphological and histological data, the parallel reduction of the shell within the different groups is outlined. Major food sources are given and glandular structures are described as possible defensive structures in the external epithelia, and as internal glands. Conclusion: According to phylogenetic analyses, the reduction of the shell correlates with the evolution of defensive strategies. Many different kinds of defence structures, like cleptocnides, mantle dermal formations (MDFs), and acid glands, are only present in shell-less slugs. In several cases, it is not clear whether the defensive devices were a prerequisite for the reduction of the shell, or reduction occurred before. Reduction of the shell and acquisition of different defensive structures had an implication on exploration of new food sources and therefore likely enhanced adaptive radiation of several groups. © 2005 Wägele and Klussmann-Kolb; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited: http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/2/1/3/