Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
The associations of the plant-ant Cladomyrma with plants in Southeast Asia
- In over 100 genera of tropical angiosperms, one or more species possess specialised structures for housing ants. The longevity and intimacy of these associations has often facilitated an increasing specialisation of both the ants and the plants, leading to a number of highly specific and obligate symbioses. Early literature contained only few anecdotal reports of the ant genus Cladomyrma WHEELER inhabiting (unidentified) plants. This work presents the new findings on Cladomyrma and its host plants that accumulated over the last two decades. My studies of Cladomyrma reveal that there is a largely overlooked community of south-east Asian plant-ants and their associated plants. Currently the genus consists of at least 12 species. Cladomyrma has been thought to be restricted to the ever-wet part of the West Malesian floristic region, comprising the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra, but recent collections from Thailand and Vietnam indicate that species of the genus penetrate the seasonal tropical forests of Continental Asia. Cladomyrma inhabits 24 plant species belonging to a surprisingly extensive range of plant taxa: Callerya, Saraca, Spatholobus (Fabaceae), Crypteronia (Crypteroniaceae), Drypetes (Putranjivaceae), Ryparosa (Achariaceae), Strychnos (Loganiaceae), Neonauclea (Rubiaceae), Luvunga (Rutaceae) and Sphenodesme (Verbenaceae). In terms of taxonomic diversity on the genus and family level the range of hosts utilised by Cladomyrma is one of the broadest ever recorded for any live stem-nesting plant-ant lineage worldwide. This work provides a species-level overview of all Cladomyrma host plants known from Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, including descriptions of ant-housing structures (domatia), ant inhabitant identity, onset of colonisation during plant ontogeny, nest structure, occupancy rate, and considerations of results obtained from herbarium specimens. Both the regularity of ant association and the degree of morphological specialisation toward myrmecophytism are assessed. The behavioural traits of Cladomyrma are compatible with traits exhibited by other protective plant-ants. This work demonstrates that all species of Cladomyrma investigated (dianeae, maschwitzi, yongi, petalae) confer antiherbivore protection to young leaves of its host. The ants also attack and repell or kill herbivorous insect larvae encountered on young foliage. Cleaning behaviour appears to be a trait shared by all members of the genus, and the two species tested (maschwitzi, petalae) successfully removed termite eggs experimentally placed onto young leaves. Another trait common to all known species of the genus is that the ants preferentially patrol young shoots and leaves ('neophily'). These behavioural traits of Cladomyrma likely reduce stem damage and pathogenic infection of their host. The ants prune encroaching vegetation (tested in dianeae maschwitzi, petalae, yongi, observed in crypteroniae) and attack paper tape used to mark host plants (observed in andrei, dianeae, hobbyi, nudidorsalis, maschwitzi, yongi, petalae). If these traits combined translate into a better reproductive success of the hosts has yet to be verified. Evidence for lifetime fitness benefits is particularly difficult to quantify for the long-lived woody host plants of Cladomyrma. The predominant food source of Cladomyrma appears to be the honeydew of scale insects (Coccidae and Pseudococcidae) which the ants tend inside their nest cavities. Observations on scale insect acquisition by Cladomyrma foundress queens show that hemipteran trophobionts are not transported by the queens on their nuptial flight but they nevertheless arrive on the host plant independently of the ants. Entry into nest chambers is facilitated by small holes kept open by the foundress queen. Most Cladomyrma species have been recorded from only one or two (three) host plant species (andrei, crypteroniae, hobbyi, maschwitzi, nudidorsalis, scopulosa, yongi), but two species, Cladomyrma petalae and C. dianeae, are more catholic in their host usage; the first being a 'generalist' plant-ant colonising hosts across a broad taxonomic range, the second inhabiting several members of the genus Neonauclea. First results of host-choice experiments with C. petalae are presented and the potential mechanisms promoting host specificity are discussed. My studies of the Cladomyrma/plant associations indicate that codiversification and host shifts or host expansions, rather than cospeciation, shape the pattern of species interactions in this system. Finally, I propose a scenario in which three key traits of Cladomyrma –access to live stems, utilisation of indirect food rewards via trophobionts and 'neophily'– are hypothesised to favour niche differentiation and the acquisition of new hosts over evolutionary time.
Genome sequence of the necrotrophic plant pathogen Pythium ultimum reveals original pathogenicity mechanisms and effector repertoire
C. André Lévesque
John P. Hamilton
Gregg P. Robideau
Marcelo M. Zerillo
Gordon W. Beakes
Jeffrey L. Boore
Susan I. Fuerstenberg
Claire M. M. Gachon
Rays H. Y. Jiang
Harold J. G. Meijer
Jason E. Stajich
Pieter van West
Brett R. Whitty
Pedro M. Coutinho
Paul D. Thomas
Brett M. Tyler
Ronald P. De Vries
C. Robin Buell
- Background: Pythium ultimum (P. ultimum) is a ubiquitous oomycete plant pathogen responsible for a variety of diseases on a broad range of crop and ornamental species. Results: The P. ultimum genome (42.8 Mb) encodes 15,290 genes and has extensive sequence similarity and synteny with related Phytophthora species, including the potato blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Whole transcriptome sequencing revealed expression of 86% of genes, with detectable differential expression of suites of genes under abiotic stress and in the presence of a host. The predicted proteome includes a large repertoire of proteins involved in plant pathogen interactions although surprisingly, the P. ultimum genome does not encode any classical RXLR effectors and relatively few Crinkler genes in comparison to related phytopathogenic oomycetes. A lower number of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism were present compared to Phytophthora species, with the notable absence of cutinases, suggesting a significant difference in virulence mechanisms between P. ultimum and more host specific oomycete species. Although we observed a high degree of orthology with Phytophthora genomes, there were novel features of the P. ultimum proteome including an expansion of genes involved in proteolysis and genes unique to Pythium. We identified a small gene family of cadherins, proteins involved in cell adhesion, the first report in a genome outside the metazoans. Conclusions: Access to the P. ultimum genome has revealed not only core pathogenic mechanisms within the oomycetes but also lineage specific genes associated with the alternative virulence and lifestyles found within the pythiaceous lineages compared to the Peronosporaceae.
A new species of the basal araneomorph spider genus Ectatosticta (Araneae, Hypochilidae) from China
Norman I. Platnick
- The hypochilid spider Ectatosticta davidi (Simon) is redescribed on the basis of adults from Mt. Taibaishan in Shaanxi Province, China; the specimens from Qinghai Province previously identified as E. davidi by most modern authors belong to a new species described as E. deltshevi. Keywords: Araneae, Araneomorphae, Hypochilidae, Ectatosticta, China
On the huntsman spider genera Sparianthina Banks, 1929 and Anaptomecus Simon, 1903 from South and Central America (Araneae, Sparassidae)
Cristina Anne Rheims
Facundo Martín Labarque
- The huntsman spider genera Sparianthina Banks, 1929 and Anaptomecus Simon, 1903 are reviewed. The type species of Sparianthina, Sparianthina selenopoides Banks, 1929, is redescribed, illustrated, and recorded from Costa Rica for the first time; a lectotype and paralectotype are designated. Three species are transferred to the genus: Sparianthina pumilla (Keyserling, 1880) comb. n. from Heteropoda Latreille, 1804 (lectotype and paralectotype are designated), Sparianthina rufescens (Mello-Leitão, 1940) comb. n. from Anaptomecus and Sparianthina milleri (Caporiacco, 1955) comb. n. from Macrinus Simon, 1887. The ♂ of S. rufescens (Mello-Leitão, 1940) comb. n. and the ♀ of S. milleri comb. n. are described for the first time. Three new species are described: Sparianthina adisi sp. n., S. deltshevi sp. n., and S. saaristoi sp. n. The male and female of Anaptomecus longiventris Simon, 1903 are described for the first time and the species is recorded from Panama for the first time. Two new species are described: Anaptomecus temii sp. n. and A. levyi sp. n. Keywords: Taxonomy, re-description, transfer, review
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
Sven B. Gould
- 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.
Morphology and Molecules Reveal Unexpected Cryptic Diversity in the Enigmatic Genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae)
Wolfgang A. Nässig
- The wild silkmoth genus Sinobirma Bryk, 1944 is a poorly known monotypic taxon from the eastern end of the Himalaya Range. It was convincingly proposed to be closely related to some members of an exclusively Afro-tropical group of Saturniidae, but its biogeographical and evolutionary history remains enigmatic. After examining recently collected material from Tibet, northern India, and northeastern Myanmar, we realized that this unique species, S. malaisei Bryk, 1944 only known so far from a few specimens and from a very restricted area near the border between north-eastern Myanmar and the Yunnan province of China, may in fact belong to a group of closely related cryptic species. In this work, we combined morphological comparative study, DNA barcoding, and the sequences of a nuclear marker (D2 expansion segment of the 28S rRNA gene) to unequivocally delimit three distinct species in the genus Sinobirma, of which two are described as new to science: S. myanmarensis sp. n. and S. bouyeri sp. n. An informative DNA barcode sequence was obtained from the female holotype of S. malaisei—collected in 1934—ensuring the proper assignation of this name to the newly collected and studied specimens. Our findings represent another example of the potential of coupling traditional taxonomy and DNA barcoding for revealing and solving difficult cases of cryptic diversity. This approach is now being generalized to the world fauna of Saturniidae, with the participation of most of the taxonomists studying these moths.
Species richness-environment relationships of European arthropods at two spatial grains: habitats and countries
Martin H. Entling
Ben A. Woodcock
- We study how species richness of arthropods relates to theories concerning net primary productivity, ambient energy, water-energy dynamics and spatial environmental heterogeneity. We use two datasets of arthropod richness with similar spatial extents (Scandinavia to Mediterranean), but contrasting spatial grain (local habitat and country). Samples of ground-dwelling spiders, beetles, bugs and ants were collected from 32 paired habitats at 16 locations across Europe. Species richness of these taxonomic groups was also determined for 25 European countries based on the Fauna Europaea database. We tested effects of net primary productivity (NPP), annual mean temperature (T), annual rainfall (R) and potential evapotranspiration of the coldest month (PETmin) on species richness and turnover. Spatial environmental heterogeneity within countries was considered by including the ranges of NPP, T, R and PETmin. At the local habitat grain, relationships between species richness and environmental variables differed strongly between taxa and trophic groups. However, species turnover across locations was strongly correlated with differences in T. At the country grain, species richness was significantly correlated with environmental variables from all four theories. In particular, species richness within countries increased strongly with spatial heterogeneity in T. The importance of spatial heterogeneity in T for both species turnover across locations and for species richness within countries suggests that the temperature niche is an important determinant of arthropod diversity. We suggest that, unless climatic heterogeneity is constant across sampling units, coarse-grained studies should always account for environmental heterogeneity as a predictor of arthropod species richness, just as studies with variable area of sampling units routinely consider area.
Simulated climate change conditions unveil the toxic potential of the fungicide pyrimethanil on the midge Chironomus riparius: a multigeneration experiment
Lucas S. Jagodzinski
Joao B. Diogo
- Although it has been suggested that temperature increase may alter the toxic potential of environmental pollutants, few studies have investigated the potential risk of chemical stressors for wildlife under Global Climate Change (GCC) impact. We applied a bifactorial multigeneration study in order to test if GCC conditions alter the effects of low pesticide concentrations on life history and genetic diversity of the aquatic model organism Chironomus riparius. Experimental populations of the species were chronically exposed to a low concentration of the fungicide pyrimethanil (half of the no-observed-adverse-effect concentration: NOAEC/2) under two dynamic present-day temperature simulations (11.0–22.7°C; 14.0–25.2°C) and one future scenario (16.5–28.1°C). During the 140-day multigeneration study, survival, emergence, reproduction, population growth, and genetic diversity of C. riparius were analyzed. Our results reveal that high temperature and pyrimethanil act synergistically on the midge C. riparius. In simulated present-day scenarios, a NOAEC/2 of pyrimethanil as derived from a life-cycle toxicity test provoked only slight-to-moderate beneficial or adverse effects on C. riparius. In contrast, exposure to a NOAEC/2 concentration of pyrimethanil at a thermal situation likely for a summer under GCC conditions uncovered adverse effects on mortality and population growth rate. In addition, genetic diversity was considerably reduced by pyrimethanil in the future scenario, but only slightly under current climatic conditions. Our multigeneration study under near-natural (climatic) conditions indicates that not only the impact of climate change, but also low concentrations of pesticides may pose a reasonable risk for aquatic insects in future.
Chemical composition of modern and fossil Hippopotamid teeth and implications for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and enamel formation - Part 1: Major and minor element variation
Thomas C. Brachert
Dieter F. Mertz
- Bioapatite in mammalian teeth is readily preserved in continental sediments and represents a very important archive for reconstructions of environment and climate evolution. This project provides a comprehensive data base of major, minor and trace element and isotope tracers for tooth apatite using a variety of microanalytical techniques. The aim is to identify specific sedimentary environments and to improve our understanding on the interaction between internal metabolic processes during tooth formation and external nutritional control and secondary alteration effects. Here, we use the electron microprobe to determine the major and minor element contents of fossil and modern molar enamel, cement and dentin from Hippopotamids. Most of the studied specimens are from different ecosystems in Eastern Africa, representing modern and fossil lacustrine (Lake Kikorongo, Lake Albert, and Lake Malawi) and modern fluvial environments of the Nile River system. Secondary alteration effects - in particular FeO, MnO, SO3 and F concentrations – are 2 to 10 times higher in fossil than in modern enamel; the secondary enrichment of these components in fossil dentin and cement is even higher. In modern and fossil enamel, along sections perpendicular to the enamel-dentin junction (EDJ) or along cervix-apex profiles, P2O5 and CaO contents and the CaO/P2O5 ratios are very constant (StdDev ∼1%). Linear regression analysis reveals tight control of the MgO (R2∼0.6), Na2O and Cl variation (for both R2>0.84) along EDJ-outer enamel rim profiles, despite large concentration variations (40% to 300%) across the enamel. These minor elements show well defined distribution patterns in enamel, similar in all specimens regardless of their age and origin, as the concentration of MgO and Na2O decrease from the enamel-dentin junction (EDJ) towards the outer rim, whereas Cl displays the opposite trend. Fossil enamel from Hippopotamids which lived in the saline Lake Kikorongo have a much higher MgO/Na2O ratio (∼1.11) than those from the Neogene fossils of Lake Albert (MgO/Na2O∼0.4), which was a large fresh water lake like those in the western Branch of the East African Rift System today. Similarly, the MgO/Na2O ratio in modern enamel from the White Nile River (∼0.36), which has a Precambrian catchment of dominantly granites and gneisses and passes through several saline zones, is higher than that from the Blue Nile River, whose catchment is the Neogene volcanic Ethiopian Highland (MgO/Na2O∼0.22). Thus, particularly MgO/Na2O might be a sensitive fingerprint for environments where river and lake water have suffered strong evaporation. Enamel formation in mammals takes place at successive mineralization fronts within a confined chamber where ion and molecule transport is controlled by the surrounding enamel organ. During the secretion and maturation phases the epithelium generates different fluid composition, which in principle, should determine the final composition of enamel apatite. This is supported by co-linear relationships between MgO, Cl and Na2O which can be interpreted as binary mixing lines. However, if maturation starts after secretion is completed, the observed element distribution can only be explained by equilibration of existing and addition of new apatite during maturation. It appears the initial enamel crystallites precipitating during secretion and the newly formed bioapatite crystals during maturation equilibrate with a continuously evolving fluid. During crystallization of bioapatite the enamel fluid becomes continuously depleted in MgO and Na2O, but enriched in Cl which results in the formation of MgO, and Na2O-rich, but Cl-poor bioapatite near the EDJ and MgO- and Na2O-poor, but Cl-rich bioapatite at the outer enamel rim. The linkage between lake and river water compositions, bioavailability of elements for plants, animal nutrition and tooth formation is complex and multifaceted. The quality and limits of the MgO/Na2O and other proxies have to be established with systematic investigations relating chemical distribution patterns to sedimentary environment and to growth structures developing as secretion and maturation proceed during tooth formation.
Impact of carnivory on human development and evolution revealed by a new unifying model of weaning in mammals
- Our large brain, long life span and high fertility are key elements of human evolutionary success and are often thought to have evolved in interplay with tool use, carnivory and hunting. However, the specific impact of carnivory on human evolution, life history and development remains controversial. Here we show in quantitative terms that dietary profile is a key factor influencing time to weaning across a wide taxonomic range of mammals, including humans. In a model encompassing a total of 67 species and genera from 12 mammalian orders, adult brain mass and two dichotomous variables reflecting species differences regarding limb biomechanics and dietary profile, accounted for 75.5%, 10.3% and 3.4% of variance in time to weaning, respectively, together capturing 89.2% of total variance. Crucially, carnivory predicted the time point of early weaning in humans with remarkable precision, yielding a prediction error of less than 5% with a sample of forty-six human natural fertility societies as reference. Hence, carnivory appears to provide both a necessary and sufficient explanation as to why humans wean so much earlier than the great apes. While early weaning is regarded as essentially differentiating the genus Homo from the great apes, its timing seems to be determined by the same limited set of factors in humans as in mammals in general, despite some 90 million years of evolution. Our analysis emphasizes the high degree of similarity of relative time scales in mammalian development and life history across 67 genera from 12 mammalian orders and shows that the impact of carnivory on time to weaning in humans is quantifiable, and critical. Since early weaning yields shorter interbirth intervals and higher rates of reproduction, with profound effects on population dynamics, our findings highlight the emergence of carnivory as a process fundamentally determining human evolution.