Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Wo wächst die Palmyrapalme? : Mit Satellitendaten praxistaugliche Verbreitungskarten erstellen
Which morphological characteristics are most influenced by the host matrix in downy mildews? : A case study in Pseudoperonospora cubensis
- Before the advent of molecular phylogenetics, species concepts in the downy mildews, an economically important group of obligate biotrophic oomycete pathogens, have mostly been based upon host range and morphology. While molecular phylogenetic studies have confirmed a narrow host range for many downy mildew species, others, like Pseudoperonospora cubensis affect even different genera. Although often morphological differences were found for new, phylogenetically distinct species, uncertainty prevails regarding their host ranges, especially regarding related plants that have been reported as downy mildew hosts, but were not included in the phylogenetic studies. In these cases, the basis for deciding if the divergence in some morphological characters can be deemed sufficient for designation as separate species is uncertain, as observed morphological divergence could be due to different host matrices colonised. The broad host range of P. cubensis (ca. 60 host species) renders this pathogen an ideal model organism for the investigation of morphological variations in relation to the host matrix and to evaluate which characteristics are best indicators for conspecificity or distinctiveness. On the basis of twelve morphological characterisitcs and a set of twelve cucurbits from five different Cucurbitaceae tribes, including the two species, Cyclanthera pedata and Thladiantha dubia, hitherto not reported as hosts of P. cubensis, a significant influence of the host matrix on pathogen morphology was found. Given the high intraspecific variation of some characteristics, also their plasticity has to be taken into account. The implications for morphological species determination and the confidence limits of morphological characteristics are discussed. For species delimitations in Pseudoperonospora it is shown that the ratio of the height of the first ramification to the sporangiophore length, ratio of the longer to the shorter ultimate branchlet, and especially the length and width of sporangia, as well as, with some reservations, their ratio, are the most suitable characteristics for species delimitation.
Utility of arsenic-treated bird skins for DNA extraction
- Background: Natural history museums receive a rapidly growing number of requests for tissue samples from preserved specimens for DNA-based studies. Traditionally, dried vertebrate specimens were treated with arsenic because of its toxicity and insect-repellent effect. Arsenic has negative effects on in vivo DNA repair enzymes and consequently may inhibit PCR performance. In bird collections, foot pad samples are often requested since the feet were not regularly treated with arsenic and because they are assumed to provide substantial amounts of DNA. However, the actual influence of arsenic on DNA analyses has never been tested. Findings: PCR success of both foot pad and body skin samples was significantly lower in arsenic-treated samples. In general, foot pads performed better than body skin samples. Moreover, PCR success depends on collection date in which younger samples yielded better results. While the addition of arsenic solution to the PCR mixture had a clear negative effect on PCR performance after the threshold of 5.4 μg/μl, such high doses of arsenic are highly unlikely to occur in dried zoological specimens. Conclusions: While lower PCR success in older samples might be due to age effects and/or DNA damage through arsenic treatment, our results show no inhibiting effect on DNA polymerase. We assume that DNA degradation proceeds more rapidly in thin tissue layers with low cell numbers that are susceptible to external abiotic influences. In contrast, in thicker parts of a specimen, such as foot pads, the outermost horny skin may act as an additional barrier. Since foot pads often performed better than body skin samples, the intention to preserve morphologically important structures of a specimen still conflicts with the aim to obtain optimal PCR success. Thus, body skin samples from recently collected specimens should be considered as alternative sources of DNA.
Use of axonal projection patterns for the homologisation of cerebral nerves in Opisthobranchia, Mollusca and Gastropoda
Roger P. Croll
- Introduction: Gastropoda are guided by several sensory organs in the head region, referred to as cephalic sensory organs (CSOs). These CSOs are innervated by distinct nerves. This study proposes a unified terminology for the cerebral nerves and the categories of CSOs and then investigates the neuroanatomy and cellular innervation patterns of these cerebral nerves, in order to homologise them. The homologisation of the cerebral nerves in conjunction with other data, e.g. ontogenetic development or functional morphology, may then provide insights into the homology of the CSOs themselves.
Results: Nickel-lysine axonal tracing (“backfilling”) was used to stain the somata projecting into specific nerves in representatives of opisthobranch Gastropoda. Tracing patterns revealed the occurrence, size and relative position of somata and their axons and enabled these somata to be mapped to specific cell clusters. Assignment of cells to clusters followed a conservative approach based primarily on relative location of the cells. Each of the four investigated cerebral nerves could be uniquely identified due to a characteristic set of soma clusters projecting into the respective nerves via their axonal pathways.
Conclusions: As the described tracing patterns are highly conserved morphological characters, they can be used to homologise nerves within the investigated group of gastropods. The combination of adequate number of replicates and a comparative approach allows us to provide preliminary hypotheses on homologies for the cerebral nerves. Based on the hypotheses regarding cerebral nerve homology together with further data on ultrastructure and immunohistochemistry of CSOs published elsewhere, we can propose preliminary hypotheses regarding homology for the CSOs of the Opisthobranchia themselves.
Unravelling the functional biomechanics of dental features and tooth wear
Huynh Nhu Nguyen
- Most of the morphological features recognized in hominin teeth, particularly the topography of the occlusal surface, are generally interpreted as an evolutionary functional adaptation for mechanical food processing. In this respect, we can also expect that the general architecture of a tooth reflects a response to withstand the high stresses produced during masticatory loadings. Here we use an engineering approach, finite element analysis (FEA), with an advanced loading concept derived from individual occlusal wear information to evaluate whether some dental traits usually found in hominin and extant great ape molars, such as the trigonid crest, the entoconid-hypoconulid crest and the protostylid have important biomechanical implications. For this purpose, FEA was applied to 3D digital models of three Gorilla gorilla lower second molars (M2) differing in wear stages. Our results show that in unworn and slightly worn M2s tensile stresses concentrate in the grooves of the occlusal surface. In such condition, the trigonid and the entoconid-hypoconulid crests act to reinforce the crown locally against stresses produced along the mesiodistal groove. Similarly, the protostylid is shaped like a buttress to suffer the high tensile stresses concentrated in the deep buccal groove. These dental traits are less functional in the worn M2, because tensile stresses decrease physiologically in the crown with progressing wear due to the enlargement of antagonistic contact areas and changes in loading direction from oblique to nearly parallel direction to the dental axis. This suggests that the wear process might have a crucial influence in the evolution and structural adaptation of molars enabling to endure bite stresses and reduce tooth failure throughout the lifetime of an individual.
Tree migration-rates : narrowing the gap between inferred post-glacial rates and projected rates
Shonil A. Bhagwat
Katherine J. Willis
H. John B. Birks
- Faster-than-expected post-glacial migration rates of trees have puzzled ecologists for a long time. In Europe, post-glacial migration is assumed to have started from the three southern European peninsulas (southern refugia), where large areas remained free of permafrost and ice at the peak of the last glaciation. However, increasing palaeobotanical evidence for the presence of isolated tree populations in more northerly microrefugia has started to change this perception. Here we use the Northern Eurasian Plant Macrofossil Database and palaeoecological literature to show that post-glacial migration rates for trees may have been substantially lower (60–260 m yr–1) than those estimated by assuming migration from southern refugia only (115–550 m yr–1), and that early-successional trees migrated faster than mid- and late-successional trees. Post-glacial migration rates are in good agreement with those recently projected for the future with a population dynamical forest succession and dispersal model, mainly for early-successional trees and under optimal conditions. Although migration estimates presented here may be conservative because of our assumption of uniform dispersal, tree migration-rates clearly need reconsideration. We suggest that small outlier populations may be a key factor in understanding past migration rates and in predicting potential future range-shifts. The importance of outlier populations in the past may have an analogy in the future, as many tree species have been planted beyond their natural ranges, with a more beneficial microclimate than their regional surroundings. Therefore, climate-change-induced range-shifts in the future might well be influenced by such microrefugia.
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.
Top-down control of herbivory by birds and bats in the canopy of temperate broad-leaved oaks (Quercus robur)
Stefan M. Böhm
Konstans L. Wells
Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
- The intensive foraging of insectivorous birds and bats is well known to reduce the density of arboreal herbivorous arthropods but quantification of collateral leaf damage remains limited for temperate forest canopies. We conducted exclusion experiments with nets in the crowns of young and mature oaks, Quercus robur, in south and central Germany to investigate the extent to which aerial vertebrates reduce herbivory through predation. We repeatedly estimated leaf damage throughout the vegetation period. Exclusion of birds and bats led to a distinct increase in arthropod herbivory, emphasizing the prominent role of vertebrate predators in controlling arthropods. Leaf damage (e.g., number of holes) differed strongly between sites and was 59% higher in south Germany, where species richness of vertebrate predators and relative oak density were lower compared with our other study site in central Germany. The effects of bird and bat exclusion on herbivory were 19% greater on young than on mature trees in south Germany. Our results support previous studies that have demonstrated clear effects of insectivorous vertebrates on leaf damage through the control of herbivorous arthropods. Moreover, our comparative approach on quantification of leaf damage highlights the importance of local attributes such as tree age, forest composition and species richness of vertebrate predators for control of arthropod herbivory.
The taxonomist - an endangered race : a practical proposal for its survival
Johann Wolfgang Wägele
- 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
The second Young Environmental Scientist (YES) meeting 2011 at RWTH Aachen University - environmental challenges in a changing world
Matthias Leonhard Berens
Jochen P. Zubrod
- This article reports on the second Young Environmental Scientists Meeting that was hosted from 28 February to 2 March 2011 by the Institute for Environmental Research at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. This extraordinary meeting was again initiated and organized by the Student Advisory Council under the umbrella of Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Europe. A movie about the meeting and the abstracts of poster and platform presentations are freely available as supplemental material of this article.