Monday, September 25, 2017

Metabarcoding and Metagenomics Journal is out


As announced before the new journal Metabarcoding and Metagenomics has been created by Pensoft and now it is officially running with the first few articles published. Here a part of the official press release:

A new innovative open-access academic journal Metabarcoding and Metagenomics (MBMG) is launched to welcome novel papers from both basic and applied aspects.

Focusing on genetic approaches to study biodiversity across all ecosystems, MBMG covers a considerably large scope of research including environmental, microbial and applied metabarcoding and metagenomics (especially DNA-based bioassessment and -monitoring, quarantine, nature conservation, species invasions, eDNA surveillance), as well as associated topics, such as molecular ecology, DNA-based species delimitation and identification, and other emerging related fields. Submissions of bioinformatic approaches to MBMG (algorithms, software) are also encouraged.

Featuring novel article formats and data publishing workflows, MBMG is to reflect the rapid growth in the use of metabarcoding and metagenomics in life and environmental sciences.

For the full release please read here.

I am serving as deputy Editor-in-chief for the journal and I am really looking forward to the deluge of publications to come.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekend reads

More to read including some from the rather large backlog. Have a great weekend with some good reads.

DNA barcoding involves the use of one or more short, standardized DNA fragments for the rapid identification of species. A 648-bp segment near the 5' terminus of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene has been adopted as the universal DNA barcode for members of the animal kingdom, but its utility in mushrooms is complicated by the frequent occurrence of large introns. As a consequence, ITS has been adopted as the standard DNA barcode marker for mushrooms despite several shortcomings. This study employed newly designed primers coupled with cDNA analysis to examine COI sequence diversity in six species of Pleurotus and compared these results with those for ITS. The ability of the COI gene to discriminate six species of Pleurotus, the commonly cultivated oyster mushroom, was examined by analysis of cDNA. The amplification success, sequence variation within and among species, and the ability to design effective primers was tested. We compared ITS sequences to their COI cDNA counterparts for all isolates. ITS discriminated between all six species, but some sequence results were uninterpretable, because of length variation among ITS copies. By comparison, a complete COI sequences were recovered from all but three individuals of Pleurotus giganteus where only the 5' region was obtained. The COI sequences permitted the resolution of all species when partial data was excluded for P. giganteus. Our results suggest that COI can be a useful barcode marker for mushrooms when cDNA analysis is adopted, permitting identifications in cases where ITS cannot be recovered or where it offers higher resolution when fresh tissue is. The suitability of this approach remains to be confirmed for other mushrooms.

Environmental bulk samples often contain many different taxa that vary several orders of magnitude in biomass. This can be problematic in DNA metabarcoding and metagenomic high-throughput sequencing approaches, as large specimens contribute disproportionately high amounts of DNA template. Thus, a few specimens of high biomass will dominate the dataset, potentially leading to smaller specimens remaining undetected. Sorting of samples by specimen size (as a proxy for biomass) and balancing the amounts of tissue used per size fraction should improve detection rates, but this approach has not been systematically tested. Here, we explored the effects of size sorting on taxa detection using two freshwater macroinvertebrate bulk samples, collected from a low-mountain stream in Germany. Specimens were morphologically identified and sorted into three size classes (body size < 2.5 × 5, 5 × 10, and up to 10 × 20 mm). Tissue powder from each size category was extracted individually and pooled based on tissue weight to simulate samples that were not sorted by biomass ("Unsorted"). Additionally, size fractions were pooled so that each specimen contributed approximately equal amounts of biomass ("Sorted"). Mock samples were amplified using four different DNA metabarcoding primer sets targeting the Cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene. Sorting taxa by size and pooling them proportionately according to their abundance lead to a more equal amplification of taxa compared to the processing of complete samples without sorting. The sorted samples recovered 30% more taxa than the unsorted samples at the same sequencing depth. Our results imply that sequencing depth can be decreased approximately fivefold when sorting the samples into three size classes and pooling by specimen abundance. Even coarse size sorting can substantially improve taxa detection using DNA metabarcoding. While high-throughput sequencing will become more accessible and cheaper within the next years, sorting bulk samples by specimen biomass or size is a simple yet efficient method to reduce current sequencing costs.

Second-generation, high-throughput sequencing methods have greatly improved our understanding of the ecology of soil microorganisms, yet the short barcodes (< 500 bp) provide limited taxonomic and phylogenetic information for species discrimination and taxonomic assignment. Here, we utilized the third-generation Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) RSII and Sequel instruments to evaluate the suitability of full-length internal transcribed spacer (ITS) barcodes and longer rRNA gene amplicons for metabarcoding Fungi, Oomycetes and other eukaryotes in soil samples. Metabarcoding revealed multiple errors and biases: Taq polymerase substitution errors and mis-incorporating indels in sequencing homopolymers constitute major errors; sequence length biases occur during PCR, library preparation, loading to the sequencing instrument and quality filtering; primer-template mismatches bias the taxonomic profile when using regular and highly degenerate primers. The RSII and Sequel platforms enable the sequencing of amplicons up to 3000 bp, but the sequence quality remains slightly inferior to Illumina sequencing especially in longer amplicons. The full ITS barcode and flanking rRNA small subunit gene greatly improve taxonomic identification at the species and phylum levels, respectively. We conclude that PacBio sequencing provides a viable alternative for metabarcoding of organisms that are of relatively low diversity, require > 500-bp barcode for reliable identification or when phylogenetic approaches are intended.

INTRODUCTION:
Herbal medicines play an important role globally in the health care sector and in industrialised countries they are often considered as an alternative to mono-substance medicines. Current quality and authentication assessment methods rely mainly on morphology and analytical phytochemistry-based methods detailed in pharmacopoeias. Herbal products however are often highly processed with numerous ingredients, and even if these analytical methods are accurate for quality control of specific lead or marker compounds, they are of limited suitability for the authentication of biological ingredients.
OBJECTIVE:
To review the benefits and limitations of DNA barcoding and metabarcoding in complementing current herbal product authentication.
METHOD:
Recent literature relating to DNA based authentication of medicinal plants, herbal medicines and products are summarised to provide a basic understanding of how DNA barcoding and metabarcoding can be applied to this field.
RESULTS:
Different methods of quality control and authentication have varying resolution and usefulness along the value chain of these products. DNA barcoding can be used for authenticating products based on single herbal ingredients and DNA metabarcoding for assessment of species diversity in processed products, and both methods should be used in combination with appropriate hyphenated chemical methods for quality control.
CONCLUSIONS:
DNA barcoding and metabarcoding have potential in the context of quality control of both well and poorly regulated supply systems. Standardisation of protocols for DNA barcoding and DNA sequence-based identification are necessary before DNA-based biological methods can be implemented as routine analytical approaches and approved by the competent authorities for use in regulated procedures. 

An understanding of how biotic interactions shape species' distributions is central to predicting host-symbiont responses under climate change. Switches to locally adapted algae have been proposed to be an adaptive strategy of lichen-forming fungi to cope with environmental change. However, it is unclear how lichen photobionts respond to environmental gradients, and whether they play a role in determining the fungal host's upper and lower elevational limits. Deep-coverage Illumina DNA metabarcoding was used to track changes in the community composition of Trebouxia algae associated with two phylogenetically closely related, but ecologically divergent fungal hosts along a steep altitudinal gradient in the Mediterranean region. We detected the presence of multiple Trebouxia species in the majority of thalli. Both altitude and host genetic identity were strong predictors of photobiont community assembly in these two species. The predominantly clonally dispersing fungus showed stronger altitudinal structuring of photobiont communities than the sexually reproducing host. Elevation ranges of the host were not limited by the lack of compatible photobionts. Our study sheds light on the processes guiding the formation and distribution of specific fungal-algal combinations in the lichen symbiosis. The effect of environmental filtering acting on both symbiotic partners appears to shape the distribution of lichens.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weekend reads

Back after a longer hiatus with more reads for you. Too much work and a little bit of vacation in between didn't allow for much posting. Let's if some reshuffling of things work better. Well, enough about me, back to other's papers (although the first is mine ;-) ):

Continuously increasing demand for plant and animal products causes unsustainable depletion of biological resources. It is estimated that one-quarter of sharks and rays are threatened worldwide and although the global fin trade is widely recognized as a major driver, demand for meat, liver oil, and gill plates also represents a significant threat. This study used DNA barcoding and 16 S rRNA sequencing as a method to identify shark and ray species from dried fins and gill plates, obtained in Canada, China, and Sri Lanka. 129 fins and gill plates were analysed and searches on BOLD produced matches to 20 species of sharks and five species of rays or – in two cases – to a species pair. Twelve of the species found are listed or have been approved for listing in 2017 in the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), including the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which was surprisingly found among both shark fin and gill plate samples. More than half of identified species fall under the IUCN Red List categories ‘Endangered’ and ‘Vulnerable’, raising further concerns about the impacts of this trade on the sustainability of these low productivity species.

Community assembly is determined by a combination of historical events and contemporary processes that are difficult to disentangle, but eco-evolutionary mechanisms may be uncovered by the joint analysis of species and genetic diversity across multiple sites. Mountain streams across Europe harbour highly diverse macroinvertebrate communities whose composition and turnover (replacement of taxa) among sites and regions remain poorly known. We studied whole-community biodiversity within and among six mountain regions along a latitudinal transect from Morocco to Scandinavia at three levels of taxonomic hierarchy: genus, species and haplotypes. Using DNA barcoding of four insect families (>3100 individuals, 118 species) across 62 streams, we found that measures of local and regional diversity and intraregional turnover generally declined slightly towards northern latitudes. However, at all hierarchical levels we found complete (haplotype) or high (species, genus) turnover among regions (and even among sites within regions), which counters the expectations of Pleistocene postglacial northward expansion from southern refugia. Species distributions were mostly correlated with environmental conditions, suggesting a strong role of lineage- or species-specific traits in determining local and latitudinal community composition, lineage diversification and phylogenetic community structure (e.g., loss of Coleoptera, but not Ephemeroptera, at northern sites). High intraspecific genetic structure within regions, even in northernmost sites, reflects species-specific dispersal and demographic histories and indicates postglacial migration from geographically scattered refugia, rather than from only southern areas. Overall, patterns were not strongly concordant across hierarchical levels, but consistent with the overriding influence of environmental factors determining community composition at the species and genus levels.

Throughout the world DNA banks are used as storage repositories for genetic diversity of organisms ranging from plants to insects to mammals. Designed to preserve the genetic information for organisms of interest, these banks also indirectly preserve organisms’ associated microbiomes, including fungi associated with plant tissues. Studies of fungal biodiversity lag far behind those of macroorganisms, such as plants, and estimates of global fungal richness are still widely debated. Utilizing previously collected specimens to study patterns of fungal diversity could significantly increase our understanding of overall patterns of biodiversity from snapshots in time. Here, we investigated the fungi inhabiting the phylloplane among species of the endemic Hawaiian plant genus, Clermontia (Campanulaceae). Utilizing next generation DNA amplicon sequencing, we uncovered approximately 1,780 fungal operational taxonomic units from just 20 DNA bank samples collected throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. Using these historical samples, we tested the macroecological pattern of decreasing community similarity with decreasing geographic proximity. We found a significant distance decay pattern among Clermontia associated fungal communities. This study provides the first insights into elucidating patterns of microbial diversity through the use of DNA bank repository samples.

Metabarcoding of environmental samples has many challenges and limitations that require carefully considered laboratory and analysis workflows to ensure reliable results. We explore how decisions regarding study design, laboratory set-up, and bioinformatic processing affect the final results, and provide guidelines for reliable study of environmental samples.
We evaluate the performance of four primer sets targeting COI and 16S regions characterizing arthropod diversity in bat faecal samples, and investigate how metabarcoding results are affected by parameters including: (1) number of PCR replicates per sample, (2) sequencing depth, (3) PCR replicate processing strategy (i.e. either additively, by combining the sequences obtained from the PCR replicates, or restrictively, by only retaining sequences that occur in multiple PCR replicates for each sample), (4) minimum copy number for sequences to be retained, (5) chimera removal, and (6) similarity thresholds for Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) clustering. Lastly, we measure within- and between-taxa dissimilarities when using sequences from public databases to determine the most appropriate thresholds for OTU clustering and taxonomy assignment.
Our results show that the use of multiple primer sets reduces taxonomic biases and increases taxonomic coverage. Taxonomic profiles resulting from each primer set are principally affected by how many PCR replicates are carried out per sample and how sequences are filtered across them, the sequence copy number threshold and the OTU clustering threshold. We also report considerable diversity differences between PCR replicates from each sample. Sequencing depth increases the dissimilarity between PCR replicates unless the bioinformatic strategies to remove allegedly artefactual sequences are adjusted according to the number of analysed sequences. Finally, we show that the appropriate identity thresholds for OTU clustering and taxonomy assignment differ between markers.
Metabarcoding of complex environmental samples ideally requires (1) investigation of whether more than one primer sets targeting the same taxonomic group is needed to offset primer biases, (2) more than one PCR replicate per sample, (3) bioinformatic processing of sequences that balance diversity detection with removal of artefactual sequences, and (4) empirical selection of OTU clustering and taxonomy assignment thresholds tailored to each marker and the obtained taxa.

Precision and reliability of barcode-based biodiversity assessment can be affected at several steps during acquisition and analysis of data. Identification of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) is one of the crucial steps in the process and can be accomplished using several different approaches, namely, alignment-based, probabilistic, tree-based and phylogeny-based. The number of identified sequences in the reference databases affects the precision of identification. This paper compares the identification of marine nematode OTUs using alignment-based, tree-based and phylogeny-based approaches. Because the nematode reference dataset is limited in its taxonomic scope, OTUs can only be assigned to higher taxonomic categories, families. The phylogeny-based approach using the evolutionary placement algorithm provided the largest number of positively assigned OTUs and was least affected by erroneous sequences and limitations of reference data, compared to alignment-based and tree-based approaches.

Biota monitoring in ports is increasingly needed for biosecurity reasons and safeguarding marine biodiversity from biological invasion. Present and future international biosecurity directives can be accomplished only if the biota acquired by maritime traffic in ports is controlled. Methodologies for biota inventory are diverse and now rely principally on extensive and labor-intensive sampling along with taxonomic identification by experts. In this study, we employed an extremely simplified environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling methodology from only three 1-L bottles of water per port, followed by metabarcoding (high-throughput sequencing and DNA-based species identification) using 18S rDNA and Cytochrome oxidase I as genetic barcodes. Eight Bay of Biscay ports with available inventory of fouling invertebrates were employed as a case study. Despite minimal sampling efforts, three invasive invertebrates were detected: the barnacle Austrominius modestus, the tubeworm Ficopomatus enigmaticus and the polychaete Polydora triglanda. The same species have been previously found from visual and DNA barcoding (genetic identification of individuals) surveys in the same ports. The current costs of visual surveys, conventional DNA barcoding and this simplified metabarcoding protocol were compared. The results encourage the use of metabarcoding for early biosecurity alerts.

The DNA barcode reference library for Lepidoptera holds much promise as a tool for taxonomic research and for providing the reliable identifications needed for conservation assessment programs. We gathered sequences for the barcode region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene from 160 of the 176 nominal species of Erebidae moths (Insecta: Lepidoptera) known from the Iberian Peninsula. These results arise from a research project which constructing a DNA barcode library for the insect species of Spain. New records for 271 specimens (122 species) are coupled with preexisting data for 38 species from the Iberian fauna. Mean interspecific distance was 12.1%, while the mean nearest neighbour divergence was 6.4%. All 160 species possessed diagnostic barcode sequences, but one pair of congeneric taxa (Eublemma rosea and Eublemma rietzi) were assigned to the same BIN. As well, intraspecific sequence divergences higher than 1.5% were detected in four species which likely represent species complexes. This study reinforces the effectiveness of DNA barcoding as a tool for monitoring biodiversity in particular geographical areas and the strong correspondence between sequence clusters delineated by BINs and species recognized through detailed taxonomic analysis.

In this experimental study the patterns in early marine biofouling communities and possible implications for surveillance and environmental management were explored using metabarcoding, viz. 18S ribosomal RNA gene barcoding in combination with high-throughput sequencing. The community structure of eukaryotic assemblages and the patterns of initial succession were assessed from settlement plates deployed in a busy port for one, five and 15 days. The metabarcoding results were verified with traditional morphological identification of taxa from selected experimental plates. Metabarcoding analysis identified > 400 taxa at a comparatively low taxonomic level and morphological analysis resulted in the detection of 25 taxa at varying levels of resolution. Despite the differences in resolution, data from both methods were consistent at high taxonomic levels and similar patterns in community shifts were observed. A high percentage of sequences belonging to genera known to contain non-indigenous species (NIS) were detected after exposure for only one day.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Online course on Metabarcoding

Its that time time of the year! In collaboration the the University of Guelph Open Ed department we are running another iteration of the distance education course on Metabarcoding taught by myself.
There are still spots available and the course will be running September 25 to October 20, 2017

This 4-week, web-based course provides an overview of the state of current technology and the various platforms used. The course consists of a series of online lectures and research exercises introducing different aspects of metabarcoding and environmental DNA research. I will also touch on the suite of bioinformatics tools available for sequence analysis and data interpretation.

We tried to cover as much as possible given the online format and the limited time participants usually have available to do such training. I am quite proud of it and feedback on last year's course was quite positive. The course is also designed with limited time resources of participants in mind. It usually takes an average of  four hours per week to go through the content and the materials. 

If you are interested there is still time to join. Sign up is here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Weekend reads

Another busy week with no further posts. That should change next week as I have build quite a list of things to write about. Nevertheless, I wanted to ensure that I provide my weekly dose of interesting new reads. Here we go.

Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of pathogens that affect wildlife, livestock and, occasionally, humans. Culicoides imicola (Kieffer, 1913) is considered to be the main vector of the pathogens that cause bluetongue disease (BT) and African horse sickness (AHS) in southern Europe. The study of blood-feeding patterns in Culicoides is an essential step towards understanding the epidemiology of these pathogens. Molecular tools that increase the accuracy and sensitivity of traditional methods have been developed to identify the hosts of potential insect vectors. However, to the present group's knowledge, molecular studies that identify the hosts of C. imicola in Europe are lacking. The present study genetically characterizes the barcoding region of C. imicola trapped on farms in southern Spain and identifies its vertebrate hosts in the area. The report also reviews available information on the blood-feeding patterns of C. imicola worldwide. Culicoides imicola from Spain feed on blood of six mammals that include species known to be hosts of the BT and AHS viruses. This study provides evidence of the importance of livestock as sources of bloodmeals for C. imicola and the relevance of this species in the transmission of BT and AHS viruses in Europe.

Analysis of physical evidence is typically a deciding factor in forensic casework by establishing what transpired at a scene or who was involved. Forensic geoscience is an emerging multi-disciplinary science that can offer significant benefits to forensic investigations. Soil is a powerful, nearly 'ideal' contact trace evidence, as it is highly individualistic, easy to characterise, has a high transfer and retention probability, and is often overlooked in attempts to conceal evidence. However, many real-life cases encounter close proximity soil samples or soils with low inorganic content, which cannot be easily discriminated based on current physical and chemical analysis techniques. The capability to improve forensic soil discrimination, and identify key indicator taxa from soil using the organic fraction is currently lacking. The development of new DNA sequencing technologies offers the ability to generate detailed genetic profiles from soils and enhance current forensic soil analyses. Here, we discuss the use of DNA metabarcoding combined with high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technology to distinguish between soils from different locations in a forensic context. Specifically, we provide recommendations for best practice, outline the potential limitations encountered in a forensic context and describe the future directions required to integrate soil DNA analysis into casework.

OBJECTIVE:
Analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) is a method that has been used for the detection of various species within water bodies. The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) has a short eDNA survey season (mid-April to June). Here we investigate whether this season could be extended into other months using the current methodology as stipulated by Natural England.
RESULTS:
Here we present data to show that in monthly water samples taken from two ponds (March 2014-February 2015) we were able to detect great crested newt DNA in all months in at least one of the ponds. Similar levels of great crested newt eDNA (i.e. highly positive identification) were detected through the months of March-August, suggesting it may be possible to extend the current survey window. In order to determine how applicable these observations are for ponds throughout the rest of the UK, further work in multiple other ponds over multiple seasons is suggested. Nevertheless, the current work clearly demonstrates, in two ponds, the efficacy and reproducibility of eDNA detection for determining the presence of great crested newts.

Gelatinous zooplankton are a large component of the animal biomass in all marine environments, but are considered to be uncommon in the diet of most marine top predators. However, the diets of key predator groups like seabirds have conventionally been assessed from stomach content analyses, which cannot detect most gelatinous prey. As marine top predators are used to identify changes in the overall species composition of marine ecosystems, such biases in dietary assessment may impact our detection of important ecosystem regime shifts. We investigated albatross diet using DNA metabarcoding of scats to assess the prevalence of gelatinous zooplankton consumption by two albatross species, one of which is used as an indicator species for ecosystem monitoring. Black-browed and Campbell albatross scats were collected from eight breeding colonies covering the circumpolar range of these birds over two consecutive breeding seasons. Fish was the main dietary item at most sites, however cnidarian DNA, primarily from scyphozoan jellyfish was present in 42% of samples overall and up to 80% of samples at some sites. Jellyfish was detected during all breeding stages and consumed by adults and chicks. Trawl fishery catches of jellyfish near the Falkland Islands indicate a similar frequency of jellyfish occurrence in albatross diets in years of high and low jellyfish availability, suggesting jellyfish consumption may be selective rather than opportunistic. Warmer oceans and overfishing of finfish are predicted to favour jellyfish population increases and we demonstrate here that dietary DNA metabarcoding enables measurements of the contribution of gelatinous zooplankton to the diet of marine predators.

An increasing number of studies are showing that Antarctic mega- and macrofauna are highly diverse, however, little is known about meiofaunal biodiversity in sediment communities, which are a vital part of a healthy and functional ecosystem. This is the first study to analyse community DNA (targeting meiofauna) using metabarcoding to investigate biodiversity levels in sediment communities of the Antarctic Peninsula. The results show that almost all of the meiofaunal biodiversity in the benthic habitat has yet to be characterised, levels of biodiversity were higher than expected and similar to temperate regions, albeit with the existence of potentially new and locally adapted species never described before at the molecular level. The Rothera meiofaunal sample sites showed four dominant eukaryotic groups, the nematodes, arthropods, platyhelminthes, and the annelids; some of which could comprise species complexes. Comparisons with deep-sea data from the same region suggest little exchange of Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) between depths with the nematodes prevalent at all depths, but sharing the shallow water benthos with the copepods. This study provides a preliminary analysis of benthic Antarctic Peninsula meiofauna using high throughput sequencing which substantiates how little is known on the biodiversity of one of the most diverse, yet underexplored communities of the Antarctic: the benthos.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Weekend reads

It is Friday again - time for another batch of papers to read over the weekend. Thanks to a very active community there is never a shortage of studies to chose from.

Advances in detection of genetic material from species in aquatic ecosystems, including environmental DNA (eDNA), have improved species monitoring and management. eDNA from target species can readily move in streams and rivers and the goal is to measure it, and with that infer where and how abundant species are, adding great value to delimiting species invasions, monitoring and protecting rare species, and estimating biodiversity. To date, we lack an integrated framework that identifies environmental factors that control eDNA movement in realistic, complex, and heterogeneous flowing waters. To this end, using an empirical approach and a simple conceptual model, we propose a framework of how eDNA is transported, retained, and resuspended in stream systems. Such an understanding of eDNA dispersal in streams will be essential for designing optimized sampling protocols and subsequently estimating biomass or organismal abundance. We also discuss guiding principles for more effective use of eDNA methods, highlighting the necessity of understanding these parameters for use in future predictive modeling of eDNA transport.

DNA sequencing brings another dimension to exploration of biodiversity, and large-scale mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I barcoding has exposed many potential new cryptic species. Here, we add complete nuclear genome sequencing to DNA barcoding, ecological distribution, natural history, and subtleties of adult color pattern and size to show that a widespread neotropical skipper butterfly known as Udranomia kikkawai (Weeks) comprises three different species in Costa Rica. Full-length barcodes obtained from all three century-old Venezuelan syntypes of U. kikkawai show that it is a rainforest species occurring from Costa Rica to Brazil. The two new species are Udranomia sallydaleyae Burns, a dry forest denizen occurring from Costa Rica to Mexico, and Udranomia tomdaleyi Burns, which occupies the junction between the rainforest and dry forest and currently is known only from Costa Rica. Whereas the three species are cryptic, differing but slightly in appearance, their complete nuclear genomes totaling 15 million aligned positions reveal significant differences consistent with their 0.00065-Mbp (million base pair) mitochondrial barcodes and their ecological diversification. DNA barcoding of tropical insects reared by a massive inventory suggests that the presence of cryptic species is a widespread phenomenon and that further studies will substantially increase current estimates of insect species richness.

Over the past decade, DNA barcoding has become a staple of low-cost molecular systematic investigations. The availability of universal primers and subsidized sequencing projects (PolarBOL, SharkBOL, SpongeBOL) have driven this popularity, often without appropriate investigation into the utility of barcoding data for the taxonomic group of interest. Here, our primary aim is to determine the phylogenetic value of DNA barcoding (mitochondrial locus COI) within the gecko genus Cyrtodactylus. With >40 new species described since last systematic investigation, Cyrtodactylus represents one of the most diverse extant squamate genera, and their contemporary distribution spans the Indian subcontinent, eastward through Indochina, and into AustraloPapua. The complex biogeographic history of this group, and morphology-only designation of many species have complicated our phylogenetic understanding of Cyrtodactylus. To highlight the need for continued inclusive molecular assessment, we use Vietnamese Cyrtodactylus as a case study showing the geopolitically paraphyletic nature of their history. We compare COI to the legacy marker ND2, and discuss the value of COI as an interspecific marker, as well as its shortcomings at deeper evolutionary scales. We draw attention back to the Cold Code as a subsidized method for incorporating molecular methods into species descriptions in the effort to maintain accurate phylogenies.

One of the fundamental patterns in macroecology is the increase in the number of observed taxa with size of sampled area. For microbes, the shape of this relationship remains less clear. The current study assessed the diversity of aquatic fungi, by the traditional approach based on conidial morphology (captures reproducing aquatic hyphomycetes) and next generation sequencing (NGS; captures other fungi as well), on graded sizes of alder leaves (0.6 to 13.6 cm2). Leaves were submerged in two streams in geographically distant locations: the Oliveira Stream in Portugal and the Boss Brook in Canada. Decay rates of alder leaves and fungal sporulation rates did not differ between streams. Fungal biomass was higher in Boss Brook than in Oliveira Stream, and in both streams almost 100% of the reads belonged to active fungal taxa. In general, larger leaf areas tended to harbour more fungi, but these findings were not consistent between techniques. Morphospecies-based diversity increased with leaf area in Boss Brook, but not in Oliveira Stream; metabarcoding data showed an opposite trend. The higher resolution of metabarcoding resulted in steeper taxa-accumulation curves than morphospecies-based assessments (fungal conidia morphology). Fungal communities assessed by metabarcoding were spatially structured by leaf area in both streams. Metabarcoding promises greater resolution to assess biodiversity patterns in aquatic fungi and may be more accurate for assessing taxa-area relationships and local to global diversity ratios.

BACKGROUND:
Bats are a highly successful, globally dispersed order of mammals that occupy a wide array of ecological niches. They are also intensely parasitized and implicated in multiple viral, bacterial and parasitic zoonosis. Trypanosomes are thought to be especially abundant and diverse in bats. In this study, we used 18S ribosomal RNA metabarcoding to probe bat trypanosome diversity in unprecedented detail.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:
Total DNA was extracted from the blood of 90 bat individuals (17 species) captured along Atlantic Forest fragments of EspĂ­rito Santo state, southeast Brazil. The 18S ribosomal RNA was amplified by standard and/or nested PCR, then deep sequenced to recover and identify Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) for phylogenetic analysis. Blood samples from 34 bat individuals (13 species) tested positive for infection by 18S rRNA amplification. Amplicon sequences clustered to 14 OTUs, of which five identified as Trypanosoma cruzi I, T. cruzi III/V, Trypanosoma cruzi marinkellei, Trypanosoma rangeli, and Trypanosoma dionisii, and seven identified as novel genotypes monophyletic to basal T. cruzi clade types of the New World. Another OTU was identified as a trypanosome like those found in reptiles. Surprisingly, the remaining OTU was identified as Bodo saltans-closest non-parasitic relative of the trypanosomatid order. While three blood samples featured just one OTU (T. dionisii), all others resolved as mixed infections of up to eight OTUs.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:
This study demonstrates the utility of next-generation barcoding methods to screen parasite diversity in mammalian reservoir hosts. We exposed high rates of local bat parasitism by multiple trypanosome species, some known to cause fatal human disease, others non-pathogenic, novel or yet little understood. Our results highlight bats as a long-standing nexus among host-parasite interactions of multiple niches, sustained in part by opportunistic and incidental infections of consequence to evolutionary theory as much as to public health.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

A look into a rumen

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Dietary choices are central to our understanding of ecology and evolution. Still, many aspects of food choice have been hampered by time consuming procedures and methodological problems. Faster and cheaper methods, such as DNA metabarcoding, have therefore been widely adopted.

Traditional visual techniques based on morphology for diet analysis are often limited in their ability to identify all items found in a stomach. Unrecognizable content has to be ignored which can shift relative proportions within analysis. This happens mostly when digestion is well advanced, leaving researchers without any characters that would enable visual identification. It is well known that this can lead to biased results in studies of processes such as food web interactions and energy flow through an ecosystem. DNA barcoding has been suggested as a tool to overcome these issues and over the last 6-7 years a number of studies has been published all of which showed the increase of resolution by utilizing molecular techniques. 

A new study by Swedish researchers looked at the use of metabarcoding to assess ungulate diet through rumen content. They were interested in the diet of Fallow Deer (Dama dama) and Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus).  In addition they set out to empirically compare metabarcoding to visual identifications. Not surprisingly, metabarcoding provided higher yield and precision of results although  they found that the methods were comparable, but they did not completely overlap. Sometimes the DNA method failed to identify food items that were found macroscopically...

When the colleagues applied both sets of data they found some very encouraging things.  In niche overlap analyses, presence/absence data showed that both methods came to very similar conclusions. When using the sequence count data and macroscopic weight, niche overlap was lower than when using presence-absence data yet tended to increase when using DNA compared to macroscopy. Nevertheless, the significant positive correlation between macroscopic quantity and number of DNA sequences counted from the same plant group give support for the use of metabarcoding to quantify plants in the rumen. 

Again, very promising evidence for the power of DNA barcoding in the context of dietary analysis. It would be very interesting to see how the results of this study correlate with an analysis of fecal samples. As a non-invasive method would increase sample size and effort quite extensively. The other suggestion I have is to use more than just one marker (here trnL). Include ITS or rbcL as well which might boost the metabarcoding success even more.