In September, Joanna Kelley traveled to Berlin, Germany to present her work on sulfidic fish at EMBO’s workshop Beyond the standard: Non-model vertebrates in biomedicine. A summary of her talk can be found here.
In an era of unprecedented global change, exploring patterns of gene expression among wild populations across their geographic range is crucial for characterizing adaptive potential. However, few of these studies have identified transcriptomic signatures to multivariate, environmental stimuli among populations in their natural environments. In this study, Fraik et al. identified environmental and sex-driven patterns of gene expression in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), a critically endangered species that occupies a heterogeneous environment. No transcriptome-wide patterns of differential gene expression were detected, consistent with previous studies that documented low levels of genetic variation in the species. However, genes previously implicated in local adaptation (Fraik et al. 2019, Biorxiv) to abiotic environment in devils were enriched for differentially expressed genes. Additionally, modules of co-expressed genes were significantly associated with both geographic location and sex. This study revealed that candidate-gene approaches to transcriptomic studies of naturally sampled wildlife populations may be necessary to capture gene expression changes in response to complex multivariate environments.
Fraik, A.K., Quackenbush, C., Margres, M.J., Comte, S., Hamilton, D.G., Kozakiewicz, C.P., Jones, M., Hamede, R., Hohenlohe, P.A., Storfer, A., Kelley, J.L. Transcriptomics of tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) ear tissue reveals homogeneous gene expression patterns across a heterogeneous landscape. Genes 2019, 10, 801. *Corresponding author
Saving the Tasmanian Devil, a new book by Dorothy Hinshaw, features Alex’s time in the field in Tasmania studying devil facial tumor disease.
Shawn Trojahn details his work using grizzly bear transcriptomics to compare gene expression in the hibernating versus active phases of a bear’s life.
Various animals have colonized caves, and in the course of evolution, many have lost their eyes. We still do not fully understand how the loss of an entire organ unfolds as organisms adapt to dark caves. In this study, Ph.D. student Kerry McGowan and colleagues examined a small fish, the cave molly, that colonized caves relatively recently and exhibits functional eyes that are reduced in size. Using gene expression analyses, McGowan et al. showed that several eye-related genes are expressed less in cave mollies compared to their surface ancestors. Evolution has modified many of these genes in other completely blind cavefishes, suggesting that cave adaptation may occur in similar fashions.
McGowan KL*, Passow CN, Arias-Rodriguez L, Tobler M, Kelley JL. 2019. Expression analyses of cave mollies (Poecilia mexicana) reveal key genes involved in the early evolution of eye regression. Biol Lett. 15(10):1-7.
A cavefish from the Cueva del Azufre system in southern Mexico.
Note the small eye. PC: Michael Tobler.
Permanent ice cover by glaciers and snowfields is a dominant physical force in mountain ecosystems. From an ecological perspective, constant ice cover places harsh controls on life including cold temperature, limited nutrient availability, and often prolonged darkness due to snow cover for much of the year. Despite these limitations, glaciers, and perennial snowfields support diverse, primarily microbial communities. In a new review, postdoc in the lab Scott Hotaling and colleagues we synthesize existing knowledge of ecological stoichiometry, nutrient availability, and food webs in the mountain cryosphere (specifically glaciers and perennial snowfields).
Ren, Z.*, Martyniuk, N.*, Oleksy, I.A.*, Swain, A.*, & Hotaling, S.† (2019) Ecological stoichiometry of the mountain cryosphere. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:360. *co-first author; †corresponding author
Thrilled that our paper on gene expression changes in brown bears during hibernation is out today in @CommsBio with co-authors Shawn Trojahn, Heiko Jansen, Omar Cornejo, Charlie Robbins, and others. #WSUbears A link to the article is here: rdcu.be/bQ077
- Hibernation Works for Bears. Could It Work for Us, Too? NYTimes
- Grizzlies show remarkable gene control before and during hibernation Phys.org
- Grizzly research reveals remarkable genetic regulation during hibernation Science Daily
- WSU grizzly research reveals remarkable genetic regulation during hibernation 7th Space Family Portal
- Genetic Preparation for Hibernation Is Key for Grizzly Bears Technology Networks
- Fascinating ways animals prepare for fall National Geographic
- Fascinating ways animals prepare for autumn MSN
- Could hibernation help reduce obesity? BioTechniques
Joanna is a co-PI on the Evolution in Changing Seas RCN and spent the week at the Synthesis Workshop at Shoals Marine Lab. It was a diverse group of marine and evolutionary biologist who are coming together to develop integrated frameworks for studying adaptation to ocean change. There is a great writeup in the Molecular Ecologist about the workshop.
Graduate student Alex Fraik started her 6 month NSF funded internship with Krista Nichols at NOAA. While most of her project will be analyzing existing datasets on fish before and after dam removal, she had a chance to participate in some fieldwork.