De novo assembly of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin leucocyte transcriptome to identify putative genes involved in the aquatic adaptation and immune response.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), a marine mammal species inhabited in the waters of Southeast Asia, South Africa and Australia, has attracted much attention because of the dramatic decline in population size in the past decades, which raises the concern of extinction. So far, this species is poorly characterized at molecular level due to little sequence information available in public databases. Recent advances in large-scale RNA sequencing provide an efficient approach to generate abundant sequences for functional genomic analyses in the species with un-sequenced genomes. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We performed a de novo assembly of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin leucocyte transcriptome by Illumina sequencing. 108,751 high quality sequences from 47,840,388 paired-end reads were generated, and 48,868 and 46,587 unigenes were functionally annotated by BLAST search against the NCBI non-redundant and Swiss-Prot protein databases (E-value<10(-5)), respectively. In total, 16,467 unigenes were clustered into 25 functional categories by searching against the COG database, and BLAST2GO search assigned 37,976 unigenes to 61 GO terms. In addition, 36,345 unigenes were grouped into 258 KEGG pathways. We also identified 9,906 simple sequence repeats and 3,681 putative single nucleotide polymorphisms as potential molecular markers in our assembled sequences. A large number of unigenes were predicted to be involved in immune response, and many genes were predicted to be relevant to adaptive evolution and cetacean-specific traits. CONCLUSION: This study represented the first transcriptome analysis of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, an endangered species. The de novo transcriptome analysis of the unique transcripts will provide valuable sequence information for discovery of new genes, characterization of gene expression, investigation of various pathways and adaptive evolution, as well as identification of genetic markers.
Project description:Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) have attracted considerable attention due to their critically endangered status and related conservation issues, but their trophic relationships and ecological significance in coastal ecosystems are poorly understood. For instance, this species is noticeably more abundant in the Xin-Huwei River Estuary (Ex) of Western Taiwan than in the nearby Zhuoshui River Estuary (Ez), though it is unclear why the distribution shows such partitioning. To explore this topic, we conducted field surveys seasonally for two years from 2012 to 2013 and constructed Ecopath models of Ex, Ez, and an offshore site (Dm) to compare energy flow within the food webs. Model comparisons showed that the availability of food resources was the main factor influencing the biomass of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Specifically, its more frequent occurrence in Ex can be attributed to greater phytoplankton production and greater biomasses of macroinvertebrates and prey fish than in the other two areas. An increase in fishing activity might decrease the food availability and, consequently, the biomass of the dolphins. Although the decline in the dolphin population would increase the biomass of some prey fish species, local fishermen might not necessarily benefit from the decline due to the concurrent decrease of highly valued crabs and shrimp. Collectively, our work suggests that the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is a keystone species in tropical coastal waters of Taiwan, and thereby exhibit a disproportional large ecological impact given their relatively low abundance.
Project description:The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) is a small inshore species of odontocete cetacean listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Here, we report on the evolution of S. chinensis chromosomes from its cetruminant ancestor and elucidate the evolutionary history and population genetics of two neighboring S. chinensis populations. We found that breakpoints in ancestral chromosomes leading to S. chinensis could have affected the function of genes related to kidney filtration, body development, and immunity. Resequencing of individuals from two neighboring populations in the northwestern South China Sea, Leizhou Bay and Sanniang Bay, revealed genetic differentiation, low diversity, and small contemporary effective population sizes. Demographic analyses showed a marked decrease in the population size of the two investigated populations over the last ~4,000 years, possibly related to climatic oscillations. This study implies a high risk of extinction and strong conservation requirement for the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.
Project description:Little is known about the characteristics of ambient sound in shallow waters southwest of Hainan Island, China, a tropical habitat of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. The spatiotemporal patterns of soundscape in this area were thus studied and described here. Acoustic data collected from February 2018 to February 2019 at ten monitoring sites, spanning ~200 km of the coastline, were analyzed. The ambient sound characteristics in the investigated area showed significant spatiotemporal variations. Sound levels centered at 0.5 and 1 kHz were higher during dusk and night than other times of the day at all monitoring sites except for one. Higher sound levels at frequencies above 8 kHz were documented during autumn and winter at all sites except for three of them. Biological and anthropogenic sound sources including soniferous fishes, snapping shrimps, dolphins, ships, pile-driving activities, and explosions were identified during spectrogram analyses of a subsample of the dataset. The shipping noise was frequently detected throughout the monitoring sites. Spatiotemporal variations of the soundscape in the investigated waters provided baseline information on the local marine environment, which will be beneficial to the protection of the vulnerable Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin population recently discovered in the investigated waters.
Project description:Little is known about the Australian snubfin (Orcaella heinsohni) and Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) dolphins ('snubfin' and 'humpback dolphins', hereafter) of north-western Australia. While both species are listed as 'near threatened' by the IUCN, data deficiencies are impeding rigorous assessment of their conservation status across Australia. Understanding the genetic structure of populations, including levels of gene flow among populations, is important for the assessment of conservation status and the effective management of a species. Using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers, we assessed population genetic diversity and differentiation between snubfin dolphins from Cygnet (n?=?32) and Roebuck Bays (n?=?25), and humpback dolphins from the Dampier Archipelago (n?=?19) and the North West Cape (n?=?18). All sampling locations were separated by geographic distances >200 km. For each species, we found significant genetic differentiation between sampling locations based on 12 (for snubfin dolphins) and 13 (for humpback dolphins) microsatellite loci (FST?=?0.05-0.09; P<0.001) and a 422 bp sequence of the mitochondrial control region (FST?=?0.50-0.70; P<0.001). The estimated proportion of migrants in a population ranged from 0.01 (95% CI 0.00-0.06) to 0.13 (0.03-0.24). These are the first estimates of genetic diversity and differentiation for snubfin and humpback dolphins in Western Australia, providing valuable information towards the assessment of their conservation status in this rapidly developing region. Our results suggest that north-western Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins may exist as metapopulations of small, largely isolated population fragments, and should be managed accordingly. Management plans should seek to maintain effective population size and gene flow. Additionally, while interactions of a socio-sexual nature between these two species have been observed previously, here we provide strong evidence for the first documented case of hybridisation between a female snubfin dolphin and a male humpback dolphin.
Project description:The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), is a threatened marine mammal and belongs to the First Order of the National Key Protected Wild Aquatic Animals List in China. However, limited genomic information is available for studies of its population genetics and biological conservation. Here, we have assembled a genomic sequence of this species using a whole genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing strategy after a pilot low coverage genome survey. The total assembled genome size was 2.34?Gb: with a contig N50 of 67?kb and a scaffold N50 of 9?Mb (107.6-fold sequencing coverage). The S. chinensis genome contained 24,640 predicted protein-coding genes and had approximately 37% repeated sequences. The completeness of the genome assembly was evaluated by benchmarking universal single copy orthologous genes (BUSCOs): 94.3% of a total 4,104 expected mammalian genes were identified as complete, and 2.3% were identified as fragmented. This newly produced high-quality assembly and annotation of the genome will greatly promote the future studies of the genetic diversity, conservation and evolution.
Project description:Over the past few thousand years, human development and population expansion in southern China have led to local extirpation and population contraction of many terrestrial animals. At what extent this early human-induced environmental change has also affected coastal marine species remains poorly known. We investigated the demographic history of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) in the Pearl River Delta (PRD); an obligatory inshore species known for its susceptibility to anthropogenic impacts in one of China's most developed coastal regions. Although the deltaic evolution of PRD has been influenced by climate since the Holocene, ~74% reduction of the dolphin's effective population size occurred within the last 2000 years, consistent with ~61% habitat contraction during this period. This considerable and recent population contraction may have been due to land use practices and deforestation in the upper/middle Pearl River region, all leading to increasing sedimentation rate in the estuarine area. As anthropogenic impacts within the drainage of Pearl River affected a vast area, coastal dolphins and large terrestrial mammals in southern China may share a similar demographic history, whilst the demographic and biogeographic history of the PRD humpback dolphins may be symptomatic of similar processes that this species may have undergone elsewhere in the region.
Project description:Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis), also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, has been classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is a special cetacean species that lives in tropical and subtropical nearshore waters, with significant differences from other cetaceans. Here, we sequenced and assembled a draft genome of the Chinese white dolphin with a total length of 2.3 Gb and annotation of 18,387 protein-coding genes. Genes from certain expanded families are potentially involved in DNA replication and repairing, suggesting that they may be related to adaptation of this marine mammal to nearshore environments. We also discovered that its historical population had undergone a remarkable bottleneck incident before the Mindel glaciation. In addition, a comparative genomic survey on antihypertensive peptides (AHTPs) among five representative mammals with various residential habitats (such as remarkable differences in exogenous ion concentrations and sea depth) revealed that these small bioactive peptides were highly conserved among these examined mammals, and they had the most abundant hits in collagen subunit proteins, especially for two putative AHTP peptides Gly-Leu-Pro (GLP) and Leu-Gly-Pro (LGP). Our genome assembly will be a valuable resource for further genetic researches on adaptive ecology and conservation biology of cetaceans, and for in-depth investigations into bioactive peptides in aquatic and terrestrial mammals for development of peptide-based drugs to treat various human cardiovascular diseases.
Project description:It has been widely reported that the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is under balancing selection due to its immune function across terrestrial and aquatic mammals. The comprehensive studies at MHC and other neutral loci could give us a synthetic evaluation about the major force determining genetic diversity of species. Previously, a low level of genetic diversity has been reported among the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) in the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) using both mitochondrial marker and microsatellite loci. Here, the expression and sequence polymorphism of 2 MHC class II genes (DQB and DRB) in 32 S. chinensis from PRE collected between 2003 and 2011 were investigated. High ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rates, codon-based selection analysis, and trans-species polymorphism (TSP) support the hypothesis that balancing selection acted on S. chinensis MHC sequences. However, only 2 haplotypes were detected at either DQB or DRB loci. Moreover, the lack of deviation from the Hardy-Weinberg expectation at DRB locus combined with the relatively low heterozygosity at both DQB locus and microsatellite loci suggested that balancing selection might not be sufficient, which further suggested that genetic drift associated with historical bottlenecks was not mitigated by balancing selection in terms of the loss of MHC and neutral variation in S. chinensis. The combined results highlighted the importance of maintaining the genetic diversity of the endangered S. chinensis.