Two Antarctic penguin genomes reveal insights into their evolutionary history and molecular changes related to the Antarctic environment.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Penguins are flightless aquatic birds widely distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The distinctive morphological and physiological features of penguins allow them to live an aquatic life, and some of them have successfully adapted to the hostile environments in Antarctica. To study the phylogenetic and population history of penguins and the molecular basis of their adaptations to Antarctica, we sequenced the genomes of the two Antarctic dwelling penguin species, the Adélie penguin [Pygoscelis adeliae] and emperor penguin [Aptenodytes forsteri]. RESULTS:Phylogenetic dating suggests that early penguins arose ~60 million years ago, coinciding with a period of global warming. Analysis of effective population sizes reveals that the two penguin species experienced population expansions from ~1 million years ago to ~100 thousand years ago, but responded differently to the climatic cooling of the last glacial period. Comparative genomic analyses with other available avian genomes identified molecular changes in genes related to epidermal structure, phototransduction, lipid metabolism, and forelimb morphology. CONCLUSIONS:Our sequencing and initial analyses of the first two penguin genomes provide insights into the timing of penguin origin, fluctuations in effective population sizes of the two penguin species over the past 10 million years, and the potential associations between these biological patterns and global climate change. The molecular changes compared with other avian genomes reflect both shared and diverse adaptations of the two penguin species to the Antarctic environment.
Project description:Major, long-term environmental changes are projected in the Southern Ocean and these are likely to have impacts for marine predators such as the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae). Decadal monitoring studies have provided insight into the short-term environmental sensitivities of Adélie penguin populations, particularly to sea ice changes. However, given the long-term nature of projected climate change, it is also prudent to consider the responses of populations to environmental change over longer time scales. We investigated the population trajectory of Adélie penguins during the last glacial-interglacial transition to determine how the species was affected by climate warming over millennia. We focussed our study on East Antarctica, which is home to 30 % of the global population of Adélie penguins.Using mitochondrial DNA from extant colonies, we reconstructed the population trend of Adélie penguins in East Antarctica over the past 22,000 years using an extended Bayesian skyline plot method. To determine the relationship of East Antarctic Adélie penguins with populations elsewhere in Antarctica we constructed a phylogeny using mitochondrial DNA sequences.We found that the Adélie penguin population expanded 135-fold from approximately 14,000 years ago. The population growth was coincident with deglaciation in East Antarctica and, therefore, an increase in ice-free ground suitable for Adélie penguin nesting. Our phylogenetic analysis indicated that East Antarctic Adélie penguins share a common ancestor with Adélie penguins from the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc, with an estimated age of 29,000 years ago, in the midst of the last glacial period. This finding suggests that extant colonies in East Antarctica, the Scotia Arc and the Antarctic Peninsula were founded from a single glacial refuge.While changes in sea ice conditions are a critical driver of Adélie penguin population success over decadal and yearly timescales, deglaciation appears to have been the key driver of population change over millennia. This suggests that environmental drivers of population trends over thousands of years may differ to drivers over years or decades, highlighting the need to consider millennial-scale trends alongside contemporary data for the forecasting of species' abundance and distribution changes under future climate change scenarios.
Project description:Antarctica is considered a relatively uncontaminated region with regard to the infectious diseases because of its extreme environment, and isolated geography. For the genetic characterization and molecular epidemiology of the newly found penguin adenovirus in Antarctica, entire genome sequencing and annual survey of penguin adenovirus were conducted. The entire genome sequences of penguin adenoviruses were completed for two Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) and two Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua). The whole genome lengths and G+C content of penguin adenoviruses were found to be 24,630-24,662 bp and 35.5-35.6%, respectively. Notably, the presence of putative sialidase gene was not identified in penguin adenoviruses by Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends (RACE-PCR) as well as consensus specific PCR. The penguin adenoviruses were demonstrated to be a new species within the genus Siadenovirus, with a distance of 29.9-39.3% (amino acid, 32.1-47.9%) in DNA polymerase gene, and showed the closest relationship with turkey adenovirus 3 (TAdV-3) in phylogenetic analysis. During the 2008-2013 study period, the penguin adenoviruses were annually detected in 22 of 78 penguins (28.2%), and the molecular epidemiological study of the penguin adenovirus indicates a predominant infection in Chinstrap penguin population (12/30, 40%). Interestingly, the genome of penguin adenovirus could be detected in several internal samples, except the lymph node and brain. In conclusion, an analysis of the entire adenoviral genomes from Antarctic penguins was conducted, and the penguin adenoviruses, containing unique genetic character, were identified as a new species within the genus Siadenovirus. Moreover, it was annually detected in Antarctic penguins, suggesting its circulation within the penguin population.
Project description:Circoviruses infect a variety of animal species and have small (~1.8-2.2 kb) circular single-stranded DNA genomes. Recently a penguin circovirus (PenCV) was identified associated with an Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) with feather disorder and in the cloacal swabs of three asymptomatic Adélie Penguins at Cape Crozier, Antarctica. A total of 75 cloacal swab samples obtained from adults and chicks of three species of penguin (genus: Pygoscelis) from seven Antarctic breeding colonies (South Shetland Islands and Western Antarctic Peninsula) in the 2015-2016 breeding season were screened for PenCV. We identified new variants of PenCV in one Adélie Penguin and one Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) from Port Charcot, Booth Island, Western Antarctic Peninsula, a site home to all three species of Pygoscelid penguins. These two PenCV genomes (length of 1986 nucleotides) share > 99% genome-wide nucleotide identity with each other and share ~87% genome-wide nucleotide identity with the PenCV sequences described from Adélie Penguins at Cape Crozier ~4400 km away in East Antarctica. We did not find any evidence of recombination among PenCV sequences. This is the first report of PenCV in Chinstrap Penguins and the first detection outside of Ross Island, East Antarctica. Given the limited knowledge on Antarctic animal viral diversity, future samples from Antarctic wildlife should be screened for these and other viruses to determine the prevalence and potential impact of viral infections.
Project description:The contribution of climate change to shifts in a species' geographic distribution is a critical and often unresolved ecological question. Climate change in Antarctica is asymmetric, with cooling in parts of the continent and warming along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a circumpolar meso-predator exposed to the full range of Antarctic climate and is undergoing dramatic population shifts coincident with climate change. We used true presence-absence data on Adélie penguin breeding colonies to estimate past and future changes in habitat suitability during the chick-rearing period based on historic satellite observations and future climate model projections. During the contemporary period, declining Adélie penguin populations experienced more years with warm sea surface temperature compared to populations that are increasing. Based on this relationship, we project that one-third of current Adélie penguin colonies, representing ~20% of their current population, may be in decline by 2060. However, climate model projections suggest refugia may exist in continental Antarctica beyond 2099, buffering species-wide declines. Climate change impacts on penguins in the Antarctic will likely be highly site specific based on regional climate trends, and a southward contraction in the range of Adélie penguins is likely over the next century.
Project description:Despite its isolation and extreme climate, Antarctica is home to diverse fauna and associated microorganisms. It has been proposed that the most iconic Antarctic animal, the penguin, experiences low pathogen pressure, accounting for their disease susceptibility in foreign environments. There is, however, a limited understanding of virome diversity in Antarctic species, the extent of in situ virus evolution, or how it relates to that in other geographic regions. To assess whether penguins have limited microbial diversity we determined the RNA viromes of three species of penguins and their ticks sampled on the Antarctic peninsula. Using total RNA sequencing we identified 107 viral species, comprising likely penguin associated viruses (n?=?13), penguin diet and microbiome associated viruses (n?=?82), and tick viruses (n?=?8), two of which may have the potential to infect penguins. Notably, the level of virome diversity revealed in penguins is comparable to that seen in Australian waterbirds, including many of the same viral families. These data run counter to the idea that penguins are subject to lower pathogen pressure. The repeated detection of specific viruses in Antarctic penguins also suggests that rather than being simply spill-over hosts, these animals may act as key virus reservoirs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Penguins (Sphenisciformes) are a remarkable order of flightless wing-propelled diving seabirds distributed widely across the southern hemisphere. They share a volant common ancestor with Procellariiformes close to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (66 million years ago) and subsequently lost the ability to fly but enhanced their diving capabilities. With ?20 species among 6 genera, penguins range from the tropical Galápagos Islands to the oceanic temperate forests of New Zealand, the rocky coastlines of the sub-Antarctic islands, and the sea ice around Antarctica. To inhabit such diverse and extreme environments, penguins evolved many physiological and morphological adaptations. However, they are also highly sensitive to climate change. Therefore, penguins provide an exciting target system for understanding the evolutionary processes of speciation, adaptation, and demography. Genomic data are an emerging resource for addressing questions about such processes. RESULTS:Here we present a novel dataset of 19 high-coverage genomes that, together with 2 previously published genomes, encompass all extant penguin species. We also present a well-supported phylogeny to clarify the relationships among penguins. In contrast to recent studies, our results demonstrate that the genus Aptenodytes is basal and sister to all other extant penguin genera, providing intriguing new insights into the adaptation of penguins to Antarctica. As such, our dataset provides a novel resource for understanding the evolutionary history of penguins as a clade, as well as the fine-scale relationships of individual penguin lineages. Against this background, we introduce a major consortium of international scientists dedicated to studying these genomes. Moreover, we highlight emerging issues regarding ensuring legal and respectful indigenous consultation, particularly for genomic data originating from New Zealand Taonga species. CONCLUSIONS:We believe that our dataset and project will be important for understanding evolution, increasing cultural heritage and guiding the conservation of this iconic southern hemisphere species assemblage.
Project description:Wild birds harbor a huge diversity of avian avulaviruses (formerly avian paramyxoviruses). Antarctic penguin species have been screened for avian avulaviruses since the 1980s and, as such, are known hosts of these viruses. In this study, we screened three penguin species from the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula for avian avulaviruses. We show that Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) are hosts for four different avian avulavirus species, the recently described avian avulaviruses 17 to 19 and avian avulavirus 10-like, never before isolated in Antarctica. A total of 24 viruses were isolated and sequenced; avian avulavirus 17 was the most common, and phylogenetic analysis demonstrated patterns of occurrence, with different genetic clusters corresponding to penguin age and location. Following infection in specific-pathogen-free (SPF) chickens, all four avian avulavirus species were shed from the oral cavity for up to 7 days postinfection. There was limited shedding from the cloaca in a proportion of infected chickens, and all but one bird seroconverted by day 21. No clinical signs were observed. Taken together, we propose that penguin species, including Antarctic penguins, may be the central reservoir for a diversity of avian avulavirus species and that these viruses have the potential to infect other avian hosts.IMPORTANCE Approximately 99% of all viruses are still to be described, and in our changing world, any one of these unknown viruses could potentially expand their host range and cause epidemic disease in wildlife, agricultural animals, or humans. Avian avulavirus 1 causes outbreaks in wild birds and poultry and is thus well described. However, for many avulavirus species, only a single specimen has been described, and their viral ecology and epidemiology are unknown. Through the detection of avian avulaviruses in penguins from Antarctica, we have been able to expand upon our understanding of three avian avulavirus species (avian avulaviruses 17 to 19) and report a potentially novel avulavirus species. Importantly, we show that penguins appear to play a key role in the epidemiology of avian avulaviruses, and we encourage additional sampling of this avian group.
Project description:Microsatellites are valuable molecular markers for evolutionary and ecological studies. Next generation sequencing is responsible for the increasing number of microsatellites for non-model species. Penguins of the Pygoscelis genus are comprised of three species: Adélie (P. adeliae), Chinstrap (P. antarcticus) and Gentoo penguin (P. papua), all distributed around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic. The species have been affected differently by climate change, and the use of microsatellite markers will be crucial to monitor population dynamics. We characterized a large set of genome-wide microsatellites and evaluated polymorphisms in all three species. SOLiD reads were generated from the libraries of each species, identifying a large amount of microsatellite loci: 33,677, 35,265 and 42,057 for P. adeliae, P. antarcticus and P. papua, respectively. A large number of dinucleotide (66,139), trinucleotide (29,490) and tetranucleotide (11,849) microsatellites are described. Microsatellite abundance, diversity and orthology were characterized in penguin genomes. We evaluated polymorphisms in 170 tetranucleotide loci, obtaining 34 polymorphic loci in at least one species and 15 polymorphic loci in all three species, which allow to perform comparative studies. Polymorphic markers presented here enable a number of ecological, population, individual identification, parentage and evolutionary studies of Pygoscelis, with potential use in other penguin species.
Project description:Changes in penguin populations on the Antarctic Peninsula have been linked to several environmental factors, but the potentially devastating impact of volcanic activity has not been considered. Here we use detailed biogeochemical analyses to track past penguin colony change over the last 8,500 years on Ardley Island, home to one of the Antarctic Peninsula's largest breeding populations of gentoo penguins. The first sustained penguin colony was established on Ardley Island c. 6,700 years ago, pre-dating sub-fossil evidence of Peninsula-wide occupation by c. 1,000 years. The colony experienced five population maxima during the Holocene. Overall, we find no consistent relationships with local-regional atmospheric and ocean temperatures or sea-ice conditions, although the colony population maximum, c. 4,000-3,000 years ago, corresponds with regionally elevated temperatures. Instead, at least three of the five phases of penguin colony expansion were abruptly ended by large eruptions from the Deception Island volcano, resulting in near-complete local extinction of the colony, with, on average, 400-800 years required for sustainable recovery.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Energy landscapes provide an approach to the mechanistic basis of spatial ecology and decision-making in animals. This is based on the quantification of the variation in the energy costs of movements through a given environment, as well as how these costs vary in time and for different animal populations. Organisms as diverse as fish, mammals, and birds will move in areas of the energy landscape that result in minimised costs and maximised energy gain. Recently, energy landscapes have been used to link energy gain and variable energy costs of foraging to breeding success, revealing their potential use for understanding demographic changes.<h4>Methods</h4>Using GPS-temperature-depth and tri-axial accelerometer loggers, stable isotope and molecular analyses of the diet, and leucocyte counts, we studied the response of gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) and chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarcticus) penguins to different energy landscapes and resources. We compared species and gentoo penguin populations with contrasting population trends.<h4>Results</h4>Between populations, gentoo penguins from Livingston Island (Antarctica), a site with positive population trends, foraged in energy landscape sectors that implied lower foraging costs per energy gained compared with those around New Island (Falkland/Malvinas Islands; sub-Antarctic), a breeding site with fluctuating energy costs of foraging, breeding success and populations. Between species, chinstrap penguins foraged in sectors of the energy landscape with lower foraging costs per bottom time, a proxy for energy gain. They also showed lower physiological stress, as revealed by leucocyte counts, and higher breeding success than gentoo penguins. In terms of diet, we found a flexible foraging ecology in gentoo penguins but a narrow foraging niche for chinstraps.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The lower foraging costs incurred by the gentoo penguins from Livingston, may favour a higher breeding success that would explain the species' positive population trend in the Antarctic Peninsula. The lower foraging costs in chinstrap penguins may also explain their higher breeding success, compared to gentoos from Antarctica but not their negative population trend. Altogether, our results suggest a link between energy landscapes and breeding success mediated by the physiological condition.