Subterranean mammals show convergent regression in ocular genes and enhancers, along with adaptation to tunneling.
ABSTRACT: The underground environment imposes unique demands on life that have led subterranean species to evolve specialized traits, many of which evolved convergently. We studied convergence in evolutionary rate in subterranean mammals in order to associate phenotypic evolution with specific genetic regions. We identified a strong excess of vision- and skin-related genes that changed at accelerated rates in the subterranean environment due to relaxed constraint and adaptive evolution. We also demonstrate that ocular-specific transcriptional enhancers were convergently accelerated, whereas enhancers active outside the eye were not. Furthermore, several uncharacterized genes and regulatory sequences demonstrated convergence and thus constitute novel candidate sequences for congenital ocular disorders. The strong evidence of convergence in these species indicates that evolution in this environment is recurrent and predictable and can be used to gain insights into phenotype-genotype relationships.
Project description:The regressive evolution of eyes has long intrigued biologists yet the genetic underpinnings remain opaque. A system of discrete aquifers in arid Australia provides a powerful comparative means to explore trait regression at the genomic level. Multiple surface ancestors from two tribes of diving beetles (Dytiscidae) repeatedly invaded these calcrete aquifers and convergently evolved eye-less phenotypes. We use this system to assess transcription of opsin photoreceptor genes among the transcriptomes of two surface and three subterranean dytiscid species and test whether these genes have evolved under neutral predictions. Transcripts for UV, long-wavelength and ciliary-type opsins were identified from the surface beetle transcriptomes. Two subterranean beetles showed parallel loss of all opsin transcription, as expected under 'neutral' regressive evolution. The third species Limbodessus palmulaoides retained transcription of a long-wavelength opsin (lwop) orthologue, albeit in an aphotic environment. Tests of selection on lwop indicated no significant differences between transcripts derived from surface and subterranean habitats, with strong evidence for purifying selection acting on L. palmulaoides lwop. Retention of sequence integrity and the lack of evidence for neutral evolution raise the question of whether we have identified a novel pleiotropic role for lwop, or an incipient phase of pseudogene development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Alpine region harbours one of the most diverse subterranean faunas in the world, with many species showing extreme morphological modifications. The ground beetles of tribe Trechini (Coleoptera, Carabidae) are among the best studied and widespread groups with abundance of troglobionts, but their origin and evolution is largely unknown. RESULTS:We sequenced 3.4 Kb of mitochondrial (cox1, rrnL, trnL, nad1) and nuclear (SSU, LSU) genes of 207 specimens of 173 mostly Alpine species, including examples of all subterranean genera but two plus a representation of epigean taxa. We applied Bayesian methods and maximum likelihood to reconstruct the topology and to estimate divergence times using a priori rates obtained for a related ground beetle genus. We found three main clades of late Eocene-early Oligocene origin: (1) the genus Doderotrechus and relatives; (2) the genus Trechus sensu lato, with most anisotopic subterranean genera, including the Pyrenean lineage and taxa from the Dinaric Alps; and (3) the genus Duvalius sensu lato, diversifying during the late Miocene and including all subterranean isotopic taxa. Most of the subterranean genera had an independent origin and were related to epigean taxa of the same geographical area, but there were three large monophyletic clades of exclusively subterranean species: the Pyrenean lineage, a lineage including subterranean taxa from the eastern Alps and the Dinarides, and the genus Anophthalmus from the northeastern Alps. Many lineages have developed similar phenotypes independently, showing extensive morphological convergence or parallelism. CONCLUSIONS:The Alpine Trechini do not form a homogeneous fauna, in contrast with the Pyrenees, and show a complex scenario of multiple colonisations of the subterranean environment at different geological periods and through different processes. Examples go from populations of an epigean widespread species going underground with little morphological modifications to ancient, geographically widespread lineages of exclusively subterranean species likely to have diversified once fully adapted to the subterranean environment.
Project description:Genome-wide signatures of convergent evolution are widely expected but rarely revealed in animals. Subterranean rodent genome and transcriptome data produced by next-generation sequencing facilitate the use of phylogenetic methods to infer non-synonymous and synonymous substitution rates within coding regions, which can reveal changes at the molecular level that are correlated with the dramatic shift from a terrestrial to subterranean habitat.Our study used previously sequenced genome or transcriptome data of two subterranean rodents, the blind mole rat and naked mole rat, and their terrestrial relatives, the mouse and guinea pig, to investigate the genetic basis of rodent subterranean adaptation. An analysis of 4996 orthologous genes revealed that the substitution pace of coding sequences was significantly slower in the blind mole rat than in the mouse, and slower in the naked mole rat than in the guinea pig. The dN/dS ratio was significantly higher in the blind mole rat than in the mouse and in the naked mole rat than in the guinea pig. These patterns are most likely related to the longer generation time and lower effective population size of subterranean rodents caused by subterranean ecological constraints. We also identified some genes and gene ontology (GO) categories that might be candidates for adaptation to subterranean life.Our study reveals a case of subterranean convergent evolution in rodents that is correlated with change in the pace and mode of molecular evolution observed at the genome scale. We believe that this genomic signature could have also evolved in other cases of subterranean convergence. Additionally, the genes that displayed the most radical changes in their patterns of evolution and their associated GO categories provide a strong basis for further comparative and functional studies, and potentially reveal molecular signatures of adaptation to subterranean life.
Project description:Life underground has provided remarkable examples of adaptive evolution in subterranean mammals; however, genome-wide adaptive evolution to underground stresses still needs further research. There are approximately 250 species of subterranean mammals across three suborders and six families. These species not only inhabit hypoxic and dark burrows but also exhibit evolved adaptation to hypoxia, cancer resistance, and specialized sensory systems, making them an excellent model of evolution. The adaptive evolution of subterranean mammals has attracted great attention and needs further study. In the present study, phylogenetic analysis of 5,853 single-copy orthologous gene families of five subterranean mammals (Nannospalax galili, Heterocephalus glaber, Fukomys damarensis, Condylura cristata, and Chrysochloris asiatica) showed that they formed fou distinct clusters. This result is consistent with the traditional systematics of these species. Furthermore, comparison of the high-quality genomes of these five subterranean mammalian species led to the identification of the genomic signatures of adaptive evolution. Our results show that the five subterranean mammalian did not share positively selected genes but had similar functional enrichment categories, including hypoxia tolerance, immunity promotion, and sensory specialization, which adapted to the environment of underground stresses. Moreover, variations in soil hardness, climate, and lifestyles have resulted in different molecular mechanisms of adaptation to the hypoxic environment and different degrees of visual degradation. These results provide insights into the genome-wide adaptive evolution to underground stresses in subterranean mammals, with special focus on the characteristics of hypoxia adaption, immunity promotion, and sensory specialization response to the life underground.
Project description:The Mandarin vole (Lasiopodomys mandarinus), a typical subterranean rodent, has undergone hematological adaptations to tolerate the hypoxic/hypercapnic underground environment. Hemoglobin (Hb) genes encode respiratory proteins functioning principally in oxygen binding and transport to various tissues and organs. To investigate the evolution of ?- and ?-hemoglobin (Hb) in subterranean rodent species, we sequenced Hb genes of the Mandarin vole and the related aboveground Brandt's vole (L. brandtii). Sequencing showed that in both voles, ?-globin was encoded by a cluster of five functional genes in the following linkage order: HBZ, HBA-T1, HBQ-T1, HBA-T2, and HBQ-T2; among these, HBQ-T2 is a pseudogene in both voles. The ?-globin gene cluster in both voles also included five functional genes in the following linkage order: HBE, HBE/HBG, HBG, HBB-T1, and HBB-T2. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Mandarin vole underwent convergent evolution with its related aboveground species (Brandt's vole) but not with other subterranean rodent species. Selection pressure analyses revealed that ?- and ?-globin genes are under strong purifying selection (? < 1), and branch-site analyses identified positive selection sites on HBAT-T1 and HBB-T1 in different subterranean rodent species. This suggests that the adaptive evolution of these genes enhanced the ability of Hb to store and transport oxygen in subterranean rodent species. Our findings highlight the critical roles of Hb genes in the evolution of hypoxia tolerance in subterranean rodent species.
Project description:Among mammals, several lineages have independently adapted to a subterranean niche and possess similar phenotypic traits for burrowing (e.g., cylindrical bodies, short limbs, and absent pinnae). Previous research on mole-rats has revealed molecular adaptations for coping with reduced oxygen, elevated carbon dioxide, and the absence of light. In contrast, almost nothing is known regarding molecular adaptations in other subterranean lineages (e.g., true moles and golden moles). Therefore, the extent to which the recurrent phenotypic adaptations of divergent subterranean taxa have arisen via parallel routes of molecular evolution remains untested. To address these issues, we analyzed ?8,000 loci in 15 representative subterranean taxa of four independent transitions to an underground niche for signatures of positive selection and convergent amino acid substitutions. Complementary analyses were performed in nonsubterranean "control" taxa to assess the biological significance of results. We found comparable numbers of positively selected genes in each of the four subterranean groups; however, correspondence in terms of gene identity between gene sets was low. Furthermore, we did not detect evidence of more convergent amino acids among subterranean species pairs compared with levels found between nonsubterranean controls. Comparisons with nonsubterranean taxa also revealed loci either under positive selection or with convergent substitutions, with similar functional enrichment (e.g., cell adhesion, immune response, and coagulation). Given the limited indication that positive selection and convergence occurred in the same loci, we conclude that selection may have acted on different loci across subterranean mammal lineages to produce similar phenotypes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Vomeronasal type 1 receptor genes (V1Rs) are expected to detect intraspecific pheromones. It is believed that rodents rely heavily on pheromonal communication mediated by V1Rs, but pheromonal signals are thought to be confined in subterranean rodents that live in underground burrows. Thus, subterranean rodents may show a contrasting mode of V1R evolution compared with their superterranean relatives. RESULTS:We examined the V1R evolution in subterranean rodents by analyzing currently available genomes of 24 rodents, including 19 superterranean and 5 subterranean species from three independent lineages. We identified a lower number of putatively functional V1R genes in each subterranean rodent (a range of 22-40) compared with superterranean species (a range of 63-221). After correcting phylogenetic inertia, the positive correlation remains significant between the small V1R repertoire size and the subterranean lifestyle. To test whether V1Rs have been relaxed from functional constraints in subterranean rodents, we sequenced 22 intact V1Rs in 29 individuals of one subterranean rodent (Spalax galili) from two soil populations, which have been proposed to undergo incipient speciation. We found 12 of the 22 V1Rs to show significant genetic differentiations between the two natural populations, indicative of diversifying selection. CONCLUSION:Our study demonstrates convergent reduction of V1Rs in subterranean rodents from three independent lineages. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that most V1Rs in the two Spalax populations are under diversifying selection rather than relaxed selection, suggesting that functional constraints on these genes may have retained in some subterranean species.
Project description:Evolution of the middle ear ossicles was a key innovation for mammals, enhancing the transmission of airborne sound. Radiation into various habitats from a terrestrial environment resulted in diversification of the auditory mechanisms among mammals. However, due to the paucity of phylogenetically controlled investigations, how middle ear traits have diversified with functional specialization remains unclear. In order to identify the respective patterns for various lifestyles and to gain insights into fossil forms, we employed a high-resolution tomography technique and compared the middle ear morphology of eulipotyphlan species (moles, shrews and hedgehogs), a group that has radiated into various environments, such as terrestrial, aquatic and subterranean habitats. Three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis was conducted within a phylogenetically controlled framework. Quantitative shapes were found to strongly reflect the degree of subterranean lifestyle and weakly involve phylogeny. Our analyses demonstrate that subterranean adaptation should include a relatively shorter anterior process of the malleus, an enlarged incus, an enlarged stapes footplate and a reduction of the orbicular apophysis. These traits arguably allow improving low-frequency sound transmission at low frequencies and inhibiting the low-frequency noise which disturbs the subterranean animals in hearing airborne sounds.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Cave organisms have been used as models for evolution and biogeography, as their reduced above-ground dispersal produces phylogenetic patterns of area distribution that largely match the geological history of mountain ranges and cave habitats. Most current hypotheses assume that subterranean lineages arose recently from surface dwelling, dispersive close relatives, but for terrestrial organisms there is scant phylogenetic evidence to support this view. We study here with molecular methods the evolutionary history of a highly diverse assemblage of subterranean beetles in the tribe Leptodirini (Coleoptera, Leiodidae, Cholevinae) in the mountain systems of the Western Mediterranean. RESULTS:Ca. 3.5 KB of sequence information from five mitochondrial and two nuclear gene fragments was obtained for 57 species of Leptodirini and eight outgroups. Phylogenetic analysis was robust to changes in alignment and reconstruction method and revealed strongly supported clades, each of them restricted to a major mountain system in the Iberian peninsula. A molecular clock calibration of the tree using the separation of the Sardinian microplate (at 33 MY) established a rate of 2.0% divergence per MY for five mitochondrial genes (4% for cox1 alone) and dated the nodes separating the main subterranean lineages before the Early Oligocene. The colonisation of the Pyrenean chain, by a lineage not closely related to those found elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula, began soon after the subterranean habitat became available in the Early Oligocene, and progressed from the periphery to the centre. CONCLUSIONS:Our results suggest that by the Early-Mid Oligocene the main lineages of Western Mediterranean Leptodirini had developed all modifications to the subterranean life and were already present in the main geographical areas in which they are found today. The origin of the currently recognised genera can be dated to the Late Oligocene-Miocene, and their diversification can thus be traced to Miocene ancestors fully adapted to subterranean life, with no evidence of extinct epigean, less modified lineages. The close correspondence of organismal evolution and geological record confirms them as an important study system for historical biogeography and molecular evolution.
Project description:Regressive evolution, the reduction or total loss of non-functional characters, is a fairly common evolutionary phenomenon in subterranean taxa. However, the genetic basis of regressive evolution is not well understood. Here we investigate the molecular evolution of the eye pigment gene cinnabar in several independently evolved lineages of subterranean water beetles using maximum likelihood analyses. We found that in eyeless lineages cinnabar has an increased rate of sequence evolution, as well as mutations leading to frame shifts and stop codons, indicative of pseudogenes. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that regressive evolution of eyes proceeds by random mutations, in the absence of selection, that ultimately lead to the loss of gene function in protein-coding genes specific to the eye pathway.