Evolutionary adaptation revealed by comparative genome analysis of woolly mammoths and elephants.
ABSTRACT: Comparative genomics studies typically limit their focus to single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and that was the case for previous comparisons of woolly mammoth genomes. We extended the analysis to systematically identify not only SNVs but also larger structural variants (SVs) and indels and found multiple mammoth-specific deletions and duplications affecting exons or even complete genes. The most prominent SV found was an amplification of RNase L (with different copy numbers in different mammoth genomes, up to 9-fold), involved in antiviral defense and inflammasome function. This amplification was accompanied by mutations affecting several domains of the protein including the active site and produced different sets of RNase L paralogs in four mammoth genomes likely contributing to adaptations to environmental threats. In addition to immunity and defense, we found many other unique genetic changes in woolly mammoths that suggest adaptations to life in harsh Arctic conditions, including variants involving lipid metabolism, circadian rhythms, and skeletal and body features. Together, these variants paint a complex picture of evolution of the mammoth species and may be relevant in the studies of their population history and extinction.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Late Pleistocene North America hosted at least two divergent and ecologically distinct species of mammoth: the periglacial woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) and the subglacial Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). To date, mammoth genetic research has been entirely restricted to woolly mammoths, rendering their genetic evolution difficult to contextualize within broader Pleistocene paleoecology and biogeography. Here, we take an interspecific approach to clarifying mammoth phylogeny by targeting Columbian mammoth remains for mitogenomic sequencing. RESULTS:We sequenced the first complete mitochondrial genome of a classic Columbian mammoth, as well as the first complete mitochondrial genome of a North American woolly mammoth. Somewhat contrary to conventional paleontological models, which posit that the two species were highly divergent, the M. columbi mitogenome we obtained falls securely within a subclade of endemic North American M. primigenius. CONCLUSIONS:Though limited, our data suggest that the two species interbred at some point in their evolutionary histories. One potential explanation is that woolly mammoth haplotypes entered Columbian mammoth populations via introgression at subglacial ecotones, a scenario with compelling parallels in extant elephants and consistent with certain regional paleontological observations. This highlights the need for multi-genomic data to sufficiently characterize mammoth evolutionary history. Our results demonstrate that the use of next-generation sequencing technologies holds promise in obtaining such data, even from non-cave, non-permafrost Pleistocene depositional contexts.
Project description:Near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, populations of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) were distributed across parts of three continents, from western Europe and northern Asia through Beringia to the Atlantic seaboard of North America. Nonetheless, questions about the connectivity and temporal continuity of mammoth populations and species remain unanswered. We use a combination of targeted enrichment and high-throughput sequencing to assemble and interpret a data set of 143 mammoth mitochondrial genomes, sampled from fossils recovered from across their Holarctic range. Our dataset includes 54 previously unpublished mitochondrial genomes and significantly increases the coverage of the Eurasian range of the species. The resulting global phylogeny confirms that the Late Pleistocene mammoth population comprised three distinct mitochondrial lineages that began to diverge ~1.0-2.0 million years ago (Ma). We also find that mammoth mitochondrial lineages were strongly geographically partitioned throughout the Pleistocene. In combination, our genetic results and the pattern of morphological variation in time and space suggest that male-mediated gene flow, rather than large-scale dispersals, was important in the Pleistocene evolutionary history of mammoths.
Project description:Understanding woolly mammoth ecology is key to understanding Pleistocene community dynamics and evaluating the roles of human hunting and climate change in late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions. Previous isotopic studies of mammoths' diet and physiology have been hampered by the 'mammoth conundrum': woolly mammoths have anomalously high collagen ?(15)N values, which are more similar to coeval carnivores than herbivores, and which could imply a distinct diet and (or) habitat, or a physiological adaptation. We analyzed individual amino acids from collagen of adult woolly mammoths and coeval species, and discovered greater ?(15)N enrichment in source amino acids of woolly mammoths than in most other herbivores or carnivores. Woolly mammoths consumed an isotopically distinct food source, reflective of extreme aridity, dung fertilization, and (or) plant selection. This dietary signal suggests that woolly mammoths occupied a distinct habitat or forage niche relative to other Pleistocene herbivores.
Project description:Woolly mammoths inhabited Eurasia and North America from late Middle Pleistocene (300 ky BP [300,000 years before present]), surviving through different climatic cycles until they vanished in the Holocene (3.6 ky BP). The debate about why the Late Quaternary extinctions occurred has centred upon environmental and human-induced effects, or a combination of both. However, testing these two hypotheses-climatic and anthropogenic-has been hampered by the difficulty of generating quantitative estimates of the relationship between the contraction of the mammoth's geographical range and each of the two hypotheses. We combined climate envelope models and a population model with explicit treatment of woolly mammoth-human interactions to measure the extent to which a combination of climate changes and increased human pressures might have led to the extinction of the species in Eurasia. Climate conditions for woolly mammoths were measured across different time periods: 126 ky BP, 42 ky BP, 30 ky BP, 21 ky BP, and 6 ky BP. We show that suitable climate conditions for the mammoth reduced drastically between the Late Pleistocene and the Holocene, and 90% of its geographical range disappeared between 42 ky BP and 6 ky BP, with the remaining suitable areas in the mid-Holocene being mainly restricted to Arctic Siberia, which is where the latest records of woolly mammoths in continental Asia have been found. Results of the population models also show that the collapse of the climatic niche of the mammoth caused a significant drop in their population size, making woolly mammoths more vulnerable to the increasing hunting pressure from human populations. The coincidence of the disappearance of climatically suitable areas for woolly mammoths and the increase in anthropogenic impacts in the Holocene, the coup de grâce, likely set the place and time for the extinction of the woolly mammoth.
Project description:Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) populated Siberia, Beringia, and North America during the Pleistocene and early Holocene. Recent breakthroughs in ancient DNA sequencing have allowed for complete genome sequencing for two specimens of woolly mammoths (Palkopoulou et al. 2015). One mammoth specimen is from a mainland population 45,000 years ago when mammoths were plentiful. The second, a 4300 yr old specimen, is derived from an isolated population on Wrangel island where mammoths subsisted with small effective population size more than 43-fold lower than previous populations. These extreme differences in effective population size offer a rare opportunity to test nearly neutral models of genome architecture evolution within a single species. Using these previously published mammoth sequences, we identify deletions, retrogenes, and non-functionalizing point mutations. In the Wrangel island mammoth, we identify a greater number of deletions, a larger proportion of deletions affecting gene sequences, a greater number of candidate retrogenes, and an increased number of premature stop codons. This accumulation of detrimental mutations is consistent with genomic meltdown in response to low effective population sizes in the dwindling mammoth population on Wrangel island. In addition, we observe high rates of loss of olfactory receptors and urinary proteins, either because these loci are non-essential or because they were favored by divergent selective pressures in island environments. Finally, at the locus of FOXQ1 we observe two independent loss-of-function mutations, which would confer a satin coat phenotype in this island woolly mammoth.
Project description:The mammoths originated in warm and equatorial Africa and later colonized cold and high-latitude environments. Studies on nuclear genes suggest that woolly mammoth had evolved genetic variations involved in processes relevant to cold tolerance, including lipid metabolism and thermogenesis, and adaptation to extremely varied light and darkness cycles. The mitochondria is a major regulator of cellular energy metabolism, thus the mitogenome of mammoths may also exhibit adaptive evolution. However, little is yet known in this regard. In this study, we analyzed mitochondrial protein-coding genes (MPCGs) sequences of 75 broadly distributed woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) to test for signatures of positive selection. Results showed that a total of eleven amino acid sites in six genes, namely ND1, ND4, ND5, ND6, CYTB, and ATP6, displayed strong evidence of positive selection. Two sites were located in close proximity to proton-translocation channels in mitochondrial complex I. Biochemical and homology protein structure modeling analyses demonstrated that five amino acid substitutions in ND1, ND5, and ND6 might have influenced the performance of protein-protein interaction among subunits of complex I, and three substitutions in CYTB and ATP6 might have influenced the performance of metabolic regulatory chain. These findings suggest metabolic adaptations in the mitogenome of woolly mammoths in relation to extreme environments and provide a basis for further tests on the significance of the variations on other systems.
Project description:We report five new complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes of Siberian woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), sequenced with up to 73-fold coverage from DNA extracted from hair shaft material. Three of the sequences present the first complete mtDNA genomes of mammoth clade II. Analysis of these and 13 recently published mtDNA genomes demonstrates the existence of two apparently sympatric mtDNA clades that exhibit high interclade divergence. The analytical power afforded by the analysis of the complete mtDNA genomes reveals a surprisingly ancient coalescence age of the two clades, approximately 1-2 million years, depending on the calibration technique. Furthermore, statistical analysis of the temporal distribution of the (14)C ages of these and previously identified members of the two mammoth clades suggests that clade II went extinct before clade I. Modeling of protein structures failed to indicate any important functional difference between genomes belonging to the two clades, suggesting that the loss of clade II more likely is due to genetic drift than a selective sweep.
Project description:The causes of megafaunal extinctions in North America have been widely debated but remain poorly understood. Mammoths (Mammuthus spp.) in the American Southwest were hunted by Clovis people during a period of rapid climate change, just before the regional onset of Younger Dryas cooling and mammoth extirpation. Thus, these mammoths may provide key insights into late Pleistocene extinction processes. Here we reconstruct the seasonal diet and climatic conditions experienced by mammoths in the San Pedro Valley of Arizona, using the carbon ((13)C/(12)C) and oxygen ((18)O/(16)O) isotope compositions of tooth enamel. These records suggest that Clovis mammoths experienced a warm, dry climate with sufficient summer rainfall to support seasonal C(4) plant growth. Monsoon intensity may have been reduced relative to the preceding time period, but there is no isotopic evidence for severe drought. However, it is possible that the "Clovis drought", inferred from stratigraphic evidence, occurred suddenly at the end of the animals' lives and thus was not recorded in the enamel isotopic compositions. Unlike mammoths that lived before the Last Glacial Maximum, Clovis mammoths regularly increased C(4) grass consumption during summer, probably seeking seasonally green grasslands farther from the river valley. This predictable seasonal behavior may have made mammoths easier to locate by Clovis hunters. Furthermore, Clovis mammoths probably had no previous experience of such sudden climatic change as is believed to have occurred at the time of their extinction.
Project description:The processes leading up to species extinctions are typically characterized by prolonged declines in population size and geographic distribution, followed by a phase in which populations are very small and may be subject to intrinsic threats, including loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding. However, whether such genetic factors have had an impact on species prior to their extinction is unclear; examining this would require a detailed reconstruction of a species' demographic history as well as changes in genome-wide diversity leading up to its extinction. Here, we present high-quality complete genome sequences from two woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius). The first mammoth was sequenced at 17.1-fold coverage and dates to ?4,300 years before present, representing one of the last surviving individuals on Wrangel Island. The second mammoth, sequenced at 11.2-fold coverage, was obtained from an ?44,800-year-old specimen from the Late Pleistocene population in northeastern Siberia. The demographic trajectories inferred from the two genomes are qualitatively similar and reveal a population bottleneck during the Middle or Early Pleistocene, and a more recent severe decline in the ancestors of the Wrangel mammoth at the end of the last glaciation. A comparison of the two genomes shows that the Wrangel mammoth has a 20% reduction in heterozygosity as well as a 28-fold increase in the fraction of the genome that comprises runs of homozygosity. We conclude that the population on Wrangel Island, which was the last surviving woolly mammoth population, was subject to reduced genetic diversity shortly before it became extinct.
Project description:According to the nearly-neutral theory of evolution, the relative strengths of selection and drift shift in favour of drift at small population sizes. Numerous studies have analysed the effect of bottlenecks and small population sizes on genetic diversity in the MHC, which plays a central role in pathogen recognition and immune defense and is thus considered a model example for the study of adaptive evolution. However, to understand changes in genetic diversity at loci under selection, it is necessary to compare the genetic diversity of a population before and after the bottleneck. In this study, we analyse three fragments of the MHC DQA gene in woolly mammoth samples radiocarbon dated to before and after a well-documented bottleneck that took place about ten thousand years ago. Our results indicate a decrease in observed heterozygosity and number of alleles, suggesting that genetic drift had an impact on the variation on MHC. Based on coalescent simulations, we found no evidence of balancing selection maintaining MHC diversity during the Holocene. However, strong trans-species polymorphism among mammoths and elephants points to historical effects of balancing selection on the woolly mammoth lineage.