Genetic variation across trophic levels: A test of the correlation between population size and genetic diversity in sympatric desert lizards.
ABSTRACT: Understanding the causes of genetic variation in real populations has been elusive. Competing theories claim that neutral vs. selective processes have a greater influence on the genetic variation within a population. A key difference among theories is the relationship between population size and genetic diversity. Our study tests this empirically by sampling two species of herbivorous lizards (Dipsosaurus dorsalis and Sauromalus ater) and two species of carnivorous lizards (Crotaphytus bicinctores and Gambelia wislizenii) that vary in population size at the same locality, and comparing metrics of genetic diversity. Contrary to neutral expectations, results from four independent loci showed levels of diversity were usually higher for species with smaller population sizes. This suggests that selective processes may be having an important impact on intraspecific diversity in this reptile community, although tests showed little evidence for selection on the loci sequenced for this study. It is also possible that idiosyncratic histories of the focal species may be overriding predictions from simple neutral models. If future studies show that lack of correlation between population size and genetic diversity is common, methods using genetic diversity to estimate population parameters like population size or time to common ancestor should be used with caution, as these estimates are based on neutral theory predictions.
Project description:Genetic diversity is a fundamental requirement for evolution and adaptation. Nonetheless, the forces that maintain patterns of genetic variation in wild populations are not completely understood. Neutral theory posits that genetic diversity will increase with a larger effective population size and the decreasing effects of drift. However, the lack of compelling evidence for a relationship between genetic diversity and population size in comparative studies has generated some skepticism over the degree that neutral sequence evolution drives overall patterns of diversity. The goal of this study was to measure genetic diversity among sympatric populations of related lizard species that differ in population size and other ecological factors. By sampling related species from a single geographic location, we aimed to reduce nuisance variance in genetic diversity owing to species differences, for example, in mutation rates or historical biogeography. We compared populations of zebra-tailed lizards and western banded geckos, which are abundant and short-lived, to chuckwallas and desert iguanas, which are less common and long-lived. We assessed population genetic diversity at three protein-coding loci for each species. Our results were consistent with the predictions of neutral theory, as the abundant species almost always had higher levels of haplotype diversity than the less common species. Higher population genetic diversity in the abundant species is likely due to a combination of demographic factors, including larger local population sizes (and presumably effective population sizes), faster generation times and high rates of gene flow with other populations.
Project description:Genetic diversity is a fundamental characteristic of species and is affected by many factors, including mutation rate, population size, life history and demography. To better understand the processes that influence levels of genetic diversity across taxa, we collected genome-wide restriction-associated DNA data from more than 500 individuals spanning 76 nominal species of Australian scincid lizards in the genus Ctenotus To avoid potential biases associated with variation in taxonomic practice across the group, we used coalescent-based species delimitation to delineate 83 species-level lineages within the genus for downstream analyses. We then used these genetic data to infer levels of within-population genetic diversity. Using a phylogenetically informed approach, we tested whether variation in genetic diversity could be explained by population size, environmental heterogeneity or historical demography. We find that the strongest predictor of genetic diversity is a novel proxy for census population size: the number of vouchered occurrences in museum databases. However, museum occurrences only explain a limited proportion of the variance in genetic diversity, suggesting that genetic diversity might be difficult to predict at shallower phylogenetic scales.
Project description:Under the neutral theory, genetic diversity is expected to increase with population size. While comparative analyses have consistently failed to find strong relationships between census population size and genetic diversity, a recent study across animals identified a strong correlation between propagule size and genetic diversity, suggesting that r-strategists that produce many small offspring, have greater long-term population sizes. Here we compare genome-wide genetic diversity across 38 species of European butterflies (Papilionoidea), a group that shows little variation in reproductive strategy. We show that genetic diversity across butterflies varies over an order of magnitude and that this variation cannot be explained by differences in current abundance, propagule size, host or geographic range. Instead, neutral genetic diversity is negatively correlated with body size and positively with the length of the genetic map. This suggests that genetic diversity is determined both by differences in long-term population size and the effect of selection on linked sites.
Project description:Dispersal plays a key role to connect populations and, if limited, is one of the main processes to maintain and generate regional biodiversity. According to neutral theories of molecular evolution and biodiversity, dispersal limitation of propagules and population stochasticity are integral to shaping both genetic and community structure. We conducted a parallel analysis of biological connectivity at genetic and community levels in marine groups with different dispersal traits. We compiled large data sets of population genetic structure (98 benthic macroinvertebrate and 35 planktonic species) and biogeographic data (2193 benthic macroinvertebrate and 734 planktonic species). We estimated dispersal distances from population genetic data (i.e., FST vs. geographic distance) and from ?-diversity at the community level. Dispersal distances ranked the biological groups in the same order at both genetic and community levels, as predicted by organism dispersal ability and seascape connectivity: macrozoobenthic species without dispersing larvae, followed by macrozoobenthic species with dispersing larvae and plankton (phyto- and zooplankton). This ranking order is associated with constraints to the movement of macrozoobenthos within the seabed compared with the pelagic habitat. We showed that dispersal limitation similarly determines the connectivity degree of communities and populations, supporting the predictions of neutral theories in marine biodiversity patterns.
Project description:The neutral theory of molecular evolution predicts that the amount of neutral polymorphisms within a species will increase proportionally with the census population size (Nc). However, this prediction has not been borne out in practice: while the range of Nc spans many orders of magnitude, levels of genetic diversity within species fall in a comparatively narrow range. Although theoretical arguments have invoked the increased efficacy of natural selection in larger populations to explain this discrepancy, few direct empirical tests of this hypothesis have been conducted. In this work, we provide a direct test of this hypothesis using population genomic data from a wide range of taxonomically diverse species. To do this, we relied on the fact that the impact of natural selection on linked neutral diversity depends on the local recombinational environment. In regions of relatively low recombination, selected variants affect more neutral sites through linkage, and the resulting correlation between recombination and polymorphism allows a quantitative assessment of the magnitude of the impact of selection on linked neutral diversity. By comparing whole genome polymorphism data and genetic maps using a coalescent modeling framework, we estimate the degree to which natural selection reduces linked neutral diversity for 40 species of obligately sexual eukaryotes. We then show that the magnitude of the impact of natural selection is positively correlated with Nc, based on body size and species range as proxies for census population size. These results demonstrate that natural selection removes more variation at linked neutral sites in species with large Nc than those with small Nc and provides direct empirical evidence that natural selection constrains levels of neutral genetic diversity across many species. This implies that natural selection may provide an explanation for this longstanding paradox of population genetics.
Project description:The effect of population size on population genetic diversity and structure has rarely been studied jointly with other factors such as the position of a population within the species' distribution range or the presence of mutualistic partners influencing dispersal. Understanding these determining factors for genetic variation is critical for conservation of relict plants that are generally suffering from genetic deterioration. Working with 16 populations of the vulnerable relict shrub Cneorum tricoccon throughout the majority of its western Mediterranean distribution range, and using nine polymorphic microsatellite markers, we examined the effects of periphery (peripheral vs. central), population size (large vs. small), and seed disperser (introduced carnivores vs. endemic lizards) on the genetic diversity and population structure of the species. Contrasting genetic variation (HE: 0.04-0.476) was found across populations. Peripheral populations showed lower genetic diversity, but this was dependent on population size. Large peripheral populations showed high levels of genetic diversity, whereas small central populations were less diverse. Significant isolation by distance was detected, indicating that the effect of long-distance gene flow is limited relative to that of genetic drift, probably due to high selfing rates (FIS = 0.155-0.887), restricted pollen flow, and ineffective seed dispersal. Bayesian clustering also supported the strong population differentiation and highly fragmented structure. Contrary to expectations, the type of disperser showed no significant effect on either population genetic diversity or structure. Our results challenge the idea of an effect of periphery per se that can be mainly explained by population size, drawing attention to the need of integrative approaches considering different determinants of genetic variation. Furthermore, the very low genetic diversity observed in several small populations and the strong among-population differentiation highlight the conservation value of large populations throughout the species' range, particularly in light of climate change and direct human threats.
Project description:Genetic diversity is shaped by mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, recombination, and selection. The dynamics and interactions of these forces shape genetic diversity across different parts of the genome, between populations and species. Here, we have studied the effects of linked selection on nucleotide diversity in outcrossing populations of two Brassicaceae species, Arabidopsis lyrata and Capsella grandiflora, with contrasting demographic history. In agreement with previous estimates, we found evidence for a modest population size expansion thousands of generations ago, as well as efficient purifying selection in C. grandiflora. In contrast, the A. lyrata population exhibited evidence for very recent strong population size decline and weaker efficacy of purifying selection. Using multiple regression analyses with recombination rate and other genomic covariates as explanatory variables, we can explain 47% of the variance in neutral diversity in the C. grandiflora population, while in the A. lyrata population, only 11% of the variance was explained by the model. Recombination rate had a significant positive effect on neutral diversity in both species, suggesting that selection at linked sites has an effect on patterns of neutral variation. In line with this finding, we also found reduced neutral diversity in the vicinity of genes in the C. grandiflora population. However, in A. lyrata no such reduction in diversity was evident, a finding that is consistent with expectations of the impact of a recent bottleneck on patterns of neutral diversity near genes. This study thus empirically demonstrates how differences in demographic history modulate the impact of selection at linked sites in natural populations.
Project description:Introduced species can diverge from their source population when they become established in a new ecosystem. The Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is native to the western United States (US) and was historically introduced to several locations in the southeastern US. We studied three introduced populations in South Carolina, US to determine if they exhibit dietary, morphological and genetic divergence from the native western US populations. We expected little divergence from western populations because P. cornutum is a specialist whose biology is largely shaped by its diet of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants. We show that the introduced populations have mixed ancestry between south Texas and more northern areas and experienced founder effects and genetic bottlenecks resulting in decreased genetic diversity. South Carolina lizards primarily consume ants (94%), but surprisingly, they did not eat harvester ants. Introduced lizards primarily eat Dorymyrmex ants, but each introduced population complements Dorymyrmex with significantly different amounts of other species of ants, insects and plant matter. Introduced populations have smaller body size and have different limb and head shapes compared to western populations. This study demonstrates successful persistence of an introduced vertebrate that may be attributed to phenotypic change, even in the face of reduced genetic diversity.
Project description:Abstract Genetic diversity is important for long?term viability of a population. Low genetic diversity reduces persistence and survival of populations and increases susceptibility to diseases. Comparisons of the neutral markers with functional loci such as immune genes [Toll?like receptors; TLR] can provide useful insights into evolutionary potential of a species and how the diversity of pathogens and selection pressures on their hosts are directly linked to their environment. In this study, we compare genetic diversity in neutral (eleven microsatellite loci) and adaptive (seven TLR loci) loci to determine genetic variation in a nonmigratory western Himalayan passerine, the black?throated tit (Aegithalos concinnus), distributed across an elevation gradient with varying degree of pathogen?mediated selection pressure. We further compare the diversity in TLR loci with a high?elevation sister species, the white?throated tit (Aegithalos niveogularis). Our results indicate a lack of population genetic structure in the black?throated tit and signatures of a past bottleneck. In contrast, we found high diversity in TLR loci and locus?specific (TLR7) signatures of pathogen?mediated selection, which was comparable to diversity in the white?throated tit. Levels of diversity at TLR5 locus corresponded very closely with neutral microsatellite variation. We found evidence of positive selection in TLR1LA, TLR5, and TLR7 loci highlighting the importance in pathogen recognition. Our finding demonstrates that reduction in neutral variation does not necessarily lead to reduction in functional genetic diversity and probably helps in revival of population in a widespread species. Comparisons of allelic richness (size corrected) using eight neutral loci and seven TLR loci (*p < .05; **p < .01; and ***p < .001) in the black?throated tit.
Project description:Recognizing how climate change will impact populations can aid in making decisions about approaches for conservation of endangered species. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard (<i>Gambelia sila</i>) is a federally endangered species that, despite protection, remains in extremely arid, hot areas and may be at risk of extirpation due to climate change. We collected data on the field-active body temperatures, preferred body temperatures and upper thermal tolerance of <i>G. sila</i>. We then described available thermal habitat using biophysical models, which allowed us to (i) describe patterns in lizard body temperatures, microhabitat temperatures and lizard microhabitat use; (ii) quantify the lizards' thermoregulatory accuracy; (iii) calculate the number of hours they are currently thermally restricted in microhabitat use; (iv) project how the number of restricted hours will change in the future as ambient temperatures rise; and (v) assess the importance of giant kangaroo rat burrows and shade-providing shrubs in the current and projected future thermal ecology of <i>G. sila</i>. Lizards maintained fairly consistent daytime body temperatures over the course of the active season, and use of burrows and shrubs increased as the season progressed and ambient temperatures rose. During the hottest part of the year, lizards shuttled among kangaroo rat burrows, shrubs, and open habitat to maintain body temperatures below their upper thermal tolerance, but, occasionally, higher than their preferred body temperature range. Lizards are restricted from staying in the open habitat for 75% of daylight hours and are forced to seek refuge under shrubs or burrows to avoid surpassing their upper thermal threshold. After applying climatic projections of 1 and 2°C increases to 2018 ambient temperatures, <i>G. sila</i> will lose additional hours of activity time that could compound stressors faced by this population, potentially leading to extirpation.