Dynamic evolution of transposable elements, demographic history, and gene content of paleognathous birds.
ABSTRACT: Palaeognathae includes ratite and tinamou species that are important for understanding early avian evolution. Here, we analyzed the whole-genome sequences of 15 paleognathous species to infer their demographic histories, which are presently unknown. We found that most species showed a reduction of population size since the beginning of the last glacial period, except for those species distributed in Australasia and in the far south of South America. Different degrees of contraction and expansion of transposable elements (TE) have shaped the paleognathous genome architecture, with a higher transposon removal rate in tinamous than in ratites. One repeat family, AviRTE, likely underwent horizontal transfer from tropical parasites to the ancestor of little and undulated tinamous about 30 million years ago. Our analysis of gene families identified rapid turnover of immune and reproduction-related genes but found no evidence of gene family changes underlying the convergent evolution of flightlessness among ratites. We also found that mitochondrial genes have experienced a faster evolutionary rate in tinamous than in ratites, with the former also showing more degenerated W chromosomes. This result can be explained by the Hill-Robertson interference affecting genetically linked W chromosomes and mitochondria. Overall, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of the Palaeognathae populations, genes, and TEs. Our findings of co-evolution between mitochondria and W chromosomes highlight the key difference in genome evolution between species with ZW sex chromosomes and those with XY sex chromosomes.
Project description:Ratites (ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, and kiwis) are large, flightless birds that have long fascinated biologists. Their current distribution on isolated southern land masses is believed to reflect the breakup of the paleocontinent of Gondwana. The prevailing view is that ratites are monophyletic, with the flighted tinamous as their sister group, suggesting a single loss of flight in the common ancestry of ratites. However, phylogenetic analyses of 20 unlinked nuclear genes reveal a genome-wide signal that unequivocally places tinamous within ratites, making ratites polyphyletic and suggesting multiple losses of flight. Phenomena that can mislead phylogenetic analyses, including long branch attraction, base compositional bias, discordance between gene trees and species trees, and sequence alignment errors, have been eliminated as explanations for this result. The most plausible hypothesis requires at least three losses of flight and explains the many morphological and behavioral similarities among ratites by parallel or convergent evolution. Finally, this phylogeny demands fundamental reconsideration of proposals that relate ratite evolution to continental drift.
Project description:Recent phylogenetic studies question the monophyly of ratites (large, flightless birds incorporating ostriches, rheas, kiwis, emus and cassowaries), suggesting their paraphyly with respect to flying tinamous (Tinamidae). Flightlessness and large body size have thus likely evolved repeatedly among ratites, and separately in ostriches (Struthio) and emus (Dromaius). Here, we test this hypothesis with data from wing developmental trajectories in ostriches, emus, tinamous and chickens. We find the rate of ostrich embryonic wing growth falls within the range of variation exhibited by flying taxa (tinamous and chickens), but that of emus is extremely slow. These results indicate flightlessness was acquired by different developmental mechanisms in the ancestors of ostriches (peramorphosis) and the emu-cassowary clade (paedomorphosis), and corroborate the hypothesis that flight loss has evolved repeatedly among ratites.
Project description:It is commonly acknowledged that the basal divergence among extant birds is between Palaeognathae and Neognathae. However, recent analyses of mitochondrial sequences have challenged that notion. In order to investigate this fundamental phylogenetic question, the complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecule of the rook Corvus frugilegus (Passeriformes) was sequenced and included in phylogenetic analyses with the previously reported complete mtDNAs of the chicken Gallus gallus (Galliformes) and two ratite species, the ostrich Struthio camelus and the rhea Rhea americana (Struthioniformes). The analyses reconstructed a split between Passeriformes and a branch including Galliformes and Struthioniformes. Thus, the result is inconsistent with the traditional understanding of a basal avian divergence between Palaeognathae and Neognathae. The findings suggest that the morphological characteristics of the ratites are secondarily acquired, probably through neoteny and that the ratites are descendants of flying, neognathous ancestors.
Project description:Standard models of sex chromosome evolution propose that recombination suppression leads to the degeneration of the heterogametic chromosome, as is seen for the Y chromosome in mammals and the W chromosome in most birds. Unlike other birds, paleognaths (ratites and tinamous) possess large nondegenerate regions on their sex chromosomes (PARs or pseudoautosomal regions). It remains unclear why these large PARs are retained over >100 Myr, and how this retention impacts the evolution of sex chromosomes within this system. To address this puzzle, we analyzed Z chromosome evolution and gene expression across 12 paleognaths, several of whose genomes have recently been sequenced. We confirm at the genomic level that most paleognaths retain large PARs. As in other birds, we find that all paleognaths have incomplete dosage compensation on the regions of the Z chromosome homologous to degenerated portions of the W (differentiated regions), but we find no evidence for enrichments of male-biased genes in PARs. We find limited evidence for increased evolutionary rates (faster-Z) either across the chromosome or in differentiated regions for most paleognaths with large PARs, but do recover signals of faster-Z evolution in tinamou species with mostly degenerated W chromosomes, similar to the pattern seen in neognaths. Unexpectedly, in some species, PAR-linked genes evolve faster on average than genes on autosomes, suggested by diverse genomic features to be due to reduced efficacy of selection in paleognath PARs. Our analysis shows that paleognath Z chromosomes are atypical at the genomic level, but the evolutionary forces maintaining largely homomorphic sex chromosomes in these species remain elusive.
Project description:Sex chromosomes are unique genomic regions with sex-specific or sex-biased inherent patterns and are expected to be more frequently subject to sex-specific selection. Substantial knowledge on the evolutionary patterns of sex-linked genes have been gained from the studies on the male heterogametic systems (XY male, XX female), but the understanding of the role of sex-specific selection in the evolution of female-heterogametic sex chromosomes (ZW female, ZZ male) is limited. Here we collect the W-linked genes of 27 birds, covering the three major avian clades: Neoaves (songbirds), Galloanserae (chicken), and Palaeognathae (ratites and tinamous). We find that the avian W chromosomes exhibit very conserved gene content despite their independent evolution of recombination suppression. The retained W-linked genes have higher dosage-sensitive and higher expression level than the lost genes, suggesting the role of purifying selection in their retention. Moreover, they are not enriched in ancestrally female-biased genes, and have not acquired new ovary-biased expression patterns after becoming W-linked. They are broadly expressed across female tissues, and the expression profile of the W-linked genes in females is not deviated from that of the homologous Z-linked genes. Together, our new analyses suggest that female-specific positive selection on the avian W chromosomes is limited, and the gene content of the W chromosomes is mainly shaped by purifying selection.
Project description:The ratites have stimulated much debate as to how such large flightless birds came to be distributed across the southern continents, and whether they are a monophyletic group or are composed of unrelated lineages that independently lost the power of flight. Hypotheses regarding the relationships among taxa differ for morphological and molecular data sets, thus hindering attempts to test whether plate tectonic events can explain ratite biogeography. Here, we present the complete mitochondrial DNA genomes of two extinct moas from New Zealand, along with those of five extant ratites (the lesser rhea, the ostrich, the great spotted kiwi, the emu and the southern cassowary and two tinamous from different genera. The non-stationary base composition in these sequences violates the assumptions of most tree-building methods. When this bias is corrected using neighbour-joining with log-determinant distances and non-homogeneous maximum likelihood, the ratites are found to be monophlyletic, with moas basal, as in morphological trees. The avian sequences also violate a molecular clock, so we applied a non-parametric rate smoothing algorithm, which minimizes ancestor-descendant local rate changes, to date nodes in the tree. Using this method, most of the major ratite lineages fit the vicariance biogeography hypothesis, the exceptions being the ostrich and the kiwi, which require dispersal to explain their present distribution.
Project description:Two groups of flightless ratite birds existed in New Zealand during the Pleistocene: the kiwis and the moas. The latter are now extinct but formerly included 11 species. We have enzymatically amplified and sequenced approximately 400 base pairs of the mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene from bones and soft tissue remains of four species of moas as well as eight other species of ratite birds and a tinamou. Contrary to expectation, the phylogenetic analysis shows that the kiwis are more closely related to Australian and African ratities than to the moas. Thus, New Zealand probably was colonized twice by ancestors of ratite birds.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Palaeognathae is a basal clade within Aves and include the large and flightless ratites and the smaller, volant tinamous. Although much research has been conducted on various aspects of palaeognath morphology, ecology, and evolutionary history, there are still areas which require investigation. This study aimed to fill gaps in our knowledge of the Southern Cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, for which information on the skeletal systems of the syrinx, hyoid and larynx is lacking - despite these structures having been recognised as performing key functional roles associated with vocalisation, respiration and feeding. Previous research into the syrinx and hyoid have also indicated these structures to be valuable for determining evolutionary relationships among neognath taxa, and thus suggest they would also be informative for palaeognath phylogenetic analyses, which still exhibits strong conflict between morphological and molecular trees. RESULTS:The morphology of the syrinx, hyoid and larynx of C. casuarius is described from CT scans. The syrinx is of the simple tracheo-bronchial syrinx type, lacking specialised elements such as the pessulus; the hyoid is relatively short with longer ceratobranchials compared to epibranchials; and the larynx is comprised of entirely cartilaginous, standard avian anatomical elements including a concave, basin-like cricoid and fused cricoid wings. As in the larynx, both the syrinx and hyoid lack ossification and all three structures were most similar to Dromaius. We documented substantial variation across palaeognaths in the skeletal character states of the syrinx, hyoid, and larynx, using both the literature and novel observations (e.g. of C. casuarius). Notably, new synapomorphies linking Dinornithiformes and Tinamidae are identified, consistent with the molecular evidence for this clade. These shared morphological character traits include the ossification of the cricoid and arytenoid cartilages, and an additional cranial character, the articulation between the maxillary process of the nasal and the maxilla. CONCLUSION:Syrinx, hyoid and larynx characters of palaeognaths display greater concordance with molecular trees than do other morphological traits. These structures might therefore be less prone to homoplasy related to flightlessness and gigantism, compared to typical morphological traits emphasised in previous phylogenetic studies.
Project description:The patella (kneecap) exhibits multiple evolutionary origins in birds, mammals, and lizards, and is thought to increase the mechanical advantage of the knee extensor muscles. Despite appreciable interest in the specialized anatomy and locomotion of palaeognathous birds (ratites and relatives), the structure, ontogeny and evolution of the patella in these species remains poorly characterized. Within Palaeognathae, the patella has been reported to be either present, absent, or fused with other bones, but it is unclear how much of this variation is real, erroneous or ontogenetic. Clarification of the patella's form in palaeognaths would provide insight into the early evolution of the patella in birds, in addition to the specialized locomotion of these species. Findings would also provide new character data of use in resolving the controversial evolutionary relationships of palaeognaths. In this study, we examined the gross and histological anatomy of the emu patellar tendon across several age groups from five weeks to 18 months. We combined these results with our observations and those of others regarding the patella in palaeognaths and their outgroups (both extant and extinct), to reconstruct the evolution of the patella in birds. We found no evidence of an ossified patella in emus, but noted its tendon to have a highly unusual morphology comprising large volumes of adipose tissue contained within a collagenous meshwork. The emu patellar tendon also included increasing amounts of a cartilage-like tissue throughout ontogeny. We speculate that the unusual morphology of the patellar tendon in emus results from assimilation of a peri-articular fat pad, and metaplastic formation of cartilage, both potentially as adaptations to increasing tendon load. We corroborate previous observations of a 'double patella' in ostriches, but in contrast to some assertions, we find independent (i.e., unfused) ossified patellae in kiwis and tinamous. Our reconstructions suggest a single evolutionary origin of the patella in birds and that the ancestral patella is likely to have been a composite structure comprising a small ossified portion, lost by some species (e.g., emus, moa) but expanded in others (e.g., ostriches).
Project description:Sex chromosomes originate from autosomes. The accumulation of sexually antagonistic mutations on protosex chromosomes selects for a loss of recombination and sets in motion the evolutionary processes generating heteromorphic sex chromosomes. Recombination suppression and differentiation are generally viewed as the default path of sex chromosome evolution, and the occurrence of old, homomorphic sex chromosomes, such as those of ratite birds, has remained a mystery. Here, we analyze the genome and transcriptome of emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and confirm that most genes on the sex chromosome are shared between the Z and W. Surprisingly, however, levels of gene expression are generally sex-biased for all sex-linked genes relative to autosomes, including those in the pseudoautosomal region, and the male-bias increases after gonad formation. This expression bias suggests that the emu sex chromosomes have become masculinized, even in the absence of ZW differentiation. Thus, birds may have taken different evolutionary solutions to minimize the deleterious effects imposed by sexually antagonistic mutations: some lineages eliminate recombination along the protosex chromosomes to physically restrict sexually antagonistic alleles to one sex, whereas ratites evolved sex-biased expression to confine the product of a sexually antagonistic allele to the sex it benefits. This difference in conflict resolution may explain the preservation of recombining, homomorphic sex chromosomes in other lineages and illustrates the importance of sexually antagonistic mutations driving the evolution of sex chromosomes.