Chromosome-specific identification is a powerful technique in the study of genome structure and evolution. However, there is no reliable cytogenetic marker to unambiguously identify each of the chromosomes in sugarcane (Saccharum spp., Poaceae), which has a complex genome with a high level of ploidy and heterozygosity. In this study, we developed a set of oligonucleotide (oligo)-based probes through bioinformatic design and massive synthetization. These probes produced a clear and bright single signal in each of the chromosomes and their eight homologous chromosomes in the ancient species Saccharum spontaneum (2n = 8x = 64). Thus, they can be used as reliable markers to robustly label each of the chromosomes in S. spontaneum. We then obtained the karyotype data and established a nomenclature based on chromosomal sizes for the eight chromosomes of the octoploid S. spontaneum. In addition, we also found that the 45S and 5S rDNAs demonstrated high copy number variations among different homologous chromosomes, indicating a rapid evolution of the highly repeated sequence after polyploidization. Our fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) assay also demonstrated that these probes could be used as cross-species markers between or within the genera of Sorghum and Saccharum. By comparing FISH analyses, we discovered that several chromosome rearrangement events occurred in S. spontaneum, which might have contributed to the basic chromosome number reduction from 10 in sorghum to 8 in sugarcane. Consistent identification of individual chromosomes makes molecular cytogenetic study possible in sugarcane and will facilitate fine chromosomal structure and karyotype evolution of the genus Saccharum.

The use of genome-scale data to infer phylogenetic relationships has gained in popularity in recent years due to the progress made in target-gene capture and sequencing techniques. Data filtering, the approach of excluding data inconsistent with the model from analyses, presumably could alleviate problems caused by systematic errors in phylogenetic inference. Different data filtering criteria, such as those based on evolutionary rate and molecular clocklikeness as well as others have been proposed for selecting useful phylogenetic markers, yet few studies have tested these criteria using phylogenomic data. We developed a novel set of single-copy nuclear coding markers to capture thousands of target genes in gobioid fishes, a species-rich lineages of vertebrates, and tested the effects of data-filtering methods based on substitution rate and molecular clocklikeness while attempting to control for the compounding effects of missing data and variation in locus length. We found that molecular clocklikeness was a better predictor than overall substitution rate for phylogenetic usefulness of molecular markers in our study. In addition, when the 100 best ranked loci for our predictors were concatenated and analyzed using maximum likelihood, or combined in a coalescent-based species-tree analysis, the resulting trees showed a well-resolved topology of Gobioidei that mostly agrees with previous studies. However, trees generated from the 100 least clocklike frequently recovered conflicting, and in some cases clearly erroneous topologies with strong support, thus indicating strong systematic biases in those datasets. Collectively these results suggest that data filtering has the potential improve the performance of phylogenetic inference when using both a concatenation approach as well as methods that rely on input from individual gene trees (i.e. coalescent species-tree approaches), which may be preferred in scenarios where incomplete lineage sorting is likely to be an issue.

Many cases of rapid evolutionary radiations in plant and animal lineages are known; however phylogenetic relationships among these lineages have been difficult to resolve by systematists. Increasing amounts of genomic data have been sequentially applied in an attempt to resolve these radiations, dissecting their evolutionary patterns into a series of bifurcating events. Here we explore one such rapid radiation in the tropical plant order Zingiberales (the bananas and relatives) which includes eight families, approximately 110 genera, and more than 2600 species. One clade, the “Ginger families”, including (Costaceae + Zingiberaceae) (Marantaceae + Cannaceae), has been well-resolved and well-supported in all previous studies. However, well-supported reconstructions among the “Banana families” (Musaceae, Heliconiaceae, Lowiaceae, Strelitziaceae), which most likely diverged about 90 Mya, have been difficult to confirm. Supported with anatomical, morphological, single locus, and genome-wide data, nearly every possible phylogenetic placement has been proposed for these families. In an attempt to resolve this complex evolutionary event, hybridization-based target enrichment was used to obtain sequences from up to 378 putatively orthologous low-copy nuclear genes (all ≥ 960 bp). Individual gene trees recovered multiple topologies among the early divergent lineages, with varying levels of support for these relationships. One topology of the “Banana families” (Musaceae (Heliconiaceae (Lowiaceae + Strelitziaceae))), which has not been suggested until now, was almost consistently recovered in all multilocus analyses of the nuclear dataset (concatenated – ExaML, coalescent – ASTRAL and ASTRID, supertree – MRL, and Bayesian concordance – BUCKy). Nevertheless, the multiple topologies recovered among these lineages suggest that even large amounts of genomic data might not be able to fully resolve relationships at this phylogenetic depth. This lack of well-supported resolution could suggest methodological problems (i.e., violation of model assumptions in both concatenated and coalescent analyses) or more likely reflect an evolutionary history shaped by an explosive, rapid, and nearly simultaneous polychotomous radiation in this group of plants towards the end of the Cretaceous, perhaps driven by vertebrate pollinator selection.

Within many biomes, the cause of phylogeographic structure remains unknown even across regions throughout North America, including within the biodiverse Chihuahuan Desert. For example, little is known about population structure or the diming of diversification of Chihuahuan endemics. In part, this is due largely to the lack of population genomic studies within this region. We generated ultra-conserved element data for the gray-banded kingsnake (Lampropeltis alterna) to investigate lineage divergence and historical demography across the Chihuahuan Desert. We found three unique lineages corresponding to the Trans-Pecos and Mapimian biogeographic regions of the Chihuahuan Desert, and a distinct population in the Sierra Madre Occidental. Using several different mutation rates to calibrate the timing of divergence among these lineages, we demonstrate that lineage divergence likely occurred during the Pleistocene. This also suggests that careful consideration needs to be used when applying mutation rates to ultra-conserved elements. We suggest that biogeographic provinces within the Chihuahuan Desert may have served as allopatric refugia during climatic fluctuations of the Quaternary. This work serves as an important template for further testing biogeographic hypotheses within the region.

Showing their stripes The adaptive radiation of East African cichlids has led to more than 1200 species across a number of lakes. Across these species, many convergent traits have emerged, including the presence or absence of horizontal stripes. Kratochwil et al. show that the appearance or loss of stripes is related to changes in the agouti-related peptide 2 gene, which acts as a kind of on-off switch for stripe generation (see the Perspective by Gante). This action has enabled rapid and repeated evolution of stripes across this speciose radiation. Science, this issue p. 457; see also p. 396 The color patterns of African cichlid fishes provide notable examples of phenotypic convergence. Across the more than 1200 East African rift lake species, melanic horizontal stripes have evolved numerous times. We discovered that regulatory changes of the gene agouti-related peptide 2 (agrp2) act as molecular switches controlling this evolutionarily labile phenotype. Reduced agrp2 expression is convergently associated with the presence of stripe patterns across species flocks. However, cis-regulatory mutations are not predictive of stripes across radiations, suggesting independent regulatory mechanisms. Genetic mapping confirms the link between the agrp2 locus and stripe patterns. The crucial role of agrp2 is further supported by a CRISPR-Cas9 knockout that reconstitutes stripes in a nonstriped cichlid. Thus, we unveil how a single gene affects the convergent evolution of a complex color pattern. A genetic switch that can turn horizontal stripe production on or off in East African cichlids is dissected. A genetic switch that can turn horizontal stripe production on or off in East African cichlids is dissected.

Previous molecular studies on the phylogeny and classification of clupeocephalan fishes revealed numerous new taxonomic entities. For re-analysing these taxa, we perform target gene capturing and subsequent next generation sequencing of putative ortholog exons of major clupeocephalan lineages. Sequence information for the RNA bait design was derived from publicly available genomes of bony fishes. Newly acquired sequence data comprising > 800 exon sequences was subsequently used for phylogenetic reconstructions.