The utility of islands as natural laboratories of evolution is exemplified in the patterns of differentiation in widespread, phenotypically variable lineages. The whistlers (Aves: Pachycephalidae) are one of the most complex avian radiations, with a combination of widespread and locally endemic taxa spanning the vast archipelagos of the Indo-Pacific, making them an ideal group to study patterns and processes of diversification on islands. Here, we present a robust, species-level phylogeny of all five genera and 85% of species within Pachycephalidae, based on thousands of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) generated with a target-capture approach and high-throughput sequencing. We clarify phylogenetic relationships within Pachycephala and report on divergence timing and ancestral range estimation. We explored multiple biogeographic coding schemes that incorporated geological uncertainty in this complex region. The biogeographic origin of this group was difficult to discern, likely owing to aspects of dynamic Earth history in the Indo-Pacific. The Australo-Papuan region was the likely origin of crown-group whistlers, but the specific ancestral area could not be identified more precisely than Australia or New Guinea, and Wallacea may have played a larger role than previously realized in the evolutionary history of whistlers. Multiple independent colonizations of island archipelagos across Melanesia, Wallacea, and the Philippines contributed to the relatively high species richness of extant whistlers. This work refines our understanding of one of the regions’ most celebrated bird lineages and adds to our growing knowledge about the patterns and processes of diversification in the Indo-Pacific.

Dromedaries are an important livestock, used as beasts of burden and for meat and milk production. However, they can act as an intermediate source or vector for transmitting zoonotic viruses to humans, such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) or Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV). After several outbreaks of CCHFV in the Arabian Peninsula, recent studies have demonstrated that CCHFV is endemic in dromedaries and camel ticks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There is no apparent disease in dromedaries after the bite of infected ticks; in contrast, fever, myalgia, lymphadenopathy, and petechial hemorrhaging are common symptoms in humans, with a case fatality ratio of up to 40%. We used the in-solution hybridization capture of 100 annotated immune genes to genotype 121 dromedaries from the UAE tested for seropositivity to CCHFV. Through univariate linear regression analysis, we identified two candidate genes belonging to the innate immune system: FCAR and CLEC2B. These genes have important functions in the host defense against viral infections and in stimulating natural killer cells, respectively. This study opens doors for future research into immune defense mechanisms in an enzootic host against an important zoonotic disease.

Abstract The Lesser Sunda Archipelago offers exceptional potential as a model system for studying the dynamics of dispersal-driven diversification. The geographic proximity of the islands suggests the possibility for successful dispersal, but this is countered by the permanence of the marine barriers and extreme intervening currents that are expected to hinder gene flow. Phylogenetic and species delimitation analyses of flying lizards (genus Draco) using single mitochondrial genes, complete mitochondrial genomes, and exome-capture data sets identified 9–11 deeply divergent lineages including single-island endemics, lineages that span multiple islands, and parapatrically distributed nonsister lineages on the larger islands. Population clustering and PCA confirmed these genetic boundaries with isolation-by-distance playing a role in some islands or island sets. While gdi estimates place most candidate species comparisons in the ambiguous zone, migration estimates suggest 9 or 10 species exist with nuclear introgression detected across some intra-island contact zones. Initial entry of Draco into the archipelago occurred at 5.5–7.5 Ma, with most inter-island colonization events having occurred between 1–3 Ma. Biogeographical model testing favors scenarios integrating geographic distance and historical island connectivity, including an initial stepping-stone dispersal process from the Greater Sunda Shelf through the Sunda Arc as far eastward as Lembata Island. However, rather than reaching the adjacent island of Pantar by dispersing over the 15-km wide Alor Strait, Draco ultimately reached Pantar (and much of the rest of the archipelago) by way of a circuitous route involving at least five overwater dispersal events. These findings suggest that historical geological and oceanographic conditions heavily influenced dispersal pathways and gene flow, which in turn drove species formation and shaped species boundaries. [Biogeography; genomics, Indonesia; lizards; phylogeography; reptiles]

The FORensic Capture Enrichment (FORCE) panel is an all-in-one SNP panel for forensic applications. This panel of 5422 markers encompasses common, forensically relevant SNPs (identity, ancestry, phenotype, X- and Y-chromosomal SNPs), a novel set of 3931 autosomal SNPs for extended kinship analysis, and no clinically relevant/disease markers. The FORCE panel was developed as a custom hybridization capture assay utilizing ~20,000 baits to target the selected SNPs. Five non-probative, previously identified World War II (WWII) cases were used to assess the kinship panel. Each case included one bone sample and associated family reference DNA samples. Additionally, seven reference quality samples, two 200-year-old bone samples, and four control DNAs were processed for kit performance and concordance assessments. SNP recovery after capture resulted in a mean of ~99% SNPs exceeding 10X coverage for reference and control samples, and 44.4% SNPs for bone samples. The WWII case results showed that the FORCE panel could predict first to fifth degree relationships with strong statistical support (likelihood ratios over 10,000 and posterior probabilities over 99.99%). To conclude, SNPs will be important for further advances in forensic DNA analysis. The FORCE panel shows promising results and demonstrates the utility of a 5000 SNP panel for forensic applications.

The lncRNA Xist forms 50 diffraction-limited foci to transcriptionally silence one X chromosome. How this small number of RNA foci and interacting proteins regulate a much larger number of X-linked genes is unknown. We show that Xist foci are locally confined, contain 2 RNA molecules, and nucleate supramolecular complexes (SMACs) that include many copies of the critical silencing protein SPEN. Aggregation and exchange of SMAC proteins generate local protein gradients that regulate broad, proximal chromatin regions. Partitioning of numerous SPEN molecules into SMACs is mediated by their intrinsically disordered regions and essential for transcriptional repression. Polycomb deposition via SMACs induces chromatin compaction and the increase in SMACs density around genes, which propagates silencing across the X chromosome. Our findings introduce a mechanism for functional nuclear compartmentalization whereby crowding of transcriptional and architectural regulators enables the silencing of many target genes by few RNA molecules.

Abstract Genomic analysis of hybrid zones offers unique insights into emerging reproductive isolation and the dynamics of introgression. Because hybrid genomes consist of blocks inherited from one or the other parental taxon, linkage information is essential. In most cases, the spectrum of local ancestry tracts can be efficiently uncovered from dense linkage maps. Here, we report the development of such a map for the hybridizing toads, Bombina bombina and Bombina variegata (Anura: Bombinatoridae). Faced with the challenge of a large (7–10 Gb), repetitive genome, we set out to identify a large number of Mendelian markers in the nonrepetitive portion of the genome that report B. bombina vs B. variegata ancestry with appropriately quantified statistical support. Bait sequences for targeted enrichment were selected from a draft genome assembly, after filtering highly repetitive sequences. We developed a novel approach to infer the most likely diplotype per sample and locus from the raw read mapping data, which is robust to over-merging and obviates arbitrary filtering thresholds. Validation of the resulting map with 4755 markers underscored the large-scale synteny between Bombina and Xenopus tropicalis. By assessing the sex of late-stage F2 tadpoles from histological sections, we identified the sex-determining region in the Bombina genome to 7 cM on LG5, which is homologous to X. tropicalis chromosome 5, and inferred male heterogamety. Interestingly, chromosome 5 has been repeatedly recruited as a sex chromosome in anurans with XY sex determination.

The temporal and spatial coarseness of megafaunal fossil records complicates attempts to to disentangle the relative impacts of climate change, ecosystem restructuring, and human activities associated with the Late Quaternary extinctions. Advances in the extraction and identification of ancient DNA that was shed into the environment and preserved for millennia in sediment now provides a way to augment discontinuous palaeontological assemblages. Here, we present a 30,000-year sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) record derived from loessal permafrost silts in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada. We observe a substantial turnover in ecosystem composition between 13,500 and 10,000 calendar years ago with the rise of woody shrubs and the disappearance of the mammoth-steppe (steppe-tundra) ecosystem. We also identify a lingering signal of Equus sp. (North American horse) and Mammuthus primigenius (woolly mammoth) at multiple sites persisting thousands of years after their supposed extinction from the fossil record.

Cellular lysates capable of transcription and translation have become valuable tools for prototyping genetic circuits, screening engineered functional parts, and producing biological components. Here we report that lysates derived from Yersinia pestis CO92− are functional and can utilize both the E. coli σ70 and the bacteriophage T7 promoter systems to produce green fluorescent protein (GFP). Because of the natural lifestyle of Y. pestis, lysates were produced from cultures grown at 21 °C, 26 °C, and 37 °C to mimic the infection cycle. Regardless of the promoter system the GFP production from 37 °C was the most productive and the 26 °C lysate was the least. When reactions are initiated with 5 nM of DNA, the GFP output of the 37 °C lysate is comparable with the productivity of other non-E. coli systems. The data we present demonstrate that, without genetic modification to enhance productivity, cell-free extracts from Y. pestis are functional and dependent on the temperature at which the bacterium was grown.

Abstract Background Structural variants (SVs) significantly drive genome diversity and environmental adaptation for diverse species. Unlike the prevalent small SVs (< kilobase-scale) in higher eukaryotes, large-size SVs rarely exist in the genome, but they function as one of the key evolutionary forces for speciation and adaptation. Results In this study, we discover and characterize several megabase-scale presence-absence variations (PAVs) in the maize genome. Surprisingly, we identify a 3.2 Mb PAV fragment that shows high integrity and is present as complete presence or absence in the natural diversity panel. This PAV is embedded within the nucleolus organizer region (NOR), where the suppressed recombination is found to maintain the PAV against the evolutionary variation. Interestingly, by analyzing the sequence of this PAV, we not only reveal the domestication trace from teosinte to modern maize, but also the footprints of its origin from Tripsacum , shedding light on a previously unknown contribution from Tripsacum to the speciation of Zea species. The functional consequence of the Tripsacum segment migration is also investigated, and environmental fitness conferred by the PAV may explain the whole segment as a selection target during maize domestication and improvement. Conclusions These findings provide a novel perspective that Tripsacum contributes to Zea speciation, and also instantiate a strategy for evolutionary and functional analysis of the “fossil” structure variations during genome evolution and speciation.