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Genetically Modifying the Insect Gut Microbiota to Control Chagas Disease Vectors through Systemic RNAi

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Technologies based on RNA interference may be used for insect control. Sustainable strategies are needed to control vectors of Chagas disease such as Rhodnius prolixus. The insect microbiota can be modified to deliver molecules to the gut. Here, Escherichia coli HT115(DE3) expressing dsRNA for the Rhodnius heme-binding protein (RHBP) and for catalase (CAT) were fed to nymphs and adult triatomine stages. RHBP is an egg protein and CAT is an antioxidant enzyme expressed in all tissues by all developmental stages. The RNA interference effect was systemic and temporal. Concentrations of E. coli HT115(DE3) above 3.35 × 107 CFU/mL produced a significant RHBP and CAT gene knockdown in nymphs and adults. RHBP expression in the fat body was reduced by 99% three days after feeding, returning to normal levels 10 days after feeding. CAT expression was reduced by 99% and 96% in the ovary and the posterior midgut, respectively, five days after ingestion. Mortality rates increased by 24-30% in first instars fed RHBP and CAT bacteria. Molting rates were reduced by 100% in first instars and 80% in third instars fed bacteria producing RHBP or CAT dsRNA. Oviposition was reduced by 43% (RHBP) and 84% (CAT). Embryogenesis was arrested in 16% (RHBP) and 20% (CAT) of laid eggs. Feeding females 105 CFU/mL of the natural symbiont, Rhodococcus rhodnii, transformed to express RHBP-specific hairpin RNA reduced RHBP expression by 89% and reduced oviposition. Modifying the insect microbiota to induce systemic RNAi in R. prolixus may result in a paratransgenic strategy for sustainable vector control.

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Article
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Trypanosomes Modify the Behavior of Their Insect Hosts: Effects on Locomotion and on the Expression of a Related Gene

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Background

As a result of evolution, the biology of triatomines must have been significantly adapted to accommodate trypanosome infection in a complex network of vector-vertebrate-parasite interactions. Arthropod-borne parasites have probably developed mechanisms, largely still unknown, to exploit the vector-vertebrate host interactions to ensure their transmission to suitable hosts. Triatomines exhibit a strong negative phototaxis and nocturnal activity, believed to be important for insect survival against its predators.

Methodology/Principal Findings

In this study we quantified phototaxis and locomotion in starved fifth instar nymphs of Rhodnius prolixus infected with Trypanosoma cruzi or Trypanosoma rangeli. T. cruzi infection did not alter insect phototaxis, but induced an overall 20% decrease in the number of bug locomotory events. Furthermore, the significant differences induced by this parasite were concentrated at the beginning of the scotophase. Conversely, T. rangeli modified both behaviors, as it significantly decreased bug negative phototaxis, while it induced a 23% increase in the number of locomotory events in infected bugs. In this case, the significant effects were observed during the photophase. We also investigated the expression of Rpfor, the triatomine ortholog of the foraging gene known to modulate locomotion in other insects, and found a 4.8 fold increase for T. rangeli infected insects.

Conclusions/Significance

We demonstrated for the first time that trypanosome infection modulates the locomotory activity of the invertebrate host. T. rangeli infection seems to be more broadly effective, as besides affecting the intensity of locomotion this parasite also diminished negative phototaxis and the expression of a behavior-associated gene in the triatomine vector.

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Article
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Simplification of Caribbean Reef-Fish Assemblages over Decades of Coral Reef Degradation

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Caribbean coral reefs are becoming structurally simpler, largely due to human impacts. The consequences of this trend for reef-associated communities are currently unclear, but expected to be profound. Here, we assess whether changes in fish assemblages have been non-random over several decades of declining reef structure. More specifically, we predicted that species that depend exclusively on coral reef habitat (i.e., habitat specialists) should be at a disadvantage compared to those that use a broader array of habitats (i.e., habitat generalists). Analysing 3727 abundance trends of 161 Caribbean reef-fishes, surveyed between 1980 and 2006, we found that the trends of habitat-generalists and habitat-specialists differed markedly. The abundance of specialists started to decline in the mid-1980s, reaching a low of ~60% of the 1980 baseline by the mid-1990s. Both the average and the variation in abundance of specialists have increased since the early 2000s, although the average is still well below the baseline level of 1980. This modest recovery occurred despite no clear evidence of a regional recovery in coral reef habitat quality in the Caribbean during the 2000s. In contrast, the abundance of generalist fishes remained relatively stable over the same three decades. Few specialist species are fished, thus their population declines are most likely linked to habitat degradation. These results mirror the observed trends of replacement of specialists by generalists, observed in terrestrial taxa across the globe. A significant challenge that arises from our findings is now to investigate if, and how, such community-level changes in fish populations affect ecosystem function.

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Article
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Projecting the Hydrologic Impacts of Climate Change on Montane Wetlands

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Wetlands are globally important ecosystems that provide critical services for natural communities and human society. Montane wetland ecosystems are expected to be among the most sensitive to changing climate, as their persistence depends on factors directly influenced by climate (e.g. precipitation, snowpack, evaporation). Despite their importance and climate sensitivity, wetlands tend to be understudied due to a lack of tools and data relative to what is available for other ecosystem types. Here, we develop and demonstrate a new method for projecting climate-induced hydrologic changes in montane wetlands. Using observed wetland water levels and soil moisture simulated by the physically based Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model, we developed site-specific regression models relating soil moisture to observed wetland water levels to simulate the hydrologic behavior of four types of montane wetlands (ephemeral, intermediate, perennial, permanent wetlands) in the U. S. Pacific Northwest. The hybrid models captured observed wetland dynamics in many cases, though were less robust in others. We then used these models to a) hindcast historical wetland behavior in response to observed climate variability (1916–2010 or later) and classify wetland types, and b) project the impacts of climate change on montane wetlands using global climate model scenarios for the 2040s and 2080s (A1B emissions scenario). These future projections show that climate-induced changes to key driving variables (reduced snowpack, higher evapotranspiration, extended summer drought) will result in earlier and faster drawdown in Pacific Northwest montane wetlands, leading to systematic reductions in water levels, shortened wetland hydroperiods, and increased probability of drying. Intermediate hydroperiod wetlands are projected to experience the greatest changes. For the 2080s scenario, widespread conversion of intermediate wetlands to fast-drying ephemeral wetlands will likely reduce wetland habitat availability for many species.

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Article
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Phylogeography of the Coastal Mosquito Aedes togoi across Climatic Zones: Testing an Anthropogenic Dispersal Hypothesis

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

The coastal mosquito Aedes togoi occurs more or less continuously from subarctic to subtropic zones along the coasts of the Japanese islands and the East Asian mainland. It occurs also in tropical Southeast Asia and the North American Pacific coast, and the populations there are thought to have been introduced from Japan by ship. To test this hypothesis, the genetic divergence among geographic populations of A. togoi was studied using one mitochondrial and three nuclear gene sequences. We detected 71 mitochondrial haplotypes forming four lineages, with high nucleotide diversity around temperate Japan and declining towards peripheral ranges. The major lineage (L1) comprised 57 haplotypes from temperate and subarctic zones in Japan and Southeast Asia including southern China and Taiwan. Two other lineages were found from subtropical islands (L3) and a subarctic area (L4) of Japan. The Canadian population showed one unique haplotype (L2) diverged from the other lineages. In the combined nuclear gene tree, individuals with mitochondrial L4 haplotypes diverged from those with the other mitochondrial haplotypes L1—L3; although individuals with L1—L3 haplotypes showed shallow divergences in the nuclear gene sequences, individuals from Southeast Asia and Canada each formed a monophyletic group. Overall, the genetic composition of the Southeast Asian populations was closely related to that of temperate Japanese populations, suggesting recent gene flow between these regions. The Canadian population might have originated from anthropogenic introduction from somewhere in Asia, but the possibility that it could have spread across the Beringian land bridge cannot be ruled out.

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Article
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Juvenile Salmon Usage of the Skeena River Estuary

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Migratory salmon transit estuary habitats on their way out to the ocean but this phase of their life cycle is more poorly understood than other phases. The estuaries of large river systems in particular may support many populations and several species of salmon that originate from throughout the upstream river. The Skeena River of British Columbia, Canada, is a large river system with high salmon population- and species-level diversity. The estuary of the Skeena River is under pressure from industrial development, with two gas liquefaction terminals and a potash loading facility in various stages of environmental review processes, providing motivation for understanding the usage of the estuary by juvenile salmon. We conducted a juvenile salmonid sampling program throughout the Skeena River estuary in 2007 and 2013 to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of different species and populations of salmon. We captured six species of juvenile anadromous salmonids throughout the estuary in both years, and found that areas proposed for development support some of the highest abundances of some species of salmon. Specifically, the highest abundances of sockeye (both years), Chinook in 2007, and coho salmon in 2013 were captured in areas proposed for development. For example, juvenile sockeye salmon were 2–8 times more abundant in the proposed development areas. Genetic stock assignment demonstrated that the Chinook salmon and most of the sockeye salmon that were captured originated from throughout the Skeena watershed, while some sockeye salmon came from the Nass, Stikine, Southeast Alaska, and coastal systems on the northern and central coasts of British Columbia. These fish support extensive commercial, recreational, and First Nations fisheries throughout the Skeena River and beyond. Our results demonstrate that estuary habitats integrate species and population diversity of salmon, and that if proposed development negatively affects the salmon populations that use the estuary, then numerous fisheries would also be negatively affected.

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Article
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Location Is Everything: Evaluating the Effects of Terrestrial and Marine Resource Subsidies on an Estuarine Bivalve

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Estuaries are amongst the world’s most productive ecosystems, lying at the intersection between terrestrial and marine environments. They receive substantial inputs from adjacent landscapes but the importance of resource subsidies is not well understood. Here, we test hypotheses for the effects of both terrestrial- and salmon-derived resource subsidies on the diet (inferred from stable isotopes of muscle tissue), size and percent nitrogen of the soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria), a sedentary estuarine consumer. We examine how these relationships shift across natural gradients among 14 estuaries that vary in upstream watershed size and salmon density on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. We also test how assimilation and response to subsidies vary at smaller spatial scales within estuaries. The depletion and enrichment of stable isotope ratios in soft-shell clam muscle tissue correlated with increasing upstream watershed size and salmon density, respectively. The effects of terrestrial- and salmon-derived subsidies were also strongest at locations near stream outlets. When we controlled for age of individual clams, there were larger individuals with higher percent nitrogen content in estuaries below larger watersheds, though this effect was limited to the depositional zones below river mouths. Pink salmon exhibited a stronger effect on isotope ratios of clams than chum salmon, which could reflect increased habitat overlap as spawning pink salmon concentrate in lower stream reaches, closer to intertidal clam beds. However, there were smaller clams in estuaries that had higher upstream pink salmon densities, possibly due to differences in habitat requirements. Our study highlights the importance of upstream resource subsidies to this bivalve species, but that individual responses to subsidies can vary at smaller scales within estuaries.

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Article
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Do American Dippers Obtain a Survival Benefit from Altitudinal Migration?

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Studies of partial migrants provide an opportunity to assess the cost and benefits of migration. Previous work has demonstrated that sedentary American dippers (residents) have higher annual productivity than altitudinal migrants that move to higher elevations to breed. Here we use a ten-year (30 period) mark-recapture dataset to evaluate whether migrants offset their lower productivity with higher survival during the migration-breeding period when they occupy different habitat, or early and late-winter periods when they coexist with residents. Mark-recapture models provide no evidence that apparent monthly survival of migrants is higher than that of residents at any time of the year. The best-supported model suggests that monthly survival is higher in the migration-breeding period than winter periods. Another well-supported model suggested that residency conferred a survival benefit, and annual apparent survival (calculated from model weighted monthly apparent survival estimates using the Delta method) of residents (0.511 ± 0.038SE) was slightly higher than that of migrants (0.487 ± 0.032). Winter survival of American dippers was influenced by environmental conditions; monthly apparent survival increased as maximum daily flow rates increased and declined as winter temperatures became colder. However, we found no evidence that environmental conditions altered differences in winter survival of residents and migrants. Since migratory American dippers have lower productivity and slightly lower survival than residents our data suggests that partial migration is likely an outcome of competition for limited nest sites at low elevations, with less competitive individuals being forced to migrate to higher elevations in order to breed.

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Article
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Effects of Salmon-Derived Nutrients and Habitat Characteristics on Population Densities of Stream-Resident Sculpins

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Movement of nutrients across ecosystem boundaries can have important effects on food webs and population dynamics. An example from the North Pacific Rim is the connection between productive marine ecosystems and freshwaters driven by annual spawning migrations of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp). While a growing body of research has highlighted the importance of both pulsed nutrient subsidies and disturbance by spawning salmon, their effects on population densities of vertebrate consumers have rarely been tested, especially across streams spanning a wide range of natural variation in salmon densities and habitat characteristics. We studied resident freshwater prickly (Cottus asper), and coastrange sculpins (C. aleuticus) in coastal salmon spawning streams to test whether their population densities are affected by spawning densities of pink and chum salmon (O. gorbuscha and O. keta), as well as habitat characteristics. Coastrange sculpins occurred in the highest densities in streams with high densities of spawning pink and chum salmon. They also were more dense in streams with high pH, large watersheds, less area covered by pools, and lower gradients. In contrast, prickly sculpin densities were higher in streams with more large wood and pools, and less canopy cover, but their densities were not correlated with salmon. These results for coastrange sculpins provide evidence of a numerical population response by freshwater fish to increased availability of salmon subsidies in streams. These results demonstrate complex and context-dependent relationships between spawning Pacific salmon and coastal ecosystems and can inform an ecosystem-based approach to their management and conservation.

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Article
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Poecilia picta, a Close Relative to the Guppy, Exhibits Red Male Coloration Polymorphism: A System for Phylogenetic Comparisons

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Studies on the evolution of female preference and male color polymorphism frequently focus on single species since traits and preferences are thought to co-evolve. The guppy, Poecilia reticulata, has long been a premier model for such studies because female preferences and orange coloration are well known to covary, especially in upstream/downstream pairs of populations. However, focused single species studies lack the explanatory power of the comparative method, which requires detailed knowledge of multiple species with known evolutionary relationships. Here we describe a red color polymorphism in Poecilia picta, a close relative to guppies. We show that this polymorphism is restricted to males and is maintained in natural populations of mainland South America. Using tests of female preference we show female P. picta are not more attracted to red males, despite preferences for red/orange in closely related species, such as P. reticulata and P. parae. Male color patterns in these closely related species are different from P. picta in that they occur in discrete patches and are frequently Y chromosome-linked. P. reticulata have an almost infinite number of male patterns, while P. parae males occur in discrete morphs. We show the red male polymorphism in P. picta extends continuously throughout the body and is not a Y-linked trait despite the theoretical prediction that sexually-selected characters should often be linked to the heterogametic sex chromosome. The presence/absence of red male coloration of P. picta described here makes this an ideal system for phylogenetic comparisons that could reveal the evolutionary forces maintaining mate choice and color polymorphisms in this speciose group.

Document type: 
Article
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