• Evolutionary Ecology of Fish Venom: Adaptations and Consequences of Evolving a Venom System.

      Harris, RJ; Jenner, RA (MDPI, 2019-01-22)
      Research on venomous animals has mainly focused on the molecular, biochemical, and pharmacological aspects of venom toxins. However, it is the relatively neglected broader study of evolutionary ecology that is crucial for understanding the biological relevance of venom systems. As fish have convergently evolved venom systems multiple times, it makes them ideal organisms to investigate the evolutionary ecology of venom on a broader scale. This review outlines what is known about how fish venom systems evolved as a result of natural enemy interactions and about the ecological consequences of evolving a venom system. This review will show how research on the evolutionary ecology of venom in fish can aid in understanding the evolutionary ecology of animal venoms more generally. Further, understanding these broad ecological questions can shed more light on the other areas of toxinology, with applications across multiple disciplinary fields.
    • Evolutionary history of the Galápagos Rail revealed by ancient mitogenomes and modern samples

      Chaves, Jaime A; Martinez-Torres, Pedro J; Depino, Emiliano A; Espinoza-Ulloa, Sebastian; García-Loor, Jefferson; Beichman, Annabel; Stervander, Martin (MDPI, 2020-11-12)
      The biotas of the Galápagos Islands are one of the best studied island systems and have provided a broad model for insular species’ origins and evolution. Nevertheless, some locally endemic taxa, such as the Galápagos Rail Laterallus spilonota, remain poorly characterized. Owing to its elusive behavior, cryptic plumage, and restricted distribution, the Galápagos Rail is one of the least studied endemic vertebrates of the Galapagos Islands. To date, there is no genetic data for this species, leaving its origins, relationships to other taxa, and levels of genetic diversity uncharacterized. This lack of information is critical given the adverse fate of island rail species around the world in the recent past. Here, we examine the genetics of Galápagos Rails using a combination of mitogenome de novo assembly with multilocus nuclear and mitochondrial sequencing from both modern and historical samples. We show that the Galápagos Rail is part of the “American black rail clade”, sister to the Black Rail L. jamaicensis, with a colonization of Galápagos dated to 1.2 million years ago. A separate analysis of one nuclear and two mitochondrial markers in the larger population samples demonstrates a shallow population structure across the islands, possibly due to elevated island connectivity. Additionally, birds from the island Pinta possessed the lowest levels of genetic diversity, possibly reflecting past population bottlenecks associated with overgrazing of their habitat by invasive goats. The modern and historical data presented here highlight the low genetic diversity in this endemic rail species and provide useful information to guide conservation efforts.
    • Telenomus remus, a Candidate Parasitoid for the Biological Control of Spodoptera frugiperda in Africa, is already Present on the Continent

      Kenis, M; du Plessis, H; Van den Berg, J; Ba, MN; Goergen, G; Kwadjo, KE; Baoua, I; Tefera, T; Buddie, A; Cafa, G; et al. (MDPI, 2019-03-29)
      The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, a moth originating from tropical and subtropical America, has recently become a serious pest of cereals in sub-Saharan Africa. Biological control offers an economically and environmentally safer alternative to synthetic insecticides that are being used for the management of this pest. Consequently, various biological control options are being considered, including the introduction of Telenomus remus, the main egg parasitoid of S. frugiperda in the Americas, where it is already used in augmentative biological control programmes. During surveys in South, West, and East Africa, parasitized egg masses of S. frugiperda were collected, and the emerged parasitoids were identified through morphological observations and molecular analyses as T. remus. The presence of T. remus in Africa in at least five countries provides a great opportunity to develop augmentative biological control methods and register the parasitoid against S. frugiperda. Surveys should be carried out throughout Africa to assess the present distribution of T. remus on the continent, and the parasitoid could be re-distributed in the regions where it is absent, following national and international regulations. Classical biological control should focus on the importation of larval parasitoids from the Americas.