• A chronological framework for the British Quaternary based on Bithynia opercula

      Penkman, KEH; Preece, RC; Bridgland, DR; Keen, DH; Meijer, T; Parfitt, SA; White, TS; Collins, MJ (Nature Research, 2011-08-25)
      Marine and ice-core records show that the Earth has experienced a succession of glacials and interglacials during the Quaternary (last ∼2.6 million years), although it is often difficult to correlate fragmentary terrestrial records with specific cycles. Aminostratigraphy is a method potentially able to link terrestrial sequences to the marine isotope stages (MIS) of the deep-sea record1,2. We have used new methods of extraction and analysis of amino acids, preserved within the calcitic opercula of the freshwater gastropod Bithynia, to provide the most comprehensive data set for the British Pleistocene based on a single dating technique. A total of 470 opercula from 74 sites spanning the entire Quaternary are ranked in order of relative age based on the extent of protein degradation, using aspartic acid/asparagine (Asx), glutamic acid/glutamine (Glx), serine (Ser), alanine (Ala) and valine (Val). This new aminostratigraphy is consistent with the stratigraphical relationships of stratotypes, sites with independent geochronology, biostratigraphy and terrace stratigraphy3,4,5,6. The method corroborates the existence of four interglacial stages between the Anglian (MIS 12) and the Holocene in the terrestrial succession. It establishes human occupation of Britain in most interglacial stages after MIS 15, but supports the notion of human absence during the Last Interglacial (MIS 5e)7. Suspicions that the treeless ‘optimum of the Upton Warren interstadial’ at Isleworth pre-dates MIS 3 are confirmed. This new aminostratigraphy provides a robust framework against which climatic, biostratigraphical and archaeological models can be tested.
    • Convergent evolution of an extreme dietary specialisation, the olfactory system of worm-eating rodents

      Martinez, Q; Lebrun, R; Achmadi, AS; Esselstyn, JA; Evans, AR; Heaney, LR; Portela Miguez, R; Rowe, KC; Fabre, P-H (Nature Research, 2018-12-13)
      Turbinal bones are key components of the mammalian rostrum that contribute to three critical functions: (1) homeothermy, (2) water conservation and (3) olfaction. With over 700 extant species, murine rodents (Murinae) are the most species-rich mammalian subfamily, with most of that diversity residing in the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Their evolutionary history includes several cases of putative, but untested ecomorphological convergence, especially with traits related to diet. Among the most spectacular rodent ecomorphs are the vermivores which independently evolved in several island systems. We used 3D CT-scans (N = 87) of murine turbinal bones to quantify olfactory capacities as well as heat or water conservation adaptations. We obtained similar results from an existing 2D complexity method and two new 3D methodologies that quantify bone complexity. Using comparative phylogenetic methods, we identified a significant convergent signal in the rostral morphology within the highly specialised vermivores. Vermivorous species have significantly larger and more complex olfactory turbinals than do carnivores and omnivores. Increased olfactory capacities may be a major adaptive feature facilitating rats’ capacity to prey on elusive earthworms. The narrow snout that characterises vermivores exhibits significantly reduced respiratory turbinals, which may reduce their heat and water conservation capacities.
    • Novel molecular approach to define pest species status and tritrophic interactions from historical Bemisia specimens

      Tay, WT; Elfekih, S; Polaszek, Andrew; Court, LN; Evans, GA; Gordon, KHJ; De Barro, PJ (Nature Research, 2017-03-27)
      Museum specimens represent valuable genomic resources for understanding host-endosymbiont/parasitoid evolutionary relationships, resolving species complexes and nomenclatural problems. However, museum collections suffer DNA degradation, making them challenging for molecular-based studies. Here, the mitogenomes of a single 1912 Sri Lankan Bemisia emiliae cotype puparium, and of a 1942 Japanese Bemisia puparium are characterised using a Next-Generation Sequencing approach. Whiteflies are small sap-sucking insects including B. tabaci pest species complex. Bemisia emiliae’s draft mitogenome showed a high degree of homology with published B. tabaci mitogenomes, and exhibited 98–100% partial mitochondrial DNA Cytochrome Oxidase I (mtCOI) gene identity with the B. tabaci species known as Asia II-7. The partial mtCOI gene of the Japanese specimen shared 99% sequence identity with the Bemisia ‘JpL’ genetic group. Metagenomic analysis identified bacterial sequences in both Bemisia specimens, while hymenopteran sequences were also identified in the Japanese Bemisia puparium, including complete mtCOI and rRNA genes, and various partial mtDNA genes. At 88–90% mtCOI sequence identity to Aphelinidae wasps, we concluded that the 1942 Bemisia nymph was parasitized by an Eretmocerus parasitoid wasp. Our approach enables the characterisation of genomes and associated metagenomic communities of museum specimens using 1.5 ng gDNA, and to infer historical tritrophic relationships in Bemisia whiteflies.