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  1. Summary

    Water scarcity, resulting from climate change, poses a significant threat to ecosystems.Syntrichia ruralis, a dryland desiccation‐tolerant moss, provides valuable insights into survival of water‐limited conditions.

    We sequenced the genome ofS. ruralis, conducted transcriptomic analyses, and performed comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses with existing genomes and transcriptomes, including with the close relativeS. caninervis. We took a genetic approach to characterize the role of anS. ruralistranscription factor, identified in transcriptomic analyses, inArabidopsis thaliana.

    The genome was assembled into 12 chromosomes encompassing 21 169 protein‐coding genes. Comparative analysis revealed copy number and transcript abundance differences in known desiccation‐associated gene families, and highlighted genome‐level variation among species that may reflect adaptation to different habitats. A significant number of abscisic acid (ABA)‐responsive genes were found to be negatively regulated by a MYB transcription factor (MYB55) that was upstream of theS. ruralisortholog of ABA‐insensitive 3 (ABI3). We determined that this conserved MYB transcription factor, uncharacterized inArabidopsis, acts as a negative regulator of an ABA‐dependent stress response inArabidopsis.

    The new genomic resources from this emerging model moss offer novel insights into how plants regulate their responses to water deprivation.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. Desiccation tolerance is an ancient and complex trait that spans all major lineages of life on earth. Although important in the evolution of land plants, the mechanisms that underlay this complex trait are poorly understood, especially for vegetative desiccation tolerance (VDT). The lack of suitable closely related plant models that offer a direct contrast between desiccation tolerance and sensitivity has hampered progress. We have assembled high-quality genomes for two closely related grasses, the desiccation-tolerant Sporobolus stapfianus and the desiccation-sensitive Sporobolus pyramidalis . Both species are complex polyploids; S. stapfianus is primarily tetraploid, and S. pyramidalis is primarily hexaploid. S. pyramidalis undergoes a major transcriptome remodeling event during initial exposure to dehydration, while S. stapfianus has a muted early response, with peak remodeling during the transition between 1.5 and 1.0 grams of water (gH 2 O) g −1 dry weight (dw). Functionally, the dehydration transcriptome of S. stapfianus is unrelated to that for S. pyramidalis . A comparative analysis of the transcriptomes of the hydrated controls for each species indicated that S. stapfianus is transcriptionally primed for desiccation. Cross-species comparative analyses indicated that VDT likely evolved from reprogramming of desiccation tolerance mechanisms that evolved in seeds and that the tolerance mechanism of S. stapfianus represents a recent evolution for VDT within the Chloridoideae. Orthogroup analyses of the significantly differentially abundant transcripts reconfirmed our present understanding of the response to dehydration, including the lack of an induction of senescence in resurrection angiosperms. The data also suggest that failure to maintain protein structure during dehydration is likely critical in rendering a plant desiccation sensitive. 
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  4. Ecological niche differences are necessary for stable species coexistence but are often difficult to discern. Models of dietary niche differentiation in large mammalian herbivores invoke the quality, quantity, and spatiotemporal distribution of plant tissues and growth forms but are agnostic toward food plant species identity. Empirical support for these models is variable, suggesting that additional mechanisms of resource partitioning may be important in sustaining large-herbivore diversity in African savannas. We used DNA metabarcoding to conduct a taxonomically explicit analysis of large-herbivore diets across southeastern Africa, analyzing ∼4,000 fecal samples of 30 species from 10 sites in seven countries over 6 y. We detected 893 food plant taxa from 124 families, but just two families—grasses and legumes—accounted for the majority of herbivore diets. Nonetheless, herbivore species almost invariably partitioned food plant taxa; diet composition differed significantly in 97% of pairwise comparisons between sympatric species, and dissimilarity was pronounced even between the strictest grazers (grass eaters), strictest browsers (nongrass eaters), and closest relatives at each site. Niche differentiation was weakest in an ecosystem recovering from catastrophic defaunation, indicating that food plant partitioning is driven by species interactions, and was stronger at low rainfall, as expected if interspecific competition is a predominant driver. Diets differed more between browsers than grazers, which predictably shaped community organization: Grazer-dominated trophic networks had higher nestedness and lower modularity. That dietary differentiation is structured along taxonomic lines complements prior work on how herbivores partition plant parts and patches and suggests that common mechanisms govern herbivore coexistence and community assembly in savannas. 
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  5. null (Ed.)