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Creators/Authors contains: "Grazziotin, Felipe G."

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  1. Abstract Recent phylogenetic analyses differ in their interpretations of the origin and interrelationships of snakes, resulting in polarized views of snake ecology, habit and acquisition of features associated with wide-gaped feeding (macrostomy). Here, we report a new specimen of the Late Cretaceous nest predator Sanajeh indicus that helps to resolve the origin of macrostomy. The new specimen preserves an ossified upper temporal bar and a posteriorly expanded otooccipital region that lacks a free-ending supratemporal bone and retains a lizard-like palatomaxillary arch that allows limited movements during swallowing. Phylogenetic analyses of a large-scale total evidence dataset resolve Sanajeh near the base of Pan-Serpentes, as the sister group of Najash, Dinilysia and crown-group Serpentes. The Cretaceous Tetrapodophis and Coniophis represent the earliest-diverging members of Pan-Serpentes. The Cretaceous hindlimbed pachyophiids and Cenozoic Australian ‘madtsoiids’ are inside crown Alethinophidia, whereas mosasaurs are recovered invariably within anguimorphs. Our results suggest that the wide-gape condition in mosasaurs and snakes might have evolved independently, as functionally distinct mechanisms of prey ingestion. The intermediate morphology preserved in Sanajeh indicates that ingestion of large prey items (macrophagy) preceded wide-gaped, unilateral feeding (macrostomy), which appeared 35 Myr later, in the common ancestor of pachyophiids, Cenozoic Australian ‘madtsoiids’ and alethinophidians.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 13, 2023
  2. Ontogenetic changes in venom composition have been described in Bothrops snakes, but only a few studies have attempted to identify the targeted paralogues or the molecular mechanisms involved in modifications of gene expression during ontogeny. In this study, we decoded B. jararacussu venom gland transcripts from six specimens of varying sizes and analyzed the variability in the composition of independent venom proteomes from 19 individuals. We identified 125 distinct putative toxin transcripts, and of these, 73 were detected in venom proteomes and only 10 were involved in the ontogenetic changes. Ontogenetic variability was linearly related to snake size and did not correspond to the maturation of the reproductive stage. Changes in the transcriptome were highly predictive of changes in the venom proteome. The basic myotoxic phospholipases A2 (PLA2s) were the most abundant components in larger snakes, while in venoms from smaller snakes, PIII-class SVMPs were the major components. The snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs) identified corresponded to novel sequences and conferred higher pro-coagulant and hemorrhagic functions to the venom of small snakes. The mechanisms modulating venom variability are predominantly related to transcriptional events and may consist of an advantage of higher hematotoxicity and more efficient predatory function in the venom frommore »small snakes.« less
  3. The role of natural selection in the evolution of trait complexity can be characterized by testing hypothesized links between complex forms and their functions across species. Predatory venoms are composed of multiple proteins that collectively function to incapacitate prey. Venom complexity fluctuates over evolutionary timescales, with apparent increases and decreases in complexity, and yet the causes of this variation are unclear. We tested alternative hypotheses linking venom complexity and ecological sources of selection from diet in the largest clade of front-fanged venomous snakes in North America: the rattlesnakes, copperheads, cantils, and cottonmouths. We generated independent transcriptomic and proteomic measures of venom complexity and collated several natural history studies to quantify dietary variation. We then constructed genome-scale phylogenies for these snakes for comparative analyses. Strikingly, prey phylogenetic diversity was more strongly correlated to venom complexity than was overall prey species diversity, specifically implicating prey species’ divergence, rather than the number of lineages alone, in the evolution of complexity. Prey phylogenetic diversity further predicted transcriptomic complexity of three of the four largest gene families in viper venom, showing that complexity evolution is a concerted response among many independent gene families. We suggest that the phylogenetic diversity of prey measures functionally relevant divergencemore »in the targets of venom, a claim supported by sequence diversity in the coagulation cascade targets of venom. Our results support the general concept that the diversity of species in an ecological community is more important than their overall number in determining evolutionary patterns in predator trait complexity.

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  4. Abstract

    Genomics is narrowing uncertainty in the phylogenetic structure for many amniote groups. For one of the most diverse and species-rich groups, the squamate reptiles (lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians), an inverse correlation between the number of taxa and loci sampled still persists across all publications using DNA sequence data and reaching a consensus on the relationships among them has been highly problematic. In this study, we use high-throughput sequence data from 289 samples covering 75 families of squamates to address phylogenetic affinities, estimate divergence times, and characterize residual topological uncertainty in the presence of genome-scale data. Importantly, we address genomic support for the traditional taxonomic groupings Scleroglossa and Macrostomata using novel machine-learning techniques. We interrogate genes using various metrics inherent to these loci, including parsimony-informative sites (PIS), phylogenetic informativeness, length, gaps, number of substitutions, and site concordance to understand why certain loci fail to find previously well-supported molecular clades and how they fail to support species-tree estimates. We show that both incomplete lineage sorting and poor gene-tree estimation (due to a few undesirable gene properties, such as an insufficient number of PIS), may account for most gene and species-tree discordance. We find overwhelming signal for Toxicofera, and also show thatmore »none of the loci included in this study supports Scleroglossa or Macrostomata. We comment on the origins and diversification of Squamata throughout the Mesozoic and underscore remaining uncertainties that persist in both deeper parts of the tree (e.g., relationships between Dibamia, Gekkota, and remaining squamates; among the three toxicoferan clades Iguania, Serpentes, and Anguiformes) and within specific clades (e.g., affinities among gekkotan, pleurodont iguanians, and colubroid families).

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