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  1. Nielsen, Rasmus (Ed.)

    Island ecosystems provide natural laboratories to assess the impacts of isolation on population persistence. However, most studies of persistence have focused on a single species, without comparisons to other organisms they interact with in the ecosystem. The case study of moose and gray wolves on Isle Royale allows for a direct contrast of genetic variation in isolated populations that have experienced dramatically differing population trajectories over the past decade. Whereas the Isle Royale wolf population recently declined nearly to extinction due to severe inbreeding depression, the moose population has thrived and continues to persist, despite having low genetic diversity and being isolated for ∼120 years. Here, we examine the patterns of genomic variation underlying the continued persistence of the Isle Royale moose population. We document high levels of inbreeding in the population, roughly as high as the wolf population at the time of its decline. However, inbreeding in the moose population manifests in the form of intermediate-length runs of homozygosity suggestive of historical inbreeding and purging, contrasting with the long runs of homozygosity observed in the smaller wolf population. Using simulations, we confirm that substantial purging has likely occurred in the moose population. However, we also document notable increases in genetic load, which could eventually threaten population viability over the long term. Overall, our results demonstrate a complex relationship between inbreeding, genetic diversity, and population viability that highlights the use of genomic datasets and computational simulation tools for understanding the factors enabling persistence in isolated populations.

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  2. Abstract

    The genusQuercus, which emerged ∼55 million years ago during globally warm temperatures, diversified into ∼450 extant species. We present a high-quality de novo genome assembly of a California endemic oak,Quercus lobata, revealing features consistent with oak evolutionary success. Effective population size remained large throughout history despite declining since early Miocene. Analysis of 39,373 mapped protein-coding genes outlined copious duplications consistent with genetic and phenotypic diversity, both by retention of genes created during the ancient γ whole genome hexaploid duplication event and by tandem duplication within families, including numerous resistance genes and a very large block of duplicated DUF247 genes, which have been found to be associated with self-incompatibility in grasses. An additional surprising finding is that subcontext-specific patterns of DNA methylation associated with transposable elements reveal broadly-distributed heterochromatin in intergenic regions, similar to grasses. Collectively, these features promote genetic and phenotypic variation that would facilitate adaptability to changing environments.

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  3. Abstract

    Annotations of evolutionary sequence constraint based on multi-species genome alignments and genome-wide maps of epigenomic marks and transcription factor binding provide important complementary information for understanding the human genome and genetic variation. Here we developed the Constrained Non-Exonic Predictor (CNEP) to quantify the evidence of each base in the genome being in an evolutionarily constrained non-exonic element from an input of over 60,000 epigenomic and transcription factor binding features. We find that the CNEP score outperforms baseline and related existing scores at predicting evolutionarily constrained non-exonic bases from such data. However, a subset of them are still not well predicted by CNEP. We developed a complementary Conservation Signature Score by CNEP (CSS-CNEP) that is predictive of those bases. We further characterize the nature of constrained non-exonic bases with low CNEP scores using additional types of information. CNEP and CSS-CNEP are resources for analyzing constrained non-exonic bases in the genome.

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  4. Abstract

    Despite its recent invasion into the marine realm, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) has evolved a suite of adaptations for life in cold coastal waters, including limb modifications and dense insulating fur. This uniquely dense coat led to the near-extinction of sea otters during the 18th–20th century fur trade and an extreme population bottleneck. We used the de novo genome of the southern sea otter (E. l. nereis) to reconstruct its evolutionary history, identify genes influencing aquatic adaptation, and detect signals of population bottlenecks. We compared the genome of the southern sea otter with the tropical freshwater-living giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) to assess common and divergent genomic trends between otter species, and with the closely related northern sea otter (E. l. kenyoni) to uncover population-level trends. We found signals of positive selection in genes related to aquatic adaptations, particularly limb development and polygenic selection on genes related to hair follicle development. We found extensive pseudogenization of olfactory receptor genes in both the sea otter and giant otter lineages, consistent with patterns of sensory gene loss in other aquatic mammals. At the population level, the southern sea otter and the northern sea otter showed extremely low genomic diversity, signals of recent inbreeding, and demographic histories marked by population declines. These declines may predate the fur trade and appear to have resulted in an increase in putatively deleterious variants that could impact the future recovery of the sea otter.

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