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  1. null (Ed.)
    Geometric morphometrics (GM) is a powerful analytical approach for evaluating phenotypic variation relevant to taxonomy and systematics, and as with any statistical methodology, requires adherence to fundamental assumptions for inferences to be strictly valid. An important consideration for GM is how landmark configurations, which represent sets of anatomical loci for evaluating shape variation through Cartesian coordinates, relate to underlying homology (Zelditch et al. 1995; Polly 2008). Perhaps more so than with traditional morphometrics, anatomical homology is a crucial assumption for GM because of the mathematical and biological interpretations associated with shape change depicted by deformation grids, such as the thin plate spline (Klingenberg 2008; Zelditch et al. 2012). GM approaches are often used to analyze shapes or outlines of structures, which are not necessarily related to common ancestry, and in this respect GM approaches that use linear semi-landmarks and related methods are particularly amenable to evaluating primary homology, or raw similarity between structures (De Pinna 1991; Palci & Lee 2019). This relaxed interpretation of homology that focuses more on recognizable and repeatable landmarks is defensible so long as authors are clear regarding the purpose of the analyses and in defining their landmark configurations (Palci & Lee 2019). Secondary homology, or similarity due to common ancestry, can also be represented with GM methods and is often assumed to be reflected in fixed Type 1 (juxtaposition of tissues) or Type 2 (self-evident geometry) landmarks (Bookstein 1991). 
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  2. Abstract Meiotic recombination in vertebrates is concentrated in hotspots throughout the genome. The location and stability of hotspots have been linked to the presence or absence of PRDM9, leading to two primary models for hotspot evolution derived from mammals and birds. Species with PRDM9-directed recombination have rapid turnover of hotspots concentrated in intergenic regions (i.e., mammals), whereas hotspots in species lacking PRDM9 are concentrated in functional regions and have greater stability over time (i.e., birds). Snakes possess PRDM9, yet virtually nothing is known about snake recombination. Here, we examine the recombination landscape and test hypotheses about the roles of PRDM9 in rattlesnakes. We find substantial variation in recombination rate within and among snake chromosomes, and positive correlations between recombination rate and gene density, GC content, and genetic diversity. Like mammals, snakes appear to have a functional and active PRDM9, but rather than being directed away from genes, snake hotspots are concentrated in promoters and functional regions—a pattern previously associated only with species that lack a functional PRDM9. Snakes therefore provide a unique example of recombination landscapes in which PRDM9 is functional, yet recombination hotspots are associated with functional genic regions—a combination of features that defy existing paradigms for recombination landscapes in vertebrates. Our findings also provide evidence that high recombination rates are a shared feature of vertebrate microchromosomes. Our results challenge previous assumptions about the adaptive role of PRDM9 and highlight the diversity of recombination landscape features among vertebrate lineages. 
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  3. The Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) is a highly venomous pitviper inhabiting the arid interior deserts, grasslands, and savannas of western North America. Currently two subspecies are recognized: the Northern Mohave Rattlesnake (C. s. scutulatus) ranging from southern California to the southern Central Mexican Plateau, and the Huamantla Rattlesnake (C. s. salvini) from the region of Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and Puebla in south-central Mexico. Although recent studies have demonstrated extensive geographic variation in venom composition and cryptic genetic diversity in this species, no modern studies have focused on geographic variation in morphology. Here we analyzed a series of qualitative, meristic, and morphometric traits from 347 specimens of C. scutulatus and show that this species is phenotypically cohesive without discrete subgroups, and that morphology follows a continuous cline in primarily color pattern and meristic traits across the major axis of its expansive distribution. Interpreted in the context of previously published molecular evidence, our morphological analyses suggest that multiple episodes of isolation and secondary contact among metapopulations during the Pleistocene were sufficient to produce distinctive genetic populations, which have since experienced gene flow to produce clinal variation in phenotypes without discrete or diagnosable distinctions among these original populations. For taxonomic purposes, we recommend that C. scutulatus be retained as a single species, although it is possible that C. s. salvini, which is morphologically the most distinctive population, could represent a peripheral isolate in the initial stages of speciation. 
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  4. Abstract

    The study of recently diverged lineages whose geographical ranges come into contact can provide insight into the early stages of speciation and the potential roles of reproductive isolation in generating and maintaining species. Such insight can also be important for understanding the strategies and challenges for delimiting species within recently diverged species complexes. Here, we use mitochondrial and nuclear genetic data to study population structure, gene flow and demographic history across a geographically widespread rattlesnake clade, the western rattlesnake species complex (Crotalus cerberus, Crotalus viridis, Crotalus oreganus and relatives), which contains multiple lineages with ranges that overlap geographically or contact one another. We find evidence that the evolutionary history of this group does not conform to a bifurcating tree model and that pervasive gene flow has broadly influenced patterns of present-day genetic diversity. Our results suggest that lineage diversity has been shaped largely by drift and divergent selection in isolation, followed by secondary contact, in which reproductive isolating mechanisms appear weak and insufficient to prevent introgression, even between anciently diverged lineages. The complexity of divergence and secondary contact with gene flow among lineages also provides new context for why delimiting species within this complex has been difficult and contentious historically.

     
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