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  1. Abstract

    Identifying hotspots of biological diversity is a key step in conservation prioritisation. Melanesia—centred on the vast island of New Guinea—is increasingly recognised for its exceptionally species-rich and endemic biota. Here we show that Melanesia has the world’s most diverse insular amphibian fauna, with over 7% of recognised global frog species in less than 0.7% of the world’s land area, and over 97% of species endemic. We further estimate that nearly 200 additional candidate species have been discovered but remain unnamed, pointing to a total fauna in excess of 700 species. Nearly 60% of the Melanesian frog fauna is in a lineage of direct-developing microhylids characterised by smaller distributions than co-occurring frog families, suggesting lineage-specific high beta diversity is a key driver of Melanesian anuran megadiversity. A comprehensive conservation status assessment further highlights geographic concentrations of recently described range-restricted threatened taxa that warrant urgent conservation actions. Nonetheless, by world standards, the Melanesian frog fauna is relatively intact, with 6% of assessed species listed as threatened and no documented extinctions; and thus it provides an unparalleled opportunity to understand and conserve a megadiverse and relatively intact insular biota.

  2. Abstract Major phenotypic innovations in social amoeba evolution occurred at the transition between the Polysphondylia and group 4 Dictyostelia, which comprise the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum, such as the formation of a new structure, the basal disk. Basal disk differentiation and robust stalk formation require the morphogen DIF-1, synthesized by the polyketide synthase StlB, the des-methyl-DIF-1 methyltransferase DmtA, and the chlorinase ChlA, which are conserved throughout Dictyostelia. To understand how the basal disk and other innovations evolved in group 4, we sequenced and annotated the Polysphondylium violaceum (Pvio) genome, performed cell type-specific transcriptomics to identify cell-type marker genes, and developed transformation and gene knock-out procedures for Pvio. We used the novel methods to delete the Pvio stlB gene. The Pvio stlB− mutants formed misshapen curly sorogens with thick and irregular stalks. As fruiting body formation continued, the upper stalks became more regular, but structures contained 40% less spores. The stlB− sorogens overexpressed a stalk gene and underexpressed a (pre)spore gene. Normal fruiting body formation and sporulation were restored in Pvio stlB− by including DIF-1 in the supporting agar. These data indicate that, although conserved, stlB and its product(s) acquired both a novel role in the group 4 Dictyostelia and amore »role opposite to that in its sister group.« less
  3. A global international initiative, such as the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), requires both agreement and coordination on standards to ensure that the collective effort generates rapid progress toward its goals. To this end, the EBP initiated five technical standards committees comprising volunteer members from the global genomics scientific community: Sample Collection and Processing, Sequencing and Assembly, Annotation, Analysis, and IT and Informatics. The current versions of the resulting standards documents are available on the EBP website, with the recognition that opportunities, technologies, and challenges may improve or change in the future, requiring flexibility for the EBP to meet its goals. Here, we describe some highlights from the proposed standards, and areas where additional challenges will need to be met.
  4. Caramelli, David (Ed.)
  5. We describe a new species of Cornufer, subgenus Batrachylodes, from high-elevation forests of New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Eastern Melanesia. The new species, Cornufer exedrus sp. nov., is a biogeographically disjunct member of the Batrachylodes clade, representing the first record of the subgenus from outside of the Solomon Archipelago. The new species is a small terrestrial form from dense, closed-canopy forests above 1500 meters elevation in the Nakanai Mountains of eastern New Britain. It differs from its closest relatives, the other members of the subgenus Batrachylodes, on the basis of its minute body size, degree of digital disc expansion, reduced subdigital tuberculation, color pattern, and other traits related to its small size. We also provide a description of the new species’ simple advertisement call. The diversity of ceratobatrachid frogs of the Bismarck Archipelago is most likely still underestimated despite several recent surveys. Our understanding of evolutionary trends and species boundaries in the subgenus Batrachylodes currently is hampered by lack of genetic samples and call recordings corresponding to voucher specimens of the endemic species of Bougainville Island.
  6. Abstract Background The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande), is a globally invasive pest and plant virus vector on a wide array of food, fiber, and ornamental crops. The underlying genetic mechanisms of the processes governing thrips pest and vector biology, feeding behaviors, ecology, and insecticide resistance are largely unknown. To address this gap, we present the F. occidentalis draft genome assembly and official gene set. Results We report on the first genome sequence for any member of the insect order Thysanoptera. Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Ortholog (BUSCO) assessments of the genome assembly (size = 415.8 Mb, scaffold N50 = 948.9 kb) revealed a relatively complete and well-annotated assembly in comparison to other insect genomes. The genome is unusually GC-rich (50%) compared to other insect genomes to date. The official gene set (OGS v1.0) contains 16,859 genes, of which ~ 10% were manually verified and corrected by our consortium. We focused on manual annotation, phylogenetic, and expression evidence analyses for gene sets centered on primary themes in the life histories and activities of plant-colonizing insects. Highlights include the following: (1) divergent clades and large expansions in genes associated with environmental sensing (chemosensory receptors) and detoxification (CYP4, CYP6, and CCE enzymes) of substances encountered in agricultural environments; (2) amore »comprehensive set of salivary gland genes supported by enriched expression; (3) apparent absence of members of the IMD innate immune defense pathway; and (4) developmental- and sex-specific expression analyses of genes associated with progression from larvae to adulthood through neometaboly, a distinct form of maturation differing from either incomplete or complete metamorphosis in the Insecta. Conclusions Analysis of the F. occidentalis genome offers insights into the polyphagous behavior of this insect pest that finds, colonizes, and survives on a widely diverse array of plants. The genomic resources presented here enable a more complete analysis of insect evolution and biology, providing a missing taxon for contemporary insect genomics-based analyses. Our study also offers a genomic benchmark for molecular and evolutionary investigations of other Thysanoptera species.« less
  7. Abstract

    New Guinea has been considered both as a refuge for mesic rainforest-associated lineages that contracted in response to the late Cenozoic aridification of Australia and as a centre of biotic diversification and radiation since the mid-Miocene or earlier. Here, we estimate the diversity and a phylogeny for the Australo-Papuan forest dragons (Sauria: Agamidae; ~20 species) in order to examine the following: (1) whether New Guinea and/or proto-Papuan Islands may have been a biogeographical refuge or a source for diversity in Australia; (2) whether mesic rainforest environments are ancestral to the entire radiation, as may be predicted by the New Guinea refuge hypothesis; and (3) more broadly, how agamid ecological diversity varies across the contrasting environments of Australia and New Guinea. Patterns of lineage distribution and diversity suggest that extinction in Australia, and colonization and radiation on proto-Papuan islands, have both shaped the extant diversity and distribution of forest dragons since the mid-Miocene. The ancestral biome for all Australo-Papuan agamids is ambiguous. Both rainforest and arid-adapted radiations probably started in the early Miocene. However, despite deep-lineage diversity in New Guinea rainforest habitats, overall species and ecological diversity is low when compared with more arid areas, with terrestrial taxa being strikinglymore »absent.

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