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  1. Abstract

    Wildlife diseases, such as the sea star wasting (SSW) epizootic that outbroke in the mid-2010s, appear to be associated with acute and/or chronic abiotic environmental change; dissociating the effects of different drivers can be difficult. The sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, was the species most severely impacted during the SSW outbreak, which overlapped with periods of anomalous atmospheric and oceanographic conditions, and there is not yet a consensus on the cause(s). Genomic data may reveal underlying molecular signatures that implicate a subset of factors and, thus, clarify past events while also setting the scene for effective restoration efforts. To advance this goal, we used Pacific Biosciences HiFi long sequencing reads and Dovetail Omni-C proximity reads to generate a highly contiguous genome assembly that was then annotated using RNA-seq-informed gene prediction. The genome assembly is 484 Mb long, with contig N50 of 1.9 Mb, scaffold N50 of 21.8 Mb, BUSCO completeness score of 96.1%, and 22 major scaffolds consistent with prior evidence that sea star genomes comprise 22 autosomes. These statistics generally fall between those of other recently assembled chromosome-scale assemblies for two species in the distantly related asteroid genus Pisaster. These novel genomic resources for P. helianthoides will underwrite population genomic, comparative genomic, and phylogenomic analyses—as well as their integration across scales—of SSW and environmental stressors.

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  2. Mass mortality events provide valuable insight into biological extremes and also ecological interactions more generally. The sea star wasting epidemic that began in 2013 catalyzed study of the microbiome, genetics, population dynamics, and community ecology of several high-profile species inhabiting the northeastern Pacific but exposed a dearth of information on the diversity, distributions, and impacts of sea star wasting for many lesser-known sea stars and a need for integration across scales. Here, we combine datasets from single-site to coast-wide studies, across time lines from weeks to decades, for65 species. We evaluated the impacts of abiotic characteristics hypothetically associated with sea star wasting (sea surface temperature, pelagic primary productivity, upwelling wind forcing, wave exposure, freshwater runoff) and species characteristics (depth distribution, developmental mode, diet, habitat, reproductive period). We find that the 2010s sea star wasting out-break clearly affected a little over a dozen species, primarily intertidal and shallow subtidal taxa, causing instantaneous wast-ing prevalence rates of 5%–80%. Despite the collapse of some populations within weeks, environmental and species variation protracted the outbreak, which lasted 2–3 years from onset until declining to chronic background rates of 2% sea star wasting prevalence. Recruitment began immediately in many species, and in general, sea star assemblages trended toward recovery; however, recovery was heterogeneous, and a marine heatwave in 2019 raised concerns of a second decline. The abiotic stressors most associated with the 2010s sea star wasting outbreak were elevated sea surface temperature and low wave exposure, as well as freshwater discharge in the north. However, detailed data speaking directly to the biological, ecological, and environmental cause(s) and consequences of the sea star wasting outbreak remain limited in scope, unavoidably retrospective, andperhaps always indeterminate. Redressing this shortfall for the future will require a broad spectrum of monitoring studies not less than the taxonomically broad cross-scale framework we have modeled in this synthesis. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Theoretically, species' characteristics should allow estimation of dispersal potential and, in turn, explain levels of population genetic differentiation. However, a mismatch between traits and genetic patterns is often reported for marine species, and interpreted as evidence that life-history traits do not influence dispersal. Here, we couple ecological and genomic methods to test the hypothesis that species with attributes favouring greater dispersal potential—e.g., longer pelagic duration, higher fecundity and larger population size—have greater realized dispersal overall. We used a natural experiment created by a large-scale and multispecies mortality event which created a “clean slate” on which to study recruitment dynamics, thus simplifying a usually complex problem. We surveyed four species of differing dispersal potential to quantify the abundance and distribution of recruits and to genetically assign these recruits to probable parental sources. Species with higher dispersal potential recolonized a broader extent of the impacted range, did so more quickly and recovered more genetic diversity than species with lower dispersal potential. Moreover, populations of taxa with higher dispersal potential exhibited more immigration (71%–92% of recruits) than taxa with lower dispersal potential (17%–44% of recruits). By linking ecological with genomic perspectives, we demonstrate that a suite of interacting life-history and demographic attributes do influence species' realized dispersal and genetic neighbourhoods. To better understand species' resilience and recovery in this time of global change, integrative eco-evolutionary approaches are needed to more rigorously evaluate the effect of dispersal-linked attributes on realized dispersal and population genetic differentiation. 
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  4. Abstract

    The extent of parallel genomic responses to similar selective pressures depends on a complex array of environmental, demographic, and evolutionary forces. Laboratory experiments with replicated selective pressures yield mixed outcomes under controlled conditions and our understanding of genomic parallelism in the wild is limited to a few well‐established systems. Here, we examine genomic signals of selection in the eelgrassZostera marinaacross temperature gradients in adjacent embayments. Although we find many genomic regions with signals of selection within each bay there is very little overlap in signals of selection at the SNP level, despite most polymorphisms being shared across bays. We do find overlap at the gene level, potentially suggesting multiple mutational pathways to the same phenotype. Using polygenic models we find that some sets of candidate SNPs are able to predict temperature across both bays, suggesting that small but parallel shifts in allele frequencies may be missed by independent genome scans. Together, these results highlight the continuous rather than binary nature of parallel evolution in polygenic traits and the complexity of evolutionary predictability.

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  5. Sea star wasting (SSW) disease describes a condition affecting asteroids that resulted in significant Northeastern Pacific population decline following a mass mortality event in 2013. The etiology of SSW is unresolved. We hypothesized that SSW is a sequela of microbial organic matter remineralization near respiratory surfaces, one consequence of which may be limited O 2 availability at the animal-water interface. Microbial assemblages inhabiting tissues and at the asteroid-water interface bore signatures of copiotroph proliferation before SSW onset, followed by the appearance of putatively facultative and strictly anaerobic taxa at the time of lesion genesis and as animals died. SSW lesions were induced in Pisaster ochraceus by enrichment with a variety of organic matter (OM) sources. These results together illustrate that depleted O 2 conditions at the animal-water interface may be established by heterotrophic microbial activity in response to organic matter loading. SSW was also induced by modestly (∼39%) depleted O 2 conditions in aquaria, suggesting that small perturbations in dissolved O 2 may exacerbate the condition. SSW susceptibility between species was significantly and positively correlated with surface rugosity, a key determinant of diffusive boundary layer thickness. Tissues of SSW-affected individuals collected in 2013–2014 bore δ 15 N signatures reflecting anaerobic processes, which suggests that this phenomenon may have affected asteroids during mass mortality at the time. The impacts of enhanced microbial activity and subsequent O 2 diffusion limitation may be more pronounced under higher temperatures due to lower O 2 solubility, in more rugose asteroid species due to restricted hydrodynamic flow, and in larger specimens due to their lower surface area to volume ratios which affects diffusive respiratory potential. 
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  6. Abstract

    Environmental change is intensifying the biodiversity crisis and threatening species across the tree of life. Conservation genomics can help inform conservation actions and slow biodiversity loss. However, more training, appropriate use of novel genomic methods and communication with managers are needed. Here, we review practical guidance to improve applied conservation genomics. We share insights aimed at ensuring effectiveness of conservation actions around three themes: (1) improving pedagogy and training in conservation genomics including for online global audiences, (2) conducting rigorous population genomic analyses properly considering theory, marker types and data interpretation and (3) facilitating communication and collaboration between managers and researchers. We aim to update students and professionals and expand their conservation toolkit with genomic principles and recent approaches for conserving and managing biodiversity. The biodiversity crisis is a global problem and, as such, requires international involvement, training, collaboration and frequent reviews of the literature and workshops as we do here.

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