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  1. Betancourt, Andrea (Ed.)
    Abstract Evolutionary processes driving physiological trait variation depend on the underlying genomic mechanisms. Evolution of these mechanisms depends on the genetic complexity (involving many genes) and how gene expression impacting the traits is converted to phenotype. Yet, genomic mechanisms that impact physiological traits are diverse and context dependent (e.g., vary by environment and tissues), making them difficult to discern. We examine the relationships between genotype, mRNA expression, and physiological traits to discern the genetic complexity and whether the gene expression affecting the physiological traits is primarily cis- or trans-acting. We use low-coverage whole genome sequencing and heart- or brain-specific mRNA expression to identify polymorphisms directly associated with physiological traits and expressed quantitative trait loci (eQTL) indirectly associated with variation in six temperature specific physiological traits (standard metabolic rate, thermal tolerance, and four substrate specific cardiac metabolic rates). Focusing on a select set of mRNAs belonging to co-expression modules that explain up to 82% of temperature specific traits, we identified hundreds of significant eQTL for mRNA whose expression affects physiological traits. Surprisingly, most eQTL (97.4% for heart and 96.7% for brain) were trans-acting. This could be due to higher effect size of trans- versus cis-acting eQTL for mRNAs that are central to co-expression modules. That is, we may have enhanced the identification of trans-acting factors by looking for single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with mRNAs in co-expression modules that broadly influence gene expression patterns. Overall, these data indicate that the genomic mechanism driving physiological variation across environments is driven by trans-acting heart- or brain-specific mRNA expression. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Abstract An evolutionary debate contrasts the importance of genetic convergence versus genetic redundancy. In genetic convergence, the same adaptive trait evolves because of similar genetic changes. In genetic redundancy, the adaptive trait evolves using different genetic combinations, and populations might not share the same genetic changes. Here we address this debate by examining single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the rapid evolution of character displacement in Anolis carolinensis populations inhabiting replicate islands with and without a competitor species (1Spp and 2Spp islands, respectively). We identify 215-outliers SNPs that have improbably large FST values, low nucleotide variation, greater linkage than expected and that are enriched for genes underlying animal movement. The pattern of SNP divergence between 1Spp and 2Spp populations supports both genetic convergence and genetic redundancy for character displacement. In support of genetic convergence: all 215-outliers SNPs are shared among at least three of the five 2Spp island populations, and 23% of outlier SNPS are shared among all five 2Spp island populations. In contrast, in support of genetic redundancy: many outlier SNPs only have meaningful allele frequency differences between 1Spp and 2Spp islands on a few 2Spp islands. That is, on at least one of the 2Spp islands, 77% of outlier SNPs have allele frequencies more similar to those on 1Spp islands than to those on 2Spp islands. Focusing on genetic convergence is scientifically rigorous because it relies on replication. Yet, this focus distracts from the possibility that there are multiple, redundant genetic solutions that enhance the rate and stability of adaptive change. 
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  3. Abstract Physiological trait variation underlies health, responses to global climate change, and ecological performance. Yet, most physiological traits are complex, and we have little understanding of the genes and genomic architectures that define their variation. To provide insight into the genetic architecture of physiological processes, we related physiological traits to heart and brain mRNA expression using a weighted gene co-expression network analysis. mRNA expression was used to explain variation in six physiological traits (whole animal metabolism (WAM), critical thermal maximum (CT max ), and four substrate specific cardiac metabolic rates (CaM)) under 12 °C and 28 °C acclimation conditions. Notably, the physiological trait variations among the three geographically close (within 15 km) and genetically similar F. heteroclitus populations are similar to those found among 77 aquatic species spanning 15–20° of latitude (~ 2,000 km). These large physiological trait variations among genetically similar individuals provide a powerful approach to determine the relationship between mRNA expression and heritable fitness related traits unconfounded by interspecific differences. Expression patterns explained up to 82% of metabolic trait variation and were enriched for multiple signaling pathways known to impact metabolic and thermal tolerance ( e.g. , AMPK, PPAR, mTOR, FoxO, and MAPK) but also contained several unexpected pathways ( e.g. , apoptosis, cellular senescence), suggesting that physiological trait variation is affected by many diverse genes. 
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  4. Abstract Background The teleost fish Fundulus heteroclitus inhabit estuaries heavily polluted with persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals. While embryos of parents from polluted sites are remarkably resistant to toxic sediment and develop normally, embryos of parents from relatively clean estuaries, when treated with polluted sediment extracts, are developmentally delayed, displaying deformities characteristic of pollution-induced embryotoxicity. To gain insight into parental effects on sensitive and resistant phenotypes during late organogenesis, we established sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families using five female and five male parents from relatively clean and predominantly PAH-polluted estuaries each, measured heart rates, and quantified individual embryo expression of 179 metabolic genes. Results Pollution-induced embryotoxicity manifested as morphological deformities, significant developmental delays, and altered cardiac physiology was evident among sensitive embryos resulting from crosses between females and males from relatively clean estuaries. Significantly different heart rates among several geographically unrelated populations of sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families during late organogenesis and pre-hatching suggest site-specific adaptive cardiac physiology phenotypes relative to pollution exposure. Metabolic gene expression patterns (32 genes, 17.9%, at p < 0.05; 11 genes, 6.1%, at p < 0.01) among the embryo families indicate maternal pollutant deposition in the eggs and parental effects on gene expression and metabolic alterations. Conclusion Heart rate differences among sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryos is a reliable phenotype for further explorations of adaptive mechanisms. While metabolic gene expression patterns among embryo families are suggestive of parental effects on several differentially expressed genes, a definitive adaptive signature and metabolic cost of resistant phenotypes is unclear and shows unexpected sensitive-resistant crossed embryo expression profiles. Our study highlights physiological and metabolic gene expression differences during a critical embryonic stage among pollution sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families, which may contribute to underlying resistance mechanisms observed in natural F. heteroclitus populations living in heavily contaminated estuaries. 
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  5. ABSTRACT Physiology defines individual responses to global climate change and species distributions across environments. Physiological responses are driven by temperature on three time scales: acute, acclimatory and evolutionary. Acutely, passive temperature effects often dictate an expected 2-fold increase in metabolic processes for every 10°C change in temperature (Q10). Yet, these acute responses often are mitigated through acclimation within an individual or evolutionary adaptation within populations over time. Natural selection can influence both responses and often reduces interindividual variation towards an optimum. However, this interindividual physiological variation is not well characterized. Here, we quantified responses to a 16°C temperature difference in six physiological traits across nine thermally distinct Fundulus heteroclitus populations. These traits included whole-animal metabolism (WAM), critical thermal maximum (CTmax) and substrate-specific cardiac metabolism measured in approximately 350 individuals. These traits exhibited high variation among both individuals and populations. Thermal sensitivity (Q10) was determined, specifically as the acclimated Q10, in which individuals were both acclimated and assayed at each temperature. The interindividual variation in Q10 was unexpectedly large: ranging from 0.6 to 5.4 for WAM. Thus, with a 16°C difference, metabolic rates were unchanged in some individuals, while in others they were 15-fold higher. Furthermore, a significant portion of variation was related to habitat temperature. Warmer populations had a significantly lower Q10 for WAM and CTmax after acclimation. These data suggest that individual variation in thermal sensitivity reflects different physiological strategies to respond to temperature variation, providing many different adaptive responses to changing environments. 
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  6. Costantini, Maria (Ed.)
    Abstract Genetic data from nonmodel species can inform ecology and physiology, giving insight into a species’ distribution and abundance as well as their responses to changing environments, all of which are important for species conservation and management. Moreover, reduced sequencing costs and improved long-read sequencing technology allows researchers to readily generate genomic resources for nonmodel species. Here, we apply Oxford Nanopore long-read sequencing and low-coverage (∼1x) whole genome short-read sequencing technology (Illumina) to assemble a genome and examine population genetics of an abundant tropical and subtropical fish, the hardhead silverside (Atherinomorus stipes). These fish are found in shallow coastal waters and are frequently included in ecological models because they serve as abundant prey for commercially and ecologically important species. Despite their importance in sub-tropical and tropical ecosystems, little is known about their population connectivity and genetic diversity. Our A. stipes genome assembly is about 1.2 Gb with comparable repetitive element content (∼47%), number of protein duplication events, and DNA methylation patterns to other teleost fish species. Among five sampled populations spanning 43 km of South Florida and the Florida Keys, we find little population structure suggesting high population connectivity. 
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  7. To better understand temperature's role in the interaction between local evolutionary adaptation and physiological plasticity, we investigated acclimation effects on metabolic performance and thermal tolerance among natural Fundulus heteroclitus (small estuarine fish) populations from different thermal environments. Fundulus heteroclitus populations experience large daily and seasonal temperature variations, as well as local mean temperature differences across their large geographical cline. In this study, we use three populations: one locally heated (32°C) by thermal effluence (TE) from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, NJ, and two nearby reference populations that do not experience local heating (28°C). After acclimation to 12 or 28°C, we quantified whole-animal metabolic (WAM) rate, critical thermal maximum (CT max ) and substrate-specific cardiac metabolic rate (CaM, substrates: glucose, fatty acids, lactate plus ketones plus ethanol, and endogenous (i.e. no added substrates)) in approximately 160 individuals from these three populations. Populations showed few significant differences due to large interindividual variation within populations. In general, for WAM and CT max , the interindividual variation in acclimation response (log 2 ratio 28/12°C) was a function of performance at 12°C and order of acclimation (12–28°C versus 28–12°C). CT max and WAM were greater at 28°C than 12°C, although WAM had a small change (2.32-fold) compared with the expectation for a 16°C increase in temperature (expect 3- to 4.4-fold). By contrast, for CaM, the rates when acclimatized and assayed at 12 or 28°C were nearly identical. The small differences in CaM between 12 and 28°C temperature were partially explained by cardiac remodeling where individuals acclimatized to 12°C had larger hearts than individuals acclimatized to 28°C. Correlation among physiological traits was dependent on acclimation temperature. For example, WAM was negatively correlated with CT max at 12°C but positively correlated at 28°C. Additionally, glucose substrate supported higher CaM than fatty acid, and fatty acid supported higher CaM than lactate, ketones and alcohol (LKA) or endogenous. However, these responses were highly variable with some individuals using much more FA than glucose. These findings suggest interindividual variation in physiological responses to temperature acclimation and indicate that additional research investigating interindividual may be relevant for global climate change responses in many species. 
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  8. Cao, Yi (Ed.)
    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are among the most widespread natural and anthropogenic pollutants, and some PAHs are proven developmental toxicants. We chemically characterized clean and heavily polluted sites and exposed fish embryos to PAH polluted sediment extracts during four critical developmental stages. Embryos were collected from Fundulus heteroclitus populations inhabiting the clean and heavily polluted Superfund estuary. Embryos of parents from the clean sites are sensitive to PAH pollutants while those of parents from the heavily polluted site are resistant. Chemical analysis of embryos suggests PAH accumulation and pollution-induced toxicity among sensitive embryos during development that ultimately kills all sensitive embryos before hatching, while remarkably, the resistant embryos develop normally. The adverse effects on sensitive embryos are manifested as developmental delays, reduced heart rates, and severe heart, liver, and kidney morphological abnormalities. Gene expression analysis of early somitogenesis, heartbeat initiation, late organogenesis, and pre-hatching developmental stages reveals genes whose expression significantly differs between sensitive and resistant embryo populations and helps to explain mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to polluted environments during vertebrate animal development. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Variation in tissue-specific metabolism between species and among individuals is thought to be adaptively important; however, understanding this evolutionary relationship requires reliably measuring this trait in many individuals. In most higher organisms, tissue specificity is important because different organs (heart, brain, liver, muscle) have unique ecologically adaptive roles. Current technology and methodology for measuring tissue-specific metabolism is costly and limited by throughput capacity and efficiency. Presented here is the design for a flexible and cost-effective high-throughput micro-respirometer (HTMR) optimized to measure small biological samples. To verify precision and accuracy, substrate specific metabolism was measured in heart ventricles isolated from a small teleost, Fundulus heteroclitus, and in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Within the system, results were reproducible between chambers and over time with both teleost hearts and yeast. Additionally, metabolic rates and allometric scaling relationships in Fundulus agree with previously published data measured with lower-throughput equipment. This design reduces cost, but still provides an accurate measure of metabolism in small biological samples. This will allow for high-throughput measurement of tissue metabolism that can enhance understanding of the adaptive importance of complex metabolic traits. 
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  10. Fraser, Bonnie (Ed.)
    Abstract Selection on standing genetic variation may be effective enough to allow for adaptation to distinct niche environments within a single generation. Minor allele frequency changes at multiple, redundant loci of small effect can produce remarkable phenotypic shifts. Yet, demonstrating rapid adaptation via polygenic selection in the wild remains challenging. Here we harness natural replicate populations that experience similar selection pressures and harbor high within-, yet negligible among-population genetic variation. Such populations can be found among the teleost Fundulus heteroclitus that inhabits marine estuaries characterized by high environmental heterogeneity. We identify 10,861 single nucleotide polymorphisms in F. heteroclitus that belong to a single, panmictic population yet reside in environmentally distinct niches (one coastal basin and three replicate tidal ponds). By sampling at two time points within a single generation, we quantify both allele frequency change within as well as spatial divergence among niche subpopulations. We observe few individually significant allele frequency changes yet find that the “number” of moderate changes exceeds the neutral expectation by 10–100%. We find allele frequency changes to be significantly concordant in both direction and magnitude among all niche subpopulations, suggestive of parallel selection. In addition, within-generation allele frequency changes generate subtle but significant divergence among niches, indicative of local adaptation. Although we cannot distinguish between selection and genotype-dependent migration as drivers of within-generation allele frequency changes, the trait/s determining fitness and/or migration likelihood appear to be polygenic. In heterogeneous environments, polygenic selection and polygenic, genotype-dependent migration offer conceivable mechanisms for within-generation, local adaptation to distinct niches. 
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