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  1. Teeling, Emma (Ed.)
    Abstract Dissecting the link between genetic variation and adaptive phenotypes provides outstanding opportunities to understand fundamental evolutionary processes. Here, we use a museomics approach to investigate the genetic basis and evolution of winter coat coloration morphs in least weasels (Mustela nivalis), a repeated adaptation for camouflage in mammals with seasonal pelage color moults across regions with varying winter snow. Whole-genome sequence data were obtained from biological collections and mapped onto a newly assembled reference genome for the species. Sampling represented two replicate transition zones between nivalis and vulgaris coloration morphs in Europe, which typically develop white or brown winter coats, respectively. Population analyses showed that the morph distribution across transition zones is not a by-product of historical structure. Association scans linked a 200-kb genomic region to coloration morph, which was validated by genotyping museum specimens from intermorph experimental crosses. Genotyping the wild populations narrowed down the association to pigmentation gene MC1R and pinpointed a candidate amino acid change cosegregating with coloration morph. This polymorphism replaces an ancestral leucine residue by lysine at the start of the first extracellular loop of the protein in the vulgaris morph. A selective sweep signature overlapped the association region in vulgaris, suggesting that past adaptationmore »favored winter-brown morphs and can anchor future adaptive responses to decreasing winter snow. Using biological collections as valuable resources to study natural adaptations, our study showed a new evolutionary route generating winter color variation in mammals and that seasonal camouflage can be modulated by changes at single key genes.« less
  2. Teeling, Emma (Ed.)
    Abstract Dietary adaptation is a major feature of phenotypic and ecological diversification, yet the genetic basis of dietary shifts is poorly understood. Among mammals, Neotropical leaf-nosed bats (family Phyllostomidae) show unmatched diversity in diet; from a putative insectivorous ancestor, phyllostomids have radiated to specialize on diverse food sources including blood, nectar, and fruit. To assess whether dietary diversification in this group was accompanied by molecular adaptations for changing metabolic demands, we sequenced 89 transcriptomes across 58 species and combined these with published data to compare ∼13,000 protein coding genes across 66 species. We tested for positive selection on focal lineages, including those inferred to have undergone dietary shifts. Unexpectedly, we found a broad signature of positive selection in the ancestral phyllostomid branch, spanning genes implicated in the metabolism of all major macronutrients, yet few positively selected genes at the inferred switch to plantivory. Branches corresponding to blood- and nectar-based diets showed selection in loci underpinning nitrogenous waste excretion and glycolysis, respectively. Intriguingly, patterns of selection in metabolism genes were mirrored by those in loci implicated in craniofacial remodeling, a trait previously linked to phyllostomid dietary specialization. Finally, we show that the null model of the widely-used branch-site test is likelymore »to be misspecified, with the implication that the test is too conservative and probably under-reports true cases of positive selection. Our findings point to a complex picture of adaptive radiation, in which the evolution of new dietary specializations has been facilitated by early adaptations combined with the generation of new genetic variation.« less
  3. Teeling, Emma (Ed.)
    Abstract The evolutionary origin of complex organs challenges empirical study because most organs evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. The placenta of live-bearing fish in the family Poeciliidae represents a unique opportunity to study the evolutionary origin of complex organs, because in this family a placenta evolved at least nine times independently. It is currently unknown whether this repeated evolution is accompanied by similar, repeated, genomic changes in placental species. Here, we compare whole genomes of 26 poeciliid species representing six out of nine independent origins of placentation. Evolutionary rate analysis revealed that the evolution of the placenta coincides with convergent shifts in the evolutionary rate of 78 protein-coding genes, mainly observed in transporter- and vesicle-located genes. Furthermore, differences in sequence conservation showed that placental evolution coincided with similar changes in 76 noncoding regulatory elements, occurring primarily around genes that regulate development. The unexpected high occurrence of GATA simple repeats in the regulatory elements suggests an important function for GATA repeats in developmental gene regulation. The distinction in molecular evolution observed, with protein-coding parallel changes more often found in metabolic and structural pathways, compared with regulatory change more frequently found in developmental pathways, offers a compelling model for complexmore »trait evolution in general: changing the regulation of otherwise highly conserved developmental genes may allow for the evolution of complex traits.« less