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Durham, NC, United States

Govindaraju D.R.,National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
Advances in Genetics

Natural selection defined by differential survival and reproduction of individuals in populations is influenced by genetic, developmental, and environmental factors operating at every age and stage in human life history: generation of gametes, conception, birth, maturation, reproduction, senescence, and death. Biological systems are built upon a hierarchical organization nesting subcellular organelles, cells, tissues, and organs within individuals, individuals within families, and families within populations, and the latter among other populations. Natural selection often acts simultaneously at more than one level of biological organization and on specific traits, which we define as multilevel selection. Under this model, the individual is a fundamental unit of biological organization and also of selection, imbedded in a larger evolutionary context, just as it is a unit of medical intervention imbedded in larger biological, cultural, and environmental contexts. Here, we view human health and life span as necessary consequences of natural selection, operating at all levels and phases of biological hierarchy in human life history as well as in sociological and environmental milieu. An understanding of the spectrum of opportunities for natural selection will help us develop novel approaches to improving healthy life span through specific and global interventions that simultaneously focus on multiple levels of biological organization. Indeed, many opportunities exist to apply multilevel selection models employed in evolutionary biology and biodemography to improving human health at all hierarchical levels. Multilevel selection perspective provides a rational theoretical foundation for a synthesis of medicine and evolution that could lead to discovering effective predictive, preventive, palliative, potentially curative, and individualized approaches in medicine and in global health programs. © 2014 Elsevier Inc. Source

McClain C.R.,National Evolutionary Synthesis Center | Hardy S.M.,University of Alaska Fairbanks
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Anthropogenic disturbances such as fishing, mining, oil drilling, bioprospecting, warming, and acidification in the deep sea are increasing, yet generalities about deep-sea biogeography remain elusive. Owing to the lack of perceived environmental variability and geographical barriers, ranges of deep-sea species were traditionally assumed to be exceedingly large. In contrast, seamount and chemosynthetic habitats with reported high endemicity challenge the broad applicability of a single biogeographic paradigm for the deep sea. New research benefiting from higher resolution sampling, molecular methods and public databases can now more rigorously examine dispersal distances and species ranges on the vast ocean floor. Here, we explore the major outstanding questions in deep-sea biogeography. Based on current evidence, many taxa appear broadly distributed across the deep sea, a pattern replicated in both the abyssal plains and specialized environments such as hydrothermal vents. Cold waters may slow larval metabolism and development augmenting the great intrinsic ability for dispersal among many deep-sea species. Currents, environmental shifts, and topography can prove to be dispersal barriers but are often semipermeable. Evidence of historical events such as points of faunal origin and climatic fluctuations are also evident in contemporary biogeographic ranges. Continued synthetic analysis, database construction, theoretical advancement and field sampling will be required to further refine hypotheses regarding deep-sea biogeography. © 2010 The Royal Society. Source

The research field of comparative genomics is moving from a focus on genes to a more holistic view including the repetitive complement. This study aimed to characterize relative proportions of the repetitive fraction of large, complex genomes in a nonmodel system. The monocotyledonous plant order Asparagales (onion, asparagus, agave) comprises some of the largest angiosperm genomes and represents variation in both genome size and structure (karyotype). Anonymous, low coverage, single-end Illumina data from 11 exemplar Asparagales taxa were assembled using a de novo method. Resulting contigs were annotated using a reference library of available monocot repetitive sequences. Mapping reads to contigs provided rough estimates of relative proportions of each type of transposon in the nuclear genome. The results were parsed into general repeat types and synthesized with genome size estimates and a phylogenetic context to describe the pattern of transposable element evolution among these lineages. The major finding is that although some lineages in Asparagales exhibit conservation in repeat proportions, there is generally wide variation in types and frequency of repeats. This approach is an appropriate first step in characterizing repeats in evolutionary lineages with a paucity of genomic resources. © 2013 Published by NRC Research Press. Source

Deans A.R.,North Carolina State University | Yoder M.J.,North Carolina State University | Balhoff J.P.,National Evolutionary Synthesis Center | Balhoff J.P.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Taxonomists are arguably the most active annotators of the natural world, collecting and publishing millions of phenotype data annually through descriptions of new taxa. By formalizing these data, preferably as they are collected, taxonomists stand to contribute a data set with research potential that rivals or even surpasses genomics. Over a decade of electronic innovation and debate has initiated a revolution in the way that the biodiversity is described. Here, we opine that a new generation of semantically based digital scaffolding, presently in various stages of completeness, and a commitment by taxonomists and their colleagues to undertake this transformation, are required to complete the taxonomic revolution and critically broaden the relevance of its products. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Santos J.C.,University of Texas at Austin | Santos J.C.,National Evolutionary Synthesis Center
Molecular Biology and Evolution

Molecular evolution is simultaneously paced by mutation rate, genetic drift, and natural selection. Life history traits also affect the speed of accumulation of nucleotide changes. For instance, small body size, rapid generation time, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and high resting metabolic rate (RMR) are suggested to be associated with faster rates of molecular evolution. However, phylogenetic correlation analyses failed to support a relationship between RMR and molecular evolution in ectotherms. In addition, RMR might underestimate the metabolic budget (e.g., digestion, reproduction, or escaping predation). An alternative is to test other metabolic rates, such as active metabolic rate (AMR), and their association with molecular evolution. Here, I present comparative analyses of the associations between life history traits (i.e., AMR, RMR, body mass, and fecundity) with rates of molecular evolution of and mitochondrial loci from a large ectotherm clade, the poison frogs (Dendrobatidae). My results support a strong positive association between mass-specific AMR and rates of molecular evolution for both mitochondrial and nuclear loci. In addition, I found weaker and genome-specific covariates such as body mass and fecundity for mitochondrial and nuclear loci, respectively. No direct association was found between mass-specific RMR and rates of molecular evolution. Thus, I provide a mechanistic hypothesis of the link between AMRs and the rate of molecular evolution based on an increase in ROS within germ line cells during periodic bouts of hypoxia/hyperoxia related to aerobic exercise. Finally, I propose a multifactorial model that includes AMR as a predictor of the rate of molecular evolution in ectothermic lineages. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. Source

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