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16 juillet 2018

An Algal Greening of Land [Cell - Preview]

Photosynthetic eukaryotes arose ∼1.5 billion years ago by endosymbiosis with a cyanobacterium. Algae then evolved for a billion years before one lineage finally colonized land. Why the wait ? The Chara braunii genome details a decisive step linking plant origins with Earth’s history.

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16 juillet 2018

Evolution of a central neural circuit underlies Drosophila mate preferences

Courtship rituals serve to reinforce reproductive barriers between closely related species. Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans exhibit reproductive isolation, owing in part to the fact that D. melanogaster females produce 7,11-heptacosadiene, a pheromone that promotes courtship in D. melanogaster males but suppresses courtship in D. simulans males. Here we compare pheromone-processing pathways in D. melanogaster and D. simulans males to define how these sister species endow 7,11-heptacosadiene with the opposite behavioural valence to underlie species discrimination.(...)

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13 juillet 2018

Concordant divergence of mitogenomes and a mitonuclear gene cluster in bird lineages inhabiting different climates [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Metabolic processes in eukaryotic cells depend on interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear gene products (mitonuclear interactions). These interactions could have a direct role in population divergence. Here, we study mitonuclear co-evolution in a widespread bird that experienced population divergence followed by bidirectional mitochondrial introgression into different nuclear backgrounds. Using >60,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, we quantify patterns of nuclear genetic differentiation between populations that occupy areas with different climates and harbour deeply divergent mitochondrial lineages despite ongoing nuclear gene flow.(...)

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13 juillet 2018

Coexistence of many species in random ecosystems [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Rich ecosystems harbour thousands of species interacting in tangled networks encompassing predation, mutualism and competition. Such widespread biodiversity is puzzling, because in ecological models it is exceedingly improbable for large communities to stably coexist. One aspect rarely considered in these models, however, is that coexisting species in natural communities are a selected portion of a much larger pool, which has been pruned by population dynamics. Here we compute the distribution of the number of species that can coexist when we start from a pool of species interacting randomly, and show that even in this case we can observe rich, stable communities. Interestingly, our results show that, once stability conditions are met, network structure has very little influence on the level of biodiversity attained. Our results identify the main drivers responsible for widespread coexistence in natural communities, providing a baseline for determining which structural aspects of empirical communities promote or hinder coexistence.

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13 juillet 2018

A two-million-year-long hydroclimatic context for hominin evolution in southeastern Africa [Nature]

The past two million years of eastern African climate variability is currently poorly constrained, despite interest in understanding its assumed role in early human evolution. Rare palaeoclimate records from northeastern Africa suggest progressively drier conditions or a stable hydroclimate. By contrast, records from Lake Malawi in tropical southeastern Africa reveal a trend of a progressively wetter climate over the past 1.3 million years. The climatic forcings that controlled these past hydrological changes are also a matter of debate. Some studies suggest a dominant local insolation forcing on hydrological changes, whereas others infer a potential influence of sea surface temperature changes in the Indian Ocean. Here we show that the hydroclimate in southeastern Africa (20–25° S) is controlled by interplay between low-latitude insolation forcing (precession and eccentricity) and changes in ice volume at high latitudes.(...)

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