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2 novembre 2017

A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity [Nature]

Our growing awareness of the microbial world’s importance and diversity contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of its fundamental structure. Despite recent advances in DNA sequencing, a lack of standardized protocols and common analytical frameworks impedes comparisons among studies, hindering the development of global inferences about microbial life on Earth. Here we present a meta-analysis of microbial community samples collected by hundreds of researchers for the Earth Microbiome Project. Coordinated protocols and new analytical methods, particularly the use of exact sequences instead of clustered operational taxonomic units, enable bacterial and archaeal ribosomal RNA gene sequences to be followed across multiple studies and allow us to explore patterns of diversity at an unprecedented scale. The result is both a reference database giving global context to DNA sequence data and a framework for incorporating data from future studies, fostering increasingly complete characterization of Earth’s microbial diversity.

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2 novembre 2017

Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates [Nature]

Forest edges influence more than half of the world’s forests and contribute to worldwide declines in biodiversity and ecosystem functions. However, predicting these declines is challenging in heterogeneous fragmented landscapes. Here we assembled a global dataset on species responses to fragmentation and developed a statistical approach for quantifying edge impacts in heterogeneous landscapes to quantify edge-determined changes in abundance of 1,673 vertebrate species. We show that the abundances of 85% of species are affected, either positively or negatively, by forest edges.(...)

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2 novembre 2017

Genome expansion and lineage-specific genetic innovations in the forest pathogenic fungi Armillaria [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : developmental biology, evolutionary genetics, genomics

Armillaria species are both devastating forest pathogens and some of the largest terrestrial organisms on Earth. They forage for hosts and achieve immense colony sizes via rhizomorphs, root-like multicellular structures of clonal dispersal. Here, we sequenced and analysed the genomes of four Armillaria species and performed RNA sequencing and quantitative proteomic analysis on the invasive and reproductive developmental stages of A. ostoyae. Comparison with 22 related fungi revealed a significant genome expansion in Armillaria, affecting several pathogenicity-related genes, lignocellulose-degrading enzymes and lineage-specific genes expressed during rhizomorph development.

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2 novembre 2017

Subtle physiological and morphological differences explain ecological success of sympatric congeners [Ecosphere]

Keywords : bioenergetics, endangered species, niche overlap, optimal digestion, rivers, species coexistence, sturgeon

Sympatric congeners with similar physiological and morphological characteristics may appear to overlap in niche space but respond to environmental change in different ways leading to population decline of one species while the other remains stable. Understanding why sympatric congeners vary in their ecological success can be challenging, but is particularly necessary given the magnitude of human-induced environmental change among ecosystems. We propose that identifying a complex of subtle, interacting characters among congeners may be more effective in elucidating both historical coexistence and divergent ecological success in contemporary habitats compared to identifying just one apparent limiting similarity between species.(...)

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2 novembre 2017

Record breaking achievements by spiders and the scientists who study them [PeerJ]

Keywords : biodiversity, entomology, zoology, science and medical education

Organismal biology has been steadily losing fashion in both formal education and scientific research. Simultaneous with this is an observable decrease in the connection between humans, their environment, and the organisms with which they share the planet. Nonetheless, we propose that organismal biology can facilitate scientific observation, discovery, research, and engagement, especially when the organisms of focus are ubiquitous and charismatic animals such as spiders. Despite being often feared, spiders are mysterious and intriguing, offering a useful foundation for the effective teaching and learning of scientific concepts and processes. In order to provide an entryway for teachers and students—as well as scientists themselves—into the biology of spiders, we compiled a list of 99 record breaking achievements by spiders (the “Spider World Records”). We chose a world-record style format, as this is known to be an effective way to intrigue readers of all ages.(...)

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