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22 Oct 2019
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Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frog

Tough as old boots: amphibians from drier habitats are more resistant to desiccation, but less flexible at exploiting wet conditions

Recommended by based on reviews by Juan Diego Gaitan-Espitia, Jennifer Nicole Lohr and 1 anonymous reviewer

Species everywhere are facing rapid climatic change, and we are increasingly asking whether populations will adapt, shift, or perish [1]. There is a growing realisation that, despite limited within-population genetic variation, many species exhibit substantial geographic variation in climate-relevant traits. This geographic variation might play an important role in facilitating adaptation to climate change [2,3].
Much of our understanding of geographic variation in climate-relevant traits comes from model organisms [e.g. 4]. But as our concern grows, we make larger efforts to understand geographic variation in non-model organisms also. If we understand what adaptive geographic variation exists within a species, we can make management decisions around targeted gene flow [5]. And as empirical examples accumulate, we can look for generalities that can inform management of unstudied species [e.g. 6,7]. Rudin-Bitterli’s paper [8] is an excellent contribution in this direction.
Rudin-Bitterli and her co-authors [8] sampled six frog populations distributed across a strong rainfall gradient. They then assayed these frogs and their offspring for a battery of fitness-relevant traits. The results clearly show patterns consistent with local adaptation to water availability, but they also reveal trade-offs. In their study, frogs from the driest source populations were resilient to the hydric environment: it didn’t really affect them very much whether they were raised in wet or dry environments. By contrast, frogs from wet source areas did better in wet environments, and they tended to do better in these wet environments than did animals from the dry-adapted populations. Thus, it appears that the resilience of the dry-adapted populations comes at a cost: frogs from these populations cannot ramp up performance in response to ideal (wet) conditions.
These data have been carefully and painstakingly collected, and they are important. They reveal not only important geographic variation in response to hydric stress (in a vertebrate), but they also adumbrate a more general trade-off: that the jack of all trades might be master of none. Specialist-generalist trade-offs are often argued (and regularly observed) to exist [e.g. 9,10], and here we see them arise in climate-relevant traits also. Thus, Rudin-Bitterli’s paper is an important piece of the empirical puzzle, and one that points to generalities important for both theory and management.


[1] Hoffmann, A. A., and Sgrò, C. M. (2011). Climate change and evolutionary adaptation. Nature, 470(7335), 479–485. doi: 10.1038/nature09670
[2] Aitken, S. N., and Whitlock, M. C. (2013). Assisted Gene Flow to Facilitate Local Adaptation to Climate Change. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 44(1), 367–388. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110512-135747
[3] Kelly, E., and Phillips, B. L. (2016). Targeted gene flow for conservation. Conservation Biology, 30(2), 259–267. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12623
[4] Sgrò, C. M., Overgaard, J., Kristensen, T. N., Mitchell, K. A., Cockerell, F. E., and Hoffmann, A. A. (2010). A comprehensive assessment of geographic variation in heat tolerance and hardening capacity in populations of Drosophila melanogaster from eastern Australia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 23(11), 2484–2493. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02110.x
[5] Macdonald, S. L., Llewelyn, J., and Phillips, B. L. (2018). Using connectivity to identify climatic drivers of local adaptation. Ecology Letters, 21(2), 207–216. doi: 10.1111/ele.12883
[6] Hoffmann, A. A., Chown, S. L., and Clusella‐Trullas, S. (2012). Upper thermal limits in terrestrial ectotherms: how constrained are they? Functional Ecology, 27(4), 934–949. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.02036.x
[7] Araújo, M. B., Ferri‐Yáñez, F., Bozinovic, F., Marquet, P. A., Valladares, F., and Chown, S. L. (2013). Heat freezes niche evolution. Ecology Letters, 16(9), 1206–1219. doi: 10.1111/ele.12155
[8] Rudin-Bitterli, T. S., Evans, J. P., and Mitchell, N. J. (2019). Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frog. BioRxiv, 314351, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/314351
[9] Kassen, R. (2002). The experimental evolution of specialists, generalists, and the maintenance of diversity. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 15(2), 173–190. doi: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2002.00377.x
[10] Angilletta, M. J. J. (2009). Thermal Adaptation: A theoretical and empirical synthesis. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Geographic variation in adult and embryonic desiccation tolerance in a terrestrial-breeding frogRudin-Bitterli, T, Evans, J. P. and Mitchell, N. J.<p>Intra-specific variation in the ability of individuals to tolerate environmental perturbations is often neglected when considering the impacts of climate change. Yet this information is potentially crucial for mitigating any deleterious effects...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary EcologyBen Phillips2018-05-07 03:35:08 View
22 Sep 2020
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Evolutionary stasis of the pseudoautosomal boundary in strepsirrhine primates

Studying genetic antagonisms as drivers of genome evolution

Recommended by based on reviews by Qi Zhou and 3 anonymous reviewers

Sex chromosomes are special in the genome because they are often highly differentiated over much of their lengths and marked by degenerative evolution of their gene content. Understanding why sex chromosomes differentiate requires deciphering the forces driving their recombination patterns. Suppression of recombination may be subject to selection, notably because of functional effects of locking together variation at different traits, as well as longer-term consequences of the inefficient purge of deleterious mutations, both of which may contribute to patterns of differentiation [1]. As an example, male and female functions may reveal intrinsic antagonisms over the optimal genotypes at certain genes or certain combinations of interacting genes. As a result, selection may favour the recruitment of rearrangements blocking recombination and maintaining the association of sex-antagonistic allele combinations with the sex-determining locus.
The hypothesis that sexually antagonistic selection might drive recombination suppression along the sex chromosomes is not new, but there are surprisingly few studies examining this empirically [1]. Support mainly comes from the study of guppy populations Poecilia reticulata in which the level of sexual dimorphism (notably due to male ornaments, subject to sexual selection) varies among populations, and was found to correlate with the length of the non-recombining region on the sex chromosome [2]. But the link is not always that clear. For instance in the fungus Microbotryum violaceum, the mating type loci is characterized by adjacent segments with recombination suppression, despite the near absence of functional differentiation between mating types [3].
In this study, Shearn and colleagues [4] explore the patterns of recombination suppression on the sex chromosomes of primates. X and Y chromosomes are strongly differentiated, except in a small region where they recombine with each other, the pseudoautosomal region (PAR). In the clade of apes and monkeys, including humans, large rearrangements have extended the non recombining region stepwise, eroding the PAR. Could this be driven by sexually antagonistic selection in a clade showing strong sexual differentiation?
To evaluate this idea, Shearn et al. have compared the structure of recombination in apes and monkeys to their sister clade with lower levels of sexual dimorphism, the lemurs and the lorises. If sexual antagonism was important in shaping recombination suppression, and assuming lower measures of sexual dimorphism reflect lower sexual antagonism [5], then lemurs and lorises would be predicted to show a shorter non-recombining region than apes and monkeys.
Lemurs and lorises were terra incognita in terms of genomic research on the sex chromosomes, so Shearn et al. have sequenced the genomes of males and females of different species. To assess whether sequences came from a recombining or non-recombining segment, they used coverage information in males vs females to identify sequences on the X whose copy on the Y is absent or too divergent to map, indicating long-term differentiation (absence of recombination). This approach reveals that the two lineages have undergone different recombination dynamics since they split from their common ancestor: regions which have undergone further structural rearrangements extending the non-recombining region in apes and monkeys, have continued to recombine normally in lemurs and lorises. Consistent with the prediction, macroevolutionary variation in the differentiation of males and females is indeed accompanied by variation in the size of the non-recombining region on the sex chromosome.
Sex chromosomes are excellent examples of how genomes are shaped by selection. By directly exploring recombination patterns on the sex chromosome across all extant primate groups, this study comes as a nice addition to the short series of empirical studies evaluating whether sexual antagonism may drive certain aspects of genome structure. The sexual selection causing sometimes spectacular morphological or behavioural differences between sexes in many animals may be the visible tip of the iceberg of all the antagonisms that characterise male vs. female functions generally [5]. Further research should bring insight into how different flavours or intensities of antagonistic selection can contribute to shape genome variation.


[1] Charlesworth D (2017) Evolution of recombination rates between sex chromosomes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372, 20160456.
[2] Wright AE, Darolti I, Bloch NI, Oostra V, Sandkam B, Buechel SD, Kolm N, Breden F, Vicoso B, Mank JE (2017) Convergent recombination suppression suggests role of sexual selection in guppy sex chromosome formation. Nature Communications, 8, 14251.
[3] Branco S, Badouin H, Vega RCR de la, Gouzy J, Carpentier F, Aguileta G, Siguenza S, Brandenburg J-T, Coelho MA, Hood ME, Giraud T (2017) Evolutionary strata on young mating-type chromosomes despite the lack of sexual antagonism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 7067–7072.
[4] Shearn R, Wright AE, Mousset S, Régis C, Penel S, Lemaitre J-F, Douay G, Crouau-Roy B, Lecompte E, Marais GAB (2020) Evolutionary stasis of the pseudoautosomal boundary in strepsirrhine primates. bioRxiv, 445072.
[5] Connallon T, Clark AG (2014) Evolutionary inevitability of sexual antagonism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281, 20132123.

Evolutionary stasis of the pseudoautosomal boundary in strepsirrhine primatesRylan Shearn, Alison E. Wright, Sylvain Mousset, Corinne Régis, Simon Penel, Jean-François Lemaitre, Guillaume Douay, Brigitte Crouau-Roy, Emilie Lecompte, Gabriel A.B. Marais<p>Sex chromosomes are typically comprised of a non-recombining region and a recombining pseudoautosomal region. Accurately quantifying the relative size of these regions is critical for sex chromosome biology both from a functional (i.e. number o...Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Genome Evolution, Molecular Evolution, Reproduction and Sex, Sexual SelectionMathieu Joron2019-02-04 15:16:32 View
12 Jul 2017
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Despite reproductive interference, the net outcome of reproductive interactions among spider mite species is not necessarily costly

The pros and cons of mating with strangers

Recommended by based on reviews by Joël Meunier and Michael D Greenfield


Interspecific matings are by definition rare events in nature, but when they occur they can be very important, and not only because they might condition gene flow between species. Even when such matings have no genetic consequence, for instance if they do not yield any fertile hybrid offspring, they can still have an impact on the population dynamics of the species involved [1]. Such atypical pairings between heterospecific partners are usually regarded as detrimental or undesired; as they interfere with the occurrence or success of intraspecific matings, they are expected to cause a decline in absolute fitness.
The story is not always so simple however, and it might all depend on the timing of events and on the identity of the partners. Using the herbivorous mite Tetranychus urticae as a model, Clemente et al. [2] experimentally arranged matings with two other Tetranychus species that commonly share the same host plants as T. urticae. They carefully controlled the history of events: heterospecific matings could occur just before, just after, 24h before, or 24h after, a conspecific mating. Interestingly, the oviposition rate (total fecundity) of females was increased when mating with a heterospecific individual. This suggests that heterospecic sperm can stimulate oogenesis just as conspecific sperm does. Such a positive effect was observed for matings involving T. ludeni females and T. urticae males, but a negative effect is found in the interaction with T. evansi. Sex-ratio (fertilization success in those species) could also be impacted but, unlike fertilization, this occurred when the mating events were distant in time. This is is at odds with what is observed in conspecific matings, where sperm displacement occurs only if mating events are temporally close. Overall, the effects of heterospecific mating were quite variable and it is challenging to predict a single, general, effect of interspecific matings. The net effect will likely be context-dependent, depending on the relative frequency of the difference mating sequences and on how fecundity and sex-ratio contribute to overall fitness, both aspect strongly influenced by the population dynamics and structure.


[1] Gröning J. & Hochkirch A. 2008. Reproductive interference between animal species. The Quarterly Review of Biology 83: 257-282. doi: 10.1086/590510

[2] Clemente SH, Santos I, Ponce AR, Rodrigues LR, Varela SAM & Magalhaes S. 2017 Despite reproductive interference, the net outcome of reproductive interactions among spider mite species is not necessarily costly. bioRxiv 113274, ver. 4 of the 30th of June 2017. doi: 10.1101/113274

Despite reproductive interference, the net outcome of reproductive interactions among spider mite species is not necessarily costlySalomé H. Clemente, Inês Santos, Rita Ponce, Leonor R. Rodrigues, Susana A. M. Varela and Sara MagalhãesReproductive interference is considered a strong ecological force, potentially leading to species exclusion. This supposes that the net effect of reproductive interactions is strongly negative for one of the species involved. Testing this requires...Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, Species interactionsVincent Calcagno2017-03-06 11:48:08 View
04 Nov 2020
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Treating symptomatic infections and the co-evolution of virulence and drug resistance

More intense symptoms, more treatment, more drug-resistance: coevolution of virulence and drug-resistance

Recommended by based on reviews by 3 anonymous reviewers

Mathematical models play an essential role in current evolutionary biology, and evolutionary epidemiology is not an exception [1]. While the issues of virulence evolution and drug-resistance evolution resonate in the literature for quite some time [2, 3], the study by Alizon [4] is one of a few that consider co-evolution of both these traits [5]. The idea behind this study is the following: treating individuals with more severe symptoms at a higher rate (which appears to be quite natural) leads to an appearance of virulent drug-resistant strains, via treatment failure. The author then shows that virulence in drug-resistant strains may face different selective pressures than in drug-sensitive strains and hence proceed at different rates. Hence, treatment itself modulates evolution of virulence. As one of the reviewers emphasizes, the present manuscript offers a mathematical view on why the resistant and more virulent strains can be selected in epidemics. Also, we both find important that the author highlights that the topic and results of this study can be attributed to public health policies and development of optimal treatment protocols [6].
Mathematical models are simplified representations of reality, created with a particular purpose. It can be simple as well as complex, but even simple models can produce relatively complex and knitted results. The art of modelling thus lies not only in developing a model, but also in interpreting and unknitting the results. And this is what Alizon [4] indeed does carefully and exhaustively. Using two contrasting theoretical approaches to study co-evolution, the Price equation approach to study short-term evolution and the adaptive dynamics approach to study long-term evolution, Alizon [4] shows that a positive correlation between the rate of treatment and infection severity causes virulence in drug-sensitive strains to decrease. Clearly, no single model can describe and explain an examined system in its entirety, and even this aspect of the work is taken seriously. Many possible extensions of the study are laid out, providing a wide opportunity to pursue this topic even further. Personally, I have had an opportunity to read many Alizon’s papers and use, teach or discuss many of his models and results. All, including the current one, keep high standard and pursue the field of theoretical (evolutionary) epidemiology.


[1] Gandon S, Day T, Metcalf JE, Grenfell BT (2016) Forecasting epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases. Trends Ecol Evol 31: 776-788. doi:
[2] Berngruber TW, Froissart R, Choisy M, Gandon S (2013) Evolution of virulence in emerging epidemics. PLoS Pathog 9(3): e1003209. doi:
[3] Spicknall IH, Foxman B, Marrs CF, Eisenberg JNS (2013) A modeling framework for the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistance: literature review and model categorization. Am J Epidemiol 178: 508-520. doi:
[4] Alizon S (2020) Treating symptomatic infections and the co-evolution of virulence and drug resistance. bioRxiv, 2020.02.29.970905, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol. doi:
[5] Carval D, Ferriere R (2010) A unified model for the coevolution of resistance, tolerance, and virulence. Evolution 64: 2988–3009. doi:
[6] Read AF, T Day, and S Huijben (2011). The evolution of drug resistance and the curious orthodoxy of aggressive chemotherapy. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108 Suppl 2, 10871–7. doi:

Treating symptomatic infections and the co-evolution of virulence and drug resistanceSamuel Alizon<p>Antimicrobial therapeutic treatments are by definition applied after the onset of symptoms, which tend to correlate with infection severity. Using mathematical epidemiology models, I explore how this link affects the coevolutionary dynamics bet...Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Epidemiology, Evolutionary TheoryLudek Berec2020-03-04 10:18:39 View
14 May 2020
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Potential adaptive divergence between subspecies and populations of snapdragon plants inferred from QST – FST comparisons

From populations to subspecies… to species? Contrasting patterns of local adaptation in closely-related taxa and their potential contribution to species divergence

Recommended by based on reviews by Sophie Karrenberg, Santiago C. Gonzalez-Martinez and 1 anonymous reviewer

Elevation gradients are convenient and widely used natural setups to study local adaptation, particularly in these times of rapid climate change [e.g. 1]. Marin and her collaborators [2] did not follow the mainstream, however. Instead of tackling adaptation to climate change, they used elevation gradients to address another crucial evolutionary question [3]: could adaptation to altitude lead to ecological speciation, i.e. reproductive isolation between populations in spite of gene flow? More specifically, they examined how much local adaptation to environmental variation differed among closely-related, recently diverged subspecies. They studied several populations of two subspecies of snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), with adjacent geographical distributions. Using common garden experiments and the classical, but still useful, QST-FST comparison, they demonstrate contrasting patterns of local adaptation to altitude between the two subspecies, with several traits under divergent selection in A. majus striatum but none in A. majus pseudomajus. These differences in local adaptation may contribute to species divergence, and open many stimulating questions on the underlying mechanisms, such as the identity of environmental drivers or contribution of reproductive isolation involving flower color polymorphism.


[1] Anderson, J. T., and Wadgymar, S. M. (2020). Climate change disrupts local adaptation and favours upslope migration. Ecology letters, 23(1), 181-192. doi: 10.1111/ele.13427
[2] Marin, S., Gibert, A., Archambeau, J., Bonhomme, V., Lascoste, M., and Pujol, B. (2020). Potential adaptive divergence between subspecies and populations of snapdragon plants inferred from QST – FST comparisons. Zenodo, 3628168, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3628168
[3] Schluter, D. (2009). Evidence for ecological speciation and its alternative. Science, 323(5915), 737-741. doi: 10.1126/science.1160006

Potential adaptive divergence between subspecies and populations of snapdragon plants inferred from QST – FST comparisonsSara Marin, Anaïs Gibert, Juliette Archambeau, Vincent Bonhomme, Mylène Lascoste and Benoit Pujol<p>Phenotypic divergence among natural populations can be explained by natural selection or by neutral processes such as drift. Many examples in the literature compare putatively neutral (FST) and quantitative genetic (QST) differentiation in mult...Adaptation, Evolutionary Ecology, Genotype-Phenotype, Morphological Evolution, Quantitative GeneticsEmmanuelle Porcher2018-08-05 15:34:30 View
24 Jan 2017
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Birth of a W sex chromosome by horizontal transfer of Wolbachia bacterial symbiont genome

A newly evolved W(olbachia) sex chromosome in pillbug!

Recommended by and

In some taxa such as fish and arthropods, closely related species can have different mechanisms of sex determination and in particular different sex chromosomes, which implies that new sex chromosomes are constantly evolving [1]. Several models have been developed to explain this pattern but empirical data are lacking and the causes of the fast sex chromosome turn over remain mysterious [2-4]. Leclerq et al. [5] in a paper that just came out in PNAS have focused on one possible explanation: Wolbachia. This widespread intracellular symbiont of arthropods can manipulate its host reproduction in a number of ways, often by biasing the allocation of resources toward females, the transmitting sex. Perhaps the most spectacular example is seen in pillbugs, where Wolbachia commonly turns infected males into females, thus doubling its effective transmission to grandchildren. Extensive investigations on this phenomenon were initiated 30 years ago in the host species Armadillidium vulgare. The recent paper by Leclerq et al. beautifully validates an hypothesis formulated in these pioneer studies [6], namely, that a nuclear insertion of the Wolbachia genome caused the emergence of new female determining chromosome, that is, a new sex chromosome.

Many populations of A. vulgare are infected by the feminising Wolbachia strain wVulC, where the spread of the bacterium has also induced the loss of the ancestral female determining W chromosome (because feminized ZZ individuals produce females without transmitting any W). In these populations, all individuals carry two Z chromosomes, so that the bacterium is effectively the new sex-determining factor: specimens that received Wolbachia from their mother become females, while the occasional loss of Wolbachia from mothers to eggs allows the production of males. Intriguingly, studies from natural populations also report that some females are devoid both of Wolbachia and the ancestral W chromosome, suggesting the existence of new female determining nuclear factor, the hypothetical “f element”.

Leclerq et al. [5] found the f element and decrypted its origin. By sequencing the genome of a strain carrying the putative f element, they found that a nearly complete wVulC genome got inserted in the nuclear genome and that the chromosome carrying the insertion has effectively become a new W chromosome. The insertion is indeed found only in females, PCRs and pedigree analysis tell. Although the Wolbachia-derived gene(s) that became sex-determining gene(s) remain to be identified among many possible candidates, the genomic and genetic evidence are clear that this Wolbachia insertion is determining sex in this pillbug strain. Leclerq et al. [5] also found that although this insertion is quite recent, many structural changes (rearrangements, duplications) have occurred compared to the wVulC genome, which study will probably help understand which bacterial gene(s) have retained a function in the nucleus of the pillbug. Also, in the future, it will be interesting to understand how and why exactly the nuclear inserted Wolbachia rose in frequency in the pillbug population and how the cytoplasmic Wolbachia was lost, and to tease apart the roles of selection and drift in this event. We highly recommend this paper, which provides clear evidence that Wolbachia has caused sex chromosome turn over in one species, opening the conjecture that it might have done so in many others.


[1] Bachtrog D, Mank JE, Peichel CL, Kirkpatrick M, Otto SP, Ashman TL, Hahn MW, Kitano J, Mayrose I, Ming R, Perrin N, Ross L, Valenzuela N, Vamosi JC. 2014. Tree of Sex Consortium. Sex determination: why so many ways of doing it? PLoS Biology 12: e1001899. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001899

[2] van Doorn GS, Kirkpatrick M. 2007. Turnover of sex chromosomes induced by sexual conflict. Nature 449: 909-912. doi: 10.1038/nature06178

[3] Cordaux R, Bouchon D, Grève P. 2011. The impact of endosymbionts on the evolution of host sex-determination mechanisms. Trends in Genetics 27: 332-341. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.05.002

[4] Blaser O, Neuenschwander S, Perrin N. 2014. Sex-chromosome turnovers: the hot-potato model. American Naturalist 183: 140-146. doi: 10.1086/674026

[5] Leclercq S, Thézé J, Chebbi MA, Giraud I, Moumen B, Ernenwein L, Grève P, Gilbert C, Cordaux R. 2016. Birth of a W sex chromosome by horizontal transfer of Wolbachia bacterial symbiont genome. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA 113: 15036-15041. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608979113

[6] Legrand JJ, Juchault P. 1984. Nouvelles données sur le déterminisme génétique et épigénétique de la monogénie chez le crustacé isopode terrestre Armadillidium vulgare Latr. Génétique Sélection Evolution 16: 57–84. doi: 10.1186/1297-9686-16-1-57

Birth of a W sex chromosome by horizontal transfer of Wolbachia bacterial symbiont genomeSébastien Leclercq, Julien Thézé, Mohamed Amine Chebbi, Isabelle Giraud, Bouziane Moumen, Lise Ernenwein, Pierre Grève, Clément Gilbert, and Richard CordauxSex determination is an evolutionarily ancient, key developmental pathway governing sexual differentiation in animals. Sex determination systems are remarkably variable between species or groups of species, however, and the evolutionary forces und...Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Genome Evolution, Molecular Evolution, Reproduction and Sex, Species interactionsGabriel Marais2017-01-13 15:15:51 View
15 Dec 2016
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Limiting opportunities for cheating stabilizes virulence in insect parasitic nematodes

Application of kin theory to long-standing problem in nematode production for biocontrol

Recommended by and

Much research effort has been extended toward developing systems for managing soil inhabiting insect pests of crops with entomopathogenic nematodes as biocontrol agents. Although small plot or laboratory experiments may suggest a particular insect pest is vulnerable to management in this way, it is often difficult to scale-up nematode production for application at the field- and farm scale to make such a tactic viable. Part of the problem is that entomopathogenic nematode strains must be propagated by serial passage in vivo, because storage by freezing decreases fitness. At the same time, serial propagation results in loss of virulence (ability to infect) over generations in the laboratory, a phenomenon called attenuation.

To probe the underlying reasons for development of attenuation, as a prerequisite to designing strategies to mitigate it, Shapiro-Ilan and Raymond [1] turned to evolutionary theory of social conflict as a possible explanatory framework. Virulence of entomopathogenic nematodes depends on a combination of virulence factors, like various proteases, secreted by both the nematode and symbiotic bacteria to overcome host defenses. Attenuation is characterized in part by a reduced production of these factors. Invasion of a host involves simultaneous attack by a group of nematodes ("cooperators"), which together neutralize host defenses enough to allow individuals to successfully invade. "Cheaters" in the invading population can avoid the metabolic costs of producing virulence factors while reaping the benefits of infecting the host made vulnerable by the cooperators in the population. The authors hypothesize that an increase in frequency of cheaters may contribute to attenuation of virulence during serial propagation in the laboratory. The evolutionary dynamics of cheater frequency in a population have been explored in many contexts as part of kin selection theory. Cheaters can increase in a population by outcompeting cooperators in a host if overall relatedness within the invading population is low. Conversely, frequency of altruism, or costly cooperation, increases in a population if relatedness is high, which is enhanced by low effective dispersal. However, a population that is too isolated can suffer from inbreeding effects, and competition will occur mainly among relatives, which decreases the fitness benefits of altruism.

Shapiro-Ilan and Raymond [1] tested changes in virulence and reproductive output in a serially propagated entomopathogenic nematode, Heterorhabditis floridensis. They compared lines of high or low relatedness, manipulated via multiplicity of infection (MOI) rates (where a low dose of nematodes gives high relatedness and a high dose gives low relatedness); and under global or local competition, manipulated by pooling populations emerging from all or only two host cadavers per generation, respectively. As predicted, treatments of high relatedness (low MOI) and global competition had the greatest level of reproduction, while all lines of low relatedness (high MOI) evolved decreased reproduction and decreased virulence, which led to extinction. The key finding was that lines in the high relatedness (low MOI) and low (local) competition treatment exhibited the most stable virulence through the 12 generations tested. Thus, to minimize attenuation of virulence while maintaining fitness of recently isolated entomopathogenic nematodes, the authors recommend insect hosts be inoculated with low doses of nematodes from inocula pools from as few cadavers as possible.

The application of evolutionary theory, with a clever experimental design, to an important problem in pest management makes this paper particularly noteworthy.


[1] Shapiro-Ilan D, Raymond B. 2016. Limiting opportunities for cheating stabilizes virulence in insect parasitic nematodes. Evolutionary Applications 9:462-470. doi: 10.1111/eva.12348

Limiting opportunities for cheating stabilizes virulence in insect parasitic nematodesShapiro-Ilan D. and B. RaymondCooperative secretion of virulence factors by pathogens can lead to social conflict when cheating mutants exploit collective secretion, but do not contribute to it. If cheats outcompete cooperators within hosts, this can cause loss of virulence....Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Ecology, Evolutionary Epidemiology, Evolutionary Theory, Experimental Evolution, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexThomas Sappington2016-12-15 18:33:39 View
09 Feb 2018
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Phylodynamic assessment of intervention strategies for the West African Ebola virus outbreak

Simulating the effect of public health interventions using dated virus sequences and geographical data

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Christian Althaus, Chris Wymant and 1 anonymous reviewer

Perhaps because of its deadliness, the 2013-2016 Ebola Virus (EBOV) epidemics in West-Africa has led to unprecedented publication and sharing of full virus genome sequences. This was both rapid (90 full genomes were shared within weeks [1]) and important (more than 1500 full genomes have been released overall [2]). Furthermore, the availability of the metadata (especially GPS location) has led to depth analyses of the geographical spread of the epidemics [3].
In their work, Dellicour et al. [4] pursue earlier phylogeographical investigations in an original and yet simple approach to address questions of key public health importance. The originality of the approach is dual. First, from a technical standpoint, they capture the spread of infectious diseases in a continuous framework using a novel model that allows for rare long-distance dispersal events. Second, in a more classical discrete meta-population framework, they simulate the effect of public health interventions by pruning the phylogenetic tree and assessing how this affects key parameters. For instance, to simulate the effect of closing borders they remove subsets of the phylogeny that involved dispersal between countries and to simulate the effect of protecting a region by quarantine they remove all the leaves (i.e. the infections sampled) from this region. This phylogeny pruning is both original and simple. It is however limited because it currently assumes that policies are 100% effective and earlier modelling work on human influenza showed that long distance travel bans had to be implemented with >99% efficiency in order to slow epidemic growth from a time scale of days to weeks [5].
From a biological standpoint, Dellicour et al. [4] corroborate earlier findings that highly populated locations (>1,000,000 inhabitants) were crucial in explaining the magnitude of the epidemics but also show the importance of the transmission between the three capital cities. They also show that rare long-distance dispersing events of the virus are not key to explaining the magnitude of the epidemics (even though they assume 100% efficiency of suppressing long-distance event). Finally, thanks to their continuous model they estimate the speed of spread of the epidemics and are able to detect the effect of border closing on this speed.
Overall, this study [4], which involves state-of-the-art Bayesian inference methods of infection phylogenies using MCMC, stands out because of its effort to simulate public health interventions. It stands as an encouragement for the development of intervention models with increased realism and for even faster and larger virus sequence data sharing.


[1] Gire et al. 2014. Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak. Science 345: 1369–1372. doi: 10.1126/science.1259657.
[2] Holmes EC, Dudas G, Rambaut A and Andersen KG. 2016. The evolution of Ebola virus: insights from the 2013-2016 epidemic. Nature 538: 193–200. doi: 10.1038/nature19790.
[3] Dudas et al. 2017. Virus genomes reveal factors that spread and sustained the Ebola epidemic. Nature 544: 309–315 (2017). doi: 10.1038/nature22040.
[4] Dellicour S, Baele G, Dudas G, Faria NR, Pybus OG, Suchard MA, Rambaud A and Lemey P. 2018. Phylodynamic assessment of intervention strategies for the West African Ebola virus outbreak. bioRxiv, 163691, ver. 3 peer-reviewed by Peer Community In Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/163691.
[5] Hollingsworth TD, Ferguson NM and Anderson RM. 2006. Will travel restrictions control the international spread of pandemic influenza? Nature Medicine 12, 497–499. doi: 10.1038/nm0506-497.

Phylodynamic assessment of intervention strategies for the West African Ebola virus outbreakSimon Dellicour, Guy Baele, Gytis Dudas, Nuno R. Faria, Oliver G. Pybus, Marc A. Suchard, Andrew Rambaut, Philippe Lemey<p>This preprint has been reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Evolutionary Biology ( The recent Ebola virus (EBOV) outbreak in West Africa witnessed considerable efforts to obtain viral genom...Phylogenetics / Phylogenomics, Phylogeography & BiogeographySamuel Alizon2017-09-30 13:49:57 View
04 Sep 2019
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The discernible and hidden effects of clonality on the genotypic and genetic states of populations: improving our estimation of clonal rates

How to estimate clonality from genetic data: use large samples and consider the biology of the species

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by David Macaya-Sanz, Marcela Van Loo and 1 anonymous reviewer

Population geneticists frequently use the genetic and genotypic information of a population sample of individuals to make inferences on the reproductive system of a species. The detection of clones, i.e. individuals with the same genotype, can give information on whether there is clonal (vegetative) reproduction in the species. If clonality is detected, population geneticists typically use genotypic richness R, the number of distinct genotypes relative to the sample size, to estimate the rate of clonality c, which can be defined as the proportion of reproductive events that are clonal. Estimating the rate of clonality based on genotypic richness is however problematic because, to date, there is no analytical, nor simulation-based, characterization of this relationship. Furthermore, the effect of sampling on this relationship has never been critically examined.
The paper by Stoeckel, Porro and Arnaud-Haond [1] contributes significantly to the characterization of the relationship between rate of clonality and genetic and genotypic parameters in a population. The authors use an extensive individual-based simulation approach to assess the effects of rate of clonality (fully sexual, fully clonal and a range of intermediate levels of clonality, i.e., partial clonality) on genetic and genotypic parameters, considering variable population size, sample size, and numbers of generations elapsed since population initiation. Based on their simulations, they derive empirical formulae that link for the first time the rate of clonality to the genotypic richness and to the size distribution of clones (genotypic parameters), as well as to the population inbreeding coefficient and to a metric of linkage disequilibrium (genetic parameters). They then use the simulated data to assess the accuracy of their predictions. In a second phase, the authors use a Bayesian supervised learning algorithm to estimate rates of clonality from the simulated data.
The authors show that the relationship between rate of clonality and genotypic richness is not linear: genotypic richness decreases slowly with increasing clonality, a large drop in genotypic richness is only seen for rates of clonality ≥ 0.90. Genetic parameters are only sensitive to high rates of clonality. The practical implications of these results are that genotypic and genetic parameters can complement each other for the estimation of rates of clonality, with genotypic parameters most useful throughout most of the range of clonality values and with genetic parameters complementing them meaningfully at higher values. The most meaningful practical result of the paper is the demonstration of sampling bias on the estimation of genotypic richness. Commonly used population sample sizes in population genetics studies (n ≤ 50) lead to great overestimation of genotypic richness, which consequently leads to a severe underestimation of the rate of clonality in most systems, irrespectively of whether they have reached stationary equilibrium. Only in small populations, these effects are attenuated.
Biologists interested in the estimation of the rate of clonality will find this paper highly useful to design their sampling, and to choose their statistics for inference in a meaningful way. This paper also calls for a careful reappraisal of previously published works that infer rates of clonality from genetic data, and highlights the prime importance of complementary information on species life history data for a correct understanding of partial clonality.


[1] Stoeckel, S., Porro, B., and Arnaud-Haond, S. (2019). The discernible and hidden effects of clonality on the genotypic and genetic states of populations: improving our estimation of clonal rates. ArXiv:1902.09365 [q-Bio] v4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. Retrieved from

The discernible and hidden effects of clonality on the genotypic and genetic states of populations: improving our estimation of clonal ratesSolenn Stoeckel, Barbara Porro, Sophie Arnaud-Haond<p>Partial clonality is widespread across the tree of life, but most population genetics models are conceived for exclusively clonal or sexual organisms. This gap hampers our understanding of the influence of clonality on evolutionary trajectories...Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexMyriam Heuertz2019-02-28 10:10:56 View
25 Feb 2021
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Alteration of gut microbiota with a broad-spectrum antibiotic does not impair maternal care in the European earwig

Assessing the role of host-symbiont interactions in maternal care behaviour

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Nadia Aubin-Horth, Gabrielle Davidson and 1 anonymous reviewer

The role of microbial symbionts in governing social traits of their hosts is an exciting and developing research area. Just like symbionts influence host reproductive behaviour and can cause mating incompatibilities to promote symbiont transmission through host populations (Engelstadter and Hurst 2009; Correa and Ballard 2016; Johnson and Foster 2018) (see also discussion on conflict resolution in Johnsen and Foster 2018), microbial symbionts could enhance transmission by promoting the social behaviour of their hosts (Ezenwa et al. 2012; Lewin-Epstein et al. 2017; Gurevich et al. 2020). Here I apply the term ‘symbiosis’ in the broad sense, following De Bary 1879 as “the living together of two differently named organisms“ independent of effects on the organisms involved (De Bary 1879), i.e. the biological interaction between the host and its symbionts may include mutualism, parasitism and commensalism.
So far, we have relative few studies that explore the role of symbionts in promoting social behaviours such as parental care. Clearly, disentangling cause and effect when assessing the functional significance of symbiotic relationships in general is extremely challenging, and perhaps even more caution is needed when assessing the role of symbionts in the evolution of parental care, given the high fitness benefits to the offspring of receiving care. An interesting study on the symbiotic relationship between termites and their eukaryotic gut symbionts proposes a role of gut flagellates in the origin of subsocial behaviour (extended offspring care) in the termites through proctodeal trophallaxis (i.e. anus-to-mouth feeding), driven by mutualistic beneficial interactions (Nalepa 2020). Van Meyel et al. (2021) hypothesized a role of gut symbionts in promoting maternal care behaviour in the European earwig, and set out to test this idea in a carefully executed experimental study. They used a broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment to alter gut microbiota in mothers and examined its effect on maternal care provisioning. While the antibiotic treatment altered the gut microbiome, no effect on pre- or post-hatching maternal care was detected. The authors also investigated a broad range of physiological and reproductive traits measured over a major part of a female’s lifetime, and detected no effect of microbiome alteration on these traits. The study therefore does not provide evidence for a direct role of the gut microbiome in shaping offspring care in this population of European earwigs.
Within populations, earwigs show inter-individual variation in the expression of maternal care (Meunier et al. 2012; Ratz et al. 2016), and there is evidence that genetic and environmental factors contribute to this this variation (Meunier and Kolliker 2012; Kramer et al. 2017). The study by Van Meyel et al. (2021) is the first to analyse microbiome composition of the European earwig, and they study host-symbiont associations in a single population. A next step could be to explore among population variation in the gut microbiome, to achieve a better understanding on host-microbiome variation and dynamics in wild populations. Depending on the nature of host-symbiont associations across populations, new perspectives on their functional significance may arise (Hird 2017; Johnson and Foster 2018). It is therefore too early to conclusively confirm or reject the role of microbial symbionts in the expression of parental care in this system.


Correa, C. C., and Ballard, J. W. O. (2016). Wolbachia associations with insects: winning or losing against a master manipulator. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 153. doi:

De Bary, A. (1879). Die Erscheinung der Symbiose. Verlag von Karl J. Trubner, Strassburg.

Engelstädter, J., and Hurst, G. D. (2009). The ecology and evolution of microbes that manipulate host reproduction. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 40, 127-149. doi:

Ezenwa, V. O., Gerardo, N. M., Inouye, D. W., Medina, M., and Xavier, J. B. (2012). Animal behavior and the microbiome. Science, 338(6104), 198-199. doi:

Gurevich, Y., Lewin-Epstein, O., and Hadany, L. (2020). The evolution of paternal care: a role for microbes?. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375(1808), 20190599. doi:

Hird, S. M. (2017). Evolutionary biology needs wild microbiomes. Frontiers in microbiology, 8, 725. doi:

Johnson, K. V. A., and Foster, K. R. (2018). Why does the microbiome affect behaviour?. Nature reviews microbiology, 16(10), 647-655. doi:

Kramer et al. (2017). When earwig mothers do not care to share: parent–offspring competition and the evolution of family life. Functional Ecology, 31(11), 2098-2107. doi:

Lewin-Epstein, O., Aharonov, R., and Hadany, L. (2017). Microbes can help explain the evolution of host altruism. Nature communications, 8(1), 1-7. doi:

Meunier, J., and Kölliker, M. (2012). Parental antagonism and parent–offspring co-adaptation interact to shape family life. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1744), 3981-3988. doi:

Meunier, J., Wong, J. W., Gómez, Y., Kuttler, S., Röllin, L., Stucki, D., and Kölliker, M. (2012). One clutch or two clutches? Fitness correlates of coexisting alternative female life-histories in the European earwig. Evolutionary Ecology, 26(3), 669-682. doi:

Nalepa, C. A. (2020). Origin of mutualism between termites and flagellated gut protists: transition from horizontal to vertical transmission. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8, 14. doi:

Ratz, T., Kramer, J., Veuille, M., and Meunier, J. (2016). The population determines whether and how life-history traits vary between reproductive events in an insect with maternal care. Oecologia, 182(2), 443-452. doi:

Van Meyel, S., Devers, S., Dupont, S., Dedeine, F. and Meunier, J. (2021) Alteration of gut microbiota with a broad-spectrum antibiotic does not impair maternal care in the European earwig. bioRxiv, 2020.10.08.331363. ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol.

Alteration of gut microbiota with a broad-spectrum antibiotic does not impair maternal care in the European earwigSophie Van Meyel, Séverine Devers, Simon Dupont, Franck Dedeine and Joël Meunier<p>The microbes residing within the gut of an animal host often increase their own fitness by modifying their host’s physiological, reproductive, and behavioural functions. Whereas recent studies suggest that they may also shape host sociality and...Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, Experimental Evolution, Life History, Species interactionsTrine Bilde2020-10-09 14:07:47 View