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03 Aug 2017
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Fisher's geometrical model and the mutational patterns of antibiotic resistance across dose gradients

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger: can Fisher’s Geometric model predict antibiotic resistance evolution?

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The increasing number of reported cases of antibiotic resistance is one of today’s major public health concerns. Dealing with this threat involves understanding what drives the evolution of antibiotic resistance and investigating whether we can predict (and subsequently avoid or circumvent) it [1].
One of the most illustrative and common models of adaptation (and, hence, resistance evolution) is Fisher’s Geometric Model (FGM). The original model maps phenotypes to fitness, meaning that each point in the fitness landscape corresponds to a phenotype rather than a genotype. However, it has been shown that when mutations are numerous enough, FGM can also describe adaptive walks in genotype space [2]. Nevertheless, limitations have been highlighted, particularly when trying to study complex scenarios such as antibiotic resistance evolution [3].
Harmand et al. [4] incorporated three extensions to the FGM, which allowed them to match the mutational patterns of antibiotic resistance that they obtained from a screen across a gradient of drug concentrations. The implemented extensions took into account that: 1) only a subset of mutations may contribute to traits under selection, reflecting that not all regions in the genome affect the ability to resist antibiotics; 2) mutations that confer a fitness increase in one environment may not reflect a similar increase in others, if the selective constraints are different; and 3) different antibiotic concentrations may either constrain the maximum fitness that populations can reach (changing the height of the fitness peak) or change the rate of fitness increase with each mutation (changing the width/slope of the peak).
Traditionally, most empirical fitness landscape studies have focused on a subset of mutations obtained after laboratory evolution in specific conditions [5, 6]. The results obtained in Harmand et al. [4] indicate a potential shortcoming of studying these small fitness landscapes: rather than having a constrained evolutionary path to a resistant phenotype, as previously observed, their results suggest that antibiotic resistance can be the product of mutations in different regions of the genome. Returning to the fitness landscape perspective, this indicates that there are many alternative paths that can lead to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. This comparison points at a difficult challenge when aiming at developing a predictive framework for evolution: real-time experiments may indicate that evolution is likely to take similar and predictable paths because the strongest and most frequent mutations dictate the outcome, whereas systematic screens of mutants potentially indicate several paths, that may, however, not be relevant in nature. Only a combination of different experimental approaches with motivated theory as presented in Harmand et al. [4] will allow for a better understanding of where in this continuum evolution is taking place in nature, and to which degree we are able to interfere with it in order to slow down adaptation.


[1] Palmer AC, and Kishony R. 2013. Understanding, predicting and manipulating the genotypic evolution of antibiotic resistance. Nature Review Genetics 14: 243—248. doi: 10.1038/nrg3351

[2] Tenaillon O. 2014. The utility of Fisher’s geometric model in evolutionary genetics. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 45: 179—201. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-120213-091846

[3] Blanquart F and Bataillon T. 2016. Epistasis and the structure of fitness landscapes: are experimental fitness landscapes compatible with Fisher’s geometric model? Genetics 203: 847—862. doi: 10.1534/genetics.115.182691

[4] Harmand N, Gallet R, Jabbour-Zahab R, Martin G and Lenormand T. 2017. Fisher’s geometrical model and the mutational patterns of antibiotic resistance across dose gradients. Evolution 71: 23—37. doi: 10.1111/evo.13111

[5] de Visser, JAGM, and Krug J. 2014. Empirical fitness landscapes and the predictability of evolution. Nature 15: 480—490. doi: 10.1038/nrg3744

[6] Palmer AC, Toprak E, Baym M, Kim S, Veres A, Bershtein S and Kishony R. 2015. Delayed commitment to evolutionary fate in antibiotic resistance fitness landscapes. Nature Communications 6: 1—8. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8385

Fisher's geometrical model and the mutational patterns of antibiotic resistance across dose gradientsNoémie Harmand, Romain Gallet, Roula Jabbour-Zahab, Guillaume Martin, Thomas LenormandFisher's geometrical model (FGM) has been widely used to depict the fitness effects of mutations. It is a general model with few underlying assumptions that gives a large and comprehensive view of adaptive processes. It is thus attractive in sever...AdaptationInês Fragata2017-08-01 16:06:02 View
14 Mar 2017
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Evolution of multiple sensory systems drives novel egg-laying behavior in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii

A valuable work lying at the crossroad of neuro-ethology, evolution and ecology in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii

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Adaptations to a new ecological niche allow species to access new resources and circumvent competitors and are hence obvious pathways of evolutionary success. The evolution of agricultural pest species represents an important case to study how a species adapts, on various timescales, to a novel ecological niche. Among the numerous insects that are agricultural pests, the ability to lay eggs (or oviposit) in ripe fruit appears to be a recurrent scenario. Fruit flies (family Tephritidae) employ this strategy, and include amongst their members some of the most destructive pests (e.g., the olive fruit fly Bactrocera olea or the medfly Ceratitis capitata). In their ms, Karageorgi et al. [1] studied how Drosophila suzukii, a new major agricultural pest species that recently invaded Europe and North America, evolved the novel behavior of laying eggs into undamaged fresh fruit. The close relatives of D. suzukii lay their eggs on decaying plant substrates, and thus this represents a marked change in host use that links to substantial economic losses to the fruit industry. Although a handful of studies have identified genetic changes causing new behaviors in various species, the question of the evolution of behavior remains a largely uncharted territory. The study by Karageorgi et al. [1] represents an original and most welcome contribution in this domain for a non-model species. Using clever behavioral experiments to compare D. suzukii to several related Drosophila species, and complementing those results with neurogenetics and mutant analyses using D. suzukii, the authors nicely dissect the sensory changes at the origin of the new egg-laying behavior. The experiments they describe are easy to follow, richly illustrate through figures and images, and particularly well designed to progressively decipher the sensory bases driving oviposition of D. suzukii on ripe fruit. Altogether, Karageorgi et al.’s [1] results show that the egg-laying substrate preference of D. suzukii has considerably evolved in concert with its morphology (especially its enlarged, serrated ovipositor that enables females to pierce the skin of many ripe fruits). Their observations clearly support the view that the evolution of traits that make D. suzukii an agricultural pest included the modification of several sensory systems (i.e. mechanosensation, gustation and olfaction). These differences between D. suzukii and its close relatives collectively underlie a radical change in oviposition behavior, and were presumably instrumental in the expansion of the ecological niche of the species. The authors tentatively propose a multi-step evolutionary scenario from their results with the emergence of D. suzukii as a pest species as final outcome. Such formalization represents an interesting evolutionary model-framework that obviously would rely upon further data and experiments to confirm and refine some of the evolutionary steps proposed, especially the final and recent transition of D. suzukii from non-invasive to invasive species.


[1] Karageorgi M, Bräcker LB, Lebreton S, Minervino C, Cavey M, Siju KP, Grunwald Kadow IC, Gompel N, Prud’homme B. 2017. Evolution of multiple sensory systems drives novel egg-laying behavior in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii. Current Biology, 27: 1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.055

Evolution of multiple sensory systems drives novel egg-laying behavior in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukiiMarianthi Karageorgi, Lasse B. Bräcker, Sébastien Lebreton, Caroline Minervino, Matthieu Cavey, K.P. Siju, Ilona C. Grunwald Kadow, Nicolas Gompel, Benjamin Prud’hommeThe rise of a pest species represents a unique opportunity to address how species evolve new behaviors and adapt to novel ecological niches. We address this question by studying the egg-laying behavior of Drosophila suzukii, an invasive agricultur...Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Evo-Devo, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Ecology, Expression Studies, Genotype-Phenotype, Macroevolution, Molecular EvolutionArnaud Estoup2017-03-13 17:42:00 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

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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
18 Nov 2020
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A demogenetic agent based model for the evolution of traits and genome architecture under sexual selection

Sexual selection goes dynamic

Recommended by based on reviews by Frédéric Guillaume and 1 anonymous reviewer

150 years after Darwin published ‘Descent of man and selection in relation to sex’ (Darwin, 1871), the evolutionary mechanism that he laid out in his treatise continues to fascinate us. Sexual selection is responsible for some of the most spectacular traits among animals, and plants, and it appeals to our interest in all things reproductive and sexual (Bell, 1982). In addition, sexual selection poses some of the more intractable problems in evolutionary biology: Its realm encompasses traits that are subject to markedly different selection pressures, particularly when distinct, yet associated, traits tend to be associated with males, e.g. courtship signals, and with females, e.g. preferences (cf. Ah-King & Ahnesjo, 2013). While separate, such traits cannot evolve independently of each other (Arnqvist & Rowe, 2005), and complex feedback loops and correlations between them are predicted (Greenfield et al., 2014). Traditionally, sexual selection has been modelled under simplifying assumptions, and quantitative genetic approaches that avoided evolutionary dynamics have prevailed. New computing methods may be able to free the field from these constraints, and a trio of theoreticians (Chevalier, De Coligny & Labonne 2020) describe here a novel application of a ‘demo-genetic agent (or individual) based model’, a mouthful hereafter termed DG-ABM, for arriving at a holistic picture of the sexual selection trajectory. The application is built on the premise that traits, e.g. courtship, preference, gamete investment, competitiveness for mates, can influence the genetic architecture, e.g. correlations, of those traits. In turn, the genetic architecture can influence the expression and evolvability of the traits. Much of this influence occurs via demographic features, i.e. social environment, generated by behavioral interactions during sexual advertisement, courtship, mate guarding, parental care, post-mating dispersal, etc.
The authors provide a lengthy verbal description of their model, specifying the genomic and behavioral parameters that can be set and how a ‘run’ may be initialized. There is a link to an internet site where users can then enter their own parameter values and begin exploring hypotheses. Back in the article several simulations illustrate simple tests; e.g. how gamete investment and preference jointly evolve given certain survival costs. One obvious test would have been the preference – courtship genetic correlation that represents the core of Fisherian runaway selection, and it is regrettable that it was not examined under a range of demographic parameters. As presented the author’s DG-ABM appears particularly geared toward mating systems in ‘higher’ vertebrates, where couples form during a discrete mating season and are responsible for most reproduction. It is not clear how applicable the model could be to a full range of mating systems and nuances, including those in arthropods and other invertebrates as well as plants.
What is the likely value of the DG-ABM for sexual selection researchers? We will not be able to evaluate its potential impact until readers with specialized understanding of a question and taxon begin exploring and comparing their results with prior expectations. Of course, lack of congruence with earlier predictions would not invalidate the model. Hopefully, some of these specialists will have opportunities for comparing results with pertinent empirical data.


Ah-King, M. and Ahnesjo, I. 2013. The ‘sex role’ concept: An overview and evaluation Evolutionary Biology, 40, 461-470. doi:
Arnqvist, G. and Rowe, L. 2005. Sexual Conflict. Princeton University Press, Princeton. doi:
Bell, G. 1982. The Masterpiece of Nature: The Evolution and Genetics of Sexuality. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Chevalier, L., De Coligny, F. and Labonne, J. (2020) A demogenetic individual based model for the evolution of traits and genome architecture under sexual selection. bioRxiv, 2020.04.01.014514, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol. doi:
Darwin, C. 1871. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. J. Murray, London.
Greenfield, M.D., Alem, S., Limousin, D. and Bailey, N.W. 2014. The dilemma of Fisherian sexual selection: Mate choice for indirect benefits despite rarity and overall weakness of trait-preference genetic correlation. Evolution, 68, 3524-3536. doi:

A demogenetic agent based model for the evolution of traits and genome architecture under sexual selectionLouise Chevalier, François de Coligny, Jacques Labonne<p>Sexual selection has long been known to favor the evolution of mating behaviors such as mate preference and competitiveness, and to affect their genetic architecture, for instance by favoring genetic correlation between some traits. Reciprocall...Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Theory, Life History, Population Genetics / Genomics, Sexual SelectionMichael D Greenfield2020-04-02 14:44:25 View
13 Dec 2018
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A behavior-manipulating virus relative as a source of adaptive genes for parasitoid wasps

Genetic intimacy of filamentous viruses and endoparasitoid wasps

Recommended by based on reviews by Alejandro Manzano Marín and 1 anonymous reviewer

Viruses establish intimate relationships with the cells they infect. The virocell is a novel entity, different from the original host cell and beyond the mere combination of viral and cellular genetic material. In these close encounters, viral and cellular genomes often hybridise, combine, recombine, merge and excise. Such chemical promiscuity leaves genomics scars that can be passed on to descent, in the form of deletions or duplications and, importantly, insertions and back and forth exchange of genetic material between viruses and their hosts.
In this preprint [1], Di Giovanni and coworkers report the identification of 13 genes present in the extant genomes of members of the Leptopilina wasp genus, bearing sound signatures of having been horizontally acquired from an ancestral virus. Importantly the authors identify Leptopilina boulardi filamentous virus (LbFV) as an extant relative of the ancestral virus that served as donor for the thirteen horizontally transferred genes. While pinpointing genes with a likely possible viral origin in eukaryotic genomes is only relatively rare, identifying an extant viral lineage related to the ancestral virus that continues to infect an extant relative of the ancestral host is remarkable. But the amazing evolutionary history of the Leptopilina hosts and these filamentous viruses goes beyond this shared genes. These wasps are endoparasitoids of Drosophila larvae, the female wasp laying the eggs inside the larvae and simultaneously injecting venom that hinders the immune response. The composition of the venoms is complex, varies between wasp species and also between individuals within a species, but a central component of all these venoms are spiked structures that vary in morphology, symmetry and size, often referred to as virus-like particles (VLPs).
In this preprint, the authors convincingly show that the expression pattern in the Leptopilina wasps of the thirteen genes identified to have been horizontally acquired from the LbFV ancestor coincides with that of the production of VLPs in the female wasp venom gland. Based on this spatio-temporal match, the authors propose that these VLPs have a viral origin. The data presented in this preprint will undoubtedly stimulate further research on the composition, function, origin, evolution and diversity of these VLP structures, which are highly debated (see for instance [2] and [3]).


[1] Di Giovanni, D., Lepetit, D., Boulesteix, M., Ravallec, M., & Varaldi, J. (2018). A behavior-manipulating virus relative as a source of adaptive genes for parasitoid wasps. bioRxiv, 342758, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol. doi: 10.1101/342758
[2] Poirié, M., Colinet, D., & Gatti, J. L. (2014). Insights into function and evolution of parasitoid wasp venoms. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 6, 52-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cois.2014.10.004
[3] Heavner, M. E., Ramroop, J., Gueguen, G., Ramrattan, G., Dolios, G., Scarpati, M., ... & Govind, S. (2017). Novel organelles with elements of bacterial and eukaryotic secretion systems weaponize parasites of Drosophila. Current Biology, 27(18), 2869-2877. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.08.019

A behavior-manipulating virus relative as a source of adaptive genes for parasitoid waspsD. Di Giovanni, D. Lepetit, M. Boulesteix, M. Ravallec, J. Varaldi<p>To circumvent host immune response, numerous hymenopteran endo-parasitoid species produce virus-like structures in their reproductive apparatus that are injected into the host together with the eggs. These viral-like structures are absolutely n...Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Genetic conflicts, Genome EvolutionIgnacio Bravo2018-07-18 15:59:14 View
13 Dec 2016
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Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Supergene Control of a Reproductive Polymorphism

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Two back-to-back papers published earlier this year in Nature Genetics provide compelling evidence for the control of a male reproductive polymorphism in a wading bird by a "supergene", a cluster of tightly linked genes [1-2]. The bird in question, the ruff (Philomachus pugnax), has a rather unusual reproductive system that consists of three distinct types of males ("reproductive morphs"): aggressive "independents" who represent the majority of males; a smaller fraction of non-territorial "satellites" who are submissive towards "independents"; and "faeders" who mimic females and are rare. Previous work has shown that the male morphs differ in major aspects of mating and aggression behavior, plumage coloration and body size, and that – intriguingly – this complex multi-trait polymorphism is apparently controlled by a single autosomal Mendelian locus with three alleles [3]. To uncover the genetic control of this polymorphism two independent teams, led by Terry Burke [1] and Leif Andersson [2], have set out to analyze the genomes of male ruffs. Using a combination of genomics and genetics, both groups managed to pin down the supergene locus and map it to a non-recombining, 4.5 Mb large inversion which arose 3.8 million years ago. While "independents" are homozygous for the ancestral uninverted sequence, "satellites" and "faeders" carry evolutionarily divergent, dominant alternative haplotypes of the inversion. Thus, as in several other notable cases, for example the supergene control of disassortative mating, aggressiveness and plumage color in white-throated sparrows [4], of mimicry in Heliconius and Papilio butterflies [5-6], or of social structure in ants [7], an inversion – behaving as a single "locus" – underpins the mechanistic basis of the supergene. More generally, and beyond inversions, a growing number of studies now shows that selection can favor the evolution of suppressed recombination, thereby leading to the emergence of clusters of tightly linked loci which can then control – presumably due to polygenic gene action – a suite of complex phenotypes [8-10]. A largely unresolved question in this field concerns the identity of the causative alleles and loci within a given supergene. Recent progress on this question has been made for example in Papilio polytes butterflies where a mimicry supergene has been found to involve – surprisingly – only a single but large gene: multiple mimicry alleles in the doublesex gene are maintained in strong linkage disequilibrium via an inversion. It will clearly be of great interest to see future examples of such a fine-scale genetic dissection of supergenes. In conclusion, we were impressed by the data and analyses of Küpper et al. [1] and Lamichhaney et al. [2]: both papers beautifully illustrate how genomics and evolutionary ecology can be combined to make new, exciting discoveries. Both papers will appeal to readers with an interest in supergenes, inversions, the interplay of selection and recombination, or the genetic control of complex phenotypes.


[1] Küpper C, Stocks M, Risse JE, dos Remedios N, Farrell LL, McRae SB, Morgan TC, Karlionova N, Pinchuk P, Verkuil YI, et al. 2016. A supergene determines highly divergent male reproductive morphs in the ruff. Nature Genetics 48:79-83. doi: 10.1038/ng.3443

[2] Lamichhaney S, Fan G, Widemo F, Gunnarsson U, Thalmann DS, Hoeppner MP, Kerje S, Gustafson U, Shi C, Zhang H, et al. 2016. Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax). Nature Genetics 48:84-88. doi: 10.1038/ng.3430

[3] Lank DB, Smith CM, Hanotte O, Burke T, Cooke F. 1995. Genetic polymorphism for alternative mating behaviour in lekking male ruff Philomachus pugnax. Nature 378:59-62. doi: 10.1038/378059a0

[4] Tuttle Elaina M, Bergland Alan O, Korody Marisa L, Brewer Michael S, Newhouse Daniel J, Minx P, Stager M, Betuel A, Cheviron Zachary A, Warren Wesley C, et al. 2016. Divergence and Functional Degradation of a Sex Chromosome-like Supergene. Current Biology 26:344-350. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.069

[5] Joron M, Frezal L, Jones RT, Chamberlain NL, Lee SF, Haag CR, Whibley A, Becuwe M, Baxter SW, Ferguson L, et al. 2011. Chromosomal rearrangements maintain a polymorphic supergene controlling butterfly mimicry. Nature 477:203-206. doi: 10.1038/nature10341

[6] Kunte K, Zhang W, Tenger-Trolander A, Palmer DH, Martin A, Reed RD, Mullen SP, Kronforst MR. 2014. doublesex is a mimicry supergene. Nature 507:229-232. doi: 10.1038/nature13112

[7] Wang J, Wurm Y, Nipitwattanaphon M, Riba-Grognuz O, Huang Y-C, Shoemaker D, Keller L. 2013. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. Nature 493:664-668. doi: 10.1038/nature11832

[8] Thompson MJ, Jiggins CD. 2014. Supergenes and their role in evolution. Heredity 113:1-8. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.20

[9] Schwander T, Libbrecht R, Keller L. 2014. Supergenes and Complex Phenotypes. Current Biology 24:R288-R294. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.056

[10] Charlesworth D. 2015. The status of supergenes in the 21st century: recombination suppression in Batesian mimicry and sex chromosomes and other complex adaptations. Evolutionary Applications 9:74-90. doi: 10.1111/eva.12291

Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax)Lamichhaney S, Fan G, Widemo F, Gunnarsson U, Thalmann DS, Hoeppner MP, Kerje S, Gustafson U, Shi C, Zhang H, et al.The ruff is a Palearctic wader with a spectacular lekking behavior where highly ornamented males compete for females1, 2, 3, 4. This bird has one of the most remarkable mating systems in the animal kingdom, comprising three different male morphs (...Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Life History, Population Genetics / Genomics, Quantitative Genetics, Reproduction and SexThomas Flatt2016-12-13 17:46:54 View
16 Nov 2022
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Divergence of olfactory receptors associated with the evolution of assortative mating and reproductive isolation in mice

Tinder in mice: A match made with the sense of smell

Recommended by based on reviews by Ludovic Claude Maisonneuve, Angeles de Cara and 1 anonymous reviewer

Differentiation-based genome scans lie at the core of speciation and adaptation genomics research. Dating back to Lewontin & Krakauer (1973), they have become very popular with the advent of genomics to identify genome regions of enhanced differentiation relative to neutral expectations. These regions may represent genetic barriers between divergent lineages and are key for studying reproductive isolation. However, genome scan methods can generate a high rate of false positives, primarily if the neutral population structure is not accounted for (Bierne et al. 2013). Moreover, interpreting genome scans can be challenging in the context of secondary contacts between diverging lineages (Bierne et al. 2011), because the coupling between different components of reproductive isolation (local adaptation, intrinsic incompatibilities, mating preferences, etc.) can occur readily, thus preventing the causes of differentiation from being determined.

Smadja and collaborators (2022) applied a sophisticated genome scan for trait association (BAYPASS, Gautier 2015) to underlie the genetic basis of a polygenetic behaviour: assortative mating in hybridizing mice. My interest in this neat study mainly relies on two reasons. First, the authors used an ingenious geographical setting (replicate pairs of “Choosy” versus “Non-Choosy” populations) with multi-way comparisons to narrow down the list of candidate regions resulting from BAYPASS. The latter corrects for population structure, handles cost-effective pool-seq data and allows for gene-based analyses that aggregate SNP signals within a gene. These features reinforce the set of outlier genes detected; however, not all are expected to be associated with mating preference. 

The second reason why this study is valuable to me is that Smadja et al. (2022) complemented the population genomic approach with functional predictions to validate the genetic signal. In line with previous behavioural and chemical assays on the proximal mechanisms of mating preferences, they identified multiple olfactory and vomeronasal receptor genes as highly significant candidates. Therefore, combining genomic signals with functional analyses is a clever way to provide insights into the causes of reproductive isolation, especially when multiple barriers are involved. This is typically true for reinforcement (Butlin & Smadja 2018), suspected to occur in these mice because, in that case, assortative mating (a prezygotic barrier) evolves in response to the cost of hybridization (for example, due to hybrid inviability). 

As advocated by the authors, their study paves the way for future work addressing the genetic basis of reinforcement, a trait of major evolutionary importance for which we lack empirical data. They also make a compelling case using complementary approaches that olfactory and vomeronasal receptors have a central role in mammal speciation.


Bierne N, Welch J, Loire E, Bonhomme F, David P (2011) The coupling hypothesis: why genome scans may fail to map local adaptation genes. Mol Ecol 20: 2044–2072.

Bierne N, Roze D, Welch JJ (2013) Pervasive selection or is it…? why are FST outliers sometimes so frequent? Mol Ecol 22: 2061–2064. 

Butlin RK, Smadja CM (2018) Coupling, Reinforcement, and Speciation. Am Nat 191:155–172. 

Gautier M (2015) Genome-Wide Scan for Adaptive Divergence and Association with Population-Specific Covariates. Genetics 201:1555–1579. 

Lewontin RC, Krakauer J (1973) Distribution of gene frequency as a test of the theory of selective neutrality of polymorphisms. Genetics 74: 175–195. 

Smadja CM, Loire E, Caminade P, Severac D, Gautier M, Ganem G (2022) Divergence of olfactory receptors associated with the evolution of assortative mating and reproductive isolation in mice. bioRxiv, 2022.07.21.500634, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

Divergence of olfactory receptors associated with the evolution of assortative mating and reproductive isolation in miceCarole M. Smadja, Etienne Loire, Pierre Caminade, Dany Severac, Mathieu Gautier, Guila Ganem<p>Deciphering the genetic bases of behavioural traits is essential to understanding how they evolve and contribute to adaptation and biological diversification, but it remains a substantial challenge, especially for behavioural traits with polyge...Adaptation, Behavior & Social Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, SpeciationChristelle Fraïsse2022-07-25 11:54:52 View
22 May 2023
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Weak seed banks influence the signature and detectability of selective sweeps

New insights into the dynamics of selective sweeps in seed-banked species

Recommended by based on reviews by Guillaume Achaz, Jere Koskela, William Shoemaker and Simon Boitard

Many organisms across the Tree of life have the ability to produce seeds, eggs, cysts, or spores, that can remain dormant for several generations before hatching. This widespread adaptive trait in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, has a significant impact on the ecology, population dynamics and population genetics of species that express it (Evans and Dennehy 2005).

In population genetics, and despite the recognition of its evolutionary importance in many empirical studies, few theoretical models have been developed to characterize the evolutionary consequences of this trait on the level and distribution of neutral genetic diversity (see, e.g., Kaj et al. 2001; Vitalis et al. 2004), and also on the dynamics of selected alleles (see, e.g., Živković and Tellier 2018). However, due to the complexity of the interactions between evolutionary forces in the presence of dormancy, the fate of selected mutations in their genomic environment is not yet fully understood, even from the most recently developed models.

In a comprehensive article, Korfmann et al. (2023) aim to fill this gap by investigating the effect of germ banking on the probability of (and time to) fixation of beneficial mutations, as well as on the shape of the selective sweep in their vicinity. To this end, Korfmann et al. (2023) developed and released their own forward-in-time simulator of genome-wide data, including neutral and selected polymorphisms, that makes use of Kelleher et al.’s (2018) tree sequence toolkit to keep track of gene genealogies.

The originality of Korfmann et al.’s (2023) study is to provide new quantitative results for the effect of dormancy on the time to fixation of positively selected mutations, the shape of the genomic landscape in the vicinity of these mutations, and the temporal dynamics of selective sweeps. Their major finding is the prediction that germ banking creates narrower signatures of sweeps around positively selected sites, which are detectable for increased periods of time (as compared to a standard Wright-Fisher population).

The availability of Korfmann et al.’s (2023) code will allow a wider range of parameter values to be explored, to extend their results to the particularities of the biology of many species. However, as they chose to extend the haploid coalescent model of Kaj et al. (2001), further development is needed to confirm the robustness of their results with a more realistic diploid model of seed dormancy.


Evans, M. E. K., and J. J. Dennehy (2005) Germ banking: bet-hedging and variable release from egg and seed dormancy. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 80(4): 431-451.

Kaj, I., S. Krone, and M. Lascoux (2001) Coalescent theory for seed bank models. Journal of Applied Probability, 38(2): 285-300.

Kelleher, J., K. R. Thornton, J. Ashander, and P. L. Ralph (2018) Efficient pedigree recording for fast population genetics simulation. PLoS Computational Biology, 14(11): e1006581.

Korfmann, K., D. Abu Awad, and A. Tellier (2023) Weak seed banks influence the signature and detectability of selective sweeps. bioRxiv, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

Vitalis, R., S. Glémin, and I. Olivieri (2004) When genes go to sleep: the population genetic consequences of seed dormancy and monocarpic perenniality. American Naturalist, 163(2): 295-311.

Živković, D., and A. Tellier (2018). All but sleeping? Consequences of soil seed banks on neutral and selective diversity in plant species. Mathematical Modelling in Plant Biology, 195-212.

Weak seed banks influence the signature and detectability of selective sweepsKevin Korfmann, Diala Abu Awad, Aurélien Tellier<p style="text-align: justify;">Seed banking (or dormancy) is a widespread bet-hedging strategy, generating a form of population overlap, which decreases the magnitude of genetic drift. The methodological complexity of integrating this trait impli...Adaptation, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Ecology, Genome Evolution, Life History, Population Genetics / GenomicsRenaud Vitalis2022-05-23 13:01:57 View
10 Jul 2019
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Population genomics supports clonal reproduction and multiple gains and losses of parasitic abilities in the most devastating nematode plant pest

The scandalous pest

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Koutsovoulos et al. [1] have generated and analysed the first population genomic dataset in root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita. Why is this interesting? For two major reasons. First, M. incognita has been documented to be apomictic, i.e., to lack any form of sex. This is a trait of major evolutionary importance, with implications on species adaptive potential. The study of genome evolution in asexuals is fascinating and has the potential to inform on the forces governing the evolution of sex and recombination. Even small amounts of sex, however, are sufficient to restore most of the population genetic properties of true sexuals [2]. Because rare events of sex can remain undetected in the field, to confirm asexuality in M. incognita using genomic data is an important step. The second reason why M. incognita is of interest is that this nematode is one of the most harmful pests currently living on earth. M. incognita feeds on the roots of many cultivated plants, including tomato, bean, and cotton, and has been of major agricultural importance for decades. A number of races were defined based on host specificity. These have played a key role in attempts to control the dynamic of M. incognita populations via crop rotations. Races and management strategies so far lack any genetic basis, hence the second major interest of this study.
The authors newly sequenced the full genome of eleven strains from Brazil and added nine already available samples from Africa and North-America. They report that, in all likelihood, M. incognita is indeed a purely asexual species. This is supported by (i) the confirmation that the genome is in its major part haploid, and (ii) a spectacularly high level of linkage disequilibrium, which does not decline with genetic distance between loci at a 100kb scale. The absence of sex and recombination is associated in M. incognita with a remarkably low amount of genetic diversity - one order of magnitude less than in typical sexual nematodes - and an heavy load of deleterious mutations, as measured by the ratio of non-synonymous (=amino-acid changing) to synonymous (=amino-acid conservative) diversity in coding sequences. The other important result of this study is that the population substructure in M. incognita is in no way related to host races or geography. The tree genetic clusters that are identified include strains from several continents and feeding on a diversity of host plants.
The implications of this work are numerous. First, the results suggest that M. incognita is an ancient asexual. Asexuality, which was here demonstrated via linkage disequilibrium analysis, must be ancient enough for diploidy (or, in this case, maybe triploidy) to have been lost - i.e., formerly homologous chromosomes have accumulated enough mutations to be assembled as distinct entities. So we are not talking about a highly successful clone having recently spread the world - rather a long-term obligate parthenogen. Asexual organisms are deprived of the source of genetic variation offered by recombination, which is why asexuality is thought to be an evolutionary dead-end. Long-term asexuals are uncommon and even the most famous ones, bdelloid rotifers, are suspected to experience between-individual genetic transfers [3]. M. incognita is apparently a true 'evolutionary scandal', and as such deserves particular attention from molecular evolutionary geneticists.
The lack of any host race effect on the genetic diversity of M. incognita is another important finding. So-called 'races' have largely contributed to shape researchers' view of the structure of the species so far. This study demonstrates that a mental effort is now needed to forget about races, and consider host-specificity for what it is - a phenotypic trait. This result implies that many host shifts must have independently occurred in the three M. incognita genetic lineages, suggesting an arms race between plants and nematodes, which in the absence of sex and recombination must be entirely mutation-driven on the nematode side. Genes functionally involved in the arms race might therefore be expected to have experienced convergent evolution, if distinct M. incognita lineages have adopted the same solutions to overcome plant defenses. The present study paves the way for such a genome scan. The authors rightly discuss that the strong adaptive potential of M. incognita, at least in terms of host shift, despite no sex and tiny amounts of genetic diversity, is a paradox that would deserve to be further investigated.


[1] Koutsovoulos, G. D., Marques, E., Arguel, M. J., Duret, L., Machado, A. C. Z., Carneiro, R. M. D. G., Kozlowski, D. K., Bailly-Bechet, M., Castagnone-Sereno, P., Albuquerque, E. V., & Danchin, E. G. J. (2019). Population genomics supports clonal reproduction and multiple gains and losses of parasitic abilities in the most devastating nematode plant pest. bioRxiv, 362129, ver. 5, peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/362129
[2] Hartfield, M. (2016). Evolutionary genetic consequences of facultative sex and outcrossing. Journal of evolutionary biology, 29(1), 5-22. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12770
[3] Debortoli, N., Li, X., Eyres, I., Fontaneto, D., Hespeels, B., Tang, C. Q., Flot, J. F. & Van Doninck, K. (2016). Genetic exchange among bdelloid rotifers is more likely due to horizontal gene transfer than to meiotic sex. Current Biology, 26(6), 723-732. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.01.031

Population genomics supports clonal reproduction and multiple gains and losses of parasitic abilities in the most devastating nematode plant pestGeorgios D. Koutsovoulos, Eder Marques, Marie-Jeanne Arguel, Laurent Duret, Andressa C.Z. Machado, Regina M.D.G. Carneiro, Djampa K. Kozlowski, Marc Bailly-Bechet, Philippe Castagnone-Sereno, Erika V.S. Albuquerque, Etienne G.J. Danchin <p>The most devastating nematodes to worldwide agriculture are the root-knot nematodes with Meloidogyne incognita being the most widely distributed and damaging species. This parasitic and ecological success seem surprising given its supposed obli...Adaptation, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Evolutionary Ecology, Genome Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Molecular Evolution, Phylogenetics / Phylogenomics, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexNicolas Galtier2018-08-24 09:02:33 View
18 May 2018
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Modularity of genes involved in local adaptation to climate despite physical linkage

Differential effect of genes in diverse environments, their role in local adaptation and the interference between genes that are physically linked

Recommended by based on reviews by Tanja Pyhäjärvi and 1 anonymous reviewer

The genome of eukaryotic species is a complex structure that experience many different interactions within itself and with the surrounding environment. The genetic architecture of a phenotype (that is, the set of genetic elements affecting a trait of the organism) plays a fundamental role in understanding the adaptation process of a species to, for example, different climate environments, or to its interaction with other species. Thus, it is fundamental to study the different aspects of the genetic architecture of the species and its relationship with its surronding environment. Aspects such as modularity (the number of genetic units and the degree to which each unit is affecting a trait of the organism), pleiotropy (the number of different effects that a genetic unit can have on an organism) or linkage (the degree of association between the different genetic units) are essential to understand the genetic architecture and to interpret the effects of selection on the genome. Indeed, the knowledge of the different aspects of the genetic architecture could clarify whether genes are affected by multiple aspects of the environment or, on the contrary, are affected by only specific aspects [1,2].

The work performed by Lotterhos et al. [3] sought to understand the genetic architecture of the adaptation to different environments in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), considering as candidate SNPs those previously detected as a result of its extreme association patterns to different environmental variables or to extreme population differentiation. This consideration is very important because the study is only relevant if the studied markers are under the effect of selection. Otherwise, the genetic architecture of the adaptation to different environments would be masked by other (neutral) kind of associations that would be difficult to interpret [4,5]. In order to understand the relationship between genetic architecture and adaptation, it is relevant to detect the association networks of the candidate SNPs with climate variables (a way to measure modularity) and if these SNPs (and loci) are affected by single or multiple environments (a way to measure pleiotropy).

The authors used co-association networks, an innovative approach in this field, to analyse the interaction between the environmental information and the genetic polymorphism of each individual. This methodology is more appropriate than other multivariate methods - such as analysis based on principal components - because it is possible to cluster SNPs based on associations with similar environmental variables. In this sense, the co-association networks allowed to both study the genetic and physical linkage between different co-associations modules but also to compare two different models of evolution: a Modular environmental response architecture (specific genes are affected by specific aspects of the environment) or a Universal pleiotropic environmental response architecture (all genes are affected by all aspects of the environment). The representation of different correlations between allelic frequency and environmental factors (named galaxy biplots) are especially informative to understand the effect of the different clusters on specific aspects of the environment (for example, the co-association network ‘Aridity’ shows strong associations with hot/wet versus cold/dry environments).

The analysis performed by Lotterhos et al. [3], although it has some unavoidable limitations (e.g., only extreme candidate SNPs are selected, limiting the results to the stronger effects; the genetic and physical map is incomplete in this species), includes relevant results and also implements new methodologies in the field. To highlight some of them: the preponderance of a Modular environmental response architecture (evolution in separated modules), the detection of physical linkage among SNPs that are co-associated with different aspects of the environment (which was unexpected a priori), the implementation of co-association networks and galaxy biplots to see the effect of modularity and pleiotropy on different aspects of environment. Finally, this work contains remarkable introductory Figures and Tables explaining unambiguously the main concepts [6] included in this study. This work can be treated as a starting point for many other future studies in the field.


[1] Hancock AM, Brachi B, Faure N, Horton MW, Jarymowycz LB, Sperone FG, Toomajian C, Roux F & Bergelson J. 2011. Adaptation to climate across the Arabidopsis thaliana genome. Science 334: 83–86. doi: 10.1126/science.1209244
[2] Wagner GP & Zhang J. The pleiotropic structure of the genotype­phenotype map: the evolvability of complex organisms. Nature Review Genetics 12: 204–213. doi: 10.1038/nrg2949
[3] Lotterhos KE, Yeaman S, Degner J, Aitken S, Hodgins K. 2018. Modularity of genes involved in local adaptation to climate despite physical linkage. bioRxiv 202481, ver. 4 peer-reviewed by Peer Community In Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/202481
[4] Lotterhos KE & Whitlock MC. 2014. Evaluation of demographic history and neutral parameterization on the performance of FST outlier tests. Molecular Ecology 23: 2178–2192. doi: 10.1111/mec.12725
[5] Lotterhos KE & Whitlock MC. 2015. The relative power of genome scans to detect local adaptation depends on sampling design and statistical method. Molecular Ecology 24: 1031–1046. doi: 10.1111/mec.13100
[6] Paaby AB & Rockman MV. 2013. The many faces of pleiotropy. Trends in Genetics 29: 66-73. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2012.10.010

Modularity of genes involved in local adaptation to climate despite physical linkageKatie E. Lotterhos, Sam Yeaman, Jon Degner, Sally Aitken, Kathryn Hodgins<p>Background: Physical linkage among genes shaped by different sources of selection is a fundamental aspect of genetic architecture. Theory predicts that evolution in complex environments selects for modular genetic architectures and high recombi...Adaptation, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Genome EvolutionSebastian Ernesto Ramos-Onsins2017-10-15 19:21:57 View