|Id||Title||Authors||Abstract||Picture||Thematic fields||Recommender||Reviewers||Submission date|
31 Mar 2017
Human adaptation of Ebola virus during the West African outbreakUrbanowicz, R.A., McClure, C.P., Sakuntabhai, A., Sall, A.A., Kobinger, G., Müller, M.A., Holmes, E.C., Rey, F.A., Simon-Loriere, E., and Ball, J.K. 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.013
Ebola evolution during the 2013-2016 outbreakRecommended by Sylvain Gandon and Sébastien Lion
The Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic that started in December 2013 resulted in around 28,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths. Since the emergence of the disease in Zaire in 1976 the virus had produced a number of outbreaks in Africa but until 2013 the reported numbers of human cases had never risen above 500. Could this exceptional epidemic size be due to the spread of a human-adapted form of the virus?
The large mutation rate of the virus [1-2] may indeed introduce massive amounts of genetic variation upon which selection may act. Several earlier studies based on the accumulation of genome sequences sampled during the epidemic led to contrasting conclusions. A few studies discussed evidence of positive selection on the glycoprotein that may be linked to phenotypic variations on infectivity and/or immune evasion [3-4]. But the heterogeneity in the transmission of some lineages could also be due to environmental heterogeneity and/or stochasticity. Most studies could not rule out the null hypothesis of the absence of positive selection and human adaptation [1-2 and 5].
In a recent experimental study, Urbanowicz et al.  chose a different method to tackle this question. A phylogenetic analysis of genome sequences from viruses sampled in West Africa revealed the existence of two main lineages (one with a narrow geographic distribution in Guinea, and the other with a wider geographic distribution) distinguished by a single amino acid substitution in the glycoprotein of the virus (A82V), and of several sub-lineages characterised by additional substitutions. The authors used this phylogenetic data to generate a panel of mutant pseudoviruses and to test their ability to infect human and fruit bat cells. These experiments revealed that specific amino acid substitutions led to higher infectivity of human cells, including A82V. This increased infectivity on human cells was associated with a decreased infectivity in fruit bat cell cultures. Since fruit bats are likely to be the reservoir of the virus, this paper indicates that human adaptation may have led to a specialization of the virus to a new host.
An accompanying paper in the same issue of Cell by Diehl et al.  reports results that confirm the trend identified by Urbanowicz et al.  and further indicate that the increased infectivity of A82V is specific for primate cells. Diehl et al.  also report some evidence for higher virulence of A82V in humans. In other words, the evolution of the virus may have led to higher abilities to infect and to kill its novel host. This work thus confirms the adaptive potential of RNA virus and the ability of Ebola to specialize to a novel host. In this context, the availability of an effective vaccine against the disease is particularly welcome .
The study of Urbanowicz et al.  is also remarkable because it illustrates the need of experimental approaches for the study of phenotypic variation when inference methods based on phylodynamics fail to extract a clear biological message. The analysis of genomic evolution is still in its infancy and there is a need for new theoretical developments to help detect more rapidly candidate mutations involved in adaptations to new environmental conditions.
 Gire, S.K., Goba, A., Andersen, K.G., Sealfon, R.S.G., Park, D.J., Kanneh, L., Jalloh, S., Momoh, M., Fullah, M., Dudas, G., et al. (2014). Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak. Science 345, 1369–1372. doi: 10.1126/science.1259657
|Human adaptation of Ebola virus during the West African outbreak||Urbanowicz, R.A., McClure, C.P., Sakuntabhai, A., Sall, A.A., Kobinger, G., Müller, M.A., Holmes, E.C., Rey, F.A., Simon-Loriere, E., and Ball, J.K.||The 2013–2016 outbreak of Ebola virus (EBOV) in West Africa was the largest recorded. It began following the cross-species transmission of EBOV from an animal reservoir, most likely bats, into humans, with phylogenetic analysis revealing the co-ci...||Adaptation, Evolutionary Epidemiology, Genome Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Molecular Evolution, Species interactions||Sylvain Gandon||2017-03-31 14:20:38||View|
16 Mar 2017
Correlated paternity measures mate monopolization and scales with the magnitude of sexual selectionDorken, ME and Perry LE 10.1111/jeb.13013
Measurement of sexual selection in plants made easierRecommended by Emmanuelle Porcher and Mathilde Dufay
Sexual selection occurs in flowering plants too. However it tends to be understudied in comparison to animal sexual selection, in part because the minuscule size and long dispersal distances of the individuals producing male gametes (pollen grains) seriously complicate the estimation of male siring success and thereby the measurement of sexual selection. Dorken and Perry  introduce a novel and clever approach to estimate sexual selection in plants, which bypasses the need for a direct quantification of absolute male mating success. This approach builds on the fact that the strength of sexual selection is directly related to the ability of individuals to monopolize mates . In plants, mate monopolization can be assessed by examining the proportion of seeds produced by a given plant that are full-sibs, i.e. that share the same father. A nice feature of this proportion of full-sib seeds per maternal parent is it equals the coefficient of correlated paternity of Ritland , which can be readily obtained from the hundreds of plant mating system studies using genetic markers. A less desirable feature of the proportion of full sibs per maternal plant is that it is inversely related to population size, an effect that should be corrected for. The resulting index of mate monopolization is a simple product: (coefficient of correlated paternity)x(population size – 1). The authors test whether their index of mate monopolization is a good correlate of sexual selection, measured more traditionally as the selection differential on a trait influencing mating success, using a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches. Both approaches confirm that the two quantities are positively correlated, which suggests that the index of mate monopolization could be a convenient way to estimate the relative strength of sexual selection in flowering plants. These results call for further investigation, e.g. to verify that the effect of population size is well controlled for, or to assess the effects of non-random mating and inbreeding depression; however, this work paves the way for an expansion of sexual selection studies in flowering plants.
 Dorken ME and Perry LE. 2017. Correlated paternity measures mate monopolization and scales with the magnitude of sexual selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 30: 377-387 doi: 10.1111/jeb.13013
 Klug H, Heuschele J, Jennions M and Kokko H. 2010. The mismeasurement of sexual selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:447-462. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01921.x
 Ritland K. 1989. Correlated matings in the partial selfer Mimulus guttatus. Evolution 43:848-859. doi: 10.2307/2409312
|Correlated paternity measures mate monopolization and scales with the magnitude of sexual selection||Dorken, ME and Perry LE||Indirect measures of sexual selection have been criticized because they can overestimate the magnitude of selection. In particular, they do not account for the degree to which mating opportunities can be monopolized by individuals of the sex that ...||Sexual Selection||Emmanuelle Porcher||2017-03-13 23:22:26||View|
14 Mar 2017
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’homme https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.055
A valuable work lying at the crossroad of neuro-ethology, evolution and ecology in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukiiRecommended by Arnaud Estoup and Ruth Arabelle Hufbauer
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.  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.  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  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.
 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 suzukii||Marianthi Karageorgi, Lasse B. Bräcker, Sébastien Lebreton, Caroline Minervino, Matthieu Cavey, K.P. Siju, Ilona C. Grunwald Kadow, Nicolas Gompel, Benjamin Prud’homme||The 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 Evolution||Arnaud Estoup||2017-03-13 17:42:00||View|
24 Jan 2017
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 Cordaux 10.1073/pnas.1608979113
A newly evolved W(olbachia) sex chromosome in pillbug!Recommended by Gabriel Marais and Sylvain Charlat
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 . 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.  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 , 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.  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.  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.
 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
 van Doorn GS, Kirkpatrick M. 2007. Turnover of sex chromosomes induced by sexual conflict. Nature 449: 909-912. doi: 10.1038/nature06178
 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
 Blaser O, Neuenschwander S, Perrin N. 2014. Sex-chromosome turnovers: the hot-potato model. American Naturalist 183: 140-146. doi: 10.1086/674026
 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
 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 genome||Sébastien Leclercq, Julien Thézé, Mohamed Amine Chebbi, Isabelle Giraud, Bouziane Moumen, Lise Ernenwein, Pierre Grève, Clément Gilbert, and Richard Cordaux||Sex 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 interactions||Gabriel Marais||2017-01-13 15:15:51||View|
18 Jan 2017
Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an InsectAlem S, Perry CJ, Zhu X, Loukola OJ, Ingraham T, Søvik E, Chittka L https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002564
Culture in BumblebeesRecommended by Caroline Nieberding and Jacques J. M. van Alphen
This is an original paper  addressing the question whether cultural transmission occurs in insects and studying the mechanisms of such transmission. Often, culture-like phenomena require relatively sophisticated learning mechanisms, for example imitation and/or teaching. In insects, seemingly complex processes of social information acquisition, can sometimes instead be mediated by relatively simple learning mechanisms suggesting that cultural processes may not necessarily require sophisticated learning abilities.
An important quality of this paper is to describe neatly the experimental protocols used for such typically complex behavioural analyses, providing a detailed understanding of the results while it remains a joy to read. This becomes rare in high impact journals. In a clever experimental design, individual bumblebees are trained to pull an artificial flower from under a Plexiglas table to get access to a reward, by pulling a string attached to the flower. Individuals that have learnt this task are then shown to inexperienced bees while performing this task. This results in a large proportion of the inexperienced observers learning to pull the string and getting access to the reward. Finally, the authors could then document the spread of the string pulling skill amongst other workers in the colony. Even when the originally trained individuals had died, the skill of string-pulling persisted in the colony, as long as they were challenged with the task. This shows that cultural transmission takes place within a colony. The authors provide evidence that the transmission of this behavior among individuals relies on a mix of social learning by local enhancement (bees were attracted to the location where they had observed a demonstrator) and of non-social, individual learning (pulling the string is learned by trial and errors and not by direct imitation of the conspecific). Data also show that simple associative mechanisms are enough and that stimulus enhancement was involved (bees were attracted to the string when its location was concordant with that during prior observation).
The cleverly designed experiments use a paradigm (string-pulling) which has often been used to investigate cognitive abilities in vertebrates. Comparison with such studies indicate that bees, in some aspects of their learning, may not be different from birds, dogs, or apes as they also relied on the perceptual feedback provided by their actions, resulting in target movement to learn string pulling. The results of the study suggest that the combination of relatively simple forms of social learning and trial-and-error learning can mediate the acquisition of new skills and that bumblebees possess the essential cognitive elements for cultural transmission and in a broader sense, that the capacity of culture may be present within most animals.
Can we expect behavioural innovation such as string pulling to occur in nature? Bombus terrestris colonies can reach a total of several hundreds foragers. In the experiments, foragers needed on average 5 rounds of observations with different demonstrators to learn how to pull the string. As individuals forage in a meadow full of flowers and conspecifics, transmission of behavioural innovations by repeated observations shouldn’t strike us as something impossible. Would the behavior survive through the winter? Bumblebee colonies are seasonal in northern areas and in the Mediterranean area but tropical species persists for several years. In seasonal species, all the workers die before winter and only new queens overwinter. So there is no possibility for seasonal foragers to transmit the technique overwinter. Only queens could potentially transmit it to new foragers in spring. However flowers are different in autumn and spring. Therefore, what queens have learnt about flowers in autumn would unlikely be useful in spring (providing that they can remember it). However there is no reason why the technique couldn't be transmitted from a colony to another between spring to autumn. Such transmission of new behaviour would more easily persist in perennial social insect colonies, like honeybees. Importantly, the bees used in these experiments came from a company whose rearing conditions are unknown, and only a few colonies were used for each experiment. As learning ability has a genetic basis [2-3], colonies differ in their ability to learn . In this regard, the authors showed variation between individual bumblebees and between bumblebee colonies in learning ability. Hence, we would wish to know more about the level of genetic diversity in the wild, and of genetic differentiation between tested colonies (were they independent replicates?), to extrapolate the results to what may happen in the wild.
Excitingly, the authors found 2 true innovators among the >400 individuals that were tested at least once for 5 min who would solve such a task without stepwise training or observation of skilled demonstrators, showing that behavioural innovation can occur in very small numbers of individuals, provided that an ecological trigger is provided (food reward). Hence this study shows that all ingredients for the long proposed “social heredity” theory proposed by Baldwin in 1896 are available in this organism, suggesting that social transmission of behavioural innovations could technically act as an additional mechanism for adaptive evolution , next to genetic evolution that may take longer to produce adaptive evolution. The question remains whether the behavioural innovations are arising from standing genetic variation in the bees, or do not need a firm genetic background to appear.
 Alem S, Perry CJ, Zhu X, Loukola OJ, Ingraham T, Søvik E, Chittka L. 2016. Associative mechanisms allow for social learning and cultural transmission of string pulling in an insect. PloS Biology 14:e1002564. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002564
 Mery F, Kawecki TJ. 2002. Experimental evolution of learning ability in fruit flies. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA 99:14274-14279. doi: 10.1073/pnas.222371199
 Mery F, Belay AT, So AKC, Sokolowski MB, Kawecki TJ. 2007. Natural polymorphism affecting learning and memory in Drosophila. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA 104:13051-13055. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0702923104
 Raine NE, Chittka L. 2008. The correlation of learning speed and natural foraging success in bumble-bees. Proceeding of the Royal Society of London 275: 803-808. doi : 10.1098/rspb.2007.1652
 Baldwin JM. 1896. A New Factor in Evolution. American Naturalist 30:441-451 and 536-553. doi: 10.1086/276408
|Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect||Alem S, Perry CJ, Zhu X, Loukola OJ, Ingraham T, Søvik E, Chittka L||Social insects make elaborate use of simple mechanisms to achieve seemingly complex behavior and may thus provide a unique resource to discover the basic cognitive elements required for culture, i.e., group-specific behaviors that spread from “inn...||Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, Non Genetic Inheritance, Phenotypic Plasticity||Caroline Nieberding||2017-01-18 10:49:03||View|
20 Dec 2016
Experimental Evolution of Gene Expression and Plasticity in Alternative Selective RegimesHuang Y, Agrawal AF 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006336
Genetic adaptation counters phenotypic plasticity in experimental evolutionRecommended by Luis-Miguel Chevin and Stephanie Bedhomme
How do phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution interact in a novel or changing environment? Does evolution by natural selection generally reinforce initially plastic phenotypic responses, or does it instead oppose them? And to what extent does evolution of a trait involve evolution of its plasticity? These questions have lied at the heart of research on phenotypic evolution in heterogeneous environments ever since it was realized that the environment is likely to affect the expression of many (perhaps most) characters of an individual. Importantly, this broad definition of phenotypic plasticity as change in the average phenotype of a given genotype in response to its environment of development (or expression) does not involve any statement about the adaptiveness of the plastic changes. Theory on the evolution of plasticity has devoted much effort to understanding how reaction norm should evolve under different regimes of environmental change in space and time, and depending on genetic constraints on reaction norm shapes. However on an empirically ground, the questions above have mostly been addressed for individual traits, often chosen a priori for their likeliness to exhibit adaptive plasticity, and we still lack more systematic answers. These can be provided by so-called ‘phenomic’ approaches, where a large number of traits are tracked without prior information on their biological or ecological function. A problem is that the number of phenotypic characters that can be measured in an organism is virtually infinite (and to some extent arbitrary), and that scaling issues makes it difficult to compare different sets of traits. Gene-expression levels offer a partial solution to this dilemma, as they can be considered as a very large number of traits (one per typed gene) that can be measured easily and uniformly (fold change in the number of reads in RNAseq). As for any traits, expression levels of different genes may be genetically correlated, to an extent that depends on their regulation mechanism: cis-regulatory sequences that only affect expression of neighboring genes are likely to cause independent gene expression, while more systematic modifiers of expression (e.g. trans-regulators such as transcription factors) may cause correlated genetic responses of the expression of many genes. Huang and Agrawal  have studied plasticity and evolution of gene expression level in young larvae of populations of Drosophila melanogaster that have evolved for about 130 generations under either a constant environment (salt or cadmium), or an environment that is heterogeneous in time or space (combining salt and cadmium). They report a wealth of results, of which we summarize the most striking here. First, among genes that (i) were initially highly plastic and (ii) evolved significant divergence in expression levels between constant environment treatments, the evolved divergence is predominantly in the opposite direction to the initial plastic response. This suggests that either plasticity was initially maladaptive, or the selective pressure changed during the evolutionary process (see below). This somewhat unexpected result strikingly mirrors that from a study published last year in Nature , where the same pattern was found for responses of guppies to the presence of predators. However, Huang and Agrawal  went beyond this study by deciphering the underlying mechanisms in several interesting ways. First, they showed that change in gene expression often occurred at genes close to SNPs with differentiated frequencies across treatments (but not at genes with differentiated SNPs in their coding sequences), suggesting that cis-regulatory sequences are involved. This is also suggested by the fact that changes in gene expression are mostly caused by the increased expression of only one allele at polymorphic loci, and is a first step towards investigating the genetic underpinnings of (co)variation in gene expression levels. Another interesting set of findings concerns evolution of plasticity in treatments with variable environments. To compare the gene-expression plasticity that evolved in these treatments to an expectation, the authors considered that the expression levels in populations maintained for a long time under constant salt or cadmium had reached an optimum. The differences between these expression levels were thus assumed to predict the level of plasticity that should evolve in a heterogeneous environment (with both cadmium and salt) under perfect environmental predictability. The authors showed that plasticity did evolve more in the expected direction in heterogeneous than in constant environments, resulting in better adapted final expression levels across environments. Taken collectively, these results provide an unprecedented set of patterns that are greatly informative on how plasticity and evolution interact in constant versus changing environments. But of course, interpretations in terms of adaptive versus maladaptive plasticity are more challenging, as the authors themselves admit. Even though environmentally determined gene expression is the basic mechanism underlying the phenotypic plasticity of most traits, it is extremely difficult to relate to more integrated phenotypes for which we can understand the selection pressures, especially in multicellular organisms. The authors have recently investigated evolutionary change of quantitative traits in these selected lines, so it might be possible to establish links between reaction norms for macroscopic traits to those for gene expression levels. Such an approach would also involve tracking gene expression throughout life, rather than only in young larvae as done here, thus putting phenotypic complexity back in the picture also for expression levels. Another difficulty is that a plastic response that was originally adaptive may be replaced by an opposite evolutionary response in the long run, without having to invoke initially maladaptive plasticity. For instance, the authors mention the possibility that a generic stress response is initially triggered by cadmium, but is eventually unnecessary and costly after evolution of genetic mechanisms for cadmium detoxification (a case of so-called genetic accommodation). In any case, this study by Huang and Agrawal , together with the one by Ghalambor et al. last year , reports novel and unexpected results, which are likely to stimulate researchers interested in plasticity and evolution in heterogeneous environments for the years to come.
 Huang Y, Agrawal AF. 2016. Experimental Evolution of Gene Expression and Plasticity in Alternative Selective Regimes. PLoS Genetics 12:e1006336. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006336
 Ghalambor CK, Hoke KL, Ruell EW, Fischer EK, Reznick DN, Hughes KA. 2015. Non-adaptive plasticity potentiates rapid adaptive evolution of gene expression in nature. Nature 525: 372-375. doi: 10.1038/nature15256
|Experimental Evolution of Gene Expression and Plasticity in Alternative Selective Regimes||Huang Y, Agrawal AF||Little is known of how gene expression and its plasticity evolves as populations adapt to different environmental regimes. Expression is expected to evolve adaptively in all populations but only those populations experiencing environmental heterog...||Adaptation, Experimental Evolution, Expression Studies, Phenotypic Plasticity||Luis-Miguel Chevin||2016-12-20 09:04:15||View|
19 Dec 2016
Geographic body size variation in the periodical cicadas Magicicada: implications for life cycle divergence and local adaptationKoyama T, Ito H, Kakishima S, Yoshimura J, Cooley JR, Simon C, Sota T 10.1111/jeb.12653
Megacicadas show a temperature-mediated converse Bergmann cline in body size (larger in the warmer south) but no body size difference between 13- and 17-year species pairsRecommended by Wolf Blanckenhorn and Thomas Flatt
Periodical cicadas are a very prominent insect group in North America that are known for their large size, good looks, and loud sounds. However, they are probably known best to evolutionary ecologists because of their long juvenile periods of 13 or 17 years (prime numbers!), which they spend in the ground. Multiple related species living in the same area are often coordinated in emerging as adults during the same year, thereby presumably swamping any predators specialized on eating them.
 Koyama T, Ito H, Kakishima S, Yoshimura J, Cooley JR, Simon C, Sota T. 2015. Geographic body size variation in the periodical cicadas Magicicada: implications for life cycle divergence and local adaptation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28:1270-1277. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12653
|Geographic body size variation in the periodical cicadas Magicicada: implications for life cycle divergence and local adaptation||Koyama T, Ito H, Kakishima S, Yoshimura J, Cooley JR, Simon C, Sota T||Seven species in three species groups (Decim, Cassini and Decula) of periodical cicadas (*Magicicada*) occupy a wide latitudinal range in the eastern United States. To clarify how adult body size, a key trait affecting fitness, varies geographical...||Adaptation, Evolutionary Ecology, Life History, Macroevolution, Phylogeography & Biogeography, Speciation||Wolf Blanckenhorn||2016-12-19 10:39:22||View|
17 Dec 2016
Evolution of HIV virulence in response to widespread scale up of antiretroviral therapy: a modeling studyHerbeck JT, Mittler JE, Gottlieb GS, Goodreau SM, Murphy JT, Cori A, Pickles M, Fraser C 10.1093/ve/vew028
Predicting HIV virulence evolution in response to widespread treatmentRecommended by Samuel Alizon and Roger Kouyos
It is a classical result in the virulence evolution literature that treatments decreasing parasite replication within the host should select for higher replication rates, thus driving increased levels of virulence if the two are correlated. There is some evidence for this in vitro but very little in the field. HIV infections in humans offer a unique opportunity to go beyond the simple predictions that treatments should favour more virulent strains because many details of this host-parasite system are known, especially the link between set-point virus load, transmission rate and virulence.
To tackle this question, Herbeck et al.  used a detailed individual-based model. This is original because it allows them to integrate existing knowledge from the epidemiology and evolution of HIV (e.g. recent estimates of the ‘heritability’ of set-point virus load from one infection to the next). This detailed model allows them to formulate predictions regarding the effect of different treatment policies; especially regarding the current policy switch away from treatment initiation based on CD4 counts towards universal treatment.
The results show that, perhaps as expected from the theory, treatments based on the level of remaining host target cells (CD4 T cells) do not affect virulence evolution because they do not strongly affect the virulence level that maximizes HIV’s transmission potential. However, early treatments can lead to moderate increase in virulence within several years if coverage is high enough. These results seem quite robust to variation of all the parameters in realistic ranges.
The great step forward in this model is the ability to obtain quantitative prediction regarding how a virus may evolve in response to public health policies. Here the main conclusion is that given our current knowledge in HIV biology, the risk of virulence evolution is perhaps more limited than expected from a direct application of virulence evolution model. Interestingly, the authors also conclude that recently observed increased in HIV virulence [2-3] cannot be explained by the impact of antiretroviral therapy alone; which raises the question about the main mechanism behind this increase. Finally, the authors make the interesting suggestion that “changing virulence is amenable to being monitored alongside transmitted drug resistance in sentinel surveillance”.
 Herbeck JT, Mittler JE, Gottlieb GS, Goodreau SM, Murphy JT, Cori A, Pickles M, Fraser C. 2016. Evolution of HIV virulence in response to widespread scale up of antiretroviral therapy: a modeling study. Virus Evolution 2:vew028. doi: 10.1093/ve/vew028
 Herbeck JT, Müller V, Maust BS, Ledergerber B, Torti C, et al. 2012. Is the virulence of HIV changing? A meta-analysis of trends in prognostic markers of HIV disease progression and transmission. AIDS 26:193-205. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e32834db418
 Pantazis N, Porter K, Costagliola D, De Luca A, Ghosn J, et al. 2014. Temporal trends in prognostic markers of HIV-1 virulence and transmissibility: an observational cohort study. Lancet HIV 1:e119-26. doi: 10.1016/s2352-3018(14)00002-2
|Evolution of HIV virulence in response to widespread scale up of antiretroviral therapy: a modeling study||Herbeck JT, Mittler JE, Gottlieb GS, Goodreau SM, Murphy JT, Cori A, Pickles M, Fraser C||There are global increases in the use of HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART), guided by clinical benefits of early ART initiation and the efficacy of treatment as prevention of transmission. Separately, it has been shown theoretically and empirically...||Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Evolutionary Applications, Evolutionary Epidemiology||Samuel Alizon||2016-12-16 20:54:08||View|
16 Dec 2016
Evolutionary robotics simulations help explain why reciprocity is rare in nature.André J-B, Nolfi S 10.1038/srep32785
Simulated robots and the evolution of reciprocityRecommended by Michael D Greenfield and Joël Meunier
Of the various forms of cooperative and altruistic behavior, reciprocity remains the most contentious. Humans certainly exhibit reciprocity – under certain circumstances – and various non-human animals behave in ways suggesting that they do as well. Thus, evolutionary biologists have sought to explain why non-relatives might engage in altruistic transactions when a substantial delay occurs between helping and compensation; i.e. an individual may be a donor today and a beneficiary tomorrow, or vice-versa. This quest, aided by game theory and computer modeling late in the past century, identified some strategies for reciprocal behavior that could work – in theory. But when biologists looked for confirmation of these strategies in animals they found little evidence that stood up to rigorous testing. In a recent paper André and Nolfi  offer a compelling reason for this observed rarity of reciprocity: Reciprocal behavior that animals might exhibit is a bit more complex than any of the game theoretic strategies, and even the simplest forms of realistic behavior would entail several nearly simultaneous mutations, an unlikely occurrence. André and Nolfi  relied on neural networks to test actors, robots that could evolve helping and reciprocal behavior from a basal level of selfishness. In an extensive series of simulations, they found that reciprocal behavior did not take hold in a population, largely because the various intermediates to full reciprocity were eliminated before the subsequent mutations occurred. The findings are satisfying given our current knowledge of animal behavior, but questions remain. Notably, how does one account for those rare cases in which reciprocity does meet all the criteria? The authors suggest some possibilities, but an analysis will await their next study.
 André J-B, Nolfi S. 2016. Evolutionary robotics simulations help explain why reciprocity is rare in nature. Scientific Reports 6:32785. doi: 10.1038/srep32785
|Evolutionary robotics simulations help explain why reciprocity is rare in nature.||André J-B, Nolfi S||The relative rarity of reciprocity in nature, contrary to theoretical predictions that it should be widespread, is currently one of the major puzzles in social evolution theory. Here we use evolutionary robotics to solve this puzzle. We show tha...||Behavior & Social Evolution, Evolutionary Theory||Michael D Greenfield||2016-12-16 18:08:31||View|
16 Dec 2016
Spatiotemporal microbial evolution on antibiotic landscapesBaym M, Lieberman TD, Kelsic ED, Chait R, Gross R, Yelin I, Kishony R 10.1126/science.aag0822
A poster child for experimental evolutionRecommended by Daniel Rozen and Arjan de Visser
Evolution is usually studied via two distinct approaches: by inferring evolutionary processes from relatedness patterns among living species or by observing evolution in action in the laboratory or field. A recent study by Baym and colleagues in Science  has now combined these approaches by taking advantage of the pattern left behind by spatially evolving bacterial populations.
Evolution is often considered too slow to see, and can only be inferred by studying patterns of relatedness using phylogenetic trees. Increasingly, however, researchers are moving nature into the lab and watching as evolution unfolds under their noses. The field of experimental evolution follows evolutionary change in the laboratory over 10s to 1000s of generations, yielding insights into bacterial, viral, plant, or fly evolution (among many other species) that are simply not possible in the field. Yet, as powerful as experimental evolution is, it lacks a posterchild. There is no Galapagos finch radiation, nor a stunning series of cichlids to showcase to our students to pique their interests. Let’s face it, E. coli is no stickleback! And while practitioners of experimental evolution can explain the virtues of examining 60,000 generations of bacterial evolution in action, appreciating this nevertheless requires a level of insight and imagination that often eludes students, who need to see “it” to get it.
Enter MEGA, an idea and a film that could become the new face of experimental evolution. It replaces big numbers of generations or images of scientists, with an actual picture of the scientific result. MEGA, or Microbial Evolution and Growth Arena, is essentially an enormous petri dish and is the brainchild of Michael Baym, Tami Leiberman and their colleagues in Roy Kishony’s lab at Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. The idea of MEGA is to allow bacteria to swim over a spatially defined landscape while adapting to the local conditions, in this case antibiotics. When bacteria are inoculated onto one end of the plate they consume resources while swarming forward from the plate edge. In a few days, the bacteria grow into an area with antibiotics to which they are susceptible. This stops growth until a mutation arises that permits the bacteria to jump this hurdle, after which growth proceeds until the next hurdle of a 10-fold higher antibiotic concentration, and so on. By this simple approach, Baym et al.  evolved E. coli that were nearly 105-fold more resistant to two different antibiotics in just over 10 days. In addition, they identified the mutations that were required for these changes, showed that mutations conferring smaller benefits were required before bacteria could evolve maximal resistance, observed changes to the mutation rate, and demonstrated the importance of spatial structure in constraining adaptation.
For one thing, the rate of resistance evolution is impressive, and also quite scary given the mounting threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. However, MEGA also offers a uniquely visual insight into evolutionary change. By taking successive images of the MEGA plate, the group was able to watch the bacteria move, get trapped because of their susceptibility to the antibiotic, and then get past these traps as new mutations emerged that increased resistance. Each transition showcases evolution in real time. In addition, by leaving a spatial pattern of evolutionary steps behind, the MEGA plate offers unique opportunities to thoroughly investigate these steps when the experiment is finished. For instance, subsequent steps in mutational pathways can be characterized, but also their effects on fitness can be quantified in situ by measuring changes in survival and reproduction. This new method is undoubtedly a boon to the field of experimental evolution and offers endless opportunities for experimental elaboration. Perhaps of equal importance, MEGA is a tool that is portable to the classroom and to the public at large. Don’t believe in evolution? Watch this. You only have time for a short internship or lab practical? No problem. Don’t worry much about antibiotic resistance? Check this out. Like the best experimental tools, MEGA is simple but allows for complicated insights. And even if it is less charismatic than a finch, it still allows for the kinds of “gee-whiz” insights that will get students hooked on evolutionary biology.
 Baym M, Lieberman TD, Kelsic ED, Chait R, Gross R, Yelin I, Kishony R. 2016. Spatiotemporal microbial evolution on antibiotic landscapes. Science 353:1147-1151. doi: 10.1126/science.aag0822
|Spatiotemporal microbial evolution on antibiotic landscapes||Baym M, Lieberman TD, Kelsic ED, Chait R, Gross R, Yelin I, Kishony R||A key aspect of bacterial survival is the ability to evolve while migrating across spatially varying environmental challenges. Laboratory experiments, however, often study evolution in well-mixed systems. Here, we introduce an experimental device,...||Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Experimental Evolution||Daniel Rozen||2016-12-14 14:26:06||View|
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