Publications by authors named "Gabriel Vargas Asensio"

3 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

The genomic basis of army ant chemosensory adaptations.

Mol Ecol 2021 Sep 28. Epub 2021 Sep 28.

Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, USA.

The evolution of mass raiding has allowed army ants to become dominant arthropod predators in the tropics. Although a century of research has led to many discoveries about behavioural, morphological and physiological adaptations in army ants, almost nothing is known about the molecular basis of army ant biology. Here we report the genome of the iconic New World army ant Eciton burchellii, and show that it is unusually compact, with a reduced gene complement relative to other ants. In contrast to this overall reduction, a particular gene subfamily (9-exon ORs) expressed predominantly in female antennae is expanded. This subfamily has previously been linked to the recognition of hydrocarbons, key olfactory cues used in insect communication and prey discrimination. Confocal microscopy of the brain showed a corresponding expansion in a putative hydrocarbon response centre within the antennal lobe, while scanning electron microscopy of the antenna revealed a particularly high density of hydrocarbon-sensitive sensory hairs. E. burchellii shares these features with its predatory and more cryptic relative, the clonal raider ant. By integrating genomic, transcriptomic and anatomical analyses in a comparative context, our work thus provides evidence that army ants and their relatives possess a suite of modifications in the chemosensory system that may be involved in behavioural coordination and prey selection during social predation. It also lays the groundwork for future studies of army ant biology at the molecular level.
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September 2021

Community richness of amphibian skin bacteria correlates with bioclimate at the global scale.

Nat Ecol Evol 2019 03 18;3(3):381-389. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Animal-associated microbiomes are integral to host health, yet key biotic and abiotic factors that shape host-associated microbial communities at the global scale remain poorly understood. We investigated global patterns in amphibian skin bacterial communities, incorporating samples from 2,349 individuals representing 205 amphibian species across a broad biogeographic range. We analysed how biotic and abiotic factors correlate with skin microbial communities using multiple statistical approaches. Global amphibian skin bacterial richness was consistently correlated with temperature-associated factors. We found more diverse skin microbiomes in environments with colder winters and less stable thermal conditions compared with environments with warm winters and less annual temperature variation. We used bioinformatically predicted bacterial growth rates, dormancy genes and antibiotic synthesis genes, as well as inferred bacterial thermal growth optima to propose mechanistic hypotheses that may explain the observed patterns. We conclude that temporal and spatial characteristics of the host's macro-environment mediate microbial diversity.
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March 2019

Uncovering the cultivable microbial diversity of costa rican beetles and its ability to break down plant cell wall components.

PLoS One 2014 20;9(11):e113303. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica; Escuela de Química & Centro de Investigación en Productos Naturales (CIPRONA), Universidad de Costa Rica, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Costa Rica.

Coleopterans are the most diverse insect order described to date. These organisms have acquired an array of survival mechanisms through their evolution, including highly efficient digestive systems. Therefore, the coleopteran intestinal microbiota constitutes an important source of novel plant cell wall-degrading enzymes with potential biotechnological applications. We isolated and described the cultivable fungi, actinomycetes and aerobic eubacteria associated with the gut of larvae and adults from six different beetle families colonizing decomposing logs in protected Costa Rican ecosystems. We obtained 611 isolates and performed phylogenetic analyses using the ITS region (fungi) and 16S rDNA (bacteria). The majority of fungal isolates belonged to the order Hypocreales (26% of 169 total), while the majority of actinomycetes belonged to the genus Streptomyces (86% of 241 total). Finally, we isolated 201 bacteria spanning 19 different families belonging into four phyla: Firmicutes, α, β and γ-proteobacteria. Subsequently, we focused on microbes isolated from Passalid beetles to test their ability to degrade plant cell wall polymers. Highest scores in these assays were achieved by a fungal isolate (Anthostomella sp.), two Streptomyces and one Bacillus bacterial isolates. Our study demonstrates that Costa Rican beetles harbor several types of cultivable microbes, some of which may be involved in symbiotic relationships that enable the insect to digest complex polymers such as lignocellulose.
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January 2016