Publications by authors named "James K Bull"

8 Publications

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Innovative mark-recapture experiment shows patterns of selection on transcript abundance in the wild.

Mol Ecol 2021 06 24;30(12):2707-2709. Epub 2021 May 24.

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

A fundamental aspect of evolutionary biology is natural selection on trait variation. Classically, selection has been estimated primarily on external morphological traits such as beak size and coloration, or on easily assayable physiological traits such as heat-tolerance. As technologies and methods improved, evolutionary biologists began examining selection on molecular traits such as protein sequences and cellular processes. In a From the Cover paper in this issue of Molecular Ecology, Ahmad et al. continue this trend by estimating parasite-driven selection on the molecular trait of transcript abundance in a wild population of brown trout (Salmo trutta) by uniquely combining a mark-recapture experimental design with noninvasive RNA sampling. Using transcript abundance to estimate selection allows for many different traits (each unique gene's transcript counts) to be tested in a single experiment, providing the opportunity to examine trends in selection. Ahmad et al. find directional selection strength on transcript counts is generally low and normally distributed. Surprisingly, transcripts under nonlinear selection showed a disruptive selection bias, contradicting previous comparative studies and theoretical work. This highlights the importance of within-generation selection studies, where mechanisms may differ from longer time frames. Their paper also highlights the benefits of a cost-effective 3' RNA sequencing technique to measure gene expression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.15946DOI Listing
June 2021

Accelerated rates of large-scale mutations in the presence of copper and nickel.

Genome Res 2019 01 28;29(1):64-73. Epub 2018 Nov 28.

Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 1B1, Canada.

Mutation rate variation has been under intense investigation for decades. Despite these efforts, little is known about the extent to which environmental stressors accelerate mutation rates and influence the genetic load of populations. Moreover, most studies on stressors have focused on unicellular organisms and point mutations rather than large-scale deletions and duplications (copy number variations [CNVs]). We estimated mutation rates in exposed to low levels of environmental stressors as well as the effect of selection on de novo mutations. We conducted a mutation accumulation (MA) experiment in which selection was minimized, coupled with an experiment in which a population was propagated under competitive conditions in a benign environment. After an average of 103 generations of MA propagation, we sequenced 60 genomes and found significantly accelerated rates of deletions and duplications in MA lines exposed to ecologically relevant concentrations of metals. Whereas control lines had gene deletion and duplication rates comparable to other multicellular eukaryotes (1.8 × 10 per gene per generation), the presence of nickel and copper increased these rates fourfold. The realized mutation rate under selection was reduced to 0.4× that of control MA lines, providing evidence that CNVs contribute to mutational load. Our CNV breakpoint analysis revealed that nonhomologous recombination associated with regions of DNA fragility is the primary source of CNVs, plausibly linking metal-induced DNA strand breaks with higher CNV rates. Our findings suggest that environmental stress, in particular multiple stressors, can have profound effects on large-scale mutation rates and mutational load of multicellular organisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gr.234724.118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314161PMC
January 2019

Fitness and Genomic Consequences of Chronic Exposure to Low Levels of Copper and Nickel in Mutation Accumulation Lines.

G3 (Bethesda) 2019 01 9;9(1):61-71. Epub 2019 Jan 9.

Department of Biology, McGill University, Quebec, Canada, H3A 1B1.

In at least some unicellular organisms, mutation rates are temporarily raised upon exposure to environmental stress, potentially contributing to the evolutionary response to stress. Whether this is true for multicellular organisms, however, has received little attention. This study investigated the effects of chronic mild stress, in the form of low-level copper and nickel exposure, on mutational processes in using a combination of mutation accumulation, whole genome sequencing and life-history assays. After over 100 generations of mutation accumulation, we found no effects of metal exposure on the rates of single nucleotide mutations and of loss of heterozygosity events, the two mutation classes that occurred in sufficient numbers to allow statistical analysis. Similarly, rates of decline in fitness, as measured by intrinsic rate of population increase and of body size at first reproduction, were negligibly affected by metal exposure. We can reject the possibility that were insufficiently stressed to invoke genetic responses as we have previously shown rates of large-scale deletions and duplications are elevated under metal exposure in this experiment. Overall, the mutation accumulation lines did not significantly depart from initial values for phenotypic traits measured, indicating the lineage used was broadly mutationally robust. Taken together, these results indicate that the mutagenic effects of chronic low-level exposure to these metals are restricted to certain mutation classes and that fitness consequences are likely minor and therefore unlikely to be relevant in determining the evolutionary responses of populations exposed to these stressors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/g3.118.200797DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6325897PMC
January 2019

Targeted resequencing of coding DNA sequences for SNP discovery in nonmodel species.

Mol Ecol Resour 2018 Nov 30;18(6):1356-1373. Epub 2018 Jul 30.

Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany.

Targeted capture coupled with high-throughput sequencing can be used to gain information about nuclear sequence variation at hundreds to thousands of loci. Divergent reference capture makes use of molecular data of one species to enrich target loci in other (related) species. This is particularly valuable for nonmodel organisms, for which often no a priori knowledge exists regarding these loci. Here, we have used targeted capture to obtain data for 809 nuclear coding DNA sequences (CDS) in a nonmodel organism, the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, using baits designed with the help of the published genome of a related model organism (the domestic cat Felis catus). Using this approach, we were able to survey intraspecific variation at hundreds of nuclear loci in L. lynx across the species' European range. A large set of biallelic candidate SNPs was then evaluated using a high-throughput SNP genotyping platform (Fluidigm), which we then reduced to a final 96 SNP-panel based on assay performance and reliability; validation was carried out with 100 additional Eurasian lynx samples not included in the SNP discovery phase. The 96 SNP-panel developed from CDS performed very successfully in the identification of individuals and in population genetic structure inference (including the assignment of individuals to their source population). In keeping with recent studies, our results show that genic SNPs can be valuable for genetic monitoring of wildlife species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.12924DOI Listing
November 2018

Scope for genetic rescue of an endangered subspecies though re-establishing natural gene flow with another subspecies.

Mol Ecol 2016 03;25(6):1242-58

School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Clayton, Vic., 3800, Australia.

Genetic diversity is positively linked to the viability and evolutionary potential of species but is often compromised in threatened taxa. Genetic rescue by gene flow from a more diverse or differentiated source population of the same species can be an effective strategy for alleviating inbreeding depression and boosting evolutionary potential. The helmeted honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops cassidix is a critically endangered subspecies of the common yellow-tufted honeyeater. Cassidix has declined to a single wild population of ~130 birds, despite being subject to intensive population management over recent decades. We assessed changes in microsatellite diversity in cassidix over the last four decades and used population viability analysis to explore whether genetic rescue through hybridization with the neighbouring Lichenostomus melanops gippslandicus subspecies constitutes a viable conservation strategy. The contemporary cassidix population is characterized by low genetic diversity and effective population size (N(e) < 50), suggesting it is vulnerable to inbreeding depression and will have limited capacity to evolve to changing environments. We find that gene flow from gippslandicus to cassidix has declined substantially relative to pre-1990 levels and argue that natural levels of gene flow between the two subspecies should be restored. Allowing gene flow (~4 migrants per generation) from gippslandicus into cassidix (i.e. genetic rescue), in combination with continued annual release of captive-bred cassidix (i.e. demographic rescue), should lead to positive demographic and genetic outcomes. Although we consider the risk of outbreeding depression to be low, we recommend that genetic rescue be managed within the context of the captive breeding programme, with monitoring of outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.13547DOI Listing
March 2016

Very Low Population Structure in a Highly Mobile and Wide-Ranging Endangered Bird Species.

PLoS One 2015 9;10(12):e0143746. Epub 2015 Dec 9.

School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

The loss of biodiversity following fragmentation and degradation of habitat is a major issue in conservation biology. As competition for resources increases following habitat loss and fragmentation, severe population declines may occur even in common, highly mobile species; such demographic decline may cause changes within the population structure of the species. The regent honeyeater, Anthochaera phrygia, is a highly nomadic woodland bird once common in its native southeast Australia. It has experienced a sharp decline in abundance since the late 1970s, following clearing of large areas of its preferred habitat, box-ironbark woodland, within the last 200 years. A captive breeding program has been established as part of efforts to restore this species. This study used genetic data to examine the range-wide population structure of regent honeyeaters, including spatial structure, its change through time, sex differences in philopatry and mobility, and genetic differences between the captive and wild populations. There was low genetic differentiation between birds captured in different geographic areas. Despite the recent demographic decline, low spatial structure appears to have some temporal consistency. Both sexes appear to be highly mobile, and there does not seem to be significant genetic differentiation between the captive and wild populations. We conclude that management efforts for survival of this species, including habitat protection, restoration, and release of captive-bred birds into the wild, can treat the species as effectively a single genetic population.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0143746PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4674126PMC
January 2019

Environmental complexity and biodiversity: the multi-layered evolutionary history of a log-dwelling velvet worm in Montane Temperate Australia.

PLoS One 2013 17;8(12):e84559. Epub 2013 Dec 17.

School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Phylogeographic studies provide a framework for understanding the importance of intrinsic versus extrinsic factors in shaping patterns of biodiversity through identifying past and present microevolutionary processes that contributed to lineage divergence. Here we investigate population structure and diversity of the Onychophoran (velvet worm) Euperipatoides rowelli in southeastern Australian montane forests that were not subject to Pleistocene glaciations, and thus likely retained more forest cover than systems under glaciation. Over a ~100 km transect of structurally-connected forest, we found marked nuclear and mitochondrial (mt) DNA genetic structuring, with spatially-localised groups. Patterns from mtDNA and nuclear data broadly corresponded with previously defined geographic regions, consistent with repeated isolation in refuges during Pleistocene climatic cycling. Nevertheless, some E. rowelli genetic contact zones were displaced relative to hypothesized influential landscape structures, implying more recent processes overlying impacts of past environmental history. Major impacts at different timescales were seen in the phylogenetic relationships among mtDNA sequences, which matched geographic relationships and nuclear data only at recent timescales, indicating historical gene flow and/or incomplete lineage sorting. Five major E. rowelli phylogeographic groups were identified, showing substantial but incomplete reproductive isolation despite continuous habitat. Regional distinctiveness, in the face of lineages abutting within forest habitat, could indicate pre- and/or postzygotic gene flow limitation. A potentially functional phenotypic character, colour pattern variation, reflected the geographic patterns in the molecular data. Spatial-genetic patterns broadly match those in previously-studied, co-occurring low-mobility organisms, despite a variety of life histories. We suggest that for E. rowelli, the complex topography and history of the region has led to interplay among limited dispersal ability, historical responses to environmental change, local adaptation, and some resistance to free admixture at geographic secondary contact, leading to strong genetic structuring at fine spatial scale.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084559PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3866147PMC
September 2014

Mitochondrial DNA indicates late pleistocene divergence of populations of Heteronympha merope, an emerging model in environmental change biology.

PLoS One 2009 Nov 24;4(11):e7950. Epub 2009 Nov 24.

School of Biological Sciences and Australian Centre for Biodiversity, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.

Knowledge of historical changes in species range distribution provides context for investigating adaptive potential and dispersal ability. This is valuable for predicting the potential impact of environmental change on species of interest. Butterflies are one of the most important taxa for studying such impacts, and Heteronympha merope has the potential to provide a particularly valuable model, in part due to the existence of historical data on morphological traits and glycolytic enzyme variation. This study investigates the population genetic structure and phylogeography of H. merope, comparing the relative resolution achieved through partial DNA sequences of two mitochondrial loci, COI and ND5. These data are used to define the relationship between subspecies, showing that the subspecies are reciprocally monophyletic. On this basis, the Western Australian subspecies H. m. duboulayi is genetically distinct from the two eastern subspecies. Throughout the eastern part of the range, levels of migration and the timing of key population splits of potential relevance to climatic adaptation are estimated and indicate Late Pleistocene divergence both of the Tasmanian subspecies and of an isolated northern population from the eastern mainland subspecies H. m. merope. This information is then used to revisit historical data and provides support for the importance of clinal variation in wing characters, as well as evidence for selective pressure acting on allozyme loci phosphoglucose isomerase and phosphoglucomutase in H. merope. The study has thus confirmed the value of H. merope as a model organism for measuring responses to environmental change, offering the opportunity to focus on isolated populations, as well as a latitudinal gradient, and to use historical changes to test the accuracy of predictions for the future.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007950PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776993PMC
November 2009