Publications by authors named "Simon Yw Ho"

5 Publications

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Demographic reconstruction from ancient DNA supports rapid extinction of the great auk.

Elife 2019 11 26;8. Epub 2019 Nov 26.

Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The great auk was once abundant and distributed across the North Atlantic. It is now extinct, having been heavily exploited for its eggs, meat, and feathers. We investigated the impact of human hunting on its demise by integrating genetic data, GPS-based ocean current data, and analyses of population viability. We sequenced complete mitochondrial genomes of 41 individuals from across the species' geographic range and reconstructed population structure and population dynamics throughout the Holocene. Taken together, our data do not provide any evidence that great auks were at risk of extinction prior to the onset of intensive human hunting in the early 16 century. In addition, our population viability analyses reveal that even if the great auk had not been under threat by environmental change, human hunting alone could have been sufficient to cause its extinction. Our results emphasise the vulnerability of even abundant and widespread species to intense and localised exploitation.
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November 2019

Two Antarctic penguin genomes reveal insights into their evolutionary history and molecular changes related to the Antarctic environment.

Gigascience 2014 12;3(1):27. Epub 2014 Dec 12.

China National GeneBank, BGI-Shenzhen, Shenzhen, 518083 China ; Centre for Social Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, Copenhagen, DK-2100 Denmark.

Background: Penguins are flightless aquatic birds widely distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The distinctive morphological and physiological features of penguins allow them to live an aquatic life, and some of them have successfully adapted to the hostile environments in Antarctica. To study the phylogenetic and population history of penguins and the molecular basis of their adaptations to Antarctica, we sequenced the genomes of the two Antarctic dwelling penguin species, the Adélie penguin [Pygoscelis adeliae] and emperor penguin [Aptenodytes forsteri].

Results: Phylogenetic dating suggests that early penguins arose ~60 million years ago, coinciding with a period of global warming. Analysis of effective population sizes reveals that the two penguin species experienced population expansions from ~1 million years ago to ~100 thousand years ago, but responded differently to the climatic cooling of the last glacial period. Comparative genomic analyses with other available avian genomes identified molecular changes in genes related to epidermal structure, phototransduction, lipid metabolism, and forelimb morphology.

Conclusions: Our sequencing and initial analyses of the first two penguin genomes provide insights into the timing of penguin origin, fluctuations in effective population sizes of the two penguin species over the past 10 million years, and the potential associations between these biological patterns and global climate change. The molecular changes compared with other avian genomes reflect both shared and diverse adaptations of the two penguin species to the Antarctic environment.
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February 2015

Mitogenomic phylogenetic analyses of the Delphinidae with an emphasis on the Globicephalinae.

BMC Evol Biol 2011 Mar 10;11:65. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark.

Background: Previous DNA-based phylogenetic studies of the Delphinidae family suggest it has undergone rapid diversification, as characterised by unresolved and poorly supported taxonomic relationships (polytomies) for some of the species within this group. Using an increased amount of sequence data we test between alternative hypotheses of soft polytomies caused by rapid speciation, slow evolutionary rate and/or insufficient sequence data, and hard polytomies caused by simultaneous speciation within this family. Combining the mitogenome sequences of five new and 12 previously published species within the Delphinidae, we used Bayesian and maximum-likelihood methods to estimate the phylogeny from partitioned and unpartitioned mitogenome sequences. Further ad hoc tests were then conducted to estimate the support for alternative topologies.

Results: We found high support for all the relationships within our reconstructed phylogenies, and topologies were consistent between the Bayesian and maximum-likelihood trees inferred from partitioned and unpartitioned data. Resolved relationships included the placement of the killer whale (Orcinus orca) as sister taxon to the rest of the Globicephalinae subfamily, placement of the Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) within the Globicephalinae subfamily, removal of the white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) from the Delphininae subfamily and the placement of the rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) as sister taxon to the rest of the Delphininae subfamily rather than within the Globicephalinae subfamily. The additional testing of alternative topologies allowed us to reject all other putative relationships, with the exception that we were unable to reject the hypothesis that the relationship between L. albirostris and the Globicephalinae and Delphininae subfamilies was polytomic.

Conclusion: Despite their rapid diversification, the increased sequence data yielded by mitogenomes enables the resolution of a strongly supported, bifurcating phylogeny, and a chronology of the divergences within the Delphinidae family. This highlights the benefits and potential application of large mitogenome datasets to resolve long-standing phylogenetic uncertainties.
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March 2011

Potential efficacy of mitochondrial genes for animal DNA barcoding: a case study using eutherian mammals.

BMC Genomics 2011 Jan 28;12:84. Epub 2011 Jan 28.

Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, PR China.

Background: A well-informed choice of genetic locus is central to the efficacy of DNA barcoding. Current DNA barcoding in animals involves the use of the 5' half of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 gene (CO1) to diagnose and delimit species. However, there is no compelling a priori reason for the exclusive focus on this region, and it has been shown that it performs poorly for certain animal groups. To explore alternative mitochondrial barcoding regions, we compared the efficacy of the universal CO1 barcoding region with the other mitochondrial protein-coding genes in eutherian mammals. Four criteria were used for this comparison: the number of recovered species, sequence variability within and between species, resolution to taxonomic levels above that of species, and the degree of mutational saturation.

Results: Based on 1,179 mitochondrial genomes of eutherians, we found that the universal CO1 barcoding region is a good representative of mitochondrial genes as a whole because the high species-recovery rate (> 90%) was similar to that of other mitochondrial genes, and there were no significant differences in intra- or interspecific variability among genes. However, an overlap between intra- and interspecific variability was still problematic for all mitochondrial genes. Our results also demonstrated that any choice of mitochondrial gene for DNA barcoding failed to offer significant resolution at higher taxonomic levels.

Conclusions: We suggest that the CO1 barcoding region, the universal DNA barcode, is preferred among the mitochondrial protein-coding genes as a molecular diagnostic at least for eutherian species identification. Nevertheless, DNA barcoding with this marker may still be problematic for certain eutherian taxa and our approach can be used to test potential barcoding loci for such groups.
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January 2011

Performance of criteria for selecting evolutionary models in phylogenetics: a comprehensive study based on simulated datasets.

BMC Evol Biol 2010 Aug 9;10:242. Epub 2010 Aug 9.

Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China.

Background: Explicit evolutionary models are required in maximum-likelihood and Bayesian inference, the two methods that are overwhelmingly used in phylogenetic studies of DNA sequence data. Appropriate selection of nucleotide substitution models is important because the use of incorrect models can mislead phylogenetic inference. To better understand the performance of different model-selection criteria, we used 33,600 simulated data sets to analyse the accuracy, precision, dissimilarity, and biases of the hierarchical likelihood-ratio test, Akaike information criterion, Bayesian information criterion, and decision theory.

Results: We demonstrate that the Bayesian information criterion and decision theory are the most appropriate model-selection criteria because of their high accuracy and precision. Our results also indicate that in some situations different models are selected by different criteria for the same dataset. Such dissimilarity was the highest between the hierarchical likelihood-ratio test and Akaike information criterion, and lowest between the Bayesian information criterion and decision theory. The hierarchical likelihood-ratio test performed poorly when the true model included a proportion of invariable sites, while the Bayesian information criterion and decision theory generally exhibited similar performance to each other.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the Bayesian information criterion and decision theory should be preferred for model selection. Together with model-adequacy tests, accurate model selection will serve to improve the reliability of phylogenetic inference and related analyses.
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August 2010