Shank Lab Journal Club

Shank Laboratory of Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Month: August, 2011

‘Phylogeography of a pan-Atlantic abyssal protobranch bivalve: implications for evolution in the Deep Atlantic’

Molecular Ecology (2011) 20 (4):829–843

doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04978.x

Authors: ETTER, R. J., BOYLE, E. E., GLAZIER, A., JENNINGS, R. M., DUTRA, E. and CHASE, M. R.

Abstract: The deep sea is a vast and essentially continuous environment with few obvious barriers to gene flow. How populations diverge and new species form in this remote ecosystem is poorly understood. Phylogeographical analyses have begun to provide some insight into evolutionary processes at bathyal depths (<3000 m), but much less is known about evolution in the more extensive abyssal regions (>3000 m). Here, we quantify geographical and bathymetric patterns of genetic variation (16S rRNA mitochondrial gene) in the protobranch bivalve Ledella ultima, which is one of the most abundant abyssal protobranchs in the Atlantic with a broad bathymetric and geographical distribution. We found virtually no genetic divergence within basins and only modest divergence among eight Atlantic basins. Levels of population divergence among basins were related to geographical distance and were greater in the South Atlantic than in the North Atlantic. Ocean-wide patterns of genetic variation indicate basin-wide divergence that exceeds what others have found for abyssal organisms, but considerably less than bathyal protobranchs across similar geographical scales. Populations on either side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the North Atlantic differed, suggesting the Ridge might impede gene flow at abyssal depths. Our results indicate that abyssal populations might be quite large (cosmopolitan), exhibit only modest genetic structure and probably provide little potential for the formation of new species.

Presented by Annette Govindarajan on 2011/9/24

‘Survival of mussels in extremely acidic waters on a submarine volcano’

Nature Geoscience (2009) 2, 344 – 348


Authors: Verena Tunnicliffe, Kimberley T. A. Davies, David A. Butterfield, Robert W. Embley, Jonathan M. Rose & William W. Chadwick Jr


Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are causing ocean acidification, compromising the ability of some marine organisms to build and maintain support structures as the equilibrium state of inorganic carbon moves away from calcium carbonate. Few marine organisms tolerate conditions where ocean pH falls significantly below today’s value of about 8.1 and aragonite and calcite saturation values below 1. Here we report dense clusters of the vent musselBathymodiolus brevior in natural conditions of pH values between 5.36 and 7.29 on northwest Eifuku volcano, Mariana arc, where liquid carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide emerge in a hydrothermal setting. We find that both shell thickness and daily growth increments in shells from northwest Eifuku are only about half those recorded from mussels living in water with pH>7.8. Low pH may therefore also be implicated in metabolic impairment. We identify four-decade-old mussels, but suggest that the mussels can survive for so long only if their protective shell covering remains intact: crabs that could expose the underlying calcium carbonate to dissolution are absent from this setting. The mussels’ ability to precipitate shells in such low-pH conditions is remarkable. Nevertheless, the vulnerability of molluscs to predators is likely to increase in a future ocean with low pH.

Presented by Catriona Munro on 2011/8/17

‘Genetic diversity and connectivity of deep-sea hydrothermal vent metapopulations’

Molecular Ecology (2010) 19(20):4391-4411

doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04789.x

Author: Robert C. Vrijenhoek


Deep-sea hydrothermal vents provide ephemeral habitats for animal communities that depend on chemosynthetic primary production. Sporadic volcanic and tectonic events destroy local vent fields and create new ones. Ongoing dispersal and cycles of extirpation and colonization affect the levels and distribution of genetic diversity in vent metapopulations. Several species exhibit evidence for stepping-stone dispersal along relatively linear, oceanic, ridge axes. Other species exhibit very high rates of gene flow, although natural barriers associated with variation in depth, deep-ocean currents, and lateral offsets of ridge axes often subdivide populations. Various degrees of impedance to dispersal across such boundaries are products of species-specific life histories and behaviours. Though unrelated to the size of a species range, levels of genetic diversity appear to correspond with the number of active vent localities that a species occupies within its range. Pioneer species that rapidly colonize nascent vents tend to be less subdivided and more diverse genetically than species that are slow to establish colonies at vents. Understanding the diversity and connectivity of vent metapopulations provides essential information for designing deep-sea preserves in regions that are under consideration for submarine mining of precious metals.

Presented by Catriona Munro on 2011/8/3

‘Beyond DNA: integrating inclusive inheritance into an extended theory of evolution’

Nature Reviews Genetics (2011) 12, 475-486


Authors: Étienne Danchin, Anne Charmantier, Frances A. Champagne, Alex Mesoudi, Benoit Pujol & Simon Blanchet


Many biologists are calling for an ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ that would ‘modernize the modern synthesis’ of evolution. Biological information is typically considered as being transmitted across generations by the DNA sequence alone, but accumulating evidence indicates that both genetic and non-genetic inheritance, and the interactions between them, have important effects on evolutionary outcomes. We review the evidence for such effects of epigenetic, ecological and cultural inheritance and parental effects, and outline methods that quantify the relative contributions of genetic and non-genetic heritability to the transmission of phenotypic variation across generations. These issues have implications for diverse areas, from the question of missing heritability in human complex-trait genetics to the basis of major evolutionary transitions.

Presented by Santiago Herrera on 2011/7/27