Friday, July 28, 2017

Weekend reads

Another busy week with no further posts. That should change next week as I have build quite a list of things to write about. Nevertheless, I wanted to ensure that I provide my weekly dose of interesting new reads. Here we go.

Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of pathogens that affect wildlife, livestock and, occasionally, humans. Culicoides imicola (Kieffer, 1913) is considered to be the main vector of the pathogens that cause bluetongue disease (BT) and African horse sickness (AHS) in southern Europe. The study of blood-feeding patterns in Culicoides is an essential step towards understanding the epidemiology of these pathogens. Molecular tools that increase the accuracy and sensitivity of traditional methods have been developed to identify the hosts of potential insect vectors. However, to the present group's knowledge, molecular studies that identify the hosts of C. imicola in Europe are lacking. The present study genetically characterizes the barcoding region of C. imicola trapped on farms in southern Spain and identifies its vertebrate hosts in the area. The report also reviews available information on the blood-feeding patterns of C. imicola worldwide. Culicoides imicola from Spain feed on blood of six mammals that include species known to be hosts of the BT and AHS viruses. This study provides evidence of the importance of livestock as sources of bloodmeals for C. imicola and the relevance of this species in the transmission of BT and AHS viruses in Europe.

Analysis of physical evidence is typically a deciding factor in forensic casework by establishing what transpired at a scene or who was involved. Forensic geoscience is an emerging multi-disciplinary science that can offer significant benefits to forensic investigations. Soil is a powerful, nearly 'ideal' contact trace evidence, as it is highly individualistic, easy to characterise, has a high transfer and retention probability, and is often overlooked in attempts to conceal evidence. However, many real-life cases encounter close proximity soil samples or soils with low inorganic content, which cannot be easily discriminated based on current physical and chemical analysis techniques. The capability to improve forensic soil discrimination, and identify key indicator taxa from soil using the organic fraction is currently lacking. The development of new DNA sequencing technologies offers the ability to generate detailed genetic profiles from soils and enhance current forensic soil analyses. Here, we discuss the use of DNA metabarcoding combined with high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technology to distinguish between soils from different locations in a forensic context. Specifically, we provide recommendations for best practice, outline the potential limitations encountered in a forensic context and describe the future directions required to integrate soil DNA analysis into casework.

Analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) is a method that has been used for the detection of various species within water bodies. The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) has a short eDNA survey season (mid-April to June). Here we investigate whether this season could be extended into other months using the current methodology as stipulated by Natural England.
Here we present data to show that in monthly water samples taken from two ponds (March 2014-February 2015) we were able to detect great crested newt DNA in all months in at least one of the ponds. Similar levels of great crested newt eDNA (i.e. highly positive identification) were detected through the months of March-August, suggesting it may be possible to extend the current survey window. In order to determine how applicable these observations are for ponds throughout the rest of the UK, further work in multiple other ponds over multiple seasons is suggested. Nevertheless, the current work clearly demonstrates, in two ponds, the efficacy and reproducibility of eDNA detection for determining the presence of great crested newts.

Gelatinous zooplankton are a large component of the animal biomass in all marine environments, but are considered to be uncommon in the diet of most marine top predators. However, the diets of key predator groups like seabirds have conventionally been assessed from stomach content analyses, which cannot detect most gelatinous prey. As marine top predators are used to identify changes in the overall species composition of marine ecosystems, such biases in dietary assessment may impact our detection of important ecosystem regime shifts. We investigated albatross diet using DNA metabarcoding of scats to assess the prevalence of gelatinous zooplankton consumption by two albatross species, one of which is used as an indicator species for ecosystem monitoring. Black-browed and Campbell albatross scats were collected from eight breeding colonies covering the circumpolar range of these birds over two consecutive breeding seasons. Fish was the main dietary item at most sites, however cnidarian DNA, primarily from scyphozoan jellyfish was present in 42% of samples overall and up to 80% of samples at some sites. Jellyfish was detected during all breeding stages and consumed by adults and chicks. Trawl fishery catches of jellyfish near the Falkland Islands indicate a similar frequency of jellyfish occurrence in albatross diets in years of high and low jellyfish availability, suggesting jellyfish consumption may be selective rather than opportunistic. Warmer oceans and overfishing of finfish are predicted to favour jellyfish population increases and we demonstrate here that dietary DNA metabarcoding enables measurements of the contribution of gelatinous zooplankton to the diet of marine predators.

An increasing number of studies are showing that Antarctic mega- and macrofauna are highly diverse, however, little is known about meiofaunal biodiversity in sediment communities, which are a vital part of a healthy and functional ecosystem. This is the first study to analyse community DNA (targeting meiofauna) using metabarcoding to investigate biodiversity levels in sediment communities of the Antarctic Peninsula. The results show that almost all of the meiofaunal biodiversity in the benthic habitat has yet to be characterised, levels of biodiversity were higher than expected and similar to temperate regions, albeit with the existence of potentially new and locally adapted species never described before at the molecular level. The Rothera meiofaunal sample sites showed four dominant eukaryotic groups, the nematodes, arthropods, platyhelminthes, and the annelids; some of which could comprise species complexes. Comparisons with deep-sea data from the same region suggest little exchange of Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) between depths with the nematodes prevalent at all depths, but sharing the shallow water benthos with the copepods. This study provides a preliminary analysis of benthic Antarctic Peninsula meiofauna using high throughput sequencing which substantiates how little is known on the biodiversity of one of the most diverse, yet underexplored communities of the Antarctic: the benthos.

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