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09 Feb 2023
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A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva

A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva

Recommended by based on reviews by 3 anonymous reviewers

This article [1] investigated two nematode genera, Panagrolaimus and Plectus, from the Siberian permafrost to unravel the adaptations allowing them to survive cryptobiosis; radio carbon dating showed that the individuals of Panagrolaimus had been in cryobiosis in Siberia for as long as 46,000 years! 

I was impressed by the multidisciplinary approach of this study, including morphological as well as phylogenetic and -genomic analyses to describe a new species. In triploids as some of the species studied here, it is quite challenging to assemble a novel genome. The authors furthermore not only managed to successfully reanimate the Siberian specimens but could also expose them to repeated freezing and desiccation in the lab, not an easy task.

This study reports some amazing discoveries - comparing the molecular toolkits between C. elegans and Panagrolaimus and Plectus revealed that several components were orthologues. Likewise, some of the biochemical mechanisms for surviving freezing in the lab turned out to be similar for C. elegans and the Siberian nematodes. This study thus provides strong evidence that nematodes developed specific mechanisms allowing them to stay in cryobiosis over very long times.

A surprising additional experimental result concerns the well-studied C. elegans - dauer larvae of this species can stay viable much longer after periods of animated suspension than previously thought.

I highly recommend this article as it is an important contribution to the fields of evolution and molecular biology. This study greatly advanced our understanding of how nematodes could have adapted to cryobiosis. The applied techniques could also be useful for studying similar research questions in other organisms.


[1] Shatilovich A, Gade VR, Pippel M, Hoffmeyer TT, Tchesunov AV, Stevens L, Winkler S, Hughes GM, Traikov S, Hiller M, Rivkina E, Schiffer PH, Myers EW, Kurzchalia TV (2023) A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva. bioRxiv, 2022.01.28.478251, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larvaAnastasia Shatilovich, Vamshidhar R. Gade, Martin Pippel, Tarja T. Hoffmeyer, Alexei V. Tchesunov, Lewis Stevens, Sylke Winkler, Graham M. Hughes, Sofia Traikov, Michael Hiller, Elizaveta Rivkina, Philipp H. Schiffer, Eugene W Myers, Teymuras V. K...<p style="text-align: justify;">Some organisms in nature have developed the ability to enter a state of suspended metabolism called cryptobiosis1 when environmental conditions are unfavorable. This state-transition requires the execution of comple...Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/GenomicsIsa Schon2022-05-20 14:32:02 View
20 Dec 2022
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Non-target effects of ten essential oils on the egg parasitoid Trichogramma evanescens

Side effects of essential oils on pest natural enemies

Recommended by based on reviews by Olivier Roux and 2 anonymous reviewers

Integrated pest management relies on the combined use of different practices in time and/or space. The main objectives are to better control pests, not to induce too much selective pressure on resistance mechanisms present in pest populations and to minimize non-targeted effects on the ecosystem [1]. The efficiency of such a strategy requires at least additional or synergistic effects of chosen tools against targeted pest population in a specific environment. Any antagonistic effect on targeted or non-targeted organisms might reduce control effort to nil even worst.

Van Oudenhove et al [2] raised the question of the interaction between botanical pesticides (BPs) and egg parasitoids. Each of these two strategies used for pest management present advantages and are described as eco-friendly. First, the use of parasitoids is a great example of biological control and is massively used in a broad range of crop production in different ecological settings. Second, BPs, especially essential oils (EOs) used for a wide range of activities on pests (repellent, antifeedant, antiovipositant, ovicidal, larvicidal and simply pesticidal) present low-toxicity to non-target vertebrates and do not last too long in the environment. Combining these two strategies might be considered as a great opportunity to better pest control with minimized impact on environment. However, EOs used to target a wide range of pest might directly or indirectly affect parasitoids.

Van Oudenhove et al [2] focused their study on non-target effects of 10 essentials oils with pesticide potential on larval development and egg-seeking behaviour of five strains of the biocontrol agent Trichogramma evanescens. Within two laboratory experiments mimicing EOs fumigation (i.e. contactless EOs exposure), the authors evaluated (1) the toxicity of EOs on parasitoid development and (2) the repellent effect of these EOs on adult wasps. They confirmed that contactless exposure of EOs can (1) induce mortality during pre-imaginal development (more acute at the pupal stage) and (2) induce behavioural avoidance of EOs odour plume. These experiments ran onto five strains of T. evanescens also highlighted the variation of the effects of EOs among parasitoid strains.

The complex and dynamic interaction between pest, plant, parasitoid (a natural enemy) and their environment is disturbed by EOs. EOs plumes are also dynamic and variable upon the environmental conditions. The results of van Oudenhove et al. experimentally illustrate such a complexity by describing opposite effects (repellent and attractive) of the same EO on the behaviour of two T. evanescens strains. These contrasting results led us to question more broadly the non-target effects of pest management programs based on EOs fumigation on natural enemies.

Finally, the limits of this experimental study as discussed in the paper draw research avenues taking into account biotic variables such as plant chemical cues, odour plume dynamics, individual behavioural experiences and abiotic variables such as temperature, light and gravity [3] in laboratory, semi-field and field experiments. Facing such a complexity, modelling studies at fine scale in time and space have the operational objective to help farmers to choose the best IPM strategy regarding their environment (as illustrated for aphid population management in the recent review by Stell et al. [4]). But before such research effort to be undertaken, Van Oudenhove et al study [2] sounds like an alert for a cautious use of EOs in pest control programs that integrate biological control with parasitoids.



[1] Fauvergue, X. Biocontrôle Elements Pour Une Protection Agroecologique des Cultures; Éditions Quae: Versailles, France, 2020.

[2] van Oudenhove L, Cazier A, Fillaud M, Lavoir AV, Fatnassi H, Pérez G, Calcagno V. Non-target effects of ten essential oils on the egg parasitoid Trichogramma evanescens. bioRxiv 2022.01.14.476310, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology.

[3] Victor Burte, Guy Perez, Faten Ayed, Géraldine Groussier, Ludovic Mailleret, Louise van Oudenhove and Vincent Calcagno (2022) Up and to the light: intra- and interspecific variability of photo- and geo-tactic oviposition preferences in genus Trichogramma, Peer Community Journal, 2: e3.

[4] Stell E, Meiss H, Lasserre-Joulin F, Therond O. Towards Predictions of Interaction Dynamics between Cereal Aphids and Their Natural Enemies: A Review. Insects 2022, 13, 479.

Non-target effects of ten essential oils on the egg parasitoid Trichogramma evanescensLouise van Oudenhove, Aurélie Cazier, Marine Fillaud, Anne-Violette Lavoir, Hicham Fatnassi, Guy Pérez, Vincent Calcagno<p style="text-align: justify;">Essential oils (EOs) are increasingly used as biopesticides due to their insecticidal potential. This study addresses their non-target effects on a biological control agent: the egg parasitoid <em>Trichogramma evane...Behavior, Biochemistry, Biocontrol, Biodiversity, Computer modelling, Conservation biology, Demography/population dynamics, Development, Ecology, Insecta, Insectivores, Invertebrates, Life histories, Methodology, Pest management, Theoretical biolo...Cedric Pennetier2022-01-31 16:05:32 View
30 Nov 2022
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A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases.

Harnessing the full potential of iNaturalist and other databases

Recommended by based on reviews by Clive Hambler and Catherine Scott

The popularity of iNaturalist and other online biodiversity databases to which the general public and specialists alike contribute observations has skyrocketed in recent years (Dance 2022). The AI-based algorithms (computer vision) which provide the first identification of a given organism on an uploaded photograph have become very sophisticated, suggesting initial identifications often down to species level with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. The initial identifications are then confirmed or improved by feedback from the community, which works particularly well for organismal groups to which many active community members contribute, such as the birds. Hence, providing initial observations and identifying observations of others, as well as browsing the recorded biodiversity for given locales or the range of occurrences of individual taxa has become a meaningful and satisfying experience for the interested naturalist. Furthermore, several research studies have now been published relying on observations uploaded to iNaturalist (Szentivanyi and Vincze 2022). However, using the enormous amount of natural history data available on iNaturalist in a systematic way has remained challenging, since this requires not only retrieving numerous observations from the database (in the hundreds or even thousands), but also some level of transparent quality control.

Billotte (2022) provides a protocol and R scripts for the quality assessment of downloaded observations from iNaturalist, allowing an efficient and reproducible stepwise approach to prepare a high-quality data set for further analysis. First, observations with their associated metadata are downloaded from iNaturalist, along with the corresponding entries from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). In addition, a taxonomic reference list is obtained (these are available online for many taxa), which is used to assess the taxonomic consistency in the dataset. Second, the geo-tagging is assessed by comparing the iNaturalist and GBIF metadata. Lastly, the image quality is assessed using pyBRISQUE. The approach is illustrated using spiders (Araneae) as an example. Spiders are a very diverse taxon and an excellent taxonomic reference list is available (World Spider Catalogue 2022). However, spiders are not well known to most non-specialists, and it is not easy to take good pictures of spiders without using professional equipment. Therefore, the ability of iNaturalist’s computer vision to provide identifications is limited to this date and the community of specialists active on iNaturalist is comparatively small. Hence, spiders are a good taxon to demonstrate how the pipeline results in a quality-controlled dataset based on crowed-sourced data. Importantly, the software employed is free to use, although inevitably, the initial learning curve to use R scripts can be steep, depending on prior expertise with R/RStudio. Furthermore, the approach is employable with databases other than iNaturalist.

In summary, Billotte's (2022) pipeline allows researchers to use the wealth of observations on iNaturalist and other databases to produce large metadata and image datasets of high-quality in a reproducible way. This should pave the way for more studies, which could include, for example, the assessment of range expansions of invasive species or the evaluation of the presence of endangered species, potentially supporting conservation efforts.


Billotte J (2022) A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases. BiorXiv, 2022.04.29.490112, ver 5 peer reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Zoology.

Dance A (2022) Community science draws on the power of the crowd. Nature, 609, 641–643.

Szentivanyi T, Vincze O (2022) Tracking wildlife diseases using community science: an example through toad myiasis. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 68, 74.

World Spider Catalog (2022). World Spider Catalog. Version 23.5. Natural History Museum Bern, online at

A pipeline for assessing the quality of images and metadata from crowd-sourced databases.Jackie Billotte<p style="text-align: justify;">Crowd-sourced biodiversity databases provide easy access to data and images for ecological education and research. One concern with using publicly sourced databases; however, is the quality of their images, taxonomi...Arachnids, Biodiversity, Biology, Conservation biology, Ecology, Insecta, InvertebratesMatthias Foellmer2022-05-03 00:18:23 View
28 Aug 2022
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A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programs

Improved population genetics parameters through control for microsatellite stuttering

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Thibaut Malausa, Fabien Halkett and Thierry Rigaud

Molecular markers have drastically changed and improved our understanding of biological processes. In combination with PCR, markers revolutionized the study of all organisms, even tiny insects, and eukaryotic pathogens amongst others. Microsatellite markers were the most prominent and successful ones. Their success started in the early 1990s. They were used for population genetic studies, mapping of genes and genomes, and paternity testing and inference of relatedness. Their popularity is based on some of their characteristics as codominance, the high polymorphism information content, and their ease of isolation (Schlötterer 2004). Still, microsatellites are the marker of choice for a range of non-model organisms as next-generation sequencing technologies produce a huge amount of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), but often at expense of sample size and higher costs.
The high level of polymorphism of microsatellite markers, which consist of one to six base-pair nucleotide motifs replicated up to 10 or 20 times, results from slippage events during DNA replication. Short hairpin loops might shorten the template strand or extend the new strand. However, such slippage events might occur during PCR amplification resulting in additional bands or peaks. Such stutter alleles often appear to differ by one repeat unit and might be hard to interpret but definitively reduce automated scoring of microsatellite results.
A standalone software package available to handle stuttering is Microchecker (van Oosterhout et al., 2004, which nowadays faces incompatibilities with updated versions of different operating systems. Thus, de Meeûs and Noûs (2022), in their manuscript, tackled the stuttering issue by developing an OS-independent analysis pipeline based on standard spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Office (Excel) or Apache Open Office (Calc). The authors use simulated populations differing in the mating system (pangamic, selfing (30%), clonal) and a different number of subpopulations and individuals per subpopulation to test for differences among the null model (no stuttering), a test population with 2 out of 20 loci (10%) with stuttering, and the latter with stuttering cured. Further to this, the authors also re-analyse data from previous studies utilising organisms differing in the mating system to understand whether control of stuttering changes major parameter estimates and conclusions of those studies.
Stuttering of microsatellite loci might result in increased heterozygote deficits. The authors utilise the FIS (inbreeding coefficient) as a tool to compare the different treatments of the simulated populations. Their method detected stuttering in pangamic and selfing populations, while the detection of stuttering in clonal organisms is more difficult. The cure for stuttering resulted in FIS values similar to those populations lacking stuttering. The re-analysis of four previously published studies indicated that the new method presented here is more accurate than Microchecker (van Oosterhout et al., 2004) in a direct comparison. For the Lyme disease-transmitting tick Ixodes scapularis (De Meeûs et al., 2021), three loci showed stuttering and curing these resulted in data that are in good agreement with pangamic reproduction. In the tsetse fly Glossina palpalis palpalis (Berté et al., 2019), two out of seven loci were detected as stuttering. Curing them resulted in decreased FIS for one locus, while the other showed an increased FIS, an indication of other problems such as the occurrence of null alleles. Overall, in dioecious pangamic populations, the method works well, and the cure of stuttering improves population genetic parameter estimates, although FST and FIS might be slightly overestimated. In monoecious selfers, the detection and cure work well, if other factors such as null alleles do not interfere. In clonal organisms, only loci with extremely high FIS might need a cure to improve parameter estimates.
This spreadsheet-based method helps to automate microsatellite analysis at very low costs and thus improves the accuracy of parameter estimates. This might certainly be very useful for a range of non-model organisms, parasites, and their vectors, for which microsatellites are still the marker of choice. 

Berté D, De Meeus T, Kaba D, Séré M, Djohan V, Courtin F, N'Djetchi KM, Koffi M, Jamonneau V, Ta BTD, Solano P, N’Goran EK, Ravel S (2019) Population genetics of Glossina palpalis palpalis in sleeping sickness foci of Côte d'Ivoire before and after vector control. Infection Genetics and Evolution 75, 103963.

de Meeûs T, Chan CT, Ludwig JM, Tsao JI, Patel J, Bhagatwala J, Beati L (2021) Deceptive combined effects of short allele dominance and stuttering: an example with Ixodes scapularis, the main vector of Lyme disease in the U.S.A. Peer Community Journal 1, e40.

de Meeûs T, Noûs C (2022) A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programs. Zenodo, v5, peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Zoology.

Schlötterer C (2004) The evolution of molecular markers - just a matter of fashion? Nature Reviews Genetics 5, 63-69.

van Oosterhout C, Hutchinson WF, Wills DPM, Shipley P (2004) MICRO-CHECKER: software for identifying and correcting genotyping errors in microsatellite data. Molecular Ecology Notes 4, 535-538.

A simple procedure to detect, test for the presence of stuttering, and cure stuttered data with spreadsheet programsThierry de Meeûs and Camille Noûs<p>Microsatellite are powerful markers for empirical population genetics, but may be affected by amplification problems like stuttering that produces heterozygote deficits between alleles with one repeat difference. In this paper, we present a sim...Acari, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/Genomics, Helminthology, Invertebrates, Medical entomology, Molecular biology, Parasitology, Theoretical biology, Veterinary entomologyMichael Lattorff2021-12-06 14:30:47 View
26 Aug 2022
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Within and among population differences in cuticular hydrocarbons in the seabird tick Ixodes uriae

Seabird tick diversification and cuticular hydrocarbons

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Ticks are notorious vectors of diseases in humans and other vertebrates. Much effort has been expended to understand tick diversity and ecology with the aim of managing their populations to alleviate the misery they bring. Further, the fundamental question of whether ticks are usually host generalists or host specialists has been debated at length and is important both for understanding the mechanisms of their diversification as well as for focusing control of ticks [1].

One elegant resolution of this question is to consider most tick species to be global generalists but local specialists [1]. This is well illustrated in a series of studies of the seabird tick, Ixodes uriae, which is comprised of host-specific races that show genetic [2], morphological [3] and host performance [4] differences associated with the seabirds they feed on. Such a pattern has clear ramifications for sympatric speciation; however, the factors that potentially act to drive these differences have remained elusive.

Dupraz et al. [5] have now made intriguing and important steps toward bridging the gap between demonstrating local patterns of tick host association and understanding the physiological mechanisms that may facilitate such divergences. They collected I. uriae ticks from the nests of two seabirds – Atlantic puffins and common guillemots – on the north side of Iceland. Four populations of ticks were sampled, with one island providing both puffin ticks and guillemot ticks, to give two tick populations from each of the two seabird host species. They then washed the ticks in solvent and analyzed the dissolved cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) using GC mass spectrometry, revealing 22 different hydrocarbon compounds common to most of these samples. CHCs are known to be important across arthropods for a variety of functions ranging from reducing water loss to facilitating communication and recognition between individuals with species.

Dupraz et al. [5] found three hydrocarbons that distinguished puffin ticks most consistently from guillemot ticks. A cross-validation test for host type also assigned 75% of the tick pools to the seabird host of origin. However, with these limited sample sizes, statistical analysis revealed no significant difference in CHC profiles between the host types, although a tendency was evident. Nonetheless, this study revealed a number of potentially diagnostic CHCs for tick host type, as well as some that may be more diagnostic of locations. This provides a fascinating and actionable foundation for further work using additional sites and host types, as well as an entry point into discerning the mechanisms at play in producing the diversity, complexity and adaptability that make ticks such medical menaces.


[1]  McCoy, K.D., Léger, E., Dietrich, M., 2013. Host specialization in ticks and transmission of tick-borne diseases: a review. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 3.

[2]  McCoy, K.D., Chapuis, E., Tirard, C., Boulinier, T., Michalakis, Y., Bohec, C.L., Maho, Y.L., Gauthier-Clerc, M., 2005. Recurrent evolution of host-specialized races in a globally distributed parasite. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 272, 2389–2395.

[3]  Dietrich, M., Beati, L., Elguero, E., Boulinier, T., McCoy, K.D., 2013. Body size and shape evolution in host races of the tick Ixodes uriae. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 108, 323–334.

[4]  Dietrich, M., Lobato, E., Boulinier, T., McCoy, K.D., 2014. An experimental test of host specialization in a ubiquitous polar ectoparasite: a role for adaptation? J. Anim. Ecol. 83, 576–587.

[5] Dupraz, M., Leroy, C., Thórarinsson, T. L., d’Ettorre, P. and McCoy, K. D. (2022) Within and among population differences in cuticular hydrocarbons in the seabird tick Ixodes uriae. bioRxiv, 2022.01.21.477272, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Within and among population differences in cuticular hydrocarbons in the seabird tick Ixodes uriaeMarlène Dupraz, Chloe Leroy, Thorkell Lindberg Thórarinsson, Patrizia d’Ettorre, Karen D. McCoy<p>The hydrophobic layer of the arthropod cuticle acts to maintain water balance, but can also serve to transmit chemical signals via cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC), essential mediators of arthropod behavior. CHC signatures typically vary qualitativ...Acari, Biology, Ecology, EvolutionFelix Sperling2022-02-08 13:00:52 View
25 Aug 2022
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Improving species conservation plans under IUCN's One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methods

Quantitative genetics for a more qualitative conservation

Recommended by based on reviews by Timothée Bonnet and 1 anonymous reviewer

Genetic (bio)diversity is one of three recognised levels of biodiversity, besides species and ecosystem diversity. Its importance for species survival and adaptation is increasingly highlighted and its monitoring recommended (e.g. O’Brien et al 2022). Especially the management of ex-situ populations has a long history of taking into account genetic aspects (through pedigree analysis but increasingly also by applying molecular tools). As in-situ and ex-situ efforts are nowadays often aligned (in a One-Plan-Approach), genetic management is becoming more the standard (supported by quickly developing genomic techniques). However, rarely quantitative genetic aspects are raised in this issue, while its relevance cannot be underestimated. Hence, the current manuscript by Sauve et al (2022) is a welcome contribution, in order to improve conservation efforts. The authors give a clear overview on how quantitative genetic analysis can aid the measurement, monitoring, prediction and management of adaptive genetic variation. The main tools are pedigrees (mainly of ex-situ populations) and the Animal Model. The main goal is to prevent adaption to captivity and altered genetics in general (in reintroduction projects). The confounding factors to take into account (like inbreeding, population structure, differences between facilities, sample size and parental/social effects) are well described by the authors. As such, I fully recommend this manuscript for publication, hoping increased interest in quantitative analysis will benefit the quality of species conservation management.


O'Brien D, Laikre L, Hoban S, Bruford MW et al. (2022) Bringing together approaches to reporting on within species genetic diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology, 00, 1–7. https://doi/10.1111/1365-2664.14225

Sauve D., Spero J., Steiner J., Wheeler H., Lynch C., Chabot A.A. (2022) Improving species conservation plans under IUCN’s One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methods. EcoEvoRxiv, ver. 9 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Improving species conservation plans under IUCN's One Plan Approach using quantitative genetic methodsDrew Sauve, Jane Hudecki, Jessica Steiner, Hazel Wheeler, Colleen Lynch, Amy A. Chabot<p>Human activities are resulting in altered environmental conditions that are impacting the demography and evolution of species globally. If we wish to prevent anthropogenic extinction and extirpation, we need to improve our ability to restore wi...Conservation biology, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics/GenomicsPeter Galbusera2022-02-21 10:45:22 View
24 Jun 2022
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Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphid

In search of the links between environmental signals and polyphenism

Recommended by based on reviews by Antonia Monteiro and 2 anonymous reviewers

Polyphenisms offer an opportunity to study the links between phenotype, development, and environment in a controlled genomic context (Simpson, Sword, & Lo, 2011). In organisms with short generation times, individuals living and developing in different seasons encounter different environmental conditions. Adaptive plasticity allows them to express different phenotypes in response to seasonal cues, such as temperature or photoperiod. Such phenotypes can be morphological variants, for instance displaying different wing patterns as seen in butterflies (Brakefield & Larsen, 1984; Nijhout, 1991; Windig, 1999), or physiological variants, characterized for instance by direct development vs winter diapause in temperate insects (Dalin & Nylin, 2012; Lindestad, Wheat, Nylin, & Gotthard, 2019; Shearer et al., 2016). 

Many aphids display cyclical parthenogenesis, a remarkable seasonal polyphenism for reproductive mode (Tagu, Sabater-Muñoz, & Simon, 2005), also sometimes coupled with wing polyphenism (Braendle, Friebe, Caillaud, & Stern, 2005), which allows them to switch between parthenogenesis during spring and summer to sexual reproduction and the production of diapausing eggs before winter. In the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, photoperiod shortening results in the production, by parthenogenetic females, of embryos developing into the parthenogenetic mothers of sexual individuals. The link between parthenogenetic reproduction and sexual reproduction, therefore, occurs over two generations, changing from a parthenogenetic form producing parthenogenetic females (virginoparae), to a parthenogenetic form producing sexual offspring (sexuparae), and finally sexual forms producing overwintering eggs (Le Trionnaire et al., 2022).  

The molecular basis for the transduction of the environmental signal into reproductive changes is still unknown, but the dopamine pathway is an interesting candidate. Form-specific expression of certain genes in the dopamine pathway occurs downstream of the perception of the seasonal cue, notably with a marked decrease in the heads of embryos reared under short-day conditions and destined to become sexuparae. Dopamine has multiple roles during development, with one mode of action in cuticle melanization and sclerotization, and a neurological role as a synaptic neurotransmitter. Both modes of action might be envisioned to contribute functionally to the perception and transduction of environmental signals. 

In this study, Le Trionnaire and colleagues aim at clarifying this role in the pea aphid (Le Trionnaire et al., 2022). Using quantitative RT-PCR, RNA-seq, and in situ hybridization of RNA probes, they surveyed the timing and spatial patterns of expression of dopamine pathway genes during the development of different stages of embryo to larvae reared under long and short-day conditions, and destined to become virginoparae or sexuparae females, respectively. The genes involved in the synaptic release of dopamine generally did not show differences in expression between photoperiodic treatments. By contrast, pale and ddc, two genes acting upstream of dopamine production, generally tended to show a downregulation in sexuparare embryo, as well as genes involved in cuticle development and interacting with the dopamine pathway. The downregulation of dopamine pathway genes observed in the heads of sexuparare juveniles is already detectable at the embryonic stage, suggesting embryos might be sensing environmental cues leading them to differentiate into sexuparae females.

The way pale and ddc expression differences could influence environmental sensitivity is still unclear. The results suggest that a cuticle phenotype specifically in the heads of larvae could be explored, perhaps in the form of a reduction in cuticle sclerotization and melanization which might allow photoperiod shortening to be perceived and act on development. Although its causality might be either way, such a link would be exciting to investigate, yet the existence of cuticle differences between the two reproductive types is still a hypothesis to be tested. The lack of differences in the expression of synaptic release genes for dopamine might seem to indicate that the plastic response to photoperiod is not mediated via neurological roles. Yet, this does not rule out the role of decreasing levels of dopamine in mediating this response in the central nervous system of embryos, even if the genes regulating synaptic release are equally expressed. 

To test for a direct role of ddc in regulating the reproductive fate of embryos, the authors have generated CrispR-Cas9 knockout mutants. Those mutants displayed egg cuticle melanization, but with lethal effects, precluding testing the effect of ddc at later stages in development. Gene manipulation becomes feasible in the pea aphid, opening up certain avenues for understanding the roles of other genes during development.

This study adds nicely to our understanding of the intricate changes in gene expression involved in polyphenism. But it also shows the complexity of deciphering the links between environmental perception and changes in physiology, which mobilise multiple interacting gene networks. In the era of manipulative genetics, this study also stresses the importance of understanding the traits and phenotypes affected by individual genes, which now seems essential to piece the puzzle together.


Braendle C, Friebe I, Caillaud MC, Stern DL (2005) Genetic variation for an aphid wing polyphenism is genetically linked to a naturally occurring wing polymorphism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272, 657–664.

Brakefield PM, Larsen TB (1984) The evolutionary significance of dry and wet season forms in some tropical butterflies. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 22, 1–12.

Dalin P, Nylin S (2012) Host-plant quality adaptively affects the diapause threshold: evidence from leaf beetles in willow plantations. Ecological Entomology, 37, 490–499.

Le Trionnaire G, Hudaverdian S, Richard G, Tanguy S, Gleonnec F, Prunier-Leterme N, Gauthier J-P, Tagu D (2022) Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphid. bioRxiv, 2020.03.10.984989, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Lindestad O, Wheat CW, Nylin S, Gotthard K (2019) Local adaptation of photoperiodic plasticity maintains life cycle variation within latitudes in a butterfly. Ecology, 100, e02550.

Nijhout HF (1991). The development and evolution of butterfly wing patterns. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Shearer PW, West JD, Walton VM, Brown PH, Svetec N, Chiu JC (2016) Seasonal cues induce phenotypic plasticity of Drosophila suzukii to enhance winter survival. BMC Ecology, 16, 11.

Simpson SJ, Sword GA, Lo N (2011) Polyphenism in Insects. Current Biology, 21, R738–R749.

Tagu D, Sabater-Muñoz B, Simon J-C (2005) Deciphering reproductive polyphenism in aphids. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development, 48, 71–80.

Windig JJ (1999) Trade-offs between melanization, development time and adult size in Inachis io and Araschnia levana (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)? Heredity, 82, 57–68.

Dopamine pathway characterization during the reproductive mode switch in the pea aphidGaël Le Trionnaire, Sylvie Hudaverdian, Gautier Richard, Sylvie Tanguy, Florence Gleonnec, Nathalie Prunier-Leterme, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Denis Tagu<p>Aphids are major pests of most of the crops worldwide. Such a success is largely explained by the remarkable plasticity of their reproductive mode. They reproduce efficiently by viviparous parthenogenesis during spring and summer generating imp...Development, Genetics/Genomics, Insecta, Molecular biologyMathieu Joron2020-03-13 13:01:44 View
25 Mar 2022
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Pre- and post-oviposition behavioural strategies to protect eggs against extreme winter cold in an insect with maternal care

New insights into maternal egg care in insects: egg transport as an adaptive behavior to extreme temperatures in the European earwig

Recommended by based on reviews by Ana Rivero, Nicolas Sauvion and Wolf U. Blanckenhorn

Because of the inability of eggs to move, the fitness of oviparous organisms is particularly dependent on the oviposition site. The choice of oviposition site by mothers is therefore the result of trade-offs between exposure to risk factors or favorable conditions such as the presence/absence of predators, the threat of extreme temperatures, the risk of desiccation, the presence and quality of nutritional resources... In addition to these trade-offs between different biotic and abiotic factors that determine oviposition site selection, the ability of mothers to move their eggs after oviposition is a game-changer in insect strategies to optimize egg development and survival [1]. Oviposition site selection combined with egg transport has been explored in insects in relation to the risk of exposure to egg parasitoids [2] or needs for oxygenation [3] but surprisingly has not been investigated in regards to temperatures. Considering egg transport in the ability of insects to adapt their behavior to environmental conditions and in particular to potential extreme temperatures is yet inherent in providing a complete picture of the diversity of behaviors that shape adaptation to temperature and potential tolerance to climate change. In this sense, the study presented by Tourneur et al. [4], explores whether insects capable of egg-care might use egg transport as an adaptive behavior to protect them from suboptimal or extreme temperatures. The study was conducted in the European earwig, Forficula auricularia Linnaeus, 1758, which is known to practice egg-care in a variety of ways, that presumably includes egg-transportation, for several weeks or months during winter until hatching. The authors characterized different life-history traits related to egg-laying, egg-transport, and egg-development in two device systems with three experimental temperature regimes in two populations of European earwigs from Canada. The inclusion of two populations, which turned out to belong to two clades, allowed the identification of a diversity of behaviors although this did not allow to attribute the differences between the two populations to specific population differences, genetic differences, or to their geographical origins. Interestingly, the study showed that oviposition site selection in the European earwig is driven by temperature and that in winter temperatures, female earwigs may move their eggs to warmer temperatures that are adequate for hatching. These results are original in the sense that they highlight new adaptive strategies in female insects used during the post-oviposition stage to protect their eggs from temperature changes.

In the current context of climate change and potential changes in selective pressures, the study contributes to the understanding of the wide range of strategies deployed by insects to adapt to the temperature. This appears essential to predict and anticipate the consequences of global instability, it also describes from an academic point of view a new and fascinating adaptive strategy in an overlooked biological system. 


[1] Machado G, Trumbo ST (2018) Parental care. In: Insect Behavior, pp. 203–218. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

[2] Carrasco D, Kaitala A (2009) Egg-laying tactic in Phyllomorpha laciniata in the presence of parasitoids. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 131, 300–307.

[3] Smith RL (1997) Evolution of paternal care in the giant water bugs (Heteroptera: Belostomatidae). In: The Evolution of Social Behaviour in Insects and Arachnids (eds Crespi BJ, Choe JC), pp. 116–149. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

[4] Tourneur J-C, Cole C, Vickruck J, Dupont S, Meunier J (2022) Pre- and post-oviposition behavioural strategies to protect eggs against extreme winter cold in an insect with maternal care. bioRxiv, 2021.11.23.469705, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Pre- and post-oviposition behavioural strategies to protect eggs against extreme winter cold in an insect with maternal careJean-Claude Tourneur, Claire Cole, Jess Vickruck, Simon Dupont, Joel Meunier<p style="text-align: justify;">Depositing eggs in an area with adequate temperature is often crucial for mothers and their offspring, as the eggs are immobile and therefore cannot avoid exposure to sub-optimal temperatures. However, the importanc...Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, Insecta, Invertebrates, Life historiesAnna Cohuet2021-11-24 16:43:06 View
10 Mar 2022
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Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continent

Cross-continents whitefly secondary symbiont revealed by metabarcoding

Recommended by based on reviews by François Renoz, Vincent Hervé and 1 anonymous reviewer

Whiteflies are serious global pests that feed on phloem sap of many agricultural crop plants. Like other phloem feeders, whiteflies rely on a primary-symbiont to supply their poor, sugar-based diet. Over time, the genomes of primary-symbionts become degraded, and they are either been replaced or complemented by co-hosted secondary-symbionts (McCutcheon and Moran 2012). In Bemisia tabaci species complex, the primary-symbiont is Candidatus Portiera aleyrodidarium, with seven secondary-symbionts that have been described to date. The prevalence and dynamics of these secondary-symbionts have been studied in various whitefly populations and genetic groups around the world, and certain combinations are determined under specific biotic and environmental factors (Zchori-Fein et al. 2014).

To understand the potential metabolic or other interactions of various secondary-symbionts with Ca. Portiera aleyrodidarium and the hosts, Mouton et al. used metabarcoding approach and diagnostic PCR confirmation, to describe symbiont compositions in a collection of whiteflies from eight populations with four genetic groups in Burkina Faso. They found that one of the previously recorded secondary-symbiont from Asian whitefly populations, Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus, is also found in the tested African whiteflies. The newly identified Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus forms a different strain than the ones described in Asia, and is found in high prevalence in six of the tested populations and in three genetic groups. They also showed that Portiera densities are not affected by the presence of Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus. The authors suggest that based on its high prevalence, Ca. Hemipteriphilus asiaticus may benefit certain whitefly populations, however, there is no attempt to test this assumption or to relate it to environmental factors, or to identify the source of introduction.

Mouton et al. bring new perspectives to the study of complex hemipteran symbioses, emphasizing the need to use both unbiased approaches such as metabarcoding, together with a priori methods such as PCR, in order to receive a complete description of symbiont population structures. Their findings are awaiting future screens for this secondary-symbiont, as well as its functional genomics and experimental manipulations to clarify its role. Discoveries on whitefly-symbionts delicate interactions are required to develop alternative control strategies for this worldly devastating pest.


McCutcheon JP, Moran NA (2012) Extreme genome reduction in symbiotic bacteria. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 10, 13–26.

Mouton L, Henri H, Romba R, Belgaidi Z, Gnankiné O, Vavre F (2022) Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continent. bioRxiv, 2021.10.06.463217, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

Zchori-Fein E, Lahav T, Freilich S (2014) Variations in the identity and complexity of endosymbiont combinations in whitefly hosts. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5.

Analyses of symbiotic bacterial communities in the plant pest Bemisia tabaci reveal high prevalence of Candidatus Hemipteriphilus asiaticus on the African continentLaurence Mouton, Helene Henri, Rahim Romba, Zainab Belgaidi, Olivier Gnankine, Fabrice Vavre<p style="text-align: justify;">Microbial symbionts are widespread in insects and some of them have been associated to adaptive changes. Primary symbionts (P-symbionts) have a nutritional role that allows their hosts to feed on unbalanced diets (p...Biological invasions, Pest management, SymbiosisYuval Gottlieb2021-10-11 17:45:22 View
08 Feb 2022
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The initial response of females towards congeneric males matches the propensity to hybridise in Ophthalmotilapia

Experimental evidence for asymmetrical species recognition in East African Ophthalmotilapia cichlids

Recommended by based on reviews by George Turner and 2 anonymous reviewers

I recommend the Van Steenberge et al. study. With over 2000 endemic species, the East African cichlids are a well-established model system in speciation research (Salzburger 2018) and several models have been proposed and tested to explain how these radiations formed (Kocher 2004). Hybridization was shown to be a main driver of the rapid speciation and adaptive radiations of the East African Cichlid fishes (Seehausen 2004). However, it is obvious that unrestrained hybridization also has the potential to reduce taxonomic diversity by erasing species barriers. In the classical model of cichlid evolution, special emphasis was placed on mate preference (Kocher 2004). However, no attention was placed on species recognition, which was implicitly assumed. There is, however, more research needed on what species recognition means, especially in radiating lineages such as cichlids. In a previous study, Nevado et al. 2011 found traces of asymmetrical hybridization between members of the Lake Tanganyika radiation: the genus Ophthalmotilapia. This recommended study by Van Steenberge et al. is based on Nevado et al. (2011), which detected that in one genus of Ophthalmotilapia mitochondrial DNA ‘typical’ for one of the four species (O. nasuta) was also found in three other species (O. ventralis, O. heterodonta, and O. boops). The authors suggested that this could be explained by the fact that females of the three other species accepted O. nasuta males, but that O. nasuta females were more selective and accepted only conspecifc males. This could hence be due to asymmetric mate preferences, or by asymmetric abilities for species recognition. 

This is exactly what the current study by Van Steenberge et al. did. They tested the latter hypothesis by presenting females of two different Ophthalmotilapia species with con- and heterospecific males. This was tested through experiments, making use of wild specimens of two species: O. nasuta and O. ventralis. The authors assumed that if they performed classical “choice-experiments”, they would not notice the recognition effects, given that females would just select preferred, most likely conspecific, males. Instead, specimens were only briefly presented to other fishes since the authors wanted to compare differences in the ability for ‘species recognition’. In this, the authors followed Mendelson and Shaw (2012) who used “a measurable difference in behavioural response towards conspecifics as compared to heterospecifics’’ as a definition for recognition. Instead of the focus on selection/preference, they investigated if females of different species behaved differently, and hence detected the difference between conspecific and heterospecific males. This was tested by a short (15 minutes) exposure to another fish in an isolated part of the aquarium. Recognition was defined as the ‘difference in a particular behaviour between the two conditions’. What was monitored was the swimming behaviour and trajectory (1 image per second) together with known social behaviours of this genus. The selection of these behaviours was further facilitated based on experimental set-ups of reproductive behaviour or the same species previously described by the same research team (Kéver et al. 2018).

The result was that O. nasuta females, for which it was expected that they would not hybridize, showed a different behaviour towards a con- or a heterospecific male. They interacted less with males of the other species. What was unexpected is that there was no difference in behaviour of the females whether they recognized a male or (control) female of their own species. This suggests that they did not detect differences in reproductive behaviour, but rather in the interactions between conspecifics. For females of O. ventralis, for which there are indications for hybridization in the wild, they did not find a difference in behaviour. Females of this species behaved identically with respect to the right and wrong males as well as towards the control females. Interestingly is thus that a complex pattern between species in the wild could be (partially) explained by the behaviour/interaction at first impression of the individuals of these species. 


Kéver L, Parmentier E, Derycke S, Verheyen E, Snoeks J, Van Steenberge M, Poncin P (2018) Limited possibilities for prezygotic barriers in the reproductive behaviour of sympatric Ophthalmotilapia species (Teleostei, Cichlidae). Zoology, 126, 71–81.

Kocher TD (2004) Adaptive evolution and explosive speciation: the cichlid fish model. Nature Reviews Genetics, 5, 288–298.

Mendelson TC, Shaw KL (2012) The (mis)concept of species recognition. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 27, 421–427.

Nevado B, Fazalova V, Backeljau T, Hanssens M, Verheyen E (2011) Repeated Unidirectional Introgression of Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA Between Four Congeneric Tanganyikan Cichlids. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 28, 2253–2267.

Salzburger W (2018) Understanding explosive diversification through cichlid fish genomics. Nature Reviews Genetics, 19, 705–717.

Seehausen O (2004) Hybridization and adaptive radiation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19, 198–207.

Steenberge MV, Jublier N, Kéver L, Gresham S, Derycke S, Snoeks J, Parmentier E, Poncin P, Verheyen E (2022) The initial response of females towards congeneric males matches the propensity to hybridise in Ophthalmotilapia. bioRxiv, 2021.08.07.455508, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Zoology.

The initial response of females towards congeneric males matches the propensity to hybridise in OphthalmotilapiaMaarten Van Steenberge, Noemie Jublier, Loic Kever, Sophie Gresham, Sofie Derycke, Jos Snoeks, Eric Parmentier, Pascal Poncin, Erik Verheyen<p style="text-align: justify;">Cichlid radiations often harbour closely related species with overlapping niches and distribution ranges. Such species sometimes hybridise in nature, which raises the question how can they coexist. This also holds f...Aquatic, Behavior, Evolution, Fish, Vertebrates, Veterinary entomologyEllen Decaestecker2021-08-09 12:22:49 View