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Ice-age climate adaptations trap the alpine marmot in a state of low genetic diversity

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Item Type:Article
Title:Ice-age climate adaptations trap the alpine marmot in a state of low genetic diversity
Creators Name:Gossmann, T.I. and Shanmugasundram, A. and Börno, S. and Duvaux, L. and Lemaire, C. and Kuhl, H. and Klages, S. and Roberts, L.D. and Schade, S. and Gostner, J.M. and Hildebrand, F. and Vowinckel, J. and Bichet, C. and Mülleder, M. and Calvani, E. and Zelezniak, A. and Griffin, J.L. and Bork, P. and Allaine, D. and Cohas, A. and Welch, J.J. and Timmermann, B. and Ralser, M.
Abstract:Some species responded successfully to prehistoric changes in climate [1, 2], while others failed to adapt and became extinct [3]. The factors that determine successful climate adaptation remain poorly understood. We constructed a reference genome and studied physiological adaptations in the Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota), a large ground-dwelling squirrel exquisitely adapted to the "ice-age" climate of the Pleistocene steppe [4, 5]. Since the disappearance of this habitat, the rodent persists in large numbers in the high-altitude Alpine meadow [6, 7]. Genome and metabolome showed evidence of adaptation consistent with cold climate, affecting white adipose tissue. Conversely, however, we found that the Alpine marmot has levels of genetic variation that are among the lowest for mammals, such that deleterious mutations are less effectively purged. Our data rule out typical explanations for low diversity, such as high levels of consanguineous mating, or a very recent bottleneck. Instead, ancient demographic reconstruction revealed that genetic diversity was lost during the climate shifts of the Pleistocene and has not recovered, despite the current high population size. We attribute this slow recovery to the marmot's adaptive life history. The case of the Alpine marmot reveals a complicated relationship between climatic changes, genetic diversity, and conservation status. It shows that species of extremely low genetic diversity can be very successful and persist over thousands of years, but also that climate-adapted life history can trap a species in a persistent state of low genetic diversity.
Keywords:Climate Adaptation, Alpine Marmot, Low Genetic Diversity, NUMT, Reference Genome, Ice Age, Pleistocene, Migration, Large Population Size, Lipidomics, Animals
Source:Current Biology
Publisher:Cell Press
Page Range:1712-1720
Date:20 May 2019
Official Publication:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.04.020
PubMed:View item in PubMed

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