Telomeres function like the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces. They cap the end of chromosomes and protect the coding DNA by shortening during every cell division. When they reach a critically short length, the cell stops dividing and dies. Telomeres are often used as a marker of ageing and different environmental conditions in ecology and evolution. Blood is commonly used to measure telomeres but is not always representative of all tissues and can be difficult to obtain from smaller animals, such as bats. We measured telomere length across different tissues in the Egyptian fruit bat to see if wing tissue biopsies, a quick and relatively non-invasive method of collecting tissue for bat DNA studies, could be used for measuring telomere length in bats. We found that wing telomeres correlated with most tissues. Wing telomere length measured from multiple samples taken from the same individual were highly repeatable. Even with training, taking blood from bats can be extremely difficult, while wing tissue biopsies with the required training are a faster and more straightforward method. Our findings provide robust support for the use of wing tissue in bat telomere studies as an alternate to otherwise harder to obtain tissues.
This summary was written by lead author Megan Power. Read the paper here.
We are soliciting nominations for the annual Molecular Ecology Prize.
The field of molecular ecology is young and inherently interdisciplinary. As a consequence, research in molecular ecology is not currently represented by a single scientific society, so there is no body that actively promotes the discipline or recognizes its pioneers. The editorial board of the journal Molecular Ecology therefore created the Molecular Ecology Prize in order to fill this void, and recognize significant contributions to this area of research. The prize selection committee is independent of the journal and its editorial board.
The prize will go to an outstanding scientist who has made significant contributions to molecular ecology. These contributions would mostly be scientific, but the door is open for other kinds of contributions that were crucial to the development of the field. The previous winners are: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, Scott Edwards, and Victoria Sork.
Please send your nomination with a short supporting statement (no more than 250 words; longer submissions will not be accepted) and the candidate’s CV directly to Scott Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday, April 16, 2021. Organized campaigns to submit multiple nominations for the same person are not necessary and can be counterproductive. Also, note that nominations from previous years do not roll over.
The editorial board recently established a new prize that recognizes the best paper published in Molecular Ecology or Molecular Ecology Resources by early career scholars in the last year by graduate students or early career scholars with no more than five years of postdoctoral or fellowship experience. The prize is named after Professor Harry Smith FRS, who founded Molecular Ecology and served as both Chief and Managing Editor during the journal’s critical early years. He continued as the journal’s Managing Editor until 2008, and he went out of his way to encourage early career scholars. In addition to his editorial work, Harry was one of the world’s foremost researchers in photomorphogenesis, leading to concepts such as “neighbour detection” and “shade avoidance,” which are essential to understanding plant responses to crowding and competition. His research provided an early example of how molecular data could inform ecology, and in 2008 he was awarded the Molecular Ecology Prize that recognized both his scientific and editorial contributions to the field. As with the Molecular Ecology Prize, the winner of this annual prize is selected by an independent award committee, but the Harry Smith Prize comes with a 1,000 USD cash award, an announcement in the journal and on social media, as well as an invitation to join the Molecular Ecology Junior Editorial Board. Please send a short supporting statement (no more than 250 words; longer submissions will not be accepted) and PDF of the paper you are nominating to Dr. Alison Nazareno (email@example.com) or Dr. Katrina West (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 31 May 2021. Self-nominations are accepted.
Molecular barcoding of bird malaria and related parasites has unravelled a remarkable diversity of potentially cryptic species that may count in tens of thousands compared to the few hundred morphologically described species. The database MalAvi (Bensch et al., 2009) was initiated to structure the growing numbers of findings of these bird blood parasites. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is irrefutably a powerful method to detect and identify pathogens, however the high sensitivity of the method comes with a cost; any of the millions of artificial DNA copies generated by PCR can serve as a template in a following experiment. If such PCR-contaminations go undetected, it will result in erroneous findings of parasites and thus misrepresent their distribution. We address this problem by re-analysing samples of surprising records in the MalAvi database, these being unusual host species or geographic locations for the parasites. Our analyses suggest that many of these are PCR contaminations, presumably originating from previous or parallel projects in the laboratory. The highlighted examples are from bird parasites, but the problem of contaminations, and the suggested actions to reduce such errors, should apply generally to all kinds of studies using PCR for identification.
References Bensch, S., Hellgren, O. & Pérez-Tris, J. MalAvi: 2009. A public database of malaria parasites and related haemosporidians in avian hosts based on mitochondrial cytochrome b lineages. Molecular Ecology Resources, 9: 1353-1358.