Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biodiversity: 11 new species come to light in Madagascar

26.05.2015

The fantastic palette of the panther chameleon underscores nature's richness

Madagascar is home to extraordinary biodiversity, but in the past few decades, the island's forests and associated biodiversity have been under greater attack than ever. Rapid deforestation is affecting the biotopes of hundreds of species, including the panther chameleon, a species with spectacular intra-specific colour variation. A new study by Michel Milinkovitch, professor of genetics, evolution, and biophysics at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), led in close collaboration with colleagues in Madagascar, reveals that this charismatic reptilian species, which is only found in Madagascar, is actually composed of eleven different species. The results of their research appear in the latest issue of the Molecular Ecology journal. They also discuss the urgent need to protect Madagascar's habitats.


Shown here is a panther chameleon.

Credit: © Michel Milinkovitch

In collaboration with professor Achille Raselimanana of the University of Antananarivo, researchers from the Department of Genetics and Evolution in the UNIGE Faculty of Sciences, led by Michel Milinkovitch, sought to find the genetic keys behind panther chameleon's incredible colour palette. Their analyses, performed on site in Madagascar, reveal the presence of 11 rather than a single species.

A Talkative Drop of Blood

It took two expeditions led from East to West for the scientists to collect a drop of blood from each of 324 individuals and document them through colour photographs. The DNA (mitochondrial and nuclear) of each of the specimens were sequenced and analysed in the laboratory according to the hypothesis that a chameleon's dominant colour might be related to the geographic zone where it is found. Most importantly, the genetic material indicated strong genetic structure among geographically-restricted lineages, revealing very low interbreeding among populations.

A Key for Turning Genetics into Color

The mathematical analyses of the 324 colour photographs demonstrated that subtle colour patterns could efficiently predict assignment of chameleon individuals to their corresponding genetic lineage, confirming that many of the geographical populations might need to be considered separated species. The scientists then simplified their analyses of the colour diversity into a classification key, which allows to link most chameleons to their corresponding species using only the naked eye. This case of hidden speciation confirms a major characteristic of Madagascar: it is amongst the most diverse places for life on Earth; a biodiversity hotspot.

Madagascar, Unique but Precarious Conservatory

Each of the new chameleon species requires individual management, given that they each constitute a different part of the biodiversity of the whole. The visual classification key devised by the researchers could assist local biologists and trade managers to avoid local population over-harvesting. The task of biodiversity management is daunting because of the widespread destruction of the forest habitat for agricultural practices as well as for firewood and charcoal production by populations with very low living standards. These human activities threaten the survival of 400 species of reptile, 300 species of amphibians, 300 species of birds, 15,000 species of plants and countless species of invertebrates. In addition, approximately 80 to 90% of all living species found in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they exist nowhere else on earth.

Given the charismatic nature of chameleons, Milinkovitch hopes that, beside a better understanding of the genetic basis of colour variation in chameleons, his collaborative study with his Malagasy colleagues will help his colleague, Professor Raselimanana, to continue his difficult enterprise: raising awareness for the staggering but fragile biodiversity hosted by Madagascar.

Media Contact

Michel Milinkovitch
Michel.Milinkovitch@unige.ch
41-223-793-338

 @UNIGEnews

http://www.unige.ch 

Michel Milinkovitch | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven

nachricht Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

18.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient

18.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>