Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

It’s complicated - new insights into the evolutionary history of bears

11.06.2014

According to researchers of the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Goethe University Frankfurt and the U.S. Wildlife Service several bear species that today only occur in America or in Asia have hybridized in their evolutionary history. The Beringia land bridge, which in former times connected the habitats of these species, might have enabled their encounter. The large-scale study is based on the comparison and analysis of genetic material of all bear species that still exist. The results have been published recently in the journal Evolution and Molecular Biology.


American black bear. Copyright: Tobias Bidon

If in documentaries or in the zoo - everyone has seen and knows about brown bears, polar bears and pandas. However, there are several other bear species in Asia and South America that are less well-known, such as the sloth bear, the Asiatic or the spectacled bear. There are eight bear species that still exist worldwide. Despite many years of research, the exact relationships between them remain unresolved.

Who with whom? Polar bear and brown have hybridized
Previous analyses of genetic material of polar bears and brown bears have proven already that the two species have hybridized during their long evolutionary history. This behavior can still be observed today and the ongoing climate change drives the bear even closer. It is therefore likely that there have been similar exchanges of genetic material between other species of the bear family.

... as well as brown bears and black bears
To shed light on this, a team of the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) and the Goethe University Frankfurt in cooperation with colleagues from the US have now analyzed certain genome parts of all bear species alive today. "We were able to show that several bear species have hybridized during their evolutionary history. The exchange can still be traced in the genetic makeup of today's bears," says the lead author of the study, Verena Kutschera (BiK-F). This mix-up makes it difficult to classify some gene fragments as belonging to a particular species.

Beringia land bridge serving as an intercontinental meeting point
Surprisingly, several bear species which nowadays live on different continents have also taken part in the mating and thus gene exchange. This may have been possible because the significantly lower sea level during past ice ages resulted in a land bridge between Asia and North America, the Beringia land bridge. Thus the ancestors of today’s bear species, e.g. of the Asiatic black bear and the American black bear, had the opportunity to meet and to mate.

Darwin’s species tree is insufficient to map complicated relationships
All eight bear species that occur today have well adapted to their present habi-tat and differ physically very much. A prime example for this is polar bears and black bears. Nevertheless, the speciation of some individual genes has not finished yet which additionally complicates the research of the evolution of bears.

With new molecular methods more gene parts might be discovered in the genomes of mammal species that could originate from other species. Apparently separate genetic lineages turn out to have merged – sometimes repeatedly – during the evolutionary history and exchanged genetic material with each other. "The traditional pedigree already used by Darwin is not always suitable to map evolutionary history in full detail. So-called phylogenetic networks a more useful to depict the genetic mix-up that we have found ", comments evolutionary biologist Prof. Dr. Axel Janke, BiK-F, leader of the research team. The study demonstrates that evolution often is not a linear process; thanks to modern molecular methods it’s complex processes are finally revealed.

Publication:
Kutschera, V. et al. Bears in a forest of gene trees: Phylogenetic inference is complicated by incomplete lineage sorting and gene flow – Molecular Biology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msu186


For further information please contact:

Prof. Dr. Axel Janke
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Tel. +49 (0)69 7542 1842
axel.janke@senckenberg.de

or
Verena Kutschera
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Tel. +49 (0)69 7542 1828
verena.kutschera@senckenberg.de

or
Sabine Wendler
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Press officer
Tel. +49 (0)69 7542 1838
Sabine.wendler@senckenberg.de

 
LOEWE Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum, Frankfurt am Main
With the objective of analysis the complex interactions between biodiversity and climate through a wide range of methods, the Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum [Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre] (BiK‐F) has been funded since 2008 within the context of the Landes‐ Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlichökonomischer Exzellenz (LOEWE) of the Land of Hessen. The Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Goethe University in Frankfurt as well as other, directly involved partners, co‐operate closely with regional, national and international institutions in the fields of science, resource and environmental management, in order to develop projections for the future and scientific recommendations for sustainable action. For further details, please visit www.bik‐f.de

Sabine Wendler | Senckenberg

Further reports about: Beringia BiK-F Biodiversity Biodiversität Biology Climate Evolution Molecular Senckenberg history relationships

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch
22.05.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>