Molecular sequencing technology and the origins of biodiversity

Sep 17, 2012
Molecular sequencing technology and the origins of biodiversity
Credit: Thinkstock

Evolutionary relationships among a group of arthropods from Gondwana, a supercontinent that existed between 510 and 180 million years ago, were investigated by EU scientists using molecular sequencing technology. The results provided researchers with a clearer picture of the origins of biodiversity and why species arise in a particular place.

The 'Origin of biodiversity in Gondwanan Arthropods: from phylogeography to phylogenomic' (Gondwana) project set out to explain current patterns of species' richness and why organisms originate in a specific area. In order to understand how present diversity emerged and responded to past climate change events it was essential to test a number of different hypotheses. The resulting data can enable scientists to predict the future and how best to prioritise strategic conservation objectives and manage biodiversity.

Scientists generated and analysed data from every aspect of biodiversity research, focusing on objectives related to the different levels of organisation found in evolutionary biology. studies investigated the effect of ecological and in forming and maintaining distinct lineages and observed and the flow of genes from one population of the same species to another.

Studies at the phylogenetic level combined information from the fossil record with molecular sequence data to investigate the timing of the origin and diversification of different groups. This provided a framework for studying macroevolutionary processes and compensated for gaps in the fossil record. In addition, researchers were able to characterise the diversification of species through time in a given region and to examine how past climate and geographical events can be related to shifts in species diversification.

Threat status alone should not be the only factor when assessing the importance of conserving different species as molecular sequencing in modelling can help scientists predict shifts in geographic range due to climate change. Therefore, scientists were able to use findings from the Gondwana project to provide a greater understanding of habitat loss, climate change and other drivers of biotic change.

Evolutionary studies such as Gondwana can help prioritise geographical areas for carrying out conservation activities. Knowledge about where unique evolutionary events or processes occurred can complement diversity information thereby enabling scientists to preserve existing species as well as the processes that generate this diversity.

Explore further: Vertical farms offer a bright future for hungry cities

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Protecting living fossil trees

Mar 02, 2012

Scientists are working to protect living fossil trees in Fiji from the impact of climate change with cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology.

Caribbean coral reef protection efforts miss the mark

Jun 17, 2010

Conservation efforts aimed at protecting endangered Caribbean corals may be overlooking regions where corals are best equipped to evolve in response to global warming and other climate challenges.

Biodiversity can promote survival on a warming planet

Nov 04, 2011

Whether a species can evolve to survive climate change may depend on the biodiversity of its ecological community, according to a new mathematical model that simulates the effect of climate change on plants ...

Recommended for you

Seals forage at offshore wind farms

14 hours ago

By using sophisticated GPS tracking to monitor seals' every movement, researchers have shown for the first time that some individuals are repeatedly drawn to offshore wind farms and pipelines. Those man-made ...

Study provides insights into birds' migration routes

16 hours ago

By tracking hybrids between songbird species, investigators have found that migration routes are under genetic control and could be preventing interbreeding. The research, which is published in Ecology Le ...

Technology tracks the elusive Nightjar

17 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bioacoustic recorders could provide us with vital additional information to help us protect rare and endangered birds such as the European nightjar, new research has shown.

User comments : 0