2015 Vol. 36, No. 4

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2015, 36(4): 181-254.
Venom (toxins) is an important trait evolved along the evolutionary tree of animals. Our knowledges on venoms, such as their origins and loss, the biological relevance and the coevolutionary patterns with other organisms are greatly helpful in understanding many fundamental biological questions, i.e., the environmental adaptation and survival competition, the evolution shaped development and balance of venoms, and the sophisticated correlations among venom, immunity, body power, intelligence, their genetic basis, inherent association, as well as the cost-benefit and trade-offs of biological economy. Lethal animal envenomation can be found worldwide. However, from foe to friend, toxin studies have led lots of important discoveries and exciting avenues in deciphering and fighting human diseases, including the works awarded the Nobel Prize and lots of key clinic therapeutics. According to our survey, so far, only less than 0.1% of the toxins of the venomous animals in China have been explored. We emphasize on the similarities shared by venom and immune systems, as well as the studies of toxin knowledge-based physiological toxin-like proteins/peptides (TLPs). We propose the natural pairing hypothesis. Evolution links toxins with humans. Our mission is to find out the right natural pairings and interactions of our body elements with toxins, and with endogenous toxin-like molecules. Although, in nature, toxins may endanger human lives, but from a philosophical point of view, knowing them well is an effective way to better understand ourselves. So, this is why we study toxins.
Recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have revolutionized the field of population genetics. Data now routinely contain genomic level polymorphism information, and the low cost of DNA sequencing enables researchers to investigate tens of thousands of subjects at a time. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to address fundamental evolutionary questions, while posing challenges on traditional population genetic theories and methods. This review provides an overview of the recent methodological developments in the field of population genetics, specifically methods used to infer ancient population history and investigate natural selection using large-sample, large-scale genetic data. Several open questions are also discussed at the end of the review.
To fill the gap in breeding biology information about the Red-Whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), in 2013, we studied the breeding biology of this species in Xishuangbanna, southwest China. The breeding began from February and continued until early August. The breeding strategy of P. jocosus was more flexible and their nests were only built in cultivated landscapes, whereas, no nest building in native tropical rain forest was found. Small open cup nests were built on 50 different plant species, and at heights ranging from 2.1±0.6 m above the ground (n=102). The mean clutch size was 2.53±0.51 eggs (n=40) and the mean egg mass was 2.81±0.25 g (n=60). The average incubation period was 11.1±0.5 days (n=14), and the average nestling period was 11.0±0.8 days (n=31). The overall nest success was 34.22%.The hatching and fledging showed either asynchrony or synchrony. Invertebrate food decreased with nestling age, whereas, plant food increased with nestling age. Moreover, distinct parental roles of the parents in nestling period were found. Compared with other passerine species, P. jocosus spent less time in incubating (58%). The clutch size, incubation and nestling period of the P. jocosus in southwest China were different from those of the P. jocosus in India.
The dispersal of many plants depends on transportation by birds as seed dispersers. The birds play an important role in long distance seed dispersal and may also affect seed germination. However, for plants who have many bird dispersers, the influence of dominant and non-dominant dispersers on retention time (dispersal distance) and germination remains poorly understood. In this study, we performed experiments with captive frugivorous birds and fruiting plant species to study the effects of dominant and non-dominant dispersers on seed retention time (SRT) and germination (seed germination percentage and germination speed). Our study showed a great interspecific variation in the effects of frugivorous birds on both SRT and germination. Some birds enhance the germination of a given plant species, but others do not. Generally, the dominant visitors improved the seed germination and performed longer seed retention time.
The eggs of oviparous animals are storehouses of maternal proteins required for embryonic development. Identification and molecular characterization of such proteins will provide much insight into the regulation of embryonic development. We previously analyzed soluble proteins in the eggs of the black widow spider (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus), and report here on the extraction and mass spectrometric identification of the egg membrane proteins. Comparison of different lysis solutions indicated that the highest extraction of the membrane proteins was achieved with 3%-4% sodium laurate in 40 mmol/L Tris-HCl buffer containing 4% CHAPS and 2% DTT (pH 7.4). SDS-PAGE combined with nLC-MS/MS identified 39 proteins with membrane-localization annotation, including those with structural, catalytic, and regulatory activities. Nearly half of the identified membrane proteins were metabolic enzymes involved in various cellular processes, particularly energy metabolism and biosynthesis, suggesting that relevant metabolic processes were active during the embryonic development of the eggs. Several identified cell membrane proteins were involved in the special structure formation and function of the egg cell membranes. The present proteomic analysis of the egg membrane proteins provides new insight into the molecular mechanisms of spider embryonic development.