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J Mol Evol. 2018 Jun;86(5):303-310. doi: 10.1007/s00239-018-9847-7. Epub 2018 May 31.

Transposable Elements Activity is Positively Related to Rate of Speciation in Mammals.

Author information

1
Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy. marco.ricci19@unibo.it.
2
Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
3
Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden.
4
Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy. etienne.guichard2@unibo.it.
5
Department of Animal Medicine, Health and Production, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.

Abstract

Transposable elements (TEs) play an essential role in shaping eukaryotic genomes and generating variability. Speciation and TE activity bursts could be strongly related in mammals, in which simple gradualistic models of differentiation do not account for the currently observed species variability. In order to test this hypothesis, we designed two parameters: the Density of insertion (DI) and the Relative rate of speciation (RRS). DI is the ratio between the number of TE insertions in a genome and its size, whereas the RRS is a conditional parameter designed to identify potential speciation bursts. Thus, by analyzing TE insertions in mammals, we defined the genomes as "hot" (high DI) and "cold" (low DI). Then, comparing TE activity among 29 taxonomical families of the whole Mammalia class, 16 intra-order pairs of mammalian species, and four superorders of Eutheria, we showed that taxa with high rates of speciation are associated with "hot" genomes, whereas taxa with low ones are associated with "cold" genomes. These results suggest a remarkable correlation between TE activity and speciation, also being consistent with patterns describing variable rates of differentiation and accounting for the different time frames of the speciation bursts.

KEYWORDS:

Cold genome; Mammals evolution; Rate of speciation; Relative rate of speciation; Speciation; Transposable elements

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