Shedding light on a secretive tertiary urodelean relict: Hynobiid salamanders (paradactylodon persicus s.l.) from iran, illuminated by phylogeographic, developmental and transcriptomic data

Matthias Stöck, Fatemeh Fakharzadeh, Heiner Kuhl, Beata Rozenblut-Kościsty, Sophie Leinweber, Rhiddi Patel, Mehregan Ebrahimi, Sebastian Voitel, Josef Friedrich Schmidtler, Haji Gholi Kami, Maria Ogielska, Daniel W. Förster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The Hyrcanian Forests present a unique Tertiary relict ecosystem, covering the northern Elburz and Talysh Ranges (Iran, Azerbaijan), a poorly investigated, unique biodiversity hotspot with many cryptic species. Since the 1970s, two nominal species of Urodela, Hynobiidae, Batrachuperus (later: Paradactylodon) have been described: Paradactylodon persicus from northwestern and P. gorganensis from northeastern Iran. Although P. gorganensis has been involved in studies on phylogeny and development, there is little data on the phylogeography, systematics, and development of the genus throughout the Hyrcanian Forests; genome-wide resources have been entirely missing. Given the huge genome size of hynobiids, making whole genome sequencing hardly affordable, we aimed to publish the first transcriptomic resources for Paradactylodon from an embryo and a larva (9.17 Gb RNA sequences; assembled to 78, 918 unigenes). We also listed 32 genes involved in vertebrate sexual development and sex determination. Photographic documentation of the development from egg sacs across several embryonal and larval stages until metamorphosis enabled, for the first time, comparison of the ontogeny with that of other hynobiids and new histological and transcriptomic insights into early gonads and timing of their differentiation. Transcriptomes from central Elburz, next-generation sequencing (NGS) libraries of archival DNA of topotypic P. persicus, and GenBank-sequences of eastern P. gorganensis allowed phylogenetic analysis with three mitochondrial genomes, supplemented by PCR-amplified mtDNA-fragments from 17 museum specimens, documenting <2% uncorrected intraspecific genetic distance. Our data suggest that these rare salamanders belong to a single species P. persicus s.l. Humankind has a great responsibility to protect this species and the unique biodiversity of the Hyrcanian Forest ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number306
    Number of pages16
    JournalGenes
    Volume10
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

    Keywords

    • Gene expression
    • Genomics
    • Gonadal development
    • Histology
    • Hynobiidae
    • Phylogeography
    • RNAseq
    • Systematics
    • Urodela

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