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Alexander Donath

Alexander Donath
Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change · Centre for Molecular Biodiversity Research (zmb)

Dr.

About

83
Publications
86,491
Reads
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8,145
Citations
Additional affiliations
July 2021 - present
Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change
Position
  • Head of Section Computational Genomics
November 2014 - June 2021
Research Museum Alexander Koenig
Position
  • Head of Section Computational Genomics
May 2011 - October 2014
Research Museum Alexander Koenig
Position
  • Scientific Programmer
Education
November 2007 - May 2011
University of Leipzig
Field of study
  • Bioinformatics

Publications

Publications (83)
Article
Full-text available
Insects are the most speciose group of animals, but the phylogenetic relationships of many major lineages remain unresolved. We inferred the phylogeny of insects from 1478 protein-coding genes. Phylogenomic analyses of nucleotide and amino acid sequences, with site-specific nucleotide or domain-specific amino acid substitution models, produced stat...
Article
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Background: Orthology characterizes genes of different organisms that arose from a single ancestral gene via speciation, in contrast to paralogy, which is assigned to genes that arose via gene duplication. An accurate orthology assignment is a crucial step for comparative genomic studies. Orthologous genes in two organisms can be identified by appl...
Article
Full-text available
RNA interference (RNAi) refers to the set of molecular processes found in eukaryotic organisms in which small RNA molecules mediate the silencing or down-regulation of target genes. In insects, RNAi serves a number of functions, including regulation of endogenous genes, anti-viral defense, and defense against transposable elements. Despite being we...
Article
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The phylogeny of insects, one of the most spectacular radiations of life on earth, has received considerable attention. However, the evolutionary roots of one intriguing group of insects, the twisted-wing parasites (Strepsiptera), remain unclear despite centuries of study and debate. Strepsiptera exhibit exceptional larval developmental features, c...
Article
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Symbiosis with photoautotrophic organisms has evolved in various species and even whole animal lineages, which allowed them to directly benefit from photosynthesis. This so-called photosymbiosis is best studied in cnidarians, which primarily establish symbioses with dinoflagellates from the family Symbiodiniaceae. In most other animals the mechanis...
Article
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Background The soft-bodied cladobranch sea slugs represent roughly half of the biodiversity of marine nudibranch molluscs on the planet. Despite their global distribution from shallow waters to the deep sea, from tropical into polar seas, and their important role in marine ecosystems and for humans (as targets for drug discovery), the evolutionary...
Preprint
Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) cover the cuticle of insects and serve as desiccation barrier and for chemical communication. While the main enzymatic steps of CHC biosynthesis are well understood, few of the underlying genes have been identified. Here we show how exploitation of intrasexual CHC dimorphism in a mason wasp, Odynerus spinipes , in comb...
Article
Full-text available
Dragonflies and damselflies are among the earliest flying insects with extant representatives. However, unravelling details of their long evolutionary history, such as egg laying (oviposition) strategies, is impeded by unresolved phylogenetic relationships particularly in damselflies. Here we present a transcriptome-based phylogenetic reconstructio...
Article
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Berghia stephanieae (Nudibranchia, Cladobranchia) is a photosymbiotic sea slug that feeds exclusively on sea anemones from the genus Exaiptasia. It then specifically incorporates dinoflagellates belonging to the Symbiodiniaceae obtained from their prey. Here, we present the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of B. stephanieae combining Oxford N...
Article
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The emerald jewel wasp Ampulex compressa (Hymenoptera: Ampulicidae) is a solitary wasp that is widely known for its specialized hunting of cockroaches as larvae provision. Adult wasps mainly feed on pollen and nectar, while their larvae feed on the cockroachs’ body, first as ecto- and later as endoparsitoids. Little is known about the expression of...
Article
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Insects are the most diversified and species-rich group of animals and harbor an immense diversity of viruses. Several taxa in the flavi-like superfamily, such as the genus Flavivirus, are associated with insects; however, systematic studies on insect virus genetic diversity are lacking, limiting our understanding of the evolution of the flavi-like...
Article
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Background The most species-rich radiation of animal life in the 66 million years following the Cretaceous extinction event is that of schizophoran flies: a third of fly diversity including Drosophila fruit fly model organisms, house flies, forensic blow flies, agricultural pest flies, and many other well and poorly known true flies. Rapid diversif...
Article
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The wasp family Chrysididae (cuckoo wasps, gold wasps) comprises exclusively parasitoid and kleptoparasitic species, many of which feature a stunning iridescent coloration and phenotypic adaptations to their parasitic life style. Previous attempts to infer phylogenetic relationships among the family’s major lineages (subfamilies, tribes, genera) ba...
Article
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Background: The latest advancements in DNA sequencing technologies have facilitated the resolution of the phylogeny of insects, yet parts of the tree of Holometabola remain unresolved. The phylogeny of Neuropterida has been extensively studied, but no strong consensus exists concerning the phylogenetic relationships within the order Neuroptera. He...
Article
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Following publication of the original article [1], the authors discovered that some pie charts had been misplaced in the tree of Fig. 2a, and in the trees of supplementary figures S16, S22, S24 (Additional file 3) due to incorrect visualization of the output of ASTRAL [2]. These quartet support values are, however, correctly provided in supplementa...
Preprint
Insect orders have been defined and stable for decades, with few notable exceptions ( e.g ., Blattodea and Psocoptera). One of the few remaining questions of order-level monophyly is that of Mecoptera in respect to the phylogenetic placement of Siphonaptera (fleas). We used a large set of transcriptomic nucleotide sequence data representing 56 spec...
Article
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Background Phylogenetic relationships among the myriapod subgroups Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Symphyla and Pauropoda are still not robustly resolved. The first phylogenomic study covering all subgroups resolved phylogenetic relationships congruently to morphological evidence but is in conflict with most previously published phylogenetic trees based on d...
Article
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An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Article
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Acoustic communication is enabled by the evolution of specialised hearing and sound producing organs. In this study, we performed a large-scale macroevolutionary study to understand how both hearing and sound production evolved and affected diversification in the insect order Orthoptera, which includes many familiar singing insects, such as cricket...
Article
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Abstract Functional kleptoplasty is a photosymbiotic relationship, in which photosynthetically active chloroplasts serve as an intracellular symbiont for a heterotrophic host. Among Metazoa, functional kleptoplasty is only found in marine sea slugs belonging to the Sacoglossa and recently described in Rhabdocoela worms. Although functional kleptopl...
Preprint
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Background Cladobranch sea slugs represent roughly half of the biodiversity of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs (Nudibranchia) on the planet. Despite their global distribution from shallow waters to the deep sea, from tropical into polar seas, and their important role in marine ecosystems and for humans (as bioindicators and providers of medi...
Article
Phytophagous insects can tolerate and detoxify toxic compounds present in their host plants and have evolved intricate adaptations to this end. Some insects even sequester the toxins for their defence. This necessitates specific mechanisms, especially carrier proteins that regulate uptake and transport to specific storage sites or protect sensitive...
Preprint
Full-text available
Dragonflies and damselflies, representing the insect order Odonata, are among the earliest flying insects with living (extant) representatives. However, unravelling details of their long evolutionary history, such as egg laying (oviposition) strategies, is impeded by unresolved phylogenetic relationships, an issue particularly prevalent in damselfl...
Article
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The tremendous diversity of Hymenoptera is commonly attributed to the evolution of parasitoidism in the last common ancestor of parasitoid sawflies (Orussidae) and wasp-waisted Hymenoptera (Apocrita). However, Apocrita and Orussidae differ dramatically in their species richness, indicating that the diversification of Apocrita was promoted by additi...
Article
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Earwigs are one of the comparatively species‐poor insect orders. Although various aspects of the phylogeny of this lineage are poorly understood, before the present study, there was a general consensus that Dermaptera comprises two major lineages: the paraphyletic Protodermaptera or ‘lower earwigs’ and the monophyletic Epidermaptera or ‘higher earw...
Data
Supplementary results and discussion text focused on different phylogenetic taxa and their relations to already-existing viruses.
Article
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The spectrum of viruses in insects is important for subjects as diverse as public health, veterinary medicine, food production, and biodiversity conservation. The traditional interest in vector-borne diseases of humans and livestock has drawn the attention of virus studies to hematophagous insect species. However, these represent only a tiny fracti...
Article
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The order Coleoptera (beetles) is arguably the most speciose group of animals, but the evolutionary history of beetles, including the impacts of plant feeding (herbivory) on beetle diversification, remain poorly understood. We inferred the phylogeny of beetles using 4,818 genes for 146 species, estimated timing and rates of beetle diversification u...
Article
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Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) are one of the major super-radiations of insects, comprising nearly 160,000 described extant species. As herbivores, pollinators, and prey, Lepidoptera play a fundamental role in almost every terrestrial ecosystem. Lepidoptera are also indicators of environmental change and serve as models for research on mimicry...
Article
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With the rapid increase of sequenced metazoan mitochondrial genomes, a detailed manual annotation is becoming more and more infeasible. While it is easy to identify the approximate location of protein-coding genes within mitogenomes, the peculiar processing of mitochondrial transcripts, however, makes the determination of precise gene boundaries a...
Article
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Phasmatodea comprises over 3,000 extant species and stands out as one of the last remaining insect orders for which a robust, higher-level phylogenetic hypothesis is lacking. New research suggests that the extant diversity is the result of a surprisingly recent and rapid radiation that has been difficult to resolve with standard Sanger sequence dat...
Article
Despite its history as a developmental and evolutionary model organism, gene expression analysis in the large milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, has rarely been explored using quantitative real-time PCR. The strength of this method depends greatly on the endogenous controls used for normalization, which are lacking for the milkweed bug system. Her...
Article
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Loss of sex and recombination is generally assumed to impede the effectiveness of purifying selection and to result in the accumulation of slightly deleterious mutations. Empirical evidence for this has come from several studies investigating mutational load in a small number of individual genes. However, recent whole transcriptome based studies ha...
Article
The beetle superfamily Dytiscoidea, placed within the suborder Adephaga, comprises six families. The phylogenetic relationships of these families, whose species are aquatic, remain highly contentious. In particular the monophyly of the geographically disjunct Aspidytidae (China and South Africa) remains unclear. Here we use a phylogenomic approach...
Article
Phylogenetic relationships among subgroups of cockroaches and termites are still matters of debate. Their divergence times and major phenotypic transitions during evolution are also not yet settled. We addressed these points by combining the first nuclear phylogenomic study of termites and cockroaches with a thorough approach to divergence time ana...
Article
Polyneoptera represents one of the major lineages of winged insects, comprising around 40,000 extant species in 10 traditional orders, including grasshoppers, roaches, and stoneflies. Many important aspects of polyneopteran evolution, such as their phylo-genetic relationships, changes in their external appearance, their habitat preferences, and soc...
Article
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Hemipteroid insects (Paraneoptera), with over 10% of all known insect diversity, are a major component of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Previous phylogenetic analyses have not consistently resolved the relationships among major hemipteroid lineages. We provide maximum likelihood-based phylogenomic analyses of a taxonomically comprehensive dat...
Article
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Background Most phylogenetic studies using molecular data treat gaps in multiple sequence alignments as missing data or even completely exclude alignment columns that contain gaps. ResultsHere we show that gap patterns in large-scale, genome-wide alignments are themselves phylogenetically informative and can be used to infer reliable phylogenies pr...
Article
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The Syrphoidea (families Pipunculidae and Syrphidae) has been suggested to be the sister group of the Schizophora, the largest species radiation of true flies. A major challenge in dipterology is inferring the phylogenetic relationship between Syrphoidea and Schizophora in order to understand the evolutionary history of flies. Using newly sequenced...
Article
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Background: The primary energy-producing pathway in eukaryotic cells, the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system, comprises proteins encoded by both mitochondrial and nuclear genes. To maintain the function of the OXPHOS system, the pattern of substitutions in mitochondrial and nuclear genes may not be completely independent. It has been sugges...
Article
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Mutualistic symbioses are common throughout the animal kingdom. Rather unusual is a form of symbiosis, photosymbiosis, where animals are symbiotic with photoautotrophic organisms. Photosymbiosis is found among sponges, cnidarians, flatworms, molluscs, ascidians and even some amphibians. Generally the animal host harbours a phototrophic partner, usu...
Article
The wasp family Vespidae comprises more than 5000 described species which represent life history strategies ranging from solitary and presocial to eusocial and socially parasitic. The phylogenetic relationships of the major vespid wasp lineages (i.e., subfamilies and tribes) have been investigated repeatedly by analyzing behavioral and morphologica...
Article
Full-text available
Natural selection imposed by natural toxins has led to striking levels of convergent evolution at the molecular level. Cardiac glycosides represent a group of plant toxins that block the Na,K-ATPase, a vital membrane protein in animals. Several herbivorous insects have convergently evolved resistant Na,K-ATPases, and in some species, convergent gen...
Article
Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, ants, and bees) are one of four mega-diverse insect orders, comprising more than 153,000 described and possibly up to one million undescribed extant species. As parasitoids, predators, and pollinators, Hymenoptera play a fundamental role in virtually all terrestrial ecosystems and are of substantial economic importance...
Article
Full-text available
We present the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of Plakobranchus cf. ocellatus (Heterobranchia: Sacoglossa), a so-called ‘solar-powered’ sea slug with long-term retention of chloroplasts. The mitochondrial genome was 14,177 bp in length containing the standard set of 13 protein-coding genes, 2 rRNAs, and 22 tRNAs. The base composition of 27.3...