The official Molecular Ecology Blog is live!

My apologies for a lack of blog articles in the last couple of months. I’ve been busy with the social media team and editorial board getting an official blog for Molecular Ecology and Molecular Ecology Resources off the ground. The aims of the blog are to highlight some of the fantastic papers published by both journals and provide ‘behind the paper’ insights as well as useful updates from the journals too.

It has been a monster effort by lots of great people, and we are really excited to get this out there. Here is the link: http://www.molecularecologyblog.com

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Molecular tools and community ecology: Great special issue in Molecular Ecology

How can we use molecular tools to better understand community dynamics? This is but one of the questions that the recent special issue in Molecular Ecology delves into. This issue focuses on ecological networks where species are the ‘nodes’ and edges represent interactions between species. What I particularly like about this collection of papers is the breadth of taxa from aquatic to terrestrial as well as the breadth of interactions captured from predator-prey to host-symbiont. Most of these communities are hard to observe in nature (i.e. the organisms are small or nocturnal) so thus molecular tools are really the only option.

Lots to learn from this interesting set of papers!

Here is the link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/1365294x/2019/28/2

Virophages (things that ‘eat’ viruses) and the ecological succession of viruses in the Antarctic

My knowledge of the microbiome is clearly inadequate –  I had no idea that there was a class of organisms that actually are parasites of viruses themselves. Virophages, as there known, use a viruses reproductive machinery against them to restrict viral replication. I wonder how common the following scenario is: mammal gets infected by a parasitic organism that is already infected by a virus, yet this virus is parasitized by a virophage and so on….. it hurts my head! How (or if) the trophic levels of parasitism interact to shape the health of the final mammal (for example) host seems like a question well worth answering if possible).

What got me thinking about this was an excellent series of papers about RNA viral communities in Antarctic lakes by Alberto Lopez-Bueno and colleagues. Not only were they the first to discover RNA viruses in the Antarctic (10 000 gentotypes), they have described a temporal succession of viruses from spring to summer, and that viruses may impact the community composition of other microorganisms.

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Figure from Cavicchioli&Erdman (2015) Molecular Ecology 

In their latest paper (link below), they show for the first time that ecological connectivity (how well viral habitats are connected) shapes the complexity of RNA virus communities in the Antarctic. Again this work shows the potential power of community based approaches coupled with molecular methods to provide fundamental insights into the complex world that we can’t see.

Here is the paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/mec.13321.

Here is a open access summary of their work: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/mec.13387