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Author Archives: Bernard Goffinet

Dinah wins the Margaret F. Ertman Award in Biology

Winners of the 2017 biology undergraduate award, including Dinah (second left), co-awardee of outstanding biology senior.

Dinah Parker presented the results of her research spanning the last year and a half at today’s biology undergraduate symposium. Her talk was entitled: One fungus- two lichens: Dendriscocaulon intricatulum is the cyanomorph of the endemic Eastern North American Ricasolia quercizans.

Her academic and research achievements (co)earned her the Margaret F. Ertman Award for the outstanding senior across all four biology degree programs: Biological Sciences, EEB, MCB, and PNB. Awardees are recognized for having distinguished themselves both through outstanding scholarship in EEB, MCB, and PNB during his or her undergraduate career, and through original research conducted in biology (broadly defined) at UConn.

The Margaret F. Ertman Award was established in 1983 by Irvin L. Ertman (class of 1939) and Ronnie Ertman (class of 1941) in honor of their daughter Margaret F. Ertman (class of 1974).



Lab members at meetings

Three members of the lab will presenting their research at the upcoming meeting of the Botanical Society of America and the American Bryological Society in Fort Worth, Texas, June 24–28:

Rahmatpour N., B. Goffinet & J. Wegrzyn. 2017. Significant unsuspected genomic innovation in Funaria: is ecophysiological selection driving the evolution of the Funariaceae?  Abstract 363.

Simon A., N. Magain, B. Goffinet & E. Sérusiaux. 2017. Macroevolutionary patterns of an unsuspected species-rich lichen radiation: insights from the genus Sticta.  Abstract 431.

Parker D. & B. Goffinet. 2017. One fungus-two lichens: Dendriscocaulon intricatulum is the cyanomorph of the Eastern North American endemic Ricasolia quercizans (Lobariaceae). Abstract 445.

Lindgren H., B. Moncada, R. Lücking, N. Magain, A. Simon, E. Sérusiaux, B. Goffinet, T. Widhelm & T. Lumbsch. 2017. Species in the lichenized fungal genus Sticta (Lobariaceae) associate with green algae from multiple genera in the family Trebouxiophyceae. Abstract 173.

Congratulations to Dinah

Dinah (a biology major who has explored “dual personalities” in lichen forming fungi!) was accepted in and received a fellowship for the two-year research oriented Masters Erasmus+ Joint Master’s Programme in Evolutionary Biology (MEME). This programme funded by the European Union seeks  talented and motivated students who are interested in understanding evolution in all its facets. CONGRATULATIONS DINAH.

New publication: patterns in diversity

A commentary on patterns of the distribution of liverwort and hornwort diversity appeared in the Journal of Biogeography:

Wang J., A. Vanderpoorten, A. Hagborg, B. Goffinet, B. Laenen & J. Patiño. Evidence for a latitudinal diversity gradient in liverworts and hornworts. Journal of Biogeography 44: 487–488. (DOI: doi: 10.1111/jbi.12909) pdf Google Scholar

New publication: Peltigera

Magain N., J. Miadlikowska, B. Goffinet, E. Sérusiaux, & F. Lutzoni. 2017. Macroevolution of specificity in cyanolichens of the genus Peltigera Section Polydactylon (Lecanoromycetes, Ascomycota). Systematic Biology 66: 74–99. pdf

Abstract reads: Patterns of specificity among symbiotic partners are key to a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of symbiotic systems. Specificity of mutualistic partners, within a widespread monophyletic group for which all species are sampled has rarely been explored. Here, we assess the level of specificity between the cosmopolitan lichen-forming fungus (mycobiont) from the genus Peltigera, section Polydactylon, and its cyanobacterial partner Nostoc (cyanobiont). The mycobiont and cyanobiont phylogenies are inferred fromfive nuclear loci and the rbcLX region, respectively. These sequences were obtained from 206 lichen thalli, representing ca. 40 closely related Peltigera species sampled worldwide, doubling the number of known species in this group. We found a broad spectrum of specificity for both partners ranging from strict specialists to generalists. Overall, mycobionts aremore specialized than cyanobionts by associating mostly with one or a few Nostoc phylogroups, whereas most cyanobionts associate frequently with several Peltigera species. Specialist mycobionts are older than generalists, supporting the hypothesis that specialization of mycobionts to one or few cyanobionts, is favored through time in geographic areas where species have been established for long periods of time. The relatively recent colonization of a new geographic area (Central and South America) by members of section Polydactylon is associated with a switch to a generalist pattern of association and an increased diversification rate by the fungal partner, suggesting that switches to generalism are rare events that are advantageous in new environments. We detected higher genetic diversity in generalist mycobionts. We also found that Peltigera species specialized on a single Nostoc phylogroup have narrower geographical distributionscompared with generalist species.

Diego Ramirez trip in Chilean news

Following an interview with the Prensa Austral the following article was published on Sunday December 25, 2016 highlighting the framework for our recent exploration of Isla Gonzalo of the Diego Ramirez islands, a 100 km  SW of Cape Horn (Chile). See also some pictures taken on Isla Gonzalo.


Best dissertation award to Lily


lilyCongratulations to Lily Lewis whose dissertation entitled “Resolving bipolar phylogeographic histories in the common dung moss Tetraplodon (Bryopsida: Splachnaceae)” earned the “Greg and Mona Anderson Ecology and Evolutionary Biology best Ph.D. dissertation award”.  Lily is now Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Biology at the University of Florida with Dr. Stuart MacDaniel. Well done.

New publication

At last, the systematic consequences of phylogenetic inferences in the genus Orthotrichum are formalized in a publication emerging from a collaboration of colleagues at the University of Madrid (Spain) and our lab.

Lara F., R. Garilleti, B. Goffinet, I. Draper, R. Medina, B. Vigalondo & V. Mazimpaka. Lewinskya, a new genus for the phaneroporous, monoicous taxa previously accommodated in Orthotrichum Hedw. (Bryophyta, Orthotrichaceae). Cryptogamie-Bryologie 37: 361–382. (pdf)

Abstract: Molecular analyses have consistently evidenced the phylogenetic heterogeneity of Orthotrichum Hedw., and suggested the need to segregate the species with superficial stomata in a separate genus. A recent proposal has been made to accommodate the monoicous species with such stomata in the genus Dorcadion Adans. ex Lindb., which is, however, an illegitimate name according to the current Code of nomenclature of algae, fungi and plants. Consequently a new name is required, and the generic name Lewinskya F.Lara, Garilleti & Goffinet is proposed. New combinations are made for all the species included in the new genus. Given the long history of the genus Orthotrichum and the similarities between this genus and Lewinskya, the morphological and geographic circumscriptions of both genera are provided to define them accurately. The taxa remaining in Orthotrichum s.str. are also listed.

New publication: Sphagnum phylogenomics

Our lab contributed to a phylogenomic reconstruction of the Sphagnopsida, which was published this past week: Shaw A.J., N. Devos, Y. Liu, C. J. Cox, B. Goffinet, K.I. Flatberg & B. Shaw. 2016. Organellar phylogenomics of an emerging model system: Sphagnum (peatmoss). Annals of Botany 118: 185–196.

The abstract reads: 

Background and Aims: Sphagnum-dominated peatlands contain approx. 30 % of the terrestrial carbon pool in the form of partially decomposed plant material (peat), and, as a consequence, Sphagnum is currently a focus of studies on biogeochemistry and control of global climate. Sphagnum species differ in ecologically important traits that scale up to impact ecosystem function, and sequencing of the genome from selected Sphagnum species is currently underway. As an emerging model system, these resources for Sphagnum will facilitate linking nucleotide variation to plant functional traits, and through those traits to ecosystem processes. A solid phylogenetic framework for Sphagnum is crucial to comparative analyses of species-specific traits, but relationships among major clades within Sphagnum have been recalcitrant to resolution because the genus underwent a rapid radiation. Herein a well-supported hypothesis for phylogenetic relationships among major clades within Sphagnum based on organellar genome sequences (plastid, mitochondrial) is provided.

Methods: We obtained nucleotide sequences (273 753 nucleotides in total) from the two organellar genomes from 38 species (including three outgroups). Phylogenetic analyses were conducted using a variety of methods applied to nucleotide and amino acid sequences. The Sphagnum phylogeny was rooted with sequences from the related Sphagnopsida genera, Eosphagnum and Flatbergium.

Key Results: Phylogenetic analyses of the data converge on the following subgeneric relationships: (Rigida (((Subsecunda) (Cuspidata)) ((Sphagnum) (Acutifolia))). All relationships were strongly supported. Species in the two major clades (i.e. Subsecunda + Cuspidata and SphagnumAcutifolia), which include >90 % of all Sphagnum species, differ in ecological niches and these differences correlate with other functional traits that impact biogeochemical cycling. Mitochondrial intron presence/absence are variable among species and genera of the Sphagnopsida. Two new nomenclatural combinations are made, in the genera Eosphagnum and Flatbergium.

Conclusions: Newly resolved relationships now permit phylogenetic analyses of morphological, biochemical and ecological traits among Sphagnum species. The results clarify long-standing disagreements about subgeneric relationships and intrageneric classification.

Rafa is hitting the road

Rafa Medina has been an inspiring member of the lab since 2012, and is now moving to new adventures in Illinois at Augustana College. We will miss him and wish him much happiness and success.