CUHK Biologists Unveil the Genetic Histories of Centipedes and Millipedes to Contribute to Studies of Biodiversity and Ecology
Pioneering Study of Centipedes and Millipedes Breaks New Ground for Biodiversity A new genome-sequencing study by CUHK biologists has uncovered the hidden genetic histories that explain differences in the behaviour and diets of centipedes and millipedes. These surprising evolutionary insights could help scientists better understand the vital ecological roles that these creatures play in sustaining and restoring natural ecosystems. The findings were reported in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications. Centipedes prey on insects and other invertebrates, while millipedes feed on leaf litter and other decaying organic matter. Both belong to a group of invertebrate animals called myriapods, which means ‘10,000 feet’ in Ancient Greek and includes about 16,000 extant species. Myriapods perform many crucial ecological functions, including recycling nutrients in the soil and keeping forests healthy. Despite their importance, however, myriapods are relatively understudied compared to invertebrates that share similar features, such as insects, arachnids and crustaceans. A fork in the family tree In a major advance for myriapod knowledge, a CUHK team has now sequenced the whole genome of nine centipede and millipede species, creating high-quality reference genomes that constitute the world’s first myriapod gene repertoire analysis. These genomic studies revealed several unexpected gene alterations that led to the different adaptive pathways followed by centipede and millipede lineages after their divergence from a common ancestor, according to Prof. Jerome Hui of CUHK’s School of Life Sciences. ‘This remarkable divergence has led to two very different lifestyles being expressed in extant myriapods: predation in centipedes, characterised by the evolution of offensive chemical weaponry in the form of venom, and a detritivorous diet in millipedes,’ explains Prof. Hui. ‘We provide the first steps towards unravelling the genomic bases of the divergent adaptations underlying these two lineages with very different ecologies.’ Applying genomic insights to promoting biodiversity Prof. Hui was part of the consortium that published the first centipede genome. He has led a research team working on myriapods since 2013 and published the first millipede genome. This latest study provides a firmer foundation for further basic and applied research on myriapods, which in turn can contribute to studies of biodiversity and ecology. Prof. Jerome Hui (1st right) co-chairs the new APRU Biodiversity and Pacific Ocean Programme. Prof. Hui added, ‘In the near future, in addition to continuing to explore the hidden biology and genomics, we need to fully understand the ecological roles in soil and forest ecosystems of this fascinating yet neglected group of organisms. Hopefully one day we can better understand these life forms on land, the effects of climate change on them and their contribution to nutrient recycling, and perhaps eventually achieve zero hunger via agricultural applications.’ Prof. Hui is Co-chair of the new Biodiversity and Pacific Ocean Programme of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities which seeks to promote collective action to address biodiversity loss, protect ecosystems and combat the impacts of climate change. Co-leading the initiative with the University of Sydney and the University of California, Davis, other members include Universidad de los Andes, University of Malaya and University of the Philippines. Read more: CUHK builds a genome bank of myriapods offering clues to the divergent behaviours of centipedes and millipedes
July 29, 2022more
APRU Kicks off Biodiversity Genomics Program and Network
The APRU Biodiversity Genomics Program and Network was launched with an inaugural symposium on November 30. The event brought together leading genomics experts from the region to discuss progress in this area, the challenges they face, and how collective action can advance biodiversity genomics. While ‘10–15 million eukaryotic species and perhaps trillions of bacterial and archaeal species adorn the Tree of Life, ∼2.3 million are actually known, and of those, fewer than 15,000, mostly microbes, have completed or partially sequenced genomes’ (1) “We are all very aware of threats to the world’s biodiversity so APRU has developed this symposium in biodiversity genomics to share best practices and discuss challenges. We are doing this in partnership with the University of Sydney, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and UC Davis to share best practices and discuss challenges in biodiversity genomics, which we hope will lead to the development of a region wide program supporting important capacity building activities,” APRU Secretary General Christopher Tremewan said, emphasizing the importance the program will have in addressing the biodiversity challenges of the region. Nathan Lo, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sydney, together with Jerome Hui, Associate Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Life Sciences, led on the development of the Symposium and moderated the event. Harris Lewin, Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, gave the keynote address on the Earth BioGenome Project, an initiative that aims to sequence and catalog the genomes of all of Earth’s currently described eukaryotic species over a period of ten years. Lewin warned that eukaryotic life is under threat from pollution, over-exploitation, invasive species and, even more alarmingly, climate change. Andrew Jackson Crawford, Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences of the Universidad de los Andes, presented on challenges and solutions for biodiversity genomics in Colombia. Dr. Carolyn Hogg, Senior Research Manager for the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group in the Faculty of Science of The University of Sydney, explained how genomics could be used to reduce the rate of species extinction in Australia. The other speakers were Dr. Herawati Sudoyo, Deputy Director of the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta; Balaji Chattopadhyay, Assistant Professor at the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University; Subha Bhassu, Professor of Animal Genetics and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences; Hayde Galvez, Assistant Professor and Researcher at the University of the Philippines Los Banos; and program co-leader Jerome Hui. Following the presentations, Kathy Belov, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement) and Professor of Comparative Genomics at the University of Sydney, explained the APRU Biodiversity Genomics Program and Network’s future agenda, encouraging anyone interested to join the group to approach the organizers. “Over the coming months we will hold a series of workshops with the aim of building a new APRU strategic project focused on Biodiversity. This platform will give biodiversity researchers around the Pacific Rim an opportunity to join together to tackle biodiversity decline in our region using the latest advances in science. Working together we can influence policy and tackle one of the greatest challenges facing our region – the loss of our iconic native species,” Belov said. Find out more details about the symposium here. ______________ (1) Earth BioGenome Project: Sequencing life for the future of life Harris A. Lewin, Gene E. Robinson, W. John Kress, William J. Baker, Jonathan Coddington, Keith A. Crandall, Richard Durbin, Scott V. Edwards, Félix Forest, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Melissa M. Goldstein, Igor V. Grigoriev, Kevin J. Hackett, David Haussler, Erich D. Jarvis, Warren E. Johnson, Aristides Patrinos, Stephen Richards, Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, Marie-Anne van Sluys, Pamela S. Soltis, Xun Xu, Huanming Yang, Guojie Zhang Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2018, 115 (17) 4325-4333; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720115115
December 20, 2021more
Human Development Forum Publishes A Better World Vol. 6 with APRU Contribution
Read the book now >> For your interest the APRU report starts here>> APRU is pleased to note that the Human Development Forum, an educational and research organization founded on close collaboration with UN agencies, UN member states, and civil sector organizations, has published the digital edition of A Better World Vol. 6. A Better World is a series of publications that dedicates each volume to one of the 17 SDGs. The new volume covers Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. APRU’s contribution draws on the Pacific Ocean Program, featuring economy-specific analysis conducted by a team of experts from the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington on the ways that all SDG goals contribute or detract from SDG 14 throughout the Pacific. APRU recommends policymaking that analyzes the contribution that each individual SDG makes to others, as this could help prioritize SDG achievements while minimizing the chances of unrealistic expectations and avoidable side-effects. Indeed, APRU research illustrates the complexity of SDG achievements, including by demonstrating that eliminating poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2) may delay the achievement of SDG 14 in the Pacific. “By focusing on the experience and livelihoods of people, especially those in vulnerable human habitats, the book shows the benefits of best policy and practices, and how these may develop further as we come to terms with a changing and more turbulent world,” said Sean Nicklin, the Human Development Forum’s General Coordinator. “This innovative endeavor is a striking example of sharing respective resources to engage the many official governmental, international organizations, institutions, and professional interests in displaying the extent and variety of their efforts to make the world a better place,” he added. A Better World Vol. 6’s key subjects are coral reefs; implementation of international law; mangroves; marine and coastal ecosystem management; marine pollution; scientific knowledge; sustainable blue economy; and sustainable fisheries. It contains fascinating contributions from researchers and organizations across the world. A number of the supporting agencies and institutions have asked to incorporate the book in their social media campaigns, including the contributing UN agencies. The Human Development Forum plans to publish the print volume in June 2020.
June 15, 2020more
Biodiversity Essential to APEC Economies
2020 APEC ASPIRE Prize Now accepting nominations More information at: https://www.apec.org/aspire/aspire2020 The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (“ASPIRE”) is an annual award which recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to both excellence in scientific research, as evidenced by scholarly publication and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies. The ASPIRE Prize supports APEC’s mission to: strengthen international science and technology networks; enhance economic growth, trade and investment opportunities in harmony with sustainable development, through policies, innovative R&D and technologies, and knowledge sharing; and improve linkages and efficiency between research and innovation. ASPIRE 2020: BIODIVERSITY FOR A PROSPEROUS ECONOMY Each year the APEC host economy is asked to provide a theme to guide nominations for the ASPIRE Prize to be awarded in their host year. For its host year of 2020, Malaysia selects “Biodiversity for a Prosperous Economy” as the ASPIRE nominating theme. Biodiversity is foundational for human health as it underpins the functioning of our ecosystems and dependence for food and water, climate, floods and disease, and more. This theme focuses on scientists’ contributions to biodiversity for prosperous economies across the APEC region by spurring research that contributes to local livelihoods, both traditional and modern medicines, and economic development. Each member economy, through its representative on the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), is invited to nominate one young scientist under the age of 40 to be considered for the 2020 ASPIRE Prize. Nominees should demonstrate a commitment to excellence in scientific research and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies in subjects such as: biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, and other relevant fields. ELIGIBILITY Any citizen of an APEC member economy is eligible to be nominated for the ASPIRE Prize. He/she must be living at the time of his/her nomination and be under the age of 40 as of 31 December of that year (i.e., all 2020 nominees must be under the age of 40 as of 31 December 2020). SELECTION PROCESS Each member economy, through its representative on the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), is invited to nominate one young scientist under the age of 40 to be considered for the ASPIRE Prize. Individually qualified applicants are encouraged to complete the “Local Nomination Form” and send it to PPSTI Program Director Ms. Eva Nakamura ([email protected]) by 15 May 2020 so it may be directed toward local economy reviewers. Once nominations are received, PPSTI members rank the nominees through a selection ballot to determine the winner. PPSTI members are asked to judge the nominees based on how well they have demonstrated: Excellence in scientific research, as evidenced through scholarly publication; Commitment to cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies; and Contribution to the theme of “Biodiversity for a Prosperous Economy.” The winner will be recognized at an award ceremony during the 16th APEC PPSTI Meeting in Malaysia tentatively scheduled for August 2020. ASPIRE PRIZE SPONSORS Wiley and Elsevier, two of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly scientific knowledge, have committed to funding prize money in the amount of $25,000 USD.
February 17, 2020more
A Proposal to Address Marine Debris and Microplastics
APRU academic experts informed APEC officials at a workshop hosted by the APEC Marine Sustainable Development Center on Marine Debris and Microplastics held in Xiamen, China, Dec 3-5, 2019. The discussion on governance of the Pacific Ocean and the affiliated fight against microplastics and marine debris has become dramatically important, given that plastic waste has been continuously impacting the marine eco-system, inflicting tremendous damage on coastal communities’ livelihood and posing a great threat to sustainable marine development. APRU’s Deo Florence Onda, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Microbal Oceanography Laboratory, spoke on the role of microbes on the fate of plastics in the marine environment, and APRU’s Christelle Not, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Earth Sciences, presented her evaluation of the plastic pollution in Hong Kong and its link with the global plastic issue. “Although we are still at the early stage of monitoring the level of plastic pollution in Hong Kong waters, we are already observing a strong spatial and temporal variability in the abundance of microplastics,” Not said. “It is clear that this is impacting the marine ecosystem and we found that fish and crabs from Hong Kong have ingested microplastics,” she added. The workshop was organized by the APEC Marine Sustainable Development Center and Third Institute of Oceanography, with more than 120 representatives from 11 APEC economies taking the opportunity to exchange ideas on policy, scientific research, and the public and private sectors’ participation in addressing marine debris and microplastics. APRU contributed to the development of the Blue Citizen Partnership Initiative conceptualized to engage those who are willing to learn about the ocean and to practically involve themselves in marine environment protection. The initiative is designed to heighten citizens’ awareness of reducing marine debris, to develop their concept of sustainable marine development, and to deepen their understanding of all the dangers that are associated with marine debris and microplastics pollution. It aims to accelerate investment in education of marine science and scientific knowledge to address waste sorting; encourage the “greening” of industries; and promote eco-wise behaviours and lifestyles, including by motivating tourists to resolutely cut down their use of disposable plastic products. The Blue Citizens Initiative will continue to be developed within APEC. A clean ocean is a common vision, APRU is supportive of the Blue Citizens Initiative and through the APRU Pacific Ocean Program joins the relentless pursuit of protecting the global marine community.
January 20, 2020more