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This Week in PLOS: Nov 11, 2013

In PLOS One, an international team led by investigators in Germany reports on findings from a study using DNA barcoding to test for cryptic speciation in Wolbachia-infected butterflies from the Phengaris genus. Butterflies from that genus are known for a parasitic stage to their life cycles, study authors noted, which may make them prone to infection by Wolbachia and other intracellular microbial parasites. Through cytochrome oxidase gene-based DNA barcoding and other tests of butterflies from dozens of P. teleius and P. nausithous populations, researchers determined that "deep intra-specific divergences found in DNA barcode studies do not necessarily need to represent cryptic speciation but instead can be due to both infection by Wolbachia and phylogeographic structure."

Swedish researchers used a combination of computational approaches to assess past divergence patterns between the pied flycatcher and the collared flycatcher — work they present in PLOS Genetics. The team considered more than a dozen different demographic models in an effort to understand the bird species' split, incorporating whole-genome re-sequencing data for 20 birds. Results of the analysis pointed to relatively recent divergence between the pied flycatcher and collared flycatcher, supporting the notion that avian speciation may occur more quickly than previously suspected. The work also picked up on population declines in bird populations following this split, study authors say, along with gene flow into collared flycatcher populations from the sister species.

In a perspective article in PLOS Biology, investigators based in Canada, the US, UK, and other parts of the world muse on the health policy implications of relatively affordable whole-genome sequencing approaches. The study's authors touch on everything from attitudes toward whole-genome sequencing in the scientific community and general public to the clinical utility, risks, and benefits of whole-genome sequencing. "The scale and pace of adoption of this powerful new technology should be driven by clinical need, clinical evidence, and a commitment to put patients at the center of health care policy," they write.

The Scan

NFTs for Genome Sharing

Nature News writes that non-fungible tokens could be a way for people to profit from sharing genomic data.

Wastewater Warning System

Time magazine writes that cities and college campuses are monitoring sewage for SARS-CoV-2, an approach officials hope lasts beyond COVID-19.

Networks to Boost Surveillance

Scientific American writes that new organizations and networks aim to improve the ability of developing countries to conduct SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance.

Genome Biology Papers on Gastric Cancer Epimutations, BUTTERFLY, GUNC Tool

In Genome Biology this week: recurrent epigenetic mutations in gastric cancer, correction tool for unique molecular identifier-based assays, and more.