Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Research projects

  • Current projects

    Evolution of male genitalia between closely related species of Drosophila

    We are interested in understanding the role of natural variation in morphological and behavioral traits in population divergence and specialisation. In collaboration with the McGregor lab, we’ve been working in the last couple of years towards finding the genes underlying male genitalia evolution between different species of Drosophila. We are now conducting experiments that allow us to unequivocally identify the evolved genes and investigate the role of natural variants in those genes in the development of the genitalia as well as on reproductive fitness. Population genetic data and direct selection experiments on the alternative alleles can then be used to infer the contribution of selection and demography to the evolutionary history of these genes.

    Early Evolution of Gene Duplicates

    Gene duplication is a major evolutionary mechanism leading to novel gene function and phenotypic diversity. Gene duplicates that are fixed in a population or species may either have evolved new functions, undergone partition of ancestral functions (sub-functionalisation) or one of the copies may have lost its function altogether. However, less is known about the evolutionary period shortly after the duplication event. How are CNVs maintained in a population before fixation? Advances in sequencing technologies and the availability of hundreds of resequenced genomes are providing the first insights into to the evolutionary dynamics and regulation of newly arisen gene duplicates. These results suggest that gene dosage is an important contributory factor in determining whether new duplicates become fixed or not. However, in metazoans this evidence is largely based on statistical inference based on extant population data. In this project, we aim to test, in collaboration with the lab of Saad Arif, the effect of gene dosage on the fate of new gene duplicates in an experimental framework using Drosophila melanogaster.

    Funding

    The Natural Environment Research Council