Evolutionary genomics in ants

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Primary Supervisor:

Yannick Wurm

Organismal Biology, QMUL

Secondary Supervisor:

Stephen Rossiter


Project Description:

Extensive studies have shed light on the morphologies, behaviours and evolutionary contexts of social insects, but understanding which genes are involved in social evolution is only now becoming possible. The 10,000- fold drop in DNA sequencing costs since 2007 enabled us first to identify genes linked to the complex social behavior of the invasive red fire ant (PNAS 2011) and more recently to discover that a pair of social chromosomes determines social structure in fire ant colonies (Nature 2013).

The project will examine the interplay between social evolution and genome evolution, ideally combining cutting-edge sequencing, genomics and bioinformatics approaches with fieldwork and laboratory experiments. Exact details of the project will depend on the student’s interests. The project will involve close work with the supervisors, collaborators and other members of the immediate research group and department.

Policy Impact of Research:

This research will address fundamental evolutionary questions related to social evolution. Outputs may impact pest control research (identification of targets) and genomics research on other organisms (bioinformatics scripts).

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