What’s happened to our social wasps and why? A genomic study of the UK common yellow jacket wasps

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Primary Supervisor:

Jinliang Wang

Evolution and Molecular Ecology Theme, IOZ

Jinliang Wang's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Seirian Sumner

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

Seirian Sumner's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Social wasps are important ecosystem servicers as predators of insect pests and ‘back-up’ pollinators in disturbed habitats. However, like other insects, they are on the decline in the UK. An understanding of how and why social wasp populations have changed over the last hundred years, when land-use has changed significantly, is essential in order to better manage and conserve these important (yet under-appreciated) insects. This studentship will determine how populations have changed over time and identify any genes or genomic regions under selection in the common yellow jacket, Vespula vulgaris. The student will use high coverage next-generation sequencing to sequence DNA from historic samples in Natural History Museum and from current samples collected across the UK by the Big Wasp Survey project (www.bigwaspsurvey.org). Using linkage disequilibrium for pairs of loci of different genomic locations (thus of different recombination rates), the trajectories of effective population size over about 200 generations before the current and ancient sampling points can be estimated. The consistency of estimates for the overlapping period from both ancient and current samples acts as a check of the reliability of the analyses. Current population structure, including the number of UK wasp populations, their genetic differentiations and migration rates, can be inferred from the genomic data of the current samples. The temporal changes in allele frequencies between ancient and current samples can be used to identify loci under selection and to estimate the corresponding selection coefficients.

Policy Impact of Research:

The study provides vital information about the demography and selection of common yellow jacket wasps in the UK, which can be used for the management and conservation of the populations. It also provides general methodology for the study of other species.

Stay informed

Click here to subscribe to our RSS newsletter by email.

Find Us

University College London is the administrative lead.

North-West Wing, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

Follow us on Twitter