Mechanisms and Evolution of Post- Reproductive Lifespan

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Owen Corbett

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Start Year

2018 (Cohort 5)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Mechanisms and Evolution of Post- Reproductive Lifespan

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

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Post-reproductive lifespan (PRL) is a life history stage found in distantly related taxa in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Ultimate explanations for the evolution of PRL remain contentious, and the proximate mechanisms which facilitate and regulate PRL are poorly understood. The potential influences of life history traits, physiological condition and ecological constraints on the occurrence of PRL are not known. In social insects, PRL may represent a stage in the transition from simple cooperative sociality (where workers retain reproductive potential) to pre-imaginal caste determination, a defining feature of complex eusociality. This project will investigate PRL in in the simply eusocial paper wasp Polistes lanio. I will determine the presence and behavioural consequences of PRL through field experiments. Using transcriptomics, I will identify potential molecular mechanisms associated with PRL in this invertebrate system and utilise experimental knock- down methods to confirm their functional role. Understanding the molecular mechanisms and phenotypic consequences of PRL will provide insights into the evolution of reproductive plasticity and the predetermination of caste identity in complex eusociality.

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