James Gilbert

James Gilbert

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James Gilbert

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Start Year

2017 (Cohort 4)

Research interests:
Hobbies and interests:

PhD Project
PhD Title

Using Comparative Socio-Genomics to investigate the evolution of Sociality in the African Mole-rats

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



The African mole-rats (Family: Bathyergidae) are extraordinary among mammals in the diversity and range of social strategies adopted by the member species. As such, the Bathyergidae offer a unique model system with which to address the evolution and maintenance of sociality and cooperative breeding, and an understanding at the genetic level of their unusual adaptations to life underground.

The aim of project is to use next generation sequencing technology to gather data from the six main divergent mole-rat clades across the family (covering their entire range of sociality) for comparative genomic analysis.

The results will enable a unique, focused multi-genome study in novel species that will be of broad interest and significance. With reference to other mammalian genome data, the results will highlight areas of the mole-rat genome implicated in their unusual adaptations to the subterranean niche and traits such as longevity, cancer resistance and sociality.

Policy Impact

Some human conditions such as autism and variation in sexual behaviour have been linked to polymorphisms in candidate genes being studied, so the proposed research is likely to have socio-economic implications, including the potential for advances in the understanding of human social disorders.

Background Reading
  • Faulkes, C.G. & Bennett, N.C. (2013) Plasticity and constraints on social evolution in African mole-rats: ultimate and proximate factors. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 368 (1618)
  • Yu, C., Li, Y., Holmes A., Szafranski K., Faulkes, C.G., Coen, C.W., Austad, S., Buffenstein R., Platzer, M., de Magalhães J.P. & Church, G.M. (2011) RNA sequencing reveals differential expression of mitochondrial and oxidation reduction genes in the long-lived naked mole-rat when compared to mice. PLoS ONE 6(11), e26729
  • Grants and awards
    • Bioscientifica Standard Grant – Bioscientifica Trust


    Social Links
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