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The genetics of speciation in the parasitoid wasp, Nasonia

Description

Speciation is the fundamental process that has generated the vast diversity of life on earth. The hallmark of speciation is the evolution of barriers to gene flow. These barriers may reduce gene flow either by keeping incipient species from hybridizing

Speciation is the fundamental process that has generated the vast diversity of life on earth. The hallmark of speciation is the evolution of barriers to gene flow. These barriers may reduce gene flow either by keeping incipient species from hybridizing at all (pre-zygotic), or by reducing the fitness of hybrids (post-zygotic). To understand the genetic architecture of these barriers and how they evolve, I studied a genus of wasps that exhibits barriers to gene flow that act both pre- and post-zygotically. Nasonia is a genus of four species of parasitoid wasps that can be hybridized in the laboratory. When two of these species, N. vitripennis and N. giraulti are mated, their offspring suffer, depending on the generation and cross examined, up to 80% mortality during larval development due to incompatible genic interactions between their nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. These species also exhibit pre-zygotic isolation, meaning they are more likely to mate with their own species when given the choice. I examined these two species and their hybrids to determine the genetic and physiological bases of both speciation mechanisms and to understand the evolutionary forces leading to them. I present results that indicate that the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway, an essential pathway that is responsible for mitochondrial energy generation, is impaired in hybrids of these two species. These results indicate that this impairment is due to the unique evolutionary dynamics of the combined nuclear and mitochondrial origin of this pathway. I also present results showing that, as larvae, these hybrids experience retarded growth linked to the previously observed mortality and I explore possible physiological mechanisms for this. Finally, I show that the pre-mating isolation is due to a change in a single pheromone component in N. vitripennis males, that this change is under simple genetic control, and that it evolved neutrally before being co-opted as a species recognition signal. These results are an important addition to our overall understanding of the mechanisms of speciation and showcase Nasonia as an emerging model for the study of the genetics of speciation.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2013

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Proximate and ultimate mechanisms of nestmate recognition in ants

Description

The most abundantly studied societies, with the exception of humans, are those of the eusocial insects, which include all ants. Eusocial insect societies are typically composed of many dozens to millions of individuals, referred to as nestmates, which require some

The most abundantly studied societies, with the exception of humans, are those of the eusocial insects, which include all ants. Eusocial insect societies are typically composed of many dozens to millions of individuals, referred to as nestmates, which require some form of communication to maintain colony cohesion and coordinate the activities within them. Nestmate recognition is the process of distinguishing between nestmates and non-nestmates, and embodies the first line of defense for social insect colonies. In ants, nestmate recognition is widely thought to occur through olfactory cues found on the exterior surfaces of individuals. These cues, called cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), comprise the overwhelming majority of ant nestmate profiles and help maintain colony identity. In this dissertation, I investigate how nestmate recognition is influenced by evolutionary, ontogenetic, and environmental factors. First, I contributed to the sequencing and description of three ant genomes including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, presented in detail here. Next, I studied how variation in nestmate cues may be shaped through evolution by comparatively studying a family of genes involved in fatty acid and hydrocarbon biosynthesis, i.e., the acyl-CoA desaturases, across seven ant species in comparison with other social and solitary insects. Then, I tested how genetic, developmental, and social factors influence CHC profile variation in P. barbatus, through a three-part study. (1) I conducted a descriptive, correlative study of desaturase gene expression and CHC variation in P. barbatus workers and queens; (2) I explored how larger-scale genetic variation in the P. barbatus species complex influences CHC variation across two genetically isolated lineages (J1/J2 genetic caste determining lineages); and (3) I experimentally examined how CHC development is influenced by an individual’s social environment. In the final part of my work, I resolved discrepancies between previous findings of nestmate recognition behavior in P. barbatus by studying how factors of territorial experience, i.e., spatiotemporal relationships, affect aggressive behaviors among red harvester ant colonies. Through this research, I was able to identify promising methodological approaches and candidate genes, which both broadens our understanding of P. barbatus nestmate recognition systems and supports future functional genetic studies of CHCs in ants.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2016

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Geographical Variation in Social Structure, Morphology, and Genetics of the New World Honey Ant Myrmecocystus mendax

Description

Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha

Persistent cooperation between unrelated conspecifics rarely occurs in mature eusocial insect societies. In this dissertation, I present evidence of non-kin cooperation in the Nearctic honey ant Myrmecocystus mendax. Using microsatellite markers, I show that mature colonies in the Sierra Ancha Mountain of central Arizona contain multiple unrelated matrilines, an observation that is consistent with primary polygyny. In contrast, similar analyses suggest that colonies in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona are primarily monogynous. These interpretations are consistent with field and laboratory observations. Whereas cooperative colony founding was observed frequently among groups of Sierra Ancha foundresses, founding in the Chiricahua population was restricted to individual foundresses. Furthermore, Sierra Ancha foundresses successfully established incipient laboratory colonies without undergoing queen culling following emergence of the first workers. Multi-queen laboratory Sierra Ancha colonies also produced more workers and repletes than haplometrotic colonies, and when brood raiding was induced between colonies, queens of those with more workers had a higher survival probability.

Microsatellite analyses of additional locations within the M. mendax range suggest that polygyny is also present in some other populations, especially in central-northern Arizona, albeit at lower frequencies than that in the Sierra Anchas. In addition, analyses of multiple types of genetic data, including microsatellites, the mitochondrial barcoding region, and over 2000 nuclear ultra-conserved elements indicate that M. mendax populations within the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico are geographically structured, with strong support for the existence of two or more divergent clades as well as isolation-by-distance within clades. This structure is further shown to correlate with variation in queen number and hair length, a diagnostic taxonomic feature used to distinguish honey ant species.

Together, these findings suggest that regional ecological pressures (e.g. colony density , climate) may have acted on colony founding and social strategy to select for increasing workforce size and, along with genetic drift, have driven geographically isolated M. mendax populations to differentiate genetically and morphologically. The presence of colony fusion in the laboratory and life history traits in honey ant that are influenced by colony size, including repletism, brood raiding, and tournament, support this evolutionary scenario.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2018

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Evolutionary Genetics of CORL Proteins

Description

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in

Transgenic experiments in Drosophila have proven to be a useful tool aiding in the

determination of mammalian protein function. A CNS specific protein, dCORL is a

member of the Sno/Ski family. Sno acts as a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling.

dCORL is involved in Dpp and dActivin signaling, but the two homologous mCORL

protein functions are unknown. Conducting transgenic experiments in the adult wings,

and third instar larval brains using mCORL1, mCORL2 and dCORL are used to provide

insight into the function of these proteins. These experiments show mCORL1 has a

different function from mCORL2 and dCORL when expressed in Drosophila. mCORL2

and dCORL have functional similarities that are likely conserved. Six amino acid

substitutions between mCORL1 and mCORL2/dCORL may be the reason for the

functional difference. The evolutionary implications of this research suggest the

conservation of a switch between Dpp/dActivin signaling that predates the divergence of

arthropods and vertebrates.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2019