University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > Evolution of ant social chromosomes and bumblebee diversity

Evolution of ant social chromosomes and bumblebee diversity

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Rebecca Kilner.

Ecological, behavioural and theoretical studies have informed our understanding of the impacts and tradeoffs of different environments. In contrast, we know relatively little about the genes and genetic architectures involved in responding or adapting to different environments. Two of our projects on social insects contribute to this understanding.

A fundamental trait that varies throughout the ants is whether a colony will include one or several queens. In the fire ant we demonstrated that this dimorphism is determined by alternate variants of a “supergene” region >400 protein-coding genes. Using population genomics, phylogenetic and transcriptomic approaches I will share our current understanding of the forces involved in the evolution and maintenance of this system, and how it reveals general processes.

Bumblebees are key pollinators that face many widely publicised environmental challenges including habitat loss and pesticide exposure. To complement traditional behavioural experiments, we are developing a molecular toolkit to examine pollinator health. This has identified genes and pathways involved in the response to pesticide exposure, as well as regions in the genome with strong signs of recent sweeps in wild populations.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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