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Studying adaptation to larval crowding in Drosophila simulans using experimental evolution

Wider research context / theoretical frameworkThe negative impact of high population density is of great interest to evolutionary biologists due to its effect on population growth and extinction. It is apparent that Drosophila species can adapt to high larval density, but we are currently only aware of a single gene that contributes to its genetic basis. We propose to fill this knowledge gap by comprehensively dissecting the genetic basis of adaptation to high larval density in Drosophila simulans. Hypotheses / research questions / objectives The main aim is to dissect the genetic basis of adaptation, basic research that requires experimentation to provide answers. In addition, we will be able to test three other hypotheses. 1) We will compare the genomic targets of selection identified to those genomic regions that vary seasonally in frequency within wild Drosophila populations to test for a significant overlap and provide tentative evidence that selection in the lab can be representative of nature. 2) We will test the hypothesis that a trade-off during adaptation to high larval density is due to negative pleiotropy and/or conditional neutrality. 3) We will test the hypothesis that pleiotropy constrains adaptation due to the ‘cost of complexity’. Approach / methods The approach is to combine experimental evolution with DNA and RNA sequencing in a novel method known as evolve and resequence (E&R). First, we will establish that adaptation has occurredvia an egg-to-adult viability assay. Secondly, by sampling DNA at generations 1, 20, 40, and 60, and RNA at generation 60, we will dissect the genetic basis of adaptation and use this information to test the hypotheses. Level of originality / innovation Innovation in this project stems from two sources. First, the combination of E&R and gene expression with adaptation to high larval density. Although E&R is now routine, it is the best approach to dissect the genetic and transcriptomic basis of adaptation to high larval density, which has yet to be achieved despite much phenotypic work on the subject. The second innovation is the use of the data to search for the genetic basis of a trade-off and evidence of pleiotropic constraints. I consider this second sub-project to be innovative and high risk but also low cost as the more expensive data will be generated to tackle the first goal.
Larval crowding
Project leader
Schlötterer Christian
FWF Einzelprojekte
Type of Research
Basic research
Vetmed Research Units
Institute of Population Genetics
Funded by
FWF - Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, Wien, Austria

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