Thursday, 6 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 06 November 2014

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2014
06 November 2014 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Social behaviour at the level of the genes

Dr. Seirian Sumner

Image from Sumner (2014) DOI: 10.1111/mec.12580

Social behaviour is about interactions among organisms. Well, true - but underlying the propensity (or not) to engage in social behaviour are the genes, their regulatory networks, the proteins they express, and this is the level of analysis our seminar speaker of this week is interested in. Dr. Seirian Sumner is interested in eusocial insects (wasps, bees, ants) and tries to use them as model systems to understand how genomes can produce this remarkable diversity in social behaviour among species.

Seirian is also very actively involved in science communication and among her many activities she is maybe most famously known for having founded and organising the Soapbox Science initiative.


Understanding how phenotypic diversity arises from inherited genomic material is a fundamental question in modern biology. Social phenotypes (queen and worker castes) in the eusocial insects have evolved at least 11 times independently, and arise through differential expression of shared genes in response to environmental cues. To what extent do conserved genomic process and genomic novelty contribute to convergent evolution in insect castes? 

I explore this at the transcriptional, network and regulatory levels in convergent behavioural castes of simple eusocial insects, with contrasting evolutionary routes to eusociality. 

Everyone is welcome as usual!

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