Monday, 4 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 07 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2019
07 March 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum


Phenotypic Plasticity and the evolution of eusociality: How does the queen control reproduction in her workers?

Dr Elizabeth Duncan

(University of Leeds, UK)

Image from: geneticliteracyproject.org

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by our guest from Leeds, Dr Elizabeth Duncan from the School of Biology at the University of Leeds. Liz is an evolutionary biologist broadly interested in genetics, evolution and development, such as the evolution of eusociality and the mechanistic basis of developmental plasticity in invertebrates, the evolution of developmental pathways, and the link between genome architecture and evolution.


Abstract
The defining characteristic of eusocial insects, including the honeybee (Apis mellifera), is the reproductive division of labour, where only one female caste is reproductively active. In the honeybee, larvae destined to become queens are fed a diet of royal jelly which leads to substantial changes in adult morphology and behaviour; queen bees are larger, live a long time and have fully active ovaries. Adult workers do retain some ability to reproduce and mechanisms have evolved to constrain reproduction in workers maintaining the strict reproductive division of labour. In worker honeybees, sterility or reproductive constraint is conditional; in the absence of queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) and brood pheromone, worker bee ovaries can undergo a complete remodelling and lay unfertilised eggs.   This remarkable ability to radically alter their biology and behaviour in response to an environmental stimulus is an example of phenotypic plasticity.  

The reproductive division of labour is key for the evolution of eusociality; to understand how it works and ultimately how it evolved we have combined ‘omics approaches, with cell biology and functional experiments.  We find that as the ovaries become active, a range of genes organised in clusters in the genome, become co-regulated. These clusters of genes occur more frequently than predicted by chance, and have complex evolutionary history, some evolving in the lineage leading to honeybees, and some ancient complexes found in all Hymenoptera.  These findings imply that QMP responsiveness has shaped the evolution of the honeybee genome, and will help inform our understanding of the genomic basis of the evolution of eusociality.



Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!


For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

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