NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: 1. Sexual conflict in moths

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP).  

At least 4 fully-funded studentships that encompass the breadth of earth and environmental sciences are being offered to start in September 2017 at Exeter. 

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,296 per annum for 2016-2017, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Main supervisor: Prof Nina Wedell (Biosciences, University of Exeter)

The genome of an organism is a battleground characterized by intense conflict.

Males and females share a genome and express many shared phenotypic traits, which are often selected in opposite directions. Intra-locus sexual conflict is the situation where genes that are good for males are bad when expressed in females and vice versa, also termed sexually antagonistic alleles (SA). Sexual conflict also promotes wider genomic conflicts and can directly affect evolution of gene expression patterns. Recent research has revealed most genes are differentially expressed in male and female metazoans, indicating many loci are sexually antagonistic. In the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella, there is strong intra-locus sexual conflict for shared life-history traits. Despite this, sexual dimorphism has evolved in the traits examined suggesting that mechanism(s) have evolved to ameliorate this conflict and allow the sexes to reach their life-history optima. Various mechanisms can facilitate this process, including sex-biased gene expression and sex-linkage. Sexual conflict is predicted to promote differential gene expression and sex-limited expression to resolve the harmful effects of sexually antagonistic alleles.

This project will examine the impact of sexual conflict for variation in gene expression patterns by making use of existing long-established replicate experimental evolution populations of the Indian meal moth in combination with next generation sequencing to determine transcriptome variation in males and females with different evolutionary history showing strong sexual antagonism over shared life history traits. This will allow detailed quantification of the impact of sexually antagonistic selection on the evolutionary responses at the phenotypic and underlying transcriptomic level.

This research has the potential to enhance our understanding of the impact of sexual conflict at the molecular, individual and population levels by evaluating its potency to shape the gene expression patterns of male and female moth evolving under different levels of sexual conflict. This project will provide a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the mechanisms and fitness consequences of sexual conflict. By linking changes at the phenotypic level with genetic changes, we will be able to reveal the form, strength, and target of selection at the genomic level.

See for full details and how to apply.

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South West England