Stalk-Eyed Fly Research Group, UCL

 

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2 NERC-funded PhD projects on offer for September 2011

Application deadline is February 23rd 2011

Project 1 - Supervisor: Prof. Kevin Fowler

Evolutionary genetics of reproductive performance and consequences for sexual selection and sperm competition in female stalk-eyed flies

Stalk-eyed flies are a canonical example of sexual selection. This project will gain new insights into the evolutionary genetics of female reproductive performance in an African stalk-eyed fly species, Diasemopsis meigenii. Females have low fertility despite mating at high rates and exhibiting strong mate preference. Research will be undertaken to disentangle female and male contributions to infertility (e.g. properties of ovaries and sperm storage organs, egg and sperm number and quality, mating rates and mating order, male and female condition, opportunities for female and male mate preference). The student will also assess the genetic variation in these traits and any genetic covariation across the sexes and exploit a SNP-based genomic map of D. meigenii to identify QTLs and genes for female fertility and sperm storage properties. The student will join the thriving stalk-eyed fly research group with diverse interests in reproductive biology and sexual selection from evolutionary, developmental and ecological perspectives. This project is jointly supervised with Prof Andrew Pomiankowski.

Applications should be sent as soon as possible with a covering letter, CV & contact details of two referees, to Prof. Fowler by email: k.fowler@ucl.ac.uk.

 

Project 2 - Supervisor: Dr. Hazel Smith

Growth and development of sexual ornaments in stalk-eyed flies
Sexual selection has driven the evolution of exaggerated ornamental traits in the males of many species. While little is known about the genetic and developmental mechanisms that generate variation in ornament size, it is clear that exaggeration arises from differential growth patterns. Ornamental traits are highly variable and their growth shows elevated condition dependence. Thus such traits constitute ideal models for the study of the evolutionary and developmental mechanisms regulating growth and form in response to environment stress. Stalk-eyed flies (see Warren & Smith review 2007) provide a well-substantiated example of an exaggerated sexual trait (eyestalk length) and are close relatives of the fruit fly. We have shown that similar genetic and cellular mechanisms regulate the initial development of the head capsule in both species. In collaboration with Prof Kevin Fowler, the student will investigate the mechanisms that underlie differential growth of male and female eyestalks in Teleopsis dalmanni. Quantitative analysis of gene expression will be combined with immunohistochemical and transgenic approaches to characterise and manipulate eyestalk growth. The student will join the thriving stalk-eyed fly research group with diverse interests in reproductive biology and sexual selection from evolutionary, developmental and ecological perspectives.


Warren IA & Smith H (2007) Stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae): modeling the evolution and development of an exaggerated sexual trait. BioEssays 29: 300-307.
Warren IA Fowler K & Smith H (2010) Germline transformation of the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni. BMC Molecular Biology 11:86.

Applications should be sent as soon as possible with a covering letter, CV & contact details of two referees, to Dr Smith by email: hazel.smith@ucl.ac.uk.

Funding and eligibility

Projects are subject to open Departmental competition. Available from September 2011 and provide stipend and tuition fees for 3.5 years, subject to NERC eligibility (details at: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/available/postgrad/eligibility.asp). Full studentships (stipend and tuition fees) normally only available to UK citizens and non-UK EU nationals resident in the UK (including time spent in education) for three years prior to the start date. UCL entry minimum requirement applies (BSc Hons Upper 2nd Class in relevant subject).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pair of Teleopsis dalmanni adults. Male at the top, female at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All photographs by Sam Cotton