My lab uses fruit fly populations to ask basic questions about the evolution of sex and death. The existence of separate sexes not only creates gender differences but potential conflict between them. We have been exploring sex differences in the impact of new mutations, inbreeding, ageing and survival, and the expression of shared genes. This naturally leads to special interests in parent of origin effects and specialized structures like sperm and sex chromosomes, which are current foci of study.
The lab generally accepts two or three students to Biology 537.
Potential projects include:
1) Sperm competition: When a female accepts mating with more than one male within the same breeding round, there is direct competition between them for fertilization events within the female reproductive tract. The mechanisms of sperm competition in Drosophila are fascinating and complex. How does the genotype of female affect the outcome of sperm competition? How does age effect sperm competitiveness? Does the sperm itself age or just the male that produces it? We have adopted state-of-the-art (fluorescent sperm!) techniques to visualize sperm-female interactions. Several experiments related to sperm competition are possible. This wing of research will require careful microscopy as well as breeding experiments.2) Sexual Conflict: Genes that have reversed effects on the two sexes (e.g., good for females but bad for males) reflect genetic conflict. We have used clonal propagation and other genetic tricks with the fruit fly genome to examine this conflict. For example, we can clone many copies of a single genome and grow it up as a female or a male for comparison. Several new lines of work are possible, but I am particularly interested in how populations evolve and express conflict genes as they adapt to a fixed set of environmental conditions such as that created in the lab . This wing of research will make use of the clone-generator system and analysis of fitness in each sex.