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Defence evolution under protective symbiosis: how do nuclear and symbiont defences interact?

Faculty of Health and Life Science

About the Project

Animals live in symbiosis with microbes. The presence of symbionts modifies the biology of the host in fundamental ways. In insects and other arthropods, symbionts have become part of the genetic inheritance – passed from a female to her progeny in or on eggs. There
heritable symbionts provide many services – one of which is acting as part of the defence machinery: protective symbiosis. The defence of an individual is therefore a property of both the defences encoded in the nuclear genome and those provided by the microbe. This
project will investigate how these systems interact. We can ask this question at an individual level: do the defences systems ‘add up’ – or does possessing both forms produce more or less benefit than this? We can also view this at the population level – does evolution favour
having two systems, or is it that selection retains just the most efficient system? We’ll investigate these in the Drosophila-Spiroplasma-Leptopilina wasp model system. This system benefits from lab tractability for experiments, combined with detailed genetic knowledge of
resistance systems that allows us to track the precise frequency of resistance variants over time using PCR. You’ll benefit from training in evolutionary ecology, molecular ecology, experimental design and analysis. You’ll join a team of symbiosis researchers but will also
work in a wider fruit fly model laboratory studying genetic and sexual conflict. You may also elect to take the work down your own enquiry routes – for instance examining if the environment determines evolutionary trajectory, or making wider predictions through
mathematical modelling.


Notes and how to apply are available here:

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.

UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK fees (£4,407 at 2020/2021 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.

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