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Diet and thermal limits: eating for survival and fertility

   Faculty of Health and Life Science

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  Dr S Wigby, Dr T Price, Dr N Hemmings, Dr M Brankatschk  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Aim: to understand how flies originating from different climates use food choices to survive and reproduce under temperature extremes.

Background: Climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events. Heatwaves can kill organisms, but may also increase extinction risk by harming fertility. Sperm are thought to be especially sensitive to heat, and male insects often become infertile at lower-than-fatal temperatures. But can organisms do anything to buffer against temperature extremes? Recent discoveries show that remarkably, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, changes its diet to buffer against heat and cold. It switches its food preferences in response to temperature, to obtain dietary lipids that allow it to better survive. Specifically, eating plant-derived lipids helps it survive the cold, while eating yeast-derived lipids helps it survive the heat. However, we do not know whether this adaptation is also present in other species that experience different climates, nor whether dietary changes improve reproductive performance, as well as survival, under temperature stress.

Objectives: The overall aim is to test whether different species of fruit flies, originating from a range of natural climates, use diet switches to survive and reproduce under temperature extremes. The specific objectives are: 1) To test the hypothesis that temperature mediated diet switches are more prevalent in species that experience more strong seasonal temperature ranges. 2) To test whether dietary lipids alter the reproductive performance of males and females under temperature extremes. Skills: This project will involve experiments with insects, studying behaviour and physiology, with the optional proteomics/metabolomics and modelling.

The project will be based in Dr Stuart Wigby’s lab at the University of Liverpool, in a dynamic and supportive environment, with co-supervisors Dr Tom Price (Liverpool) and Dr Nicola Hemmings (Sheffield), and collaborators Dr Marko Brankatschk and Prof Klaus Reinhardt (Dresden).

For any enquiries or for expressions of interest in applying, please contact Dr Wigby on: [Email Address Removed]

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