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Evolution in a fly with weird sex

  • Full or part time

    Dr K Lohse
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 15, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project background
In most animals, sex is determined by sex chromosome inheritance. For example in mammals, those embryos that inherit a Y chromosome from their fathers become male, while those that inherit a X chromosome become female. However, many species determine the sex of their offspring in rather different ways. Why these alternative means of determining sex evolved and what molecular mechanisms guide them is an important outstanding question [1]. This project focuses on understanding the evolution and molecular mechanisms of one such alternative sex determining strategy: in some flies sex is determined by genes carried by the mother not the offspring. Mothers are genetically pre-determined to either only produce daughters or only sons. Earlier studies have found that a region on the X-chromosome is responsible [2,3], but how it alters offspring sex and how it evolved remains unclear. New genomic data for the first time allow us to address these questions and increase our understanding of the diverse array of sex determining mechanism found across the tree of life.

Key research questions
The aim of this project is to understand how genes expressed in the mother act to determine offspring sex and how, why and when it evolved in the evolutionary history of this group of insects.

Methodology and Training
This project will combine laboratory experiments, gene expression and genome analyses. A comprehensive training programme will be provided comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills. Specifically the student will undertake training in the use of molecular wet lab techniques, the analysis of sequencing data and designing large-scale experiments.

Requirements and eligibility
Candidates must be highly motivated with a keen interest in evolutionary biology and genetics and a strong motivation to pursue a scientific career. Previous experience with genetic techniques, and bioinformatics and next-generation sequencing analyses would be an advantage. Only UK or EU citizens are eligible to apply.

Funding Notes

I am looking for a talented and enthusiastic evolutionary or molecular biologist for a fully funded (ERC) 4-year PhD position in my lab View Website at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh.

For more information and instructions on how to apply please email me directly .
Preferred starting date is 1st October 2019, but this is flexible (both earlier and later dates considered)


[1] Bachtrog, D., et al. "Sex determination: why so many ways of doing it?." PLoS biology 12.7 (2014): e1001899.

[2] Benatti, T.R., et al. "A neo-sex chromosome that drives postzygotic sex determination in the Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor)." Genetics 184.3 (2010): 769-777.
[3] Sánchez, L. "Sciara as an experimental model for studies on the evolutionary relationships between the zygotic, maternal and environmental primary signals for sexual development." Journal of genetics 89.3 (2010): 325-331.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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