About the Project
In fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), males have a potential mechanism by which they might influence the feeding behaviour of their mates: seminal proteins, which dramatically influence female physiology and behaviour, including foraging behaviour.
The goal of this project is to explore the extent of evolutionary conflict between females, males and offspring over maternal diet, and to test the extent to which males have evolved ways to alter female diet choices and females have evolved resistance to male manipulation.
The project will involve:
- Testing female diet preferences when females are exposed to varying social and sexual environments
- Measuring the diet composition that maximizes maternal, paternal and offspring fitness
- Behavioural experiments using genetically altered male fruit flies with altered seminal protein profiles
- Experimental evolution of nutritional phenotypes in response to experimental manipulation of evolutionary conflict
Potential extensions include comparative work across the Drosophila clade.
These experiments will tell us the extent to which maternal diet preferences are a function of female or male control. These studies the potential to significantly change our understanding of evolutionary conflict over maternal diet.
A student pursuing this project will gain expertise in laboratory skills and techniques that can be readily transferred to other projects and organisms. These include behavioural assays, Drosophila biology, experimental design, data analysis and scientific writing.
Application procedure details at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/dphil-zoology?wssl=1. The application deadline is 25th January 2019.
Perry JC, Joag R, Hosken DJ, Wedell N, Radwan J, Wigby S (2016) Experimental evolution under hyper-promiscuity in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16:131
Perry JC, Harrison PW, Mank JE (2014) The ontogeny and evolution of sex-biased gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 1206-19
Carazo P, Tan CKW, Allen F, Wigby S, Pizzari T (2014) Within-group male relatedness reduces harm to females in Drosophila. Nature 505: 672–675
Perry JC, Sirot LK, Wigby S (2013) The seminal symphony: how to compose an ejaculate. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 414-22
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