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Genomic architecture of inbreeding depression in butterflies

Faculty of Health and Life Science

About the Project

Small and fragmented populations often suffer from reduced fitness due to inbreeding depression, which may impact population growth and persistence. Classical population genetics theory posits that the alleles giving rise to inbreeding depression are unconditionally deleterious recessives, introduced by mutation and eliminated by purifying selection. Increasingly, however, there is an acknowledgement that these factors alone cannot account for the magnitude of inbreeding depression observed in a range of organisms. Additional factors, such as intra-locus conflict (sexually-antagonistic pleiotropy) and overdominance (heterozygote advantage), could explain the discrepancy but direct evidence is very limited. If a significant part of the genetic load is maintained through balancing mechanisms, it becomes much harder to remove them, as well as linked genetic diversity. The Afrotropical butterfly, Bicyclus anynana, is highly sensitive to inbreeding at
different stages of its life cycle and serves as an attractive model for studying this problem.

The laboratory stock in Liverpool is derived from a natural population originally brought into the lab in 1990. Archival DNA samples at different time points over ~160 generations in captivity allow the measurement of changes in genetic diversity across the genome, which in turn provide insight into the factors producing the patterns. Breeding experiments with butterflies will be used to genetically map genes causing inbreeding depression, to explore inbreeding avoidance behaviour, and to measure variation in inbreeding depression among
Bicyclus species. Interests and skills should include one or more of the following: evolutionary genetics; genomics; entomology; conservation biology; bioinformatics; simulation 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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