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Genomic signatures of sexual selection in the Yellow Fever mosquito


Project Description

Mosquito-borne diseases are thought to directly impact the well-being and livelihood of at least one-third of the human population. Our ability to control mosquito-borne diseases heavily relies on reducing mosquito populations. However, the growing incidence of insecticide resistance threatens current control tools. Several new strategies will involve the release of laboratory-reared males which will need to compete successfully with wild males for mates. Thus, these new strategies will be greatly facilitated by an improved understanding of the determinants of male mosquito mating success.

Recently, we manipulated the strength of male competition in replicate populations of the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species is both an important arbo-virus vector and one of the main targets of reproductive control releases. We found that manipulation of the level of male-male competition in mating environments affects both male competitive mating success and other important behavioural and life history traits. In this project, we will explore the genetic signature of selection in these replicated populations by sequencing of pools of individuals from our no competition and high competition populations at several time points from the course of experimental evolution. This will allow us to assess the degree to which phenotypic changes are associated with changes in the genome, the localizability of these changes, and the relative influences of genetic drift and selection on the observed evolutionary response. We will combine this with a set of experiments in a genetically variable mosquito population that will compare allele frequencies between more and less successful males (“winners” and “losers” in sexual competition).

The student will be supervised at Imperial College’s Silwood Park Campus by Dr. Lauren Cator and Prof. Austin Burt, experts in mosquito mating behaviour and population genetics. Additionally, the student will be supervised by Dr. Brian Hollis of EPFL an expert in evolutionary genetics of sexual selection. The student will gain skills in mosquito behaviour, genomic techniques, bioinformatics, and population genetics.

Funding Notes

This project is funded through the NERC Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP. This year the SSCP DTP will award 14 fully funded studentships next year which include home/EU tuition fees, a London-weighted stipend and an additional consumables budget.

How good is research at Imperial College London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 99.55

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

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