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The genetics of sperm competition in Drosophila pseudoobscura

  • Full or part time
    Prof MG Ritchie
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, December 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Sperm competition is a major source of selection on animal mating systems, and studies of Drosophila have shown that genes expressed in male reproductive tissues are amongst the most rapidly evolving between species. Much is being learned of the function of genes involved in sperm competition in the model species D. melanogaster. Seminal proteins influence male success in sperm competition and can manipulate female reproductive physiology in a sexually antagonistic manner, benefitting the male while harming the female. This can contribute to their rapid evolution. However, little is known of the function of similar loci in different species from other species groups. A recent experimental evolution study in D. pseudoobscura manipulated the levels of selection on males and females, eliminating sexual selection and sperm competition. Several genes have been identified which respond to this manipulation by changing frequency rapidly, and some of them are candidates for a role in mating success and sperm competition. What is their role in mating success and sperm competition success in D. pseudoobscura? Are these genes evolving rapidly because they are favoured in only males or females, or are they sexually antagonistic? Do they also evolve rapidly in natural populations? A PhD studentship is available working in Prof. Mike Ritchie’s laboratory in the University of St Andrews in collaboration with Prof. Rhonda Snook at Stockholm University, Sweden. The student will use CRISPR gene manipulation techniques to develop de novo mutations in the genes we have identified and examine the consequences for male and female mating success. There are numerous ways in which the project can be developed, including other functional analyses of the loci, looking at homologues of other genes identified in studies of D. melanogaster and examining the evolution of the more interesting loci in natural populations and between species. Quantifying the levels of sexually antagonistic selection on natural alleles of the loci could also be of great interest.
The student will receive advanced training in evolutionary and functional genetics, bioinformatics, behavioural and population genetics and will have the opportunity to visit the collaborators laboratory in Stockholm.
For further details contact Prof. Mike Ritchie

Funding Notes

Eligibility requirements: Upper second-class degree in Biology or a related area.
Funding: Fees and stipend is provided for 3.5 years.


Wilkinson, G. S., F. Breden, J. E. Mank, M. G. Ritchie, A. D. Higginson, J. Radwan, J. Jaquiery, W. Salzburger, E. Arriero, S. M. Barribeau, P. C. Phillips, S. C. P. Renn and L. Rowe (2015). "The locus of sexual selection: moving sexual selection studies into the post-genomics era." Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28: 739-755.
Crudgington, H. S., A. P. Beckerman, L. Brustle, K. Green and R. R. Snook (2005). "Experimental removal and elevation of sexual selection: Does sexual selection generate manipulative males and resistant females?" American Naturalist 165: S72-S87.
Debelle, A., M. G. Ritchie and R. R. Snook (2016). "Sexual selection and assortative mating: an experimental test." Journal of Evolutionary Biology 29: 1307-1316.
Veltsos, P., Y. Fang, A. R. Cossins, R. R. Snook and M. G. Ritchie (2017). "Mating system manipulation and the evolution of sex-biased gene expression in Drosophila." Nature Communications 8: 2072.

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.45

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

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