Endosymbiont infections in spiders and their effects on host behaviour
We have shown that long-distance dispersal behaviour of linyphiid spiders is influenced by maternally acquired bacterial endosymbionts1. This is of broad importance because it suggests that these bacterial infections can influence processes such as species distributions, the pace and scale of invasion and ultimately overall community composition.
In this PhD we will establish whether the effect of microbes on dispersal is more widespread throughout spider (and other invertebrate) communities, given the extremely widespread occurrence of such bacteria within arthropods as a whole.
We will also attempt to characterise the genomes of particular endosymbionts found in arachnids (spiders) using molecular genetic techniques. Current interest in this area is high because of the human pathology of Rickettsia transmitted to humans from other arachnids such as ticks. The area is also of interest because extreme genome reduction and gene loss is associated with Rickettsia pathogenicity. Spider Rickettsia, which were first found by our group2, form a basal clade within the Rickettsia phylogeny. Analysis of expressed genes from this basal genome will allow better reconstruction of the most recent common ancestor of the main Rickettsia group studied thus far.
Home and EU applicants should contact the supervisor to determine the current funding status for this project. International applicants should visit http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/studywithus/international-applicants/scholarships-fees-and-finance/scholarships/index.aspx for information regarding fees and funding at the University.
1 Sara L Goodacre, Oliver Y Martin, Dries Bonte, Linda Hutchings, Chris Woolley, Kamal Ibrahim, C.F. George Thomas and Godfrey M Hewitt. 2009 Microbial modification of host long-distance dispersal capacity. BMC Biology, 32, 7.
2Goodacre, S. L., Martin, O. Y., Thomas, C. F. G. & Hewitt, G. M. 2006. Wolbachia and other endosymbiont infections in spiders. Molecular Ecology, 15(2), 517-527.
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