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Genomic signatures of speciation in Drosophila

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  • Full or part time
    Prof MG Ritchie
    Dr K Lohse
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Species grow distinct and adapt to new environments by divergent selection and genetic drift. Detecting selection and drift in genome scale data is challenging and complicated by confounding processes such as gene flow and demographic history. Advances in the availability and methodology for the analysis of genomes potentially allow us to reconstruct species evolution with unprecedented resolution. Much new data is emerging on patterns of genomic divergence both within and between species, and debates over the causes of genomic divergence are a major issue in comparative genomics. This project will examine patterns of genomic divergence in one of the best understood of all organisms, the fruit fly Drosophila. Genome scale data will be compiled in combination with data on the extent of evolutionary divergence in a range of key traits. These include species distributions, ecology, mating system and the extent of pre- and post-mating reproductive isolation between species. The data will come from both published and novel genome sequences and detailed compilations of the strength of different types of reproductive isolation and ecology exist. The student will integrate this database and use novel analytical techniques to accurately quantify genetic divergence and gene flow (inferred as migration rate across different genomic regions). New approaches to outstanding questions in evolutionary divergence can be asked such as; do similar patterns of genomic divergence correlate with sexual or post-mating isolation? Do both influence sex-chromosomes versus autosomes similarly? Do ecological generalists show different patterns of genomic divergence from specialists? Do patterns of divergence differ between sympatry and allopatry, and how often do we detect gene flow in sympatric species?
The lead supervisor brings extensive experience of speciation in Drosophila and the co-supervisor is developing new statistical approaches to the analysis of genome scale data.
The student will receive advanced training in evolutionary biology, genomic analysis, bioinformatics and biostatistics.
Enquiries to Mike Ritchie ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

This PhD will provide 3.5 years funding for UK or EU students. Students from outside those areas will be considered, but should be aware of the need to obtain additional funding to cover the difference between ‘home’ and ‘overseas’ fees. Enquiries from Chinese nationals are also particularly welcomed as the University of St Andrews has additional funding opportunities for Chinese students.


Lohse et al. 2015. Genome-wide tests for introgression between cactophilic Drosophila implicate a role of inversions during speciation. Evolution. 69: 1178-90.
Ravinet, M., et al. 2017. Interpreting the genomic landscape of speciation: a road map for finding barriers to gene flow. J. Evol. Biol., 30: 1450–1477.
Yukilevich, R. 2014. The rate test of speciation: estimating the likelihood of non-allopatric speciation from reproductive isolation rates in Drosophila. Evolution 64: 1150-1162.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.45

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