Insights into the mechanisms that underlie the genomic diversification and global spread of a common asexual garden pest

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2019
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Microbiology
    • Systems biology
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Laboratory medicine
    • Microbiology
    • Laboratory medicine
    • Laboratory medicine
    • Microbiology
asexual garden pest
Project description

Sex is the dominant form of reproduction among animals and continuously generates genetic
variation that allows animal populations to survive and adapt. Challenging evolutionary theory, a
high number of asexual but genetically diverse species of great ecological success have evolved from
sexual ancestors within the Arthropoda phylum. Formal testing of the different evolutionary
scenarios that potentially underlie the genetic diversification of these asexual arthropods has long
been hampered by a lack of genomic resources. Here, I plan to address this long-standing problem
in evolutionary biology by mapping the genome evolution of an asexual spider mite Bryobia
kissophila, a herbivore that is abundantly found in domestic gardens and forests across Europe.
First, by combining a state-of-the-art and a traditional sequencing technology, I will be able to
sequence and assemble 90 mitochondrial genomes across the highly distinct genetic clades within B.
kissophila. Second, the transcriptomes of northern and southern B. kissophila clades will be
sequenced under distinct temperature regimes. These unique datasets will allow to reliably identify
and disentangle the genomic and transcriptomic signatures that are associated with the different
evolutionary scenarios that potentially explain the diversification of B. kissophila. This project will
contribute to our understanding of how the natural biodiversity that lives right outside our doorstep
is formed.