Fellowship Institution: University of Rochester
Discipline: Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Speciation, the process by which new species originate, is an important cause of biodiversity and remains a fundamental problem in evolutionary biology. It is now well established that new species arise through normal evolution: populations accumulate genetic differences that cause them to be reproductively incompatible with one another. Surprisingly, the genetic changes underlying speciation are not uniformly distributed throughout the genome. Instead, “speciation genes” accumulate on the X chromosome roughly four times faster than on other (non-sex) chromosomes. I am using complementary genetic, molecular, and comparative genomic approaches to study the special role of the X chromosome during speciation in fruitflies (Drosophila). As the X is a hotspot for speciation genes in a wide range of animals, from insects to mammals, this work will identify the molecular basis of one of the few strong patterns characterizing the origin of species.
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