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Major transition in the evolution of invertebrate reproduction and sex determination

PI(s): Laura Ross (University of Edinburgh)
Start Date: 1-Sep-2013
End Date: 30-Sep-2013
Keywords: comparative methods, population genetics, database, evolutionary genetics, mating systems

Sex determination (SD) systems are remarkably variable across life, yet the evolutionary significance of this variation is poorly understood. And not just the forces that shape this variation, but also those that shape the taxonomic distribution of the different sex determination systems remain elusive. For example, some systems like XX/XY sex chromosomes seem to have evolved over and over, while others like haplodiploidy (where males develop from unfertilized eggs, while females develop from fertilized eggs) are much less frequent and restricted to a smaller number of taxonomic groups. The aim of the proposed project is two-fold. First of all we will describe and review the taxonomic distribution of SD systems among the insects and their closest relatives. This review will be based on data from over ten thousand species that were collected from the cytogenetic literature and will be the most comprehensive till date. Secondly we will use a formal comparative approach to understand the evolutionary dynamics of haplodiploidy using data from the mites (Acari). Mites are the only taxonomic group where haplodiploidy has evolved repeatedly and therefore offer a unique opportunity to estimate transitions to and from haploidiploidy, as well as the ecological or genetic factors that correlate with these transitions.

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