Research - Current Projects
Ecological genomics of inbreeding: comparative studies of inbreeding mating systems in non-model animal populations (funded by the European Research Council)
We are interested in integrating ecological and evolutionary research in order to expand knowledge on the evolutionary ecology of inbreeding in wild animal populations. We perform comparative population studies on the consequences of inbreeding in Stegodyphus, a genus of spiders including three independently evolved inbreeding social species as well as outcrossing sister species. We investigate the consequences of sociality and regular inbreeding for population genetic structure, genome-wide genetic diversity, lineage persistence, patterns of gene flow, molecular evolution and evolution of life history traits.
Discovery and characterization of novel antimicrobials (funded by Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Synergy Programme):
Social spiders are highly inbred and show extremely low genetic variation, also in immune genes. Combined with an elevated risk of pathogen transfer among individuals living in close proximity, they should be highly susceptible to pathogens and disease transmission. Nevertheless, social spiders are evolutionarily and ecologically very successful, leading us to hypothesize that microbial symbionts must be essential in their protection against pathogens. We are investigating the potential of host symbionts for producing protective and novel antimicrobial compounds that provide protection against pathogens.
Non-genetic processes involved in adaptation
Evolutionary models predict that response to environmental change occur by selection on standing genetic variation and new mutations, but it is becoming apparent that adaptation is more complex than so far realised, calling for integration of non-genetic mechanisms in our understanding of adaption, such as microbial symbionts or epigenetic changes.
Social spiders are have a wide ecological range characterized by very different habitat despite being highly inbred and showing extremely low species-wide genetic variation. We are therefore interested in examining mechanisms other than genetic variation involved in their adaptation: