New levels of biological complexity evolve through the unification of independently replicating individuals into cooperative groups. The emergence of group living – sociality - is a major transition in evolution, and many of our planet’s most ecologically successful and invasive animals are social. Our research seeks to understand how biological complexity, primarily in the form of sociality, arises at the level of the genes and the interplay of genes, behaviour and the environment.
Social insects, where queens are dedicated egg-layers and their offspring are non- reproductive workers, epitomise the complexities of social evolution. Sociality has evolved independently at least 11 times in the Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), resulting in societies that range widely in their degree of complexity, phenotypic plasticity and diversity. Our research exploits this remarkable radiation in order to understand how genomes produce phenotypic and behavioural diversity, determine what facets of this diversity account for an individual’s behaviour, and explore how this influences their ecology and robustness to the environment. We address this at proximate and ultimate levels through integrating genetics, genomics, transcriptomics, epigenetics with behavioural ecology on wild populations of non-model organisms. Our approach exploits the most recent advances in molecular techniques and state- of-the-art field monitoring technology.
URGENT CALL FOR A FIELD ASSISTANT: SOCIAL WASPS IN PANAMA. We are urgently looking for a field assistant to help with field work on social wasps in Panama. NB closing date is nominally 20th June 2013, but if no suitable candidates are found by then, the position wlll remain upen until filled .
Student funding awarded! Many congratulations to PhD student Emily Bell, who has been awarded a pre-doctoral reserach fellowship from the Smithsonian Tropical research Institute to conduct her work on phenotypic plasticity in tropical wasps.
Fieldwork in Panama: Seirian, PhD student Emily Bell and assistant Robin Southon head out to Panama for a field season on Polistes canadensis at the Smithsonian Research Institute, Panama. This is Emily's final field season, so fingers crossed the wasps behave! Robin is squeezing in a second stint as Emily's assistant, before he starts his NERC funded PhD with us in October.
New funding awarded: We are delighted to receive further support from NERC's NBAF-Wallingford bioinformatics nodes to continue our work on developing pipelines for analysis of differential gene expression from RNAseq data. This work is supporting PhD studnet Claire Asher in the final stages of her PhD project on transcriptomics in dinosaur ants. This is a collaboration with Dr Mesude Bicak at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and Dr Afsaneh Maleki at the University of Sheffield.
Postdoc relocation: Postdoc Stephanie Dreier (http://www.zsl.org/science/ioz-staff-students/dreier,1728,AR.html) has now relocated from Institute of Zoology, London for a 6 month position in our lab. Stephanie is working on various genetics projects on Polistes and bumblebees, including some exciting social network analyses of wasp dominance interactions.
New funding awarded: NERC Omics discipline hopping grant. We are delighted to announce that Chris Wyatt will be joining our group this month as a NERC funded training position (Omics Call) exploring the relationships between transcription, protein synthesis and phenotype in social insect queen and worker castes. He will be working along- side Dr Gary Barker, in the School's transcriptomics unit and Prof Julian Gough, in Computer Science. Chris has a MSc in bioinformatics from Imperial College.
New NERC CASE PhD studentship awarded: Assessing current and future impacts of invasive ants on ecosystem services. This will form the basis of a new collaboration with Kew Royal Botanical Garden as CASE partner (Dr Rosemary Newton and Dr John Dickie). Adam Devenish will be taking up this PhD position in October.
New publication: Congratulations to PhD student Claire Asher on the publication of some of the first of her behavioural work on the dinosaur ant!
Asher, C, Nascimento, F, Sumner, SR & Hughes, W 2013, ‘Division of labour and risk taking in the dinosaur ant, Dinoponera quadriceps (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)’. Myrmecological News, vol 18., pp. 121-129
New publication: Congratulations to PhD student Emily Bell on her first wasp publication!
Bell E, Sumner S: Ecology and Social Organisation of Wasps. In Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (eLS), vol. online March 2013. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470015902.a0023597/abstract;jsessionid=A90AB34515F1BC569A8CBF391A69CCF7.d02t04
New publication: Our transcriptome study on Polistes canadensis is now out!
Transcriptome analyses of primitively eusocial wasps reveal novel insights into the evolution of sociality and the origin of alternative phenotypes. Pedro G Ferreira, Solenn Patalano, Ritika Chauhan, Richard Ffrench-Constant, Toni Gabaldon, Roderic Guigo and Seirian Sumner. Genome Biology 14, R20. doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-2-r20 http://genomebiology.com/content/pdf/gb-2013-14-2-r20.pdf
View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system
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