Dr. Silvia Paolucci

I am broadly interested in many aspects of evolutionary biology, including genetics of adaptation, phenotypic plasticity and evolution of animal societies.
Currently, I work on caste determination in ant colonies, studying genetic and environmental factors involved in the production of individuals of different castes (reproductive queens and various types of workers). The special focus of my research is on maternal effect on caste polyphenism. I study how environmental cues experienced by the queen mother at different stages of the colony life cycle influence the phenotype of the offspring. In my research I use various methodologies including laboratory experiments and transcriptome analysis to study gene expression differences correlated with caste differentiation.

My previous research focused on genetics of adaptation. During my PhD (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), I studied the genetic basis of photoperiodic diapause in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis. In this species, winter diapause occurs at the larval stage and is induced by the mother upon exposure to specific environmental cues, such as short photoperiods. Diapause induction in populations across geographic latitudinal gradients varies as a result of local adaption. By using a combination of field sampling, lab experiments, QTL analysis and candidate gene approach, I identified genes involved in variation in photoperiodic diapause induction. My PhD thesis can be found here

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