Correlated experimental evolution of behavior and life history in Drosophila
Selection on one trait often results in changes in other, seemingly unrelated traits, due to pleiotropy or linkage. For example, fascinating correlated responses between behaviour (learning ability) and life history (longevity) have been reported in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. However, the molecular basis of such correlations between behaviour and life history remains poorly understood. In my current post-doc project, I study this phenomenon by using experimentally evolved (EE) populations of the fruit fly among which significant differences in several life history traits have evolved. I measure several behavioral traits in adults of the EE populations to examine correlated behavioural responses. Genome sequencing is used to begin to uncover the genetic basis of the direct and correlated responses to selection in this experiment.
Natural variation in memory formation among Nasonia parasitic wasps: from genes to behaviour
The ability to learn has been observed among distant animal phyla and the mechanisms underlying memory formation are highly conserved. Long-term memory (LTM) is often only formed when an animal receives multiple learning experiences, but the number that is required is variable. Some insect species form LTM after only a single learning experience. Substantial differences in memory formation between closely related parasitic wasp species, which is thought to reflect species-specific differences in ecology, make them ideal model species to study natural variation in (long-term) memory formation. I have studied natural variation in memory formation between the closely related parasitic wasp species Nasonia vitripennis and N. giraulti. First, I designed high-throughput behavioural assays for conditioning and memory testing. Using these assays, I detected and characterized differences in long-term memory (LTM) between the two species. I used two different approaches to study the genetic basis of this difference. First, I backcrossed genes from N. vitripennis into the genetic background of N. giraulti, which allowed us to identify two QTL that affect long-term memory formation. Furthermore, I studied learning-induced gene expression patterns in the heads of the two species by using RNAseq methods.
2014 – present
Post-doc, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
2009 – 2014
PhD, Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Research fellow, Department of Ecological and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Canada
Research fellow, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, USA
MSc in Biology, specialization Cell Biology, minor Plant Diseases, cum laude, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
BSc in Biology, specialization Ecology, minor Genomics, cum laude, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
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