Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GENOMIC FOOTPRINT (Does a moving hybrid zone leave a genomic footprint?)
Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2019-01-31
Range expansions and contractions exaggerate the reshuffling of the genomes of hybridizing species. The key objective of this project is to experimentally test the theoretical prediction that, under hybrid zone movement, genes derived from a displaced species are left behind in the genome of an invading species, leaving a ‘genomic footprint’. I fill an empirical void by, for the first time, testing this critical hypothesis in the wild, using genome-scale data. I have established a study system (the newt genus Triturus) that is particularly appropriate because it shows strong evidence in support of hybrid zone movement over considerable time and distance. Human activities have intensified hybridization and I work together with conservationists and legislators to tackle the insidious conservation problem of genetic pollution by exotic species.
Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far
To obtain genome-wide data, I have been trained in the cutting-edge genomic technique of target enrichment through sequence capture during the outgoing phase at the lab of Prof. Shaffer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In particular I collaborated with Dr. Evan McCartney-Melstad who applies this procedure to Ambystoma salamanders. I have finished the return phase at the beneficiary, the University of Sheffield (USFD). At USFD the group of Prof. Butlin has unmatched expertise in hybridization/speciation research and excels in the analytical approaches required to uncover a genomic footprint. All data for the project are in (we use a set of 23 individuals for phylogeny and a set of 346 individuals for hybrid zone movement). 14 papers acknowledging MSC funding have been published so far. All papers were featured on my website (with MSC funding acknowledged). The work has been showcased at two conferences, with a hybrid zone symposium organized at one of these; another conference with hybrid zone symposium is scheduled for fall 2019. I was Facilitator in an event introducing the MSC funding scheme to prospective applicants at the University of Sheffield. In the context of the secondment (on the complicated conservation question of genetic pollution) a consultancy report (acknowledging MSC funding) has been published. Public engagement encompassed a public lecture, a lecture at a middle school, an interview and several popular science articles.
Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)
I have already provided strong support during the project for genomic footprints left by hybrid zone movement in two 2017 publications. In 2019 I will write a paper that further solidifies this pattern. The project will provide very strong support for historical species replacement over large distances, which is important because a major conservation concern arising from anthropogenic climate change is increased species replacement in the future.