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The genetic basis of speciation in drosophila


Research objectives and content
The experimental study of the genetic basis of speciation is difficult for the simple reason that the tools of genetic analysis cannot usually be employed - since most interspecific hybrids are sterile. In Drosophila, recent work in the host institution has discovered ways of circumventing this problem. The experimental system will be the well known D. melanogaster and its three 'sibling species', D. simulans, D. mauritiana and D. sechellia. Although the divergence between D. melanogaster and its siblings is less than 2 million years, hybrids between them are normally sterile or lethal. Ashburner and colleagues have discovered genetic factors that can overcome both lethality (Hutter et al. 1990 Genetics 124:909-920) or sterility (Davis et al. 1996, Nature 380:157-159) in interspecific hybrids. These factors will allow a detailed analysis of the genetic differences that accompany speciation. This is the objective of this study. In addition, I will undertake a comparative analysis of transposable elements in these four species, taking advantage of the fact that those of D. melanogaster are now being very well characterised by the Drosophila genome sequencing projects.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
I will be trained in two important modern fields - classical genetics and molecular biology. I will also obtain a good training in modern evolutionary theory. I will, in particular, be trained in the techniques of gene cloning and characterisation, including sequencing and sequence analysis.
Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)
There are few direct links to industry or industrial relevance. However, the training that I will receive will be of direct relevance to the biotechnology industry.

Funding Scheme

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)


University of Cambridge
Downing Street
CB2 3EH Cambridge
United Kingdom