Assistant Professor, Department of Biology
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"The Genetic Basis of Female Mate Choice in Drosophila"
Abstract: Female mating preference for conspecific males involves the evolution of new traits that allow individuals to recognize conspecifics and discriminate against heterospecifics. My group is leveraging the power of Drosophila genetics to identify the genetic, ethological, and neurobiological basis of female mating choice in a classic case of incipient speciation: the two races of D. melanogaster—called Cosmopolitan (M) and Zimbabwe (Z). These two races show strong behavioral isolation in the form of Z female mate choice; Z females strongly prefer to mate with males from their own race. Such a complex behavioral trait integrates signals on multiple sensory channels and is likely caused by changes in multiple genes; the precise genetic basis for this preference has remained unknown. Using multiple mapping approaches (i.e., complementation mapping, introgressions, admixture mapping), we discovered Z alleles involved in female mating choice. These results indicate that we can map the genetic basis of female preference despite it being polygenic, and will inevitably lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis for behavioral reproductive isolation.
Host: Hopkins Lab