Acquiring genomes: How partnering with bacteria generates novelty in animals
The genomic basis of novel phenotypes is a central question in evolutionary biology. Given the ubiquity of bacteria in virtually all environments, it is imperative to consider how bacteria contribute to the diverse phenotypes, ecology, and biology found on Earth. By hosting bacteria, many animals gain access to bacterial metabolism, enabling hosts to occupy restrictive ecological niches. I study genomic and physiological evolution in animal/bacteria systems. By integrating bioinformatics, functional genomics, and molecular genetics across biological scales of organization, my research addresses the mechanisms by which metabolism encoded in bacterial genomes drives evolution of phenotypic and ecological novelty in animal hosts. Animal/bacteria associations range from highly integrated systems with vertically inherited symbionts (like the aphid/Buchnera system) to systems that acquire taxonomically variable communities from the environment (like Drosophila) – all of which can shape host phenotypes and adaptive trajectories. My research program investigates insect/bacteria systems on the two ends of the spectrum to address fundamental questions about the functional roles and mechanisms of bacterial metabolism in the evolution of diverse animal phenotypes and ecological contexts.
Organizer: Trish Artis