Image Credit: Alex Wild
Nasonia - Speciation Genetics and Physiology
Nasonia is a genus of parasitoid wasps with 4 described species, all of which produce interspecific hybrids when crossed (after clearing Wolbachia endosymbiont infections). This allows us to investigate the genetic basis of species' phenotypes in hybrids and to measure hybrid effects directly as they relate to reproductive isolation.
Interesting projects using Nasonia include studies of:
Honey bees - Genetics, Epigenetics, and Physiology of Aggression
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) live in colonies and will aggressively defend their nest. Like most traits, aggression varies considerably within and between populations. By studying aggression in hybrids of docile European bees and aggressive Africanized bees (invasive hybrids of the African subspecies A.m. scutellata and European bees), we are able to start to unravel the the genetic basis of this complex behavior. Aggression in bees is passed down paternally, potentially indicating that epigenetic factors are involved. Moreover, aggression in bees is tied intimately to energy metabolism, and we are currently investigating the interplay of these factors with our collaborators.
Ants - Colony Identity and Biological Invasions
Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) are widely invasive in the Southeast, yet they don't reach the same dominance that they do in other parts of their invasive range. It is unclear if this is due to external ecological factors that stop them from dominating or internal genetic factors that keep them from forming massive supercolonies as they do elsewhere. By sampling colonies in the region and comparing them to more invasive colonies, we may be able to start to address these questions.
Other ant species in the Southeast that may help us understand invasiveness include: