Abstracts (first author)


The ‘omics’ of non-model animals

Author(s): Zhang G


The rapid development of genomic technology has made unprecedented tools available to evolutionary biologists working with non-model organisms. In recent years, my group at BGI-Shenzhen has developed a series of collaborative genomic projects in with European scientists, particularly with the University of Copenhagen. Several of these focus on complex societies of fungus-growing (attine) ants and (macrotermitine) termites. We have recently completed six ca. 100x genomes and overall transcriptomes covering the crown-group-lineages of the attine ants, and we have sequenced the unusually large genome (1.3 GB) of a fungus growing termite and its fungal symbiont. These reference genomes are now allowing functional gene-expression studies and the development of accurate recombination maps and comparative DNA-methylation studies. These will hopefully shed light on some of the major evolutionary transitions (specialization of fungal crop symbionts, increasing caste differentiation, the evolution of multiple queen mating) in the attine ants. I am also co-directing an avian phylogenomic program to resolve a number of long-standing questions. We have completed about 50 new bird genomes and conducted comprehensive analysis to reconstruct phylogenetic history and link genome-wide differences in evolutionary rates and gene family representation to key adaptations that underlie the different ecologies of the major bird lineages.

Abstracts (coauthor)

Genomic changes during the evolution of increasing specialization in fungus-farming ants

Author(s): Nygaard, S, Li C, Schiøtt M, Zhang G, Xiao J, Meng X, Wang J, Boomsma JJ


Ants are an ecologically important group of insects with a vast array of specialized lifestyles and symbioses. One of the most spectacular ant symbioses is fungus farming, found in a single clade of New World (attine) ants, a mutualism to which the ants contribute plant material in exchange for food provided by the fungal crops. Since this mutualism evolved in the Amazon basin from hunter-gatherer like ancestors some 50 mya, it has undergone a series of evolutionary transitions of which the use of specialized rather than generalist fungal strains, active herbivory rather than using dead plant parts, polymorphic rather than monomorphic worker castes, and multiple rather than single mating of queens are the most important. The advent of high-throughput sequencing techniques now allows these questions to also be addressed at the molecular evolutionary level. In a recent study, we showed that the genome sequence of the leafcutter ant Acromyrmex echinatior, a representative of the most highly derived leaf-cutting fungus-farming ants, has characteristic changes in detoxification pathways, loss of function in arginine metabolism pathways, and expansion of specific peptidase gene-families relative to other ant genomes. We have now sequenced and partly analyzed the genomes of five additional fungus-farming ant species, representing all phylogenetic branches of the higher attine ants and a lower attine outgroup, and thus most of the major evolutionary transitions. These comparative genomic analyses allow us to assess rates of gains and losses of genes and variation in lineage-specific selective pressures, differences that we hope to connect to some of the phenotypic adaptations in the respective lineages.


Chairman: Octávio S. Paulo
Tel: 00 351 217500614 direct
Tel: 00 351 217500000 ext22359
Fax: 00 351 217500028
email: mail@eseb2013.com


XIV Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Organization Team
Department of Animal Biology (DBA)
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
P-1749-016 Lisbon


Computational Biology & Population Genomics Group